Connectivism and English Language Teaching: Why Do We Connect? #CCK11 #ELTchat

Personal Learning Networks (Credit: Google images)

Connectivism has been called, “A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” (Siemens, 2005). In this post, I aim to share what I have learned about connectivism, and what it means for English Language Teaching, in my view.

What I share comes from a Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC) called, Connectivism and Connected Knowledge 2011 (CCK11) . The course facilitators are George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Siemens first wrote about connectivism in 2005. Since then, he and Downes have worked together to develop the theory and practice of connectivism. The CCK11 course is where I enter the picture, as a learner and EFL teacher.

In this post, I will have three main points:

1. Define connectivism.

2. State the principles of connectivism.

3. Relate connectivism to EFL teaching and learning.

Before I begin, I’d like to make it clear that I am sharing what I have understood in the CCK11 course. Therefore, I alone am responsible for any errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in this post, and not George Siemens or Stephen Downes.

Point 1. Connectivism is defined as, “a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized.

The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.” (Siemens, 2005)

For me, this means learning has changed in three ways. Firstly, what we learn with has changed. Learners use digital tools, (Web 2.0), to create content, not only be passive consumers of knowledge.

Secondly, how we learn has changed. It’s not an individual activity. Learning takes place through collaborating with other people.

Thirdly, where we learn has changed. The digital learner can learn anywhere, anytime, 24/7. It is clear (to me) that teachers need a principled theory of learning for digital learners.

Point 2. In 2005, Siemens identified 8 principles of connectivism:

1. Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
2. Learning is a process of connecting.
3. Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
4. Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently
5. Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed for continual
6. Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a
core skill.
7. Accurate, up-to-date knowledge is the aim of all connectivist
8. Decision-making is a learning process. What we know today may change tomorrow. The right decision today may be the wrong decision tomorrow.

Point 3. If we accept these eight principles, what could this mean for Teaching English as a Foreign Language? I want to answer by giving three examples of outstanding teachers who are “connected”.

The first is Shelly Terrell. Shelly regularly uses technology to connect not only her students to the world, but also teachers, world-wide, to each other. She produced a video, called, “Why We Connect”, which explains her views. It can be seen on my blog, here:

The second example is David Deubelbeiss. David wrote and self-published an innovative coursebook for digital learners called, “We Teach | We Learn”. He calls his approach, Student Created Content. He explains his book here: . The student is a participant, a social participant in their own learning and creation.” It can be seen on my blog here: .

The third example is myself. I use my blog, Profesorbaker’s Blog, as a way to connect to other teachers world-wide. From the two examples above, you can see that I am connected to Shelly, who lives in Germany. I am also connected to David, who lives in Canada. And me? I live in Santiago de Chile.

To conclude, connectivism offers EFL teachers a principled way of teaching that recognises the digital age that our students live in.

Teaching in a connected way is not new. We’ve been doing it already, as Shelly and David demonstrate. What we now have, however, is the possibility of teaching in a more principled, connectivist way.

Why Do We Connect? We Connect Because…

Best regards,

#CCK11 #ELTChat #edchat #ukedchat #edreform #elearning #lrnchat #education #esl #efl #elt #ell #esol #TESOL #IATEFL #teachers #edchat #technology

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Connectivism, Education, EFL and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Connectivism and English Language Teaching: Why Do We Connect? #CCK11 #ELTchat

  1. David says:


    I appreciate the kind words. I never take them for granted and feel blessed that I “get more than I give” (and that is not sentimentalism, it’s the truth ruth).

    About connectivism – it isn’t a very recent idea but I can see Siemens and others playing it as such (that’s how you get buzz). However, in the cognitive realm it is making significant changes in how we see and know a brain is working.

    One thing I’ve always found astounding. The more we think our students will do well – the better the do. Research, well done, proves and demonstrates this seemingly paradoxical event (in rats and humans!). And what it suggests to me is that knowledge is created, not given. I’ll leave it at that – but that’s a big fat candy to suck upon. Sucked upon tacitly.

    Also, in the realm of connectivism, we have to acknowledge the role of the personal. That if knowledge is created, it is created not just socially but primarily in the realm of the person. Like our students who know much more than they can say – everyone knows much more than they can “connect” to others. That is why it is encumbent on teachers IMHO, to really begin to teach language from the realm of the student – their lives, concerns, interests, impulses.

    I know it all sounds complicated but it isn’t – just have to get our wires uncrossed….


    PS. I’ve used in my curriculum development course a video interview of Siemens – he’s sitting in his backyard. Great interview with juicy thoughts…


    • Hi David,

      Thanks for your comments. Always great when you can drop by for a short visit.

      As usual, I find the points you make, excellent, and worthy of reflection. I am going to “cherry pick” only one, because I think it is a true gem, a diamond, that should not go unnoticed. Let me quote you:

      “The more we think our students will do well – the better they do…”

      This particular point you make is one I put into practice, always, with my students. As you so rightfully point out, David, all we as teachers have to do is genuinely believe in the ability of our students to do well, let them know that we believe in them, and the positive results follow. Build it (belief in your students) and they will come (positive results). (Movie Quote from: “Field of Dreams”: James Earl Jones – “Build it and they will come”)

      It’s magic. It works. I recommend it. David recommends it. Try it. Your students will like it. I guarantee it…

      Best regards,

      Thanks for the video. I’m off to take a look at it now. Thanks for sharing my friend.


  2. vjansen says:

    There are many good points here regarding the value of connecting and making connections both in the classroom and at a professional level for human interactions. Each of these physical connections gathers raw pieces of learning objects which then must be assimilated, ordered and linked in our connected mind. This is where true meaningful learning takes place. The degree of the connections formed in our brain is certainly dependent upon the strength of the connections within our network and we can see the importance of the network in learning.

    What intrigues me is the importance of emotion or motivation in this equation of connectivism. How often have we come across these situations that depict the state of mind: a) I heard you but did not understand, b) I was listening but did not hear you c) i drifted off for a moment. These statements reflect the brains inability to cope with the connections and information gathered but the mind has lost the focus required to assimilate the data. Is this an innate issues or something that is learned?

    It is something to think about since our state of learning , or perceptiveness to operate in a networked environment fluctuates all the time as well, perhaps stimulated by information but also internal feedback.

    Vince J


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s