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Connectivism - my thoughts

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The internet has changed things. It's changed things very rapidly and by things I mean all things including people. Knowledge, prior to the internet, was solid and dependable. Generally things were known and remained static. Even when changes in knowledge happened it too a long time to disseminate the new approach, idea, information so changes were slow. 

Now 'knowledge' does exist as before - like a mountain range subject to small and gradual changes but essentially fixed - but as a flower bed with weeds sprouting every few days and a constant cycle of growth and change. 

Knowing things became less important compared to knowing how to find out things. Why memorise the world's highest mountains when the information is stored and accessible within seconds on any smartphone? I need not learn something if I can easily and immediately collaborate with someone who already knows it. This was we both can get a deeper and more detailed knowledge of our own respective areas rather than duplicating a more shallow knowledge on each other's areas. 

It seems obvious that a new theory of learning is necessary as the nature of knowledge is so changed. 

Previously my knowledge was mine. I accrued and collected it. In connectivism the network of people and technology enables all of us to share a much greater and deeper collection of knowledge than the sum of the knowledge we would have amassed under the old way. 

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The narrowing of the digital divide

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 15 May 2018, 23:00

One of the activities I plan to write about in my TMA is the Global Digital Divide. When doing this activity a few weeks ago I looked at the region (ha!) of Africa (a pretty big region!) and speculated that the provision of OERs by western universities would be unlikely to be helpful to most people in Africa as internet connectivity was both rare, poor and expensive. I looked up infographics to show how the undersea cabling simply didn't reach Africa as strongly as it reached North America and Europe.

https://www.submarinecablemap.com/#/

I assumed that the vastness, and relatively emptiness, of the African continent meant that stretching the infrastructure from the coast inland simply hadn't been done and therefore, the videos, quizzes, resources and lectures being provided 'for free' would not actually contribute to the improvement of the learning environment for Africans but rather sit there uselessly - an unusable but expensive white elephant. 

However - this was based on the information linked to by H800 - mostly at least 5 years old. 

I've now done some much more up to date research (aided by the hive mind that is Facebook and specifically three computer-y friends who exploded with geekiness upon being asked for advice and information!) and see that the global digital divide is narrowing - pretty much before our eyes in a visible way. 

This website is full of very up to date information about the whole world and if, how and why it connects to the internet. 153 pages of fascinating data. Yet not one which expressly refers to learning or education. Lots about social media, banking, commerce... but no learning.

I also was linked to this initiative by Facebook which also fails to explicitly refer to education and learning except for two video diaries of learners - one school boy and one adult learner. It addresses connectivity and some of the technical efforts they are making to address the shrinking inequality. 

Other projects were linked to which had the aim of both strengthening the internet connection in Africa, and utilizing it for the common good in various ways - though education was, once more, notable in its absence. 

So it's back to the drawing board! I think that 10 years ago my planned plea for OERs to be made in text form, avoiding bandwidth munching pictures and videos, would have been right on the money! However - now I think I will have to rethink. Maybe the same problems which always faces schools in Africa will be the key - simply having buildings, teachers, uniforms and equipment will continue to be the challenge. The equipment may be more technological, and the teachers may need more training and the buildings may need internet connectivity.... yeah - there's still 1000 words in that!

 


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Internet Usage - around the globe

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(Assuming there's not Flat Earthers reading this!)

We were sent to an external site to look at internet usage in different global regions and then individual nations this week. Amusingly the OU warned us that we may see advertisements for 'dating agencies'..... shock horror!

The information appeared interesting and complex at first but soon I was able to distill the essential features into a few bullet points!

  • 40% of a very large number is much more than 90% of a much smaller number. (Far more Asians than North Americans use the internet even though the internet is far more available to North Americans - because there are far more Asians overall)
  • The more people who already use the internet, the fewer new users are available to grow internet use (Europe and North America saw very significant growth between 2010 and 2015.... in the 100s of percent. But Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America saw growth in 1000s of percent.) 
  • If current trends continue then internet use will stagnate at more or less 100% of people in the developed world and internet providers will concentrate on Asia and Africa as having the most unreached internet users. 

Stats charts

I've created a pair of pie charts to compare where the people live vs where the internet users live. They're not identical by any means but they're not radically different either.

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