I just read a post at elearnspace that poses the question “What do Connections do?” answering it with “Connections are individual units of control – networks are the larger patterns that those connections create.” This got me wondering what is the difference between the question “What do Connections do?” and “What does a Connection do?” I guess the first question (with the ‘s’) is almost like asking “What is the result of a series of connections”, to which the answer is stated that they are the control points that create a network or a pattern. Something like “they control”, isn’t a sufficient answer to the second question (without the ‘s’)…just as if I’m introduced to some fantastic futuristic apparatus somewhere and I ask what to do with it, and get the reply that I should control it.
How? In what way?
So, this led me to wonder what would be the difference between saying “Connections are individual units of control” vs “Connections are individual units of choice”. I haven’t gotten far with this one direclty, but I have a feeling that it may be related to that distinction between learning and education that I always come back to in my thinking – the idea of intention. (intention vs incidental, if you like).
I don’t really know much about the example given in the post, Pearson and Udacity. But can infer some of the meaning from what is written. Looking at it from the opinion of the post, I can understand where the word ‘control’ would come in; from what I gather it is based on assumptions about what Udacity is and should continue or not continue to be, what they have had to give up, and who is making those decisions. Looking at it from a point farther removed, that either doesn’t or can’t make such assumptions, makes the idea of ‘control’ better stated as ‘choice’. From this more distant point, a way to answer what a connection does is to say that it eliminates a duality.
In the example given, Udacity, because of a connection, has the opportunity to take aspects that were not a part of itself before the connection, and use these aspects to branch forward with them. Now, to say they should or they shouldn’t, or that it’s a good or a bad thing, I really have no idea; that seems to be a major point of the post at elearnspace. That’s not my concern here, though. I’m looking at the question(s) about a connection. And, this is a valid viewpoint that can exist at this scope of objectiveness; at the point of connection, even.
The terms ‘control’ and ‘choice’ are a bit touchy here, but if we believe that learning is not just a human privilege then maybe the word ‘choice’ does have a place from this perspective. Control is a judgment call, choice suggests available options. Thus, choice here might be best understood not as a verb, but as a noun – more like ability. Once that connection creates the ability, whether it is acted on and to what degree or quality isn’t a description of what a connection does. As I’ve written in another place “Connections themselves relate to learning in a binary way: with connections a learner can learn, without connections they cannot.” I also just finished a paper about the influence of Media on Learning, which uses this same idea:
If we consider the pro-influence stance of Kozma for a moment (Kozma, 1994), where media and method are not separate, it is understandable why a 70 year history has produced no compelling evidence: media influence is binary. It either happens along with method or it does not. From this perspective, Clark’s hypothesis is problematic because it is untestable – it is impossible to test a Method via a Media which cannot conduct said Method.
A Connection does many things, eliminating a duality is perhaps the most fascinating, even comprehensive, of them. At the point of connection, the duality is eliminated not in a dialectic way. Rather, a dynamic relationship between two distinctions is created while they remain perfectly opposed and at the connectors’ disposal. From this point of connective ambiguity, many things many happen, involving a dialectic, elimination, unification, control, choosing, or even just indifference. A porch connects the inside of a house with the outside world, and when it drizzles I enjoy the shelter, and when it’s hot and humid I enjoy the slight breeze. It brings together options, ways to experience, that did not have place before that porch was constructed.