Networked Learning

Image CC BY x6e38
Image CC BY x6e38

If, as some argue, learning networks are powerful new ways for us to organise and share as learners, then we must consider how we can build and wield them. (Watters, 2015)

This research will not focus on educational theory however it is key to outline the relevant theories within the context of studio based practice and where a digital tool could take advantage of the resulting situation and learning experience in ways that are yet to be realised.

Cognitive Constructivism

This first area is Cognitive Constructivism, this is how are own mental maps or schemas (Piaget, 1936) are constructed and that through our experiences, our learning is defined as change in the schema. The more we are exposed to new experiences and circumstances the more our schemas become defined, refined and expanded. A basic example is the introduction of new animals to a child, if a child has encountered a horse, on first encounter with a cow they may consider it a type of horse. A child that has already encountered a dog, on a first encounter with a miniature horse may conclude it is a dog, the experience of these encounters adjusts the child’s schema.

Teaching means creating situations where structures can be discovered. (Piaget)

This is unlike behaviourism, replaced by Cognitivism, which suggests we merely respond to external stimuli. A tenant of much Human Computer Interaction research and Cybernetics but not the area we want to connect to the concept of Networked learning.

Cognitivism uses the metaphor of the mind as computer: information comes in, is being processed, and leads to certain outcomes. (J L, 2015)

Cognitive Constructivism within teaching and learning is often known as experiential learning. The tutor acts as a guide and not as the expert. This type of experiential activity is often facilitated within via the KOLB learning cycle, and is often embedded within curriculum project structure to facilitate the experiences and thus create new schemas and build new knowledge.

Social Constructivism

The connected theory of Social Constructivism adds the social context to our learning. It is through this social collaboration that students are able to create meaning and connect new knowledge to their current schema. This is where the scaffolding (Bruner, 1960) of curriculum meets the zone of proximity (Vygotsky, 1978) and plays a key role in facilitating advanced experiential learning. Scaffolding within curriculum embeds the idea of progressing students through a series of interactions to gain more understanding and greater independence of learning, by placing students and tutors within physical close proximity they enhance this defines scaffolding. The focus of Social Constructivism revolves around placing a knowledgeable other at the centre of this process, often the tutor guiding the learning and being managing the social context but the group are all actively involved in collaborative peer learning.

If your dots are not observable/visible/transparent, then it’s impossible to connect them. (Tullis)


Our final theory to be aware of is Connectivism. This is sometimes argued as a reimagining of social constructivism for the digital age, however Siemens states that this is not the case and that it should be considered a new theory. Connnectivism take the idea of the social network but expands it due to the emergence of the web and that the knowledgeable other is not just the tutor or peers but resources and information located online. A key to note in support of this type of expanded learning activity and to gain the most from the network is the ability to share and even use a tool outside the confines of an institution.

Within Art & Design teaching these theories outlined above collectively underpin many of the studio based activities in which learning occurs. The networked learner takes advantage of the situation where learning occurs not just within but also externally and is a process of many interactions and experiences, it is the learner’s task to bring this together. Technology should enhance this process.

These theories must be understood as underpinning Studio based education and this research will be utilising and be guided by the principles within both for the digital tool and the manifesto. This will thus be distilled into three discreet areas to be considered in the design and making phase. Experience, Context and Networking.

Section Bibliography

  • Bozarth, J (2014), Show Your Work, Center for Creative Leadership, New York, Wiley.
  • Cooper, P. A. (1993). Paradigm Shifts in Designed Instruction: From Behaviorism to Cognitivism to Constructivism. Educational technology, 33(5), 12-19.
  • Downes, S. (2006). Learning networks and connective knowledge. Collective intelligence and elearning, 20, 1-26. Chicago
  • Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective.Performance improvement quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.
  • J L., 2015. Cognitivism – Learning Theories. Available at: Accessed May 9, 2017.
  • Kolb, D.A. (1984): Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Kolb, D. A. (2014). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. FT press.
  • Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning Available at:
  • Lave, J. (1991). Situating learning in communities of practice. Perspectives on socially shared cognition, 2, 63-82. Chicago
  • Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge university press. Chicago
  • Perry, William G. (1999). Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Piaget, J. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children (Vol. 8, No. 5, pp. 18-1952). New York: International Universities Press. Chicago
  • Piaget, J. (1976). Piaget’s theory. In Piaget and his school (pp. 11-23). Springer Berlin Heidelberg. Chicago
  • Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: Learning as network-creation. ASTD Learning News, 10(1). Chicago
  • Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Chicago
  • Vygotsky, L (1978). Mind in Society. London: Harvard University Press.
  • Watters, A. (2015), Learning Networks, Not Teaching Machines. Available at:
  • Wheeler.S (2013), Active learning spaces. Available at:

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