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 this within the of context studio based practice and where a digital tool could take advantage of the resulting situation in ways that are yet to be realised.

Cognitive Constructivism

This first area to consider 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. This is unlike behaviourism which suggests we merely respond to external stimuli but that active participation is required.

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

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

Social Constructivism

Next is the connected theory of Social Constructivism which 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. The focus of Social Constructivism revolves around a knowledgeable other, often the tutor guiding the learning and being managing the social context but the group are all actively involved in collaborative peer learning.


Our final theory 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 this is a new theory.

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing. (Siemens, 2004)

One key to support this type of learning activity and gain the most from the network is the ability to share and even use the tool outside the confines of an institution.

Within Art & Design teaching these theories 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, it is the learner’s task to bring this together. Technology should enhance this process.

This research will be building upon the connectivsim theory and the principles of connectivism (Siemans, 2004) within the context of a digital tool and manifesto. This theory will also be distilled into three areas to be considered in the design phase.

  • Experience
  • Context
  • Network

Section Bibliography

  • 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.
  • 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., Learning Networks, Not Teaching Machines. Available at:
  • Wheeler.S, Active learning spaces. Available at: Accessed June 18, 2014.


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