A Connectivist Approach to Reading Responses

Definition of Connectivism

In a connectivist class, “there is no central content to the course.”  Rather the guiding principles are “that each person creates their own perspective on the material by selecting what seems important to them, and that it is these different perspectives that form the basis for the interesting conversations and activities that follow” (Downes, 2011).

  • As an English teacher, I have two opposing reactions to this description of connectivism:
    • This approach is ridiculous: How would students learn without a central content?
    • This approach is interesting: How can I use connectivism to help students “create their own perspectives”?

Of course, a balance of content-driven and connectivist approaches is needed in a high school class, but learning about connectivism has given me new ideas about how to ask students to respond to literature.

Old Method for Responding to Literature

  • Last year, I asked students to respond to a Turnitin.com discussion forum with a brief description of the themes, symbols, plot development, and/or character development they found interesting in each chapter of Lord of the Flies.  They were also required to comment on posts from other students.
  • While in some ways productive, this led to a lot of repeated ideas and mostly surface-level contents.

New (Connectivist) Method for Responding to Literature

  • Giving learners options to direct their learning is an important part of connectivism, so if I were to revise this activity, I would do something like this:
    • After reading each chapter of Lord of the Flies, use any medium you choose to create an original response to the text that highlights what you believe is important about the chapter.
  • High school students would probably need a little more structure than this, but imagine what I might get from them: artwork, blog posts, videos, Twitter conversations, related news articles, recorded songs, etc.
  • I would need to figure out an effective way for students to share their responses and comment on others’ responses, but on a basic level, most learning management systems I have worked with include a discussion forum where students could at least post their links to share their work.


Source: Downes, S. (2011). Connectivism and connective knowledge. Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html

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