20. Learning by Being: The Nurturing and Social Reform Models of Teaching:

20.3. Past and Future: The Relevance of the Nurturing and Social Reform Methods for Connectivism

These two perspectives on teaching again have a long history, with echoes of:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762): ‘Education should be carried out, so far as possible, in harmony with the development of the child’s natural capacities by a process of apparently autonomous discovery‘ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Malcolm Knowles (1984): ‘As a person matures his self concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being.’

Paulo Freire (2004): ‘Education makes sense because women and men learn that through learning they can make and remake themselves, because women and men are able to take responsibility for themselves as beings capable of knowing—of knowing that they know and knowing that they don’t.’

Ivan Illich (1971) (in his criticism of the institutionalization of education): ‘The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.’

The reason why the nurturing and social reform perspectives on teaching are important is that they reflect many of the assumptions or beliefs around connectivism. Indeed, as early as 1971, Illich made this remarkable statement for the use of advanced technology to support “learning webs”:

The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity.

Well, those conditions certainly exist today. Learners do not necessarily need to go through institutional gateways to access information or knowledge, which is increasingly available and accessible through the Internet. MOOCs help to identify those common interests and connectivist MOOCs in particular aim to provide the networks of common interests and the environment for self-directed learning. The digital age provides the technology infrastructure and support needed for this kind of learning.