Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bereiter's Learning Paradox

Existing theories of learning fail to account for the expansion and creation of knowledge (what Bereiter calls the learning paradox: “If learners construct their own knowledge, how is it possible for them to create a cognitive structure more complex than the own they already possess (cited in Cambridge Handbook of Learning Sciences, p. 103). Connectivism and networked learning, on the other hand, suggest a continual expansion of knowledge. New and novel connections open new worlds and create new knowledge. Source George Siemens, September 12, 2009 “what is conectivism” on Google Docs at
Bereiters Learning paradox as described above ignores two things.
1) The first is a fundamental principle of computer science, which is that once a computer language contains a few simple constructs it is possible to perform arbitrarily complex computations with it, given sufficient memory to store intermediate results,
2) The phenomena of emergent behavior whereby as systems get larger unexpected behaviors emerge (Conways game of life is an early example, as are many systems beloved of investigators in the field of Chaos theory.)
The word used to name conecitivism implies a vast preexisting web of potential knowledge onto which we sling our hammock of knowing. I think there is more to learning than that, and I like to think that there are processes at work which generate, in addition to a plethora of connections to existing knowledge sources and systems, new substrate in knowledge space through which we can “boldly go where no man has gone before”.

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