Critical and contemporary essay issue

A brief critical review of Hopkins_2016


Focusing on how the digital devices challenge existing pedagogies and whether the Connectivism is a pedagogy for the digital age, the article speaks volumes about what could be considered as the The changing learning framework will be implemented in the future. In the article, do tablets cure the pedagogy headache? Firstly, Hopkins (2016) explores it from existing paradigmatic positions: two epistemological camps of objectivism and constructivism. On an objectivist approach to learning based on memory and testing, Hopkins (2016) discusses that he believes the tablet computer support this kind of pedagogy and advanced mobile devices and well-structured systems make teaching beneficial. Instead of being replaced by technology, teachers can use technology in a variety of ways to complement and expand on what good teachers already do. He discusses, tablet technologies can support these social constructivist pedagogies. The use of mobile devices not only promotes different situational learning and real three-dimensional learning inside and outside the classroom, but also promotes cooperative learning and collaborative learning. He concludes,. Although there are many benefits of technology and equipment in supporting existing teaching, we still need some new methods to develop the potential of technology equipment


Secondly, Hopkins (2016) explore whether the Connectivism is a pedagogy for the digital age to encounter the challenges brought by the digital devices for the existing pedagogies and the schooling of the future.

He explains the development of the definition and the core principles of Connectivism, he discusses the critics to assure whether the Connectivism fulfills the requirements for a learning theory. He explores the link with the ideas of communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991) and dialogic communication, simply using Self-Organised Learning Systems (SOLE)and school of cloud(Dolan, Leat, Smith, Mitra, Todd and Wall, 2013) advocated by Sugata Mitra who took the idea of distributed cognition.


He concludes, Connectionism poses challenges both in terms of teaching methods and teaching structure in the convenience and boundary constraints of time and comprehensive geographic environment.

Connectionism, which recognizes that the network is connected to each other with a more complex and complete teaching system

Finally, he identifies that the online-environment is important for the development of he introduces connectionism occurs in the interconnection of networks. He concluded: Connectionism will become a transformative learning model for contemporary students. The main reason for the change is that the current teaching method is under regulation and control, but it is incompatible with the connectionist teaching method.

Although he has some good points, he fails to express throughout the article how to redesign the mobile learning in schools via the “new” pedagogy of Connectivism, focusing more on moving from formal, rigid learning into an environment of informal, connection-based, network-creating learning (Siemens 2005b).


  • What ideas / papers have influenced this paper? 


Connectivism Learning Theory was proposed by George Siemens in 2005. In the information age when human society is increasingly open and complex, in the context of knowledge explosion and accelerated updating speed, the learning theory was proposed for how human learning should change in order to meet the challenges to human development in this era. According to this theory, knowledge is a network phenomenon (Downes, 2012), and learning is the establishment of connections and the formation of networks, including neural networks, conceptual networks and external/social networks (Siemens, 2005b). The goal of learning is knowledge growth based on creation, that is, knowledge circulation (Siemens, 2012; Downes, 2012).



What are the key areas / disciplines / ideas that are being explored?


The author of the article, Professor Hopkins, believes that these original principles indicate that they will bring about substantial changes to the learning environment of current schools, universities and world-wide learning organizations, and will be familiar to the majority of students and popular in learning in most parts of the world. It is difficult and challenging.


This is an understandable statement. As the product of the development of computer technology in the digital age, Connectionism reveals how we should learn in the digital age. Connectionism defines learning as the process of connecting and forming a network. It is a constantly developing process, and its purpose is for the circulation and growth of knowledge.


From the point of view of Kuhn, a science and technology philosopher, pedagogical research and educational practice must make a paradigm shift in accordance with the characteristics of the times (Thomas Sammual Kuhn, 1962). “The development trend of education is to shift from traditional education institutions, to a mixed, diversified and complex learning pattern, realize the formal learning, non-formal learning and informal learning, let the school education and normal education institutions to interact closely with other non-formal education experiences, and this interaction should start from early childhood, and last for a lifetime.”(UNESCO, 2017, P48) At the same time, with the development of artificial intelligence, we need to liberate students from outdated education models, so that they can control their own future, enable them to have a high degree of information screening ability to coexist with robots and defend against them in the workplace (Joseph E. Aoun, 2019).


Thanks to the development of MOOCs and various high-quality online education resources, universities are also opening up. Many universities are starting to offer online courses, establish university alliances and conduct mutual credit recognition. In the future, it is possible to form a global network system of multiple universities (Joseph E. Aoun, 2019).


What conceptual frameworks / theories are being quoted?


George Siemens was the first introduced the concept of Connectivism in 2005 (Siemens, 2005a, 2005b) and later Steven Downes put forward on his own blog (Downes, 2007), although the idea has been substantially criticqued as well,  Siemens and Downes are not only the core representatives of the theory of Connectivism, but also the core promoters of the practical form of the theory -cMOOCs.



What wider body of knowledge is the author drawing on?


The author has drawn on two epistemological camps those of objectivism and constructivism. Objectivism focuses on teaching, while constructivism focuses on learning.


The objectivist view of knowledge holds that knowledge is an objective truth,  which is manifested through natural and social phenomena. The function of teaching is to convey this knowledge correctly to the students, who should ultimately gain the same understanding from the knowledge transmitted. Teachers are the master of knowledge standards, so they should be in the central position.


There are controversies about the advantages and disadvantages of the objectivist teaching method. the objectivist teaching method is still the dominant teaching concept in today’s era, and most educators are still using it and have established a specific evaluation system around it. What is advocated in the newly promoted connectionist teaching method is that tablet computers and similar electronic devices can provide technical support for this leading teaching method.. Technology is not to replace the teacher but to supplement the efficiency and effectiveness of the combination of what the teacher does with the application software and improve the traditional objectivist teaching method. With the development of digital content, teachers can realize multiple teaching methods. The development of applications software (Apps) allow the ‘traditional’ objectivist pedagogic approach to be improved by ‘’efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ (McCormick and Scrimshaw, 2001).



Constructivism believes that “reality” is nothing more than the mind of the knower. It is the knower who constructs reality or at least explains reality based on his own experience. The knowledge of learners should be constructed by themselves in their interaction with the environment, rather than instilled. Constructivist theory is not a new point of view. As an epistemology, it can be traced back to ancient philosophers Socrates and Kant. As a learning theory, it can be connected with the theories of famous psychologists such as  Piaget.J , Vygotsky (L), and Bruner (J. Bruner).

A series of technological devices, such as tablet computers, provide information and media technology support for constructivist teaching methods, and promote students’ real-world learning experience inside and outside the classroom. Learners are encouraged to become active constructors of knowledge (Neiss 2005) and build knowledge exploration skills in conversation and collaboration with their peers, so as to meet the basic requirements of the new teaching method for students to cultivate their self-learning ability and learning efficiency.



  1. UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Rethinking Education:Towards a global common good,2015)

  1. Thomas Sammual Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions1962)
  2. Joseph E. Aoun, Robot-Proof, Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,2018)
  3. Siemens, G. (2005a). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), January. Available at:, accessed 24 April, 2016.
  4. Siemens, G. (2005b). Connectivism: Learning as network creation. Available at:, accessed 1 May, 2016.
  5. Connectivism and connective knowledge essays on meaning and learning networks(pdf)(Siemens, Downes 2012)
  6. Downes, S. (2007) ‘An introduction to connective knowledge’. In T.Hug (Ed) Media,

knowledge and education – Exploring new spaces, relations and dynamics in digital media ecologies. Proceedings of the International Conference held on June 25-26. Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press.

8  Piaget J (author), Duckworth E (translator). Genetic Epistemology. American Behavioral Scientist. 1970;13(3):459-480.


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  • Joseph E. Aoun: Robot-proof: higher education at the age of artificial intelligence MIT Press, 2018, pp 216, ISBN: 978-0-262-53597-7 Rosa Leonor Ulloa-Cazarez Genetic Programming and Evolvable Machines volume 21, pages265–267 (2020).08 October 2019
  • Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, CUP
  • McCormick, R. and Scrimshaw, P. (2001.) Information and communications technology, knowledge and pedagogy. Education, Communication and Information, 1(1).
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