Sunday, February 10, 2013

BrainBased Learning & Connectivism

Why does playing video games for hours improve your ability to play well? Why does practicing kicking your soccer ball over and over improve your ability to perform? Why do you read 20 pages each night for LA homework? Each of these skills requires specific nerve pathways to complete. So, why does practicing improve them, and how does this relate to our project?

In his article, "'Connectivism' and Connective Knowledge", Stephen Downes explains: "At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks. Knowledge, therefore, is not acquired, as though it were a thing. It is not transmitted, as though it were some type of communication." He continues to explain that "What we learn, what we know -- these are literally the connections we form between neurons as a result of experience." 1

In order to really understand this, we need to know a little science.

Here's a picture from the Mayo Clinic of a nerve:

How the Nerve Works:

The neuron is the e-mail of your body. It sends and receives messages.

The nucleus sends an electric signal through the axon.

The axon often branches into several places, commonly referred to as the axon transmitters.

The axon transmitters transfer this electrical signal to a particular cell.

Depending on the pathway of the nerve, the signal is interpreted in order to complete the cell's specific function.

Why We Need to Make Use of Pathways: 

The more often an axon is used, the more the myelin sheath wraps around it.

The more myelin there is, the more ensheathed the axon is.

The more ensheathed the axon, the more efficiently the message is sent.

Therefore, cell performance is improved.

Not all neurons have myelin around them. They send messages 100 times SLOWER than those with myelin!!

So, now we must ask, how does this relate to our projects, connectivism and video games?

The more we practice our skills, the more our nerves use their axons, the more efficiently we work. This is why when you are playing video games all night long, you are actually improving your ability to play. Your pathways are becoming more myelinated and are, therefore, becoming more efficient.

This is also why when you learn, the more you can connect to pathways you already have strengthened, the more efficiently you can learn new information. So, if you relate you use the mythology you learned in social studies to enhance your language arts piece, you are taking advantage of pathways that you have already made strong!

The theory of Connectivism draws upon these scientific concepts. It reminds us that in order to learn, we must take advantage of the pathways that we have in our minds. As such, the more information can relate to something we know, the stronger our pathway becomes and the deeper the learning is.


Create a website in order to encourage connectivist learning. By creating separate pages with different information, you and your students will be encouraged to explore the learnings of peers and take advantage of whatever helps your endeavor. For example, you may see 5 articles on a specific page, but only one seems to relate to your individual project. Read that one, use whatever parts of it that you can, and try to make as many connections as you can to it.

Works Cited

Downes, Stephen. "'Connectivism' and Connective Knowledge." The Huffington Post. 5 January 2011. 26 January 2013<>.

"Myelin." The Encyclopedia of Science. 8 February 2013 <>.

"Nerve Cell (Neruron)." Mayo Clinic. 8 February 2013 <>.

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