When reading the article by Dede, I felt that this idea of a fluid epistemology isn’t necessarily new, but rather how it is done and the scale to which it is done with Web 2.0 tools is. Perhaps I feel this way due to the excellent education I received as an undergraduate and graduate student at Penn State in the 1990s. Students in the sciences were trained to collaborate with each other, with faculty across the university, and with faculty elsewhere. We were also taught to question, experiment, and repeat. My M.S. thesis (and part of my undergraduate thesis) was based on a question regarding the experimental design of other work done at another university and involved collaboration amongst many faculty, some who were not at Penn State. We did have email and the internet at this time, and some chat abilities. I can imagine that knowledge building in a collaborative way as it was done then would be much easier with the tools we currently have.
Even when thinking about this epistemological shift in a historical perspective, if you check the Wikipedia article on Citizen Science (networked science), there have been projects since the early 1900s that utilized many amateur scientists to contribute data to projects like changes in the brightness of stars over time. Science is not an individual process. It involves consulting others to design experiments, reading what others have done, and sharing the results of what your group has learned. Technology has only allowed this to be done faster. The process of publishing in a referred journal allows others to critique your work before it is shared with the public. This allows for peer review to be sure that the work hasn’t already been done or that there was not a flaw in the way the work was done. The results of many experiments allow for changes in what we understand, so that what we teach is always changing as well. I welcome students to question what we are learning based on other research they have read. This is a wonderful characteristic of science in that we can’t ever really say that we completely understand something, we need to be open for new research that changes that understanding.
In reviewing the characteristics of connectivism in the George Siemens piece, I again found many of the important points to have been a part of the education I received at Penn State. I also found many of the characteristics to be important to how I try to teach. Since the principles of connectivism include learning and knowledge resting in a diversity of opinions and connecting with up-to-date information sources, the epistemological shift described by Dede can be seen to be rooted in this new learning theory of connectivism.
In the Networked Student video, I found the description of a student using these tools as an ideal. I would love to have students who took the initiative to do as much as the student in the video did! I loved the part about the tools themselves not being as important as the connections that can be made through the tools. And I saw an ideal of what a teacher in this new environment can be as a learning architect, organizer, modeler, and encourager for the student and their goals. I hope to use this model as I continually improve my teaching.