Madeleine Brookes

Connectivism - A New Theory of Learning for the Digital Age


New digital technologies have impacted teaching and learning in two ways: firstly, through Web 2.0, a non-linear, two-way interactive and collaborative platform, and secondly, though the exponential growth of knowledge (Garcia, Elbeltagi, Brown, & Dungay, 2015). Connectivism, a learning theory, attributed to Siemens (2005) and Downes (2005) considers these significant digital age impacts asserting that learning occurs when learners make connections between concepts, opinions and perspectives accessed through their personal learning networks (PLN).

Students, even our youngest, who have access to connected devices, are already building their own PLNs either formally in school or informally through the tools that they use. Nowadays, learning looks, or can look, different as students can:

  • personalise their own learning by following their passions and interests both in and out of the classroom;
  • create their own learning journeys by building their own PLNs through the connections they make online.

In short, students no longer need to rely on teachers as the source of knowledge or the experts in a field of knowledge; our role is shifting from instructor to facilitator.

So what is Connectivism and how can we support our students in building their own personalised connected learning environments?

  1. Unpack the eight principles of the Connectivism, a learning theory for the digital age and  how features of familiar tools such as YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia support the theory.
  2. Explore examples of K-12 blogging environments as a lens through which to apply the principles of Connectivism;
  3. Discuss ways to facilitate a connected learning environment using a range of strategies and interactive online tools that are available to your students.

My aim is not to bombard you with academic research but to unpack the topic through discussion and activities.This extended session is suitable for all educators from K-12 and administrators.


Downes, S. (2005, December 22). An Introduction to Connective Knowledge [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Garcia, E., Elbeltagi, I., Brown, M., & Dungay, K. (2015). The implications of a connectivist learning blog model and the changing role of teaching and learning. British Journal of Educational Technology,46(4), 877–894.

Siemens, G. (2005, August 10). Connectivism: Learning as Network-Creation [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Intended Audience

open to all educators K-12

ABOUT Madeleine

Madeleine is a lifelong learner and is passionate about sharing classroom practices and experience underpinned by in-depth scholarly research from her current Masters of Education in Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation.

Madeleine has been an edTech educator for over 20 years in international schools in Asia. Prior to teaching, Madeleine was a programmer and marketer in the computer industry.

Madeleine is the Executive Director of Learning2, a founding partner of Eduro Learning, has sat on the ADE board for Greater China and was part of the crew that set up the Beijing Learning Summit.

She has been at the Western Academy of Beijing since 2008 and this year she heads up a new pilot in the High School focusing on a self-directed learning program for senior students.


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