Cognitivism and Connectivism

Cognitivism and connectivism, though one is a learning theory, and the other a theory of knowledge management, have connections that link them.


Cognitivism & Connectivism in my own learning experiences

Cognitivism in Practice

For this example, I’ll go back to my elementary school experience of learning the multiplication tables. We learned them through songs, memorizing the sequences (3 x 1, 3 x 2, 3 x 3, etc.) while we sang together. Our teacher sang along with us, and paced the songs so that we only worked on one each week.

Cognitivist Elements

The main cognitivist element that this experience showed was awareness of Cognitive Load Theory. The teacher used two elements to help with cognitive load. First, she used, in essence, multimedia learning as described by Mayer and Moreno (2003) by having us sing, and therefore listen to, the different tables. This allowed us to process the sequences through hearing as well as seeing them represented visually on the page. Second, she used chunking by having us only deal with one multiplication table per week. That allowed us time to thoroughly absorb the sequence of a single table before we moved on to the next, and prevented mix-ups between the two. Having just one big memorization task to focus on at a time made learning multiplication much less daunting!

Connectivism in practice

My college learning experience was most fully an example of connectivism. In that example, I described improving my grasp of Latin by translating (and dubbing!) Gladiator with my classmates. During this activity, we switched from memorizing Latin grammar and vocabulary to using it in a unified, long translation. The work was collaborative, and while our professor supervised and was present to answer questions, he did not interfere or do any translation himself.

Connectivist Elements

The main way that this project used connectivism was in the prioritization of “know where” along with “know what” and “know how” (Siemens 2005). We had not learned all of the vocabulary that we needed for the translation; instead, we had to know how to use our dictionaries and verb conjugation books to help us figure out what word roots we needed, and then to identify the most appropriate form of that word. Latin is a pretty complex language; both verbs and nouns have different forms depending on how they are being used in the sentence. Though we were working with printed resources, not digital ones, the ability to navigate and direct the knowledge flow was critical. Knowledge flow was also important once we finished writing out the translation and started recording the Latin for the dubbing. Course members who had experience with recording identified themselves and took charge of making the recordings, as well as linking those up with the video itself. It was, in retrospect, quite a project, but we had so much fun that we didn’t really see it as work.



Cognitive Load Theory: Helping People Learn Effectively. (n.d.) Mind Tools. Retrieved from

Mayer, R. E. and R. Moreno. (2003). Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning. Educational Psychologist 38(1). Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2005) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2.1. Retrieved from

Image Credits

Background to the chart is: Geralt. (2018) [Block Chain Data Records]. Pixabay. Retrieved from