Connectionism is not a scientific theory, but it is a metaphor. A theory wants to describe the truth, a metaphor is a way of looking at, mostly abstract, things with help of an image.
Using a metaphor can be very useful because it will make an abstract explanation clear and understandable. Some great metaphors are able to change the world. Constructivism is a metaphor that changed our view on education and it changed schools. The funnel is an old metaphor to explain teaching and learning.
One can use the word ‘perspective’ also to describe what a metaphor does, it changes your perspective.
I like to investigate the usefulness of connectionism as a metaphor that helps explain and improve learning and education.
In What is connectivism? Wee1 CCK09 the word theory is used to point at behaviorism, cognitivism constructivism and connectivism. This way of using the word ‘Theory” is misleading. It is as if someone is claiming the truth of one of these ‘isms’ by naming them theories. and that is not correct. behaviorism etc. are perspectives, metaphors, stories, concepts.
http://learnoscck08.wordpress.com/2008/09/13/cck08-what-is-theory/ has a more elaborate description of “theory”.
N. Katherine Hayles : ” Metaphor performs essential functions in orienting and guiding thought; it connects abstraction and embodiment; it allows us to discover regularities between what we perceive and what exists outside of ourselves; and it entwines cultural presuppositions with scientific frameworks. These complex functions can be summed up by saying that metaphor works to connect and contextualize, broadening the space of abstract thought by embedding it in physical, sensory, linguistic and cultural contexts. ” She mentions the role of “constraints” as a means to give metaphor a boundary. People get overenthousiastic about metaphors and sometimes loose a critic eye when swept with this enthoudiasm.