Jenny Mackness writes a little masterpiece about the discussion on connectivism being a learning theory.
Education and learning and teaching is a very complex subject of study. Mostly because humans and their children are part of the subject. Sociology of education is studying this complexity.
- One view of a learning theory is: A learning theory is a kind of overview, a theory of everything. This is an impossibility, taking into account the variety and complexity of the subject. I like to call this one the Einstein View, because Einstein dedicated so many years in a search of a theory of everything.
- Another view of learning theory is: A learning theory is a collection of knowledge to solve problems in education. I like to think of this view as The Toolkit.
In view (1) (The Einstein View) the status of the learning theory is important. In this Einstein View discussion on theories is important. In view (2) The Toolkit, the status of the learning theory is not discussed in earnest. In The Toolkit view research is directed to problems in education.
Toolkit researchers are not that much interested in the question which learning theory explains the results of a teaching practice like Peer Assisted Learning is it social constructivist or is it connectivist learning? Or do we need another theory? Toolkit research would like to know what makes PAL work.
In the Einstein View of social sciences there is always much discussion about the scientific status of theories. In some studies this discussion gets a hilarious form. (Rigid constructivists ignore objective truth. So their theory cannot be tested, because they lack a ground for testing: objective truth)
Ideology is a system of values and knowledge based on faith. A theory is a system based on evidence. Theory in my view is primarily a way to solve problems.The best way to distinguish between theories (If you insist this being a problem of some importance) is to use them in solving problems.
One possible explanation of the violent discussions around learning theories could be the ideological background of the adaption of a theory. (Laszlo Garai & Margit Kocski)
Another explanation is the incommensurability of the Einstein View and the Toolkit View. The Einsteinians see with horror the uncritical use of the word ‘theory’ by Toolkit people. And both do not see the wide gap between the meaning of the word “theory” in both Views. An example of a Toolkit theory: Collaborative Problem Solving
In my opinion Connectivism does not try to explain all teaching and all learning, it is not an Einsteinian theory of everything in education. Connectivism is a Toolkit and it explains learning in a network.