Remarks on Interactivity

I wrote this in response to an inquiry.

I am bringing the constructs and principles of Information Systems (IS) with those of Connectivism since the previous studies rarely consider the learning theories’ principals, especially the learning theory for the digital age.

In conducting my study, I have confronted a construct in the IS, collaboration quality, which it seems a bit baffling because I cannot completely tell this factor apart from interactivity that is a principle of connectivism.

I'm not sure I understand your question exactly, but let me try a few comments to see if I can provide some useful advice.

To begin with, 'interactivity' is based on interaction, that is, the sending and receiving of messages from one entity to another.

Where Information Theory (IT) and Connectivism (C) agree is that we can talk about the quality of interaction. This is what your questionnaire addresses when it talks about easy and comfortable or effective and efficient sharing of information and documents. Both IT and C would thus be interested in, say, the 'FAIR' principles - information that is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable.  I would add that to a large degree, Openness is essential to ensure good quality of information, but there are other considerations as well.

Where IT and C differ is in the role information plays in how and what we learn.

In IT, learning is transactional. It is based on transmission. That is to say, one person sends some informational content to another person. The content is what the person learns.

In C, learning is emergent. It is based on patterns of connectivity. The content is merely a tool used by one person to create a change in the other person, which will prompt that person to send content to even more people, creating a network of interactions, and it is this network that is learned.

In IT, success in learning is based on the fidelity of the transmission. For learning to be effective, the content must be properly and accurately received. Things like noise and distraction may interfere with the signal. Mechanisms like checksum are used to verify the transmission. This is the basis for theories like Moore's theory of transactional distance. Memorization is key in an IT approach to learning.

In C, success in learning is based on being able to recognize patterns of connectivity. The fidelity of the transmission doesn't matter nearly as much; what counts is the effect, and noisy transmissions are expected, because interaction never happens in a noiseless environment. In C it is common for there to be many transmissions of different content, and the learner becomes able to recognize the patterns in them by working with them. Practice is key to a C approach to learning.

So, the sorts of questions you would ask to evaluate 'interactivity' in the two approaches would be different.

In IT, you would ask a lot about quality, as you have, and about ways to ensure that the transmission is accurate, the quality high, that the information is true, is the source authoritative, etc. because the person is focused on receiving and duplicating whatever was sent.

The concept of 'collaboration' is based to a great degree on IT concepts of interaction. We can see this because in a lot of cases, we expect people to follow 'the same' agenda, practices, definitions, etc. So fidelity of transmission is very important. But in C, the model is 'cooperation', where people share an infrastructure (that is, they share a communications system), but each individual has its own objectives and its own way of understanding, interpreting or evaluating the information.

There are not to my knowledge any existing questionnaire items for the concept of interactivity in C - I very rarely do surveys in my own work. But if there were such items, they would ask a lot about whether there were multiple sources of information, whether information represented various perspectives, whether the information was actionable (ie., could whether people could act on it), whether everybody had roughly equal opportunity to both send and receive information, whether people could modify it and shape it according to their needs, etc.

The questions, in other words, would not ask so much about the quality of the information being sent, but about the properties of the information network, to ensure that information is not merely transmitted from one single authoritative source, but rather, created and exchanged throughout the entire network.


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