Friday, October 17, 2008

CCK08 - complexity theory we are everything and nothing

This week's topic in the connectivism course gave me permission to engage as it relates really closely to my Doctorate interests. Although I cannot test the theory I hope to include something about it in the discussion. here is the post I sent to the email forum.

people might be interested in Phelp's 2003 report of action research done on "the development of one tertiary course in computer education for pre-service teachers". It is a great practical example of the importance of working with complexity rather than trying to put our students into boxes - and striving to meet pre-determined objectives.

It helps to illustrate an answer to George Siemen's (2008) questions - "Consider learning outcomes created at the start of a course. Can we really ensure they are achieved? Can the complexity of learning be reduced to six or eight broad statements? Many educators feel that outcomes can be achieved. What is overlooked, however, is that much more than planned outcomes are experienced by learners."

Complexity of learning in my view cannot be reduced to "six or eight broad statements" and if students are given freedom, they will indeed learn more than they or the teacher ever imagined.....if they engage of course.

In Phelp's research, "students were prompted to set themselves appropriate goals and were then challenged to engage with content most relevant to them". they engaged in self-directed and scaffolded learning which was authentic and relevant to each student. plus they took their learning to a metacognitive level. well worth a read. however it did happen over three years BUT like a good cheese, learning takes pre-packaged, quick-fix, unit-standard-type courses probably don't cut it for real learning....well not in the long run. they serve a purpose perhaps to get black and white standards across eg. food safety, how to fly a plane etc. but if you do not really understand why it is important not to clean the cheese (yes the cheese theme is rife today) in dirty dish water, the complexity of life starts to confuse the unit-standard educated worker. We have to help teach people to think don't we?

However according to this Buddhist saying by Hsin Hsin Ming - thinking might not be so hot! I was interested in looking at something from the Buddhist tradition due to my husband's talk of Zen and the belief that we are both everything and nothing. also the post by Tech Ticker about Buddhism and complexity theory " Everything, they say, is related and dependant. Nothing is independent." It is hard to be everything and nothing is it not?

To deny the reality of things is to miss their reality;
to assert the emptiness of things is to miss their reality.
The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking and there is nothing you will not be able to know.
Hsin Hsin Ming

Developing Online From Simplicity toward Complexity: Going with the Flow of Non-Linear Learning

Renata Phelps, Southern Cross University (Australia)


The Web is a non-linear environment which opens up potential for new approaches to learning and teaching, approaches which in many ways more closely approximate naturalistic and authentic approaches to learning. Yet a large proportion of online courses which have been developed in higher education represent conversions of print-based resources into Web-based delivery formats, the majority of which have replicated traditional linear and directive pedagogy. Such development represents something of a ‘miss-match’, not only to the online teaching environment but to the emergent learning approaches of a younger generation who are ‘at home’ with the online environment. This paper discusses the benefits of maintaining complexity and non-linearity in online learning with reference to the development of one tertiary course in computer education for pre-service teachers. The theory of complexity is briefly explored and its relevance to online teaching and learning is highlighted. An action research undertaking conducted over a four year period is drawn upon to illustrate the importance of future teachers understanding and experiencing non-linear and complexity-based online learning, and the metacognitive processes that can support adult learners to adapt to such an environment.


David McQuillan said...

Interesting post Bron.

I see the formal learning outcomes that are associated with courses as the baseline that defines competency. I think most teachers are hoping that their students will strive for something a bit more than competency however, and there always seem to be some students in each who will go beyond the minimum required and explore their own interests. Formal learning outcomes certainly do not/can not completely capture everthing that your students learn.

Ideally we're helping our students to be self-directed learners who are passionate about their own learning. Isn't it a shame that so many people have lost this passion?

Love the quote from Hsin Hsin Ming. I think (he) is talking about the experience of the transcendant/nirvana which is that experience of being at one with everything & losing the sense of self therefore being nothing. From this point, I'm not sure that the last sentence is talking about intellectual knowledge which is how we typically cognise knowing. To know that for sure I guess I'd need a bit more enlightenment. ;-)

I'm going to go have a look at that Phelps study now. Thanks for the link.

David McQuillan said...

Do you have a copy btw of the article that Phelps cites ?

Lee, M. 2001, 'Chaotic learning: The Learning Style of the Net Generation?' Paper presented to New Millennium, New Horizons: Information Services in Schools 2000 Online Conference Proceedings, Wagga Wagga, eds L. Hay, K. Hanson & J. K. Henri, J., Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Bronwyn hegarty said...

thanks David, according to Geri Larkin, author of The chocolate sutra - we are all already enlightened, we just may not be aware we are yet. Re the last sentence in the saying by Hsin Hsin Ming - "Stop talking and thinking and there is nothing you will not be able to know." I presume that is what you mean?

My feeling was that it could refer to anything and everything if we can take the time to stop and listen - perhaps "feel the knowledge" rather than always trying to intellectualize it.

I take your point about competence and there is certainly a place for competency-based learning. For safety reasons it sure is essential and also for learning we need to automate.

Complexity theory indicates that for learning which leads to capability we need to branch off from the linear, competency-based path and take multiple pathways...this can be chaotic and unstructured, and a time when we start to understand concepts, question ideas and attempt to make the learning relevant to our own situations.

Bronwyn hegarty said...

David sorry I do not have access to Lee's article.

mack said...

This is fascinating.
I’d been taught that left-aligned labels are preferred, to support the prototypical F-shaped eye-tracking heatmap of web browsing. The idea is that it supports easy vertical scanning.

online learning