Monday, 20 October 2008

cck08 - Week 6 - Complexity, Chaos and Teachers

Cck08 week 6 focus was on Complexity and Chaos: a very interesting matter!

George Siemens asked: "In what way is learning complex? In what way is it chaotic?"
My answer is: in many ways. Learning is complex and chaotic because life and world are. And because learning is a social activity, and social activities are complex and chaotic.

Jon Kruithof wrote: "Learning is complex not because of the subject matter but because of the learner. There's emotional connections to learning. When you get several complex people in a room with different agendas, different expected outcomes and different needs, that I would say is chaotic".
I partially desagree: it's also a question of the subject matter. The more the "object" of learning is complex, the more learning is; the more the "object" is simple, limited and localised, the more learning is not complex nor chaotic. Ie: learning computer science is chaotic, learning how to attach a file to an e-mail isn't.
But Jon is right: also if the subject is simple, human aspects of learning can make learning complex. Question of emotions, of different goals/expectations, of different use of the same terms (it's what Tim Gillibrand note for the discussion started from George's question: "… we are each using these terms in an imprecise and personal way").

Pat Parslow wrote: "If you think of chaotic systems in terms of the path followed by an "actor" through a 'landscape', the unpredictability occurs because you cannot precisely know the forces acting on the actor. …
… we each act to reduce the level of complication of things we interact with (by using our own filters). one thing we might want to do is find ways to help people engage their filters to focus on a domain - it is easier for them to navigate their learning landscape if they have landmarks".
I have appreciated his propositions. Learning is complex/chaotic as shown by its unpredictability. But then: what the role of teachers? In my 30 year teaching experience - as I wrote in a previous post - I tried to promote processes (learning experiences) renouncing to know which long-terms effects they can produce.
But I think that we are, rightly, required to produce some verifiable results. If I propose my students to project and realise a web site, I will not be able to know how such a work produce results on the capabilities of each of them, on their planning skills. But I must guarantee that they become able to use an HTML editor and to present a documentation of the work done.
Using Pat's terms: I propose them a landscape to be explored, but I must provide them some landmarks.
It's a question of filters (thanks again, Pat). My task is to help them in growing their own filters, but to do that I have to propose them some filters to make easier their exploration.

Carlos Gonz├ílez Casares wrote: "A good teacher is the teacher who let you thinking about what he/she says. A great teacher is the teacher who start a process in an individual context and he/she doesn´t know really what it is going to be in the future with this process, because it is a chaotic process.
Learning is always a path without a predictable end. Learning is movement.
I learn, I know something and that is the little fire that can change all your complex personal context".
I strongly agree. But I think it's necessary to repeat: teachers have to play inside a contradiction. They must promote processes that they don't know where are going to, but they must also guarantee the fulfilment of limited goals/results. Changing the order: they must guarantee the fulfilment of specific goals/results but that is not sufficient, they must promote learning processes.

Do you agree?


marialetizia said...

Thank you for comment on my notes. This is perhaps the most interesting topic for me of the CCK08, at least, and I am very pleased to discuss it.
I put a comment under your one, in my blog. But , If you want, we can go on also in Ltever grup,speaking italian...

EQ said...

I like your summary of the views. At times, I realise that learning itself is both complex and chaotic mainly because of the world we are living, with that plenty of technology affordance, "attractions" and "distractions" that lead us to think in such a way. If I were to live 100 hundred years ago, would it be the same? So my view is that context, environment and the network that one is involved will all shape our perspectives on the complexity and chaotic "nature of learning". Do we have the "chicken first or the egg first?" I would reckon the environment (or the ecology) will shape our thoughts, whereas our perspectives will also shape the "thinking" and "direction" of the network. That's there are impacts and influence both from individuals and networks - which shape the ecology, and the world.

EQ said...

I have left the comments in my previous response.
To what extent do you think an understanding of Complexity and Chaos has helped us as teacher in the teaching and learning process?

Jim2 said...

We have to adjust the learning objectives of our courses if we are to fairly evaluate the students we are "great" teachers for. The educator's goal must be the skill of learning rather than specific results. How we evaluate should be based on dialogue (electronic or in person) rather than answering questions in a specific way. CCK08 models this for us as we must share our understanding of connectivity and not just regurgitate the course rhetoric.
@ eq: complexity and chaos reinforce the points above - understandings each student develops will be unique and therefore more meaningful for him or her if this is allowed to happen.