Thanks Peter for a thorough review of General System’s theory. Here is my post relating to a critique on whether Connectivism is a new learning theory or not http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/my-reflection-on-connectivism-as-a-new-learning-theory-to-date/ I have been participating in the discourse about Connectivism since 2008, and since then I “believe” that it is a new learning theory. However, I have raised many critical questions since then, in particular the notion of learning, as you have also mentioned in your comments – the social learning, at the level of learner behavior, and psychological ideas about motivation, rational choice behavior etc.
What I think is important is that connections in network is necessary but not sufficient in learning, and the principles that are postulated under Connectivism could also be emerging and are not prescriptive in nature.
Indeed, even the theory of emergence and the principles of Complexity Theory are very difficult to be applied in education. We might however, be best to have some principles and a theory that approximates what actually happened, based on empirical research findings, rather than waiting for a complete learning theory that would soon prove to show that whole is greater than the sums of their parts, and that reductionism doesn’t reflect the reality of the truth.
I suppose that there are so many variables and strange attractors in an open system that any significant changes in parts of the system could create a totally different pathway (of learning) that may hardly be explained with conventional learning theories. Even with the tens of thousands of research papers proving certain points of learning, we could challenge the assumptions behind each of the theory by critically examining the evidences presented, and the conclusions are: it is only valid if the assumed conditions are satisfied, based on certain context, certain people with certain behaviors (rational behaviors in general, and certain motivation patterns etc.) and certain professors and students etc. That might be some light based on the arguments and evidences presented, using the scientific and empirical approaches towards research into those learning theories.
Nevertheless, I reckon there are still differences in perceptions and interpretations of any theory of learning presented, due to our differences in each of our learning experiences.