Learning Design and Complexity Science

My response to Jenny’s post on OLDSMOOC Design:

Hi Jenny and Roy,
I agreed with what Roy said, that you are a learning designer if you do all those things in a course, in an adaptive manner. What might typically happened is that instructional designers plan and design the curriculum, with multi-media and gamification in mind, trying to incorporate all the “essential” learning objects and artifacts to achieve the desired education outcomes (the learning outcomes, in the case of a course). The input management – or compliance with lesson plans are typically judged to be excellent when “all elements” of good instruction – like Gagne’s 9 steps of instruction are followed in a classroom environment, or that of mastery learning is followed, with sensory feedback and repeated drills and practice on the learners.

I wonder if we need to separate instruction design from learning design, as the former relates more on instruction (demonstration and modelling), whilst the latter relates more on (practice and reflection) (based on Stephen Downes’ proposed connectivist model), especially when learning is structured under MOOC.

I have been thinking about having learning design based on complexity science where:

“Complexity science, with its focus on emergence, self organization, inter-dependencies, unpredictability and non-linearity provides a useful alternative to the machine metaphor.
Complexity science suggests that the whole is not the sum of the parts. Emergent properties of the whole are inexplicable by the parts.” to study learning design, so each learning scenario needs to be re-modelled based on “grounded research” rather than a prescribed approach to the design of learning.

This might have a lot of similarities to your research on the footprint of emergence, though I think it really makes more sense when the teacher and learner shared their assumptions and frame of reference upon each learning task and experience, and thus making learning design a collaborative reflective experience, rather than a pre-determined learning pathway and learning outcomes.”

This sort of emergent learning could be based on narratives that are exchanged through blog postings and sharing, or project-based learning, between peer-to-peer and student-to-instructor.

Would that account for the differences between curriculum-led MOOC (typical for xMOOC) and community-led MOOC (typical for cMOOC)?

Such MOOC would be similar to the model in the AST1000 Course though I have been thinking of having a community led MOOC, rather than a curriculum led MOOC.


#CritLit2010 Complexity Theory and education

I found this Complicity, Simplicity, and Epidemiology easy to comprehend.  It provides a succinct explanation on Complexity Theory and how it is applied in Epidemiology.

How would we be able to apply the concepts of Complexity Theory in education?

Here is Complexity Theory and Education by Morrison, Keith.  This paper is an interesting, though controversial on complexity theory and education, IMHO.

Keith raised 8 points:

1. How novel a theory complexity theory actually is?

2. Is complexity theory simply a statement of the obvious?

3. How useful complexity theory actually is? “It is essentially a descriptive or reflective theory”  Is self-organization such a good thing, or whether it will lead to diversity, inefficiency, time-wasting, mob rule, and a risk of people going off in so many different directions that the necessary connectivity between parts of an organization, its values and direction will be lost or suffocated.  How desirable are highly complicated systems of inter-relationships?

4. Complexity theory is a theory of unpredictable, non-linear change, why it is important and how it can be promoted?

5. Complexity theory has the putative disadvantages (Kelly 1994:23-4) of being (a) non-optimal; (b) non-controllable; (c) non-understandable; (non-immediate).  Indeed, if the future is uncertain and outcomes are non-linear, then where or why should money and effort be spent on education, if they are not guaranteed to improve outcomes?

6. Complexity theory embraces a deep-seated pragmatism, justified only be (perhaps selfish) survival and suggests that what is right at any moment is that which works at the time, to ensure survival.  Is this satisfactory or sufficient as a theory of education?

7. There are, perhaps, questions to be asked against the coherence of the “theory” in complexity theory.

8. What actual added value does complexity theory bring such that it moves to becoming a sine qua non of understanding the situations described in the papers?  What is the real and practical, rather than perhaps self-indulgent, added value that complexity theory brings?  Is complexity theory important for education?

Keith concluded that

This paper has deliberately endeavoured to introduce some of the central tenets of complexity theory, to lead into the accompanying papers that illustrate some elements of complexity theory at work. ……
Here the intention has been to illuminate some key elements of the theory, to introduce the accompanying papers that have deliberately cast the net of complexity widely into several very different fields of education, and, taking the role of a sympathetic skeptic, to throw down a small gauntlet to ‘complexologists’ in education in respect of adopting a cautious approach in considering the value, or applicability, of the theory to educational discourse. It is a fascinating and alluring theory, but is it a siren song?
I would like to respond with the following brief question and comments:
How would Complexity theory help us in better understanding education and learning?
From the above paper, the author has raised questions on whether complexity theory is important to education.  I would suggest that it is.  It would take another post for me to respond to this important question.
I would however, open these questions to your discussion.
Postscript: A valuable resource in Complexity Theory here – decomplexity

CCK09 Metaphors for the Social EcoSystems

Below is my first thoughts about the ecosystem that relates to the forum post:  Very sketchy still….

May need to spend a few days working on the “big picture” of Social Ecosystems.  I will try to link the digital habitat with the AI, the global changes – like global “warming” and “warning” in terms of climate changes (both financial, political and temperature change etc), technology (using the clouds, the Great Barrier reef (extinction of corals due to environmental impact), and the basic elements metaphor the “metal”, “non-metal”, “earth”, “water”, “fire”, the “water” as knowledge and learning metaphor, the Network metaphor using birds in the sky and fish in the sea, the micro-metaphor on digestive system, the neuroscience metaphor using chemicals (catalyst), electric sparks (small motors and generators inside our brain) (haven’t worked on it yet) and the chemical reactions metaphor based on chemical bonding.  Other metaphors could include magnetismENTROPY (Thermodynamics), Physics (potential and kinetic energy) – how one form of energy changes to another form, with conservation of energy, FORCE – from gravitational forces to force of attraction & repulsion (magnetism), electrostatic forces, to van der Waals forces (the weak force at molecular level), Learning as Planting of trees, and networks as woods, forests, Materials Science – the structure of matters based on (body centred cubic (bcc), face centred cubic (fcc), structure of metals, non-metals,  closed packed hexagonal (cph) for diamond, polymers (the thermoplastic and thermosets, their structure based on carbon chains – degradation for some plastic subject to ultra-violet light weakening of the bonds), plasticity (elastic and plastic regions) of metals, the hardness and impact testing – (i.e. hardness and toughness of networks) (how it impacts the emotions, leadership qualities, and dynamics and sustainability of networks) and these links to pseudo science (the yin and yang) and the multiple perspectives and interpretation and its links to Biology the Metaphors of eye lens (human natural lens) versus camera and video camera (artificial lens), and mirror (reflection of objects changing the left to right perspectives) and then to the senses metaphor – music – lyrics as language, a piece of music (rhythm and melody as emotions), popularity of songs or music measured by number of “tickets”, hits on the web sites (Youtube, Myspace, FB or twitter mention, and musical channel’s number of broadcasts, number of sales in concerts and the RESONANCE on blogs (see my resonance post on https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com) , wikis etc. And the MICRO AND MACRO metaphors could then be interacting, interfacing and articulating on the time, space and digital basis (with a dark hole stretching across the yet known space) ALL INTEGRATED in the SOCIAL ECOSYSTEMS (or even the MACRO SOCIAL ECOSYSTEMS AND MICRO NEURO-ECOSYSTEM INTEGRATED WITH TECHNO-ECOSYSTEM (COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SOCIAL NEURO TECHNO SYSTEM), and internet shrinking all the metaphors into a tiny summary like this!  Networks of the Real world ecml07_leskovec_mlg_Page_004_480From Networks of the real world.


From world techn


iceberg 3703386681_635d17d7ee

research-physicsFrom Research Physics



From flickr 

John [23/10/09]  I need to draw up all these on the CMap or Word document with lots of graphics. 

Postscripts: More metaphors – fishing

An interesting post on The wide open learning world: sea, land and ice views by Curt Bonk (just found at 9:12 pm 23/10/09)

Postscript: I found this learnscape of Jay Cross interesting

Emergence in Learning

Based on this Sociology and Complexity Science, it’s interesting to realise the development of Network Theories and their impact on society.   

Connectivism  is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.  George Siemens, 2004.

Connectivism builds on the knowledge of various fields including Complexity Science and Emergence Theory.

Enjoy these videos on emergence.

In the case of a flock of birds, a school of fish, it seems that there is no direction, no one in-charge.  Organization comes from bottom up.  Is it also true for this informal complex learning environment and virtual complex learning ecology ?  Are these behaviours also exhibited amongst human in social networks?  Is a network of people behaving like a flock of birds, or a school of fish?

Behaviour of whole is more than the sum of the parts.  To what extent is it true when it comes to networked learning?

How does it help in our understanding of learning under Connectivism?