Chaos Theory, Fractals, knowledge and learning – Part 2

Fractals are indeed also embedded in curation, and in subsequent conversation, by the agent (learner) through internal conversation with him/herself, and that with others in a complex learning environment, social networks, and community of networks.

Such fractals are part of the phenomena associated with the Chaos Theory.  It seems nearly impossible to make long-term predictions about online conversation where large number of agents are interacting with each others, as in the case of MOOCs.  Such conversations are highly sensitive to small initial perturbations (Fractals and Chaos Theory).  This also explains the often difficult to predict and control sort of conversation in open spaces, where constraints over what and how conversation is based on moderation by the agents (the professors, educators, and certain participants in the case of MOOCs).

How would fractals and Chaos Theory help in understanding more about the changes and transformation of our education system?

Helpful concepts include co-evolution, disequilibrium, positive feedback, perturbance, transformation, fractals, strange attractors, self-organization, and dynamic complexity. These concepts can help us to understand (a) when a system is ready for transformation, and (b) the system dynamics that are likely to influence individual changes we try to make and the effects of those changes.

Furthermore, chaos theory and the sciences of complexity can help us to understand and improve the transformation process as a complex system that educational systems use to transform themselves. Strange attractors and leverage points are particularly important to help our educational systems to correct the dangerous evolutionary imbalance that currently exists.  (Reigeluth, 2004)

How have strange attractors impacted on MOOCs, in particular on xMOOCs?

The most powerful strange attractors are core ideas and beliefs like those described earlier: ownership and empowerment, customization and differentiation, and shared decision making and collaboration.

How is Chaos Theory used in lesson planning and delivery?

The use of Chaos Theory in lesson planning and delivery is discussed in this paper. The author argues that planning for a lesson needs to take into account any changes in the lesson, building in elements of interests, and responding to the chaos in a dynamic way so as to make order out of chaos, especially when there are always strange attractors changing the stability of the equilibrium of the system.

#Change11 How would a Shift of Framework help? A New Model for Understanding Time in Pedagogical Contexts

I enjoyed reading this Multidimensional Facets of Time in Online Learning by Pekka Ihanainen and John W. Moravec.

Ihanainen and Moravec provide a typology of Learning:

1. Temponormative Learning

2. Pointillist Learning

3. Cyclical Learning

4. Overlapping Learning

I am particularly interested in how they have elaborated on each category of  learning.  Here are my short notes.

Pointillist learning – Pointillist behavior and learning implies an ability to tolerate the insecure, uninterrupted, un anticipated and obvious absurdity of the “moment,” but at the same time it indicates a capacity to differentiate the essential from the unessential and to perceive the whole from fragments, almost as a fractal construction of personal experiences and understanding.  Such fractal construction of personal experiences and understanding also resonates with what I describe here, here and here.  I would like to expand this fractal construction in future research, where learning as conversation and social interaction could be viewed and conceptualised in a holistic perspective, under an ecology, or an experience in MOOC.

Pontillist pedagogy is the pedagogy of serendipity.  This sounds useful and I would like to relate to my experience here, here and Carmen’s post here where she reflected beautifully: Stepping out of a normal routine, finding novelty, being open to serendipity, enjoying the unexpected, embracing a little risk, and finding

In such a scenario, learning happens in instances and waves, independent of a definable pedagogical time.

In the overlapping Learning – “Pulsating waves of new knowledge generation within the learning group, beyond the learning group, and in the spaces between.”

I have conceived knowledge and learning as waves here, and so I would like to see if the Temponormative Learning, Pointillist Learning, Cyclical Learning, and Overlapping learning be metaphorically conceptualised as different waveforms, based on fractals and chaos patterns, where the different temponormative waves, pulsating waves and cyclical waves meet, causing interferrence and or resonance in the media, under sets, nets, groups, or collectives, and thus exhibiting different patterns under a Chaordic (chaos and order) ecology.  This requires further research and validation 🙂

 Picture: Google images

De-pedagogy means that as facilitators of learning, we have to give up our role as teachers and start working as colearners and peers within our own pointillist environments.  This sounds challenging to those facilitators who are accustomed to the instructivist paradigms – as sage on the stage, with lectures as the primary approach towards knowledge dissemination.

In reflection, I would like to dig deeper into our previous research here to see how the different learning pans out in CCK08, and subsequent MOOCs.

I would surely be excited if  Pekka Ihanainen and John W. Moravec include more empirical and grounded research findings and claims to their model.

It could be interesting to research into this learning typology with the Change11 MOOC.

I would surely like to respond to their challenge: “So in lieu of a conclusion, we leave educators—particularly online educators—with a challenge: Afforded the post-temponormative enabling of online environments, how can we best leverage these opportunities of pedagogical time to facilitate multidimensional learning and meaningful new knowledge production?”  How about you?


Mak, Sui, Fai, J., Williams, R. & Mackness, J. (2010). Blogs and Forums as Communication and Learning Tools in a MOOC. In Networked Learning Conference, Aarlborg (pp. 275-284). Retrieved from