Chaos, complexity – The platform to stage and participate in a networking environment

How would you stage and participate in a networking environment?

Would a network (say in a forum) be staged as a

(a) peer review

(b) teacher vs learner vs co-learners (similar to the digital classroom/workshop where learners and teachers all interact, only that in this case we are all talking/responding at the “same time” or “same topic at different times”)

(c) question/response debates on different perspectives

(d) reinforcement of advanced concepts, applications development (for academics and teachers)

(e) cultivation of new ideas and development in teaching and learning under the umbrella of “connectivism” (not only for professionals and para-professionals, but also for any one who are involved in learning)

(f) some of the above or one that I haven’t mentioned here.

As each participant (especially in this forum) is playing a different role at different times and interacting with each other as we progress through the network, some of us may prefer just to reflect (and be a lurker) to see what may be gained out of this, while others would prefer to reflect/share via blogs.

This leads us to think again about learning as chaotic (mainly because we may be carrying different hats/roles as we interact and think the other parties are carrying such a hat/role as well).

So even in the forum like this, due to differences in the perspectives and roles, you will find un-ending debates (that’s healthy) as well as emotions (that’s part of network learning) that could be accounted for the complexity of digital network learning and connectivism (connections of all kinds).

I think there is always a blend of passion and reasons in groups and networks.  And you wouldn’t be easy to distinguish them easily, as role of the participants (learners and teacher inclusive) often change.  Also, the stage of development of networks are important (a complex and chaotic situation).

One thing is certain though, I think, we all wish to support and help each other in our forum or through blogs in our network development, irrespective of the roles, at least to move forward in our learning journey, even if participants (teachers and learners) have different perspectives and understanding of connectivism, and that the future outcomes/development of such networking or learning is unpredictable.  And that networking (both digital and non-digital) is always part of the life journey of everyone, whether we like it or not.

And you could even agree with disagreement in forum or blogs….  But I think we all value our discussion here at the moment. Otherwise, we would have spent time elsewhere.  

Are you looking for passion or reason or both?

Do you find some chaos, and complexity in this learning development?

Complexity, Chaos – The Butterfly effect

There was once a famous Chinese philosopher called Chon Chow.  In his dream he saw a butterfly that could fly and he thought he was a butterfly too.  When he woke up, he didn’t know whether he was actually a butterfly living in reality or was merely dreaming himself as a butterly with illusion or fantasy. 

Imagine if each of us is a butterfly and flap our wings, what would be the outcome of such flapping?  What are the impacts of such flapping on the environment, the weather?

The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly‘s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different. Of course the butterfly cannot literally cause a tornado. The kinetic energy in a tornado is enormously larger than the energy in the turbulence of a butterfly. The kinetic energy of a tornado is ultimately provided by the sun and the butterfly can only influence certain details of weather events in a chaotic manner.

Individual and Group Learning (when each of us is flapping our wings) could be chaotic due to the various sources of information and “shared knowledge” under a digital or virtual world.

Learning as a network (with many butterflies flapping our wings and interacting) could be complex. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events.  And when there are many butterflies flapping the wings, this may cause further changes in the initial condition of the system.  So the sharing of such knowledge is also complex, unpredictable and emergent.

Have you flap your wings yet?

“A small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events”, when applied in education could mean that if each individual is to connect and cooperate with others via networking, then this would cause a chain of connections and events leading to large scale alterations of learning events.  Such emergence of shared knowledge is unpredictable.  An adaptive curriculum may also be required to suit the individual’s changing needs.

This also explains why a fixed curriculum may sometimes be less effective than an adaptive curriculum in the education system due to the complexity and chaotic nature of “learning” and its poor responsiveness to emergent knowledge.   This may be the reason why “an open and adaptive  curriculum” is welcome in adult education.

Do you find this in our CCK08 course?

I need your help: My problem in understanding all the metaphors and theories

After reading the above paper on complexity and information overload in Society, I seemed to agree with the conclusions by the author.  And I would like to thank the author for the great insights


Complexity and Information Overload in Society:


why increasing efficiency leads to decreasing control



CLEA, Free University of Brussels, Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium

However, I also found my problem.

As a Chartered Professional Engineer with an engineering background,  I thought it won’t be difficult at all for me to understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Entropy, etc. as I still recalled those topics that were learnt some 30 years ago.  Also, the concept of friction is easy for me to comprehend, and I think it would be of great interest to use those metaphors to explain those phenomena and analyse the system. 

However, when I read further, I found it really difficult to understand what those metaphors mean.  I understand the need of metaphors to explain some complicated concepts, but start to wonder why we are so used to the metaphors?

I am pondering on these:

1. Are metaphors helping me to understand the complexity of the subject? 

My answer: No

2. Are metaphors being used appropriately?

My answer: I don’t know, because this is a judgment made that is unfair to the author, who has no way of explaining to me why he/she did it.

3. Why are people so used to metaphors?  Is it a pop? Is it a myth? Or is it Ephemeralization?

My answer: I don’t know, but it seems people like it. But do people understand it?

4. Are there any simpler ways of explaining those complicated concepts in theories (learning theory in particular)?

My answer: I would like to know, if someone could explain them to me without any metaphors

5. Who are the readers of this paper?

My answer: Must be academia or researcher? But am I?

6. Who can help me?

 My answer: the authors, and you??


1. When I read a blog, I hope to understand what the blogger is thinking, and of course it would be a gift to me if the blogger has synthesised all reflections in the readings.  So many thanks to those bloggers who have inspired me with the excellent “collectives”.  And I thank you very much for reading my blog.

2.  I am used to communicate in simple plain English.  So, I often need help when I read forum threads or blogs which are explained in a metaphorical way.  However, I am hesitant in asking for an explanation of those metaphors…. simply because I don’t want to embarrass the writer or blogger.  So, please help me.

Does it echo with you?

I sincerely hope that our learning is based on simple theory, though we are living in a complicated environment.  And I think we need a simple learning theory that most of us could understand, even though if it is not perfect.  Please see my previous post of Learning Theory.

Are we sure that we understand such complicated metaphors?

Are we sure that we understand the theories?

If we couldn’t understand it, how could we expect our coming generation understand it?  I know it’s harsh to any researchers, but I think this is a reality, at least for me. 

Can we keep it simple? KIS    …….