I’ve hidden myself away from the world this week; I printed off a load of the readings on complexity theory and enjoyed being Keith Hamon’s ‘starving poet scribbling away in his lonely garret, plumbing the depths of the human soul in solitary obscurity’. Did you miss me…? No…?!
My cat died a week ago (www.twitter.com/snoodgit). She was fussing to be let out at bedtime to torment the frogs so I relented, and she promptly snuck out the front and got boshed by a car. We found her in the morning, laid out on the pavement, the injured side of her little head turned away so it wouldn’t scare passing schoolchildren.
So I chose to learn alone this week. I’ve needed something to distract my brain from the memory of picking up her rigid little body but I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, or even dipping into the newsletter or the facebook group. I think I agree with Stephen about learning networks being built on rationality rather than emotion, and I’ve been rather too emotional to focus on learning conversations. But – reading Keith Hamon’s post on complexity and PLEs showed me the perspective that I haven’t actually been learning alone but within the ‘learning apparatus and context’ of CCK11. Right now I’m preparing to offer my ‘solitary learning’ back into the network. This evening I’ll drop in to the live elluminate session to pick up and offer some further insights and to finish off the week I’ll try to make some practical conclusions to share with others.
So – here are some key ideas I picked out from the readings this week – the ones that particularly resonated with me:
Adaptive systems have internal reactivity. All the biological systems I can think of incorporate complicated feedback loops that can make predicting the observable reaction to any event pretty difficult. With the little I know of economics I can see something similar. However, taking a broader perspective causes most phenomena to seem more stable and/or predictable.
We are complex adaptive systems within complex adaptive systems.
I like that single-celled organisms equal half the world’s biomass; that prokaryotic cells, too small to be seen, have more mass all together than all the world’s forests, meerkats, humans, fish, coral reefs, cabbages and cows. I love that there are many more different species of these single-celled organisms than there are types of insect, tree, mammal, arthropod and flowering plant. It seems to be a common belief that evolution equals increasing complexity, but in truth (if truth exists) while some trends favour complexity, others drive systems towards more simple states.
There is a distinction as I see it between reactive adaptation and intelligent adaptation; with the latter there is another level of adaptation (‘learning’?) in response to adaptation itself. The system ‘learns’ through its adaptations to influence, predict and prepare for change.
If you take CCK11 to be a complex adaptive system, we are reminded that it only has to be slightly better than its competitors to thrive. At the moment the Facebook group, blogs and GRSShopper appear to be chopping and changing as the tool of the moment, which is interesting to observe. At any particular point in the course, what is ‘better’ about the tool or environment that is clearly out in front? If all appear to be thriving equally, what’s going on behind the scenes? I’m going to try and address questions such as these in my MA assignment on Technologies for Learning.
Finally – one of the most interesting ideas I took away from this week’s reading material is that the most productive state to be in is at the edge of chaos – where variety and creativity rub shoulders with competition and co-operation. I’m not, as a rule, that comfortable with chaos. I appreciate the opportunity to dip my toe in it every now and again, provided I can take it out again when I want to and put my slippers back on – like I have done this week :-/