|Waard, I. de, Abajian, S., Gallagher, M. S., Hogue, R., Keskin, N., Koutropoulos, A., & Rodriguez, O. C. (2011). Using mLearning and MOOCs to understand chaos, emergence, and complexity in education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(7), 94–115.|
Study of MobiMOOC, some statistics, mostly theory. Complexity theory and self-organizing systems, collective scaffolding and ZPD
- fluid realm
- openness to the information flow
- turbulences and changes; freedom within flexible boundaries
- richness of possibilities
- interconnectedness of all parts of the system
- collective emergence
(Laroche, Nicol, & Mayer-Smith, 2007, p. 74)
Self-organizing MOOC displaying emergent properties to interact with the environment in which it finds itself (Bertuglia, 2005).
Reigeluth (2004) writes, Chaos theory and the sciences of complexity can help us to understand our present systems of education, including (a) when each 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.
For a system to be open to its environment, must actively seek information from its surroundings and make this knowledge widely available.
For the system to adapt, it must be pushed out of balance first. The further the system is from equilibrium, the stronger the chance for self-organization. Fluid environments blur distinctions between schools, nature, society, informal and formal learning (Laroche et al 2009).
We are certain combining technologies that embrace the complexity of knowledge production with pedagogical formats that allow learners to build knowledge by filtering that complexity will encourage a new educational balance to emerge.
MOOC as a complex system, continuously interpreting events of the external world.
Based on Davis and Sumara (2008).
“One cannot specify in advance what sorts of variation will be necessary for appropriately intelligent action, hence the need to ensure and maintain diversity in the current system”
Enhancer for fruitful discussions and successful knowledge creation.
Among humans, vastly more redundancy than diversity - which enables interactions among agents.
Interesting to think about how different students should be in terms of interests, level of knowledge. Link to ZPD, "most books have 10% new material". Difference between new information and new concepts ("Cameroon has 5 million people living in cities" vs "Slon is a nematode in respesis")
Must be able to affect one another's activities in order to activate internal dynamics of a collective learning system.
The neighbors that must interact with one another are ideas, hunches, queries, and other manners of representation”, in the hope that these interactions will trigger other insights. They also said “the critical point is that mechanisms be in place to ensure that ideas will stumble across one another”
There was centralized coordinator, each week facilitated by different mLearning expert, but participants had control over part of the advancement of the course. Could propose discussion topics.
“One of the properties of complex systems is that they allow emergence of smaller complex systems within them” (Laroche et al., 2009).
This happened as a result of decentralized authority and the fact that the participants were in control of their own learning. The dynamics of the MobiMOOC resulted in smaller complex subsystems that arose. This paper, for example, is a result of MobiMOOC participants who volunteered to join and engage in an emerging, unplanned action.
Through a process of collective scaffolding (Donato, 1994) participants assisted others to expand their understanding of mLearning, also helped them implement their own mLearning projects. Constructive feedback to classmates - enabled participants to work within ZPD, expand capabilities.
The successful development of online communities also requires
- common goals or interests
- repeated participation
- discussions and feedback
- multiplicity of possibilities
- flexible ￼thinking structures
- interpersonal connectivity
- distributed leadership
- assigned roles
- shared outcomes
(Abel, 2005; Farrior, 2005; Kelland, 2006; Kim, 2001 as cited in Laroche et al., 2009).
Conversations at the center - learn from each other through dialogue.
MobiMOOC, April-May 2011
556 participants joined Google group, 74 active contributing members
Data from final survey, 40 completed
Abstract In this paper, we look at how the massive open online course (MOOC) format developed by connectivist researchers and enthusiasts can help analyze the complexity, emergence, and chaos at work in the field of education today. We do this through the prism of a MobiMOOC, a six-week course focusing on mLearning that ran from April to May 2011. MobiMOOC embraced the core MOOC components of self-organization, connectedness, openness, complexity, and the resulting chaos, and, as such, serves as an interesting paradigm for new educational orders that are currently emerging in the field. We discuss the nature of participation in MobiMOOC, the use of mobile technology and social media, and how these factors contributed to a chaotic learning environment with emerging phenomena. These emerging phenomena resulted in a transformative educational paradigm. p. 1
Reigeluth (2004) writes, Chaos theory and the sciences of complexity can help us to understand our present systems of education, including (a) when each 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. p. 2
In these times of great complexity, we believe a pedagogical format that embeds and even embraces this complexity, combined with a prevalent emerging technology, can be the means to arrive at a new educational order. In this case, the pedagogical format is a massive open online course (MOOC) and the emerging technology is mobile learning (mLearning). p. 2
We are certain combining technologies that embrace the complexity of knowledge production with pedagogical formats that allow learners to build knowledge by filtering that complexity will encourage a new educational balance to emerge. p. 2
Davis and Sumara’s (2008) statement that “an education that is understood in complexity terms cannot be conceived in terms of preparation for the future. Rather, it must be construed in terms of participation in the creation of possible futures” (p. 43). p. 2
It is our belief that the MOOC format allows massive participation leading to the creation of possible educational futures. p. 2
For the case study research, we collected data from the final survey completed by MobiMOOC participants at the end of the six-week course. p. 2
556 participants had joined the Google group over the six weeks when the course was running; however, only a limited number of them actively posted ideas or comments to the group discussions. After taking out those MobiMOOC group members who did not post anything (potential lurkers) and those who only posted a welcome message, there were 74 active (contributing) members. p. 4
40 participants completed and submitted the final MobiMOOC survey from which we will draw conclusions. p. 5
Organic pedagogical models correspond to and embrace vital conditions of self-organization, including fluid realm, openness to the information flow, turbulences and changes; freedom within flexible boundaries, richness of possibilities, interconnectedness of all parts of the system, and collective emergence. (Laroche, Nicol, & Mayer-Smith, 2007, p. 74) ￼￼ p. 5
We believe these vital conditions of self-organization—openness of information flow, freedom, interconnectedness, and collective emergence—can all be found in MOOCs. In this section of the paper, we look at a MOOC as a complex system embracing these vital conditions, using the data of the MobiMOOC as an example. p. 6
A MOOC can be defined as a complex system that, in order to survive and develop, is continuously in search of new ways to interpret the events of the external world. As a consequence of the feedback it receives from the environment regarding its actions, the MOOC self-organizes, displaying emergent properties to interact with the environment in which it finds itself (Bertuglia, 2005). Reigeluth (2004) mentioned that systems require three characteristics: openness, self-reference, and freedom for people to make their own decisions about changes. He continued by stating that in order for a system to be open to its environment, it must actively seek information from its surroundings and make this knowledge widely available. This is exactly what happened in the MobiMOOC and what happens in MOOCs in general. The participants, by using open knowledge distribution repositories like the Web, share their experiences with others. These others can then give feedback to the MOOC, either positive or negative. This affects the learning system as it changes its structure to respond to the participants’ dynamics. Such a reaction is interesting for in order for the system to adapt, it must be pushed out of balance first. This fits with what Laroche et al. (2009) wrote, “self-organization can occur in the realm of fluidity if the system is pushed out of equilibrium via some turbulence, gradients, or tension. The further the system is from equilibrium; the stronger the chance for self-organization” (p. 5). p. 6
Iannone (1995) wrote that using a chaos theory framework, today’s curriculum should be p. 6
flexible, open, disruptive, uncertain, and unpredictable, but it must also accept tension, anxiety, and problem-creating as the norm for the transformation process. p. 7
. Laroche et al. (2009) added that “fluid environments have fuzzy and penetrable boundaries; they blur distinctions between schools, universities, nature and society, while juxtaposing formal and informal educational settings. Fluid environments are conducive to emerging non-orthodox forms of educational research” (p. 6). p. 7
MobiMOOC was built on the concept of the massive open online course (MOOC). Two separate individuals, Bryan Alexander and Dave Cormier, first mentioned the term MOOC. p. 7
Davis and Sumara (2008) have investigated the conditions that must be in place to allow these possibilities to emerge. They mentioned four important conditions linked to the MobiMOOC:
- internal diversity,
- internal redundancy,
- neighbor interactions,
- decentralized control. p. 9
Internal Diversity Although diversity is an important factor, its impact cannot be foreseen. As Davis and Sumara (2008) wrote, “One cannot specify in advance what sorts of variation will be necessary for appropriately intelligent action, hence the need to ensure and maintain diversity in the current system” (p. 39). Davis and Sumara saw this diversity as an enhancer for fruitful discussions and successful knowledge creation, stating that an “intelligent response to the same circumstances might arise among the interactions of a network” (2008, p. 39). In ￼ p. 9
the case of our research, the diversity of the MobiMOOC resulted in new insights that we shared. p. 10
Davis and Sumara (2008) stated that “among humans, there is vastly more redundancy than diversity,” adding that “redundancy enables interactions among agents” (p. 39). Agents must be able to affect one another’s activities in order to activate the internal dynamics of a collective learning system, hence our look at neighbor interactions. p. 11
For example common language p. 11
Neighbor Interactions When Davis and Sumara (2008) mentioned neighbor interactions, they specified that “the neighbors that must interact with one another are ideas, hunches, queries, and other manners of representation” (p. 40), in the hope that these interactions will trigger other insights. They also said “the critical point is that mechanisms be in place to ensure that ideas will stumble across one another” (p. 41). MOOCs support free interaction among participants, establishing a critical point of idea interaction and a place for the creation of knowledge. p. 11
Even though knowledge can be seen as residing in both humans and non-human appliances, it is what we do with that knowledge, and how we construct new knowledge, that is important. This is where a Vygotskian perspective is quite useful. According to Vygotsky (in Nassaji & Swain, 2000), knowledge is social in nature and constructed through a process of collaboration, interaction, and communication among learners in social settings. We saw this happen in the MobiMOOC repeatedly. Through a process of collective scaffolding (Donato, 1994) some participants assisted others to expand their understanding of mLearning ￼ p. 11
and in some cases also helped them implement their own mLearning projects. In many cases, participants received constructive feedback from their classmates on projects that they were either implementing or designing. This collective scaffolding enabled participants to work within the zone of proximal development (ZPD) (Vygotsky, 1978) and to expand their capabilities with the help of more knowledgeable peers. MobiMOOC ascribed to the Vygotsky principles of collaboration, interaction, and communication, revealed most clearly in the assistance participants offered to one another throughout the course. p. 12
Decentralized Control Although there was a centralized coordinator and each MobiMOOC week was facilitated by a different mLearning expert, the participants had control over part of the advancement of the course. The MobiMOOC participants could, for instance, put forward discussion topics that were then taken up by others. p. 12
“One of the properties of complex systems is that they allow emergence of smaller complex systems within them” (Laroche et al., 2009). This happened as a result of decentralized authority and the fact that the participants were in control of their own learning. The dynamics of the MobiMOOC resulted in smaller complex subsystems that arose. This paper, for example, is a result of MobiMOOC participants who volunteered to join and engage in an emerging, unplanned action. Such an act is related to what Jenkins et al. (as cited in Davis & Sumara, 2008) described as educational research based on complexity, for it p. 12
must be interpreted as participatory—meaning that there are opportunities for expression and engagement, there is support for creating and sharing creations, there is some type of teaching so the most experienced can mentor new members, members believe their contributions matter, and members feel social connection with one another. (p. 43) p. 12
Emerging Technologies “Transformation occurs through a process called ‘emergence,’ by which new processes and p. 12
structures emerge to replace old ones in a system” (Reigeluth, 2004). When looking at the read-write Web, we can see that knowledge creation happens in different ways now than it did during the Industrial Age. The possibility for individuals to create knowledge and share it online replaces the old classroom exchange where the teacher knows and transmits, and the learner in turn absorbs. Looking at phenomena emerging from technologies can point us in the direction of a renewed educational equilibrium. p. 13
The successful development of online communities also requires “common goals or interests, repeated participation, discussions and feedback, multiplicity of possibilities, flexible ￼ p. 15
thinking structures, interpersonal connectivity, collaboration, interactions, distributed leadership, assigned roles, and shared outcomes” (Abel, 2005; Farrior, 2005; Kelland, 2006; Kim, 2001 as cited in Laroche et al., 2009). If we analyze these requirements—discussions, feedback, collaborations, et cetera—it becomes clear that conversations between people are at the center of those online communities. This exchange of ideas that goes back and forth between members of a community is essential, because “more than any other way, people learn not from courses or Web sites but from each other . . . through dialogue” (Rosenberg, 2006, p. 158). Dialogue has always been integral to human communication and growth. p. 16
Figure 11 is a great example of "amplification" p. 17
Further research is needed to determine whether MOOCs are attracting a specific learner profile not linked to age, gender, or cultural background, but rather to intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. p. 19