The learning process appears to be inherently chaotic. Let us look at the different dimensions. The course content, instructional strategy, quality of instruction, cultural-historical variations, our own personalities, technology experience, accessibility and a host of other dimensions impact the learning process.

It is a small wonder that we manage to teach and learn in the first place in such a multifaceted chaotic environment. But we do learn and we do continuous improvement in the way we learn and teach. So there must be some order in this apparent chaos and some way in which this order can be achieved, an oxymoron – it may seem.

Henri Poincare, in the early twentieth century, discovered a condition which he called dynamic instability referring to an inherent lack of predictability in some systems. This understanding of chaos is synonymous with chaos theory that defines it as an apparent lack or order in a system that nevertheless obeys particular  laws or rules. The other idea in chaos theory is sensitive dependence on initial conditions (very small changes or events or systems can cause very complex changes or events or behaviours).

We are familiar with Lorenz’s work in chaos theory. His 1972 paper “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?” vividly describes how this can happen.

So how does this help us in understanding teaching-learning in a X.0 world? Are educational systems as chaotic as weather? Can we create better tools and theories for teaching-learning using chaos theory?

One thought on “Chaos

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  1. Lovely post Viplav, I really liked reading it.

    Chaos is the beginning of design. Chaos is the starting point of anything as beautiful as learning process. I guess the following movie quote totally sums up my thoughts.

    “In Italy under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce?

    The cuckoo clock.”

    —The Third Man (1949)

    Every system tends to gain maximum randomness. Most of the cause and the effect systems in due course of time tend to become free of the initial conditions. Then these systems tend to go for the state of maximum entropy.

    Butterfly effect the movie starring Ashton Kutcher is a beautiful example for this.

    Elearning X.0 initiatives are giving more choices to learners. This in turn is leading to more chaos. Yet this chaos gives the required randomness and uniformity to our world.

    Hope the learning syetems become a little more predictable than the great indian weather.

    Warm regards


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