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Sunday, May 19, 2013


A Physics of Education?

The behaviour of children in Self-Organised Learning Environments everywhere Is reminiscent of self-organising systems. A self-organising system (SOS) consists of a set of entities that obtains an emerging global system behaviour via local interactions without centralised control (Elmenreich,W. and de Meer,H.(2008). Self-organising systems fall under the general area of Chaos Theory in Physics. It is interesting to apply the definition of Chaos to education in general: ‘A system whose long term behaviour is unpredictable, tiny changes in the accuracy of the starting value rapidly diverge to anywhere in its possible state space. There can however be a finite number of available states, so statistical prediction can still be useful.’ (Complex Systems Glossary, Internet references).

The sentence above perhaps sums up, in the language of Physics, what we understand as education and assessment. Working with a group of children, a school cannot predict what will emerge at the end of schooling, but can make statistical guesses based on test scores.

In a SOLE, children seem to maximise the information content of what they are researching. This too is uncannily close to the definition of the term ‘Edge of Chaos’. The definition is ‘the tendency of dynamic systems to self-organise to a state roughly midway between globally static (unchanging) and chaotic (random) states. This can also be regarded as the liquid phase, half way between solid (static) and gas (random) natural states. In information theory this is the state containing the maximum information.’ (Complex Systems Glossary, Internet references).

Finally an explanation of the children’s ability to read in groups above their individual capabilities could be found in the science of Emergence. Emergence is commonly found in nature and is the appearance of properties that are not evident in the parts of a system. Nebula’s, flowers, cells, markets all show emergent behaviour. The definition is: ‘System properties that are not evident from those of the parts. A higher level phenomenon that cannot be reduced to that of the simpler constituents and needs new concepts to be introduced. This property is neither simply an aggregate one, nor epiphenomenal, but often exhibits 'downward causation'. Modelling emergent dynamical hierarchies is central to future complexity research’ (Complex Systems Glossary, Internet references).

These subjects are in their infancy. However, they have the potential to explain not just how learning happens, but why it happens the way it does.

11 Comments:

Blogger damo04 said...

Fascinating - thanks for posting. As someone who works in language teaching, I'm put in mind of Stephen Krashen's distinction between learning (formal, organised) and acquisition (unconscious, unplanned). While he argues that learning can never lead to acquisition, it seems to me that a similarity could be drawn between the term 'Edge of chaos' which you describe and a sort of mid-way point between learning and acquisition.

May 19, 2013 at 5:41 AM  
Blogger Sidonline said...

Sir, i am a fan of your ideas, they are trully inspiring and realistic.
i would like to make a reference to a blog of yours which mentioned a tablet for every kid. Considering the cost of any kind tablets in current market and government efforts to subsidise them, it is still looks like a distant future where every child would have his own tablet or even a PC to learn with(not atleast in India).

Sir, i have been working on a project called ED-desk ,a very cost effective approch to facilitate every student with power of internet. With a very minimum and one time investment from government it could be possible to accomplish our dream of education for all, not with just text book but the entire portal of information.

I would like to share the blue print of my project with you if you could send me your current working email id.

Sidz B.
siddbz@gmail.com

May 20, 2013 at 1:40 AM  
Blogger Sidonline said...

Sir, i am a fan of your ideas, they are trully inspiring and realistic.
i would like to make a reference to a blog of yours which mentioned a tablet for every kid. Considering the cost of any kind tablets in current market and government efforts to subsidise them, it is still looks like a distant future where every child would have his own tablet or even a PC to learn with(not atleast in India).

Sir, i have been working on a project called ED-desk ,a very cost effective approch to facilitate every student with power of internet. With a very minimum and one time investment from government it could be possible to accomplish our dream of education for all, not with just text book but the entire portal of information.

I would like to share the blue print of my project with you if you could send me your current working email id.

Sidz B.
siddbz@gmail.com

May 20, 2013 at 1:42 AM  
Blogger Cyber English said...

When I first heard of Emergence on RadioLab, I immediately thought of your work. The concepts fascinate me in regard to what reading is, and I am glad you are headed in that direction also.

June 17, 2013 at 1:01 PM  
Blogger Tiago said...

There are many theories and studies about new systems and techniques for improve education. Some of them has been developed in emergent countries and unfortunate are still unfamiliar to us in 1st world. Last year I went to 2 seminars on this thematic , one in San Pablo and the other in Buenos Aires.
Of course I always love to travel, and the rent apartments in buenos aires was great, but what I loved most was to see a different and complementary approach that could be very helpful to our educational system

October 4, 2013 at 12:00 PM  
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