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?