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Systems Thinking and the Learning Aesthetic (Systems Thinking Ontario, 2013-03-21) 0

Posted on April 13, 2013 by daviding

When can learning about system thinking be fun (and when can’t it be)?  This was the focus question for the third Systems Thinking Ontario meeting. We had a slight change in format from the reading-oriented prior agendas, as Steve Easterbrook led us through a more experiential approach to systems thinking.  As usual, participants were provided with pre-readings, this time from Linda Booth Sweeney.  As a change for the in-person meeting, Steve went directly to exercises from the Systems Thinking Playbook, which he has been using in classes such as Systems Thinking for Global Problems.  While the exercises are appropriate for students down into the primary school level, Steve has found that graduate students also enjoy and learn from them.  In the short time available, we played through two exercises and then broke out into discussion subgroups.

The first exercise was called “Frames”.  Steve provided each of us with a piece of paper with a small aperture cut out of the centre.

di_20130321_174830_st-on_sme_frame.jpg

The playbook gives the following directions.

Geographic Framing

Step 1:  Ask all participants to hold their viewing holes out at arm’s length.

Ask them to look through the holes and focus on a specific object; for example, a cluster of tennis balls on a table, a poster, you, or whatever object you choose.  [....]

Step 2:  Ask the following questions, pausing for 10-20 seconds after each, so participants have time to ponder their answer.

  • “What do you see within this frame?”
  • “What questions could you answer with the information available to you through your frame?”
  • “What professions might be interested in the data you are gathering?”
  • “What actions could you take to influence the objects or processes that you see?”  [Sweeney and Meadows 2010, pp-140-141]

Steve had scattered a variety of toys around the room, on the floor and on a desk.  Some people looked at the periodic table on the wall, since we were in a chemistry lab.

di_20130321_175124_st-on_discussion_south.jpg

After the discussion about the frame at arm’s length, the playbook next directs bringing the aperture closer.

Learning styles and online instruments 0

Posted on September 08, 2012 by daviding

Sean Whiteley synthesized the Memletics (Learning) Styles from two brain models: Multiple Intelligences (from Howard Gardner) and the Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic model (derived from sensory-based modes from NLP).

The Memletics Learning Styles Questionnaire on http://learning-styles-online.com is cited as created in 2004, based on the Memletics Accelerated Learning Manual, by Sean Whiteley (Advanogy, 2003).  With neither memletics.com nor advanogy.com domains currently online, the ebook has been reproduced on scribd.com by Maria McConkey.  Whiteley bases his model on “brain regions”.

… we first look at the basis of learning styles and their influence on learning.  [....] We then look at each of the Memletic Styles in turn.  In summary, these are:

  • Visual. You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural. You prefer using sound and music.
  • Verbal. You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical. You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  • Logical. You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  • Social. You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary. You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Lastly, we look at how you can improve your learning by using learning styles. One obvious way is to use more of your dominant learning styles. An interesting feature of learning styles is that you can also improve your learning performance by using styles you do not often use. If you are a mainly visual person, then you can make a lesson more memorable by using some aural content in your visualizations. If you like to use logic, then use some physical learning techniques occasionally.

Why Styles? Understand the basis of learning styles

Your learning styles have more influence than you may realize. Your preferred styles guide the way you learn. They also change the way you internally represent experiences, the way you recall information, and even the words you choose. We explore more of these features in this chapter. Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn. Researchers using brain-imaging technologies have been able to find out the key areas of the brain responsible for each learning style. Refer to the “Brain Regions” diagram and read the following overview:

  • Visual. The occipital lobes at the back of the brain manage the visual sense.  Both the occipital and parietal lobes manage spatial orientation.
  • Aural. The temporal lobes handle aural content. The right temporal lobe is especially important for music.
  • Verbal. The temporal and frontal lobes, especially two specialized areas called Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas (in the left hemisphere of these two lobes).
  • Physical. The cerebellum and the motor cortex (at the back of the frontal lobe) handle much of our physical movement.
  • Logical. The parietal lobes, especially the left side, drive our logical thinking.
  • Social. The frontal and temporal lobes handle much of our social activities. The limbic system (not shown apart from the hippocampus) also influences both the social and solitary styles. The limbic system has a lot to do with emotions, moods and aggression.
  • Solitary. The frontal and parietal lobes, and the limbic system, are also active with this style.

I’ve based the Memletic Styles on two brain models you may have heard about. The first is “Multiple Intelligences” by Howard Gardner. I’ve broadened his model and made it more applicable to learning. You may know the other model as “VAK,” or the Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic model. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) books also describe this model as “modality preferences”.

Source: Sean Whiteley, Memletics Accelerated Learning Manual (2003), pp. 55-56.

As much as I would like to follow up on continuing research, the last mention that I can find about Memletics is a cached version on archive.org from 2008.

My learning styles inventory as assessed from http://learning-styles-online.com sees my highest scores as logical and solitary.  However, a closer interpretation says (i) logical, aural and verbal dominate over visual (slightly) and physical (completely), and (ii) solitary is preferred (but may not dominate) over social.  If I am to have a learning style that includes listening and talking, I would expect that to happen socially!

Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers (CS0005), Aalto University, Finland 1

Posted on April 25, 2011 by daviding

In February, I returned to Finland to teach the Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers CS0005 course in the master’s program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University.  I had previously blogged about teaching and learning from the Systemic Thinking for Sustainable Communities CS0004 course in October.  The February course was again intensive, this time on a Friday-Tuesday-Friday schedule.

All of the course content is available as open source in a directory at http://coevolving.com/aalto/201102-cs0005/ .  Here’s a map outlining the course.

The style of the classes again centered on a list of references from which students could select according to personal interests, supplemented by lectures outlined with context maps.  The course outline was provided as long form text that evolved online during the week.  Written responses from students were most frequently posted on public blogs, with notifications and responses on the Systemicists Forum on the Systems Community of Inquiry, with separate threads for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and the final essays.

The first lecture for CS0005 was a quick review of the first topic for CS0004 in October, foundations for a systems approach.  This turned out to be a worthwhile activity, as the students (and my co-instructors!) had mulled over the basic ideas of systems for four months, resulting in more reflection and questions than I was expecting.

This background in the first lecture continued with a discussion of method frameworks.

Learning about teaching: systems thinking and sustainability course in Finland 2

Posted on October 21, 2010 by daviding

[Frank] Oppenheimer had a provocative approach to learning, which can be summarized by saying that …

the best way to learn is to teach, the best way to teach is to keep learning, and that what counts in the end is having had a shared, reflected experience.  (Delacote, 1998)

At the beginning of October, I had blogged about starting the first of two courses in the master’s program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University.  I’ve been maintaining the content online as open courseware, and have now added an index page.  The context map and the course outline have evolved, and should now have mostly stabilized with the conclusion of the lectures.

The course isn’t quite done yet, as the students have to write research papers.  I took responsibility for the course content, and Aija Staffans and Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen have taken responsibility for guiding the students through the university practicalities and evaluating their learning.

While I have previously instructed at the master’s and doctoral level before, I don’t claim to be the greatest teacher.  I see myself as a researcher who can share content with students, whom may have more or less interest in the topics.  Teaching this first class on Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities (with a follow on of Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers scheduled five months later) has led me to some of my own learning, with overall conclusions that include:

  • 01. Sustainability is a topical theme that can be complemented by the systems sciences
  • 02. Designing for dialogues about future systems is distinct from designing future systems that will learn
  • 03. Open courseware is a foundation, and not a replacement for teaching
  • 04. Education on systems thinking from a systems sciences approach should include both theory and method
  • 05. Today’s students are comfortable with online materials, social communities and blogging

Having the course materials available on the Internet allowed me — with sufficient warning to students that they should check revision dates on documents — a luxury to revise materials just before the lectures … and following the lectures.  Thus, there are some specific learning on each of the content for each lecture:

  • 06. Map 01: Foundations for a systems approach
  • 07. Map 02: Boundaries, inquiry, perspectives
  • 08. Map 03: Learning categories, postnormal science, ignorance
  • 09. Map 04: Dialogue, engagement, intervention
  • 10. Map 05: Ecosystems, collapse, resilience
  • 11. Map 06: System design frameworks

My reflections are expanded, below.

01. Sustainability is a topical theme that can be complemented by the systems sciences

Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities, Aalto University, Finland 3

Posted on October 01, 2010 by daviding

At Aalto University — the institution resulting from the merger of the former Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics, and University of Art and Design Helsinki — there’s a new master’s program in Creative Sustainability.  I’m here to launch a pair of new courses:  Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities (CS0004) in October 2010, and Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers (CS0005) scheduled for February 2011.

The design and delivery of this course has been in the agile Finnish style.  I’ve been working with Aija Staffans and Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen in transforming the reading list into a learning style suitable for a class of 24 to 30 students.

As an alternative to creating content in the traditional Powerpoint style, I’ve been putting content directly on the web.  Visual maps help to reduce confusion.  Here’s a map outlining the course.

http://coevolving.com/aalto/201010-cs0004/201010-cs0004-map00-context.png

The details are available in a course outline in long form text.  (This continues to evolve over the duration of the class).

The first lecture is on Foundations for a systems approach.

The second lecture is on Perspectives and diversity.

Lifelong education on service systems: a perspective for STEM learners 1

Posted on January 12, 2010 by daviding

One of the benefits of the IBM’s Smarter Planet vision(s) is its encouragement to think about the 21st century world from a fresh perspective.  The rise of the service economy — which is not the same as the service sector — calls for the nurturing of talents with different emphases.  While curricula typically have a strong grasp of agricultural systems (developed since, say, 1600 A,.D.), and industrial systems (since, say, 1850 A.D.), the science of service systems is still emerging.

A study on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education by a 2007 National Academies committee published recommendations in 2008 for professional science master’s education that is interdisciplinary in character.  Such an investment in curriculum change has been proposed as a good use of stimulus funding in the U.S. In concert, 8 of 10 students expressed a wish for universities to revamp their traditional learning environments in the Smarter Planet University Jam conducted in spring 2009 .

In 2008 and 2009, the focus has shifted to primary and secondary school education, convening another National Academies committee centered on K-12, with a report due in 2010.  Jim Spohrer — formerly the Director of Almaden Services Research, and now the Director of IBM Global University Programs — updated me on his current thinking about a potential design for education on Smarter Planet Service Systems.

Systems that move, store, harvest, process Kindergarten Transportation
1 Water and waste management
2 Food and global supply chain
3 Energy and energy grid
4 Information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure
Systems that enable healthy, wealthy and wise people 5 Building and construction
6 Banking and finance
7 Retail and hospitality
8 Healthcare
9 Education (including universities)
Systems that govern 10 Government (cities)
11 Government (regions / states)
12 Government (nations)
Higher education Specific service systems
Professional life Specific service systems

Jim is following confirmation of the effectiveness of a Challenge-Based Learning approach by the New Media Consortium as “a strategy to engage kids in any class by giving them the opportunity to work on significant problems that have real-world implications”.  I liked his ordering of systems into three levels:



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