A look at Ecosystems in the world…

With my previous post on Personal Learning Ecologies I make note of mentions of ecosystems and ecologies not in the regular biological science setting.

Here is one from the computer world WikiLeaks. Or, how I learned to give up monopolies and love transparency from Hacking Work.



Week 4 of PLENK2010

One of the readings this week is some advice from Dave Cormier in Cluster and Focus -> Surviving Week 4 of a MOOC.

The advice of cluster and focus is wise and timely.  I have been feeling a overwhelmed at all the information.  So many paths to take, so many exciting conversations, which way do I go? which way should I go.  So I am taking a moment to re-evaluate my own goals in joining PLENK2010.

My original goals…

  • I wanted to connect with other like-minded professionals and learn from others.
  • I have wanted to learn more about PLE/PLN and Open Learning and this was a perfect opportunity to learn and experience these two ideas.

During the first week’s discussion of PLE/PLN several thoughts and ideas came crashing together with the phrase Personal Learning Ecology. I have been focusing, at least my thoughts in this directions since week one.  I feel like I side-stepped week two, am trying to play catch up for week 3 and am thankful for Dave’s post about looking for a focus.  I still need to create my “mindmap”, but I have yet to find the right tool to create what I have pictured in my mind.  I also feel like my PLE (I use this term in the sense of Personal Learning Ecology) is a work in progress, perhaps even still in that primordial goo, trying to figure out how to connect all the atoms into a coherent whole.

So to add to my first two goals, I now want to explore, extend, expand upon this idea of Personal Learning Ecology.  I like the living, breathing, changing nature of it.  I like the idea of a system – its speaks order, purpose and potential to me.  I like the personal nature, it is mine.  It does not need to look or act like yours.  Learning is central.  I honestly do not know how not to learn.  I have moments when information comes to my mind and I can’t recall how I know that little known obscure tidbit, but I do.  There are days I come home and just want to shut out all the “inputs” – no light, no sound and yet my mind continues to work, searching for connections from the day until some other “input” demands my attention or grabs my curiosity.

I am going to add this – “Do more about Personal Learning Ecology” to my list, hopefully there are others who will want to “cluster”.

In another presentation that I attended via elluminate on Monday from The Future of Education Foundation Elevating the Education Reform Dialog, I was brought again to that age old question “What is learning?” So many things rest on how one defines this action.  So I add to my list – “Create my definition of learning”.  This is the central word in my PLE, so I think I should be able to define it for me.

So my goals are now

  1. Connect with other like-minded professionals and learn from others.
  2. Learn more about PLE/PLN and Open Learning
  3. Do more about Personal Learning Ecology
  4. Create my definition of learning

Ecology and Systems – Exploring Personal Learning Ecology

This idea of a Personal Learning Ecology is pulling me to think a bit more deeply.  I still need to put together my concept map for PLENK2010 but I feel I need to really look at how some of my concepts connect to what I feel my PLE/PLN is and what it should be.  I will admit that I have been reluctant join in “mass discussion” via twitter, blog commenting, etc.  I feel so many pulls on my time and I can see if I am not vigilant, my PLE/PLN could suck me in to always being at my computer.  But the idea of ecology – a system feels comfortable to me, there is change and adaptation, but there is also balance and cooperation.  I will get to publishing my concept map, but before I get there, I need to better explore how this all fits together.  So I will begin with some background information on systems and ecology.  In a workshop on Designing and Implementing an Integrated Curriculum, I was taught a systems model by Edward T. Clark, Jr. From my tattered and worn paper handout…

Understanding Systems


There are seven functions that are characteristic of all living systems.

  1. The Resource Base Function Every system must have a resource base which provides the necessary raw materials for that system.
  2. The Unity Function Every system must have an integrative force which unifies the system.
  3. The Duality Function A basic duality principle in the universe is present in all systems as in “explicit duality expressing an implicit unity”
  4. The Maintenance Function Every system must maintain itself in order to insure the continuity of the system.
  5. The Growth Function Every system must grow or die! The function of growth, representing the cutting edge of the system, provides the creativity and direction for the system
  6. The Feedback Function All complex systems must have information feedback to enable them to utilize the information for the purpose of effective system maintenance and growth.
  7. The Energy Function Energy Flow, external to the system, powers all complex systems.

From an ecological perspective, these functions may be characterized as follows

  1. Resource Base – Carrying capacity/ Sustainability: Defines the limits within which the system will survive.
  2. Unity – Interdependence: Defines the mode of relationship that exists between the parts of a system best illustrated in the niche-community relationship.
  3. Duality – Cooperation/Competition/Partnership: Defines the mode of survival for living systems.
  4. Maintenance – Diversity: defines a basic mode of system maintenance which insures system stability
  5. Growth – Evolution/Adaptation/Succession: Mode of system change, creativity and transformation suggesting developmental directionality
  6. Feedback – Cycle: Defines the feedback loops that are fundamental to all systems.
  7. Energy – Energy Flow: Describes the entropic nature of all systems.

In explaining these concepts he shared the following diagram (created digitally using GoogleDocs Draw).

Systems Model

Systems Model diagram from Edward T. Clark, Jr.

As a science teacher I used the model to introduce the rock cycle (resource base), the water cycle (unifier), the air cycle (1/2 of duality), and the food cycle (the other 1/2 of duality); keeping in line with the ecological context.  While this model was presented in the context of ecology it can adapt well to other types of systems.  One of the keys I have found with applying this model in other contexts is to define what/who is the “Unifier”.  For example, a high school with the principal as the unifier will have a different feel than another where the students are the unifier.  Or using government, a unifier of a president would be different than if the unifier were the judicial branch.

My next step is to look at these concepts and see how they apply to my PLE/PLN.

%d bloggers like this: