Teaching Systems Thinking with Technology by hcj


									Thinking About Teaching Systems
    Thinking with Technology
Craig A. Cunningham, National Louis University, Chicago

What is systems thinking?

Some general concepts

Examples of systems thinking

How is systems thinking acquired?

Examples of pK-12 educational projects

Wrap-up and conclusion
          Some quotations
"... systems thinking is based on the fundamental shift of perception from the
world as a machine to the world as a living system." --Fritjof Capra

“We are all tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an
inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly, affects all
indirectly. This is the way God's universe is made, this is the way it is
structured.” -Martin Luther King Jr. A Christmas Sermon of Peace, in The
Trumpet of Conscience, 1967.

"All the important problems we face are systemic problems: the survival of the
planet's ecology, world peace, the elimination of hunger and disease, the
education of youth, and social justice--just to name a few. Over the past several
decades the systemic nature of these complex problems has gradually entered
the public's consciousness. Complex problems are systemic, complex problems
are counterintuitive, systemic problems are everywhere, systemic problems are
messy problems." Larry Hutchins, 1995 (Systemic Thinking: Solving Complex
 Quotations, continued
Faced with the new realties, our systems have to transform----as
society has transformed. …it is imperative that we understand what
these transformations and new realities are. We have to grasp their
implicates for our systems, and apply our understanding of these
implications to the transformation of our systems. - Bela Banathy
(pioneer of thinking about social systems as systems)

The general claim of evolutionary systems theory is that there have
now been discovered basic regularities, patterns or laws, that apply
in broad fashion to all three great realms of evolution, the physical,
biological and social spheres and that a unity of science --a
coherent and unified world view--is now possible. These general
systems theories claim in other words that "everything is connected
to everything else"-- the web of life as a scientific and not just
religious conclusion as it had been in period prior to the Rational
Scientific paradigm. (Wilbur, 1996)
          Quotations, cont.
Peter Senge, in The Fifth Discipline: "Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing
wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for
seeing patterns of change rather than static “snapshots.” It is a set of general
principles — distilled over the course of the twentieth century, spanning fields
as diverse as the physical and social sciences, engineering, and
management....During the last thirty years, these tools have been applied to
understand a wide range of corporate, urban, regional, economic, political,
ecological, and even psychological systems. And systems thinking is a
sensibility — for the subtle interconnectedness that gives living systems their
unique character. http://www.systemsthinker.com/interests/systemsthinking/

" we need to end the travesty of the educator that is removed from context.
Real life experiences, and therefore knowledge, do not come chopped up in
discrete subjects but are invariably interdisciplinary. " (Hutchins, 1996)

 The 21st Century Skills Framework includes this goal: “Analyze how parts of a
whole interact with each other to produce overall outcomes in complex
What is systems thinking?
A "system is a configuration of parts connected and joined together by a web of relationships".

A system is an entity which maintains its existence through the mutual interaction of its parts.

Also known as "dynamic complexity modeling"...close relationship to modeling and simulations

Center for Ecoliteracy shifts in thinking (http://www.ecoliteracy.org/nature-our-teacher/systems-thinking):

     From objects to relationships

     From parts to the whole

     From objective knowledge to contextual knowledge

     From quantity to quality

     From structure to process

     From contents to patterns
    What is... Continued
Systematic thinking refers to approaches that are repeatable and
use data and information so that improvement and learning are

Systems thinking is the process of predicting, on the basis of
anything at all, how something influences another thing. It has been
defined as an approach to problem solving, by viewing "problems"
as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to present
outcomes or events and potentially contributing to further
development of the undesired issue or problem. Systems thinking is
a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of
a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with
each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. Systems
thinking's focus is on effect, not cause.
  Some basic concepts
A system is a dynamic and complex whole, interacting as a structured
functional unit;

energy, material and information flow among the different elements that
compose the system;

a system is a community situated within an environment

energy, material and information flow from and to the surrounding environment
via semi-permeable membranes or boundaries;

systems are often composed of entities seeking equilibrium (through self-
regulation, perhaps) but can exhibit oscillating, chaotic, or exponential behavior.

                   (adapted from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_thinking)
   More basic concepts
Systems have inputs, outputs, processes, and parameters

Systems usually involve some entropy or disorder

Feedback loops within the system regulate it (or lead it out
of control)

There is a hierarchy of subsystems within any system

Convergence (different processes/same outputs) and
divergence (same processes/different outputs) (due to
randomness or unknown factors)
Examples of systems thinking
 The Gaia Hypothesis (James Lovelock) "proposes
 that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings
 on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and
 self-regulating complex system, maintaining the
 conditions for life on the planet."

 Predicting the Behavior of Education Systems
 (Thomas Green) (for example: the value of a
 certain degree (high school, college, grad, Ph.D.)
 depends on what percentage of job pool has that;
 the person who is LAST to get a degree gets no
            More examples
A supermarket can be seen as any of the following
kinds of systems, depending on the perspective:
  a "profit making system" … from the perspective of management
  and owners
  a "distribution system“… from the perspective of the suppliers
  an "employment system“… from the perspective of employees
  a "materials supply system“… from the perspective of customers
  an "entertainment system“… from the perspective of loiterers
  a "social system" …from the perspective of local residents
  a "dating system" …from the perspective of single customers
More examples?
  (from audience)
How is systems thinking acquired?
Creative Learning Exchange: “To develop Systems Citizens in K-12
education who use systems thinking, system dynamics, and an
active, learner-centered approach to meet the interconnected
challenges that face them at personal, community, and global

Roadmaps: “Road Maps can be a resource for both beginners and
advanced system dynamics modelers, and requires no previous
system dynamics knowledge and only basic math skills.”

CLE offers correlation tables to various sets of standards
How is systems thinking acquired? continued
 Center for Interdisciplinary Excellence
 in System Dynamics offers a 5-Course Graduate Certificate in
 System Dynamics for Educators

    The “ladder of engagement”:

        Knowledge: what do we know about the behavior of the

        Understanding: what drives the behavior of the system

        Influence: How can we design and evaluate policies to better
        manage the system?
Basic principles for systems pedagogy
Basic Principles (from Barry Richmond,

   Systems can be studied as part of subject-specific curricula
   (through “dynamic modeling” of topic of study) OR as an
   interdisciplinary subject focused on general approaches to

   Systems are seen by students as authentic and engaging

   Systems lend themselves to discovery approaches

   The building of models and simulations is key to understanding
   the components of systems
“Word and arrow” diagrams:

Behavior over time graphs:
      More on pedagogy
Types of thinking related to systems thinking:
   10,000 Meters Thinking (big picture)
   System as Cause Thinking
   Dynamic Thinking
   Operational Thinking (distinguishing between “stocks” and “flows”)
   Closed-loop Thinking (same cycle over and over)
   Continuum Thinking
   Nonlinear Thinking
   Quantitative Thinking
   Scientific Thinking
   Behavior over time graphs (BOTGs)

One goal of teaching systems thinking is to create “systems
citizens” who understand the mutuality of all things and are
expanding their sense of self, increasing empathy and respect,
learning to listen to different perspectives, and committed to solving
systemic problems that face the global community.
“To appreciate the nature of systems, students must have extensive
personal experience in working with systems. This means creating
system dynamics models on a computer, simulating their behavior,
exploring how the models respond to changes in structure and
policies, and comparing model behavior to the real systems being
represented. Such active modeling should extend at least
throughout the several years of middle school and high school. As
early as possible, schools should move away from canned models
that have been previously prepared for student use. Instead,
students should create models, examine their shortcomings, and
learn from discovering improvements.” - Jay W. Forrester

Systems thinking is related to “habits of mind”
  Cp: Costa and Kallick’s Discovering and Exploring Habits of Mind

  "Persistence: persevering when the solution to a problem is not readily apparent“
  "Managing impulsivity: effective problem solving requires a sense of deliberativeness and thinking before acting.“
  "Listening to others with understanding and empathy: learning to do this requires holding in abeyance values,
  judgments, opinions, and prejudices in order to listen to and entertain another person's thoughts“
  "Flexibility in thinking: capacity to change one's mind as additional data is received“
  "Metacognition: awareness of our own thinking“
  "Checking for accuracy and precision“
  "Questioning and problem posing: effective problem solvers know how to ask questions to fill in the gaps between what
  they know and what they don"t know"
  "Drawing on past knowledge and applying it to new and novel situations“
  "Precision of language and thought“
  "Using all the senses“
  "Ingenuity, originality, insightfulness: creativity“
  "Wonderment, inquisitiveness, curiosity, and the enjoyment of problem solving“
  "Responsible risk taking“
  "Displaying a sense of humor: people who engage in the mystery of humor have the ability to perceive situations from
  an original and often interesting vantage point.“
  "Thinking interdependently“
  "The humility of continuous learning"
Use of technology to teach and
  support systems thinking
SimCity http://simcity.ea.com/play/classic/index.html

The Death Clock http://www.deathclock.com/

Pandemic http://pandemic3.com/

Stella (http://www.iseesystems.com/)

50 great examples of data visualization: http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/06/50-great-

(lots of examples for using Stella available:

Online examples, too: for example: http://forio.com/simulate/simulation/netsim/h1n1/#

Examples of pK-12 educational projects

Systems Thinking Playbook

Systems thinking Handbook

Webinar about teacing systems dynamics to high
schoolers: http://www.iseesystems.com/community/
More examples, pk-12
Modeling and Simulation Tools for Elementary and Middle School Science Instruction
Elementary/middle school simulation/modeling software: http://www.stagecast.com/
Model of a flower garden (grades 3-8): http://www.stagecast.com/clients/flowergarden3.html
More sims for younger students: http://www.stagecast.com/cgi-
Video testimony from middle-school teacher: http://www.stagecast.com/school.html
Lesson plan matrix: http://www.stagecast.com/cgi-bin/templator.cgi?PAGE=School/MATRIX
Science modeling/data representation resources from Christina Schwartz's syllabus for science
in elementary school

Rich Lehrer's publications on data modeling in schools:
Thinking with Data: A Cross-Curricular Approach to Data Literacy:
http://www.rcet.org/twd/index.html (unit on world-water crisis for both teachers and students)
      Other Examples?
Lots of discussion/examples in syllabus for TIE 512:
Wrap-up and conclusion
Well-developed systems thinking curricula exist at
the high school, college, and adult education levels

Systems thinking is not taught systematically in pk-
12 settings

What’s needed is more attention to modeling and
use of simulations across the curriculum

Would love to hear from anyone with additional
ideas: craig.cunningham@nl.edu

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