Our inquiry is based on the theory of complexity applied to education. This means that the “linear, sequential, easily quantifiable ordering system dominating education today – one focusing on clear beginnings and definite endings—could give way to a more complex, pluralistic, unpredictable system or network. Such a complex network will, like life itself, always be in transition, in process”. We draw on complexity theory to create a networked and self-organizing virtual community, with the intent to unify three off-campus sites that are a part of a Teacher Education Outreach Program (TEOP) of a 4-year university located in the Pacific North west. Each off-campus site is separated from others and from the main campus by at a least a 1.5-hour drive or even by a ferry ride for some, and offers evening or hybrid (partly on-line and partly face-to-face) schedules for nontraditional adult learners who often have jobs and families. This somewhat lonely learning environment does not provide many chances to connect with the main campus, or other sites, or with the students at the same site beyond immediate cohorts. Starting with Vygotsky, Dewey, and Burner, educators continue to discover that strong feelings of community correlates with general wellbeing, retention in the programs, academic achievement, availability of support, and cooperation among members.
Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, thinkers ++
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