A review of diagramming in systems practice and how technologies have supported the teaching and learning of diagramming for systems thinking in practice.
Systems Practice and Action Research
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The educational process arguably involves a mediated discourse between teachers and learners to aid sense or meaning making for both parties. That mediation, particularly in distance teaching models, is often done through the use of educational resources, whereby teachers develop and/or select the educational resources which the learners then study or engage with through purposeful activities. Some issues or topics are so complicated or complex that words or numbers may be insufficient to represent the meanings contained within them and this is particularly relevant to systems studies which examine complex adaptive systems. Equally diagrams can break out of the linear and systematic nature of printed text to show non-linear and systemic features. This latter trait has been enhanced through the emergence in recent years of digital technologies whereby hypertext and other web applications now make it easier to create dynamic and/or interactive diagrams. And yet there has been little recent research into the influence of such technologies on the learning of systems diagramming skills at a distance. These issues are examined through a review of the literature and the reporting of previously unpublished surveys within The Open University on the value of diagrams to systems studies and the role of technology in influencing the study of diagramming in the teaching of systems thinking in practice. This review indicates that diagrams are seen as an important feature of systems studies and that digital technology can be effective in supporting the teaching and learning of systems diagramming skills at a distance. It also notes that new investigations are needed to examine whether more recent developments in digital technologies have made them more effective and/or efficient for teaching and using such skills in practice.
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