Systems Thinking, Ross Institute, 2012-2013


Last year, we instituted a new course in Systems Thinking, intended for selected faculty and staff of the Ross School, in East Hampton, NY. The format was a series of ten weekly 45-minute class meetings, in which I appeared from California via Skype or GoToMeeting. Each meeting comprised a short lecture and a discussion. Three topics were advanced in each class meeting: Chaos Theory, NetLogo Models, and System Thinking. After the course completed, reflection on the process led to two new ideas for improvement, which we are implementing this year. First, we are separating the lecture and the discussion into separate activities: asynchronous viewing of a 20-minute lecture video prepared and posted online in advance, and a live one-hour online discussion section. Second, we are dividing the three threads into disjoint short courses, presented in pedagogic order, in 15 weekly units.

Chaos Theory, 6 units

This course presents the basic concepts of dynamical systems theory -- including attractors, basins, chaos, fractals, and bifurcations -- and the definition of a complex dynamical system, with examples. This is the starting point for our approach to systems theory. We make use of simulations created in NetLogo for demonstrations and homework.

NetLogo Modeling, 3 units

NetLogo is an easily learned computer programming language intended for mathematical modeling and computer simulation of agent-based and complex dynamical systems. In this course we introduce the creation process for NetLogo models.

Systems Thinking, 6 units

In this course we identify systems that occur in world cultural history, and analyze them as complex dynamical systems, express them as NetLogo models, and do experiments with them in virtual history.
Revised 21 Oct 2012 by Ralph