Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘evolution

Pokémon is 25-years-old this year, so it is unsurprising that some YouTube channels are creating content to grab a piece of the attention pie.

Video source

However, the content is not created equally. This list-based channel opted to use a perpetuated misconception to highlight “evolutions” that make no sense.

The misconception: The pocket monsters undergo metamorphosis and not evolution, even though the latter is the term used in games.

If we used biological knowledge, we might recall how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly by metamorphosis. Neither form looks like the other and makes “zero sense” from a layperson’s view. But this is perfectly logical with some basic developmental biology.

I can watch the video for entertainment value, but I cannot switch off the parts of my brain that that remind me how such videos perpetuate misconceptions, have great reach, and are more palatable than a textbook.

The script of such videos also provides a veneer of analysis — look at how these transformations make no sense or look at the mistakes the developers of Pokémon made. A more critical and informed content creator could have dug deeper and pointed out the differences between evolution and metamorphosis.

Sadly, the science logic videos are not as likely to draw clicks and eyeballs. This is a symptom of a race to the bottom. It is also a reminder to me to remind teachers not to use YouTube videos simply because they are “interesting” or “engaging”.

It is no secret that I am an avid player of Pokémon Go. Given my age, you might be tempted to include me among the uncles and aunties that now dominate the game here.

Unlike many of those players, I stay informed with strategies like using type effectiveness. I do not rely on game recommendations for battling Pokémon.

Video source

I am also an educator, so I look at how the game might be used as a tool for learning and how it might misrepresent content. The tongue-in-cheek video above does the latter with Pokémon “evolution”. What happens in-game is rapid metamorphosis, not evolution. I also learnt this from my days as a biologist.

While the game’s terminology might not be taken seriously, those in and out of school cannot help but be influenced by what they see and experience. They could internalise what it not critically analysed or countered.

I choose to be informed instead of remaining ignorant. Doing so lets me enjoy the video as a form of entertainment and as a resource for teaching. I choose to know, to model such thinking, and to teach others how to do the same.

When I was young teacher, my answer to “What do you do?” was “I teach Biology.”

When I became more experienced, got my Ph.D., and became a teacher educator, I said “I teach people.”

Now that I am an education consultant and facilitator, I do not claim to teach. I say “I teach myself every day so that I might enable learning in others.”

It has taken me over 20 years to realise this and I almost wish I knew then what I know now. But where would be the journey if that had happened?

I watched the video of Michael Berman sharing his thoughts on the evolution, revolution, and extinction of LMS. He shared his video at his blog.

The video is 25 minutes long and done in the style of a talking head, so it took some ploughing through to watch it in one sitting.

Berman made a few salient points about LMS before getting to the main topic:

  • LMS might only offer new ways to do the things we have already done before
  • The people who decide which LMS to adopt tend to favour the least disruptive solution
  • Those who create LMS grew up at a different time and have different expectations compared to the learner-users of LMS
  • Complaints about LMS: complex and clunky (unnecessarily complicated ways to do simple things), good for content repository but not for interactive pedagogy, closed environment (info does not flow in or out of the course)

You need to need to get to 13-minute mark of the video before getting to the heart of the topic.

LMS are likely to evolve to be more user-friendly and more mobile-friendly. At least, that is the promise that providers like Blackboard make time and time again. Slower moving LMS providers could also play catch up by relying on cloud architecture for more responsive updates and including “big data” analytics.

However, for a revolution to take place in LMS, there must be a truly learner-centric focus and design. For this to happen, the central element is not the course but the learner who can seek out learning resources. The revolutionary LMS functions to help make those connections. It becomes less hierarchical (instructor to student) and flatter instead.

This led Berman to suggest the possible extinction of LMS. Such a connective tool already exists; it is called the Internet! So why do we need LMS? Instead, he posited that we could rely on the “power of pull”. I see this as just-in-time, just-for-me creation of ad hoc groups and resources for learning.

Berman cited an exciting example from University of Mary Washington’s Domain of One’s Own where all users get their own space and connect with each other if they wish to. It was the closest thing he observed to a revolutionary LMS.

I have never been a proponent of LMS because they place too many limits (logical, pedagogical, infrastructural, financial, etc.) on an institution. They are slow ocean liners trying to navigate multiple shallow tributaries when what most people need are nimble boats.

Here is data to back my claim.

Phil Hill created this graphic on the state of LMS in “the Anglosphere – the US, UK, Canada and Australia”.

The players that are growing include Canvas, Moodle, and Desire2Learn. These are open source and/or have adopted more social and mobile strategies.

Blackboard is still a dominant player. But even without expanding the graphic above (dark grey), it is evident that its market share is shrinking.

Berman and Hill present just two perspectives on the state of LMS. They do so with research and data-informed conclusions. These are processes that any of us would use before we invest in something like a house or car, so why not an LMS?

So if you are from an institution that already has an LMS, give some serious thought about the likely evolution of the LMS and see if you can live improved usability but the same lock-in and pedagogical stagnation over the long term.

If you are from an institution that has yet to adopt an LMS, I advise you not get one. Contact me and we can have a chat on how you can skip several legacy problems and deal with the problems worth having. These are the problems of learner-centric design and being part of a new solution instead of contributing to an old problem.

Evolution by vassego, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  vassego 

I read this TED blog entry about Sherry Turkle and found the phrase that titles this blog entry. With a title like that, this might sound like the beginning of a reflection on being open, being connected, or learning socially.

But it is not. Instead, the original blog entry is a cautionary tale on how being connected online does not just change what we do but also changes what we are.

Turkle she fears that people mistake connection with conversation and replace eye contact with smartphone contact. She also worries that this constant connection might impede our ability to self-reflect.

She might be right. But part of me also wonders if we are seeing the evolution of human communication and even the human condition.

This new communication, connection, and condition might sound scary, but perhaps it is just adding variety to the gene pool so that when the environmental conditions change, these “mutants” become the dominant species.

From a teaching and learning perspective, social learning might be about being alone together. The connectedness we have now can lead to very rich interaction and unprecedented access to information.

But all that interaction and information needs to be processed and not all learners know how to do that. Teachers who recognize this need must address that need.

We used to share information because we were merely teachers. We now need to share information management because we are educators. That is our responsibility whether or not someone tells you to or whether or not you are trained to do it.

Video source

I chanced upon this short PBS documentary on games in Vimeo’s “Staff Picks”.

It covers quite a lot of ground but what impressed me the most was how games have evolved from being male-centric and about wanton violence to being more about user expression and construction. They have become about giving players choices and having them deal with the consequences.

Games have become about life, sometimes mirroring its dark and painful aspects, but remain about playing, feeling and thinking. That is why I think game-based learning works.

I enjoy having daily lunch meetings with my staff. I meet a different group each day.

These meetings are not just informal,  blow-off-steam or feedback sessions. I find that they also help me crystallize my thoughts.

In between mouthfuls of food, I get a variety of less guarded input at the lunch table. Someone might add a previously missing component in my mental jigsaw puzzle or articulate something more clearly than I could have. Other times I think out loud in response to a query and the elements fall into place.

Creative Generalist by fairbrand, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  fairbrand 

One such incomplete thought was my belief that my staff need to stop working in silos. They need get used to today’s work demands of working in cross-functional teams and become better generalists.

Why? A person’s specializations alone are not likely to address a client’s needs. Ideally that person is knowledgeable or skilled on many areas, but this is rare. In this multi-talented person’s place you need a small team of talents.

Look at it in terms of evolutionary change. In the event of significant environmental change, very few specialists survive. The majority of specialists die because they are have mutations that are suitable for other environments.

The other group of survivors is the generalists. These individuals are the ones who have the DNA and traits that suit them to many environments and situations.

It’s not the survival of the fittest and most specialized. It is the survival of the jack-of-all trades who is the master of some.

Video source

One of last century’s disruptive technologies, TV, is evolving to stay relevant. Google TV is one of the major push factors (see Gizmodo’s summary for more information). The short version: You get what you want to watch, when you want to watch it.

This century education needs to learn from entertainment and evolve so that we send this message: You get what you want to learn, when you want to learn it.

I read You Are Not a Gadget: The Continuing Case Against Web 2.0.

You are not a moron. If you realize that Web 2.0 is but a stepping stone in the evolution of the WWW. Next step? The semantic Web.

[image source, used under CC licence]

Is Web 2.0 perfect? It is not. But it is a huge leap from Web 1.0 in that it allows everyone with the means to create and critique easily. This in turn creates LOTS of content online.

We then need to make sense of this information explosion. That is where Web 3.0 comes in. Here is a quick and dirty comparison of Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0.

I highlight something that Karl Kapp first brought up on the “evolution” of teaching.

He referred to a presentation by another blogger (Mike Qaissaunee) which included this picture below.

Comparing classrooms

Here’s my thought: The technologies have changed, but have the pedagogies?

He also included a joke that I have modified slightly:

A mother and her daughter toured a historical site.

They walked into a room where a large loom was set up and an 18th century craftsman was dyeing textiles and weaving fabric. The girl turned to her mother and asked, “What is this place and what is that man doing?” The mother carefully explained to her daughter the weaving process and how clothes were made in the 18th century and how modern factories now made clothes that she and her daughter could pick up at the local store.

They moved on to the next building and discovered a foundry. Again the daughter asked, “What is this place and what are they doing?” The mother explained that this was a foundry and in the foundry the men melted brass and bronze and poured them into molds to form bells, coach and harness fittings, shoe buckles, sword hilts, furniture hardware, and many other things. She explained that in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s this hot, dangerous process was how metal objects were made.

The mother and daughter walked into the next building. The daughter got very excited and said, “Mommy, mommy, I know what this is! It’s a classroom!”

Here’s my thought: Have our classrooms changed to stay relevant?


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: