ICT4 Emergence


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Paper presented to the Eudlearn09 Conference, International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies in Barcelona, Spain in summer 2009

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ICT4 Emergence

  1. 1. Information, Communication and Technology for Emergence (ICT4E)--An Immersive Learning Community Blended with Virtual Worlds andWeb 2 Jan Herder Johnson State College Johnson, Vermont, United States of America jan.herder@gmail.comOne of the paradoxes of Immersive education is the acknowledgement that ourclassrooms and schools are not immersive! Somehow we lost the intentionallyimmersive sense of them. Yet we are actively immersed in life and everything aroundus. Somehow the classroom has lost the connection with this. At the Academic level thefragmentation of the disciplines has led to a disjointed feeling associated with learning;irrelevant, regurgitative, authoritative, stifled, entitled, etc. What other factors lead tothis lack of immersion in our classrooms? Architecturally there is a disconnectionbetween the activities of learning and the environment that surrounds the student.Classes are enclosures from the environment. Students have no effect upon theirenvironment, there is no result to their efforts that alters their relationship to theirsurroundings. In this way they are impotent, disempowered, devalued and lacking trueparticipation. Our solution is to transform the learning community using ICT, Web 2.0and the immersive internet.I have been struggling with a classroom design challenge, fromOpenarchitecturenetwork.org (1) This challenge addresses the over crowding ofclassrooms in India. A colleague commented that the issue was not the structure of theclassroom, but the structure of the educational system. Seeing one of theseclassrooms makes one feel completely immersed--that is certainly not the issue. Butimmersed in what? An overcrowded and archaic paradigm of education--certainly notthe lesson plan the teacher so valiantly struggles to provide. So how do you address,architecturally, a shift in paradigm that reflects our emergent vision of education? Onesolution is designing for emergence, which Bob Logan and Greg Van Alystne, (2)characterize as,“Design and emergence both represent processes of morphogenesis, as they both givebirth to new forms.... Both emergence and design involve a bifurcation, or fork in thepath of development, from the original form to that of the new organism, product orservice.”The relationship with doing in an immersive virtual environment is intimately connectedto the students skill set. And much like a gaming environment learning new skill setsallows you new powers of action, creation and movement. Immersed in an ocean weare not drowning but swimming, exploring, enacting--interacting as a participant. Toolssuch as Virtual Worlds and media rich environments overcome disciplinaryfragmentation and focus the student within
  2. 2. This spiral is from Michael Ben-Eliʼs discussion of Buckminster Fullerʼs idea of DesignScience. (3)its learning environment. With sight, sound, touch and increasingly with hapticdevices--students are immersed in these environments. There, knowledge of theenvironment has passed from doing into actively being in the environment, engaged in aspiral, cyclical emergent repetition of intention, realization and evaluation.To me, an indication of something really big going on, is that there has been anepistemological change with Web 2.0. According to Chris Dede, Timothy E. WirthProfessor in Learning Technologies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, therehas been a seismic shift in theories of knowledge with Web 2.0. (4)“the Web 2.0 definition of “knowledge” is collective agreement about a description thatmay combine facts with other dimensions of human experience, such as opinions,values, and spiritual beliefs...The epistemology that leads to validity of knowledge inWeb 2.0 media such as Wikipedia is peer-review from people seen, by the communityof contributors, as having unbiased perspectives. Expertise involves understandingdisputes in detail and proposing syntheses that are widely accepted by the community.”Revelations in physics such as quantum mechanics and field theory have been ripplingthough our world and only now are we beginning to understand the ramifications of thethese discoveries. Changes in theories of knowledge are indications of deeper changesin ontology. Institutions and their pedagogies are perhaps the last to adapt to theseshifts--especially when they are monumental and entirely unprecedented. Where does
  3. 3. education stand in this shifting landscape? How can we adapt our teaching and learningstyles and assumptions to new emerging literacyʼs?I was one of those students who felt it was a crime against nature that we should belocked up during the most productive and exciting time of our lives, namely in school.Remember that childhood desire to “showʼ your parents what you could ʻdoʼ? Howimportant it was. So, rather than separate our students from the world, and the ecologyand rich diversity of the systems surrounding them, we should empower them and valuetheir contributions. Wouldnʼt we want their help in solving some of our quandaries? Allgood research and experimentation does precisely this--engages the students in ʻrealworldʼ problems and situations. And we value their insights and discoveries. So whyisnʼt this extended into the entire educational process? There are certain pragmaticrestraints, of course. But it is here that the power of the ʻChildrenʼs Machineʼ offers ainsight into reconnecting our education with our world. Seymour Papert describes twotrends: (5)“One of these trends is technological. The same technological revolution that has beenresponsible for for the acute need for better learning also offers the means to takeeffective action. Information technologies...open unprecedented opportunities for actionin improving the learning environment...The other trend is epistemological, a revolutionin thinking about knowledge...the powerful contribution of the new technologies in theenhancement of learning is the creation of personal media capable of supporting a widerange of learning styles.”One of the fallacies of homogeneous disciplines and student cohorts is that learners arebest served by being surrounded by people just like them. We cluster biology majorstogether, history majors together, etc. No doubt, there are some developmentalconsistencies that many younger students participate in at a similar age. But this isagain a factory, industrial age paradigm. Whereas in a transformed learning communitythere are multiple intelligences, skill levels, experiences, ages, and expertise. It is thediversity of these elements which is as important as the similarities, just as in naturalsystems. This is certainly true in a global sense. In a homogeneous environmentinnovation is stifled, and rich interactive opportunities are lost. The relationship to theteacher is an ʻus and themʼ relationship, based on power and a monopoly of knowledge.In a transformed learning community, one which is totally immersive, there are manyteachers--we are all teachers and learners. This peer to peer teaching relationshipvalues the diverse contributions of everyone. It supports the development ofleadership-- in confidence building and sharing of skills, to accomplish tasks or learninggoals. This is an emergent environment fueled by diversity, empowerment, mutualrespect and community. It is full of serendipity and opportunity.What is the relationship to design in this new paradigm? It is an essential one.I can not emphasize this enough. Buckminster Fullerʼs vision of a “ComprehensiveAnticipatory Design Science” provides us with an understanding of the systemic powerof design.(6)
  4. 4. “A few distinctive elements characterize the Design Scienceapproach: as a process, it is comprehensive, driven by whole systemthinking; it is anticipatory and future oriented; it is aligned with nature,reflecting natureʼs underlying principles; and, it is science based,subject to rigorous testing and empirical verification.” Why is design so important and how can it impact every level of the educationalprocess? With real time interactive 3 Dimensional virtual worlds to scale, such as(7)Second Life, realXtend, etc.--Design has gone through a quantum leap. We caninhabit and precisely model and simulate our living environment without using anyphysical resources outside of the computer. We can illustrate the future and imagine itstransformation; we can experience what it feels like in an intimate interactive way,changing things in an instant effortlessly. It is truly astounding from a designerʼs point ofview--well, from anyoneʼs point of view. Whatʼs more, I can invite you into the simulationfor you to experience and collaborate. The design becomes dynamic, interactive andliving in a way, that it never could be before, however cleverly modeled. In augmentedreality design is empowering, because designs can be realized and tested quickly andshow results immediately. When a design makes sense, you can build it. This is thedifference. We will already know what it feels like and how if functions. We have cocreated with our world virtually, and it has in turn co created artifacts in the ʻreal world.ʼI want to go back to another of Buckminster Fullerʼs ideas--the trim tab, or point ofleverage in a system. There is no doubt that institutions of higher learning are slowlychanging their medieval ways. MITʼs new classroom for Introductory Physics tries towalk the walk of ʻTechnology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL)(8) But frankly the $1.5million dollar price tag is beyond the means of most of the 400 million that will need tobe educated. But initiatives such as their OpenCourseWare (9) project and other OpenEducational Resources (10) are suggesting a future that we can embrace and see somereal hope in. Yet it is in the immersive use of emerging technologies, coupled with theinternet, that an opportunity for quickly and radically transforming our societies haspresented itself. In so far as institutions of higher education can be adaptive, they cancertainly participate. But more suited to the task is the Telecenter movement. Oftencoupled with the idea of ICT4D--or Information, Communication Technologies forDevelopment--the Telecenter is a phenomenon well worth our closer attention. I believethey are a trim tab for making the paradigm shift so urgently needed.One of the great system thinkers of the 20th Century, Donella H. Meadows offeredsome succinct “Places to Intervene in a System.” (11) I want to focus on the aspect ofparadigm shift, innovation and diversity. In discussing ʻself organizing systemsʼ Donellacompares the variety of evolutionary raw material developed over billions of years, tothe human capacity for creativity and technology, embedded in human cultures,developed over hundreds of thousands of years. She says, “ Any system, biological, economic, or social, that scorns experimentation and wipesout the raw material of innovation is doomed over the long term on this highly variable
  5. 5. planet. The intervention point here is obvious, but unpopular. Encouraging diversitymeans losing control. Let a thousand flowers bloom and ANYTHING can happen.”Isnʼt this a simile for our planet? The garden allusion is not lost on me. The tool wehave been given to tend our garden is the immersive internet: virtual worlds, co-creation, asynchronous and synchronous learning, haptic interfaces, serious gaming,the evolving web: 1, 2.0, 3.0--and who knows? Something almost with a mind of its own,the noosphere of Telihard de Chardin, also called the Global Brain, by futurist PeterRussel. (12)Personally, I came upon the Telecenter quite accidentally. What struck me was howarchaic the instructional model was for the task at hand: rows of computers, just likerows of chairs or benches oriented towards teacher talking time. Yet the computersbelied that structure because they offered an immersive window into another dimension:augmented reality, connected globally to an ever growing ocean of knowledge andimmersion in that knowledge. Meanwhile, outside the door rampant poverty, illness,degradation of resources, etc. contrasted starkly with the windows into the metaversethat the technology offered. Here, pre-industrial cultures and societies were confronting21st Century learning tools. The absurdity of the industrial model of education glaringlycried out for change. 200 years of educational straight jacketing obviously wasinappropriate for the task at hand. Refreshingly, the institutional structures andhierarchies of Telecenters--also referred to as Community Technology Centers,Community Media Centers, etc-- are nascent, emergent, still unformed andexperimental. And even equally important, these telecenters are situated in the mostimpoverished and challenged areas of the world. They have been conceived as ameans of reaching the so-called ʻbottom billion.ʼ And now with mobile technologies it willbe possible to extend these networks of information and knowledge to the ʻlast mile.ʼThere are some negative aspects of typical American university models of learning thatIʼd like to mention. There is much discussion about paying for college, the cost ofeducation, lost opportunities for the disenfranchised. As a parent of three collegestudents I know quite well the expenses occurred in attaining the degree. I retained myposition at the college precisely to qualify for a tuition waiver. But canʼt we deliver amuch better product at a fraction of the cost? We are already doing so with OpenEducation Resources, Open software, and the other parts of the open sourcemovement. This is critical for scale up.According to students at Rice University,(13) who engaged in a project based learningcomponent, the average Rice college studentʼs carbon foot print is 13.4 tonnes. Theaverage Americanʼs carbon footprint is 20 tonnes a year. This is four times the averageof any other citizen on the planet. Even if you lived on grass and walked to work in theStates, your carbon foot print would still be 4 times the average of other people, due toour infrastructure. I see there is a strong correlation between average carbon footprint,entries in Wikipedia, and GNP of a country. And it would seem to me that there wouldbe economies of scale at a college or university --to reduce their average carbonfootprint. Efforts at Oberlin Collegeʼs Living Machine (14) are addressing this in an
  6. 6. immersive enterprise in deep ecology. Their project begins with design. This effort isan excellent example of what can be achieved in the new paradigm of a design drivenweb 2.0 epistemological shift in pedagogy. As stated by David W. Orr, Professor andDirector of Oberlins Environmental Studies Program, (15)"Is it possible to design buildings so well and so carefully that they do not cast a longecological shadow over the future that our students will inherit? We now know that suchthings are possible -- that buildings can be designed to give more than they take." "We intend the Adam Joseph Lewis Center to be more than just a demonstration. It is ameans to the larger end of improving how creatively we think. In the century ahead all ofthose who will be educated here must learn how to: * Power society by sunlight and stabilize climate, * Disinvent the concept of waste and build prosperity within the limits of naturalsystems -- in ways that can be sustained over the long term, * Preserve biological diversity and restore damaged ecosystems, and * Do these things while advancing the causes of justice and nonviolence.” Normally one does not associate technology with deep ecology. But it is clear thatcomplex systems imitate natural systems which are polymorphous, emergent andadaptive. This is how living machines mimic nature, speeding up processes, andoffering opportunities for creativity and innovation. For the 21st Century Learning Skills(16) that holds the promise of our future, this is an essential component and isfundamental to the transition to a knowledge or wisdom based economy. ThePhilosophy of deep ecology is described by Alan Drengson, (17)“The long-range deep approach involves redesigning our whole systems based onvalues and methods that truly preserve the ecological and cultural diversity of naturalsystems....The distinguishing and original characteristics of the deep ecologymovement ...emphasize place-specific, ecological wisdom, and vernacular technologypractices. No one philosophy and technology is applicable to the whole planet... themore diversity, the better.”So my argument goes something like this: by propagating 21st Century Learning Skillsand Literacyʼs through the careful use of ICT 4 Emergence, a paradigm shift can occur.We can begin to move from a carbon based system of wealth to one based on a newtheory of knowledge: dynamic, co-created and grounded in a deep ecology. In terms ofbeing-- it is knowing, of actualizing, which includes an intimate, shared and designbased augmentation of reality through the use of ICT. There is an ethical imperativeembedded within this dynamic. This occurs in the respect for the diversity of life at alllevels, an honoring of differences, of the complexity of life and the creatures that coinhabits the planet, that co exists and co creates. The process is one of self knowledge,of a deep, local, folk wisdom, of language and dialects, translated into wikipedia orvariety of wikis. In other words, a communities engagement with the Immersive Internetand Web 2.0 applications. The construction of this knowledge base is the activity of
  7. 7. deepening the knowledge of a biome. In the process students achieve 21st CenturyLiteracyʼs--in this case the means become the end--the key to experiential learning.In the excellent primer Opening Up Education, by the MIT Press (18), authors Diana G.Oblinger and Marilyn M Lombardi describe the new vision of open education: Quoting JCole:“A global network of tutor and student volunteers would produce a large pool ofcollectively developed resources (1) evaluated and ranked by the community as awhole, (2) distributed across the globe to be sampled, mashed up, remixed, andrecontexualized for effective local use, and (3) oriented to serve the needs of ad-hoclearning communities”The transformed learning community is a transformed learner, teacher, classroom andschool. It would be possible to use the emerging network of telecenters to be the trimtabs of this transformation effecting many millions of people on the planet. Theemergent value proposition embedded in this paradigm shift is one of a deep activeknowledge of oneʼs local biome and community, and the facilitation of this newknowledge to the millions who need to embrace it. By using Buckminster FullerʼsComprehensive, Anticipatory Design Science approach, integrated with the immersiveinternet, it is possible to transform out institutions and our society. The students areeager to help, let us facilitate that as soon as possible.References:1. http://www.openarchitecturenetwork.org/competitions/challenge/20092. Designing for Emergence and Innovation: Redesigning Designhttp://www.bealinstitute.org/blog/taxonomy_menu/2/32by Greg Van Alstyne and Robert K. LoganBeal Institute for Strategic CreativityOntario College of Art and Design3, 6. Design Science adapted from Michael Ben-Elihttp://bfi.org/our_programs/research_and_development/design_science_a_framework_for_change_an_online_discussion_with_dr_michael_ben_eli4. A Seismic Shift in Epistemology, © 2008 by Chris Dedehttp://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume43/ASeismicShiftinEpistemology/162892EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 43, no. 3 (May/June 2008): 80–81A Seismic Shift in Epistemology5. THE CHILDRENS MACHINERethinking School in the Age of the Computerby Seymour Papert, 1993Basic Books, New York , Preface page ix7. http://secondlife.com/http://www.realxtend.org/page.php?pg=main8. TEAL: http://web.mit.edu/edtech/casestudies/teal.htmllecture/
  8. 8. Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL)MIT’s new Classroomcost $1.5 millionhttp://www.openeducation.net/2009/01/14/at-mit-the-slow-death-of-the-classroom-Hilton is quick to point out that M.I.T. is not alone in the change. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NorthCarolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Harvard,physicists “have been pioneering teaching methods drawn from research showing that most studentslearn fundamental concepts more successfully, and are better able to apply them, through interactive,collaborative, student-centered learning.”9. The Open Course Ware site at MIThttp://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm10. Open Educational Resourceshttp://www.oercommons.org/11. Donella H. Meadows, “Places to Intervene in a System”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_leverage_points#References12. Teilhard de Chardinhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardinand Peter Russel, http://www.peterrussell.com/Odds/SoundsTrue2012.php13. Average Rice Student’s Carbon Footprint: 13.4 tonneswww.owlnet.rice.edu/~enst302/documents07/Final%20Presentations/Carbon_Footprint.ppt -Carbon Footprint quote:Timothy Gutowski, professor of mechanical engineering, who taught the class that calculated the rates ofcarbon emissions. The results will be presented this May at the IEEE International Symposium onElectronics and the Environment in San Francisco.http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080428120658.htm“The students conducted detailed interviews or made detailed estimates of the energy usage of 18lifestyles, spanning the gamut from a vegetarian college student and a 5-year-old up to the ultra rich--Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates. The energy impact for the rich was estimated from published sources,while all the others were based on direct interviews. The average annual carbon dioxide emissions perperson, they found, was 20 metric tons, compared to a world average of four tons.” Italics, mine.14. Oberlin Living Machinehttp://www.oberlin.edu/ajlc/ajlcHome.html15. Design Philosophy of David Orrhttp://www.oberlin.edu/ajlc/design_1.html16. Partnership for 21s Century Skillshttp://www.21stcenturyskills.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=254&Itemid=120
  9. 9. 17. http://www.deepecology.org/movement.htmAlan Drengson is an emeritus professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. He isthe author of The Practice of Technology (1995), and co-editor of The Deep Ecology Movement (1995)and Ecoforestry (1997). He was also the associate editor of a ten-volume collection of Naess’s works,The Selected Works of Arne Naess, published in 2005 by the Foundation for Deep Ecology.18. Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, OpenContent, and Open Knowledgeedited by Toru Iiyoshi and M.S. Vijay Kumar, MIT Press 2008Common Knowledge: Openness in Higher EducationDiana G. Oblinger and Marilyn M. Lombardiand Cole, J. (2006) Remixing Higher Education--the open content university. In Open Education 2006:Community, Culture and Content