“Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man – the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society…”
Excerpt from Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man, Part I.
Originally published in 1964
Putting multivalent minds to the task of building the sort of “productive future” alluded to by Howard Gardner should be easy given that we live in an era where our technology radically connects (many of) us to one-another in ways that transcend our traditional constraints of space-time and gives rise to new paradigms of language and discourse that re-define our notions of class, culture and the self, to name but a few.
The inter-web of all things, as Marshall McLuhan presaged in the opening quotation almost half a century ago, has endowed us with one might consider as a shared intelligence that is transforming our paradigms of knowledge and value in ways that may not be entirely obvious to us at this point and, despite our best intentions and designs, these media will shape human discourse according to their own innate potentials and in ways that will bare unintended consequences both good and bad.
The inter-web is a highly complex ecosystem of technologies and protocols that form what we now call the “cloud”—an adjective that adequately expresses the conceptual fog that envelops most of us as we contemplate how we might negotiate its complexity and harness its power in meaningful, ethical and effective ways—ways that eschew sentimentality and longing for more certain and halcyon days in favour of addressing the very real and messy challenges that lie ahead of us.
We are exhorted by Gardener and his adherents to cultivate multi-faceted states of consciousness and to synthesize the data gleaned, gathered, weighed—the insights sparked and given wings and purpose—all against a technological backdrop that is characteristic of an ecosystem in Darwinian overdrive. This backdrop imparts a duality to the economy of transformation that can variously enhance and accelerate it or simply confound it.
The question that is front of mind for me is: “Is it possible to move from merely coping with the challenges that face us to thriving in the turbulence that abounds in their wake? Thriving will depend on whether we can wrestle this seemingly intractable and chimeric landscape and re-shape it on a human scale with human values, language and metaphors at its core. In this way we will be able to comprehend and share in the abundance of opportunities that abound in the hyper-connected globe. Let us then explore some of these challenges by sharing candid reflections on how the connected minds of ourselves and our students are being facilitated or obfuscated in this emerging landscape.
Questions to Consider:
1. If we assume that, for the foresee-able future, technology will play an increasingly important role in education, what do potential (Good and Bad) do you envision for transforming the current learning ecosystem?
2. What spaces, organizational structures or opportunities exist for the “connected mind” to synthesize and share insights and information from the other domains of the mind?
How are technologies enhancing or inhibiting this synthesis and sharing?
3. How important are student faculty narratives to the process of synthesizing and sharing of information and insights gained from the various domains? Are you actively exploring modes of digital storytelling with the student as an active producer of content knowledge? If so, what form does your storytelling take?
4. Are you exploring Digital Citizenship, Connecting, Collaborating and Building Personal Brand value through active participation in communities of practice? How are you accomplishing this?
5. Are you directly engaging your students with complex, global social ecosystems as part of their learning experience? If so, what is it comprised of and what protocols/ use case scenarios do you find most effective?
6. How do you curate the artefacts (numeric, textual, audio, video, image, reflections, impressions) of exploration from the different domains and how do you articulate/visualize the constituent parts and how they inter-relate with one another?
7. Given students are potentially a Go0gle String from an answer, how do you see and convey the value proposition that you, the educator, represents? How do you position yourself as a conduit of know-how against a multitude of 24/7 ON DEMAND channels of know-how that feature Fast Forward and Rewind?
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
By Marshall McLuhan
Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity And the New Science of Ideas
By Richard Ogle
The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art
By J. David Lewis-Williams