Hotwiring the Second Wing of the Eagle: Utilize the Human Brain as the Sustainability Trigger in the 21st

I suppose I am giving away both my age (autos before too many electronics) and geography (southern) with that metaphor, but it struck me on a walk yesterday that the old technique for surreptitiously taking a vehicle you didn’t have a key for also fits with how global learning standards and digital curriculum immersions actually are designed to work. Instead of being forthcoming that a Portrait of a Graduate is not about knowledge in the traditional Periodic Table in Chemistry sense. Rather it goes to what physicist David Bohm meant when he wrote that:

Science consists not in the accumulation of knowledge, but in the creation of fresh modes of perception.

That quote was the Epigraph to a 1998 essay called “The second wing of the eagle: the human dimension in learning our way to more sustainable futures,” that was in turn footnoted in an 2019 article pushed last week called “Community science: A typology and its implications for governance of social-ecological systems.” That’s us, people, once we parse through that mouthful of verbiage because the keystone for the desired control over and coupling of human and ecological systems is so-called ‘social learning’. Learning and a transformed nature of education need to create a “shared understanding of the social-ecological system” for the purpose of  “complex social-ecological problems.” Those problems get highlighted via provided experiences and conceptual frameworks, images and emotions, that create common ‘shared beliefs’ of the type we covered in the Trilogy finished in the last post.

The Blue Dot July 2018 issue on “Digital Pedagogies” from the last post mentioned its use of something called the LIBRE process so I of course went a-searching and quickly located a September 2019 article called “Libre–Nourish the Brain So the Future Can Flourish” that insists that the UN’s global goals for sustainability can only be met if:

Education needs to shift from a utilitarian perspective to one that focuses on the greater social good. Recent brain research supports the multiple digital pedagogies of Libre.

Before we cover those,  let’s clarify what is meant by the Second Wing of the Eagle metaphor since as we will see the Right Emotional Brain Dominance of the Logical Mind, Prospection, and deliberately crafted virtual reality experiences from the Trilogy all fit with liberating that Second Wing. It fits with what both Community Science, at a collective level, and Citizen Science, at an individual level, want to transform via a new kind of education. It is clearly what LIBRE means by enabling the critical consciousness needed for ‘active citizenship’. This is from a review of the article in June 1999 in BioScience:

Environmental management has traditionally been regarded primarily as a technical task, whereas the causal agents of environmental damage are people. Until human behavior is brought into the equation, solutions will not be forthcoming. [The Second Wing essay] introduces the concept of social learning and discusses the need for integration of the scientific and social disciplines to achieve social action. The authors want to get the eagle that is environmental management flying again. The figurative eagle is currently skirting the issues, madly beating the one wing it knows how to use. The coupling between ‘human systems’ and ‘ecosystems’ can only constructively be addressed using the social learning approach.

Puts a new perspective on the hype over the supposed Anthropocene Age and man-made global warming that doesn’t care about actual temperatures and uses every graphic weather image to try to reenforce the theory, doesn’t it? It’s about the coupling and control–the need to resculpt human perceptions and link that to the motivation for future action. As the second wing essay puts it, the resolution to getting at both wings working in a manner that does seem like totalitarianism from within must get at “the self-understanding and self-definition of individuals [which are] in a state of flux.” This so-called “environmental crisis within” has two aspects that must be targeted by education.

The first has to do with values and beliefs…The second aspect has to do with knowledge itself…This is not a disguised attack on science…It is an attack on ways of thinking, approaches to problem solving, and political institutions founded on the ideological view that empirical science is the epitome of human reason and the primary route to truth and human understanding [Truth? Beauty? Goodness?]…The engagement of individuals in understanding the environmental crisis and in developing a willingness to promote or at least accept substantial change is essential…Social learning is an approach and philosophy which focuses on participatory processes of social change… It encompasses a positive belief in the potential for social transformation based on:

  •  critical self-reflection;
  • the development of participatory multi-layered democratic processes;
  • the reflexive capabilities of human individuals and societies;
  • and the capacity for social movements to change political and economic frameworks for the better.

Social learning, then, fits precisely with Libre as we are about to see. It regards knowledge from an “actor-orientated perspective…as a potentially powerful force for change. Such change emerges as actors ‘change their minds’ through interaction and dialogue with others.” Since I alluded to a link to Classical Education above, minus any link to Paulo Freire, let me do a quick link to a 1987 Virtue Ethics Essay I found when following up on the IEEE Standards for Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (which includes people) and then recognized the Humanity 2.0/ Jubilee Center link that popped out.   https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/ethics-and-virtue/ also wants us to know that education and the “moral life is also a matter of trying to determine the kind of people we should be and attending to the development of character within our communities and ourselves.” Sounds like the IEEE is not the only entity desiring a common core so be wary about so-called ports in this storm.

According to Libre, “education needs to be restructured to respond constructively and progressively to both social change and technological advancement.” Its purpose must also change so that education will now “empower learners to question inequality, unsustainability, loss of common identity, and violence.” Libre intends to utilize the “neurobiological process called ‘neuroplasticity,’ which is the capacity of the brain to change, at the levels of both structure and function, in response to change in the cognitive environment.” Libre also makes it clear that ‘personalized learning’ is not about different trajectories for learning since shared understandings, beliefs, values, and motivations for future action are needed for the desired socio-ecological transformation. No, personalized is a reference that in the beginning, say preschool, “no two human brains are identical” and “each brain is unique.”

Remember that when you read now of required student assessments and inventorying of attributes in kindergarten. Beyond the EMCC we met in the last post, Libre proposes:

a problem-based approach to education that enables learners to build a critical consciousness to drive ‘active citizenship,’ develops their abilities to frame their identities; and empowers them to critically question any systemic, cultural, and physical manifestations of exclusions and marginalization…The ‘Libre’ process was developed to achieve such [full potential] learning by creating environments that ‘liberate’ learners and provide them with competencies to build knowledge using their lived reality…It adopts Freire’s ‘problem-posing’ approach in the classroom, which allows learning to be driven by the learner’s inquiry and guided through everyday words that have a direct connection to students’ lives.

The pedagogies of Libre and the learning experiences they create use 5 methods that all fit with both the Trilogy and the Second Wing essay. They are (1) Storytelling (“helps build a caring and cooperative attitude”); (2) Gamification (“failures become challenges, which encourages learners to revise their actions until they arrive at the ‘correct’ way of doing things”); (3) Inquiry (Mindfulness practices); (4) Reflection (OECD’s A-A-R Cycle in 2030 Learning); and (5) Dialogue (“seeks to adopt a collective learning approach”).

Putting the above back into the goal of bringing the human dimensions to learning so that dormant wing begins to flap we are told we are told requires a willingness to act despite:

unacknowledged conditions and unintended consequences of action. Hence, human judgement and political activity became things not to be simply made ‘scientific’; but rather are more encompassing dimensions of the human condition fundamental to our ability to ‘go on in the face of uncertainty and our potential understanding of the worlds we inhabit…Social learning, while not outright rejecting the utility of positivist methodologies, is predicated on a constructivist position…not with some external reality out there…but rather human experience (human life).

I need to finish up but think about the real reasons for constructivism in the reading, math, and science wars in light of the following quote that also fits with that Freire mention in the Libre aspirations for digital pedagogies now.

The constructivist alternative to positivism is based on recognizing the primary importance of language. Humans are reflexive knowledgable beings because of language. Consciousness and ‘reality’ arise from language and not vice versa. This shift places the emphasis for understanding knowledge not on the subject-knowledge relationship but on the relationship between human subjects. What we experience as ‘reality’ and hence knowledge is to a very large extent constructed by social processes.

If that was an aspiration back in 1998, we are now twenty years later with such uses of language and creation of experiences and social processes locked in by learning standards tied to digital technologies and required school practices. Then we add in where Libre intends to go globally under the euphemism Sustainability as it calls now for a “revolution in education–one that is restructured to promote global citizenship and allows humans to flourish rather than one that only caters to narrow political or economic agendas” and we once again find ourselves beginning to flap that second wing allowing total planning and control over the biophysical dimensions as well as the human and social. What Libre sees as “education as the life-long process of learning and un-learning [that] involves an intense churning of beliefs, values, and worldviews,” the second wing metaphor graphically told us that:

A process of ‘structural change’ in a person’s thinking can be triggered but not directed. The nature of the change will be determined by the pre-existing structure of the person’s ideas and theories of the world which have been learnt during life and their cultural heritage…the reality we perceive is determined not by what is external to us but rather by our own physical and cognitive structures. Because we are informationally closed systems we can only ever talk of our experience.

Neither you, dear reader, or I, the ultimate autodiadact, are ‘informationally closed systems’ although I guess reading this or my book qualifies as an experience. That’s the aspiration anyway and what is needed for the planned transformation in the name of Sustainability.

It’s all about getting access to our brains and minds. That’s the focal point for the planned revolution in thinking. I would argue, in fact, that the planned thinking is more emotion and visual images than what created the West, its economic prosperity and technological inventions, and regard for the individual. All on the chopping block now in the 21st century assault on the individual and genuine autonomy from political overreach.

 

 

 

Driving Behavioral Change by Building a Different Kind of Brain Circuit in Students: Unity for Our Strife-Driven World?

Let’s finally get to the end of the Trilogy on Enactive Cognitive Science which is not really about how human minds work. It is about how the human mind can be made to work when immersed repeatedly in the ‘right-kind’ of experiences. As we will see, virtual reality and digital technologies are seen as a Godsend to aspirations that go back to 1932 Congress of the International League for a New Education in Nice, France stating:

The current crisis calls for a worldwide concentration of all the efforts made towards a renovated education. In 20 years, education could transform the social order and establish a spirit of cooperation susceptible of finding solutions to our present problems. Only an education that completely redefines the relationships with the children can start a new era, freed from the ruinous competitions, the biases, the concerns and miseries so characteristic of our civilization.

That aspirational quote from the past was in an insert from UNESCO’s MGIEP publication Blue Dot, Issue 8 (July 2018), article called “Learnification: Encouraging Learning Through Video Games” that also informed us that:

Education can no longer mainly be focused on reproducing content knowledge; it evolves too fast, and has never been so broadly shared and so easily accessible. Educational success is now more about what people are able to do with what they know, how they adapt and how they behave. It is more about being versatile, about constantly adapting and constantly learning and growing in a fast-changing, hyper-connected world.

A renovated education needs to balance content knowledge and understanding with skills that help students extrapolate what they know, and with curiosity, motivation, and socio-emotional intelligence that will teach them to consider the wider implications of their actions, and to act mindfully.

I found that issue because to a cited author in this India Today story from a few days ago https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/featurephilia/story/how-a-global-citizenship-curriculum-could-create-the-empathetic-citizens-we-need-in-future-to-save-the-world-1642944-2020-02-03, Professor Duraiappah, also wrote the lead-in called “Technology: A Game Changer in Education”. Today’s title came from the article’s aspiration to use  a new curriculum to “to incorporate MGIEP’s socio-emotional learning framework titled EMCC or EMC2 and aims to build empathy, mindfulness, compassion and critical inquiry in students.” Sounds complementary to the Right Brain planned dominance covered in Part 1 of this Trilogy, doesn’t it?

With proper socio-emotional training, children understand how to deal with their emotions better. Apart from building emotional resilience, they effectively learn how to control their behaviour and relationships with others.

SEL training focuses on the core personality traits of students and develops them into wholesome human beings rather than specifically targeting subject-knowledge.

Moreover, SEL can serve as a proactive measure to prevent mental health illness, reduce stress, anxiety, depression and impulsive behaviour.

Why do we need a Global Citizenship Curriculum?

“Global citizens can be described as lifelong learners, who possess the critical consciousness to drive ‘active citizenship’, to recognize the inherent interconnectedness and dignity of all life, and instill the values of acceptance, equality, respect for diversity, empathy and compassion,” explains Prof. Anantha Duraiappah, Director, UNESCO MGIEP.

Now, it is not possible for students to suddenly transform their behaviours. Thus, the curriculum needs to be created in a way that can train the students and drive behavioural change by building a different kind of brain circuit.

Building a different kind of brain circuit. Hard to get more explicit about the real purpose of learning standards and global competency frameworks than that, is it? Here’s a bit more and think Axemaker Mind as a metaphor for what must be changed by the planned curriculum delivered in a virtual environment by digital technologies.

This means that the usual way their brains worked in certain situations would need to be changed via extensive training to build both intellectual and emotional intelligence. This is the kind of transformation that the Global Citizenship Curriculum aims to bring.

“MGIEP’s Global Citizenship (GC) curriculum is designed to inculcate such behavioural change. It advocates that it is not enough just informing students about why one must be a global citizen but to also inculcate the competencies of understanding the ‘other’ and doing concrete action to foster global citizenship,” Prof Duraiappah adds.

Going back to that earlier article from the Blue Dot, it ended with the aspiration that:

Education needs to change in order to prepare the future generations not only to thrive as individuals, but also to take up the incredibly complex challenges humanity as a whole will face in the near future. We need a renovated education system to save the world. And, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, we might need video games to save education.

Before we cover all these plans for manipulative virtual reality environments some more because of the planned experiences to create new neural Habits of Mind they can provide, let’s look at two more books that also cover the crucial effect of experience: The Biology of Belief and The Embodied Mind. As the first book cited put it:

I call it the belief effect to stress that our perceptions, whether they are accurate or inaccurate, equally impact our behavior and our bodies…[a] whole new field of research called behavioral epigenetics [whose] mission… is nothing less than to figure out how nurture shapes nature…Here, nature refers to gene-controlled characteristics, and nurture refers to the influence of a wide range of life experiences, from social interactions to nutrition to positive mental attitudes.

So when another Blue Dot article on Virtual Reality in Education tells us that “Pedagogically, these types of interactive VR display systems can offer major advantages over other visualisation media, because of the engaging, immersive and interactive (active rather than passive) nature of the learning experience they create,” we need to recognize this as the manipulation of experience that it is. In fact, MGIEP notes that it “collaborated with Google to develop several 360-degree expeditions,” which again matters because Google is also the Vatican’s partner in using education to achieve Humanity 2.0 and was the developer behind Search Inside Yourself from Post 1. All of these see VR and embedding SEL within its experiences as a means for “transforming education for building peaceful and sustainable societies. It [MGIEP] sees immersive experiences such as VR as an integral part of SEL for our younger generations as they face 21st century challenges to build a peaceful and sustainable planet.”

The Biology of Belief provided this succinct explanation of the role of experience without regard to how the concept can be turbocharged for manipulation via VR and immersive digital environments that include what parents have been told are simply ‘digital textbooks’. Look for the Immersive Experience could be the warning label!

The same epigenetic influences also continue after the child is born because parents [and then educators] continue to influence their child’s environment. In particular, fascinating new research is emphasizing the importance of good parenting in the development of the brain. ‘For the growing brain of a young child, the social world supplies the most important experiences influencing the expression of genes, which determines how neurons connect to one another in creating the neuronal pathways which give rise to mental activities.’

The bookwent on to urge parents to act as ‘genetic engineers’ to provide the right kind of environment to “activate the genes to develop healthy brains,” but as the Blue Dot cover story “A New ‘Digital Ecosystem’ for Whole Brain Learning” made clear, parents are no longer to be the primary ‘genetic engineers’. From the article with the same co-author as cited by India Today above:

To summarise, new digital learning environments engage students in ‘real world-like’ interactions forcing them to use multi-sensory ways to learn. Resources from technology can provide access to multiple simulated environments and virtual reality experiences in novel situations, enabling students to experience the real-world relevance of their learning. For instance, learning platforms facilitate building skills of collaboration and communication. Similarly, digital games have emerged as a novel methodology to teach and assess both prosocial behavior and socio-emotional skills. The digital gaming scenario lends itself rather appropriately for SEL since it allows stealth assessments in real-world scenarios and opportunities to intervene and remediate them when necessary.

Who do you think evaluates such a necessity and whose vision lies behind the Learning Trajectories for remediation? As usual I am running long, but imagine the uses of this recognition that “genes are shaped, guided, and tailored by environmental learning experiences” when tied to digital VR student environments and remediation tied to global learning standards and frameworks. The Biology of Belief illustrates the role of environment and experience by pondering the effect on Liza Minnelli of being raised not in Hollywood by her “superstar mother Judy Garland and her father filmmaker Vincent Minnelli,” with its highs and lows of stardom and abuse, but:

If Liza had the same genes but was raised by a nurturing Pennsylvania Dutch farming family, that environment would have epigenetically triggered a different selection of genes. The genes that enabled her to pursue a successful entertainment career would likely have been masked or inhibited by the cultural demands of her agrarian community.

Masked or inhibited. Now imagine the effect of all this planned role playing in virtual reality with the provided student experiences grounded in how “the actual connections among ensembles of neurons change as the result of experience. In brief, these ensembles present us with a self-organizing capacity that is nowhere to be found in the paradigm for symbol manipulation.” That latter is a quote from The Embodied Mind, which recognized that:

it makes no sense to speak of brains as though they manufacture thoughts the way factories manufacture cars. The difference is that brains use processes that change themselves–and this means we cannot separate such processes from the products they produce. In particular, brains make memories, which change the way we’ll subsequently think. The principal activities of brains are making changes in themselves.

I am going to close today’s post on how neuroscience can create the very needed experiences using digital technologies to alter how most students brains will be wired. Many such changes have already taken place and such neural transformations go to the very essence of what learning standards tied to data standards seek to alter.

Such neural transformations that go to the dialectical nature of brain activity in conjunction with its environment, whether natural or artificial, are the essence of what stakeholders all over the world mean when they proclaim the upcoming Sustainable Future. It is why “it will be necessary to use performance-based assessments as manifested in behavior” that cross-check what students do in ‘novel situations’ instead of what they know from the past or how the world works in external reality now.

As usual, I am glad we know what is planned for us and our children, even if it is not particularly pleasant. If experience alters neural wiring in meaningful ways, knowledge of these plans helps us retain the ability to still act as ‘genetic engineers’.