Gone for a while and here I show back up with a new acronym. An LMS is a Learning Management System. It provides the learning experiences, prescribes the activities, and collects tremendous amounts of data generated by online experiences about the student so that who the student is at a fundamental level–‘desired character traits’ was the term one LMS used–can be restructured at a neurobiological level. Hope that explicit explanation does not make anyone wish I had stayed gone. In fact, between personal issues this summer I have spent a great deal of time on webinars laying out precisely how LMS’s work. The so-called global pandemic has essentially made them mandatory in districts not already using them since, even in districts with in-school classes, the risk of sudden flareups has forced almost everyone into at least a hybrid model if not purely distance learning.
How’s this for a relevant quote for these times? The discussion was about the ability of the constructed virtual reality experiences an LMS can provide to illustrate how ‘models’ work. The example given in a book published back in 2017 by MIT Press went like this:
models are often used to develop predictions, test predictions, and explore relationships among variables. We use the content area of global pandemics to address different ways that models can facilitate decision making. For example, students work with a simulation model to test predictions about whether disease containment (e.g., quarantine, minimizing potential disease transmission on public transit) or prevention (e.g., vaccination) would more effectively stem a global pandemic.
That particular book was about an LMS being used by a university, but it has since expanded into K-12 https://www.gettingsmart.com/2020/07/new-standards-of-quality-minerva-baccalaureate-and-debt-free-college/ and the location of its use does not alter the planned physical and emotional alteration of students. So feel free to substitute any school using an LMS in the following quote instead of the referenced ‘universities’. Function matters, not the location of the manipulation.
…in order to develop the mind, universities must provide a structured approach. One could think of education as a form of brain surgery: education effectively changes the structure and function of the brain. And, as with other forms of surgery, there must be a clear plan of action before the education operation begins. [See why the prescribed Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Profile matters?] It is not acceptable to start an operation and only then start thinking about what the next step should be. When universities perform this ‘brain surgery’ and try to grow the capability and capacity of the mind, they should not do so in a haphazard way. They should have a plan of action [maybe a Common Core of Learning tied to standardized goals each student is to demonstrate?]. And therefore the structure of the educational path, commonly known as the curriculum, is important.
The LMS is what is providing that curriculum in either Hybrid or Distance Learning. Even physical experiences get uploaded via a rubric to the LMS so it begins to have a picture of each student that functions like ‘Google Maps,’ as one summer webinar laid it out, for the desired Knowledge, Skills, and Personal Characteristics (Attributes or Dispositions are the usual terms used). Let’s abbreviate that as a useful KSA and the LMS acts like many people’s phone prescribing what a student needs to change and how given where they are now in their KSA vs. the desired destination. Skills is self-explanatory since it involves actions and behavior but our ‘K’ is something too few appreciate since it has quietly shifted to something known as ‘practical knowledge’.
We believe the basic task of a liberal arts education [feel free to substitute Classical Education such as the Barney Initiative in K-12] is to provide citizens with a set of intellectual tools that is applicable across a wide range of situations–and that therefore serves as practical knowledge. Practical knowledge, as we use the term, is knowledge that one can use to adapt to a changing world, helping one to achieve one’s goals…[Knowledge] becomes a set of habits of mind and foundational concepts… [that] everyone ought to use–something akin to a basic cognitive operating system.
Two of the terms being used to deal with a new vision of education being pushed in either the name of Covid https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/restarting-reinventing-school-covid-report or systemic racism, or both https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/brooklyn-laboratory-charter-schools-partners-release-guidebook-on-cultivating-learner-identity-and-agency-to-better-equip-students-to-deal-with-covid-19-this-fall-301117433.html has been Identity and Agency. It also fits with what is called Culturally Relevant Teaching in other summer webinars. It’s omnipresent as the remedy in other words with a variety of justifications. LMS’s are good at cultivating both of these as well since they can use the insights from “new technologies that afforded insight into how the mind functions and the brain reacts to the signals it receives from different modes of communication and different media.”
In fact, “because of their immersive narratives, video games have the potential to play an important role in communication and persuasion for socially beneficial purposes.” The LMS facilitates the creation of a shared understanding because it can be set so that it “requires developing a dialogue with previously unexamined layers of the self and one’s relationship to the world. This [manipulated] interior dialogue and self-examination are [supposedly] the first step to good communication.” Students can learn to use the models and simulations available in the LMS to study “how to change the behavior of groups and individuals” and move on to “some of the most pressing social and political challenges facing the world today.” These activities and experiences create an embedded reality “where students come to see themselves not as mere cogs in the complex systems in which they exist but rather as agents whose behavior and initiative have the power to change these systems, potentially in far-reaching and beneficial ways.”
Let’s pivot just a second away from what the LMS is facilitating to just how very useful it is. Last week, “The Anti-Racist Discussion Guide” came out for higher ed. Now just imagine the use of a higher ed LMS if this is the ultimate goal of the change in the nature of what will now constitute an education.
What we are exposed to shapes our worldviews. And in very real ways, our worldviews shape the world, through our perspectives, our words, and our actions. Because of this educators, have a unique responsibility to play an active role in helping students become aware of their role within larger societal and global systems, and to help students build the critical questioning skills and confidence necessary to create change in these systems.
What underpins an ‘anti-racist’ teaching method–or critical pedagogy–is the desire to help students question and understand the systems and structures of power which exist in our society, both implicit and explicit, and actively critique and dismantle them to create a society that maximizes the happiness, success, and freedom of all of its citizens.
Long time readers will recognize that last line as Uncle Karl’s Human Development Society, which again fits with numerous webinars from this summer, especially some quotes from both PolicyLink’s Angela Glover Blackwell, as well as Beloved Community. It also fits with the Happiness Curriculum being pushed globally. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Development-of-student-and-teacher-measures-of-HC-factors-FINAL-081920.pdf is from a Center that ties to UNESCO for anyone not familiar with their work.
In the Bibliography of that last paper was one published in frontiers in Human Neuroscience that also takes us back to the title of this post. “Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence (S-ART): a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness” will be fascinating to anyone concerned about mindfulness mandates imposed on their local schools. The practices that go hand in hand with what constitutes education to promote Agency and Identity though also trigger those same neurobiological mechanisms if you actually read the paper along with what is laid out in the papers I have linked to (which are only the tip of the iceberg of what is out there from just this summer).
That’s right. These shifts laid out as remedies to COVID and Systemic Racism literally are designed to both alter the human nervous system, including the brain, as well as finally embody, in the most literal way, the qualities John Dewey laid out as necessary for a citizen in the reimagined democracy of the future. He does get mentioned a lot again in case anyone wants to go back and reread Chapter One of my book Credentialed to Destroy. He would be so excited about the potential of an LMS, as would the Communists who used their then precious resources just after the Russian Revolution to translate Dewey’s work.
It’s all coming together now in earnest. Best to understand now or we will all be targeted by the Revolution at the Level of our Minds–the ultimate microsystem.