Re: [xmca] Copernicus 2.0 [toolforthoughts]

From: Wolff-Michael Roth <mroth who-is-at>
Date: Fri Jun 22 2007 - 11:54:03 PDT

By the way, I do agree with Jay that we do not need to know how to
factor polynomials or, for that matter, know how to do long-hand
division---and when the calculator breaks down, we borrow another
one, or wait until we get the batteries. There are always ways to
deal with the emergencies that (math, science) educators hold up in
their arguments why we need to know this or that piece of outdated
knowledge. m

On 22-Jun-07, at 9:51 AM, Mike Cole wrote:

Thanks for the economical parsing of David and Katherine's paper, Jay.
Let me pick up on just one of the issues. Perhaps others can contribute
on this or other parts of the complex puzzle.

You wrote:
Algebra is becoming obsolete as a tool for the
purposes for which it was invented. And so, quite
possibly, is writing. Education which takes
traditional literacy and numeracy as its
fundamental goals is worse than obsolete. It is
obstructionist, an obstacle to the efforts of a
new generation to prepare itself for a new world, a new reality.

You know the book, Foundation? A post apocolyptic world where all the
technologies are still working, but the knowledge of HOW they work
has been
or is to be found only in one place and the superstructure of
is crumbling
while its core is hidden away. and etc........ in later Asimov novels.

You know the scene on Ed Hutchin's ship coming into San Diego harbor.
equipment breaks and the navigators have to fall back on algebra that
had to
painfully reconstruct from years of disuse. But they did so (in a
distributed, collaborative fashion, of course). The ship did not crash.

So without writing, without 2+2, what would it means to have
education in
literacy (old fashioned defintion) and numeracy (old fashion
defintion) were
to no one? I am TOTALLY in favor of the use of complex computational
simulation models as a basic (dare i use the word?) tool for
education. I
think David's work on creating
simulations of professional practices is terrific. But the use of
such tools
needs, I believe,
to be combined with an understanding of the principles upon which
they are

We often say that development requires top down and bottom up
processes to
work in
synergy with each other (a version of the dialectic of everyday and
scientific concepts in
Vygotsky). Complex simulations can be a terrific medium for
this purpose.
But to advocate a form of enculturation that depents upon
technologies which
no one knows how to regenerate strikes me as, minimally, risky as a
strategy for human survival.

None of the above negates the importance of the point that we cannot
understand a system we are inside of, nor can we get a view from
Its mediation all the
way down. But the constituents of the human system of life are not
all made
of the same stuff except at a level sufficiently micro that it is
to see how to reason about human life in such terms.


On 6/21/07, Jay Lemke <> wrote:
> Herewith some notes on the Chosen Article:
> Shaffer and Clinton offer us an awkward term
> "toolforthoughts" and a profound challenge to
> find more intelligent ways of participating in
> the new world of pervasive computationally active systems.
> I suspect that some readers of their proposal
> will balk at its moral or humanistic revisionism,
> and others at its radical ontological and
> epistemological perspectives. I have things to
> say about both, but I think the most important
> pragmatic implication of what they are saying
> comes in their challenge to our notions of
> literacy and numeracy, and to our hopelessly outdated goals for
> education.
> Knowing something of the history of their
> thinking from personal contacts, I believe it
> makes sense to see the issues of new literacies
> and numeracies as the impetus that pushes their
> thinking toward its revisionist ontology, and the consequent moral
> conundrums.
> So let me start from the concrete and back my way down to the
> abstract.
> Imagine a world, already half-way here, of
> pervasive computationally-active systems in which
> we all live. Systems we may still call houses,
> schools, offices, but much of which will be
> "virtual" i.e. will be immersive participatory
> simulation environments in which are embedded
> computations 'tools' and computationally active
> 'partners': artificial intelligences, of lesser
> and greater capacity, that will talk to us,
> suggest directions and options, carry out tasks,
> take initiatives, and immerse us in simulated
> spaces and places filled with perceptual
> information and motor affordances. Nor will the
> there remain clear lines between the virtual and
> the rest of the material infrastructure; they
> will blend more and more seamlessly in our experience and activity.
> If you play an immersive, interactive computer
> game at the frontiers of current technology (or
> get military training in such a simulated
> reality), you get a glimpse of what's coming. If
> you participate in a non-game virtual world like
> SecondLife, you can pretty easily imagine it as a
> prototype for a new kind of "school", or artists'
> collaborative, or bordello. If you talk with
> traditional mathematicians about why they hate
> computational modes of "proof", despite the fact
> that some significant results can only be
> obtained by such methods, you begin to understand
> how deep the challenge to "numeracy" runs. If you
> try to understand what kinds of "literacy" enable
> young people to make meanings across films,
> books, websites, interactive games, and active
> play with toys throughout a transmedia franchise
> like Star Wars or Harry Potter, you see how
> hopeless the old notions of literacy are.
> Algebra is becoming obsolete as a tool for the
> purposes for which it was invented. And so, quite
> possibly, is writing. Education which takes
> traditional literacy and numeracy as its
> fundamental goals is worse than obsolete. It is
> obstructionist, an obstacle to the efforts of a
> new generation to prepare itself for a new world, a new reality.
> Yes, there's a bit of hyperbole in what I just
> wrote. But less than you may wish. I hope we can
> talk about the fine points here on xmca.
> So what is replacing the older tools of literacy
> and numeracy? Shaffer and Clinton give a bit of a
> description, and much more could be said. I don't
> think we know just what this future will look
> like yet, but it's certainly well along in its development.
> What about the ontology? While not well-known,
> the notion of causality has largely dropped out
> of its central place in the physical sciences,
> from quantum theory to nonlinear complex system
> dynamics in chemistry and even biology. Causality
> is the core of our intuitions about agency, and
> the lesson from natural science (perhaps inspired
> in a roundabout way by our consciousness of
> complex computational-and-human systems) is that
> we are always in systems (and so is everything
> else), and in systems, everything is mediating
> (in various ways) the behavior of everything
> else. There are no prime movers. The implications
> for epistemology have occupied Latour and his
> critics for some time. The short answer: every
> view is a view from inside, and more complete
> views require articulations among different
> insider perspectives (from which Latour derives his version of
> democracy).
> And the morality? What should we really think of
> a morality grounded in humanism? i.e. in the
> notion that it is what makes humans different
> from all other systems (souls, intentions) that
> allows us to hold ourselves and others
> 'responsible' for actions? I don't think it's a
> logic that can command much respect once we
> subject it to rigorous critique. Shaffer and
> Clinton don't mention Bakhtin and his notion of
> 'answerability' in this connection, but I think
> it holds promise for getting to something better,
> something more consistent with a mutual-agency view of active systems.
> So what do other people think??
> JAY.
> Jay Lemke
> Professor
> University of Michigan
> School of Education
> 610 East University
> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> Tel. 734-763-9276
> Email.
> Website. <>
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list
Received on Fri Jun 22 11:56 PDT 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sun Jul 01 2007 - 00:30:04 PDT