I lectured in Second Life (SL) in a course called “Virtual Environments: Is One Life Enough.”
I took the course in the fall of 2012. I was already interested involved in SL, exploring around, when I heard of this interesting approach. A few years later I co-taught the class. We had students from Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and from my university (The University of Akron) cooperating virtually.
That evening we were discussing Mashall McLuhan’s ideas of media, how the medium is more than a tool and becomes a part of us, how we think, how we act, and how we see the world. We also discussed the idea of “deep reading” and if we can do that with brief texts and short attention spans we seem to have now.
So I was in this mindset of seeing things differently and trying to understand how we visualize the world and use media (or how it uses us). Then the topic of the corona virus came up in conversation again, and the manner in which an infectious disease spreads.
Then it happened.
A link to an article came to me somehow (across my email, on a web ad, ?). Melting Asphalt by Kevin Simler posted the article, Going Critical. I felt an immediate affinity to Simler when I read in his brief bio, “I publish very infrequently” – much like I do here in Dreamscape Diaries. But I’m afraid his readings are much more in depth and thought out (and longer by necessity).
Anyway, Going Critical discusses complex systems, networks, and how things move and spread across a network. The topic is relevant in so many ways: diseases, ‘viral videos’ and innovations, for example. I read it thoroughly.
I also participated with the post. Simler uses an interactive app that illustrates the various theories and ideas he presents. The reader can change the inputs or variables that have an impact on the outcome – which is shown flashing in a window before you. The results can be repeated, changed, taken step-by-step, stopped early or watched to conclusion.
I loved it.
I was as enamored by the delivery as much as the concepts discussed and the clarity the app provided to the thoughts. Each step and each variation could be explored. As the input variables increased or changed, the reader could click and try again and again.
This is what technology was meant to do: to help engage and to help clarify.
Of course a lot of work went into this presentation. I don’t mean just the research and thought on the content, which was significant, but also (and perhaps more significantly) the presentation, the programming for the app. Why would this aspect be more significant? Because many of us consider the details of “presentation” to be only icing on the cake.
If you do follow ed tech, ed theory, communication principles, communication theory, and many other areas of study, then you know that “presentation” is a vital part of communication, understanding and learning – perhaps even more important at times.
For years I’ve been fairly dismissive of academia. A short stint as a PhD student left a bad taste in my mouth. But now, when I step back and think about it (and abstract away all my personal issues), I have to conclude that academia is still extremely important.Kevin Simler, “Going Critical”
“Going Critical” illustrates how ideas lead to innovations and how technology interacts with and supports knowledge. One interactive illustration shows the implications of networking and network density – being closer to others and having more interaction with others.
So the post does so much more than simply share information or ideas. It engages, it illustrates, it sparks curiosity, it allows purposeful fun and enjoyment, it challenges, and it leaves you both satisfied and hungry.
Even though “we” have been experimenting and applying new technologies like virtual worlds, virtual reality, augmented reality, and others for several years, none have seemed to catch on as “the app.” After reading Simler’s “Going Critical” I have a much clearer understanding of why that is.
As I continue to wrestle with the use of technology in education (and fun?), I will keep these ideas in mind. I’ll probably have to return to the post to re-read and experiment with the scenarios. Then there will be times I bring this into my classes for illustration, discussion and inspiration.
I am glad somehow I was linked as a part of Simler’s network, or at least the network that his post is in. I can’t remember clearly just how I did come across it – part of the ever-changing network and variables of our modern Internet world, I suppose.