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“Pedagognology” – Activity 21

Use the Week 6 forum to discuss the relationship between technology and pedagogic theory and practice, drawing on your own context and experience.
What is your own experience and view?
Do you regard either pedagogy or technology as more significant than the other?
How do technology and pedagogy influence each other?
Do you have experience where either technology or pedagogy has been given more weight than the other?

The title I created for this post gives a clue to my position on this subject. We started by reading chapter 1 of Martin Weller’s The Digital Scholar We are introduced to the term Technological Determination which was first used by Thorbein Veblen, an American sociologist.

The technological deterministic viewpoint is that technology is an autonomous system that affects all other areas of society. Thus human behaviour is, to a greater or lesser extent, shaped by technology

This is often discussed in negative terms but I see it from a different point of view. Human behaviour is shaped by many things including culture. To me technology is just another form of culture like film and art. And similarly, debate rages here too. Think of the arguments over modern art and film and opera versus pop. None of the above are bad they are just a matter of your level of exposure, taste, preference etc. When I was 14 I loved the group Bros, now my tastes are slightly improved!

To me, technology versus pedagogy is the same thing. There is no “versus” as they can work separately, in part and together. At the school where I work we are slowly introducing iPads but already use Twitter and Facebook. We will soon be moving to Google in terms of documents, email and our website. Departments and individual teachers have Twitter accounts for their subject areas and to engage with their students. I use social media for advertising, PR and engaging with students and parents. We also use Edmodo, GCSEpod and Doddle and Vimeo. Our PE department use Wii Just Dance for lessons and it goes down a storm with students. But we have also introduced lacrosse, to me a fairly old fashioned sport, which is being met with equal enthusiasm by students. We also practice DEAR (drop everything and read, which is basically just that. Everyday at a specific time we all drop whatever we are doing and read) as a way of encouraging literacy. I see most students reading good old fashioned books but some are using Kindles and other tablets. Last week I had to walk around the school and spotted an English class sat outside in the sun reading a play from books.

This just illustrates that neither replaces the other and people will always have a preference for one but, generally, this can be accommodated in an education setting. Technology and pedagogy influence and drive each other. There may come a day when technology has a bigger influence but however far it goes it will all have originally come from traditional pedagogy. I am doing an Internet history course and its amazing how much of what we do now is influenced by things like the code breaking equipment at Bletchley Park. This happened a long time ago but it’s influence live on in the digital genes of the Internet.

Admittedly, I couldn’t study what I do without technology as I don’t have the time or money to attend a physical college. So for me technology currently is the winner but that’s not to say this won’t change. I was also at school when we didn’t have computers and the Internet was still in the early stages of development. I know you can teach without technology but we would miss so many opportunities and there is a whole wave of creativity we would miss out on. Children blogging, making films, debating on Facebook, and creating art with Photoshop to name but a few.

Technology is just like any tool that humans discover, invent, use and then adapt for other uses. Man discovered fire as a means of keeping warm and then heating food. We have now adapted the principal to posh gas barbecues, wood burners and fancy heaters outside in the garden and pubs. We invented the wheel and look what we have done with that. One day we won’t use wheels as we will all be in flying cars and gliding trains but echoes of the original wheel will always be heard.

Like the type of education we are discussing we need to be Open. Open to new technologies and open to trying them. Maybe they won’t work. Maybe they won’t work in the way they were intended. But if we don’t try we won’t know and that rather defeats the point of learning.

Activity 20 – Rhizomatic learning

Picture from Flickr

For the last activity of week 5 we watched Dave Cormier Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic Learning in Formal Education (2012).

I enjoyed reading (read the transcribe and didn’t watch the video) this article as I am a fan of what I now know to be rhizomatic learning. My favourite line has to be

And at that point the community really can be the curriculum

To me, working in a high school, the word curriculum usually makes me think of regimes, timetables, tradition, conservatism, basically something regimented and old fashioned. I like the idea, and have experienced, the concept of the community being the curriculum.

I also like the idea of a messy network which is dynamic. My ideal method of learning is a combination of good old fashioned lectures, tests and assignments (online or being physically present) and making and joining networks which take you in all sorts of directions.

Cormier also describes them as

taking off in directions, they fit into an eco system, they adapt to the eco system around them. They grow and spread via experimentation, so they’ll try out this way, maybe they run into a rock, maybe it turns a corner, maybe it hits a wall but it ends up reaching out it’s tendril and trying to figure out whether it can find a place to grow, whether the nutrients are there, whether that’s a direction that’s gonna work out. And again I think this is a really nice metaphor for the learning process.

I too like this metaphor and enjoy the process of my tendrils working their round the Eco system. I also like the fact that occasionally a root will break off and then start another plant off. The network cultivated in my EDCM MOOC technically broke off when the course came to an end. However, the community still exists not only in the original “neighbourhood”, but in new ones which then took off other directions. I would use the metaphor of a family tree. You start and raise a family. Parts of the family grow up and start their own. Families may break up and never or seldom speak or maybe they marry into a new family and become step relatives or in-laws.

I could definitely imagine implementing rhizomatic learning in, as an example, my high school. However, it wouldn’t replace traditional learning. It would complement it. The ratio of pedagogies may change but they would still complement each other.

The main issue of rhizomatic learning is that it’s “looseness” wouldn’t suit everyone. Some people need a traditional structure, but this would be the plus side of using a complementary way forward. Using a combination of the traditional and rhizomatic could mean being able to reach and engage with more students as you appeal to whichever preferred method they have. I can see this working with some of our students who are not always in classes for one reason or another. Give them the structure of the school day and curriculum but teach it using a rhizomatic method may appeal to them and give them the confidence as they manage their own learning.

Students need to be more prepared for the outside world. They are too mollycoddled with laws and policies covering health, safety, human rights, equality etc. (I am not disagreeing with them but there seems to be too much wrapping in cotton wool in case something happens) Show students how to take risks and let them once in a while. They need to experience adventure, danger (I don’t mean throw them in a shark tank danger, more supervised rock climbing or even that they can lose or fail at something and that the world won’t end). Rhizomatic learning is just an adventure, a journey, taking risks along the way.

Activity 19 – Connectivism? Check!

In this activity you will be devising a course that takes a strong connectivism approach, based on some key principles devised by Siemens.

Take the description of the short course on digital skills that you developed in Week 2 and recast it, so that it adopts a highly connectivist approach. Or, if you prefer, you could take this ‘Open education’ open course as an example and recast it in a more connectivist model, or another course you have familiarity with. You should take each of the principles set out above and state how they are realised in your course, either as a general principle or by giving an example activity.

I was quite excited about attempting this activity because I am basing it on an OER/online course that some of us MOOCers created ourselves! So not only can I base my answers on the course but also on the process of creating the course.

Looking back at the initial “course” I designed in week 2 I realised that I had chosen a similar subject, social media/digital skills for teachers, so it was obviously meant to be!

In some respects I found connectivism complicated. Reading about it that is. I read Siemens Connectivism, a learning theory for the digital age. and Downes, What Connectivism is and I struggled through it. It was only when I got to the end that I realised I was already doing it. What I found difficult was the theory and the way it was presented, in parts, in the above articles. I then looked back over comments on my blog, discussions in the G+ community and Tweets and remembered how simple it was. I am doing it all the time!

According to Downes connectivism is;

the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.

Basically it’s all about the connections and how you manage them. Something which I experience and value everyday. In addition to using Twitter, Facebook, G+, I have started a G+ community for one of my other MOOCs and recently moderated a Twitterchat for another MOOC I am doing. So I am constantly “connecting the nodes and information sources” Siemens refers to. Whilst blogging for this MOOC I started talking to students doing the full version of Open Learning and via some misinterpretation on my behalf we ended up creating the OER named My Social Network Toolkit.

To be able to base an activity on a nearly real life course is obviously too good an opportunity to miss. Thank you to John Baglow and Sukaina Walji for letting me use parts of their work in my blog.

Course outline
My Social Network Toolkit: Course Outline

1. Introduction
The course starts with an introduction and then looks at some of the most popular social media tools that are used in education. John Baglow coined the term “DIY (Do it Yourself) toolkit.” when talking about the resource we created. “We will suggest a basic set of tools and you will then be encouraged to explore their potential. When you use each tool we want you to use it to connect with other people also working on the Toolkit”. We suggest and actively encourage students will learn

  • by engaging with other people’s opinions
  • by forming interest groups with other people
  • you will become more skilled at using social media as a learning tool
  • by developing and maintaining links with others
  • you will develop the skill of seeing how ideas interrelate??
  • the skills and knowledge you acquire will be up-to-date
  • you will constantly be developing the skill of decision-making

How will all of this happen? Students are encouraged to connect and let others know how they got on with a specific tool they have tried.

The course also includes a section on Cybersafety and Online Etiquette, an outline of how the tools can be used in the classroom and further reading.

That was a short outline of the OER we are in the process of creating and hope to post soon. I will now look at the key principals of connectivism and how they are realised in our OER.

Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
Learning is no longer about sitting in a class, listening and learning parrot fashion. Students are encouraged to be more proactive and the Internet is perfect for this. Visit any social network community and watch how a simple post can cause a debate. Our course is not advocating that specific social media is used, or even that it is used at all. We are just suggesting that people take a look and give it a go. Everyone has their preferred platform and that is the beauty of social media; the choice is ours.
Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources.
The three of us “meeting” and starting a project was definitely a process of connecting the nodes and information sources. John introduced me to Etherpad as a method of collaborating and brainstorming our initial ideas. We then moved to Google Drive and Prezi which we shared so we could all work on them. John set up the G+ community which we used to hold initial discussions and will eventually be the platform for our OER.

As you can see from the outline of our course

“We will suggest a basic set of tools and you will then be encouraged to explore their potential. When you use each tool we want you to use it to connect with other people also working on the Toolkit”

we are actively encouraging people to go down the connectivism route. This is the best way to learn and something I have found in my MOOC experience. Someone sets you on the road with an idea or lecture and you go off and explore, making connections along the way. These will inevitably lead to more connections and so the process continues.

Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
In this case it applies to the devices we used to create this OER and those that learners will use to access it. Laptops, PCs, smart phones and tablets. This appliances allow us the freedom to learn.

Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
Our learning no longer stops when formal education ends. We can continue to connect and learn for as long as we like. The whole point of our OER is to start people on their way. We don’t claim to be an authority and emphasise the need for further reading and readers to make connections. By connecting with like minded people (discussing, arguing, collaborating etc) we make the things we learn more relevant to us.

Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
The connections we gain are our PLN (Personal Learning Networks) and help us to continue learning. In our Toolkit we encourage students to make connections by following Twitterchats, comment on blogs and joining the G+ community. We recognise this as one of the most important factors to learning something new: Being able to connect and collaborate with our peers.

Ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill.
Because the emphasis is on making your own connections and self learning, managing the connections is a key skill. It is easy to be overwhelmed, unmotivated and become bogged down in irrelevant information. Being able to see and use the connections is a key skill which does come with experience and as confidence is gained.

Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities. The point of encouraging students to make connections is so that they are able to access up to date information. By accessing learning via communities and individuals you are learning from the people who are directly involved in the areas you are interested in. If you continue to follow sources in this way you get updates as they do and your learning becomes dynamic.

Decision making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision. Our toolkit places choice and responsibility in the hands of the resource user. Throughout we encourage them to investigate and experiment but the final decision as to what they take up and how far they take it is up to them.

I couldn’t do what I do without connectivism. I have done MOOCs where I haven’t made the connections and although I completed the course it lacked the energy of courses where connections were made. I did what I had to to pass and nothing more. Which is fine if that’s all you want to do but to me it seems a waste of an opportunity. The connections I have made on previous courses are still with me and continue to help me learn. As Siemens said “The pipe is more important than then content within the pipe

Connectivism compliments the traditional concept of education. I think anyone involved in networks (blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc) is already educating others based around connectivism. The course we created is just a more concentrated version of what people do every day.

Ryde pier to Cowes

Great start to the walking season. A nice gentle walk (about 13 miles) to kick start the system. Our aim was to walk from Ryde to East Cowes along the coast wherever possible. We had to break off at Fishbourne but we joined the coast again at Wootton.

Fishbourne Ferry

We were scuppered again at Osborne House as the beach is private and the staff wouldn’t make any exceptions. We walked back, with an incoming tide, but found a path that took us though the grounds and out to Barton Manor.

A quick hop on the chain ferry and into the pub for a swift half.

This is only a short report as it was a short walk. However, there are challenges ahead!

We are in the process of setting up the Isle of Wight Long Distance Walking Association and once confirmed we will be setting up a blog, Facebook and Twitter pages.

The Isle of Wight Walking Festival kicks off in May.

Looking forward to a great season.

A bit wet in places!


Activity 17: The role of abundance

Image by Joi Ito

The Open Learning week started with us reading Martin Weller’s A pedagogy of abundance

We were asked to do the following;

In the conclusion two questions are posed: ‘The issue for educators is twofold I would suggest: firstly how can they best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice, and secondly how do we best equip learners to make use of it?’
Post a comment to contribute an answer to one of these questions, drawing on your own context and experience. For example, you might suggest that we could best equip learners to make use of abundant content by developing their critical analysis skills.

I like the whole debate of abundance and although I am in the middle of it, MOOC addict that I am, I have never really thought about education and abundance. To me abundance relates to crops, grazing, store cupboards, actually anything food related but not education. But when you think about it, it’s obvious that it is abundant. Think about it. In the 19th century only the rich (mainly boys) were educated and the only way you could access knowledge and resources was by attending school, having a governess or living in a household big enough for a library. In other words, you were rich. This slowly changed over the decades as we saw the emergence of education for all, cheaper books and libraries. However, the things associated with education (the resources, expertise and knowledge) were still scarce. You had to go to the library or attend school, college or university to access these resources. Educators were put on the same level as lawyers and doctors, trained experts who spent years learning their trade (they still are but I feel they have became more accessible).

And now we have the digital devices and tools that allow us access to so much more. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you are so long you have internet access, a computer (smart phone, tablet etc) and a basic level of IT. Obviously this still excludes large groups if the population who don’t have this, but nonetheless you stand a better chance now compared to the 19th century. You can access online degrees, MOOCs, OERs, online books, talks, programmes and the experts themselves. A lot of this costs nothing (apart from the obvious costs of broadband and your own time). In his paper Martin Weller talks about “Freemium”

Freemium as the opposite of the traditional free sample: instead of giving away 1% of your product to sell 99%, you give away 99% of your product to sell 1%. The reason this makes sense is that for digital products, where the marginal cost is close to zero, the 99% cost you little and allow you to reach a huge market. So the 1% you convert, is 1% of a big number.

This is perfect for people like me who can’t afford to buy everything I want as I can access it and the providers make money from those who can and are are prepared to pay for a premium service.

I have been desperate to take courses but don’t have the time and money to go to college. With MOOCs I can basically learn anything I like. To complement this I have access to another level of “education”, namely social media and OERs. Since doing MOOCs I have had to create a Pearltrees in order to manage all the things I need/want to read and watch as part of what I call my second education (as opposed to the formal one I undertook at “proper” institutions).

Pearltrees means I can save things posted and sent to me via social media communities, plus the things I have found online, to an online “tree” for reading at a later date. I am constantly trying to catch up with the things I want to read. Don’t get me wrong I am not complaining. I love the fact that there is so much out there and that I can share this with my peers and PLN (personal learning network). It feels like I am helping to educate myself and others and that they are helping to educate themselves and me.

Whilst having all this information to hand is a boon we need to learn how to manage it just like you would any tool. Just because its abundant and free doesn’t mean we have to like or use it all. We can still be discerning. Free doesn’t mean good, or even that it’s relevant to you. We don’t have to be grateful either as it doesn’t do anyone any favours. I think this is one of the most important lessons we can learn and teach other. Once we have understood this we will start to appraise free resources in the same way we would if we were paying for it. However, you’re not asking if it is worth your hard earned cash but if it is worth your precious time. Limited time + abundance of resources = time spent on resources not suitable, relevant or of good quality.

Personally I have learnt this through experience and as my confidence as increased. When I first started I assumed everyone knew better than me and anything they wrote had to be read. I felt guilty if I didn’t read someone’s blog or G+ post. If I started reading something but didn’t like it or it wasn’t relevant I persevered as I felt bad when someone had taken the time to write it.

But this led to frustration when I realised I had lost half an hour reading something that turned out to be irrelevant to what I was doing. So I started be discerning. Disregarding the irrelevant and giving my full attention to what was useful and helpful to what I was doing. That’s not to say the things I disregard aren’t useful, they could be to someone. Another good thing about using digital tools and communities, you will always find something you need.

Being a teacher in this day and age must be amazing in terms of resources. They have the whole world at their fingertips in terms of resources and their peers. But like learners they have to learn how to manage the resources and not let the resources manage them.

Oh and another useful skill for learners……. Skim reading!

Weller, Martin (2011). A pedagogy of abundance. Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249 pp. 223–236.

TCP/IP architecture – Simply really!

I am now in week 7 of my Internet History, Technology and Security course with Coursera. I decided to do the optional assignment for extra grades. I didn’t do it for the extra grade, although, this will be useful, but to gain some level of understanding. Or should I say understanding full stop. This course is fascinating and whilst it claims not to be too technical, I am finding some parts very much so. I have loved hearing the stories about the early days of the internet from the people that were there. I am also interested in hearing about some of the technical aspects but I struggled in parts with the TCP/IP architecture which we have been looking at. I am determined to get some sort of grip on it and I think I get it. Sort of! Anyway, here it is. If there are any geeks (and I mean that in a good way) who want to correct any of the text below feel free. But just make sure it’s done in words of one syllable or less!

Assignment: Choose an element or aspect of the TCP/IP architecture and write a simple essay explaining how it works to a non-technical person. Do not reuse an example from the lectures in the class – come up with your own example. Your essay should choose one (or more) technical terms like “CSMA/CD”, “DHCP”, “InternetNetwork Layer”, or anything else from the topics in the class. Explain how the concept you have chosen functions in a way that someone not taking the class could understand what we are talking about. This is about writing for a non-technical audience.

In the early days of the “internet” a store and forward method was used for transmitting data. This basically is what it says. A message was forwarded and then stored and then it would be passed to the next computer, stored and forwarded and so on until it reached its destination. It was a bit like hopping across a river on stepping stones. Obviously the wider the river (or the greater the geographical distance) the more jumps were required and it took longer to reach the other side. Or in the case of the message the longer it took to get to the final destination computer. If there are lots of people (or messages) wanting to cross the river they have to wait until the previous person (message) reaches the other side. It is a lonely journey as the person jumping from stone to stone is doing so on their own. No networking here!

Academics knew there had to be a more efficient method of getting people across the stones and after many years of research they came up with packet switching. Packet switching basically meant that information was broken up in to small parts and sent across the network, which sped up the process and meant people jumped over the stepping stone more quickly (although chopped up in pieces and sent across different routes. Don’t worry they were put back together at the other end!)

So all these packets of data are jumping all over the place to get across buildings, states, countries etc. They are going through various servers and computers so that’s a lot of jumping around and potentially very complex. How could it be simplified? Easy really. Break it up (Internet researchers seem to enjoy breaking things up!)

As a result TCP/IP architecture was built. It’s full title is Transmission Control Policy/Internet Protocol and it is essentially responsible for telling the data what to do including how it should be addressed, formatted, the route it takes and how it is received at the final destination. There are four layers and each has an important job to do, the layers are:

The link layer contains communication technologies for a local network.
The internet layer (IP) connects local networks, thus establishing internetworking.
The transport layer handles host-to-host communication.
The application layer contains all protocols for specific data communications services on a process-to-process level. For example, HTTP specifies the web browser communication with a web server

For the purpose of the assignment I will be explaining the Link Layer. This is is the first of the stepping stones, the first layer in the TCP/IP architecture. It only concerns itself with the data jumping from one stone to the next (from one computer to another) at the host end. The devices (computers, printers etc) connected at the link layer is what is known as a network. Ethernet and wireless are the most common forms of link layers. The link layer basically looks out for the devices and the subsequent data only in it’s neighbourhood (network). It doesn’t care if there is a big wide world (the Internet) out there it is only worried about it’s own house and immediate neighbours within the neighbourhood. The distance between neighbours may be great or small, but it is still only the one step that the link layer is concerned with.

The link layer may have to think a bit if there is another device connected to the same network. How will the connected computers share the same network for example. What if there are 5 computers sharing the same network? If 2 of them want a conversation that isn’t meant for the other computers sharing the same “wire”, how do they do that? What about sending information whilst another computer is sending information? How do they ensure there isn’t a crash? If a computer wants to send data the link layer will have to consider how it is going to be carried during the jump. These are all the things that the link layer needs to consider. Once it’s issues have been addressed it doesn’t worry about any other aspect, it leaves this to the other layers. And this is the beauty of the system. It’s complex but each layer has it’s own job which it needs to focus on and this what simplifies data transmission.
There is obviously a whole lot more at work here but the aim of the assignment was to keep it simple. Besides this is the extent of my knowledge and even with additional reading my brain refuses to take in any more!

Image by Jelene Morris

Week 6 of Know Thyself – The Somatic Marker


Week 6 of Know Thyself and we are looking at Neuroscience, emotions and somatic markers, particularly, Antonio Damasio and his book Descartes’ Error. The study question I chose was;

Damasio hypothesizes that one factor causing certain societies to permit genocide, discrimination, slavery, and related forms of injustice is the corrosion or manipulation by demagogues and propagandists of somatic markers across an entire population. Please explain his reason for this view.

Somatic markers are;

The somatic marker hypothesis (SMH) proposes a mechanism by which emotional processes can guide (or bias) behavior, particularly decision-making.

Basically, for Damasio, the somatic marker is your gut feeling. He used an example of you meeting a potential business partner with whom you could make lots of money with. However, you know he is your best friends arch enemy. You can conjure up an image of sitting outside the cafe with the potential business partner and your friend walking past and seeing you. Not only can you conjure up the image but you can “feel”how your friend would feel when he saw you. This would then probably make up your mind not to continue the association.

Most of us have the ability to use gut instincts to make decisions. In fact most of us have the ability to make logical decisions but also follow our instinct and use our gut feelings to help the process. Some might go as far to say that the somatic marker hypotheses can be considered a higher type of reasoning and precludes practical reasoning. This You Tube video featuring Damasio sums it up nicely. It is also a process based on previous experience. You aren’t born with it as you need to first experience things and how they make you feel. If you are trying to make a decision and it conjures up a previous experience that was pleasant it may encourage you to follow a specific course of action.

As part of this theory it is also important to understand that we have two types of emotions, primary and secondary. Primary emotions are basic and are generally found across cultures; happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust. Secondary emotions can be described as more sophisticated and are based on evaluating and reflecting on a previous experience and can be based on your specific culture. In the lecture Professor Green used the example of the Japanese emotion of “Ame” (can’t seem to find out any more about this and don’t even know if this is the correct spelling). This is a feeling of bliss that some people may feel when lost in a large crowd. This obviously can’t be described as a primary emotion as it more than a basic emotion and is based upon you holding certain views or being from a certain culture. You are unlikely to experience “Ame” if you grew up on an African plain or in the Canadian mountains.

However, there are some people who have somatic marker dysfunction as Damasio touched upon in the interview on You Tube. Professor Green spoke to us about one of the subjects that Damasio studied, Phineas Gage who had appeared to have this dysfunction following a brain injury. Professor Green explained

he seems to have no way or at least no feasible way of contemplating a potential outcome of his actions and having a gut feeling as to whether or not that would be a good thing or a bad thing. Remember, he has emotions, but he’s not able to apply his effective responses to
perspective outcomes, in such a way as to get the whole process of practical rationality up and off the ground.

Another subject was Damasio’s patient “Elliot” (his name was changed for anonymity). He had sustained damage to the same area of the brain as Gage and experienced similar problems particularly when it came to making decisions and being able to apply emotions to perspective outcomes.

This is an outline of Damasio’s somatic marker hypothesis, so now on to the study question. Damasio suggested that it was the corrosion or manipulation by demagogues and propagandists of somatic markers which allowed genocide and other forms of injustice or cruelty.

Damasio said that “a sick culture prevailed upon a presumably normal machinery of reason with disastrous consequences” when discussing Nazi Germany and Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

Basically he proposed that people can manipulate individuals, or even large groups of society, into believing that its okay to hurt certain groups within society i.e. Jewish people, black people, women etc. It’s something we have seen throughout history and sadly continue to see. No doubt this won’t change any time soon.

Damasio claims that

Most of the somatic markers we use for rational decision-making probably were created in our brains during the process of education and socialisation, by connecting specific classes of stimuli with specific classes of somatic state.

Damasio goes on to say that these markers can also go wrong. The Nazis successfully convinced a large part of society that Jewish people or disabled people were not human, sub-human, and therefore it was okay to discriminate against them and kill them. They didn’t count. Ordinary Germans contributed to this. Can we say that this was because they followed orders because they were scared? In some cases yes but certainly not all. They had been successfully brain washed into thinking this was okay. If, as Damasio, claims, somatic markers are used for rational decision making, and they are created thought the process of socialisation and education, it is easy to see where the weak link is.

If somatic markers are created through socialisation and education and they are based on experience then it is easy to see how they are open to manipulation. If you grow up being told by your family, school and community that a particular group of people are bad, wrong, sub human, there is a good chance you will believe this. If it is true we use our somatic marker for rational decision making then, to you anyway, discriminating against a particular group will be rational or normal. This reminded me of an experiment I once read about where a teacher in America divided her class into blue and brown eyed groups. She then told the blue eyed children they were better and treated them more favourably. It didn’t take long for them to become arrogant and pick on the blue eyeds. The blue eyeds in turn quickly became subservient. If this can be done by a teacher, in a short period of time, without conviction it’s no wonder that political leaders, can manipulate large groups of the population.

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