Traducció de l'article publicat al web d'eduscopi el 10 de febrer.
The light bulb
That idea, a bit confusing at first, has continued stuck in my brain, perennial, as it keep maturing (and even fermenting).
The genetic-evolutionary simile
DNA is often compared to an instruction book that contains all the processes to be followed by cells (i.e., living things). The DNA of every living being is its genome (allow me this simplification). Are not textbooks precisely a kind of instruction book for teachers? Would textbooks and all accessories around them be sort of an educational genome? I don’t think so; at best, they are a but one type of these ‘genomes’. As we’ll see, they are by no means the only ones or, for sure, the most adaptable ones.
DNA contains a lot of information (it’s a long, long text). The DNA fragments that codes for proteins are genes. For a long time it was thought that genes were the really important part of DNA. Although it has been seen that is not exactly true, for this article let me use this new simplification.
What are the educational genes? Obviously, a textbook can not be a gene (since, according to our equivalence, would be a genome). Educational genes are those meaningful units that encode a protein. So, they are, thus, smaller (much smaller) than a textbook.
What is a protein in our simile? An educational experience: the translation of this idea, this project, this suggestion, in a real dynamics with students, groups of students, or the class group as a whole.
We could define ‘educational gene’ as a unit that can be translated into an educational experience.
Genes, memes, edes
Can we apply genetic and evolutionary principles to the dispersion of educational units? Sure, we can. We are talking, therefore, not of genes or memes, but of edes (I apologize to the English speakers for this neologism for it lacks its rhyme with the previous).
Edes and Edoma
An ede is a unit of content that is transmitted between educators and codes for an educational experience.
An Edome, so, can be defined as the set of edes that constitutes an annual program for a particular classroom. This definition would include a broad spectrum with, at one end the immutable textbooks, and on the opposite end, the annual programs tailored to each class group.
There is a new field of study, memetics, which studies the behavior of memes. Could we found edetics? We’ll see.
When you look at life as a whole, you can’t help feeling overwhelmed by its incredible diversity . There are many ways to live… all of them sumptuously adapted to their environment... and yet, all of them evolved following common basic principles based primarily on variability and selection.
Oversimplifying: the descendants of any living being are different one from the others, and different, also, from their parents; they, therefore, have different chances of survival in their environment and, so, different chances of produce descendants (selection); different opportunities, finally, to have an evolutionary success.
Without variability there is no selection. With no selection, there is no adaptation.
Can these principles be applied to edes? Of course they can.
The evolutionary success of edes
An ede will gain evolutionary success when the educational experience that stems from it is meaningful and useful for a particular environment; for a classroom, a teacher and a student or groups of students.
It is important to note, then, that the same ede can have an absolute success in a classroom, but be an overwhelming failure in another.
We therefore need a high variability of edes to select those that may have greater evolutionary success for each particular environment.
Variability in edes
The immutable past
Where is this variability? Traditionally, it has lived in the shadows of the great immutable edomes: textbooks. Some teachers developed alternative edes to those textbook parts that do not convince them. Luckily, I was able to enjoy teachers like these. Their edes always improved the experience, because they were totally adapted to their reality. However, these custom edes had limited diffusion.
Are immutable edomes a failure? At an evolutionary level, yes. But we must concede that for decades textbooks have dominated the educational landscape. And it can be understood, considering the educational purpose derived from industrial revolution . In fully static and unchanging environments we could conceive that a totally static genome or edome could have some evolutionary opportunity.
The fate of the immutability
Genetic errors exist for one reason: to enhance the variability. The genetic machinery that copies DNA makes mistakes. A lot of them. How can it be that natural selection has not selected perfect replication machines? Because they will not survive. If ever emerged a perfect living organism, with an immutable genome, whose descendants were always identical to each other, for sure it is extinct. Any changes in its environment, albeit gradual, had finished it.
For decades the educational environment has remained seemingly unchangeable. A stable edome could survive.
But things have changed. And changing environments demand variability, adaptation .
The dynamic present
The educational environment appears to be changing. As often happened in science, technology allows activities and results previously unimaginable. It has also allowed the spread of old and new ideas about classroom and spaces management and even about the purpose of education.
Given the changes there is only one solution: to adapt . And for this we must have sufficient variability of edes to enable the selection of the most suitable for each environment.
Internet allows this variability. Edes themselves, that were previously in the shade and rarely spread, can now be shared openly and can be modified to suit other particular environments.
Following our analogy, we are entering the era of genetic engineering education, educational engineering, or edetic engineering.
We have the tools at our disposal to modify edes and adapt to our particular environment to offer educational experiences with high evolutionary success. We only need to find them, understand them, share their abilities, and use them. Perhaps, even, we should celebrate our own Asilomar .
- An ede is an educational gene, which codes for an educational experience.
- An edome is a set of edes grouped in an annual program.
- Edetics would be the branch that study the edes.
- An ede has evolutionary success when the educational experience that stems from it is meaningful and useful for a particular setting: a class group, usually.
- The current situation requires a high variability of edes to select and thus adapt to each environment.
- Edetic engineering creates and modifies edes to better adapt them to each environment.
To be continued ...
I guess there will be more articles about this new idea (and who knows if even a book), because it can be spread amongst other concepts and has many, many unresolved questions. What can be considered an ede? How are they designed or modified? What minimum size can they have? What are the introns and exons of a ede? Is there modularity in edes? What is junk DNA in an edome? What are viruses and prions in edomes? What is reverse transcriptase and traductase in edetics? What would chromosomes represent? Can we talk about recombination? Is there an educational concept equivalent to Lovelock’s Gaia ?
If you have more ideas, questions, comments or suggestions, I'll be happy to include them in this journey I have embarked on.
Eduscopi: educational engineers
Quotes and references
 " There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." Charles Darwin, On the origin of species.
 Rethinking Education by The Big Picture and the classic Sir Ken Robinson’s TED conference.
 "... the history of evolution Is That life escapes all barriers. Life breaks free. Life Expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life Finds a Way." Ian Malcolm. Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park.
 "Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative." HG Wells, The Mind at the End of Its Tether.
 Asilomar told by Paul Berg, in Nobel prizes’ website, and the summary of the famous meeting of 1975.
 "Clearly Life does more than adapt to the Earth. It Changes the Earth con sus own purposes. Evolution is a tightly coupled dance, with life and the environment materials as partners. From the dance emerges the entity Gaia." James Lovelock, in an interview for the magazine Salon.