Learning in the 21st Century-A short story by Terry Hale

In the United Corporations of America, in the year 2047, most people are employed in the socialist republic. Rampant disease, toxic environmental poisoning, bizarre weather changes and a rapidly dwindling global population has forced a socialist governmental structure to preserve the population. Most people live underground in government produced housing, which the population move into and about the physical contiguous regions of their geography, depending on where they live and what their jobs are. Tim is a high school academy student. He wants to be a coder, like many of his friends do, but the government wants him to be a pilot. His parents are dead, but he is not aware of this, nor is he aware that he is a ward of the corporate state.

It is 6 a.m. and the MOM (Maternal Operative Memetics) App. installed on Tim’s bio-integrated mobile device activates: “Timmy, it’s time to wake up.” “Okay, Mom. I’m awake,” Tim responds and the app continues: “Your brother begins flying drones for the Police Corps today. Maybe when you finish high school you’ll consider enrolling in the Police Corps like your brother did,” the app chirps. “I want to be a coder, MOM,” Tim insists. “We’ll talk about this later, Timmy. It is time to take your pharmacological enhancement supplement, and begin your daily exercises.

“Okay, MOM.” The MOM application plays a chime which signals the end of the transmission.

Tim walks to the lower level where his exercise equipment is located and begins his daily exercise. He sits in the apparatus and attaches his limbs and torso to the machine. He speaks to the device. “8 reps, of 12, tricep press. Ready?” “BOOP” “Engage.” The machine begins to whirr.

While Tim is exercising, his integrated mobile device chimes. It is AL, the school artificial intelligence app. “Hello, AL.” Tim replies to the prompt. “Good day, Timothy. Timothy, my sensors are indicating that you have not ingested your pharmacological enhancements today. Please do that right now.” “Oh, I am sorry, AL. I meant to do that, but I forgot.” Tim apologizes.

“Please, do it now. I will message you in twenty minutes, when the enhancements have been activated.” “Thank you, AL.”

Using the AL application, the ‘school’ would assess each student’s progress in a variety of courses which were selected from the student’s aptitude scan and documented goals. The application was constantly assessing and optimizing the student, with courses designed to lead him through his vocational and avocational goals. Everyone alive is a student and the application was free for everyone and most people used it. It was better than a college education. The corporations paid for the universal service, because it suited their interests. They had become the educational institution of the present century.

Tim takes his pills. He also remembers to take his asthma medication. The atmosphere has become so polluted that everyone in the general employed population is on a asthma medication. Tim begins to feel intellectually enhanced by the pills. He is a little nervous but his mind is reeling with memory. He recalls a recent lesson:

AL: “…due to global political strife in the early part of this century, economic, climate, social and pollution issues plagued the population. Poor populations rebelled and began to target government and corporate leaders and led assassination plots against the elite. Nuclear war proliferated across the globe and the majority of people were exterminated. The wars lead to increasing pollution and climate change which also killed many. All of this turmoil took place during a marked change in the world’s electromagnetic polarities as the poles began to switch. Many aurora are in the sky now, and the poles seem to be located near the Bermuda and a location in Australia, presently…”

Tim finishes his exercises, and logs into his flight training module. Tim is not particularly interested in flying. His brother is a pilot, but he thinks his brother is a knob. Today will be Tim’s first flight operation, with his class.

“Good morning, lieutenant Mitchell.” “Good morning, flight base operator Thurston.” AL confirmed that your neuro-enhancement supplements are on board, and I am reading that your bio-integration circuitry is confirmed, so let us begin. Please put on your headset. You will be flying drone tail number November Eight Six Five Four Charlie, call sign Charlie, today. Your call sign today, is Gryphon.”

“Roger Control. Gryphon to Charlie: Hi Charlie.” A metallic voice responds “Good day, Gryphon. We are ONE.”

“Roger Charlie. Confirm bio-connection. Let’s fly.” A metallic “SPROINK” is the only response needed.

Instantly, Tim’s senses are alive with input from the sensors onboard the drone. He is literally seeing through the drone’s video cameras. He can also hear through the microphones (with motor noise cancelling system). He feels the motion of the thrust and pitch of the drone. He remembers how to reduce the effect of g-forces on his body and minimizes nausea. Accelerometers in the drone are also integrated in the bio-circuitry.

Charlie leaves the launch station in a trajectory which is straight up for 5 meters, and it stops and hovers. Tim looks around from this vantage point. He scans a 360 degree pan in fluid motion. While he pans he also scans a perpendicular scan of 90 degree below the horizon. Tim is looking for ground threats. He has recorded this scan as a batch scan and will continue to run the loop in his back-burner module. He has set up alerts for anything that would constitute a ground threat, including active fire from one coordinate or an incoming missile.

Tim begins aerobatic maneuver in which he rolls the drone to the right, 90 degrees but breaks the ship to the left and sets the ship 180 degrees from the beginning of the maneuver. It is an evasive maneuver, highly useful in aerial combat or evading missiles, along with the dispersement of chaff, small pieces of radar-evading foil. They disturb radio signature of the ship, so as to counter a radar guided projectile.

Tim executes a variety of maneuvers as per his control officer’s direction and faster than he expected, his lesson was over, until the next day.

The next day, in flight operations class, Tim and Charlie are flying a real-time combat sortie and they are airborne and they encounter a bogie. Tim notices that Charlie is traveling at mach 2 and that the bogie’s targeting reticle is sitting squarely on the face of the ship, yet the bogie is traveling at mach 2, as well. This means that the bogie must be targeting Charlie. Tim rolls Charlie up 90 degrees and pulls his nose up to align with the bogie in the least threatening manner and checks for a response from the other ship. Immediately Charlie senses a missile launch from the bogie. Tim’s flight or fight response goes to the offensive and he aligns Charlie with the other ship and cues up a missile. He holds and waits for the bogie to move into his forward guns range. He fires several bursts into the space in which the opposing ship will fly and fires one missile, watching to see it moving away and watching the incoming missile. Charlie indicates that the bogie is dead. One more second passes and Tim releases chaff, then breaks into an evasive maneuver, just barely escaping the burst from the missile. Tim feels it however. Like a whack in the ass with a canoe paddle! And he has never felt so alive! He knows now, why his brother was so excited about flying. Tim could see, hear, smell taste and touch the world this way, while never having to leave his domestic module. Most people do not get to sense the world anymore, by moving through it like this, he thought.

After his Flight Operations class, he got a text message from the bogie pilot. Ronnie Wilcox. He hated Ronnie Wilcox. Ronnie was a bully. The text read “Tomorrow, Fart-Smell, your ship dies.”

Tim hated Ronnie Wilcox. Ronnie was always getting under his skin. Ronnie likes to call Tim ‘Fart-smell’ because it he thought that it rhymed with ‘Mitchell.’ Ronnie was too stupid to know how foolish he was. None the less, Tim was worried about Charlie, and Ronnie’s cryptic text message.

Tim’s next lesson was in Coding class. Normally, Tim would be happy to be going to coding class, but he was too wound up from his flight class to focus on code, this afternoon. He sat through the class and imagined flying. But then he had an idea: He could program Charlie’s radar system to send out false signals by creating a new line of code, which would crowd any adversaries radar display with a host of false indications as to his own location. “What a great tactical trick,” he thought.

After class, Tim logged into the materials lab to check the state of his model in the 3d printer remote viewing module. He viewed various camera views and to his satisfaction was printing flawlessly and nearly 70% complete! Tim was remotely printing a 3D model of an industrial building for his Industrial Design course. His model included a design for manufacturing prosthesis for veterinary medicine. The animals are scanned with a 3D scanner and their physical challenges would be calculated and met with a prosthetic device which would allow them nearly natural mobility with spine alignment. Tim’s instructors were particularly interested in his designs.

Tim wished his parents were around so he could tell them about all that he had going on in class work. Since they went to work for the government, he hadn’t seen them in 4 years. He was beginning to doubt if he would ever see them again. The MOM app. was okay, and it sounded like his mother. His brother had the same application, but he also wondered why they didn’t have a DAD application. MOM was good about guiding him with his academic ambitions, and he would talk to her tonight after the nightly meal with other dwellers in the main commissary.

The main commissary is a fun place which all inhabitants liked to visit. Young people andmature people hung out together and alike, in drink/snack shops that opened up into smaller settings on the virtual landscape where people could chose from ta variety of different group sizes. As one moved away from the crowded sectors of the commissary, they could move to a less populated or more intimate setting. Population sizes diminished as one moved closer to the horizon of the landscape. Everyone interacted with the landscape through their headsets. So many communications occurred through their virtual reality headsets that people had begun to just wear them all the time. They looked very much like eyeglasses, and some individuals went to great lengths designing their own frames, as a way to express their individual styles. Tim preferred to wear a plain set of eye-glass-interface, although he had helped other people design and print their headsets.

After Tim’s evening meal he ventures to the edge of the landscape and activated the MOM application.

“Hey, Timmy!”

A high-definition, animated image of Tim’s mother appears, sitting across from the virtual table from him. She was just as Tim remembered her before she left to work for the government, four years ago.

“Hi, MOM. I think I want to be a pilot. But I also love coding. Is there a way for me to do both,” Tim inquires. “Yes, of course. You are doing both, presently. Being a pilot will insure you have financial credits to continue. You might decide to code as an avocation, Timmy,” MOM mentors.

“I really love flying,” Tim beamed. “Your aptitude scan indicates that you are scoring at the top of your class in that subject. I am very proud of you.”

Tim thought about the coding he did today which fooled the radar system. He began to walk back to the main compound and to his individual quarters. When Tim arrived home, he reviewed the coding and began to experiment with a tactical program, and practiced a number of scenarios. He fed the virtual drone the line of radar-countering code and noted positive results.

Tim fell asleep, waking the next day, to a wall sized animation of a sunrise, and the sound of ocean surf, gently lapping at his consciousness, easing him from slumber.

Tim logged into his flight operations class early and practiced maneuvers before the Flight Base Officer began supervising his operation. He followed all the commands and configurations and finally there was one half hour of free flight allocated to most students in the class. He knew that Ronnie Wilcox would be attacking him, but he didn’t know how Ronnie would mount the attack.

He kept his eyes open for a Chandler’s Canyon and stayed in orbit around the site. He made sure that he maintained mach 1 during the orbit. This would allow the best chance to either speed up or slow down, in order to move evasively from any attack.

When Ronnie Wilcox finally showed up near the canyon, he was in a flight of five which broke off in every direction. Ronnie spotted Charlie and began to bear down on him, converting a high dive into kinetic energy and he was in hot pursuit of Charlie. Tim lowered Charlie’s nose and also began a dive, while he observed the other crafts on his radar display. He maneuvered staying out of reach of Ronnie Wilcox and his ship. Tim noticed that the other ships had surrounded Charlie while Ronnie Wilcox continued his chase.

Tim began a fast turn to the left and then broke right and Ronnie overshot his position and ended up directly in Tim’s gunsights. Instead of shooting, Tim climbed up to 12,000 feet and hovered. While he was hovering, he fed the line of code into Charlie’s onboard computer and then he began to broadcast a false radar signal. In the radar displays of his adversaries, Ronnie Wilcox’s ship was indicated by the marker for Charlie. Everyone except for Tim thought that Ronnie’s ship was in fact Tim’s ship.

Ronnie’s flight began to converge on him and his ship took fire from all directions. His ship lay burning on the floor of the canyon. Tim flew back to base and landed before anyone else made it back to the base. He hoped that Ronnie was alright. He had heard how people flying drones with the neural interface and developed post traumatic stress disorder when their ships took heavy fire. Tim’s thoughts about Ronnie evaporated when he began to debrief with Base Officer Thurston.

During the debriefing, the MOM app. activated. An image of his mother appeared, along with the image of Al, the school’s artificial intelligence personality.

They all had the most serious demeanors, and Tim worried that he was in trouble for his actions at the canyon. At least one ship was destroyed, and then there was the matter of hacking the radar displays.

MOM explained that she represented the corporate government and that they wanted Tim to fly drones for them to search for resources. The Boeing Corporation had been monitoring his flight lessons and were interested in sponsoring his assignment, off-world.

“So, you’re not mad at me for tricking the others and causing Ronnie Wilcox’s ship to be destroyed?” Tim pleaded. “No, Tim, its okay, and after a few days, Ronnie would be okay, too,” responded Base Officer Thurston. “We want you to fly on Mars, Tim,” Al interjected. “We need you to fly drones and lead an expedition of drones to help search for water and other resources on the planet, to support the new colony,” MOM explained.

“But there is a twenty minute delay in communication transmission from Earth to Mars,” Tim thought out loud. “How can that work?” he wondered. “You will have to travel to Mars, Tim,”

Base Officer Thurston responded. Al reminded him that his lessons would continue from the colony when he wasn’t flying. Once his assignment was finished he would continue with his lifelong education plan, regardless of his location.

Tim could not believe what he just heard! “If you accept, you will leave immediately,” MOM added. “You have four hours to think about it.” Tim did not need to think about it and agreed to the assignment.

Tim packed a small bag, and communicated with his brother via hologram. He stopped by the hospital to check on Ronnie Wilcox’s condition before he left the compound to take the tube to the spaceport, in Florida.

Ronnie was asleep when Tim arrived. “Hey, Wilcox, wake up,” Tim insisted. “Huh, wha…Fart-Smell! Man, you really stuck it to me during free flight! How did you do that?” Ronnie demanded.

“Are you okay, Ronnie?” asked Tim. “I’ll be fine in a few days,” Ronnie stated. Tim explained to him that he had altered the code to create a false image in the radar systems and then broadcast that code to him and his adversarial flight. Ronnie was amazed. “You always were such a geek, Fart-Smell! But it’s a good thing.” Ronnie smiled.

“I am leaving to fly drones on Mars, Ronnie. I don’t know when I’ll be back.” Again Ronnie was amazed. “They chose the best of our class, Fart-Smell,” Ronnie admitted.

“Thanks, Ronnie, I’ll see you when I get back. Take care of yourself,” Tim said. “Smell ya later, Mitchell,” Ronnie quipped. That was the first time Ronnie ever called him by his real name.

Reflections on the Institute for Innovation in Education Conference in June 2015

Terry Hale
June 22, 2015

My experience in preparing to attend, and actually attending the Institute for Innovation in Education’s Ann Arbor conference in June of 2015, was a many-layered fabric of ideas, piled on and merging into one another, forming an exciting fervor of expanded ideas in education, personal growth and a commitment to learning ways to inspire and enlighten learners, through teaching.

My journey toward attending the conference began with selecting a book to read and discuss from a list generated in The Book I Read portion of the assignment. I chose the book, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. The book was suggested by conference attendee, Mr. Dominic Cascarelli, who I had the pleasure of meeting while workshopping at the conference. We shared some insights regarding the book and I expressed to Mr. Cascarelli, how I was amazed that, Campbell, knowing what he knew as an expert in Mythology, was able to remain Christian, in good conscience, knowing what he knew about the repetition of myths appearing in the many religions of the world. I am an atheist and my lack of belief in religious ideology was reinforced by what I learned from the book, Whereas, Campbell, who had drawn similar conclusions to mine, regarding the relevance of the values of Christianity, had managed to remain Christian, up until his death. Mr. Cascarelli explained that the relevance of the history of religion is valuable in that it provides a basis for future explorations, just as history helps to prepare us for the future, by understanding the past. I had to agree with his assertion.

Because my transportation resources were limited, and I could not attend the entire conference, I was assigned additional work for the conference by my professor, in that he had suggested that I take an active role in building contacts on the Twitter social networking website, beginning with the Institute for Innovation in Education. I had taken steps to “follow” various participants of the conference, and use the opportunity to network with other individuals who are involved with educational technology and to build professional relationships with these individuals and various companies which are also attached to the field. I “tweeted” (published messages of 140 characters or less) thoughts and reflections of the various aspects of the conference, before and after attending. I wrote about Rich Sheridan, the Keynote speaker for the conference, the panel discussion, and I wrote about the workshops which I would attend, once I had arrived at the conference. I wrote before attending, as well as after I had participated in these workshops, discussions and lectures. My instructor went out of his way to provide for me vital information, through streaming video broadcasts, from which I was able to experience the Keynote lecture, as well as the panel discussion, and for that I am appreciative.

Through my attempts to promote the event on Twitter, I connected with, and followed more that thirty-five individuals and companies whom are all associated with educational technology or related endeavors, and by the time I was finished with the conference event, I had picked up some followers of my own, also attached or directly involved with educational technology. The networking was an unanticipated benefit of participating in the conference.

I enjoyed the workshops in which I had participated, which were respectively, “Play-testing: Remixing Off-the-Shelf Games for Your Classroom;” as well as “Using Digital Tools To Make Thinking Visible In Project Based Learning.”

In the Play-testing workshop, we played popular, as well as not-so-popular board games, which we analyzed the mechanics of the rules, and various ways which these games could be modified for teaching skill sets. For instance, it was my suggestion that the board game entitled Battleship, which I am certain that nearly everyone has heard of, may be modified to teach the Cartesian Coordinates used for graphing algebraic functions. It was in this workshop where I had personally added Ms. Amanda Pratt to my professional contacts, and we retweeted each other’s Tweets on Twitter. I also had met Mr. Robert Larsen, who is a classmate in the University of Michigan-Flint’s Educational Technology Masters Program. It was nice to meet somebody, who until that moment, had only a digital presence in my life. Face-to-Face encounters like this tend to enrich one’s life.

In the Digital Tools workshop, we focused primarily on learning the details of Project Based Learning as a departure from curriculum, as well as including the curriculum within the project itself. We discussed Thinking Routines, such as See-Think-Wonder; Connect-Extend-Challenge; Claim-Question-Support; and Think-Wonder-Support, as means for making thinking visible and graphic. These thinking routings provide a structure for approaching the problems involved with Project Based Learning. It was within this workshop where I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Jennifer Killham, PhD. She is now a professional contact.

The keynote speaker, Rich Sheridan, who is a Co-founder of Menlo Innovations, and the author of Joy, Inc., was an animated lecturer, who has built some tremendously important models of efficiency for business as well as education. The greatest take I received from watching him deliver his keynote lecture, as that we should always follow our passions, and in order to build an efficient model for learning and growing within the workplace, and schools, is to build a culture, in which connections between people in the group, and outside of the group are strengthened.  We should not focus so much on the space first, but that we should integrate all employees or students within the nurturing environment of a fluid, and dynamic, changing space, which can adapt to the various projects and lessons on which students and employees are working. Chairs, tables, whiteboards, and work stations need to be movable so they may be reconfigured for any task or project which may arise. By building a culture of students or employees, we provide for them a framework which not only feels safe, but it is nurturing to the creative process, and compassion is a common value. If we focus on children’s scholastic needs, we are building a freedom and empowerment of individuals, and they, in turn, may provide future benefits to the community of humanity.

The panel discussed “Supporting innovation in schools, communities, and businesses.” Some of the concepts which emerged from this discussion included, the need to follow one’s passions for the benefit of passion-based learning by focusing on emotion and power derived from this energy; the need to challenge the system; and the need to feel safe within the business and school environments. A strong emphasis for building a community of trust was stressed in the discussion by all of the speakers. Another gem of a concept was the idea that “Education creates freedom”—a notion that is beautiful in its sentiment as well as its elegance.

Although the new ideas which come from studying education, for me, have been somewhat baffling, I have found a “foothold concept” which helps me to embrace these new ideas, and that is the structures of business innovation. It seems that both education and business innovation embrace the same concepts and methodologies in many instances. That was made clear to me within the activities, events and ideas in participating in the conference. I am not unfamiliar with business ideas, and although the new study of education in my life is a stream of ideas which prior to this conference seemed vague and unknown, I now have a paradigm which I may use as a focusing method when approaching the concepts of education. The conference was a whirlwind of expanded ideas and the content gleaned from participating was beneficial to my growth as a student and as a human being. The Institute for Innovation in Education is an organization of professionals who are activists who immerse themselves into creativity, in the theater of project, and passion based learning. The innovations which present themselves as a result of this work is making an impact not only in the classrooms around the nation, but globally, and they extend beyond the classroom to the offices of businesses, as well as communities at large. This is work that will benefit humanity at large, at a time when the world is in desperate need of positive movement and new paradigms for growth. This must be supported by a government willing to invest in these types of social changes.  The consequences of these changes will transform global citizenry and will promote strong values in stewardship, in future generations.