SPONTANEOUS MUTATION AS SOURCE OF ERRORS IN THE KNOWLEDGE TRANSMISSION: AN EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH
Universidad de Huelva (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN14 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Page: 2026 (abstract only)
Conference name: 6th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 7-9 July, 2014
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:In a similar way to the biological process of evolution, knowledge transmission contains elements carried from transmitter to receiver in each “communicative generation”, bearing in the mind that in the next generation, receiver will become a transmitter for the new receiver, and so on.
In biological evolution, hereditary units are called genes. The genetic information depends on the DNA language but its expression depends also on the environment where gene is expressed. This environmental control of the gene expression is named epigenetics. However, gene message may be randomly modified by factors rendering errors named mutations. Mutations will be translated from generation to generation, although a mechanism exists in such a way that deleterious mutations could be eliminated if survival of the individual carrying the mutation is compromised. This compensatory mechanism is known as natural selection. Mutations are irreversible and they facilitate or hinder the adaptation to the individuals to the environment.
In cultural "evolution", the drive units are called "memes" after Richard Dawkins (1976). When information is transmitted intra- or inter- generationally, errors may be evolved and carried from the transmitter to the receiver. The original meme is thus modified. Moreover, as pragmatics emphasizes, the value of the language is depending also on the context in a similar way to the role of environment in the gene expression. However, these language mutations are reversible whenever a new message arises that calls into question the derived message from the original one.
In order to reproduce and simplify the process of transmission of memes and to assess experimentally the importance of transmitting information according to the original source, teaching students in a science classroom were separated into two groups (n = 17 and 22). One student (the transmitter) in each group received a single black and white drawing. This student copied the drawing, and the copy was delivered to a second student (the receiver). This one copied again the drawing and delivered it to a third student and so on. Obviously each student added –consciously or involuntarily- some bugs in his/her copy. Thus, mistakes were accumulated from “generation to generation” of transmitter-receiver.
When experiments finished, the teacher orders the copies and shows them to the students using a PowerPoint presentation in which the original drawing is always shown to comparative purposes. Copy errors are classified as primary or quantitative, when mistakes in the size or shape of drawing elements do not change substantial information contained in the original drawing, and secondary or qualitative when errors modify the significance of this information.
Following this experiment and using a dialectical Socratic method, students analyze and compare one important concept in their teaching career like the “significant learning” from the original concept of David Ausubel to the “mutated” concepts from other authors or from the students themselves.
As a consequence, students as future teachers recognize the need to review the original sources of information and critically analyze messages provided by third parties, whether through the Internet either through textbooks, lectures, etc. considering that all transmitted information may contain errors that can substantially modify the original source with unpredictable consequences in the educational context.
Keywords: Learning, mutations, gene, meme, genetics, epigenetics, pragmatics.