Home Forums Deep Time Journey Forum Launching Cosmosis1: A new Big History App

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    • #2792
      Dr. Rich Blundell
      Participant

      Hello Deeptimers,
      .

      In May of last year I was awarded an Innovation in Scholarship Grant to produce the first in a series of Big History-themed smartphone apps. I wanted to try and do something different and ended up inventing a whole new kind of app; one that provides accurate educational content, but also taps into the truly transformative ideas embedded within the cosmic narrative.

      Cosmosis1 Images

      Instead of another utility app that lets you know when the next bus will arrive, or a game to puzzle over virtual candy combos, I wanted to design an app experience that would tell the stories of cosmic evolution in provocative new ways. I also wanted it to deliver something you couldn’t get from a textbook, so it had to be both intellectually disruptive, and experiential. Thus, a new app concept was born. An “Epiphany App” is an educational app that delivers at least one paradigm-shifting realization as part of the experience.

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      The concept of a disruptive epiphany dovetails nicely with the subject of my ongoing PhD research on transformative learning in Big History. I assembled some of the most compelling ideas to emerge from the Big History narrative and thought about how I could turn them into rich experiences. As far as making them transformative, I drew on preliminary research results with my own students, and for more personal inspiration, all I had to do was recall the many moments of awe and connection that I have felt in my own engagement with the story of the universe.

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      In order for this app to deliver the goods, it has to provide a profound and personally meaningful experience. The good news is Big History is full of genuinely mind-shifting moments. Starting at the beginning, I decided this first app should deal with an early threshold of cosmic evolution so I chose the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CBR). The challenge was how to make the CBR both a lived-experience, and a personally meaningful one.
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      Cosmosis1 takes users on a journey to visualize the world as revealed through five different wavelengths of light. Using embedded guidance videos and interactive visualizations, I show learners real-time simulations of the world through X-ray, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and finally, microwave light. The experience culminates when a powerful piece of evidence in cosmic evolution, the Cosmic Background Radiation, is revealed where it actually is; NOT just on a flat computer screen, but in the sky as would be seen from anywhere on earth. The app places the CBR image into the background of the phone’s camera viewer, as if the viewer were at the center of a sphere of cosmic background microwave radiation (in other words, as it really is!). But more than just making it real, the experience then makes the CBR personally meaningful. The idea of Cosmosis1 is to bring an abstract scientific concept into the phenomenological realm – in other words, to provide a lived-experience upon which users can build more sophisticated conceptual knowledge. This is accomplished using science, imagination, and Deweyan constructivist learning theory. I apply a synthesis of concepts and techniques, developed through my research, that I call radical hermeneutics. I published the educational theory behind the app in the International Journal of Immersive Education in June 2013.
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      Here is a little clip of one of the embedded guidance videos but to get the full-experience, you’ll just have to try the app for yourself.
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      [video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81HeDaRizas[/video]
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      The complete Cosmosis Epiphany App Series is designed to enhance high school and college-level courses. In the future there will be one app for each week of a Big History course, following the chronology of cosmic evolution. Each threshold of cosmic evolution provides a basis for a different educational epiphany. Alternatively, each individual app can also supplement existing courses in physics, astronomy, biology, etc. The apps should also appeal in informal formal educational contexts. In any case, all Cosmosis Epiphany Apps will encourage users to get outside to experience nature and culture in new ways.
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      The Cosmosis1 App will be free for educational use and available to the public through iTunes for a small fee. The first release is for iPhones only, but will be available for Android and tablets as soon funding becomes available. Rich will be releasing a limited number of prototype versions the first week in June and is now recruiting beta testers. If you wish to be a beta tester please use the contact form on the website provided.
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      The Competitive Grants Scheme at Macquarie University where I am enrolled has funded the Cosmosis1 CBR app. Funding for future thresholds is currently being sought. I have been working with Fred Adam from ubik2.com as the Artistic Director and his team of programmers in Spain.
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      More information can be found at http://cosmosis.omniscopic.com/
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      Any comments right here on this forum would be greatly appreciated!

      Warm regards,
      Rich Blundell
      .

      PS- I’ll be manning a poster at the IBHA conference at Dominican University in August if anyone wants to meet in person and give the app a spin.

    • #2801
      Jennifer Morgan
      Participant

      Dear Rich, I love what you’re doing because you’re focusing on what’s happening INSIDE the viewer/learner in an emotional transformative sense, not just an information transfer sense. DTJN is 100 percent behind you in this crucially important goal. Rich is looking for people with iphones to help test the app, so please do write to him if you’re interested. Jennifer

    • #2808
      Karen Chaffee
      Participant

      Thank you for opening my eyes to some things I didn’t know much about! Since so much of this is outside my experience, I read a little bit.

      I read an interesting article about Dewy education at linehttps://www.marxists.org/archive/novack/works/1960/x03.htm (this seems to be a socialist site, but it is the easiest-to read article): ‘The child learns best through direct personal experience. ‘ ‘These experiences should revolve around games and occupations analogous to the activities through which mankind satisfies its basic material needs’ ‘Children soak up knowledge and retain it for use when they are spontaneously induced to look into matters of compelling interest to themselves.’

      Please let me know if I have any of this wrong!

      Those ideas are intriguing, and seem so correct. To end the article, the author asks: Why aren’t more people therefore using this? One answer could be: It is perhaps difficult to do, especially when the teacher faces standardized tests, and core learning, etc, and has only a textbook, blackboard (or even Smartboard)

      So now comes Immersive Education, which I again I had to read about, which uses technology and gaming to allow the student to, perhaps, achieve a Dewey education experience–and Rich Blundell, who is making use of the idea to teach cosmology. Isn’t progress grand?

      I read your article (some of it–and I will finish it, but I wanted to comment sooner to get a dialog going) and some of the other articles in that journal (I liked the title ‘Serious Games’ and by the way, that article stressed how hard this is to really do.)

      As an educator, I find this all fascinating. Alas, I don’t have an iPhone, but I did watch your video, thanks for posting it so I could see that much.

    • #2811
      Dr. Rich Blundell
      Participant

      Jennifer and Karen, thanks for the feedback and kind words! Glad you are liking the philosophy behind the app.

      .

      There is so much to love about Dewey. There is, of course, the well-understood value of experience-as-education, but one of my favorite insights of Dewey’s is how he articulated the reciprocal of this. In other words, yes, there can be great educational value in our experiences, this is pretty clear, but what about the value of education-as-experience?! This 180-degree interpretation is rarely articulated or seriously pursued in education.

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      And Dewey does not use the term “experience” lightly. He offers a rich description of experience that is imbued with meaning. He goes so far as to distinguish between ordinary, run-of-the-mill experience (lowercase “e”) and AN Experience (uppercase “E”). For Dewey, AN Experience has a narrative quality to it; it piques interest, motivates further investigation, and culminates with personally meaningful payoffs (epiphanies??). This is MUCH more than just seeing the value of experience in education, it is about the experiential value of education itself. When learning is AN Experience first, it can be more meaningful – as opposed to just factual knowledge.

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      For those not inclined to download my article (Which is available here by the way), this is one of the essential arguments I am making both in the article and putting into practice (hopefully) through the app.

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      The other fundamental tactic of the app (not So much Dewey’s as my own – or perhaps Goethe’s) is to provide a phenomenological opportunity (or lived-experience) upon which to build conceptual knowledge. My argument here is that we are more inclined to understand and construct integral knowledge on a phenomenological foundation. This is another important subject altogether but I think it is critical for building empathy.

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      The way I see it, Dewey was way ahead of his time. It’s only now, 8 decades later, that the technology has caught up and we are able to provide the kind of rich “in situ” learning Experiences (uppercase E) that Dewey was advocating for.

      .

      Rich

    • #2814
      Lawrence Edwards
      Participant

      G’DonYa Rich,
      This is the new educational process. Brilliant. For sure I will try it out in August at Dominican. (I have an Android smart phone.)
      Larry

    • #2815
      Imogene Drummond
      Participant

      OMG, Rich, I like the way you think–it’s so experiential, inclusive, connective and expansive! As a deeptime artist/filmmaker myself, I find your work and new Cosmosis app VERY exciting!!! I especially love that the visual in your app is an expression of Light. And that you’re connecting education, Big History, and technology. And, that you’re helping people experience paradigm-shifting realizations. That’s no small feat! I’ll post your app ws info on facebook asap.
      BTW, I think Divine Sparks, my award-winning 30-min film that celebrates the creativity in the universe, will resonate with you. You can check out the trailer here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VCDr0Ej1_I I hope you enjoy it!

      Cheers,
      Imogene

    • #2816
      Dr. Rich Blundell
      Participant

      Imogene, OMG is right!! I absolutely do LOVE Divine Sparks. It just lifted me! When I saw that celestial fruit, and that exultant frog, and that curious chipmunk, and then those googley-eyed hands, I could just feel your love of nature and creativity – and I could feel my own love of nature, and creativity too. How did you do that? Just wow! I watched it again and again and felt like a child again, immersed in the wonder of it all each time! And that music, and soundtrack, just perfect! You have really captured the essence of cosmic creativity!. Thank you so much for sharing that!

    • #2819
      Imogene Drummond
      Participant

      Wow, thank YOU for your wonderful response, Rich!!! I love it that you are so perceptive & articulate!!! MANY thanks for your kind words. They mean a lot to me. 🙂

      BTW, as I knew little about filmmaking when I began Divine Sparks film, it took many years. Then, I made a companion book & am now looking for a publisher. (It’s become an immersive journey!) The music, which I agree is so perfect & creative, is by an amazing friend of mine–David Rothenberg. Have you heard of him? He’s an award-winning “interspecies musician/composer,” philospher-naturalist, & author who plays improv w birds & whales! For more info, pls check out my website: http://www.divinesparks.com

      Thank you again for your wonderful response!! Wishing you great good fortune w your stupendous app!

      Cheers,
      Imogene

    • #2823
      Kyle Herman
      Participant

      Rich,
      I am a teacher in a Montessori high school program, and two years ago, we began the process of integrating Big History into our curriculum. This app that you’re developing could very well be an integral component of how we use Big History next year. Dewey’s philosophy on education as AN Experience sounds very consonant with Montessori’s Cosmic Education philosophy. I assume you’re familiar with her work, but I’d be happy to share more information with you if you like.

      If you are still seeking out beta testers for your app, I have an i-Phone and would be happy to try it out and give you some feedback. Our summer has just begun, so it’s a great time for me to begin the planning process for next year. I look forward to working with you on this project.

      Best,
      Kyle

    • #2824
      Jennifer Morgan
      Participant

      This is exactly what the Deep Time Journey Network is all about . . . nurturing cross fertilization and understanding between different lineages in education. The creative edges between Montessori Cosmic Education and Big History are particularly interesting today because they’re meeting each other in Montessori High Schools where students have already been exposed to Cosmic Education at the lower levels. Rich, I think your app is going to fit well into Montessori high schools particularly because it’s focused on the interiority of the student . . . not just information . . . but on how the educational experience actually transforms the learner. This is so crucial, and so central to Montessori Cosmic Education. I wish I had an iPhone. Hope you have an android version soon.
      All my best,
      Jennifer

    • #2828
      Jonathan Lace
      Participant

      Rich,

      Very cool. I’m interested in the beta testing. I’m an iOS developer myself and working on a theological dictionary app.

      J.

    • #2829
      Orla Hazra
      Participant

      thank you Rich for developing this resource. I have a dinosaur phone but will get my husband to download it to try it out where we are in India. Last year I had met a woman who was a tour guide and writing walking tours of Mumbai for APP download- you are writing a walking tour of the cosmos. Perhaps your project could be developed for geological walking tours of various areas….eg the little big history of Mumbai or Kolkata or San Rafael etc etc. Regarding education please read my thesis from the resource list. I was addressing somatic and narrative ways of knowing, ‘sonar’…the particular sense of unity we have culturally supressed. Evoking that vestigial sense is what we are all about. There are other educators far more explicit than Dewey in regards to ’experience’ included in my thesis. The other limitation with Dewey is that he does not recognize other educational forms in culture which also teach ( family, work and recreation). This limitation is not just with Dewey. The limitation is a big one because it ignores the larger teaching network of culture, the cosmology of a particular culture (either an integral one or a segmented one) and how it is passed on from generation to generation in life practice within the four forms. Thanks again for your creative idea and the importance of getting folks outside…..no child or any folks should be left behind inside! Orla
      ps….i love the visual of the big bang aftermath of us at the age of 300,000 years. I always point out that it is our ‘sonagram’!

    • #2841
      Dr. Rich Blundell
      Participant

      Kyle, John, Jennifer and Orla,
      .
      Thanks for all the comments! Expressions of interest in beta testing have really poured in over the past week, so I think it is time to cease the request for more testers. Those of you who offered above, would you mind using the form available through the website (link in above post)? That way we’ll be sure to have the right email to correspond with you and keep things organized. Would love to get your feedback, especially as you folks think about and apply Cosmic Education and the Montessori Philosophies.
      .
      Speaking of Montessori, I am eager to learn more. I have not had the chance to fully explore the intersections of BH and CE, but agree they are very resonant. So, Kyle, Yes, let’s continue the discussion. Can you suggest a VERY concise piece of text or resource that would educate me (keeping in mind that I am already swamped as I prepare for submitting my dissertation). Either way, I look forward to promoting both.
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      Orla, thanks for enhancing my understanding of the more inclusive expressions of experiential learning in your thesis. I know that Dewey was at least aware of the diversity of sources of experiential learning but did not address them specifically. His writings were more about establishing the foundations of a new theory of experiential learning, which at the time was revolutionary enough. I’ll look forward to furthering this discussion – perhaps in a new thread?
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      Gratefully,
      Rich
      .
      PS – Orla, when I saw your phrase “Dinosaur phone” I got really excited. Then I realized that what you really meant was a Dinosaur “of a” phone. But you now have me thinking eagerly about the Cosmosis6 App that will cover between about 200-65 million years ago!

    • #2842
      Kyle Herman
      Participant

      Rich,

      I can’t imagine how swamped you must be, so I’ll just tantalize you with an excerpt from Montessori’s “Keys to the World” below. However, if I had to recommend one work of hers to you, it would be To Educate the Human Potential. This is a short book (85 pages), but it is dense, and it explores the philosophy and practice of Cosmic Education as defined and designed by Montessori herself. It was originally published in 1948 – as usual, Montessori was well ahead of her time.

      “[Cosmic Education] recognizes in all creation a unifying plan upon which depends not only the different forms of living beings, but also the evolution of the earth itself…This education must take its departure and spread from one center, the cosmic plan of creation…In the universal syllabus of studies to which the new generations must apply themselves, all the items of culture must be connected as different aspects of the knowledge of the world and cosmos. Astronomy, geography, geology, biology, physics, chemistry are but details of one whole. It is their relation to one another that urges interest from a center toward its ramifications.”

      I’d be happy to share more resources and information if you find a need or have the time.

      Best,
      Kyle

    • #2848
      Imogene Drummond
      Participant

      This thread is amazing! The info, much of which is new to me–ie Dewey’s An experience, somatic ways of knowing, Cosmic Education–totally resonates w me. It is deeply meaningful to see this kind of viewpoint and knowledge being discussed and shared. The DTJN is clearly facilitating cross fertilization, as Jennifer says. Your website Omniscopic, app, and thesis are all intensely insightful and articulate, Rich! I love how you connect macro and micro, sublime & mundane. I will check out Montessori’s Cosmic Education–thank you, Kyle, for your suggestion of a short book. I too love the idea of a dinosaur app that’ll cover 200-65 million years ago! I need to learn more about all the ideas mentioned in the above posts. Thank you all for this exciting, expansive thread.

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