Grounds of future play

21 09 2010

Two weekends ago I went to an education resources expo at the Brisbane Convention Centre – mainly as a bid to get freebs. I arrived a little late but still managed to catch some of a seminar, a few free posters, petted a snake and a lizard, and entered in as many lucky draws as possible (and possibly signing my boss up for swades of spam – sorry…).

Two things caught my eye in particular. And I’ll share one now – The SmartUs Digital Playground (their Finnish website).

The whole set up is very futuristic. Kids are issued with RFID smart cards that can be recognised by readers scattered throughout the playground. They login at the main portal and are assigned a task (run from point A to B via C three times, or something more complex) and the computer records their time. This time is recorded on an international online network where kids from different schools, or even different countries, can compare each others times and records.

Additional tasks and learning can also be integrated by assigning different nodes answers to a multi-choice quiz. This also comes into play by the presence of a dancepad hooked up to the main video monitor of the playground as well. This can be used for quizzes, fitness, dancing or simon-type games.

In Finland, it even became the basis of a family/children’s gameshow which involved celebrities and national atheletes, called FunTzu. Again, these TV scores were uploaded online, so schoolkids could challenge their idols. Unfortunately I can’t find any videos of the TV show – but after some searching I have found a news item of Asia’s first SmartUs playground in Hong Kong which shows how it works.

Tapping into children’s natural competitive behaviour, and then combining it with social media and massively multiplayer gaming Lappset have really hit the mark (or market). The only real downsides to it I can see are the initial outlay costs (which you can guess would be quite high) and also the pitfall of having ‘standardised cookie cutter playgrounds’ that don’t have their own individual community flavour. There also might be other hudles here in Australia given EQ’s stance on students and social networks.





Sex, what is it good for?

28 10 2008

(Maybe the single life is getting to me…)

Humans often look at things from a very human point of view. It’s really not that surprising, but it can lead to somewhat linear thinking.

Such as linear concepts regarding evolution. You know that horrendous version where by everything lines up towards a singularity (usually us): from amoebas to fish to lizards to rats to monkeys to us. It sounds like some twisted video game-esque parody really.

Along with opposable thumbs, the development of bonking has been paraded as a major leap forward in evolution. But why then does most life on earth today reproduce by non-sexual means?

The whole myth of sex being all that and then some begins, like many mythconceptions on evolution with high-school. We learn that sex was developed as a way of maximising genetic variation. You get genes from Mummy AND Daddy. This means offspring made from sex are ultimately more likely to be fitter than asexually reproducing species and therefore sex is the best thing before and after, and possibly during, sliced bread.

BOLLOCKS!

Sex is not a mechanism for maxmising fitness through evolution – particularly in a sense of strength, toughness and all-round better-er-ness. Sex is the slippery path to a shallow and superficial future. All sex really cares about good looks. When selective pressure rises, keeping up appearances is all that counts†. Even in yeast.

In order to pass genes onto the next generation, an asexual organism must prove its worth by surviving in its environment long enough to gather the resources necessary to create its own offspring: all… by… itself. That takes guts*, people. That’s why some of the biggest hard-asses around are asexual – Anthrax, Thermus aquaticus, and black tip sharks. They have to fight for their right to … well not party

When you introduce sex, evolution changes from this romper stomper red in tooth and claw deathmatch to a Miss Universe pagent. Previous gen-pool lifeguard Gunn. Sgt. Hartmann has been replaced by Paris “That’s Hot” Hilton.

All a sexual reproducing species has to do is be suave enough to get someone up the duff**. After that you can run away and die. Everything after the “act” is generally no consequence. Incidentally, that’s why elephants starve to death in old age (which we’ve already covered).

I’m envisaging some sort of bizarre reverse frog-prince scenario on the horizon. Although when I look at some old people, I wonder if perhaps we are already there?

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