Voltron as 21st Century Learning Metaphor

Voltron  3

CC licensed photo shared by l2k85.

I’m about to geek out on you, so if you don’t like geeking out, then I would avoid reading this post.

I love Voltron.

Voltron was a cartoon I adored as a youngster. It’s a totally ridiculous animation about some sci fi kids protecting the universe from evil with their giant robot lions. The most amazing thing about the lions, however, is the way they literally come together to form one large robot that, quite frankly, totally kicks butt.

I currently use it as a metaphor in my class to convey a couple of things about collaboration and technology’s role in it. I know, this analogy could be broken into bits on closer deconstruction. After all, it’s just your everyday kids cartoon full of stereotypes and misrepresentations. It’s just that I like trying my best to speak to my students in their language. The language of ’21st Century Learning’ means nothing to them. It’s our adult language.

Sometimes you’ve got to talk in giant-robot-lion-turns-into-humungous-ninja-samarai language.

I tell them that, like Voltron, we are strong as anything individually, but we go to an epic level together. I also tell them that, although we are supreme without technology, with it we are downright untouchable (they can’t touch us when we’re in our lions!) And the reason we want to get this awesome? Because we need to save the world is all.

Is that cheesy or what? Click play below if you dare!

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10 Comments

  1. Yeah. Voltron, G-Force, Danguard Ace. (My favourite was Grandizer/Grendizer. He was cool with that fancy flying saucer that could separate from the robot.) And then there are the Power Rangers in live-action. Lots of individuals robot bits (driven by the Rangers) that need to merge and work in concert (forming a giant robot again in the process) to achieve success.

    I’m wondering if the work of W. Edwards Demming in Japan in the 50s was an influence that we can see reflected in this pervasive message of collaboration in all these Animé hero-sagas?

    I’m wracking my brain, trying to think of comparable examples from Hollywood. Any suggestions? I remember reflecting on the visible team collaboration on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the early 90s when Picard and his staff would gather in the Conference Lounge and have a round-table discussion about courses of action. It seemed such a good model of “the whole greater than the sum of the parts” — and much less hierarchical than the more traditional model. But they never formed no starships into Giant Robots. Maybe that would have helped with the Borg.

  2. I really like this metaphor. As educators we are always looking to connect with students. In this, there are few things that are off limits (except the obvious) when we are making meaning and connections with our students.

    BTW Have you noticed that the narrator’s voice sounds a lot like Optimus Prime?

    1. That’s because it’s Michael Bell doing the opening AND Optimus Prime’s voice. A lot of voice actors in the 80s did more than one cartoon. The guy who did Lance’s voice in the 80’s also was on the Snorks…and a couple others, I think…

  3. Awesome metaphor, Royan! I know that some of the students in my class know about Voltron, so I may just have to borrow this fantastic metaphor of yours too. I’ll give you credit though. My students already know of “Mr. Lee.” 🙂

    Aviva

  4. Hi my name is Hannah Still and I am in Dr.Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed your post. I have never seen Voltron but I think that it is great that you are using subjects children can relate to . Thank you for sharing this post.

  5. Hello Mr. Lee! I’m Dominique Spence in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I love the metaphor and how you are able to involve what students may find interesting to connect topics for them. (I have seen all of the Transformer movies,loved them by the way and now I will have to find old episodes of Voltron!) You are very creative in thinking of this metaphor to use inside your classroom. I would not have thought of this but I will totally take old comics and cartoons to relate to my students. They will definitely remember this lesson if nothing else. Great job. Students are really blessed to have a teacher like you.

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