Archive for the 'Educators' Category

Week 2 Reflections: No One is Born “A Creative”

3Monkeys

It’s the 2nd week of Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations and the focus this week has been on individual constraints to innovation. According to Owen’s there are three main individual constraints to innovation: perception, intellection, and expression.

I’ve taken a cue from the last course I took (#edcmooc) and I’m making an attempt to define what I’ve learned this week visually (see the image above). But what I’ve really taken away from this week’s content are the following three bits:

Lesson 1: “There is no such thing as a creative personality.”

In other words, creative people aren’t born, they’re made or developed by their learning and experience. Numerous studies have shown that children are naturally open to experience and creative. But arguably our education system and life experience shapes or constrains this ability to be creative. We are taught the proper way to solve problems or how to keep our ideas and thoughts in check.

What Owens does argue is that there are personality traits conducive to creativity, and these are:

  • Agreeableness
  • Extroversion
  • Conscientiousness
  • Openness
Personality traits conducive to creativity

If neurosis is so bad for creativity – how does this explain Woody Allen?

Logically, if you are open-minded to multiple ways of seeing a problem you’ll come up with a number of different ways to solve it. If you’re agreeable and able to connect effectively with others, you’re better able to explain your solutions to them.   Neurotic behaviors and thinking on the other hand can negatively affect one’s ability to be creative here’s an example of how neurotic thinking can prevent creativity and innovative problem solving.

“I can’t share that solution or express that that in front of others, they’ll think I’m a.)wrong, b.)stupid and I’ll just embarrass myself.” 

In order to be a truly effective at innovation, you need to be able to share your ideas freely without fear of being judged.  Perhaps that’s ultimately what makes Woody Allen one of the most creative storytellers of our time. He’s portrayed himself as the lovable neurotic, but he has never flinched at attempting to portray this neurosis in stories that examine the human condition from different perspectives.

Lesson 2: It’s important to always approach the problem from multiple perspectives.

In reading through Chapter 2 of “Creative People Must be Stopped, I ran across the story of a playwright who purchased different “odd magazines” for hobbies or topics foreign to her. Her purpose was to “see” things from that particular magazine audience’s views and therefore reinterpret what might be seen in her own vision portrayed in her plays.  Of course, your savvy marketing professional would simply call this focusing on your target markets, but there’s something so simply empowering about this approach to seeing other’s views of the same situation or problem you’re attempting to solve.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re analyzing a problem:

  • How would someone who is completely polar opposite to me see this problem? How would they describe it?
  • Why might they not see it as a problem?
  • What solutions may they came up with?

Lesson 3: It’s not how cool your idea is, it’s how you sell it to your audience.

Inarticulate but might be right

Sometimes, and I admit I’m guilty of this as well, when you come up with what you think is a ‘great idea’ its logic seems to inherently obvious to you and therefore everyone else should see it that way. However, other’s way of viewing things may NOT be aligned with your own.  I feel that this is one of my greatest Individual Constraints to innovation. I’m not always adept and explaining or selling my solutions to others.  In actuality, I am really the Asian guy in the image above from Kathy Sierra’s blog post from years back. I often have hunches or feelings about when things are right or wrong, but I’m not always able to explain them to other people around me. This is where exercises and questions from my previous lesson would come in handy. Or…

Developing a ‘common language’ might be helpful.

Reminds me of that meeting game "B.S. Bingo."

Reminds me of that meeting game “B.S. Bingo.”

I had to laugh when Owens made a dig at using ‘buzzwords.’ As he noted, they may make you feel important, but they’re not a great way of gaining common understanding of both the problem and your proposed solution.  At one of my former jobs, a former colleague of mine and I played a game called B.S. Bingo in meetings that seemed like more verbal exposition than development or planning (or action).  Though arguably, these same buzzwords are the common language used by people in the corporate world to talk with each other. I do agree with Owens that when they’re bandied about to elevate your business klout or savvy they’re simply about posturing. However, I should consider that if this is the ‘speak’ that’s being used by people who are using this language, I should develop translations of my ideas in this language.

I’ve decided to create a template for writing out my ideas to better articulate them. It’s pretty simple. I would take the idea as I see it and then translate it into at least three or four different perspectives including the intended audience or end user, my peers, my boss, and my boss’s boss. This may take a little more discipline than I’m used to.

MyIdeaTranslationTool

Image of worksheet

Click the link above to view/download the worksheet

Digital Artefact: The Future of Learning #edcmooc

I think I’ll have more time to reflect and comment on my artefact and the experience of making it in a few days, but for now here it is.

http://prezi.com/eaixra1t5vnf/future-of-learning/

Frontpage of digital artefact for #edcmooc

Digital Artefact for my “Elearning & Digital Cultures” class

 

The Dying Art of Liberal Arts Education & the Failure of the Human Education Project #edcmooc

The following includes my response to the Fuller talk posted in the Week3 #edcmooc materials: Steve Fuller – Defining Humanity.

1. Why does Professor Fuller say (almost as a joke) that education is ‘a dying art’?

Fuller is speaking of education in the classical sense. Education, as in Liberal Arts. He’s referencing the ‘humanities’ project of educating young people at the university around a prescribed classical curriculum. This is a curriculum very similar to the one of my undergraduate education which was developed around what are called “Great Books.”

I’ve been raised to think that a balanced and rich education included learning the content and philosophies in these classic works, and not just interpreting the works and their original intent but looking at the current world and interpreting what we saw through the lens of these texts. More than this my education seemed to suit me because it espoused and preached the value of exploration of the world around me via constant inquiry.  The key to benefiting from these ‘classical’ texts is having professors and peer who help you interpret and understand them not just in the context in which they were written, but to understand how the messages of these text apply or don’t apply to current day living, and perhaps I’ve outed myself as a “Classics Curmudgeon,” but I will stand my my defense of understanding these texts as necessary to developing critical thought.

Now, if you choose to measure the success the Liberal Arts  by whether or not it’s able to educate universally among all peoples and classes, then yes, it is a failure. And if you consider that most universities no longer offer Liberal Arts as an option because the market has demanded that graduates emerge from university with skills directly applicable to the workforce, then, yes, it practically is a dying art.

2. He talks about the ‘modern artifice’ of enhancement: how might this notion of becoming more ‘fully human’ via enhancement impact on the project of education?

The definition of what is human to the educators of the “Classical” period, as Fuller states, was not achievable by every person.  It’s still not achievable by everyone, but does it mean that it’s irrelevant?  It could be that I’m misinterpreting this question so I’ll restate what I think it’s saying: How does the notion of becoming more human impact the project of education? (to be frank I really don’t like how this question is worded and I feel that it could be framed much better. For example, How does the notion or goal of improving ‘humanity’ impact the project of education. Have we been able to attain any improvement, if so to what extent? ).  It really depends upon the current definition of what is human. I agree that social values and norms surrounding the definition of humanity, for example, ideas such as democracy and equal rights that are supposedly espoused as ‘ideal values’ that modern societies try to uphold are more broadly applied than they were in Plato’s day where class and social status determined if you were ‘human’ or not.  Having a whole class of ‘inhuman’ people made open slavery possible.

If you look at the dismal failure of NCLB in the United States, clearly this attempt to improve public education for all has really done nothing to improve the levels of education for students in the US. In fact, it’s done more harm than good by placing a greater emphasis on memorization and thinking within the context of the tests rather than helping students develop stronger creative and critical thinking skills that will help them participate in the a marketplace that requires higher level and innovative thinking to remain completive.

3.Professor Fuller argues that there’s historical precedent for considering only some homo sapiens to be ‘human’: what are the political implications of this in contemporary times? And how might such a notion position education?

If you think of the fact that basic human rights to regular nourishment, water and shelter are denied to billions of people then yes we haven’t even begun to successfully humanize the rest of the population. His argument is a painful reminder that this definition of humanity may still be only accessible to people in the more affluent nations. In our own times and as nations suffer from conflicts over the scarcity of resources, this idea that only a special few can reap the benefits of this world, only a few can become educated. If you want to continue to assume that humanity is a special club for a network of people. It’s no secret that the struggle to become human has been inextricably intwined with the struggle to conquer nature and become prosperous.  But in a world where a population of over 10 billion people could become a reality in the next century, this idea that we can all live these idealized prosperous lives becomes more and more preposterous. The idea that the world that exists in Graphic Novels about Zombie Apocalypses becomes more realistic than fantasy.

In "The Mark of Gideon," episode Star Trek envisioned a world that was so crowded from overpopulation there was no place to sit & think

In “The Mark of Gideon,” episode Star Trek envisioned a world that was so crowded from overpopulation there was no place to sit & think

4. He suggests that we are questioning the very existence of the ‘human’ because we have failed in the humanist project (for example, we are far from achieving racial, gender or class equality): do you believe this?

I think it’s still possible for people to obtain or achieve this version of ‘ideal humanity’ on a universal basis. However, there are structures in place, economic & societal that make this difficult to achieve. On the other hand this vision of perfect humanity being represented by the erudite and highly educated seems like an elitist paradigm. After all we can’t all become those ‘philosopher kings’ that have nothing to to all day but learn and figure out what’s best for the rest of humanity ;) Maybe that’s why this old ‘human project’ is outdated. The object should be to educate a chosen few but offer the fertilizer to a greater part of the field and then help those who flourish become the new leaders of tomorrow. Think that recent history especially in the 20th century is replete with example of this in scholarships. But the MOOC allows even more people than those few underprivileged who win scholarships.

5. In claiming that ‘the old humanistic project should not be dropped’, Professor Fuller links his talk to our key theme of re-asserting the human. His stance seems to be that ‘you can only be morally credible’ if you are addressing issues of human freedom and equality. Thinking about education specifically, might we see MOOCs as an example of an ‘old humanistic project’, particularly in the promise they appear to offer for democratisation, equality of access and so on?

MOOCs are part of the democratization of the passing down of knowledge. The fact that it’s accessible to anyone is indeed democratic. The fact that a good many poor people around the globe still don’t have access to the Internet is not so democratic. But I prefer to see Fuller’s suggestion as a warning to change this view of ‘higher education’  and adapt the “Classical” curriculum as well as how and whom we deliver it to. Specifically the world is changed and world views have changed somewhat therefore, the works that are read. In India, a core group of educators is trying to educate one of their lowest social groups: Women. The argument, educated women defer childbirth and have less children. With less mouths to feed and less competition for jobs, the people as a whole become more prosperous.

Photo attribution: Mark of Gideon – http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/The_Mark_of_Gideon_(episode)

How to Build A Strong Online Classroom Community in a MOOC (A Beginning) #edcmooc

tag: #edcmooc

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have recently exploded on the Internet.  Currently participating in the “Elearning & Digital Cultures” Coursera MOOC has been both an exciting and enriching experience so far. Many of my classmates have noted that it’s difficult to connect or even find what you need. I see that. If I haven’t had experienced both participating in and designing smaller online courses, I think I might have run screaming from this class. I decided to take this class to learn more about the MOOC experience and because I knew a course like this would attract a great many folks who can teach me more about online learning and collaboration. And I’m not just speaking about Digital Vikings or Digital Experts ;).

To some extent, online learners do have to take a bit of responsibility in learning how to use the tools, discovering the rules of etiquette and how to use the content creation options (Storify, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Prezi, Storyline, etc.). It’s like taking Dr. Who’s advice about Time Travel… it “ is like visiting Paris. You can’t just  follow the guidebook. You’ve got to throw yourself in, eat the food, use the wrong verbs… “

Part of the fun of engaging in an online course is taking a few risks. And because we don’t get the interpersonal and facial cues from being in a classroom, you have to adapt and sometimes overcompensate when communicating with others online.

I have a few suggestions from my initial experience in this MOOC, and as I continue to take this course over the next few weeks I’m sure I will have more:

1. Provide a digital tour  with a facilitator narrating it that walks through the major places to contribute in the course. This can include guidelines for  using the forums and subforums correctly. You’re not going to prevent everyone from posting to the top threads instead of using the search to find the appropriate ones, but you’ll cut down on a great deal of the clutter and chatter

2. Provide a way for the newbies to practice using and develop confidence using the communication tools.  At the TCC Education Technology Conference they allow all participants to play in ‘sandboxes’ in Illuminate. This allows them to get comfortable with the tool and engage. In a former life I designed a chat activity for our LMS chat tool that incorporated an online scavenger hunt. Students were directed to share thoughts and links on a topic and discuss. Integrating the learning about the tool in an activity that uses it while allowing students to practice helps them both master and become accustomed to online modes of communication.

3. Leverage the skills of  the Digital Natives & Proficient Digital Immigrants to help get the newbies up to speed.

4. Have a learning manifesto that defines what you feel the learning should look like. Encourage the students to contribute to it. It looks like the University of Edinburgh has one... but I didn’t see it linked in our actual #edcmooc. Having a manifesto personalized by the facilitators & students of the course can help everyone start.

5. Provide a mechanism or place in the course for people to join cadres where they stick with each other throughout the course. Provide some general guidelines for providing support in the cadres. If possible have folks who are more experienced with tech volunteer to lead each Cadre. Give them guidelines to help start conversations. Encourage fun competitions between cadres that help build team spirit.  I know this can be rather challenging in a course with tens of thousands of people, but I think perhaps setting up the space and modeling the behavior for the cadres is a start. I see that in our course there are some self-generated study groups, but how do they know what to do or even study online without some amount of guidance?

6. Require that students have a blog. They can build one specifically for this course or use one that exists already. The blog is a way for folks to reflect and have larger thoughts about their experience with the course and topics.

How about you? Add your ideas on how to improve the MOOC Experience at this Wall on Wallwisher

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 9.52.37 AM

Go to the wall and add your own comments.

Schools aren’t teaching innovation? Parents to the Rescue

In part of this interview, Godin asserts that our school system is designed to develop factory workers and that we should be angry about this.  How do we change schools? Or should we even try? It’s awfully hard to change institutions. You can make your best shot, but maybe it’s better to take on the challenge of building more innovative minds on a smaller scale.

I think there are things that parents can do outside of school and at home to help model innovative and collaborative behavior to their children.

1.) Try learning new things. Make taking a class or even a workshop part of your family activities. I remember my mother actually taking cooking classes, macrame, even public speaking. Both my brother and I were often dropped off at the community center to take a crafting or nature class during the summer months. We often looked forward to doing this.

2.) If you’re failing at household tasks… point it out.  Not everyone is Martha Stewart perfect at the things they do. You don’t have to engage in huge creative projects.  Build a small pond, arrange your picture frames, experiment with colors when you knit a mitten.  If it doesn’t work out… it’s okay. I meet so many adults who are so afraid of doing things wrong they get so wrapped up in making things perfect. They’re not really paying attention to what they’re doing along the way or how they got there. This neurotic compunction to make things look just right seems like excessive self-flagellation to me. Modeling this neurosis for our children can stunt their willingness to experiment or try new things.

3.) Tinker, tinker, tinker. My father-in-law owns a machine shop so it isn’t surprising that he found a way to make his car run with propane during the Oil Crisis in the 70’s. It’s also not surprising that he now has two sons who aren’t afraid to creatively solve design problems or develop tools or products. My husband eschewed the customary IKEA setups when designing our kitchen and instead designed a the layout in 3D in Blender to fit our odd shaped pre 1950’s house. My brother-in-law designed a built a salt-water tank with specialized lighting that mimics sunlight in a reef setting specific to a part of a globe. Don’t ask how and why… he just did.

4.) Work with other adults on a project where you’re solving a creative problem. I remember people coming to my house as a child to work out problems with my dad. Whether it was building a deck or fixing the car. Working together to piece a quilt and even solve out the design with others is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this ability to work with other adults to solve a creative problem.

Now I’m only providing a few suggestions here, but you probably get the picture. Children are keen to pick up on adult behaviors and when you’re modeling the type of ‘compliance’ Godin refers to or even fear of trying new things, there’s a good chance that they’ll be influenced by it.

Schools, Please Don’t Kill Our Creativity

At a workshop I attended yesterday, Barry Dahl mentioned this unforgettable lecture by Ken Robinson at the TED conference. In his incredibly adroit and humorous talk, Robinson maintains that schools today thrash the creativity out of kids. I would argue that the final death knell takes place once they enter today’s corporate work world.

In another inspiring lecture, Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO champions the importance of play in productivity of design and innovation.

Tim Brown Teaches Adults How to Play at a Lecture

Tim Brown Teaches Adults How to Play at a Lecture

How can we, as educators promote creativity and play in our classrooms, while teaching important knowledge and skills? I feel that developing curriculum driven by “student created content” is key to developing the creative minds that will build our future. I don’t know about you, but as an old doddering woman, I would rather live in a world built by the next designer of earth shaking technologies and innovative policies that help promote progress and not in a world populated by people who are fettered by rules that squelch creativity and productivity.

“It’s in the making of things that kids actually do their learning”

(Exerpt below is from an article I wrote for our company blog.)

Creating content in schools extends past the traditional class-report or diorama making. I found this wonderful example of the King Middle School in Portland, Maine. I believe that this school is really putting the approaches to 21st Literacy Education in a Action. The video provides examples of how the school integrates subjects like science, English, math with technology education.


Click the photo to view the video. Note the video will open and play automatically in another browser window.

The kids participate in truly constructivist activities, by developing videos, artwork, and collaborating on the development of music and music scores. All of these activities and projects require formal knowledge in writing, math, science, research and history that used to be taught to students via textbooks in an isolated context. Here are a few quotes from the short film that really captured my attention:

“We don’t use textbooks, per se… we do a lot of research in class.”

“The approach is to bring out the best in every student.”

“It’s in the making of things, that kids do their learning.”

The school also partners with businesses like a local printing press to develop products. The students work together as teams to develop items such as books for the press. These students also have the opportunity to work with professionals like the professional documentary maker who help them improve the quality of their videos. They get real-life experience and are encouraged to stretch and deliver quality projects. They are not coddled or isolated from doing ‘real work’ because they are not ready to do it on a ‘professional level.’

As I finished watching the video, I realized that many teachers might have issues with the fact that some students contributed 7 pages of work to a final project while some contributed only three paragraphs. I like the attitude that these teachers at King have that “Everyone does what they can.” Plus everyone should contribute to the project using the skills and talents that they have. Perhaps a student who needs help with math but has kinesthetic talents can choreograph a dance, and teach the other students how to perform the dance to be included in a final project. A student who lags in writing but has design skills might lead the team that develops the costumes or set. Both students are exercising their communication and leadership skills in helping other get their tasks done. Students who are better at writing can help coach these students when they have to do the written component for the project.

I think the comment that sums up the value and power of this approach to education was made by the kids of King Middle School themselves, “No one feels stupid here anymore.”

Why wasn’t I born twenty years later? I would have loved to go to school in a place like this. Seeing examples like this really makes me excited about the work we do here at PLS because I believe that in what we do we strive to make learning experiences effective and powerful.

Wikis: it’s okay to make mistakes here

The Impact of Social Learning - Click to view the Article

The Impact of Social Learning - Click to view the Article "Minds on Fire"

More and more, I’ve come to see wikis (collaborative websites) as informal ‘playgrounds’ where people can share, learn and collaborate together. I’m not really referring to Wikipedia, because it’s seen as a semi-formal/formal resource. Now I don’t want to get into the veracity or the level of formality associated with Wikipedia, that’s not the main focus of my thoughts here.

I’m talking about wikis as an active place for a ‘learning community’ to share, build and collaborate to learn information. An example of this is a wiki set up by a classroom teacher of any subject where students (and the teacher) can build their store of knowledge on a subject together. Note, ‘grown ups’ in the workplace can use this in a similar fashion (see the last examples). Here are a bunch of sample scenarios:

1.) History/Social Studies Class - develops a section in their wiki on each of the topics they cover in class. Teams of students are responsible for updating the wiki with information on a particular subject. Class invites another history class from a different part of the country or world to contribute to some of their pages and volunteers to contribute to the other class’s wiki in return.

2.) College Physics Course – shares information they gather on particular phenomena. Smaller teams work together on the wiki to develop papers on particular projects. The wiki is used as a place to collaborate and develop a draft.

3.) Elementary School Class – learns about punctuation. The have a page for each of the different rules of punctuation. Each student contributes to the rule page by writing their own correct example of usage.

4.) Hi-school English Class – students work to write scenes of a play that parodies the work of a featured playwright or author. For, example they create a modernized version of Hamlet.

5.)Marketing team – uses wikis as an ongoing brainstorming area for throwing out random ideas to explore.

6.)Software Development Team - uses wiki to document issues and successes with code.

In these situations, the wiki is not serving as a definitive or formal resource for information. In my opinion, people should not throw hissy fits about making little mistakes like grammatical errors or broken links. People shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes, because these mistakes can always be corrected. The more knowledgable wiki-users should be able to model and teach their less-experienced co-users how to correct these mistakes. Users and participants in the wiki work with each other to share ideas and grow the content without the fear of ‘making irreversible mistakes.’ The content in the wiki is ‘organic': always changing, evolving and growing.

I have to admit, I’ve very excited about this aspect of knowledge-sharing and the idea that content grows and changes, because I firmly believe that this is where innovation, growth. But in the sense of content development, I think of Wikis as being the rehearsal for the ‘play’ that is print or documented information. Again, I also see it as a playground for learning.

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