Friday, September 11, 2015

Worth Reading

Passing along a few good reads from the past couple of weeks.

1. Where Design, Engineering Meet (Harvard Gazette)Mohsen Mostafavi, dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design at GSD, and Francis J. Doyle III, the John A. Paulson Dean and John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS, discussed the origins and goals of a new graduate degree program at Harvard.

The composition and diversity of each cohort is critical. If you go back to the engineering approach or design approach from decades ago, the disciplines existed in silos. If you’re in an engineering firm, you might bring in mechanical engineers for one piece of a project, chemical engineers for another piece, computer scientists for a different piece. They really were islands, and they had to put the pieces together, and that was often a very ad hoc process. Here, we’re breaking down boundaries. That’s not to say we’re creating jacks-of-all-trades, completely cross-trained individuals, but we are preparing individuals to take a multidisciplinary mindset into a project environment and work across fields. It’s not that we’re just adding four or five disciplines and getting whatever aggregate product would come from that. We are building teams that can be more innovative in how they cross boundaries and collaborate.

This is the future of how things will be done in the real world. Students are not getting plugged into traditional silos of very narrow expertise. They’re being forced to work on teams that require multiple skills. Diversity of thinking approaches, of backgrounds, of work experiences: All of these things will lend to the ultimate success of the program.
2. Five Critical Skills to Empower Learners In The Digital Age (Sung)Alan November, a former teacher turned lecturer, consultant and author, challenged teachers to rethink how they start the school year by outlining skills that are crucial to students to learn in the first five days of school.
“My goal is for them to become the truthmakers,” Wees said. “I’m trying to build a mathematical community where something is true when everyone agrees it’s true.” To do that, he asks students to talk through mathematical ideas, struggle with them and give one another feedback. “A major goal of math classrooms should be to develop people who look for evidence and try to prove that things are true or not true,” Wees said. “You can do that at any age”
The first job of a teacher is not to explain things clearly, it's to inspire students to want to learn. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery writes, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
5. Redesigning A Design Program:  How Carnegie Mellon University is Developing A Design Curricula for the 21st Century (Irwin)- the thought process and rationale for redesigning curricula for the Carnegie Mellon Design School is shared.
Design is ubiquitous- we live the majority of our lives in the designed or 'built' world, and design is connected to many of the large problems confronting society.  However, its very ubiquity gives it the potential to play a key role in the resolution of these same issues.  Design is inherently a problem-solving process and fundamental skills of the designer are the ability to look for meaningful problems, frame them within appropriate contexts, and design a process for developing and implementing a solution.
6.  To Get Into MIT's New Design Program, Students Must Score High On The 'Love Metric' (Thys)- explores the type of thinking and skills valued by the MIT Design School
“The analogy I use is that people learn instruments,” Kressy says as we talk in the big studio the students are occupying in MIT’s vintage Building N-52. “They learn to play violin and cello and tympani and bass and piano, and they become virtuosos in these sort of instruments. But when you take these people together and you make them play together, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game. All of sudden you have to respond to your fellow musicians.”
The task: build instruments from found materials. And boy did the students find materials. Mechanical engineer Maria Tafur, from Bogota, made a clarinet from a carrot.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How We Got Here

Sharing a few highlights from How We Got Here: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. 

Unwittingly, the Venetian doges had created an innovation hub: by concentrating the glassmakers on a single island the size of a small city neighborhood, they triggered a surge of creativity, giving birth to an environment that possessed what economists call “information spillover.

What followed was one of the most extraordinary cases of the hummingbird effect in modern history. Gutenberg made printed books relatively cheap and portable, which triggered a rise in literacy, which exposed a flaw in the visual acuity of a sizable part of the population, which then created a new market for the manufacture of spectacles

Hummingbird effects sometimes happen when an innovation in one field exposes a flaw in some other technology (or in the case of the printed book, in our own anatomy) that can be corrected only by another discipline altogether. But sometimes the effect arrives thanks to a different kind of breakthrough: a dramatic increase in our ability to measure something, and an improvement in the tools we build for measuring.

New ways of measuring almost always imply new ways of making.

This is what the robot historian’s perspective allows us to see: the technology is not a single cause of a cultural transformation like the Renaissance, but it is, in many ways, just as important to the story as the human visionaries that we conventionally celebrate

The art of human invention has more than one muse

Those patents rippling across the planet are an example of one of the great curiosities in the history of innovation: what scholars now call “multiple invention.” Inventions and scientific discoveries tend to come in clusters, where a handful of geographically dispersed investigators stumble independently onto the very same discovery

Like every big idea, Birdseye’s breakthrough was not a single insight, but a network of other ideas, packaged together in a new configuration. What made Birdseye’s idea so powerful was not simply his individual genius, but the diversity of places and forms of expertise that he brought together

may sound ridiculous to say that Bell and his successors were the fathers of modern commercial architecture—of the skyscraper. But wait a minute. Take the Singer Building, the Flatiron Building, the Broad Exchange, the Trinity, or any of the giant office buildings. How many messages do you suppose go in and out of those buildings every day? Suppose there was no telephone and every message had to be carried by a personal messenger? How much room do you think the necessary elevators would leave for offices? Such structures would be an economic impossibility

Thanks to the antitrust resolution, Bell Labs became one of the strangest hybrids in the history of capitalism: a vast profit machine generating new ideas that were, for all practical purposes, socialized

The next time you glance down at your phone to check what time it is or where you are, the way you might have glanced at a watch or a map just two decades ago, think about the immense, layered network of human ingenuity that has been put in place to make that gesture possible. Embedded in your ability to tell the time is the understanding of how electrons circulate within cesium atoms; the knowledge of how to send microwave signals from satellites and how to measure the exact speed with which they travel; the ability to position satellites in reliable orbits above the earth, and of course the actual rocket science needed to get them off the ground; the ability to trigger steady vibrations in a block of silicon dioxide—not to mention all the advances in computation and microelectronics and network science necessary to process and represent that information on your phone.

One of the reasons garages have become such an emblem of the innovator’s workspace is precisely because they exist outside the traditional spaces of work or research. They are not office cubicles or university labs; they’re places away from work and school, places where our peripheral interests have the room to grow and evolve.

The Talent Code

Sharing a few personal highlights from The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown.  Here's How by Daniel Coyle.

The surprising answer is that Brazil produces great players because since the 1950s Brazilian players have trained in a particular way, with a particular tool that improves ball-handling skill faster than anywhere else in the world... call this kind of training deep practice, and as we'll see, it applies more than soccer

Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways—operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes—makes you smarter

Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you're forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them—as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go—end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it

You have positioned yourself at a place of leverage where you can capture failure and turn it into skill. The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn't help. Reaching does

Q: Why is targeted, mistake-focused practice so effective? A: Because the best way to build a good circuit is to fire it, attend to mistakes, then fire it again, over and over. Struggle is not an option: it's a biological requirement

Struggle is not optional—it's neurologically required: in order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit suboptimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes; you must slowly teach your circuit

Apprentices learned the craft from the bottom up, not through lecture or theory but through action: mixing paint, preparing canvases, sharpening chisels...  In short, apprentices spent thousands of hours solving problems, trying and failing and trying again, within the confines of a world built on the systematic production of excellence

Deep practice, however, doesn't obey the same math. Spending more time is effective—but only if you're still in the sweet spot at the edge of your capabilities, attentively building and honing circuits

“We instinctively think of each new student as a blank slate, but the ideas they bring to that first lesson are probably far more important than anything a teacher can do, or any amount of practice,” McPherson said. “It's all about their perception of self. At some point very early on they had a crystallizing experience that brings the idea to the fore, that says, I am a musician. That idea is like a snowball rolling downhill

Daring Greatly: The Courage to be Vulnerable

Sharing personal highlights from Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown

Something can always be learned when we consider these questions: What are the messages and expectations that define our culture and how does culture influence our behaviors? How are our struggles and behaviors related to protecting ourselves? How are our behaviors, thoughts, and emotions related to vulnerability and the need for a strong sense of worthiness?

We’re called to “dare greatly” every time we make choices that challenge the social climate of scarcity

It starts to make sense that we dismiss vulnerability as weakness only when we realize that we’ve confused feeling with failing and emotions with liabilities

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage

It’s life asking, “Are you all in? Can you value your own vulnerability as much as you value it in others?” Answering yes to these questions is not weakness: It’s courage beyond measure.

With children, actions speak louder than words. When we stop requesting invitations into their lives by asking about their day, asking them to tell us about their favorite songs, wondering how their friends are doing, then children feel pain and fear (and not relief, despite how our teenagers may act). Because they can’t articulate how they feel about our disengagement when we stop making an effort with them, they show us by acting out, thinking, This will get their attention

Vulnerability begets vulnerability; courage is contagious.

The secret killer of innovation is shame. You can’t measure it, but it is there. Every time someone holds back on a new idea, fails to give their manager much needed feedback, and is afraid to speak up in front of a client you can be sure shame played a part. That deep fear we all have of being wrong, of being belittled and of feeling less than, is what stops us taking the very risks required to move our companies forward

If we want to be able to move through the difficult disappointments, the hurt feelings, and the heartbreaks that are inevitable in a fully lived life, we can’t equate defeat with being unworthy of love, belonging, and joy

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Role of a Teacher

From George Siemens, Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing roles for Educators and Designers, different ways to view the role of a teacher:

Clarence Fisher (n.d.), blogger and classroom teacher, suggests a model of “teacher as network administrator” (p. 1):

Just as our mind has been a continually evolving set of connections between concepts, so our students and their learning can become placed at the center of a personal learning network which they construct with our help for their maximum benefit. Helping students to gain the skills they require to construct these networks for learning, evaluate their effectiveness, and work within a fluid structure is a massive change in how the business of classrooms is usually structured. (p. 1)

Curtis Bonk (2007) presents the educator as a concierge directing learners to resources or learning opportunities that they may not be aware of. He states,

We need to push students into the many learning possibilities that are ripe for them now. Concierges sometimes show you things you did not know were available or possible. Teachers as concierges can do the same things. We need to have quick access to such resources, of course, but as this occurs increasingly around the planet, so too will we sense a shift from prescribed learning checkboxes toward more learner designed programs of study. Now the Web of Learning offers this chance to explore and allow teachers to be their tour guides. (6)  The concierge serves to provide a form of “soft” guidance—at times incorporating traditional lectures and, in other instances, permitting learners to explore on their own.

Like Bonk (2007), I suggest that educators must assume dual roles: as experts with advanced knowledge of a domain and guides who foster and encourage learner exploration. Educators create learning resources that expose learners to the critical ideas, concepts, and papers within a field. 

I am convinced that a curatorial teacher acknowledges the autonomy of learners, yet understands the frustration of exploring unknown territories without a map. A curator is an expert learner. Instead of dispensing knowledge, he creates spaces in which knowledge can be created, explored, and connected. While curators understand their field very well, they don't adhere to traditional in‐ class teacher‐centric power structures. A curator balances the freedom of individual learners with the thoughtful interpretation of the subject being explored. While learners are free to explore, they encounter displays, concepts, and artifacts representative of the discipline. Their freedom to explore is unbounded. But when they engage with subject matter, the key concepts of a discipline are transparently reflected through the curatorial actions of the teacher. (Siemens, 2007, 9)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Worth Reading

After a two month hiatus here are some posts to check out.

1. TedxLondon: The Problem Finders- changing our pedagogical approach

Currently, the world’s education systems are crazy about problem-based learning, but they’re obsessed with the wrong bit of it. While everyone looks at how we could help young people become better problem-solvers, we’re not thinking how we could create a generation of problem finders.

2. Teaching Digital Wisdom- a pedagogical approach to technology and the classroom that does not stop at whether or how students may access digital devices in my classroom, but seeks also to address why it is important that students critically engage these very questions.

Stepping into the waters of collaborative learning, John Trimbur questions the claim that an aim of collaborative learning is to help bring about consensus. “Consensus,” Trimbur argues, “can be a powerful instrument for students to generate differences, to identify the systems of authority that organize these differences, and to transform the relations of power that determine who may speak and what counts as a meaningful statement” (442). A pedagogy seeking digital wisdom, then, will look for areas of dissensus and critically examine differences.

3. Shared Security, Shared GrowthOur changing economy has given rise to a nation of freelancers and contractors—and the need for a twenty-first-century social contract.

Gone is the era of the lifetime career, let alone the lifelong job and the economic security that came with it, having been replaced by a new economy intent on recasting full-time employees into contractors, vendors, and temporary workers. It is an economic transformation that promises new efficiencies and greater flexibility for “employers” and “employees” alike, but which threatens to undermine the very foundation upon which middle-class America was built. And if the American middle class crumbles, so will an American economy that relies on consumer spending for 70 percent of its activity, and on a diverse and inclusive workforce for 100 percent of the innovation that drives all future prosperity.

4. Developing A New Metric for Assessing Learning- how to assess learning in a world of evolving access to information

 Professor David Perkins raises the question, "What's worth learning?" in his new book, Future WiseHe argues that when students have ubiquitous access to information and facts through mobile devices, then perhaps what we should focus more on the content, processes, and skills that have relevance to their lives rather than whether or not they can regurgitate a mountain of disparate content facts.

5. What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work- the "Hollywood Model" in which freelance work is increasing

This approach to business is sometimes called the “Hollywood model.” A project is identified; a team is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands. This short-­term, project-­based business structure is an alternative to the corporate model, in which capital is spent up front to build a business, which then hires workers for long-­term, open-­ended jobs that can last for years, even a lifetime. It’s also distinct from the Uber-­style “gig economy,” which is designed to take care of extremely short-­term tasks, manageable by one person, typically in less than a day.

6. Kinetic Affect Performs at WVU- Each year, Kinetic Affect returns to their Alma Mater at WMU to speak to thousands of students and faculty. Their message is simple; to remind our youth to follow their passions and to embrace the obstacles they face as opportunities to grow as they pursue their dreams.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Worth Reading...

It has been some time since my last post.  I want to share some good postings, I have come across the past few weeks.

1. Boston Designers Discuss the Creative Process (DeLuca) BostInno's 3rd annual State of Innovation brings together more than 1,000 business leaders and professionals for keynotes from high-profile speakers, cutting-edge panel discussions with industry leaders, engaging workshops and endless networking opportunities. This year, a series of workshops with partner General Assembly will focus on skills needed to fuel Boston's growth, including design thinking. 

2. Tomorrow's Learning Today (Heick)- I am never the biggest fan of lists, however, I like the second point raised in the post about the shift from standards to habits of mind.  

We’ve talked about this one quite a bit–most recently in Changing What We Teach, for example. This is among the biggest and most powerful ideas in “future learning,” and should be central to any meaningful discussion therein. What are students learning, why are they learning it, and what are they doing with what they know? In short, the shift from purely academic standards to critical thinking habits supports personalized, 21st century learning through a preceding shift from institution to learner.

3. 10 Buildings Show the Future of Architecture (Kushner)- interesting perspectives on how to play with a space and in particular, recognition of a personal design firm favorite, Snarkitecture

4. Feedback Revolutionizes How We Assess Learning (Barnes)- a teacher shares how he moved from a traditional grading system of handing out letters and percentages to where assessment is provided through conversation.  

Years ago, I decided to eliminate traditional grades from my classroom. I stopped placing numbers, percentages and letters on anything and everything my students completed. Instead, we assessed learning through conversation and narrative feedback. While students quickly grew accustomed to discussing their activities and projects, it was important to give them a system that would make sense. The formality and rigidity of grades disappeared, replaced by the simplicity ofSE2R — Summarize, Explain, Redirect, Resubmit.

5.3D Print Revolution (D'Aveni)- now that the 3D print revolution is underway what are some of the next level of developments to consider

Third, leaders must consider the strategic implications as whole commercial ecosystemsbegin to form around the new realities of 3-D printing. Much has been made of the potential for large swaths of the manufacturing sector to atomize into an untold number of small “makers.” But that vision tends to obscure a surer and more important development: To permit the integration of activities across designers, makers, and movers of goods, digital platforms will have to be established. At first these platforms will enable design-to-print activities and design sharing and fast downloading. Soon they will orchestrate printer operations, quality control, real-time optimization of printer networks, and capacity exchanges, among other needed functions. The most successful platform providers will prosper mightily by establishing standards and providing the settings in which a complex ecosystem can coordinate responses to market demands

6. Push, Don't Crush the Students (Richtel)- the article talks about encouraging students to strive for challenging goals and not placing undue pressure on kids.  

Experts say such clusters typically occur when suicide takes hold as a viable coping mechanism — as a deadly, irrational fashion. But that hasn’t stopped this community from soul searching: Does a culture of hyper-achievement deserve any blame for this cluster?  The answer is complex, bordering on the contradictory: No, the pressure to succeed is not unique, nor does it cause a suicide cluster in itself, but the intense reflection underway here has unearthed a sobering reality about how Silicon Valley’s culture of best in class is playing out in the schools
7. The Backwards Brain Bicycle
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8. The Best Kindergarten You Have Ever Seen- At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Meet: the world's cutest kindergarten, designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In this charming talk, he walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids