Monday, October 10, 2016


Sharing a few highlights from LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out The Maker In Every Student by John Spencer and A.J. Juliana.

We are now seeing a new divide emerge — a Creative Chasm between those who passively consume and those who actively create.

In our experience, when students are thinking creatively, they are fully engaged in their learning. This increased student engagement often leads to more buy-in from students and ultimately deeper learning.

There is no guarantee that creative thinking will increase test scores, but who would you rather have take a test: a disengaged trained test-taker or a fully engaged creative thinker?

Design thinking provides a way to think about creative work. It starts with empathy, working to really understand the problems people are facing before attempting to create solutions.

Launching our work into the real world and in front of an actual audience is what makes creative work so scary, but also so rewarding.

Every time your students get the chance to be authors, filmmakers, scientists, artists, and engineers, you are planting the seeds for a future you could have never imagined on your own.

how often they put their early thoughts and inklings out into the world, in sketches, dashed-off phrases and observations, bits of dialogue, and quick prototypes. Instead of arriving in one giant leap, great creations emerged by zigs and zags as their creators engaged over and over again with these externalized images.”

the Hacker is a little more subversive, actively working to tear down a broken system in order to create something better. In this sense, the Hacker is inherently destructive.

Hackers don’t always destroy systems. Often, they find new ways to use a system, idea, or resource. Think less “computer hacker” and more “life hacks.”

Everyone possesses important skills and talents, but it’s only when we honor and tap into those skills and talents that we, together, can do exceptional creative work.

Children are naturally fascinated by the wonder of their world. Hang out with a four-year-old and take a tally of all the questions they ask. Unfortunately, schools are more often designed to help students answer questions rather than question answers. Students rarely have the chance to ask whatever question they have and go off on a rabbit trail to find the answers.

A Few Highlights

Sharing a few highlights from The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.

Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all

checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized. They provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us—flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness. And because they do, they raise wide, unexpected possibilities

And this brings up another feature of complex problems: their outcomes remain highly uncertain. Yet we all know that it is possible to raise a child well. It’s complex, that’s all

In the face of the unknown—the always nagging uncertainty about whether, under complex circumstances, things will really be okay—the builders trusted in the power of communication. They didn’t believe in the wisdom of the single individual, of even an experienced engineer. They believed in the wisdom of the group

The philosophy is that you push the power of decision making out to the periphery and away from the center. You give people the room to adapt, based on their experience and expertise. All you ask is that they talk to one another and take responsibility. That is what works.

No, the real lesson is that under conditions of true complexity—where the knowledge required exceeds that of any individual and unpredictability reigns—efforts to dictate every step from the center will fail.

People need room to act and adapt. Yet they cannot succeed as isolated individuals, either—that is anarchy. Instead, they require a seemingly contradictory mix of freedom and expectation

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

An Incomplete manifesto for Growth

I was just moved to reread Bruce Mau's An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.  There are so many impressionable statements, but right now, the following thought is grabbing my attention and in particular, the second sentence about growth.

Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few posts worth checking out.  

1. Manifesto 15- thoughts about how education should evolve in the near future

“The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed” (William Gibson in Gladstone, 1999). The field of education lags considerably behind most other industries largely from our tendency to look backward, but not forward. We teach the history of literature, for example, but not the future of writing. We teach historically important mathematical concepts, but do not engage in creating new maths needed to build the future. Moreover, everything “revolutionary” taking place in learning has already happened at different scales, in bits and pieces, at different places. The full impacts for ourselves and our organizations will be realized when we develop the courage to learn from each others’ experiences, and accept the risk and responsibility in applying a futures orientation in our praxis.

2. Purpose of Education Is To Prepare Students For Life, It's That Simple- short but to the point post about making sure we prepare students for life and not focus on jobs that may or may not exist.

I agree with Ken Robinson. The core of our job as educators is to prepare them for "Life after school." It's really that simple. They don't need to be narrowly pigeonholed into existing jobs or jobs that "might" exist. They need the "mental, emotional, social and strategic resources" to live in a world that none of us really know about. Instead of rolling the dice with the lives of those we teach, we need to provide an education that allows them to face the unknown.

3.  Is Design Fiction the new Design Thinking?- the post explores he emergence of design fiction 

By making the familiar strange and the strange familiar, design fictions can ask questions about our everyday lives that other modes of designing cannot. While this may not be appealing to the pragmatists out there, it is a highly creative way of opening up some of our most challenging problems for discussion. 

4. The Future of Work and Learning: The Professional Ecosystem (Hart)- View on how professionals learn through a set of organizational and personal, interconnecting and interacting elements

There’s no longer such thing as a job for life; people are constantly moving around, and we are now seeing the early-stages of the so-called Freelance or Gig Economy. Individuals need to be ready to drop in and out of jobs with up-to-date skills and knowledge, as required. In order to do that they need to take responsibility for their own career development; they can’t rely on their company to support their career aspirations – so they need to be constantly learning in many different ways, not just for their current jobs but for their future jobs. This means they need a strong set of personal elements so they can learn continuously learn from e.g. exposure to people and from a flow of new ideas and resources. 

5.  Changing the Subject (Riordan and Rosenstock)- What Should Students Learn in the 21st Century?

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

I just finished reading Angela Duckworth's book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  I'm sharing a few personal highlights below. The book is a must read for those who work with children.  Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

Staying on the treadmill is one thing, and I do think it’s related to staying true to our commitments even when we’re not comfortable. But getting back on the treadmill the next day, eager to try again, is in my view even more reflective of grit. Because when you don’t come back the next day—when you permanently turn your back on a commitment—your effort plummets to zero. As a consequence, your skills stop improving, and at the same time, you stop producing anything with whatever skills you have.

Many of us, it seems, quit what we start far too early and far too often. Even more than the effort a gritty person puts in on a single day, what matters is that they wake up the next day, and the next, ready to get on that treadmill and keep going.

What I mean by passion is not just that you have something you care about. What I mean is that you care about that same ultimate goal in an abiding, loyal, steady way. You are not capricious. Each day, you wake up thinking of the questions you fell asleep thinking about. You are, in a sense, pointing in the same direction, ever eager to take even the smallest step forward than to take a step to the side, toward some other destination.

My own experience, and the stories of grit paragons like Jeff Gettleman and Bob Mankoff suggest that, indeed, grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy, learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment, and learn to tell the difference between low-level goals that should be abandoned quickly and higher-level goals that demand more tenacity.

Hope does not define the last stage of grit. It defines every stage. From the very beginning to the very end, it is inestimably important to learn to keep going even when things are difficult, even when we have doubts. At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down.

Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can’t really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won’t. You can’t simply will yourself to like things, either. As Jeff Bezos has observed, “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves.” Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won.

John Wooden, was fond of saying, “Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Worth Reading Part II...

I forgot to include two videos in the previous Worth Reading post.  Take a few minutes to check out both videos.

1. Losing Ourselves (Wolfe)- A student-directed documentary about how an expectation for perfection undermines the love of learning and creative endeavors.  A piece potentially worth sharing with high school students and faculty.  

2. Ski Lodge on Wheels- Leveraging tiny living to support a passion.  Outside of my love for skiing, this video is a subtle reminder of how important it is to be afforded opportunities to pursue a passion. Watch the video and specifically, reflect on the process.  Consider the amount of thought and authentic problem-solving involved in supporting the passion of these quasi-nomad skiers.

Worth Reading...

Sharing highlights from the past few weeks.

1. Johannes Haushofer CV- professor at Princeton University publishes a CV of his failures in an attempt to balance the record and provide some perspective.

I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me.  As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days.

2. Is Your School Literate? (Richardson)- the author revisits a question presented six years ago and wonders whether schools are addressing the evolving notion of what it means to be literate in the 21st century.

While I think the “Are our kids literate?” question is certainly an important one, an even more significant one may be “Are our schools literate?” Is modern literacy something that is a part of our DNA, or is it something we try to “teach” as a separate entity using some off the web curriculum to pace us through it? I think you know that the answer, by and large, is that we’re not practicing literacy in schools in ways that either model or teach our students the skills they need to become truly literate in today’s world. Obviously, we’re not talking about a three week unit in the second half of seventh grade. And we’re also not helping our kids in this regard when we bring digital tools into classrooms and then employ them for traditional purposes. (The “digital worksheets” thing again.)

3. The World Must Invest in Technology Education (Knowles)- Andreas Schleicher, a Director at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), states how education technology will not only impact our children as individuals but future industry, business, and trade.  Schleicher states those unable to navigate the digital landscape will struggle to fully participate in the life around them.  Whether this bold statement is true can be debated.  However, it's critical that students are able to make thoughtful decisions regarding the use of technology. As opposed to the teacher dictating the use of technology, individual learners should assume ownership the selection of digital tools and resources.

Technology should allow for deeper learning, and flexibility for more individual choices to accelerate learning, and to use out-of-school learning in effective and innovative ways.

4.  Don't Send Your Kids to College.  At Least Not Yet (Falik)- An interesting piece about whether it's best for students to take a gap year before entering college.  The article points out that taking a gap year offers the chance for students to gain experience through personal exploration.  Additionally, students potentially enter college more mature through a bridge year.

A growing number of colleges have begun to embrace a novel solution: change the outcomes of college by changing the inputs. What if college freshmen arrived on campus not burnt out from having been “excellent sheep” in high school, but instead refreshed, focused and prepared to take full advantage of the rich resources and opportunities colleges have to offer?

5. The Power of Audience (Cofino)- The post discusses the power behind creating for a public audience.  This has been a recurring theme posted on this blog.  Students need to compose for an authentic audience and preferably one that can offer helpful feedback.  Also, check out the following video, the girl in the video describes her learning process and specifically, how she was able to learn from others who, publicly, shared their work.

6. The EdCollabGathering: Future Ready Elementary Classrooms- elementary school teachers share how they broke away from traditional models (instruction, environment, management) to create a transdisciplinary environment in two 4th grade classrooms.