Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shop As Soulcraft

 A long plane ride allowed for the completion of a few books from the ever growing wish list.  What follows are a few highlights from Matthew Crawford's Shop As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work

The man who works recognizes his own product in the World that has actually been transformed by his work: he recognizes himself in it, he sees in it his own human reality, in it he discovers and reveals to others the objective reality of his humanity, of the originally abstract and purely subjective idea he has of himself

The moral significance of work that grapples with material things may lie in the simple fact that such things lie outside the self

Skilled manual labor entails a systematic encounter with the material world, precisely the kind of encounter that gives rise to natural science.

Even on the relatively primitive vintage bikes that were our specialty, some diagnostic situations contain so many variables, and symptoms can be so under-determining of causes, that explicit analytical reasoning comes up short. What is required then is the kind of judgment that arises only from experience; hunches rather than rules. I quickly realized there was more thinking going on in the bike shop than in my previous job at the think tank.

Given the intrinsic richness of manual work—cognitively, socially, and in its broader psychic appeal—the question becomes why it has suffered such a devaluation as a component of education.

When you do the math problems at the back of a chapter in an algebra textbook, you are problem solving. If the chapter is entitled “Systems of two equations with two unknowns,” you know exactly which methods to use. In such a constrained situation, the pertinent context in which to view the problem has already been determined, so there is no effort of interpretation required.

Knowing what kind of problem you have on hand means knowing what features of the situation can be ignored. Even the boundaries of what counts as “the situation” can be ambiguous; making discriminations of pertinence cannot be achieved by the application of rules, and requires the kind of judgment that comes with experience

Somehow, self-realization and freedom always entail buying something new, never conserving something old

How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Business and Educaton

Sharing a few personal highlights from Cathy Davidson's Now You See It:  How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century.

When we encounter a mismatch between our values and some new experience, we have a choice to either hold on to our values against all the evidence, to insist they are right or natural no matter what; or we can rethink them and even reject them, a process that can be smooth or traumatic, partial or complete. In any case, this process is a key component of the science of attention

To live is to be in a constant state of adjustment. We can change by accident—because we have to, because life throws us a curveball. But we can also train ourselves to be aware of our own neural processing—repetition, selection, mirroring—and arrange our lives so we have the tools and the partners we need to help us to see what we might miss on our own

The Internet is here to stay. Are we teaching them in a way that will prepare them for a world of learning and for human relationships in which they interweave their interests into the vast, decentralized, yet entirely interconnected content online?

Crowdsourced thinking is very different from credentialing, or relying on top-down expertise. If anything, crowdsourcing is suspicious of expertise, because the more expert we are, the more likely we are to be limited in what we even conceive to be the problem, let alone the answer

No matter how expert we are, no matter how brilliant, we can improve, we can learn, by sharing insights and working together collectively

The real issue isn’t that our schools are too challenging. It’s the opposite. Among the top quartile of high school students, the most frequent complaint and cause of disaffection from schooling is boredom and lack of rigor. That also happens to be true among the lowest group, for whom low expectations lead to low motivation

To be prepared for jobs that have a real future in the digital economy, one needs an emphasis on creative thinking, at all levels. By this I mean the kind of thinking that cannot be computerized and automated. This creative thinking requires attention to surprise, anomaly, difference, and disruption, and an ability to switch focus, depending on what individual, unpredictable problems might arise. Perhaps surprisingly, these noncomputational jobs, impervious to automation, occur at all levels across the blue-collar and white-collar spectrum

Intrinsic to inquiry-based learning, there’s a “gamer disposition,” which is to say a real commitment to learning that goes far beyond school to the cultivation of “risk-taking, critical reflection, collaboration, meaning creation, non-linear navigation, problem solving and problem definition, and innovation.”

Collaboration by difference is an antidote to attention blindness. It signifies that the complex and interconnected problems of our time cannot be solved by anyone alone and that those who think they can act in an entirely focused, solitary fashion are undoubtedly missing the main point that is right there in front of them, thumping its chest and staring them in the face

We need to measure practical, real-world skills, such as how to focus attention through project and time management. There is no punch clock in do-it-yourself culture, so where do kids learn how to manage themselves?        

Monday, December 10, 2012

Worth Reading

Sharing items from my Diigo account that I bookmarked over the past couple of weeks.

1. Everyone Chip In, Please: Crowdfunding Sandy (Goldmark)- Hurricane Sandy has shown crowdfunding websites are a simple tool for quick-response giving. Anyone can go on these sites and ask for money to rebuild or to help their neighbors rebuild. Friends, family and strangers chip in.

"You can literally sign up, share your campaign on Facebook, Twitter, email, and begin accepting credit or debit card donations online in under a minute,"

2. The Informal Instruction Core and Teaching The Village (Reich)- retake on Elmore's Instructional Core theory to focus more on learning that transpires in informal spaces.

Out in the world of informal learning—where most of us live during most of the day for most of our lives—things are slightly different. Let me propose an "Informal Learning Core." Like Elmore's core, it has three pillars: the learner, the mentor, and the materials. One difference between informal and formal education is that there is a much greater emphasis on "learning" rather than instruction in informal spaces, hence the name switch. Also, hierarchies of learning can be much weaker in informal systems, and the roles of mentors and learners are much more fluid than the roles of teacher and student. But in many cases, we're still dealing with someone who wants to learn, something they are learning with, and someone who wants to help them.

3. The Top Phrase Top Innovators Use ( Berger)-  jump starting the process to innovation, facilitating discovery through asking certain questions.

It's not complicated: The "how might we" approach to innovation ensures that would-be innovators are asking the right questions and using the best wording. Proponents of this increasingly popular practice say it's surprisingly effective — and that it can be seen as a testament to the power of language in helping to spark creative thinking and freewheeling collaboration.

4.  Scaffolding For Deeper Understanding (Skillen)- moving students from novice to experts by privileging process and reflection

  • Experts realize that the ‘social context’ is important to learning
    • That learning takes place in a social context is a significant issue. This is why collaboration or ‘cooperative learning’ has become so popular – but it has to be more than social collaboration. Cognitive collaboration needs to be encouraged. As students communicate their ideas, they learn to clarify, refine, and consolidate their thinking. Schoenfeld has said that, ‘Groups are not just a convenient way to accumulate the individual knowledge of their members. They give rise synergistically to insights and solutions that would not come about without them.’
5. Art project erases new-school jitters for these Morristown freshmen- coverage of LeWitt project.  Great points about what was gained from the experience.

6. Why I Hate School, But Love Education:

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Power of Community

Yesterday I was part of a panel discussion about the future of education.  The session was developed and facilitated by a quest teacher at the middle school and several classes of 7th and 8th graders.  Joining me on the panel was a representative from the Board of Education and two college professors.  The board member had a grandchild in the audience and one of the professors was the parent of an 8th grader.  The students developed an extensive list of challenging and complex questions for the panel to address.  We only had about 80 minutes and just touched a few of the prepared questions.  

It was a fun and engaging experience.  The students were great.  It was evident reading through the questions that they spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the future of school and in particular the impact the Digital Age has had on learning.  Additionally, my co-panelists were enthusiastic about the opportunity and collectively presented a series of genuine responses.  

After the session ended I had a brief conversation with the rep from the Board of Education.  She shared how much fun it was as well.  I shared that we should do more events like this.  She agreed as well.  We started to talk about ways in which we could leverage the power of our community to facilitate exchanges between students and professionals.  We just do not do it enough and it is unfortunate.  So much can be gained from tapping into resources that reside within a school community.  This panel was small example of what can be gained.  We had two parents who are college professors and one had written several books about public policy and education.  Through informal word of mouth the quest teacher was able to connect students interested in education to a professor and author.  

I was glad to be part of the event.  I hope that we can continue to explore these avenues and create vehicles for students to connect with a diverse range of talented adults. More so, this event is what community is about.  People came together who shared similar interests and passions or believed in sharing insights with others.  It involved stakeholders from a wide range of community groups- teachers, students, board members, parents.  The panel discussion reminded me of this definition for community:

Community is a group of people who work with one another building a sense of trust, care, and support
That is what yesterday felt like.  Caring people coming together to support each other and help one another grow.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What Do I Want For The Holidays

I tweeted this picture out earlier today under the title of "In The Digital Age a daughters directions for a holiday gift". My wife also posted the image on Facebook.  Those who know our family shared some kind remarks about the request.

For those who do not know me or my family let me provide some context.  I have three daughters ages 5 and 9. The oldest are twins.  One of the twins is what you might call a budding Fashionista.  At times her fashion ideas do not match her age.  However, one cannot fault her enthusiasm.

So with this in mind, she took it upon herself to create a personal holiday gift guide.  She took the initiative to grab an iPad and conduct a search, via Google, for shoes.  Not sure when she landed on the desired site, but eventually found a pair of shoes worthy of her eye and fashion sense.  Next, she took the time to write down the directions and share it with her Mema (the request was initially shared with her grandmother and not her parents). 

I have not seen the retail price for the requested item and I'm not sure if this will warrant a separate conversation.  Still, I was impressed with her approach.  She leveraged tools at her disposal which was an iPad and the Internet.  She conducted a search and found a suitable response.  After that, I assume she was being kind to us digital immigrants and wrote out step-by-step directions.

Again, not sure about the request, but I admire her approach, initiative and insight to leverage the powers of the internet to find what she was looking for.