Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Worth Reading....

Passing along some personal favorites from the past few weeks.

1. The Missing Link In School Reform (Leanna)- the article makes a case for investing social capital and challenges to long held belief that improving human (teacher) capital is the way to increase student performance.

Social capital, by comparison, is not a characteristic of the individual teacher but instead resides in the relationships among teachers. In response to the question “Why are some teachers better than others?” a human capital perspective would answer that some teachers are just better trained, more gifted, or more motivated. A social capital perspective would answer the same question by looking not just at what a teacher knows, but also where she gets that knowledge. If she has a problem with a particular student, where does the teacher go for information and advice? Who does she use to sound out her own ideas or assumptions about teaching? Who does she confide in about the gaps in her understanding of her subject knowledge?

2. Why Teaching Mindfulness Benefits Students’ Learning ()- another reminder about the need to focus on the development of non-cognitive skills.

Mindfulness has the potential to be a very useful component in prevention and treatment efforts because of its effectiveness in reducing emotional distress and promoting emotional balance, improving attention, and contributing to motivated learning.

3. In Pursuit of Passion... not Carrots or Sticks (Moran)-fostering passion-based opportunities in the classroom.  The post also touches on the concept of student motivation and in particular, the connection between motivation and following one's passion.

It’s the sweet spot that comes with how humanity has learned best for millennia, through play, storytelling, movement, creation, performance, authentic problem-solving, and purposeful projects. We are incorporating what we’ve learned from these and other “test-bed” settings and innovation zones across all of our district’s schools with the idea that transforming, not reforming, contemporary learning environments creates pathways for our learners that are vastly different from those of 20th century factory schools. In doing so, we move from a Gutenberg teaching model of write, print, read, listen, and recall to a post-Gutenberg learning model of search, connect, communicate, and make. 

4. When Complexity Is Free (Friedman)- more stories about the "new" industrial revolution and how concepts such as crowdsourcing and 3d printing radically alter the way business is conducted.

In the old days, explained Iorio, when G.E. wanted to build a jet engine part, a designer would have to design the product, then G.E. would have to build the machine tools to make a prototype of that part, which could take up to a year, and then it would manufacture the part and test it, with each test iteration taking a few months. The whole process, said Iorio, often took “two years from when you first had the idea for some of our complex components.”
Today, said Iorio, engineers using three-dimensional, computer-aided design software now design the part on a computer screen. Then they transmit it to a 3-D printer, which is filled with a fine metal powder and a laser device that literally builds or “prints,” the piece out of the metal powder before your eyes, to the exact specifications. Then, you immediately test it — four, five, six times in a day — and when it is just right you have your new part. To be sure, some complex parts require more time, but this is the future. That’s what she means by complexity is free.
5. Creativity Rules from Master Builder, Master Designer Thomas Heatherwick (McIntosh)- interview with London bus and Olympic flame designer, Thomas Heatherwick. 
 "Making is a way to do practical analysis. Anyone can relate to models. But it's not a tool for others, it's to show yourself, to make sure you're not fooling yourself." (Kids who 'prototype' one or two versions of their work aren't prototyping at all. Kids whose early prototypes are graded, assessed too early by their peers or teachers, don't have a chance to show themselves whether their ideas stand up. They need more than a few goes at getting things right, and several of those attempts have to be made for the purposes of self-assessment above all.)

6. A Trip Into the Field: Collecting Stories of Design, Learning and Place (Kahl)- importance of field trips and getting students out of the classroom or rather their normal environment.
We make excuses to go on field trips because what we take from "the field" is immeasurably valuable to us as people and designers alike. It's so important that it grounds each of our projects. We go in the field during the discovery phase to live with our schools during an "insight week" and on "inspiration trips" to places and spaces we admire. Occasionally, we will reserve time to debrief or get "heads down" work done at the museum, cafe, or new co-working space. We find that these immersive journeys illuminate more insights than desk research alone... they are energizing and inspiring for every one.