Some Random Thoughts from the Last Month and Turning Thoughts into Actions

Over the last few month or so, I have:

– talked at a conference for experiential educators in Santa Barbara (ISEEN)
– twittered quite a bit, which is not easy to do well
– had some really difficult conversations with people
– thought about the future of a computer lab and my office
– helped run a conference on “Design Thinking for Educators” with IDEO and some other partners
– switched between the Android and iOS platform several times
– attended TEDActive 2013
– found a great new singer, Jake Bugg, through the recommendation of a family member
– been on a “Mediterranean” diet through the auspices of my wife, Kris
– coped with my dear cat, Benito’s, bout of skin cancer
– thought about a book that I am trying to write
– worn more blue clothing than I usually do, habitually dressing in black most of the time
– started using “Mailbox”, which has helped me with the scourge of email
– written in my journal
– wondered why I like food as much as I do, and what distinguishes really good food from just food that is nutritious
– thought what my “six word biography” would be
– asked some good questions and some lousy questions
– not had enough time to do what I wanted to and felt overwhelmed a few times
– woken up as early as 4:00 am and as late as 10:00 am
– run quite a bit in snow and sun
– started working significantly on the formation of the Character Lab, a new non-profit

Out of all of this several ideas and questions have come to the fore:
– what is wisdom and why is it so important?
– how can we appreciate the temporary as a way-station rather than a destination?
– better understanding the aesthetics of the West…what if our life was a “ranch”?
– black is my go-to color, but I love blue and red as well. Blue is making me very happy right now, it inspires aspiration, but also flexibility and uncertainty…
– learning is an act of construction, and as such it needs to be designed well
– many people are passive-aggressive and I hate it…get a god-damned life!
– are, as TED Prize 2013 winner Sugata Mitra stated, “school and knowing obsolete”
– asking good questions is really difficult and something I need to figure out how to do better and be able to teach more effectively
– how does one have great conversations?
– how provenance and contextualization are so very important…I was struck watching some of the TED talks and how the lack of provenance and context were disquieting
– what does the high school of the future look like…would it be possible to redesign the high school where we retain some of the great things of schools, and yet, innovate and make it better…perhaps we need to name is something different: a learning hub that is multi-generational, forward thinking, backward conserving and community minded
– how can I be even more nomadic…no office, no permanent space to call my own, nothing but ideas and conversation…real estate is such a drag
– thinking about the future of “rethinked…*” with Elsa Fridman and others
– remembering my conversation with Kevin Mattingly about “principles of learning” and how they should play out in teaching practices

Some of these ideas are interesting perhaps, but what I am intrigued by is turning these thoughts into actions. So these next weeks, I am going to:
– have some serious discussions with some folk on these questions and issues and record my thoughts on the conversations here
– experiment by not using my office as much and using public spaces at school to work. I am also going to be using a cart to work on in the cafeteria
– come up with a set of learning principles in version 3.0 that are clear and complete
– come up with a good sense of what “rethinked…*” can be and offer to people including
– focus on the founding of the Character Lab in this upcoming set of meetings
– develop a case study or two using design thinking to show longer-term use in the school and plan the next phase of the work with IDEO
– create several stories that represent my work and thoughts that can be translated into writing. I am interested in playing with Keynote presentations that could visualize some of my ideas and thinking.

I am looking forward to the next few months of work (& play)


2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Regarding your intention to “come up with a good sense of what “rethinked…*” can be and offer to people”:

    In my own research, I’m investigating the relationship between learning and communication design, when both are viewed as forms of meaning-making. rethinked…* has been a tremendous resource for my own research. It’s validated my excitement about the relevance of design to education. (I’m an MFA student at Grad Communications Design at Pratt — also a former Riverdale English teacher. A happy but complete coincidence.)

    rethinked…* seems to focus on asking excellent questions more than on offering answers. I really appreciate that. The culture we live in makes it easy to forget the importance of inquiry, of sustained comfort with not knowing, in our own continued learning and growth.

    I often return to this sentiment from Richard Saul Wurman:
    “When you approach a problem, you must go backward to find the beginning before going forward to find the solution. Seldom, if ever, is the problem correctly stated. The classic, pervasive seduction to designers has been to find a solution instead of the truth. You must be a few steps behind where others usually start when solving a problem if you want to discover the forces behind the problem. Only then can you ask yourself the questions that will lead to productive solutions.”

    Thanks, and keep going.

    • Elsa Fridman,

      Thanks for the feedback, Karin, so appreciate it. And what a delightful, spot on quote from Richard Saul Wurman (which promptly made its way on to a post-it note above my desk!) Would love the opportunity to learn more about your research on the relationship between learning and communication design as forms of meaning-making, sounds fascinating and right up our alley. Would you be interested and/or have the time to grab a coffee to discuss this a bit? If so, please shoot me an email at so that we may work out a good time to get together. Thanks again for the feedback and support…* -Elsa

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