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“We have put up too long with schools that are devoid of hope, humor & potential.” – Dominic Randolph on Rethinking Schools …*

Here are some excerpts from Dominic’s If I Were Secretary of State for Education post, which is a series of 41 articles written by leading international educationalists about what they would do if they were Secretary of State for Education in the UK. The articles were commissioned by the Sunday Times Festival of Education and Summerhouse Education, and sponsored by Pearson. Read them all at IfIwereSoSforEducation.tumblr.com.

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I would tackle what I think are the three principal issues that plague educational systems in the UK and in much of the world: how we undervalue the work of teachers, how we undervalue the task of educating our young people and how vitally important it is, and how we undervalue the crucial necessity for supporting lifelong learning so that people have the opportunity to learn new knowledge and skills throughout their lives. Therefore, I would concentrate on vigorously reframing the place of schools in our culture by making schools the most exciting place to be in any given community, making them the core of communities.

. . . *

Schools would be places that would inspire and normalize intellectual development but also the development of character and good ethical decision-making. They would be places that are truly human and, rather than reducing people industrially to summative scores or grades, would encourage ongoing formative development of the full range of their capacities. They would be preventative care health centers. Schools would become the community resource center. People attending schools would develop their potential and grow. They would focus on the delta of their development in an ongoing way rather than measuring it statically at certain points.

. . . *

Making schools positive, productive and cool places at the heart of each community would be the aim. We have put up too long with schools that are devoid of hope, humour and potential. Starting a movement to change this reality and bring learning to the centre of what we are about could be a great dream for us all to have.

Read Dominic’s full post here.

imagine, reframe & rethink …

Cultivating Optimism & Hope to Enhance Well-Being, Performance & Positive Emotions About the Future …*

Cultivating Optimism & Hope to Enhance Well-Being, Performance & Positive Emotions About the Future ...* | rethinked.org - Photograph: Elsa Fridman

Today, we’ll examine how to increase one’s positive emotions about the future by learning how to cultivate our capacity for optimism and hope. As you’ve seen in my previous posts on the theory of positive emotions, and increasing satisfaction about the past, the various shades of happiness we experience over the course of our lives have very important effects on both mental and physical health. This holds true for optimism and hope:

Pessimists, I have found over the last two decades, are up to eight times more likely to become depressed when bad events happen; they do worse at school; sports, and most jobs than their talents augur; they have worse physical health and shorter lives; they have rockier interpersonal relations, and they lose American Presidential elections to their more optimistic opponents. (24)

While some people seem naturally more inclined to view the glass half-full than half-empty, the muscle analogy that pervades most of behavioral psychology also applies in the domain of optimism and hope. Both of these capacities function much like physical muscles which, when exercised correctly grow and develop. So don’t despair if you tend to be pessimistic, with a little work, you can learn to become more optimistic and hopeful and reap the many benefits of these positive frames.

Optimism and hope are quite well-understood, they have been the objects of thousands of empirical studies, and best of all, they can be built. Optimism and hope cause better resistance to depression when bad events strike, better performance at work, particularly in challenging jobs, and better physical health. (83)

TWO BASIC DIMENSIONS OF OPTIMISM: PERMANENCE & PERVASIVENESS

As we saw last week, the narratives we construct about our lives have enormous implications on our happiness and well-being, both mental and physical and one of the most powerful ways to increase well-being is to rework our beliefs about what happens to us and take charge of creating a more productive narrative. Pessimism and optimism are also tightly linked to the explanatory styles we use to frame the experiences in our lives and are defined by two basic dimensions: permanence and pervasiveness. Whether you view events and moods as permanent or temporary and universal or specific has great implications for your happiness and well-being.

Optimistic people tend to explain the bad events they experience as both temporary and specific to this one event. Pessimists, on the other hand, tend to view the misfortunes that befall them as universal and permanent.

Pessimists have a particularly pernicious way of construing their setbacks and frustrations. They automatically think that the cause is permanent, pervasive and personal: “It’s going to last forever, it’s going to undermine everything, and it’s my fault.” […] Optimists, in contrast, have a strength that allows them to interpret their setbacks as surmountable, particular to a single problem, and resulting from temporary circumstances or other people. (24)

Interestingly, the pattern is reversed when appraising good events: optimists view their good fortune as permanent, pervasive and personal while pessimists see it as temporary, specific to that one event and the result of luck rather than personal intervention.

CULTIVATING HOPE

Similarly to optimism, hope results from our explanatory style when appraising the events of our lives:

Finding permanent and universal causes for good events along with temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope; finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune and temporary and specific causes of good events is the practice of despair. (92)

INTERVENTIONS FOR INCREASING OPTIMISM & HOPE

So, concretely, what can you do to increase hope and optimism in your life? Much like enhancing satisfaction about the past, increasing hope and optimism is about reframing how you explain your life to yourself. The first step to building optimism and hope is “to realize your beliefs are just that—beliefs. They may or may not be facts.” (94) When negative thoughts creep up, you need to recognize them, learn to dispute your internal monologue and replace the negative thoughts with more productive beliefs. In Authentic Happiness, Seligman proposes the “ABCDE Model” as a helpful framework through which to recraft your beliefs:

  • A stands for adversity
  • B stands for the beliefs you automatically have when it occurs
  • C stands for the usual consequences of the belief
  • D stands for your disputation of your routine belief
  • E stands for the energization that occurs when you dispute it successfully

By effectively disputing the beliefs that follow an adversity, you can change your reaction from dejection and giving up to activity and good cheer. (93)

In Authentic Happiness, Seligman shares four techniques for making your disputations convincing and thus translating this mental act into tangible benefits: evidence, alternatives, implications and usefulness.

{ EVIDENCE }

The most convincing way of disputing a negative belief is to show that it is factually incorrect. Much of the time you have facts on your side, since pessimistic reactions to adversity are so very often overreactions. You adopt the role of a detective and ask, “What is the evidence for this belief?” (95)

{ ALTERNATIVES }

Almost nothing that happens to you has just one cause; most events have many causes. If you did poorly on a test, all of the following might have contributed: how hard the test was, how much you studied, how smart you are, how fair the professor is, how the other students did, and how tired you were. Pessimists have a way of latching onto the worst of all these causes—the most permanent and pervasive one. Here again, disputation usually has reality on its side. There are multiple causes, so why latch onto the most insidious one? Ask yourself, is there any less destructive way to look at this?

To dispute your own beliefs, scan for all possible contributing causes. Focus on those that are changeable (not enough time spent studying,) specific (this particular exam was uncharacteristically hard), and non-personal (the professor graded unfairly). You may have to push hard at generating alternative beliefs, latching onto possibilities that you are not fully convinced are true. Remember that much of pessimistic thinking consists of just the reverse, latching onto the most dire possible belief—not because of evidence, but precisely because it is so dire. It is your job to undo this destructive habit by becoming facile at generating alternatives. (96)

{ IMPLICATIONS }

Reality may be against you, and the negative belief you hold about yourself may be true. In this situation, the technique to use is decatastrophizing.

Even if the belief is true, you say to yourself, what are its implications? It was true that the dinner was not romantic. But what does that imply? One bad dinner does not mean divorce.

How likely, you should ask yourself, is the worst-case scenario?  (97)

{ USEFULNESS }

Sometimes the consequences of holding a belief matter more than its truth. Is the belief destructive? When you break your diet, the response “I’m a total glutton” is a recipe for letting go of your diet completely. Some people get very upset when the world shows itself not to be fair. We can sympathize with that sentiment, but the belief itself may cause more grief than it is worth. What good will it do me to dwell on the belief that the worlds should be fair? Another tactic is to detail all the ways you can change the situation in the future. Even if the belief is true now, is the situation changeable? How can you go about changing it? (97)

To practice disputing your pessimistic beliefs and reframe your explanatory style, Seligman suggests the following exercise:

During the next five adverse events you face in your daily life, listen closely for your beliefs, observe the consequences, and dispute your beliefs vigorously. Then observe the energy that occurs as you succeed in dealing with the negative beliefs. Record all of this. These five adverse events can be minor: the mail is late, your call isn’t returned, or the kid pumping your gas doesn’t wash the windshield. In each of these use the four techniques of self-disputation. (98)

Do it in your daily life over the next week. Don’t search out adversity, but as it comes along, tune in carefully to your internal dialogue. When you hear the negative beliefs, dispute them. Beat them into the ground, then record the ABCDE.

  • Adversity:
  • Belief:
  • Consequences:
  • Disputation:
  • Energization:

(100)

Hope this review of hope and optimism was helpful. Thursday we’ll take a look at the various types of happiness in the present.

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Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

Learn to Cultivate Gratitude & Forgiveness to Enhance Satisfaction About the Past …*

Learn to Cultivate Gratitude & Forgiveness to Enhance Satisfaction About the Past ...*  | rethinked.org -Photograph: Elsa Fridman

Today, let’s review what Positive Psychology has to say about happiness in the past. In a nutshell: the single most effective way to change your satisfaction about the past is to change your thinking:

There are three ways you can lastingly feel more happiness about your past. The first is intellectual—letting go of an ideology that your past determines your future. The hard determinism that underpins this dogma is empirically barren and philosophically far from self-evident, and the passivity it engenders is imprisoning. The second and third variables are emotional, and both involve voluntarily changing your memories. Increasing your gratitude about the good things in your past intensifies positive memories, and learning how to forgive past wrongs defuses the bitterness that makes satisfaction impossible. (82)

RETHINKING TWO PERNICIOUS BELIEFS THAT HINDER SATISFACTION ABOUT THE PAST:

DETERMINISM

To the extent that you believe that the past determines the future, you will tend to allow yourself to be a passive vessel that does not actively change its course. Such beliefs are responsible for magnifying many people’s inertia. (66)

THE HYDRAULICS OF EMOTION | PSYCHODYNAMICS

We live in a society that promotes the venting of emotions. The cultural assumption about feelings is that they must come out and be expressed for if they are not, they grow and fester within us leading to resentment, pent up frustration and ultimately, poor health. Interestingly, the research shows a completely different story:

  • Depression & The Invention of Cognitive Therapy – Aaron (Tim) Beck found that there was no problem getting depressed people to re-air past wrongs and to dwell on them at length. The problem was that they often unraveled as they ventilated, and Tim could not find ways to ravel them up again. Occasionally this led to suicide attempts, some fatal. Cognitive Therapy for depression developed as a technique to free people from their unfortunate past by getting them to change their thinking about the present and the future. Cognitive therapy techniques work equally well at producing relief from depression as the antidepressant drugs, and they work better at preventing recurrences and relapse. (69)
  • Dwelling on trespass and the expression of anger produces more cardiac diseases and more anger. Anger is another domain in which the concept of emotional hydraulics was critically examined. America, in contrast to the venerable Eastern cultures, is a ventilationist society. We deem it honest, just, and even healthy to express our anger. So we shout, we protest, and we litigate. “Go ahead, make my day,” warns Dirty Harry. Part of the reason we allow ourselves this luxury is that we believe the psychodynamic theory of anger. If we don’t express our rage, it will come out elsewhere—even more destructively, as in cardiac disease. But this theory turns out to be false; in fact, the reverse is true. (69)
  • The overt expression of hostility turns out to be the real culprit in the Type A-heart attack link. Time urgency, competitiveness, and the suppression of anger do not seem to play a role in Type A people getting more heart disease. In one study, 255 medical students took a personality test that measured overt hostility. As physicians twenty-five years later, the angriest had roughly five times as much heart disease as the least angry ones. In another study, men who had the highest risk of later heart attacks were just the ones with more explosive voices, more irritation when forced to wait, and more outwardly directed anger. In experimental studies, when male students bottle up their anger, blood pressure goes down, and it goes up if they decide to express their feelings. Anger expression raises lower blood pressure for women as well. In contrasts, friendliness in reaction to trespass lowers it. (70)

So if venting our anger and frustration only makes us feel worse and endangers our health, what can we do to increase our satisfaction about the past? Seligman suggests cultivating gratitude and forgiveness:

Insufficient appreciation and savoring of the good events in your past and overemphasis of the bad ones are the two culprits that undermine serenity, contentment, and satisfaction. There are two ways of bringing these feelings about the past well into the region of contentment and satisfaction.

  1. Gratitude amplifies the savoring and appreciation of the good events gone by.
  2. Rewriting history by forgiveness loosens the power of the bad events to embitter (and actually can transform bad memories into good ones). (70)

GRATITUDE – 

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of cultivating gratitude which increases joy, happiness, and life satisfaction. Just head over to the Greater Good Science Center for a plethora of reviews on the benefits of gratitude.

2 EXERCISES TO CULTIVATE GRATITUDE

In Authentic Happiness, Seligman proposes two gratitude interventions to try out in order to cultivate your capacity for gratitude:

GRATITUDE NIGHT 

Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. (Do not confound this selection with newfound romantic love, or with the possibility of future gain.) Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this; my students and I found ourselves taking several weeks, composing on buses and as we fell asleep at night. Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. It is important that you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice. Wine and cheese do not matter, but bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. When all settles down, read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you. (If you are so moved, please do send me a copy at Seligman@psych.upenn.edu) (74)

GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Set aside five free minutes each night for the next two weeks, preferably right before brushing your teeth for bed. Prepare a pad with one page for each of the next fourteen days. The first night take the Satisfaction with Life Scale and the General Happiness Scale and score them. Then think back over the previous twenty-four hours and write down, on separate lines, up to five things in your life you are grateful or thankful for. Common examples include “waking up this morning,” “the generosity of friends,” “God for giving me determination,” “wonderful parents,” “robust good health, and the “Rolling Stones” (or some other artistic inspiration). Repeat the Life Satisfaction and General Happiness Scales on the final night, two weeks after you start, and compare your scores to the first night’s scores. If this worked for you, incorporate it into your nightly routine. (75)

FORGIVENESS

We cannot control the memories we carry inside us. What we can control however is our focus and interpretation of these memories. We can cultivate gratitude to shift our focus towards experiencing more positive memories and we can cultivate forgiveness to alleviate the hurt of negative memories.

Forgiveness must be given freely and voluntarily if it is to be effective. Whether you decide to forgive someone for a past wrong is entirely your choice. Moral implications of that choice aside, I would like to point you to the research on the benefits of forgiveness:

In the largest and best-done study to date a consortium of Stanford researchers led by Carl Thoresen randomly assigned 259 adults to either a nine-hour (six 90-minute sessions) forgiveness workshop or to an assessment-only control group. The components of the intervention were carefully scripted and paralleled those above, with emphasis on taking less offence and revisiting the story of the grievance toward an objective perspective. Less anger, less stress, more optimism, better reported health, and more forgiveness ensued, and the effects were sizable. (81)

Forgiving is much easier said than done, but perhaps you will find a helpful entry point into forgiving through psychologist Everett Worthington’s acclaimed 5 step process to forgive REACH:

{ R } RECALL THE HURT

Recall the hurt, in as objective a way as you can. Do not think of the other person as evil. Do not wallow in self-pity. Take deep, slow and calming breaths as you visualize the event. (79)

{ E } EMPATHIZE

Try to understand from the perpetrator’s point of view why this person hurt you. This is not easy, but make up a plausible story that the transgressor might tell if challenged to explain. To help you do this, remember the following:

  • When others feel their survival is threatened, they will hurt innocents.
  • People who attack others are themselves usually in a state of fear, worry, and hurt.
  • The situation a person finds himself in, and not his underlying personality, can lead to hurting.
  • People often don’t think when they hurt others; they just lash out. (80)

{ A } GIVE THE ALTRUISTIC GIFT OF FORGIVENESS

A stands for giving the altruistic gift of forgiveness, another difficult step. First recall a time you transgressed, felt guilty, and were forgiven. This was a gift you were given by another person because you needed it, and you were grateful for this gift. Giving this gift usually makes us feel better. But we do not give this gift out of self-interest. Rather, we give it because it is for the trespasser’s own good. Tell yourself you can rise above hurt and vengeance. If you give the gift grudgingly, however, it will not set you free. (80)

{ C } COMMIT YOURSELF TO FORGIVE PUBLICLY

C stands for commit yourself to forgive publicly. In Worthington’s groups, his clients write a “certificate of forgiveness,” write a letter of forgiveness to the offender, write it in their diary, write a poem or song, or tell a trusted friend what they have done. These are all contracts of forgiveness that lead to the final step. (81)

{ H } HOLD ONTO FORGIVENESS

H stands for hold onto forgiveness. This is another difficult step, because memories of the event will surely recur. Forgiveness is not erasure; rather, it is a change in the tag lines that a memory carries. It is important to realize that the memories do not mean unforgiveness. Don’t dwell vengefully on the memories, and don’t wallow in them. Remind yourself that you have forgiven and read the documents you composed. (81)

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

Issues of Confidence & Permission in Wanting to Make A Difference…*

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to observe the EdgeMakers workshop, led by John Kao, with the entire ninth grade class of the Riverdale Country School. EdgeMakers is a new organization, founded by Kao in November 2012, with the mission of empowering young people everywhere to become innovators and make a difference. EdgeMakers hopes to be a resource for young innovators, giving them “a new set of “edge capacities” that include the ability to create and manage the creativity of others; communicate with empathy; be a proactive catalyst; collaborate with a diverse, global, ever-changing array of partners; innovate; and to cultivate the emotional intelligence needed to manage, lead, and inspire.”

About EdgeMakers via EdgeMakersmedia on YouTube, published October 15, 2013.

The students were broken up into eight groups for the day-long workshop and spent the morning rethinking and designing the perfect book bag by following the Lean Startup method. In the afternoon, the students gathered again in their groups, this time to identify opportunities for rethinking throughout the school, and worked collaboratively to design solutions to their chosen challenges.

The workshop was a resounding success, with the students learning and practicing some key tools and techniques necessary to affect positive change in their lives and environments–rapid prototyping, giving and receiving feedback, identifying pain points, and collaborating in diverse teams.

It’s great that these students are being equipped with the tools and processes that they need to transform their dreams and ideas into impact but, in my mind, the most valuable contribution an initiative like EdgeMakers can make, is to give these students the right mindset and confidence to be change agents; the sense that they do not need to wait for permission to take control of their environments and rethink their lives and those of others for the better.

A couple days prior to the EdgeMakers workshop, I attended a book party with Tom and David Kelley for the launch of their new book, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, and although I have not yet had a chance to read it, the Kelley brothers’ assertion that we are all creative and that it’s just a question of removing the blocks that we acquire in the process of growing up so that we may realize our creative potential resonated deeply with my own experience. In my life and creative endeavors, I have come to realize that the issue of permission has often gotten in my way and kept me from fully exploring my potential or pursuing in a tangible way many of my ideas. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to attend eleven schools, both public and independent, in three different countries before even reaching high school. Yet despite the wide range of learning models that I was exposed to, the sum total of my education left me with a sense of ingrained obedience and hesitancy. I have had to unlearn the idea that someone else knows (or can know) better than me what I can or cannot accomplish, or that I should wait for someone more knowledgeable to give me the go ahead to pursue my hunches and inclinations. This is why EdgeMaker’s mission and curriculum to empower children and adolescents to make their mark on the world and to translate their ideas into impact is so critically on point and urgent. Education should be about giving learners the tools and mindsets they’ll need to shape and navigate their ever changing world, not to fill them with blocks they have to unlearn in adulthood.

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* | rethinked.org | photograph by Elsa Fridman

“Everything is sculpture. Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space, I consider sculpture.” -Isamu Noguchi

READ

It’s Summertime: Let’s Play! ~ The benefits of play are great — more far-reaching than just helping kids blow off steam or get a little physical exercise. In addition to helping kids learn to self-regulate, studies show that child-led, unstructured play (with or without adults) promotes intellectual, physical, social, and emotional well-being. Unstructured play helps children learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, to regulate their emotions and behavior, and to speak-up for themselves. via Greater Good Science Center, published July 15, 2013.

“We Have a Responsibility to Awe” ~ Jason Silva’s new passion project – “Shots of Awe.”  A TestTube series about what it means to be ALIVE – these 2-minute videos are like little jolts of caffeine right to the frontal lobe. via The Wonderist, published May 30, 2013.

Facilitating Group Problem Solving in High Schools ~ If you’re a designer interested in teaching in the high school classroom, or you’re just thinking about bringing student-led problem solving into your classroom or community group, try the following best practices we discovered during our pilot of frog’s Collective Action Toolkit (CAT) in high schools, in partnership with Savannah College of Art and Design’s (SCAD) Design for Sustainability program, Design Ethos, Gatorball Academy, and teachers and classes at Beach, Groves, and Savannah High Schools. via Design Mind, published July 18, 2013.

Turning waste into building blocks of the future city ~ Modern cities create vast quantities of waste. But rather than causing a crisis, could these overflowing landfills help create urban landscapes of the future? In the third of Building Tomorrow’s expert viewpoints, urban designer Mitchell Joachim looks at ways our trash can be turned into treasure. via BBC Future, published May 28, 2013.

How To Schedule Your Day For Peak Performance ~ Are you a certified organizational ninja? It’s okay, nobody is–so steal this idea from career kickstarter Amber Rae, who shares her “Work, Play, Fit, Push” framework for getting things done while staying inspired.  via FastCompany, published April 17, 2013.

Roger Martin on Designing in Hostile Territory ~ You don’t need anyone’s permission to think like a designer. But there are five things you need to do if you want to be effective in a “design-unfriendly organization.” via Business Week, published November 16, 2013.

Unlock Your Creative Genius: 4 Steps To Being Provocative With A Purpose ~ In his book, Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius, Erik Wahl says that “purposeful provocation” should be a part of our personal and professional lives, every single day. Here are the four steps he suggests we need to take to inject a healthy disorder to remain progressive: via FastCompany, published July 17, 2013.

5 Scientific Ways to Build Habits That Stick ~ In our day-to-day lives, habits can often be tough to build, as there are plenty of distractions that can lead us off the “straight and narrow” and right back to our old ways. To alleviate some of those troubles we can examine some academic research on motivation, discipline, and habit building, and break down their findings into actionable steps that any aspiring habit-builder can put into place. via 99u, published July 17, 2013.

LOOK

To Encourage Sharing And Reading, Creative Places Free Books On Subways ~ In her project ‘Books on the Underground’,  London-based creative Hollie Belton, leaves books at subway stations and on trains on the London Underground network—where they are to be taken, read, shared and enjoyed. via Design Taxi, published July 18, 2013.

Technology Is a Tool, Not a Learning Outcome ~hand-drawn image by author Bill Ferriter on the role that technology should play in teaching and learning spaces. via MindShift, published July 12, 2013.

LIFE at Lascaux: Early Color Photos From Another World ~ via TIME, published January 23, 2012.

The faces of education: stunning photos from the classrooms around the world Julian Germain started his “Classroom Portraits” series in 2004 in North East England, and since then he’s been everywhere from the Middle East, to Africa, to North and South America capturing the spirit, students, and visual culture of school rooms around the world.~ via GOOD, published July 17, 2013.

16 Real Modern Technologies Predicted by Inspector Gadget ~ Vanity Fair sifted through Inspector Gadget’s 86 episodes to see what this crystal ball of technology foretold. The results are a surprising collection of then fantastical products and concepts that we couldn’t imagine living without today. But perhaps the most forward-thinking model might be the show’s core relationship: a computer-obsessed child doing her best to explain technology to her forever clueless parental figure.via Vanity Fair, published July 11, 2013.

Villagers ‘Grow’ Bridges Using Vines And Roots To Cross Rivers ~ In the state of Meghalaya, India, villagers have been directing tree roots and vines to ‘build’ bridges for 500 years. By using hollowed out tree trunks, they guide these plants to the other side of the river and allow them to take root. In a region which receives much rain, it is counter-intuitive to make a bridge out of wood planks as the wood will rot. The natural solution was to use the surrounding plants as they would strengthen over time. via Design Taxi, published July 16, 2013.

WATCH

Sir Ken Robinson on How to Find your Element ~ Finding one’s passion and true purpose in life is essential to human flourishing. via RSA, published July 5, 2013.

What Happens When You Let Artists Play With San Francisco’s Trash ~ Trash can be beautiful. Just take a look at Recology San Francisco’s Artist in Residence Program, which lets professional and student artists run wild with the waste management company’s garbage. via FastCo.Exist, published July 19, 2013.

Martí Guixé: Food as an object of mass production ~ From a hands-free lollipop to a cake that displays its ingredients in pie-chart form, Martí Guixé’s work challenges perceptions of reality. The Catalonian designer works with food as an object of mass production, often creating interactive experiences. Working across food, platform and system design, Guixé’s work is often playful – like the parties he had to get partygoers to help him decorate retail interiors! via Design Indaba, published March 29, 2013.

The 7 Essential Life Skills ~ Ellen Galinsky on the 7 essential skills–focus & self-control; perspective taking; communicating; making connections; critical thinking; taking on challenges; self-directed, engaged learning–humans need to keep learning and growing throughout the lifespan. via BigThink, published July 18, 2013.

5 Great under 6 minutes TED Talks for Teachers ~ via Education Technology & Mobile Learning, published July 16, 2013.

The Critical Role of Play, Passion & Purpose for 21st Century Learning & Why Rethinking…* is Greater Than Inventing

“What must we do differently to develop the capacities of many more of our young people to be innovators?”

In this talk from the 2012 TEDxNYED conference, Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard and author of several books on transforming education for the 21st century, argues that in the new global ‘knowledge economy’, where knowledge has become a commodity, “what the world cares about is not what you know but what you can do with what you know, and that is a completely different education problem.” The question then becomes, “what must we do differently to develop the capacities of many more of our young people to be innovators?”

Wagner identifies a set of seven core competencies that  “every young person must be well on the way to mastering before he or she finishes high school, not just to get a good job, but to be a continuous learner and an active and informed citizen in the 21st century”. They are:

  1. Critical thinking & problem solving
  2. Collaboration across networks & leading by influence
  3. Agility & adaptability
  4. Initiative & entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective oral & written communication
  6. Accessing & analyzing information
  7. Curiosity & imagination

Wanting to learn more about how these seven core competencies could be facilitated and cultivated, Wagner interviewed a wide range of young innovators in their 20s across various disciplines and industries as well as their parents to uncover any potential patterns in the young innovators’ upbringing and learning culture. He also asked each of the young innovators whether there had been teachers or mentors who had made a significant difference in their lives. Rather shockingly, one-third of all the innovators interviewed could not identify a single teacher or mentor. Also alarming, when Wagner went to interview each of the teachers and mentors that the other two-thirds of innovators had identified, he found that every single one of them was an outlier in his or her institution.

After conducting the interviews, Wagner did see a significant pattern emerge in how these adults had fostered the skills and motivation necessary to become innovators in the young people he had interviewed: “play to passion to purpose.”  Which led him to conclude, “the culture of schooling, as we have grown up with it, is radically at odds with the culture of learning that produces innovators in five essential respects.” They are:

  1. Celebrating individual achievement vs. Teamwork
  2. Specialization vs. Interdisciplinary
  3. Risk aversion & penalizing failure vs. Taking risks, learning from mistakes, iterating
  4. Culture of learning is about passive consumption vs. Culture of innovation is about creating real products for real audiences
  5. Extrinsic incentives for learning vs. Intrinsic Motivation

What I found particularly interesting about Wagner’s talk is the fact that while I agree 150 percent with the insights he shares about the direction education and the learning culture should be taking in the 21st century, I fundamentally disagree with his opening remark, when he says, “I would like to respectfully suggest that our schools are not failing, they certainly don’t need reforming. The system is obsolete and needs reinventing, not reforming.”  This notion that we must start from scratch, begin again or create a new foundation in order to achieve something innovative and thriving is one that keeps coming up and which we find unrealistic and detrimental, here at rethinked…*. It should come as no surprise given our name that the belief that rethinking is greater than inventing is a founding principle that underlies all of our work. So often these days, especially in the education reform debate, we hear people calling for a complete reinvention of the system–do away with classrooms, do away with teachers… These solutions are often unrealistic in terms of widespread implementation and rarely account for the wide spectrum of learning styles and differences in our students. Starting over is a luxury that we do not have. To be fair, Wagner does emphasize what each one of us can do as individuals–whether as parents, mentors, or teachers–to bridge the gap between the current culture of schooling and the culture of learning that fosters innovators (hint: model the desired behavior). And when he speaks of the need to reinvent the system, he’s talking about the underlying principles of our education culture rather than the brick and mortar educational system. Yet, the notion of sustainability does have an important place even in the sometimes abstract world of ideas. While it is disheartening to think that of all the young innovators Wagner interviewed, only two-thirds could identify a significant teacher or mentor, and that in every single case, these mentors were outliers in their fields, the fact is, they were still there–they are already a part of the system. It’s not so much about reinventing the wheel as much as finding ways to amplify, cultivate and facilitate the nuggets of potential already strewn throughout the system. I’d love to hear your take on the rethinking vs. inventing debate in the comments section below.

Play, passion, purpose: Tony Wagner at TEDxNYED | via TEDxTalks, published May 30, 2012.

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* | rethinked.org

 

READ

Visualization as Process, Not Output ~ “If we set out to visualize, instead of making a visualization, we can end up with any number of outcomes. In fact, many of those outcomes may not even be visualizations, but rather solutions, new ideas, and better questions. Any good visualization process is iterative. And if we allow ourselves to think more about the value of the branching points of that process than we do a single result, we leave ourselves open to many more possibilities. A verb-based approach to visualization also lets us think of it as a tool that can be used in many different projects; not only those whose results involve charts and graphs, or sticks and balls” ~ Jer Thorp. via Harvard Business Review, published April 3, 2013.

What Can Children Teach Us about Innovation? Everything, Says Stanford Design Researcher ~ via Forbes, published December 6, 2012.

Machines of Laughter and Forgetting ~ On technology as both problem-solver and troublemaker. “We must distribute the thinking process equally. Instead of having the designer think through all the moral and political implications of technology use before it reaches users — an impossible task — we must find a way to get users to do some of that thinking themselves.” via New York Times, published March 30, 2013.

Why Stealth Innovation Is Not a Solution ~ On innovation fundamentally being a team sport. via Harvard Business Review, published March 26, 2013.

Vivek Wadhwa: Why I Don’t Advise Startups to Hire M.B.A.s ~ via Wall Street Journal, published April 1, 2013.

Lessons Found In The Mud ~ via New York Times, published March 29, 2013.

Don’t Get Mad–Get Innovative ~ History is riddled with genius inventions born of hair-pulling frustration. Here’s what today’s entrepreneurs can learn about finding inspiration in pain points. via Fast Company, published April 2, 2013.

Startup Takes Aim at Old-School Ways ~ The Saxifrage School, Mr. Cook’s two-year old experiment, is seeking to upend the traditional notion that college students need a sequestered, ivy-covered campus—and will endure the price tag that comes with it. He is gambling that for a nominal tuition—$395 a class—they will use the public library, the neighborhood YMCA and existing apartment buildings to study, play and live in. “What’s the point of spending a fortune to reinvent the wheel?” said the 28-year-old Mr. Cook. “Everything you need to operate a campus is already right there in the community.” via Wall Street Journal, published April 2, 2013.

Need a Job? Invent It ~ Tony Wagner on how to prepare today’s students for the changing economy and disappearance of middle class jobs: “Reimagining schools for the 21st-century must be our highest priority. We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose.” via New York Times, published March 30, 2013.

 

WATCH

Prepare Your Brain for Change ~ Margaret Moore, CEO of Wellcoaches Corporation, explains ways to de-stress and de-clutter your mind so you can perform at your cognitive and creative best. via Harvard Business Review, published April 2, 2013.

The Future is Uncertain. It’s Time to Start Asking the Right Questions ~ “We need to build this capacity in ourselves & the people around us to ask the right question.” ~ Hal Gregersen .via BigThink, published April 3, 2013

Everything I Know: 42 Hours of Buckminster Fuller’s Visionary Lectures Free Online (1975) ~ via Open Culture, published August 8, 2012.

 

LOOK

Lessons In Disrupting The Status Quo In Handy Visual Form ~ A new site takes the information from Beautiful Trouble, a guidebook to creative activism, and puts it in easily digestible visualizations to help prepare you for your next protest. via FastCo.Exist, published March 29, 2013.

A Matter of Perspective: See Ordinary Landscapes Become Rock-Face Monsters ~ Andreflections by Andrey Antov. via FastCo.Create, published

100 Websites You Should Know and Use (updated!) ~ via TED Blog.

Office Furniture Designed To Spark Inspiring, Random Encounters ~ Antenna Design‘s new line for Knoll is purpose-built for the spontaneous work encounters that often spark innovation.via FastCo.Design, published April 1, 2013.

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