Tag empowerment

empowering children with 21st century skills – { coding…*}

A few weeks ago I blogged about the empowering experience of storytelling. This got me thinking about the various types of skills and experiences we can provide to students that will enable them to have a stake in their own education but also prepare them for the 21st century. We’ve blogged about many of these skillsets before, such as multimodal literacy, play, and skepticism,. One such modern-day tool is coding.

As Mitch Resnick explains in a 2012 Tedx talk entitled Let’s teach kids to code, he talks about Scratch, a kid-friendly programming software born out of MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group. Scratch is intended to cultivate fluency in technologies, to the level that students are able to express themselves creatively. I’ve participated in one Scratch day and a week-long summer logo workshop, where I’ve learned how wonderful this platform is. As Mitch suggests, it’s a fantastic platform for learning coding skills, but it also fosters curiosity, creativity, and student-centered learning.

In this talk, Mitch explains,

As kids are creating projects like this, they’re learning to code, but even more importantly, they’re coding to learn. Because as they learn to code, it enables them to learn many other things, opens up many new opportunities for learning. Again, it’s useful to make an analogy to reading and writing. When you learn to read and write, it opens up opportunities for you to learn so many other things. When you learn to read, you can then read to learn. And it’s the same thing with coding. If you learn to code, you can code to learn. Now some of the things you can learn are sort of obvious. You learn more about how computers work. But that’s just where it starts. When you learn to code, it opens up for you to learn many other things.

With this in mind, I’ve become excited about the many recent initiatives to bring coding experiences to students. Not-for-profit companies such as ScriptEd_ equip underprivileged students with coding skills and internship experiences to bring about this fluency with technology.

As explained in the video above, these coding opportunities are empowering. They open these students’ worlds to a lucrative job market as well as a whole new way to express themselves.

Code to learn. Learn to code …*

How to have a [ happy family ] in 2015: Using analogous situations to develop better methods for family success…*

Happy holidays everyone! As many of us are spending these weeks visiting family and loved ones, I thought it appropriate to talk about rethinking family dynamics. This time of year can be particularly stressful on families. While I don’t yet have children of my own, this TED talk by Bruce Feller is a great one if you are a parent with children and are looking for some ideas on how to improve your own family dynamic.

Family_Portrait

In true rethinked…* fashion, this talk is all about analogous situations. Particularly, Feller borrows from the Agile software development method. This method involve collaboration between self-organizing teams, promoting adaptive, rapid, and flexible responses to change. He uses it’s bottom-up idea flow, feedback, accountability, and adaptiveness in his own family.

In 2001 17 software developers created the Agile Manifesto. In this talk, Feller discusses his own Agile Family Manifesto. This manifesto has three tenets:

#1 Adapt ALL THE TIME

Happy functioning families should be flexible and openminded. You can’t just set rules and stick to them. Instead, you should build in a system of change. For example, Feller suggests holding family meetings each week and discussing 1) What worked well this week? 2) What didn’t work well? 3) What should we work on next week? Based on the answers to these questions, the rules can adapt to the current situation. Which leads to the second tenet…

#2 EMPOWER your children

In these family meetings, have children come up with the answers to these questions. Enlist children in their own upbringing. Feller suggests that we let our children succeed and fail on their own terms. We should let children make mistakes.

#3 Tell YOUR STORY

As much as the rules and family structure should be adaptive, it is imperative to have a foundational core. Feller urges parents and children to work together to define core values and develop a family “mission statement.” Additionally, studies show the importance of telling your children where they came from – about their grandparents, your childhood, or struggles their family members have overcome. Children with a sense of how they fit in a larger narrative have greater self-confidence. Research has indicated that knowing where you are from predicts emotional health and happiness.

Feller speaks more about these tenets, and other tips for thriving families, in the talk below. Overall, I think this talk is both a stellar example of using analogous situations. A great way to rethink is to apply methods traditionally used in one domain in another. And – empowering children to take a role in their own upbringing sounds like a great way to improve education to me.

 

 

 

“The Internet of Things,” empowerment, & ground-up technological advances.

In my Culture, Media, and Education course we’ve talked a lot about how media has evolved in recent years such that students are not simply consumers of media, but also producers of media. Platforms such as YouTube, Square Space, and Scratch have made the means of media producing so widely  accessible in a way that is both empowering and transformative for our society.

A recent ideas.ted.com blog post, WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE INTERNET OF THINGS, Karen Eng explores similar ideas, related to the internet that now exists in the objects around us. Thermostats, traffic lights, and Fit Bits are examples of objects that can possess “the internet”; objects that communicate with us and one another in ways that better our lives. For example:

It’s more about gathering intelligence with a variety of different systems. So while traffic lights do currently communicate with light controllers, they don’t yet communicate with approaching cars, for example. But what if traffic lights could tell the car ahead of time that there’s a string of traffic lights coming on, and so the car should take another direction?

[http://ideas.ted.com/2014/10/02/whats-next-for-the-internet-of-things/]

While the “internet of things” is becoming more of a reality every day, Karen Eng suggests that we are going about it the wrong way, specifically in a very top-down way. Companies are creating closed off devices with prescribed functionalities to solve specific problems, and then we can then buy them. No customizability, just consuming, no room for producing. See the problem here?

She calls for a world where we “democratize the technology,” or where the internet of things exists in open platforms. Mirroring the recent ways in which students and the general population have become producers of media, we can become producers of all types of technologies. While engineers at big companies will likely design amazing things, people on the ground who are face-to-face with problems may see different problems and come up with different solutions.

One great example of a such a technology, that is not only open platform but also child friendly is littleBits. As explained in another great TED talk (embedded below):

…beyond simple play, littleBits are actually pretty powerful. Instead of having to program, to wire, to solder, littleBits allow you to program using very simple intuitive gestures. So to make this blink faster or slower, you would just turn this knob and basically make it pulse faster or slower. The idea behind littleBits is that it’s a growing library. We want to make every single interaction in the world into a ready-to-use brick. Lights, sounds, solar panels, motors — everything should be accessible.

[http://www.ted.com/talks/ayah_bdeir_building_blocks_that_blink_beep_and_teach/transcript?language=en]

I’m excited about the day when we begin to bring open-sourced object-based technologies into the classroom, because I can only imagine some of the creative and useful things our students will develop. Additionally, the more we move our students to be producers of technologies, rather than consumers, the more empowered and prepared they will be to function in our ever-changing, technological world.

{ Civic Hacking } The idea that if you see a problem, you work to fix it and not just complain about it …*

Hacking is really just any amateur innovation on an existing system. And it is a deeply democratic activity. It’s about critical thinking, it’s about questioning existing ways of doing things. It’s the idea that if you see a problem, you work to fix it and not just complain about it.” – Catherine Bracy

Does Code for America’s Catherine Bracy‘s definition of hacking remind you of any other term we’re super fond of around here? Yes, rethinking * of course! I’ve always thought of hacking and rethinking as interchangeable terms and was glad to hear that confirmed by Bracy’s TEDCity2.0 talk on civic hacking.

The elements that are at the core of civic hacking–it’s citizens who saw things that could be working better and they decided to fix them and through that work they’re creating a twenty-first century ecosystem of participation. They’re creating a whole new set of ways for citizens to be involved besides voting or signing a petition or protesting–they can actually build government.

Catherine Bracy: Why Good Hackers Make Good Citizens, published February 2014.

Friday Link Fest…*

READ

Naoto Fukasawa & Jane Fulton Suri on Smartphones as Social Cues, Soup as a Metaphor for Design, the Downside of 3D Printing and More ~ As keen observers of the world at large and the man-made objects and obstacles we encounter on a regular basis, designer Naoto Fukasawa and IDEO’s Jane Fulton Suri, who served on the jury for last year’s Braunprize selections, had plenty of interesting things to say about the current state of design and just what it means to be ‘normal’. via Core77, published June 17, 2013.

Ask Great Questions: Leadership Skills of Socrates ~ Socrates holds the key to an essential leadership skill: asking great questions. The challenge is that too few leaders, managers and employees ask great questions. This is a big problem. Cultures that embrace a culture of questioning thrive and those that fear it either fail or are doomed to mediocrity. Here are 7 basics ingredients to nurture this Socratic culture. via Forbes, published June 18, 2013.

The Bossless Office Trend ~ A nonhierarchical workplace may just be a more creative and happier one. “Management is a term to me that feels very twentieth century,” says Simon Anderson, the CEO of the web-hosting company DreamHost, “That 100-year chunk of time when the world was very industrialized, and a company would make something that could be stamped out 10 million times and figured out a way to ship it easily, you needed the hierarchy for that. I think this century is more about building intelligent teams.” via New York Magazine, published June 16, 2013.

The Worry That You’re Doing The Wrong Thing Right Now ~ You begin one task from an email, but then quickly have the urge to see if there’s something else more important you should be doing. And this problem repeats itself—every time you sit down with one thing, the dozens of others on your mind (and the many potential urgent items that might be coming in as you sit there) are grasping for your attention. Is there ever any certainty that you’re doing the right thing right now? via Design Taxi, published June 17, 2013.

50 Problems in 50 Days:  A Cross-Continent Design Adventure ~ Peter Smart recently travelled 2,517 miles to try and solve 50 Problems in 50 Days using design. This journey took him from the bustling streets of London to the cobbled lanes of Turin to test design’s ability to solve social problems—big and small. via GOOD, published June 18, 2013.

England’s ‘Play Streets’ Initiative Shuts Down Streets so Kids are Free to Play in their Neighborhood ~ via Inhabitots, published June 17, 2013.

The Best Thing We Could Do About Inequality Is Universal Preschool ~ The latest research, from a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by James Heckman and Lakshmi Raut, concludes that a policy of free preschool for all poor children would have a raft of cost-effective benefits for society and the economy: It would increase social mobility, reduce income inequality, raise college graduation rates, improve criminal behavior (saving some of the societal expenses associated with it), and yield higher tax revenue thanks to an increase in lifetime wages. via The Atlantic, published June 17, 2013.

When Catastrophe Strikes, Emulate the Octopus ~ Nature teaches us that adaptation to environmental risk carries no goal of perfection. In human society, it’s politically expedient to propose top- down security initiatives that promise total risk elimination, such as “winning the global war on terror.” But trying to eliminate a threat like terrorism is like trying to eliminate predation, and trying to minimize it with a single, centralized plan is the direct opposite of adaptability. Well-adapted organisms do not try to eliminate risk—they learn to live with it. via Wired, published March 21, 2012.

LOOK

12 Amazing Miniature Replicas Of Famous Artists’ Studios ~ Joe Fig visits famous artists in their studios, asking questions, shooting photographs, and taking meticulous measurements. Then he creates these incredibly accurate dioramas. via FastCoDesign, published June 12, 2013.

Students Transform a Parking Spot In Front of Their School Into a Cool Parklet ~ As a technology teacher at Jericho Middle School in Long Island, New York, Matthew Silva is constantly looking for ways to infuse design thinking and process into his curriculum. With this goal in mind, he recently challenged his students to solve a problem for their school. Their challenge was to design a parklet for a parking space in front of the school where students wait every day for their parents to pick them up. via Inhabitat, published June 17, 2013.

This Is What Our Grocery Shelves Would Look Like Without Bees ~ A Whole Foods store in Rhode Island made it crystal clear to customers how their favorite fruits and vegetables depend on bees. via FastCoDesign, published June 20, 2013.

Play Perch / Syracuse University ~ architecture, play, exploration & early childhood development. via ArchDaily, published June 18, 2013.

Beautiful Pics Of Trash, Inspired By Botanical Drawings ~ Barry Rosenthal‘s series of jewel-toned garbage collections, ‘Found in Nature‘, sheds new light on litter. via FastCoDesign, published June 12, 2013.

WATCH

Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation ~ Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation is a five-week course that will introduce you to the concepts of human-centered design and help you use the design process to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change. No prior design experience necessary. Brought to you by Acumen & IDEO.org. Register now!

Browser that allows people around the world to surf the internet together in one window ~ What if you and your friends (or complete strangers) shared a browser? What sites would you visit and how would you communicate with one another? Swedish artist Jonas Lund explores those questions in his most recent project We See in Every Direction. As part of Rhizome’s online exhibition series The Download, Lund built a browser that allows people around the world to surf the internet together in one window. Users appear as cursors and can click around to different URLs, type messages in search bars or just sit back and observe what’s happening on the web. via Wired, published June 14, 2013.

Introducing Wireless Philosophy: An Open Access Philosophy Project Created by Yale and MIT ~ “Wireless Philosophy,” or Wiphi, is an online project of “open access philosophy” co-created by Yale and MIT that aims to make fundamental philosophical concepts accessible by “making videos that are freely available in a form that is entertaining” to people “with no background in the subject.” via Open Culture, published June 18, 2013.

EYE AM: Teaching Kids in Developing Countries to Tell Their Stories Through Photography ~ Todays media often creates an unfair picture of the lives of kids in developing countries – how they live and who they are. Poverty. No individuality. No creativity. But that’s a picture that isn’t created by those who really know what it looks like. The kids themselves. Together with you, we’ll create a more realistic view of the world. via Petapixel, published June 15, 2013.

School kids convince Crayola to start recycling their pens ~ Last year, members of the Sun Valley Elementary School’  “Green Team”, made up of 1st thru 5th-graders, decided to try to reduce the environmental impact of their creative process — by looking for a way to give those dried-up markers another life outside the landfill. Led by teacher Mr. Land Wilson, the forward-thinking youngsters made an appeal to the manufacturer of their favorite felt-tipped pens, Crayola, to convince the company to start recycling their empties. via Inhabitat, published June 17, 2013.

Stuart Brown on the Importance of Play…*

“I would encourage you all to engage not in the work/play differential, where you set aside time to play, but where your life becomes infused minute by minute, hour by hour, with body, object, social, fantasy, transformational kinds of play. And I think you’ll have a better and more empowered life.”

 …*

Enjoy this delightful TED talk from 2008 in which pioneer in research on play and founder of The National Institute For Play, Dr. Stuart Brown, details the importance of play. While many are quick to dismiss play as a childhood luxury, Brown argues that play, in its various patterns (i.e. social play, body play, object play, fantasy play…), effects a crucial role on myriad aspects of our well-being and general experience of the world, regardless of our age. From trust, problem-solving, adaptability to empowerment, play is a critical function of a happy, healthy and engaged life. Brown urges us to rethink…* the role of play in our lives, from a pigeon-holed niche activity to a notion of play as transformational force embedded in the very fabric of our lives.

What’s one thing you can put into practice today to infuse your life with more play? Brown recommends taking an honest and in-depth look at your own individual personal ‘play history’, which he believes is the basis of our unique passions and inner drive. “What I would encourage you on an individual level to do, is to explore backwards as far as you can go to the most clear, joyful, playful image that you have–whether it’s with a toy or on a birthday, or on a vacation. And begin to build from the motion of that into how that connects with your life now and you’ll find you may change jobs, which has happened to a number of people when I’ve had them do this in order to be more empowered through their play. Or you’ll be able to enrich your life by prioritizing it and paying attention to it.”

play & rethink…*

Stuart Brown: Play is More than Fun published on TED, FILMED MAY 2008 | POSTED MAR 2009

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