Singing Hearts from Intrepid Teacher

“A few days ago I started reading The Last Child in the Woods. It sparked in me a sense of panic and guilt about the amount of time my daughter spends outdoors connecting to nature, getting fresh air, and exploring. I decided I wanted us to begin exploring our surroundings together. Even if our immediate surroundings was an empty dry desert field covered in garbage and construction refuse.

“We went outside with our cameras in hand to see what we could discover. I wish I had a field recorder, so I could have recorded her excitement and enthusiasm. We spoke of the wind, the setting sun, and how plants can grow with little water. We spoke about the power of art to make the ugly appear beautiful. We asked questions of each other. We guessed at answers. The two of us were a mobile outdoor classroom. Father and daughter in an empty field in the desert.

“When we came home I asked her if she wanted to see her pictures on the big screen of the computer and talk about what she had seen. The result was a very simple photo essay.

http://dearkaia.blogspot.com/2009/09/first-photo-essay.html

“Being the proud dad that I am, I decided to share the experience with my Twitter network. I thought that was the end of it, until last night when I noticed several comments come pouring in. After a quick request as to who was responsible I found out that @wmchamberlain had shared Kaia’s blog post with his class. I suggest you go and read some of the 43 comments.

“I immediately got in touch with him through Twitter, and he told me that a few of his students were curious if we had electricity in Doha. I told him, if he was interested, I could Skype into his classroom and answer some quick questions. So there we were, a small classroom in rural Missouri and me in my kitchen talking about our surroundings. We were following our curiosity. We were discovering new things. We were learning, beyond classroom walls, because we had all decided to take risks and be open with our lives. I told wmchamberlain’s students that since Kaia is only three she may have a hard time reading their comments and really grasp what is going on….

“The next day Kaia and I sat in our kitchen and watched their video. She is still too young to really grasp the connections that she is making, but in a few years these connections and this type of interaction will be ubiquitous in her life. I hope that her teachers are ready to help her continue on this journey.

China’s Taoism Revival

“As China’s only indigenous religion, Taoism’s influence is found in everything from calligraphy and politics to medicine and poetry. In the sixth century, for example, Abbess Yin’s temple was home to Tao Hongjing, one of the founders of traditional Chinese medicine.

“For much of the past two millenniums, Taoism’s opposite has been Confucianism, the ideology of China’s ruling elite and the closest China has to a second homegrown religion. Where Confucianism emphasizes moderation, harmony and social structure, Taoism offers a refuge from society and the trap of material success.

“Some rulers have tried to govern according to Taoism’s principle of wuwei, or nonaction, but by and large it is not strongly political and today exhibits none of the nationalism found among, say, India’s Hindu fundamentalists….

“Li Jinkang, says the goal is to keep Taoism vital in an era when indigenous Chinese ideas are on the defensive. ‘Churches are everywhere. But traditional things are less so. So Chairman Zhu said: “What about our Taoism? Our Taoism is a really deep thing. If we don’t protect it, then what?”‘”

Excerpts from NYTimes.com.

Towards a new civic ecology by @henryjenkins

“The contemporary communications system is at once struggling with the threat that many major news outlets which have been the backbone of civic information over the past century are crumbling in the face of competition from new media. We may not be able to count on the traditional newspaper, news magazine or network newscast to do the work we could take for granted in the past….

“At the same time, we are seeing expanded communications opportunities in the hands of everyday people — including in the hands of academics and other experts who traditionally had little means of direct communication with the various publics impacted by their work. The problem at the present time is that existing channels of professional journalism are crumbling faster than we are developing alternative solutions which will support the kinds of information and communication needed for a democratic society….

“Thinking about a civic ecology helps us to recognize that while journalists do important work in gathering and vetting the information we need to make appropriate decisions as citizens, they are only part of a larger system through which key ideas get exchanged and discussed.

“We understand this if we think about the classic coffee houses which Habermaas saw as part of the ideal public sphere. The proprietors, we are told, stocked them with a range of publications — broadsides, pamplets, newspapers, journals, and magazines — which are intended to provide resources for debate and discussion among the who are gathered there on any given evening….

“By this same token, the present moment is characterized by both commercial and noncommercial forms of communication. As the comic strip, Zits, explains, ‘If it wasn’t for blogs, podcasts, and twitter, I’d never know whar was going on.’…

Educational reform should go hand in hand with our efforts to restructure the civic ecology. As I’ve shown in my work for the MacArthur foundation, young people need to acquire a range of skills and competencies if they are going to meaningfully engage in the new participatory culture. As they scan the media ecology for bits and pieces of information, they need more discernment than ever before and that comes only if they are able to count on their schools to help them overcome the connected concerns of the digital divide, the participation gap, and the civic engagement gap.

“The Digital Divide has to do with access to networked communication technologies — with many still relying on schools and public libraries to provide them with access. The Participation Gap has to do with access to skills and competencies (as well as the experiences through which they are acquired). And the Civic Engagement Gap has to do with access to a sense of empowerment and entitlement which allows one to feel like your voice matters when you tap into the new communication networks to share your thoughts.

“Unfortunately, we’ve wired the classrooms in this country and then disabled the computers; we’ve blocked young people from participating in the new forms of participatory culture; and we’ve taught them that they are not ready to speak in public by sequestering them to walled gardens rather than allowing them to try their voices through public forums. …

“Jessica Clark and Pat Aufderheide have written about Public Media 2.0, suggesting that we should no longer think about public service media (as if the knowledge simply flowed from above) but rather public facilitating and public mobilizing media that creates a context for meaningful conversations and helps point towards actions which the public might take to address its concerns. It is no longer enough to produce science documentaries which point to distance stars without giving the public something it can do to support your efforts and absorb your insights into motivated action.

“It is no longer enough simply to inform. You must inspire and motivate, you must engage and enthrall the public, if you want to cut through the clutter of the new media landscape.”

Lyrics: The Dreamer by Tom Rush

The moon she rides the tattered storm
on a ragged gypsy journey
The snow lies on the mountain
like a cloak upon a king

My dreams go tumbling with the dust
out across the valley
Low above the river
low above the sea

Life’s a sparrow lost at sea
in dark of night with far to go
Dreams are ships that sail away
and we are only cargo

Now the sea has always sung to me
but I have never ever heeded
I am born a farmer, raised the same
married to the land

But sometimes I will lie at night
while she is softly sleeping
Far away I hear the song
the sea sings to the sand

Now Adam’s prize was open eyes
his sentence was to see
so day by day he’s worn away
against reality

So gypsies dream of being king
kings of being free
A sailor longs to till the land
the farmer sets to sea

And the sea will love the land all night
like a woman loves her lover
The wind will race along the beach
and make the sea cliffs ring

I will wake and start to dream again
the dream I dream forever
Of the ships I’ll never sail
the songs I’ll never sing

Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids #ted #tedxdirigo

Child prodigy Adora Svitak says the world needs ‘childish’ thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism. Kids’ big dreams deserve high expectations, she says, starting with grownups’ willingness to learn from children as much as to teach.

“‘Now, our inherent wisdom doesn’t have to be insiders’ knowledge. Kids already do a lot of learning from adults, and we have a lot to share. I think that adults should start learning from kids….. It shouldn’t just be a teacher at the head of the classroom telling students do this, do that. The students should teach their teachers. Learning between grown ups and kids should be reciprocal….

“‘The goal is not to turn kids into your kind of adult, but rather better adults than you have been… the way progress happens is because new generations and new eras grow and develop and become better than the previous ones. It’s the reason we’re not in the Dark Ages anymore. No matter your position of place in life, it is imperative to create opportunities for children so that we can grow up to blow you away….

“‘The world needs opportunities for new leaders and new ideas. Kids need opportunities to lead and succeed. Are you ready to make the match? Because the world’s problems shouldn’t be the human family’s heirloom.'”

  • Excerpts from TED.com
  • Screened at TEDxDirigo – 10/10/10

Derek Sivers: How to start a movement #ted #tedxdirigo

From TED Talks:

With help from some surprising footage, Derek Sivers explains how movements really get started. (Hint: it takes two.)

“Leadership is overglorified…. It was really the first follower that transformed the lone nut into a leader. So, as we’re all told that we should be leaders, that would be really ineffective. If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow and show others how to follow. And, when you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first one to stand up and join in.”

  • Excerpts from TED.com
  • Shown at TEDxDirigo – 10/10/10

American #creativity is declining /@newsweek

“Creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward…. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is ‘most serious’….

“Highly creative adults tended to grow up in families embodying opposites. Parents encouraged uniqueness, yet provided stability. They were highly responsive to kids’ needs, yet challenged kids to develop skills…. In the space between anxiety and boredom was where creativity flourished.

“Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Why, why, why—sometimes parents just wish it’d stop. Tragically, it does stop. By middle school they’ve pretty much stopped asking. It’s no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet…

“When faculty of a major Chinese university asked Plucker to identify trends in American education, he described our focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing. “After my answer was translated, they just started laughing out loud,” says . “They said, ‘You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model, as fast as we can.’

“Researchers say creativity should be taken out of the art room and put into homeroom…. Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process.

“Creativity requires constant shifting, blender pulses of both divergent thinking and convergent thinking, to combine new information with old and forgotten ideas… The attention system must radically reverse gears, going from defocused attention to extremely focused attention. In a flash, the brain pulls together these disparate shreds of thought and binds them into a new single idea that enters consciousness. This is the “aha!” moment of insight, often followed by a spark of pleasure as the brain recognizes the novelty of what it’s come up with.

“The lore of pop psychology is that creativity occurs on the right side of the brain. But we now know that if you tried to be creative using only the right side of your brain, it’d be like living with ideas perpetually at the tip of your tongue.”

Gates Foundation’s new learning technology initiative

“This fall the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and several partners will announce a new project aimed at harnessing technology to help prepare students for college and get them to graduation. The senior program officer leading that effort is Josh Jarrett, a former software entrepreneur with a Harvard M.B.A. who joined Gates after five years with the consulting firm McKinsey & Company….

“‘What we envision is a multiyear, multiwave program, where every six to 12 months we issue a new set of challenges. And we’ll issue a set of challenges this fall around shared open-core courseware, around learning analytics, around blended learning, and around new, deeper forms of learning and engagement using interactive technologies….’

“‘If in a traditional world my faculty is my primary relationship, and maybe some of the 29 other students in the classroom, technology is starting to afford different types of relationships between the people who were two years ahead of me, who I want to emulate, or people who are professionals out in the community.'”

In small towns, we get to know people in a fuller way

“Dr. Collier represented for me what living in a small town is all about: we don’t just make quick, specialized appearances in each other’s lives. For better or worse, we get to know people in a fuller way. The owner of the orchard where we pick apples is also our doctor, and the local bartender fixes our bicycle chain when it slips out on a country road.

“This is good for all our characters, I think, for the flawed person we see in one situation can suddenly surprise us by a small act of kindness or thoughtfulness in another encounter. Small towns give us second chances, and third and fourth ones, too.”