Saturday, June 30, 2012

tiny story

Friday, June 29, 2012


"It is very difficult to find a black cat in a dark room," warns an old proverb. "Especially when there is no cat."
I just finished reading a great little book, Ignorance: How it Drives Science by Stuart Firestein. The book, while about science, left me questioning... How can the idea of ignorance be applied to every-day life or to education?

Having just returned from Alaska where one of the naturalists we hiked with was adamant that we all ask, "How do you know that?" whenever we are given "facts", this book came at a welcome time.

From this perspective, our reality may not be all facts and rules. It's more like the quote above: all black cats in dark rooms.

As for our system of education, perhaps teaching ignorance could be a way to begin... starting with what we don't know, what still needs to be done. In a letter to her brother in 1894, Marie Curie wrote: "One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done..."   Students can get out there and begin to solve the long list of mysteries and puzzles that may or may not have solutions; do the things that remain undone.

Questions, I'm finding, are more relevant than answers. Questions are bigger and more layered and more accessible  than answers. Perhaps we should all move our focus from answers and begin work on the questions.

Scientist Maria Chudnovsky says that a question is interesting if it leads somewhere and is connected to other questions. And often, the thing you find is not what you were looking for, but something unexpected and more interesting.

So what makes good questions and how do you come up with them? And how do you use those questions to better understand the world around you?

From Stuart Firestein's book, here are some "good questions" from his class:
  • What's one thing you'd like to know about X?
  • What's something you have so far failed to understand? 
  • What things aren't working? 
  • How often do you guess? 
  • Are you often surprised? When? 
  • What questions are you generating?
  • What ignorance are you generating? 

Perhaps one of the best questions we could ask ourselves is how we should educate students in the age of Google (and whatever will supersede it). Instead of an education system based on collecting answers, we should teach students how to think in questions.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

we can do this...

“Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." ~Desmond Tutu

The future is ours to create and while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something.  So do what you can, where you are with what you have. Together we can define a future that moves us forward. 

(thanks for the inspiration, Robyn O'Brien)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.

In an attempt to write more, I picked up a little book called 
101 Creative Writing Exercises (Adventures in Writing) 
by Melissa Donovan.

This book, as well as Melissa Donovan's website Writing Forward are a wealth of information. From Chekhov's Gun to Austin Kleon's Everything is a Remix... this book was preaching to my choir. 

It will take me more than the summer to 'exercise' my way through this book; but I am looking forward to the journey.

My favorite quotes from 101:
There is nothing that will teach you more about writing than reading.
Look at it this way: everything already exists. The ideas, plots, and characters - they're already out there in someone else's story. Originality isn't a matter of coming up with something new, it's a matter of using your imagination to take old concepts and put the together in new ways. 

So, here's to an adventure in writing... to a beginner's mind... 
to having fun! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Jer Thorp doesn't know it, but he's my new "best friend".
By putting data into a human context, everything changes... enter empathy and compassion. If you humanize data, it tells a story.

Jer Thorp says:
“These are all things that I just do for fun. It might seem weird…I’m building tools for myself. I might share them with a few other people, but they’re for fun. They’re for me.”

He has tremendous passion for his topic of interest. Passion that has him spending hours building tools "just for fun" and just for himself... maybe to share, maybe not. Passion-fueled learning is a powerful, beautiful thing. We learn best by engaging in what fascinates us, and seeing what we can do with it.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Ever since Happiness heard your name
It has been running through the streets
Trying to find you.
~ Hafiz