Friday, March 28, 2014

what we want is to be noticed

Last week I was in Amsterdam. 
I loved it.

But, I couldn't be in Amsterdam without paying homage to the book, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

I left a copy in the Andaz Hotel.

The Andaz is an awesome hotel, set on the site of the former Amsterdam Public Library on the Prinsengracht (Prince's Canal). I highly recommend staying there.

I left another copy of The Fault In Our Stars in the Stedelijk Museum. The Stedelijk Amsterdam is an international museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design… and, you know, it seemed like the kind of place Sarah Urist Green would love.

So, as a family, we were having our own TFIOS spring break in Amsterdam. 

Then we went to the Hermitage in Amsterdam because… art… and the current special exhibit is The Silk Road, and Vv is studying China and The Silk Road… so perfect.

We were admiring the treasures: murals, buddha sculptures, precious silks, silver, glass, gold, and terra-cotta. Then Vv came up behind me and said, "Guess who is in the next room. Your favorite person!"  So I started guessing some of my favorite people. Then she added, "Think, books and youtube."

John Green? She grabbed my hand and pulled me into the next room. And there was John Green on the big screen doing his CrashCourse World History video on The Silk Road… in The Hermitage. Awesome. So we watched it twice!

And, for some reason, the whole thing reminded me of page 281 in TFIOS:
I thought of my dad telling me that the universe wants to be noticed. But what we want is to be noticed by the universe, to have the universe give a shit what happens to us - not the collective idea of sentient life but each of us, as individuals.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Be compassionate. And compassion will come back to you.

I keep thinking about The Good Luck Of Right Now by Matthew Quick. I keep giving the book as a gift, and I can't stop thinking about Bartholomew Neil, the Dalai Lama, Richard Gere, and balance.

When Matthew Quick was asked about the title, The Good Luck Of Right Now, he replied that the title popped into his head several years ago and he had no idea what it meant. Now he says it's about balance and riding out the rhythms of the universe.

For me, The Good Luck of Right Now is about asking the big questions and being comfortable with our collective inability to find absolutes.

Or, as Bartholomew realizes in Montreal:
I sat down on a chair and felt the cold on my face as I watched the snowflakes evaporate instantly, the moment they hit the warm, blue, chlorinated pool water - and I wondered if what I was witnessing could be a metaphor for our lives somehow, like we were all just little bits falling toward an inevitable dissolve, if that makes any sense at all.

Or, when Max talks about April, "What the f*ck, hey?"
Richard Gere, you whispered in my ear - Tell him you want to hear about his cat. Lessen his pain. Be compassionate. Remember the Dalai Lama's teachings.
Listen. Ease his suffering. Be compassionate. And compassion will come back to you. Heed the words of the Dalai Lama.

I would love for more people to read this book.

So, I've decided to do a giveaway. Leave a note in the comments, and I'll draw a winner on Monday, March 31st. I'll send a copy of The Good Luck Of Right Now to the winner.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

it's not a question of if we go open, but when

This weekend I read OPEN: How We'll Work, Live and Learn In The Future by David Price.

Here’s the publicity blurb:
What makes a global corporation give away its prized intellectual property?  Why are Ivy League universities allowing anyone to take their courses for free?  What drives a farmer in rural Africa to share his secrets with his competitors?  A collection of hactivists, hobbyists, forum-users and maverick leaders are leading a quiet but unstoppable revolution.  They are sharing everything they know, and turning knowledge into action in ways that were unimaginable even a decade ago.  Driven by technology, and shaped by common values, going ‘open’ has transformed the way we live.  Going open is also confronting our formal institutions by turning conventional wisdom on its head.  Give away what you used to sell.  Work where and when you choose to. Take kids out of school, so they can learn.  Faced with an irreversible shift in our social lives, it’s not so much a question of if our workplaces, schools and colleges go open, but when.
Packed with illustration and advice, this entertaining read by learning futurist, David Price, argues that ‘open’ is not only affecting how we are choosing to live, but that it’s going to be the difference between success and failure in the future.

I loved it!

I was just having a conversation this week about the emergence of open, transparent education. When discussing a local private school, I gave the model of TED talks or MOOCs: just because we can watch awesome lectures online for free, that doesn't devalue the cost of being in the room. Why wouldn't private primary and secondary schools 'open' their lectures online? If anything, an awesome lecture would inspire me to get my child in that room.

David Price's optimistic book, OPEN explains the unstoppable revolution of going open.

I highlighted more of the book than not. I'll need to read it a second time as I want to fully absorb his thoughtful commentary. 

It's everything I have observed in my children's learning and in my own learning. We all have our own personal learning networks, hashtags we follow and contribute to, classes we have taken online, youtube channels we subscribe to, and blogs we write. 

The book itself was recommended to me by the head of school at The British International School in Budapest, and my favorite educator at Munich International School in Starnberg. 

Even as I write this post, I have my kindle open to the notes I've taken, my iPad beside me to research more thoughts, and several tabs on my laptop open to videos and supporting materials. 

We are all entrepreneurial learners… hacking what's available, recombining and curating information with unlimited possibilities. I am so excited to see what new types of institutions form as workplaces and schools become open.

How will you participate in your learning? How will you teach?

You need to read this book if you care about education, or work, or governance, or the economy, or the future.

Monday, March 10, 2014

tie the poem to a chair

The other day on twitter's #aplitchat, the poem Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins was referenced:

Q6. As teachers, how do we prevent students from "tying it to a chair, torturing a confession from it" -- Billy Collins

This question sparked a wonderful conversation about the Common Core emphasis on Close Reading and whether it brings students back to the poem or neglects the artistry of it all. 

Some teachers said they use this Collins poem to introduce the idea of reading for appreciation instead of response on demand.

There was discussion of David Coleman's definition of Close Reading. David Coleman, a lead author of the Common Core standards, has a narrow view of how to get to the reader's interpretation.

It was a creative conversation, made even better by requiring me to re-read the wonderful Billy Collin's poem.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem   
and hold it up to the light   
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem   
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room   
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski   
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope   
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose   
to find out what it really means.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever tied a poem to a chair with rope and tortured a confession out of it? Have you ever asked your students to beat it with a hose?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

questions are rising in value while answers are declining

Yesterday I read A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger.

A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger is about the importance of asking thoughtful, ambitious "beautiful questions". The kind of questions that can bring about change in the world around you. A fair amount of the book is focused on the need to ask deeper, better questions in business, education, nonprofits, and life. This really resonated with me.

Educators, parents, board members, students, and anyone who cares about creating change should read this book.

The title, A More Beautiful Question, is inspired by the line from the poet e.e. Cummings: "Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question." 

There is a definite link between good questions and innovation. 

When entrenched practices and approaches grab hold, when we keep doing what has always been done, when our impulse is to keep plowing ahead, that's when we need to step back and question whether we are on the right path.

Why? What if? How?

Warren Berger says:

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something - and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.
The Pulitzer Prize - winning historian David Hackett Fischer observed that:
Questions are the engines of intellect - cerebral machines that convert curiosity into controlled inquiry.

Dan Rothstein of Right Question Institute believes:
Questions do something that has an 'unlocking' effect in people's minds. It's an experience we've all had at one point or another. Just asking or hearing a question phrased a certain way produces an almost palpable feeling of discovery and new understanding. Questions produce the lightbulb effect. 

One of my favorite parts of this book had "the lightbulb effect" for me:
Clearly, technology will have answers covered - so we will no longer need to fill our heads with those answers as much as we once did, bringing to mind a classic Einstein story. A reporter doing an interview concludes by asking Einstein for his phone number, and Einstein reaches for a nearby phone book.  While Einstein is looking up his own number in the book, the reporter asks why such a smart man can't remember it. Einstein explains that there's no reason to fill his mind with information that can so easily be looked up.

 As well as this bit about Seth Godin and education:
Godin and others believe that in attempting to modernize old models of schooling, we should start by asking some basic questions about purpose. Godin offers up this query as a starting point: What are schools for? (That question  could also be phrased as Why are we sending kids to school in the first place?)
Stop to consider Godin's question, although there's no one answer to it, many would agree that at least part of the answer could be summed up as "To prepare students to be productive citizens in the twenty-first century." 
That, in turn, raises another fundamental question: What kind of preparation does the modern workplace and society demand of its citizens - i.e., what kind of skills, knowledge, and capabilities are needed to be productive and thrive?

With beautiful questions leading to more beautiful questions, we are off and running. Now, this is a conversation of which I would love to be a part. 

I will leave you with these beautiful questions to get you started:

"What do you want to say?"

"Why does it need to be said?"

"What if you could say it in a way that has never before been done?"

"How might you do that?"

Saturday, March 8, 2014

women make it happen

Today is International Women's Day. 
Invest in women, because women make it happen!

Check out what women are building on Kiva

Thursday, March 6, 2014

simple buddhist monk

“With our thoughts, we make our world,” he said. “Our mind is central and precedes our deeds. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you like a shadow that never leaves.”

His favorite prayer which he told lawmakers he says daily to give him inner strength:

“I am asking to serve humanity. As long as space remains and as long as beings remain, until then may I, too, remain and help dispel the misery of the world,” he said.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

a beautiful story of compassion, kindness and love

This weekend I read The Good Luck of Right Now, the second adult novel by Matthew Quick. (His first was The Silver Linings Playbook). I absolutely loved it. The book takes form as a series of letters written to Richard Gere… "Dear Mr. Richard Gere,".

From the jacket:

"Call it fate. Call it synchronicity. Call it an act of God. Call it . . . The Good Luck of Right Now. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook comes an entertaining and inspiring tale that will leave you pondering the rhythms of the universe and marveling at the power of kindness and love."

Our unlikely hero is 38 year-old Bartholomew Neil who has always lived with his mother until her death from cancer. Bartholomew thinks he has found a clue to rebuilding his life without his mother when he discovers a "Free Tibet" letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother's underwear drawer.

And, so, this is how Bartholomew Neil, Richard Gere, the Dalai Lama, Carl Jung, the Catholic Church, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy all somehow come together to form a beautiful story of compassion, kindness and love.