Archive for March, 2008

Metaphors be with you

March 31, 2008

The other day my sister called me to complain about a Photoshop class that she is taking. She said that the instructor catered to a few students, went too fast and used a lot of jargon and geek-speak. Now, I know that my sister is no slouch and that she should be able to succeed in this class. I began to ask her what and how he is teaching, which got me reflecting on the use of metaphors in learning. Howard Gardner writes about learning and multiple intelligences and how each type of intelligence has its’ own nomenclature and dialect, such as the dialect of art, the dialect of music, or the dialect of science. Metaphors can act as translation devices for translating and interpreting an idea from one type of intelligence to another. Photoshop for example is a complex and powerful application with tools and processes that may seem familiar but are unique to this application and can be confusing to the novice user and learner. The use of metaphors from other disciplines can help build bridges for understanding the icons, tools and processes of the application.Perhaps this is like inserting poetry into the science of technology. I began to review the class material with my sister using metaphors and descriptors that were fairly jargon-free (or at least jargon-lite), such as comparing the layers palette as overlaying layers of glass, each with a portion of a complete image. She got it. It made me think of how the instructor was working. There may be good intentions, but he may be more in love with his words rather then the learners grasp of the material. But to give him the benefit of the doubt, he may also be so enthusiastic with the material that he overlooks the primary goal, which is to empower the learner to learn.

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My visit to BACMA

March 31, 2008

I finally made it to the new BACMA wing of LACMA yesterday. It is pretty fun. There is a room dedicated to Jeffery Koons that seems to be channeling Warhol (in the next room), but his 15′ metal sculpture of an inflatable balloon dog is pretty happy and the large, shiny easter egg is very beautiful. There is on Tansey in the exhibit ( a long time favorite of mine) as well as a room of a couple  Richard Serra’s that are really delightful. You really need to be inside of it too. Also, there is a fun Chris Burden installation of city lights that you can wander in, but the 40′ long (more or less)  Koon’s toy fire truck has a fence around it, which I think is a waste of sculpture. I mean, it is just crying to be climbed on. Oh well. 

Listening to Richard Branson

March 27, 2008

On my way home from work today I listened to a very interesting interview with Richard Branson. The interview was a podcast from the TED conference of March 2007. Branson is raconteur with a self-depreciating manner that belies the talents and skills that have made him a very successful businessman (and a multi-billionaire).

His talk is inspirational and covers learning, education, exploration, business and social responsibility, (something that he calls capitalist philanthropy). Branson is open about dyslexia that forced him to leave school at the age of 15. His teacher at the time said that he would be either be a millionaire or in jail when he grew up. He talks about loving to learn and having an insatiable curiosity about things. He can learn only about things that interest him- if it does not, well forget it. This problem has not prevented him from succeeding in business. He identified one of his most important practices is to hire people who know more than him and let them do their thing- his job is to inspire, guide and learn. He has learned to learn with his dyslexia and knows when to ask and how to ask. He says that there are still some continuing problems caused by his condition such as that despite the fact that he runs several multi-national corporations, he is still confused about the difference between “gross” and “net” incomes (he does tell about how one of his lawyers has used a visual metaphor to help him to remember the difference).

Branson also discusses how his mother wanted to insure that her children would grow up to be self-reliant, such as when he was 5 years old, she would drop him off in the middle of a field several miles from their home and let him find his way by himself. He says that he believes that children need to be coddled, showered with love and encouraged.

Another idea that he brings up is capitalist philanthropy, which seems very similar to the idea of social capitalism that is promoted by the magazine Fast Company. This idea is that successful people need to be successful by treating people and the planet right. He states that in essence the world is small and that a person’s most valuable asset is their reputation. This means that the best road to success is to be honest and treat partners, collaborators and employees with respect and dignity. Karma. And with great success comes great responsibility to give back to society and the planet.

The interview is 30 minutes long and is worth the listen.

Some Thoughts on Stories

March 27, 2008

In Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence, Roger Schank discusses the importance of personal narrative in learning. Everything that we learn and do has an associated story. Sometimes the story is about process, sometimes it relates to something more ethereal such as the environment or atmosphere that surrounded the learner at the time that they learned something. When the content needs to be remembered and applied, the individual will process and recollect the occasion that they learned and then interpret and adapt it to the situation at hand. Learning becomes a personal narrative based upon the recollection and adaptation of stories and events.

If this is so, how does it relate to day-to-day learning and creative experiences? How do we adapt this idea to a practice a practice of truly engaging learners and learning?

Perhaps that one method of learning happens in a way that is related to the Plato’s allegory of the cave of shadows- in an indirect manner. By this I mean that in order to teach a particular subject, especially a theoretical one, an instructor creates an assignment or learning adventure in which the learner addresses the through an indirect route where they are challenged to find their story by the process of the self-reflection that often happens when learning something new- especially a new technology.

First Post

March 14, 2008

Welcome to dagreenstuff, my blog to reflect, review and rant (from time to time). My primary interests are exploring the stuff, which usually relates to creativity, learning and education, art and the connections that link this all together. I am currently reading a brilliant book called “Out of our Minds” by Sir Ken Robinson. Although the book is sometimes described as being about Human Resources, it really is a critique of the schools, academia, and society. He argues that contemporary schools and education are designed for a system and society that no longer exists, based upon the early industrial revolution and that a new model must be designed for now and the future. I find that his work is similar to that of Dr. Seymour Papert. In “The Children’s Machine”, Papert postulates that if a doctor and and teacher from the late 1880’s were transported to a modern surgery and classroom, the doctor would be lost, but the teacher would feel right at home. Other professions have changed and adopted to new methods, knowledge and process, but schools are desperately lacking. Robinson writes that some of the most important skills for the future are creative thinking and collaboration.