Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes

Nadeem | | Thursday, December 16th, 2010

I really love Diana Laufenberg’s passion. The central point in this talk is about finding ways to create rich learning projects that allow kids to fail as part of the learning process, try different solutions, explore, play, inquire, draw upon each others work, and LEARN. She articulates it beautifully here:

the thing that you need to get comfortable with when you’ve given the tool to acquire information to students is that you have to be comfortable with this idea of allowing kids to fail as part of the learning process. We deal right now, in the educational landscape, with an infatuation with the culture of one right answer that can properly bubbled on the average multiple choice test and I am here to share with you … it is NOT learning. That is the absolute wrong thing to ask. To tell kids to never be wrong, to ask them to always have the right answer, doesn’t allow them to learn.

… the main point is that if we continue to look at education as if its about coming to school to get the information and not about experiential learning, empowering student voice, and embracing failure – we are missing the mark. And everything that everbody is talking about today isn’t possible if we keep having an educational system that does not value these qualities because we wont get there with the standarised test and we wont get there with the culture of one right answer.

Education is a global religion

Nadeem | | Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Charles Leadbeater went looking for radical new forms of education — and found them in the slums of Rio and Kibera, where some of the world’s poorest kids are finding transformative new ways to learn. And this informal, disruptive new kind of school, he says, is what all schools need to become.

This is a very useful short talk by Charles Leadbeater, there’s a wonderfully poignant moment in the talk when he makes the assertion that “Well, education is a global religion. And education, plus technology, is a great source of hope.” which struck me as a rather profound statement. With so much of the worlds population unable to access education through “traditional” means we are now seeing the rise of grass roots led, transformative, and potentially highly disruptive new forms of education.

How do you get learning to people when there are no teachers? As Charles suggests you have to find ways of getting learning to people through technology, people and places that are different. That’s part of the rationale behind what some of us are trying to achieve through projects like The Peer 2 Peer University.

Charles also makes a very important point about the difference between push and pull models of education:

When you go to places like this what you see is that education in these settings works by pull, not push. Most of our education system is push. I was literally pushed to school. When you get to school, things are pushed at you, knowledge, exams, systems, timetables
If you want to attract people like Juanderson who could, for instance, buy guns, wear jewelry, ride motorbikes and get girls through the drugs trade, and you want to attract him into education, having a compulsory curriculum doesn’t really make sense.

He’s also right in identifying that the reason education fails to reinvent itself is that it focuses on formal solutions that will sustain the existing institutions and establishment:find a way to do what we today better. The problem with this, of course, is that is simply doesn’t scale:

Almost all our effort goes in this box, sustaining innovation in formal settings, getting a better version of the essentially Bismarckian school system that developed in the 19th century. And as I said, the trouble with this is that, in the developing world there just aren’t teachers to make this model work. You’d need millions and millions of teachers in China, India, Nigeria and the rest of developing world to meet need. And in our system, we know that simply doing more of this won’t eat into deep educational inequalities, especially in inner-cities and former industrial areas.

So that’s why we need three more kinds of innovation. We need more reinvention. And all around the world now you see more and more schools reinventing themselves

Derek Sivers: How to start a movement

Nadeem | | Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Wonderful, brilliantly concise, 3 minute TED Talk by Derek Sivers.

“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.”

Karen Armstrong: Let’s revive the golden rule

Nadeem | | Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Being told I have to stay at home and rest is always difficult for me, I get bored very easily, so I thought I’d lye in bed and catch up with some feeds – when I came across the above talk. I’ve written about Karen Armstrong and the Golden Rule before, it was heartwarming to listen to her talk, she has so much passion and faith and hope for a better world, which I find inspiring. I know some people will argue about the practicalities of the Charter for Compassion which Karen is talking about. For me though, as a sentiment, as an ideal, or even as a hope I think its a beautifully simple and wonderful idea.

But it requires a change in each of us, which makes me wonder whether I’m strong enough to make that change.

Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation

Nadeem | | Friday, August 28th, 2009

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

A very useful and thought provoking talk, Dan does well in describing the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and if nothing else it should force you pause and reflect for a moment on what actually motivates you.

Philip Zimbardo prescribes a healthy take on time

Nadeem | | Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo says happiness and success are rooted in a trait most of us disregard: the way we orient toward the past, present and future. He suggests we calibrate our outlook on time as a first step to improving our lives

Interestingly enough having recently re-read George Lakoff’s Metaphors We Live By , Zimbardo’s perspective seem’s to make a lot sense. Lakoff’s book also opens with a lengthy discussion of how the ways we talk about time influence the decisions that we make: time is money, time is a resource, time is moving, etc. he also goes on to discuss how much our mindset, which is shaped by culture, affects our decisions. Not entirely sure how comfortable I am with Zimbardo’s thesis on the optimal temporal mix, although at first glance it seems to make perfect sense:

So, very quickly, what is the optimal time profile? High on past-positive. Moderately high on future. And moderate on present-hedonism. And always low on past-negative and present-fatalism. So the optimal temporal mix is what you get from the past — past-positive give you roots. You connect your family, identity and your self. What you get from the future is wings to soar to new destinations, new challenges. What you get from the present hedonism is the energy, the energy to explore yourself, places, people, sensuality.

Any time perspective in excess has more negatives than positives. What do futures sacrifice for success? They sacrifice family time. They sacrifice friend time. They sacrifice fun time. They sacrifice personal indulgence. They sacrifice hobbies. And they sacrifice sleep. So it affects their health. And they live for work, achievement and control. I’m sure that resonates with some of the TEDsters.

Zimbardo seemed to be rushing along very fast which is probably why its taking time to fully appreciate his ideas, yet there is something that resonates deeply within me. What do others think?

Seth Godin on the tribes we lead

Nadeem | | Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Seth Godin argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change. He urges us to do so.

This is a great talk by Seth Godin, here’s how he describes Tribes …

What tribes are, is a very simple concept that goes back 50 thousand years. It’s about leading and connecting people and ideas. And it’s something that people have wanted forever. Lots of people are used to having a spiritual tribe, or a church tribe, having a work tribe, having a community tribe. But now, thanks to the internet, thanks to the explosion of mass media, thanks to a lot of other things that are bubbling through our society around the world, tribes are everywhere.

The internet was supposed to homogenize everyone by connecting us all. Instead what it’s allowed is silos of interest. So you’ve got the red-hat ladies over here. You’ve got the red-hat triathletes over there. You’ve got the organized armies over here. You’ve got the disorganized rebels over here. You’ve got people in white hats making food. And people in white hats sailing boats. The point is that you can find Ukrainian folk dancers. And connect with them … You can tell when you’re running into someone in a tribe. And it turns out that it’s tribes, not money, not factories, that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will. But because they wanted to connect … That what we do for a living now, all of us, I think, is find something worth changing, and then assemble tribes that assemble tribes that spread the idea and spread the idea. And it becomes something far bigger than ourselves.

The talk resonates deeply with me at the moment particularly given that I’m currently thinking long and hard about what leadership actually means, how to build teams, what to look for when recruiting people, how to ensure everyone feels that they are empowered and that their contributions are valued. However the more I think about it the more I’m beginning to believe that whilst its possible to create an environment in which people can have the freedom to affect change it ultimately requires the individual to first believe in what they are doing, to have committed to it and to the people around them. They will then want to move things forward, improve things, affect real change and want to break the status quo. Seth crystallizes this sentiment beautifully in this talk when he says …

What all these people have in common is that they are heretics. That heretics look at the status quo and say, This will not stand. I can’t abide this status quo. I am willing to stand up and be counted and move things forward. I see what the status quo is. I don’t like it. That instead of looking at all the little rules and following each one of them, that instead of being what I call a sheepwalker, somebody who’s half asleep, following instructions, keeping their head down, fitting in, every once in a while someone stands up and says, “Not me.” Someone stands up and says, “This one is important. We need to organize around it.” And not everyone will. But you don’t need everyone. You just need a few people (Laughter) who will look at the rules, realize they make no sense, and realize how much they want to be connected.



You don’t need permission from people to lead them. But in case you do, here it is. They’re waiting, we’re waiting for you to show us where to go next. So here is what leaders have in common. The first thing is, they challenge the status quo. They challenge what’s currently there. The second thing is, they build a culture. A secret language, a seven second handshake. A way of knowing that you’re in or out. They have curiosity. Curiosity about people in the tribe. Curiosity about outsiders. They’re asking questions. They connect people to one another. Do you know what people want more than anything? They want to be missed. They want to be missed the day they don’t show up. They want to be missed when they’re gone. And tribe leaders can do that. It’s fascinating because all tribe leaders have charisma. But you don’t need charisma to become a leader. Being a leader gives you charisma. If you look and study the leaders who have succeeded, that’s where charisma comes from, from the leading. Finally, they commit. They commit to the cause. They commit to the tribe. They commit to the people who are there.

This is a great, passionate and deeply profound talk and I recommend everyone take the time to watch it.

Linked Data and Scientific Publishing

Nadeem | | Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Tim Berners-Lee gave a talk at TED2009 on Linked Data. The slides for the talk can be found here. TED have not made this talk available for viewing yet. However part of the focus of the talk was around linking raw scientific data with existing linked data sets already out there. I’ll post a link to the talk when and if it becomes available.

What is good to see though is how closely this aligns to the work that our Xiphos division is doing and the ideas that we are experimenting with.

Great design is serious ( not solemn )

Nadeem | | Monday, January 19th, 2009

Paula Scher looks back at a life in design (she’s done album covers, books, the Citibank logo …) and pinpoints the moment when she started really having fun. Look for gorgeous designs and images from her legendary career. It’s a wonderful talk, inspiring in many ways

Moller’s SkyCar

Nadeem | | Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

This is an old TED talk but always an inspiring one. Paul Moller talks about the future of personal air travel — the marriage of autos and flight that will give us true freedom to travel off-road. He shows two things he’s working on: the Moller Skycar (a jet + car) and a passenger-friendly hovering disc.

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