geek speak

Modern investment in math and science education requires the subjects to evolve. Most of that evolution should be in the language and culture to make it more connected to society.

Historically, math and science have had their own language, so to speak. Geek speak – complex phrases and nerdy nomenclature have made it a world in which one must be “admitted” (no pun intended, although it surely can be crazy).

I’ve spent the past three years in a technical and scientific environment, and the majority of my academic years with strong focus in math and science. It’s clear to me that bubbles form from which the admitted can rarely escape. That’s because there is a standard by which many professors, scientists, mathematicians, and researchers live and it includes living the language of their subject. But for me, the teachers and mentors that have had the greatest impact on me were those that could speak plain English to me while still teaching the concepts and theorems without loss of transmitted information. They successfully connected plain English with geek speak.

Naturally, within any subject, company, or even group of friends, it’s expected for a lexicon to be developed and learned. It’s important for that standard dictionary of terms and phrases to exist as it creates the social networks and communities that fuel collaborative innovation. But again, those bubbles need to have a more permeable film, to allow a constant admission of newbies no longer deterred by a language barrier.

A recent Sept 2009 Wired Magazine article talks about this, particularly for those in middle and high school. Author Daniel Roth states, “If we want to reform education, we have to make it cool to be a geek.” This is exactly the point. Connect the notion of fitting in with the realms of math and science by connecting the languages and the culture at specific educational levels. If nerdiness can become a part of everyday life, the bubble will not only expand but the film will become more permeable. The positive results will be seen in technological advancement, discovery, and common understanding.

To conclude, the ability to communicate complex concepts and theorems in a way that’s easily understood by a new learner is essential. It’s essential for building a more connected society – one with greater educational opportunity and understanding. In other words, the societal congruence at time t will optimize the combinatorial pathways for achievement at time t+1.

on creativity

Overview


It’s imperative that curriculums (especially for early education) are built on more than just core subject matter. They also need to be strongly founded upon core ideals, values, and principles. The teaching of such values (although much harder to guide, manage, and track) is absolutely essential to the intellectual growth and prosperity of emerging generations.
What values are most important to push early in a child’s development? Honesty & trust. Altruism & empathy. Individuality & originality. Happiness & humor. Confidence & faith. Creativity & innovation. Innovation & creativity. Creativity!

I’ve posted about holistic education before and creativity is one of the three main pillars of such education – It’s seen in the SunWALK model of holistic education as “one of the three intrapersonal ‘primary colours’ or modes of engagement, of the human spirit, that are utilized in facing, individually and interpersonally, progressively more challenging tasks to nurture the development of abilities.”

Creativity is essential to the development of other abilities and the fundamental ability to engage/interact with people, nature, and the world in which we live. It’s from creativity that the purest dreams and ideas are born.

Definitions


So how is creativity defined? Let’s look…

Wikipedia: “Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity is fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight.”

Children’s Health Encyclopedia: “Creativity is the ability to think up and design new inventions, produce works of art, solve problems in new ways, or develop an idea based on an original, novel, or unconventional approach.”

Some more definitions can be found at a great post by Dr. Leslie Owen Wilson of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point “On Defining Creativity”.

It’s important to note that creativity and intelligence are not synonymous. There are plenty of studies addressing possible correlation between IQ and creativity, but the main point is that with a positive surrounding environment and culture, we must believe creativity can exist in any individual of any level of intelligence.

Qualities

  • Impulsivity and spontaneity – Just do it! / Just think it!
  • Nonconformity (not going with the majority) – Stray from the beaten path.
  • Courage – Naturally be unafraid of trying new things.
  • Self-Confidence – Have no susceptibility to peer pressure.
  • Persistence – Learn when to maintain thoughts or set thoughts aside.
  • Balance – Convergent / divergent thinking – Learn to hypothesize, speculate, and evaluate multiple conclusions while reserving the ability to logically find and support a single conclusion.
  • The “One Brain” Concept – Right brain thinking and left brain thinking together are the best engine of creativity.
Some Take-Aways

  • Need to create good inner resources in children. Multi-dimensionality is key.
  • Give children an active role in their own learning.
  • Educators need to be aware of the “blocks to creativity” or things that can interfere with it. SunWALK says there are two types of blocks: Environmental (the lack of a motivating physical surrounding, trustworthy acquaintances, or positive leadership) and Cultural (the fear of making bad choices, lack of an appetite for chaos, and the general lack of enthusiasm). It should be noted that the positive case of “blocks” would be that Environment and Culture become “enablers” of creativity.
  • In order to foster creativity in schools, education should be based on the discovery of knowledge and the development of critical attitudes, rather than on the passive absorption of knowledge.

Simple Creativity Exercises

  1. Spell all the letters of the alphabet using letters other than the one you are spelling. Now try it without using any vowels. CAY-YII-FEE-EYE-EHDT (that ‘N’ was very hard)
  2. Draw an adjective, act a noun, describe a verb.
  3. Create an equation that has never before been created. Describe its elements, fundamentals, and purpose.
  4. Contemplate a newly-shaped earth. What would a cubed earth be like? What if the world really was flat? How would business, transportation, politics, weather, etc change?

Quotes

  • “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” – Erich Fromm
  • “The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “Creativity is the ability to see relationships where none exist.” — Thomas Disch
  • “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook
  • “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
  • “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” — Joseph Chilton Pierce
  • “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” — Goethe
  • “To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” –Osho
  • “We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own and other’s people’s models, learn to be ourselves and allow our natural channel to open.” — Shakti Gawain
  • “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” – Einstein
  • “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” – George Bernard Shaw

find a voice

find a voice that makes you loud
for those refusing to hear
a voice that binds the friends you find
with those that aren’t quite so dear

find a voice that makes you proud
to shout out the feelings within
a voice that’s strong and never wrong
expression is always a win

find a voice that sets the tone
for those that walk by your side
a voice that carries a friend in need
or a stranger who’s trying to hide

find a voice that makes you known
to those not wanting to learn
the echoes will carry, the thoughts will remain
a flame that forever will burn

aspiration pathways

First of all, I believe that you should never grow up. Never. Be a kid at heart, always. Age is just a reference point and should not characterize who you are. Sure it identifies how long ago you were born, but not your level of maturity, your accomplishments, or your potential.
That being said, it’s funny to see how one has changed over time. Many times, the first question you are asked as a kid is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m sure I’ve had some pretty crazy answers, some that stretched my mind and some that were just meant to make my parents mad. Omitting some (astronaut, inventor, game show host, chef) here are some of my job desires as they have changed over time.
You’ll see doctor was in late high school and early college, then disappeared quickly. Fireman has lingered since the local fire captain (Mr. Fioretti) had me demo stop, drop, & roll in kindergarten. Athlete took a natural parabolic trip through adolescence and tailed into my twenties. Ruler of the world was on an obvious decline since conception as more and more barriers to that role popped up. Professor has been on a steady incline, as is being an educator of any kind. And with that, being an adsideologist skyrocketed early in college as I truly hope I can spend the rest of my life helping others learn and gain a comfortable understanding of life and the world.
It’s also interesting to find the ages at which the most paths changed, and where the paths changed the most. College was obviously a pretty turbulent time regarding aspirations, as it probably was for most who have gone through it. Steep slopes and frequent intersections of these aspiration pathways. A great thing perhaps, as the times of greatest change can be the most valuable learning experience.
So how about you? What do your aspiration pathways look like?

gaining strength from weakness

One of my favorite exercises is to take a quote, phrase, idiom, or saying and digest it in every way possible. It’s an exercise that builds upon existing cognition to create new ideas and thoughts. The internal lines of thought leave the individual with a new network of philosophical pathways from which some amazing self-realizations can be gleaned. From a quote comes a new concept, from that concept comes a good memory, from that memory a connection is made, and from that connection an appreciation is built. That’s the breadcrumb trail of thought.

“Our strength grows out of our weakness.” – Emerson

Although not complex in structure, vocabulary, or tone, I enjoy this quote because its simplicity allows diverse interpretation. Emerson connects two antonyms as if they were a pair, complements to each other, one needing the other. And so it goes…

Immediate questions: What are my weaknesses? When did I realize they were weaknesses? Am I weak compared to others or compared to my own understanding of standards? How does one define standards in relation to characteristics? Have my standards changed with my changing abilities or with my realization of new weaknesses? What is my most recent weakness? What is my biggest weakness? Are all weaknesses able to be improved upon? Are there universal weaknesses or only individual ones? What is the most common weakness?
Let’s integrate: If I can somehow build upon the set of all my weaknesses from the time I was born until yesterday (or up to a second ago for purposes of true continuity), with what would I be left at this exact moment? Emerson says it’s strength, and I wholeheartedly agree, simply because I know we all have the capacity to learn. Our greatest trait is our capacity to learn. Learning gives us reason to try again. Learning gives us reason to move on. Learning gives us reason to find possibility. Learning gives us hope for tomorrow. Learning trumps failure.

Here’s a scenario: Consider a set of X functions, abilities, processes, and tactics with which we are all equally born. On day 1, they all exist as unrealized weaknesses. With each experience had and the capacity to learn, an individual has two possibilities: turn an unrealized weakness to a realized strength, or realize weakness and create a new realized strength. Over time, the original set of X expands as new strengths are added and the overall dynamic changes as weaknesses grow into strengths. The result is that from day 1, the number of realized strengths will always equal or exceed the number of realized weaknesses. In other words, as a result of their complementary nature, the proportion of strength to weakness almost always increases.

Wow – what a great realization that is! Rather than despise that which we cannot achieve, instead we must harness our weaknesses, grow to accept them and adapt to them, and find ways to learn from them. With that alone we’ll grow stronger every day.

Image 1: Chet Phillips – “Thought Process”

bogeys and birdies

Sports are great because they are all so unique. The rules, methods, people, challenges, results, rewards, feelings, and takeaways are all different depending on what you’re playing, who you’re playing with, and the level at which you are playing it.

Although I don’t play it nearly as much as I wish I could, I find golf to be one of the most intriguing and rewarding experiences. Here’s why:

The Pace – Slow and relaxing, there’s plenty of time to think about each shot and take in the surroundings.
The Science – Angles, calculations, rolls, spins, trajectories, and slopes all make it a mind game as much as it is a physical one.

The Atmosphere – With the aura around the clubhouse, concentration on each individual shot, and the interaction with nature, it’s always refreshing and relaxing.
The Landscape – The surroundings are always different with so many possibilities with weather, time, and season. Even on some cheaper public courses, the hills, trees, and sand always make an invigorating, lively piece of art and nature.
The Anticipation – Every shot might be the best shot. I sometimes freeze myself up before hitting a 8 or 9 iron because I begin to think I’m lined up so perfectly that I’m going to sink it. Then I’m already thinking about my reaction if I sink it. Then I can’t shoot at all and need to re-think my shot all over again. It’s a fun cycle of anticipation and anxiety.
The Goosebumps – Phil jumping after sinking his putt on 18 at the 2004 Masters. Tiger’s chip-in on 16 at the 2005 Masters. Goosebumps every time.

The Party – You can’t beat golfing with good friends… having good conversation, a good opportunity to meet new people, a good opportunity to build relationships, and a good opportunity to enjoy some beers, dogs, seeds, and cigars.
The Luck – I’m convinced that it’s not a purely mechanical game. There are some things you cannot calculate, such as the wind 75 yards away and 100 feet up or the surface moisture or dead spot 10 yards from the green. Therefore the rest of the game is filled in by luck – good bounces, rolls, gusts, and magical forces.
The Rules – It’s a game of honor, patience, and etiquette, and therefore helps guide life lessons. Noonan

The Unattainable – One always can improve. There is always more to learn, and every game is different. It never gets old and tomorrow is a new day. No one has ever hit an ace or eagle on every hole and that should make you strive to keep playing and improving. Most people have never hit an ace, and that alone gets me out there with excitement each time.

I’ll end with the best advice on golf I’ve received, from my cousin Kenny… Go through the same routine before and during every shot. Same steps, thoughts, swings, pauses, breaths, and time. With consistency comes improvement (and more manageable mistakes).
The Zen philosopher Basho once wrote, “A flute with no holes is not a flute. A donut with no hole is a danish.”
Photo 1: My whacked out swing at Rock Creek Golf Course, great photography from Benny T.
Photo 2: East Potomac (Blue) Golf Course on 5/30/2009, with my favorite tree in the world in world in front (Japanese Red Maple) and a nice Weeping Willow in the back left.

balancing education

Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning.” 

– Ron Miller, founder of the journal “Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice”

In my post titled “adsideology 2 and the one brain” I talk about the rise in interdisciplinary subjects and departments in higher education, and the need for the same in the K-12 educational system. Driving “thought mixtures” at an earlier age begins to weld the foundations of math, english, history, etc. while expanding the intellectual capacity of individuals at a young, developmental stage. Making connections for a new perspective of the world will better position the individual and those around the individual to find meaning, value, and purpose in life.

I think that’s why there needs to be a more balanced educational system. I’m not getting into the politics, inefficiencies, and the educational and opportunistic gaps that currently exist throughout the world, but am sticking to the foundation of education systems in general for now. Holistic education involves an understanding that self-actualization and the development of one’s character comes through different means and speeds. The grade number doesn’t matter, but building upon yesterday and striving for a better tomorrow does.

There needs to be more holistic education in the developmental years. The current K-12 education system emphasizes the teaching of facts, rules, skills, and discipline. However, it is missing the necessary methods of transformative learning and experiential learning. Sure, plenty of schools these days act as a community and teach about human interaction. But too much focus is on subject pillars and meeting quantifiable goals. The verticals, although important, need to be connected with horizontal layers of experience that encompass the facts and skills learned in the classroom. More emphasis should be put in teaching compassion, peace, self-respect, self-esteem, and community involvement. In my post titled “wearing other people’s shoes” I talk a bit about transformative learning and why that’s important for personal growth. A change in perspective can sometimes make all the difference, and that notion should be introduced at a young age.
I want to make it clear that holistic education is just one approach to a very large issue in education but by no means is the solution. The solution involves a balance in educational concepts and methods, and this balance should be institutionalized in the school system. A mesh of traditional, holistic, and other educational approaches is more dynamic. This allows for optimization of resources and methods for each individual student.
In the end, it’s the experiences and the relationships that make us who we are. It’s who and what we impact, not what we know. Understanding this at the earliest age will most certainly result in a life of significance, personal happiness, and community prosperity.
“Good grades show you’ve done your work; great deeds show you’ve learned your lessons.”
-Me
i. Top picture is the SunWALK pedagogical model of holistic education, by Dr. Roger Prentice. 
Arts, Science, Humanities + Creativity, Criticality, Caring.
ii. Bottom picture is from a Wake Alternative Break (WAB) trip I led in Spring 2005 to Virginia Beach. We were fortunate to work with the local parks & rec dept to clean up some parks and tutor in a local school. Good times.