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.

data visualization

The visualization of data exists at the intersection of art, science, and technology. The absence of one of these inputs leaves the viewer unsatisfied in terms of both comprehension and stimulation.

It takes both hemispheres of the brain to produce a truly outstanding graphic – a mesh of logical and analytical components with intuition and creativity. Creators must know the basics of audience, tone, color, consistency, and purpose while understanding technical and scientific limitations of particular data analyses and visualization methods/tools. Creators must also be their own best critic, and be able to ask the right questions at the right time. When done correctly, a final result should bring engaged thinking and meaning to a viewer, no matter how simple the underlying objective.

That being said, I wanted to post some interesting data viz resources to hopefully inspire new creativity and awareness around data visualization. Those are listed below. As a note, some were listed in the latest issue of AmstatNews (monthly publication for the American Statistical Association). All descriptions are from the respective websites and/or other related web resources.

Websites
Flowing Data – FlowingData explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better – mainly through data visualization. Money spent, reps at the gym, time you waste, and personal information you enter online are all forms of data. How can we understand these data flows? Data visualization lets non-experts make sense of it all.
Gallery of Data Visualization – This Gallery of Data Visualization displays some examples of the best and worst of statistical graphics, with the view that the contrast may be useful, inform current practice, and provide some pointers to both historical and current work.
Gapminder – Gapminder is a non-profit venture promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by increased use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels.
Graph Jam – Music & culture for people who love charts. Some recent posts include “Ways I spent my time while playing Oregon Trail in elementary school” and “Things that the Pinball Wizard does”.
IBM Many Eyes – As part of IBM’s Collaborative User Experience research group, the Many Eyes lab explores information visualizations that help people collectively make sense of data.
Information Aesthetics – Inspired by Lev Manovich’s definition of “information aesthetics”, this weblog explores the symbiotic relationship between creative design and the field of information visualization. More specifically, it collects projects that represent data or information in original or intriguing ways.
Junk Charts – Recycling chartjunk as junk art.
Marumushi Newsmap – Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap’s objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.
NameVoyager/NameMapper – This is the online home of Laura Wattenberg, author of the bestselling book The Baby Name Wizard and creator of award-winning tools that have helped the world look at baby names in a whole new way. Check NameVoyager and NameMapper which show temporal and geographic representations of any name in a simple, intuitive interface.
Optical Illusions and Visual Phenomena – Easy to spend lots of time here. These pages demonstrate visual phenomena, and ‘optical’ or ‘visual’ illusions. The latter is more appropriate, because most effects have their basis in the visual pathway, not in the optics of the eye.
Prefuse – Prefuse is an extensible software framework for helping software developers create interactive information visualization applications using the Java programming language. It can be used to build standalone applications, visual components embedded in larger applications, and web applets. Prefuse intends to greatly simplify the processes of representing and efficiently handing data, mapping data to visual representations (e.g., through spatial position, size, shape, color, etc), and interacting with the data. Flare is particularly cool.
Tableau Software Blog – Official blog for Tableau Software, a data visualization software company headquartered in Seattle. I’ve used Tableau Desktop for a few years now and can’t live without it now.
The Work of Edward Tufte and Graphics Press – Official Edward Tufte site. He is an American statistician and Professor Emeritus of statistics, information design, interface design, and political economy at Yale University. He has been described by some as “the da Vinci of Data”.
UC Berkeley Visualization Papers – A listing of papers from the visualization lab at UC Berkeley, from today back to 1995.
Visualization of Complex Networks – This site intends to be a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks. The project’s main goal is to leverage a critical understanding of different visualization methods, across a series of disciplines, as diverse as Biology, Social Networks or the World Wide Web.

Well-Formed Data, Elastic Lists Demo – This is a demonstration of the “elastic list” principle for browsing multi-faceted data structures. There are additional options to create sparkline charts to show the temporal aspects of the data.
Papers / Presentations
7 Things You Should Know About Data Visualization – EduCause Learning Initiative
Artistic Data Visualization: Beyond Visual Analytics – Viégas & Wattenberg, IBM Research
Designing Great Visualizations – Jock Mackinlay, Tableau Software
Milestones in the History of Data Visualization – Friendly & Denis, York University

wearing other people’s shoes

It’s just as easy to get tunnel vision as it is to be blinded by the light. And most of the time, these metaphors hit us hand-in-hand. That’s why it’s imperative that we find a way to step back from the lives we live and experience the minds and lives of others. We all need to live in perspective of neighbors, a community, a country, a world, a universe, and beyond – the positive impact on health, compassion, and a greater good are infinitely realizable.

I find myself stuck in my own head quite often. Not that my cognition has devilish control over my body and soul, but I frequently think about my life, my goals, my history, my future, my lunch, my finances, my vision, my health, my hobbies,… well, you get the point. That tunnel vision not only limits my knowledge of and interaction with the outside world, but also puts me in a dangerous position to hit a one-way mental road block. I can only find opportunity to avoid that road block if I create the highways, byways, and multi-directional pathways through which I can creatively navigate.

Adsideology encapsulates that notion of universalism – that most concepts are applicable to all people. This isn’t an all-encompassing theory by any means, but rather a concept of wearing other people’s shoes. I exist as does the person next to me, and I make decisions as does the person next to him or her. My life exists not in a vacuum, but in alignment with the lives of billions of others. We all have obstacles and achievements, goals and passions, ups and downs. The realization of all those other feelings helps contextualize the life I live and it’s not until I am standing in someone else’s shoes that I can more clearly see the footprints that I am making. Lose the tunnel vision, blind yourself with compassion, and jump in someone else’s shoes – you’ll be a better person for doing so.

adsideology 2 and the one brain

At the intersection of science, religion, politics, and philosophy you’ll find some quality, creative thought. I find it interesting that there exist discrete boundaries between these subjects, although these boundaries have traditionally existed between all subjects. That being said, over the past several years it’s clear that many major universities are fuzzifying these boundaries through interdisciplinary departments, research positions, and classes. This is necessary to weld together the right brains of new experts and forward thinkers around the world (with, of course, the logistical, process-oriented, left-directed thinkers that still power much of our world). Let’s call it the One Brain concept – similar to the One Medicine, One World, One Nation, and other Onenessisms developed in recent times.

Adsideology is very much a One Brain idea. It’s not a religion, it’s not a science, it’s not a political belief, and it’s not a personal stance. It’s just a concept that brings together a lot of thoughts and ideas that make me happy and healthy as a human being. With that in mind, I hope to share my thoughts in an effort to drive positive, creative thought in you, hopefully resulting in the same happiness and health that I see in my life.

Back to the fuzzification of subject boundaries, there does need to be more of an effort to drive interdisciplinary thought at a younger age. College classes in “Physics and Philosophy” are certainly good, but those types of thought mixtures need to occur at an earlier age. As the right-brain world emerges as the driver of disruptive technologies, innovative thinking, and new creative logic, this direction should be fostered in early developmental stages of life – in school, at home, at church, on tv, in music, through art, at dinner, and everywhere your one big brain may venture.

I’ll leave you with a poem written by Piet Hein who was a Danish mathematician, physicist, philosopher, writer and creator of puzzles and games:

The Paradox of Life:

A bit beyond perception’s reach
I sometimes believe I see
that Life is two locked boxes, each
containing the other’s key.

on color

Color is an aspect of everyone. Everything you do involves color. Even if you can’t see it, you can always feel it, smell it, hear it, and even think it. Think about the sun and you think blazing hot orange, the soothing heat, glowing sky, radiating warmth, sometimes dry air, sometimes humid and dense air. Think about baseball and you think bold green grass contrasted with light sandy dirt, the bold uniform colors, the red seams gripping your fingers as they are protruding from the ball, the crack of the wooden bat as the white ball contrasts through the blue summer sky. You get the point – and you can do this with any color or object or verb or thought.

The idea is that color is critical in development of a healthy psyche. The education/schooling system (along with the home) need to leverage color to stimulate the mind and ensure children are absorbing what they are being taught, in the environment which surrounds them.

Research in color can go a long way. I found an interesting synopsis of a study done within a School Planning and Management group. It talks about developing positive color schemes within schools at appropriate age groups and within appropriate subject areas. For example, the primary colors that work with young children aren’t so fashionable for the mind of a teenager. Teens want the cool colors of ultramarine, baby blue, orange, etc. The article also talks about using variety in color, using contrasting colors to make an effective presentation, and trying not to over-stimulate the student.

In my opinion, color should be a part of every lesson plan, and engaging the mind in this manner is essential to developing the balance in psyche that leads to a happy and healthy society.

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”
– John Ruskin

the power of context

Well I’m truly working on reading for pleasure more often. I’m generally seasonal in my reading: I’ll go through weeks of consistent, nightly reading, followed by periods of addictions to Good Eats and Unwrapped (11pm and 11:30pm on Food Network) without reading. Oh well, both are fun, quality decompressors before hittin’ the hay…

That being said, I’ll hopefully post some excerpts from books I’m reading and try to provide some of my original insight if it’s not too weird.

Right now I’m trying to finish up Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, which talks about the social epidemics that surround us in our lives (e.g. Blue Clue’s and NYC crime in 1980’s and 1990’s). The book digests the onset of such epidemics into three rules: The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. You can read into these more on Gladwell’s own site and/or on Wikipedia which does a decent job of explaining the book.

With respect to The Power of Context, Gladwell says that human behavior is strongly influenced by the situational environment. For the NYC example, crime dropped when graffiti was cleaned off subway cars and fare-cheaters were booked. As the environment was cleaned, so were the behaviors of potential criminals.

In particular, I enjoy Gladwell’s relation of The Power of Context to Walter Mischel’s (Dept of Psych, Columbia / Wikipedia) research on personality psychology. Mischel’s research speaks to how people tend to perceive and define other people in simplified ways, such as aggressive, kind, honest, or patient. However, in reality we are all complex, multifaceted individuals who respond in different ways at different times depending on the dynamic elements of our environment (who we are with, what we are doing, where we are, when we are doing it).

To put this simpler, a person is not independent and mischievous on one day, and warm, honest, and dependent on the next day, but rather he/she is independent, mischievous, warm, honest, and dependent all together – and the impression given, of any of these traits and at any singular moment, is highly dependent upon the situation and the environment, or the context.

Pretty neat stuff – I guess it’s nice to see correlating theories and practical examples rolled up together.

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.”
– Joe Ancis

mind-bend it like beckham

I’ve played soccer for pretty much my entire life. According to some quick calculations, I’ve probably spent almost 10,000 hours around soccer (practices, camps, indoors, outdoors, games, high school, middle school, intramurals, adult leagues, premier teams, district teams, travel teams, tournaments, refereeing, etc.). That’s equivalent to over 400 full days – over a year if I played all day/night (which sometimes I think I did).

Now considering I’m 24, that means about 1/24th of my life has been on the soccer field. To put that in perspective, I probably eat for 1.5 hours a day which would be 1/16th of my day. Therefore, eating and soccer combined have taken more than 1/10th of my life. Subtract sleeping, school, and work, and how much free time did I really have for a bat and turkey catching club (P.A.B.A.T.)?

The point is that I love the game. One must be physical but sensitive, dynamic yet passive, and logical yet imaginative in order to be a complete player. This balance of attributes while being prepared mentally will always make someone an asset to their team.

I think most of all it’s the pre-game mental preparation and in-game mind-reading that make it so much fun (and I’m talking not just of your opponents, but of your own players too). Studying the other team means identifying stand-out players or leaders and recognizing weaknesses in formation. Studying your team means knowing players’ strengths, weaknesses, and most of all, tendencies. You should be able to move as a cohesive unit and almost play blindly – the best teams I’ve been on have been where I can pass the ball without looking, knowing someone will be there who will know what I am expecting them to do with it.

While in the game, it’s about reading minds of players. Anticipation and probabilistic expectation play huge roles in gaining an advantage on the other team. A quick analysis of 2 connected passes should lead you to forecast subsequent moves based on the prior movements of nearby players.

It’s true, soccer is math, and really I mean it. Optimize your position and forecast movements based on prior states – all from looking at someone else’s eyes, hearing their communication, and most of all, intuition based on thousands of hours of experience. It’s pretty simple.

“The scoreboard never lies but it rarely tells the whole truth.”