robertogreco + problemsolving   274

Anne Galloway 'Speculative Design and Glass Slaughterhouses' - This is HCD
"Andy: You’ve got quite an interesting background. I’m going to ask you about in a second. I wanted to start with the quote from Ursula Le Guin that you have on your website. It’s from the Lathe of Heaven. “We’re in the world, not against it. It doesn’t work to try and stand outside things and run them that way, it just doesn’t work. It goes against life. There is a way, but you have to follow it, the world is, no matter how we think it ought to be, you have to be with it, you have to let it be.

Then on the More Than Human website, you have these three questions. What if we refuse to uncouple nature and culture? What if we deny that human beings are exceptional? What if we stop speaking and listening only to ourselves? The More Than Human lab explores everyday entanglements of humans and non-humans and imagines more sustainable ways of thinking, making, and doing. Anne, let’s get started by first talking about what do you mean by all of that?

Anne: The Ursula Le Guin quote I love mostly because a critical perspective or an activist perspective, anything that says we ought to be changing the world in any way, it always assumes that we need to fix something, that the world is broken and that designers especially are well-suited to be able to solve some of these problems. I like thinking about what it means to respond to injustice by accepting it, not in the sense of believing that it’s okay or right, because clearly, it’s been identify as unjust. I love Le Guin’s attention to the fact that there is a way to be in the world.

As soon as we think that we’re outside of it, any choices or decisions or actions that we take are, well, they sit outside of it as well. I like being embedded in the trouble. I like Donna Haraway’s idea of staying with the trouble. It’s not that we have to accept that things are problematic, but rather that we have to work within the structures that already exist. Not to keep them that way, in fact, many should be dismantled or changed. Rather, to accept that there is a flow to the universe.

Of course, Le Guin was talking about Taoism, but here what I wanted to draw attention to is often our imperative to fix or to solve or to change things comes with a belief that we’re not part of the world that we’re trying to fix and change. It’s that that I want to highlight. That when we start asking difficult questions about the world, we can never remove ourselves from them. We’re complicit, we are on the receiving end of things. We’re never distant from it. I think that subtle but important shift in deciding how we approach our work is really important."



"Andy: Yes, okay. I was thinking about this, I was reading, in conjunction, this little Le Guin quote, I was trying to think, it’s unusual in the sense that it’s a discipline or a practice of design that uses its own practice to critique itself. It’s using design to critique design in many respects. A lot of what speculative design is talking about is, look what happens when we put stuff into the world, in some way, without much thought. I was trying to think if there was another discipline that does that. I think probably in the humanities there are, and certainly in sociology I think there probably is, where it uses its own discipline to critique itself. It’s a fairly unusual setup.

Anne: I would think actually it’s quite common in the humanities, perhaps the social sciences, where it’s not common is in the sciences. Any reflexive turn in any of the humanities would have used the discipline. Historiography is that sort of thing. Applied philosophy is that sort of thing. Reflexive anthropology is that sort of thing. I think it’s actually quite common, just not in the sciences, and design often tries to align itself with the sciences instead.

Andy: Yes, there was a great piece in the Aeon the other day, about how science doesn’t have an adequate description or explanation for consciousness. Yet, it’s the only thing it can be certain of. With that, it also doesn’t really seem to come up in the technology industry that much, because it’s so heavily aligned with science. Technology, and you’ve got this background in culture studies and science and technology and society, technology is a really strong vein throughout speculative design. Indeed, your work, right? Counting sheep is about the Internet of Things, and sheep. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that and why I am talking to you from the picture things to the Lord of the Rings, it basically looks like you’re living in part of the Shire in Middle Earth?

Anne: I do live in a place that looks remarkably like the Shire. It’s a bit disconcerting at times. The science and technology question in speculative design I think is first of all a matter of convenience. Science fiction, speculation, they lean historically, habitually towards science and tech. It becomes an easy target for critique. Not that it’s not necessary, but it’s right there, so why not? There’s that element to it. It has an easier ability to be transformed into something fanciful or terrifying, which allows for certain kinds of storytelling through speculation, that I think people, both creators and audiences or readers really enjoy.

Now, the irony of all of this, of course is that arguably one of the greatest concerns that people have would be tied to technological determinism, the idea that we’re going to have these technologies anyway, so what are we going to do about it? Now, when you speculate using these technologies, what you’re doing is actually reinforcing the idea that these technologies are coming, you play right into the same technological determinism that you’re trying to critique. In fact, one of the counting sheep scenarios was designed specifically to avoid the technology. It was the one that got the most positive responses."



"Andy: With all of this, and I may this pop at the beginning, just before we were recording, that there’s a sense of, because of everything going on in the world, that if only designers could run the world, everything would be fine, right, because we can see all of the solutions to everything. What would you want designers to get out of this kind of work or this kind of perspective?

Anne: Humility. That simple. I am one of those people. It’s because of being an ethnographer as well and doing participant observation and interviewing many people and their ideas about design. I’ve run into far more people who think that designers are arrogant than ones who don’t. This has always really interested me. What is it that designers do that seems to rub non-designers the wrong way? Part of it is this sense of, or implication that they know better than the rest of us, or that a designer will come in and say, “Let me fix your problem”, before even asking if there is a problem that the person wants fixed.

I actually gave a guest lecture in a class just the other day, where I suggested that there were people in the world who thought that designers were arrogant. One of the post-graduate students in the class really took umbrage at this and wanted to know why it was that designers were arrogant for offering to fix problems, but a builder wasn’t, or a doctor wasn’t.

Andy: What was your answer?

Anne: Well, my answer was, generally speaking, people go to them first and say, “I have this problem, I need help.” Whereas, designers come up with a problem, go find people that they think have it and then tell them they’d like to solve it. I think just on a social level, that is profoundly anti-social. That is not how people enjoy socially interacting with people.

Andy: I can completely see that and I think that I would say that argument has also levelled, quite rightly, a lot of Silicon Valley, which is the answer to everything is some kind of technology engineering startup to fix all the problems that all the other technology and engineering startups that are no longer startups have created. It’s probably true of quite a lot of areas of business and finance, as well, and politics, for that matter. The counter, I could imagine a designer saying, “Well, that’s not really true”, because one of the things as human-centred designers, the first thing we do, we go out, we do design ethnography, we go and speak to people, we go and observe, we go and do all of that stuff. We really understand their problems. We’re not just telling people what needs to be fixed. We’re going there and understanding things. What’s your response to that?

Anne: Well, my first response is, yes, that’s absolutely true. There are lots of very good designers in the world who do precisely that. Because I work in an academic institution though, I’m training students. What my job involves is getting the to the point where they know the difference between telling somebody something and asking somebody something. what it means to actually understand their client or their user. I prefer to just refer to them as people. What it is that people want or need. One of the things that I offer in all of my classes is, after doing the participant observation, my students always have the opportunity to submit a rationale for no design intervention whatsoever.

That’s not something that is offered to people in a lot of business contexts because there’s a business case that’s being made. Whereas, I want my students to understand that sometimes the research demonstrates that people are actually okay, and that even if they have little problems, they’re still okay with that, that people are quite okay with living with contradictions and that they will accept some issues because it allows for other things to emerge. That if they want, they can provide the evidence for saying, “Actually, the worst thing we could do in this scenario is design anything and I refuse to design.”

Andy: Right, that and the people made trade-offs all the time because of the pain of change is much … [more]
annegalloway  design  2019  speculativefiction  designethnography  morethanhuman  ursulaleguin  livestock  agriculture  farming  sheep  meat  morethanhumanlab  activism  criticaldesign  donnaharaway  stayingwiththetrouble  taoism  flow  change  changemaking  systemsthinking  complicity  catherinecaudwell  injustice  justice  dunneandraby  consciousness  science  technology  society  speculation  speculativedesign  questioning  fiction  future  criticalthinking  whatif  anthropology  humanities  reflexiveanthropology  newzealand  socialsciences  davidgrape  powersoften  animals  cows  genevievebell  markpesce  technologicaldeterminism  dogs  cats  ethnography  cooperation  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  slow  slowness  time  perception  psychology  humility  problemsolving  contentment  presence  peacefulness  workaholism  northamerica  europe  studsterkel  protestantworkethic  labor  capitalism  passion  pets  domestication 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Why Your Brain Needs Idle Time – Elemental
"Mental idle time, meanwhile, seems to facilitate creativity and problem-solving. “Our research has found that mind-wandering may foster a particular kind of productivity,” says Jonathan Schooler, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara who has studied mind-wandering extensively. He says overcoming impasses — including what he calls “a-ha!” moments — often happen when people’s minds are free to roam.

Schooler mentions the common experience of not being able to recall a word that’s on the tip of your tongue — no matter how hard you try to think of it. But as soon as you move onto another mental task, the word pops into your head. “I think it’s very possible that some unconscious processes are going on during mind-wandering, and the insights these processes produce then bubble up to the surface,” he says.

It’s also possible that depriving the brain of free time stifles its ability to complete this unconscious work. “I think we need to recognize that the brain’s internal train of thought can be of value in itself,” Schooler says. “In the same way we can experience a sleep deficit, I think we can experience a mind-wandering deficit.”

“Many people find it difficult or stressful to do absolutely nothing,” he adds. Instead, Schooler says “non-demanding” tasks that don’t require much mental engagement seem to be best at fostering “productive” mind-wandering. He mentions activities like going for a walk in a quiet place, doing the dishes, or folding laundry — chores that may occupy your hands or body but that don’t require much from your brain.

While a wandering mind can slip into some unhelpful and unhealthy states of rumination, that doesn’t mean blocking these thoughts with constant distraction is the way to go. “I think it’s about finding balance between being occupied and in the present and letting your mind wander — [and] about thinking positive thoughts and thinking about obstacles that may stand in your way,” says Schooler.

There may be no optimal amount of time you can commit to mental freedom to strike that balance. But if you feel like it takes “remarkable effort” for you to disengage from all your favorite sources of mental stimulation, that’s probably a good sign you need to give your brain more free time, Immordino-Yang says. “To just sit and think is not pleasant when your brain is trained out of practicing that, but that’s really important for well-being,” she adds.

Frank recommends starting small — maybe take a 15-minute, distraction-free walk in the middle of your day. “You might find your world changes,” he says."
brain  jonathnschooler  idleness  2019  cognition  psychology  neuroscience  downtime  daydreaming  mindwandering  walking  quiet  chores  mentalload  cognitiveload  thinking  howwethink  epiphanies  creativity  problemsolving  mentalhealth  attention  distraction  doingnothing 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Design Thinking Movement is Absurd – Lee Vinsel – Medium
"A couple of years ago, I saw a presentation from a group known as the University Innovation Fellows at a conference in Washington, DC. The presentation was one of the weirder and more disturbing things I’ve witnessed in an academic setting.

The University Innovation Fellows, its webpage states, “empowers students to become leaders of change in higher education. Fellows are creating a global movement to ensure that all students gain the necessary attitudes, skills, and knowledge to compete in the economy of the future.” You’ll notice this statement presumes that students aren’t getting the “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they need and that, more magically, the students know what “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they themselves need for . . . the future.

The UIF was originally funded by the National Science Foundation and led by VentureWell, a non-profit organization that “funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses.” VentureWell was founded by Jerome Lemelson, who some people call “one of the most prolific American inventors of all time” but who really is most famous for virtually inventing patent trolling. Could you imagine a more beautiful metaphor for how Design Thinkers see innovation? Socially beneficial, indeed.

Eventually, the UIF came to find a home in . . . you guessed it, the d.school.

It’s not at all clear what the UIF change agents do on their campuses . . . beyond recruiting other people to the “movement.” A blog post titled, “Only Students Could Have This Kind of Impact,” describes how in 2012 the TEDx student representatives at Wake Forest University had done a great job recruiting students to their event. It was such a good job that it was hard to see other would match it the next year. But, good news, the 2013 students were “killing it!” Then comes this line (bolding and capitalization in the original):

*THIS* is Why We Believe Students Can Change the World

Because they can fill audiences for TED talks, apparently. The post goes on, “Students are customers of the educational experiences colleges and universities are providing them. They know what other students need to hear and who they need to hear it from. . . . Students can leverage their peer-to-peer marketing abilities to create a movement on campus.”

Meanwhile, the UIF blog posts with titles like, “Columbia University — Biomedical Engineering Faculty Contribute to Global Health,” that examine the creation of potentially important new things mostly focus on individuals with the abbreviation “Dr.” before their names, which is what you’d expect given that making noteworthy contributions to science and engineering typically takes years of hard work.

At its gatherings, the UIF inducts students into all kinds of innovation-speak and paraphernalia. They stand around in circles, filling whiteboards with Post-It Notes. Unsurprisingly, the gatherings including sessions on topics like “lean startups” and Design Thinking. The students learn crucial skills during these Design Thinking sessions. As one participant recounted, “I just learned how to host my own TEDx event in literally 15 minutes from one of the other fellows.”

The UIF has many aspects of classic cult indoctrination, including periods of intense emotional highs, giving individuals a special lingo barely recognizable to outsiders, and telling its members that they are different and better than ordinary others — they are part of a “movement.” Whether the UIF also keeps its fellows from getting decent sleep and feeds them only peanut butter sandwiches is unknown.

This UIF publicity video contains many of the ideas and trappings so far described in this essay. Watch for all the Post-It notes, whiteboards, hoodies, look-alike black t-shirts, and jargon, like change agents.

When I showed a friend this video, after nearly falling out of his chair, he exclaimed, “My God, it’s the Hitlerjugend of contemporary bullshit!”

Tough but fair? Personally, I think that’s a little strong. A much better analogy to my mind is Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

When I saw the University Innovation Fellows speak in Washington, DC, a group of college students got up in front of the room and told all of us that they were change agents bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to their respective universities. One of the students, a spritely slip of a man, said something like, “Usually professors are kind of like this,” and then he made a little mocking weeny voice — wee, wee, wee, wee. The message was that college faculty and administrators are backwards thinking barriers that get in the way of this troop of thought leaders.

After the presentation, a female economist who was sitting next to me told the UIFers that she had been a professor for nearly two decades, had worked on the topic of innovation that entire time, and had done a great deal to nurture and advance the careers of her students. She found the UIF’s presentation presumptuous and offensive. When the Q&A period was over, one of UIF’s founders and co-directors, Humera Fasihuddin, and the students came running over to insist that they didn’t mean faculty members were sluggards and stragglers. But those of us sitting at the table were like, “Well then, why did you say it?”

You might think that this student’s antics were a result of being overly enthusiastic and getting carried away, but you would be wrong. This cultivated disrespect is what the UIF teaches its fellows. That young man was just parroting what he’d been taught to say.

A UIF blog post titled “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” lays it all out. The author refers to Fasihuddin as a kind of guru figure, “If you participated in the Fall 2013 cohort, you may recall Humera repeating a common statement throughout session 5, ‘By connecting to other campuses that have been successful, and borrowing from those ideas you hear from your UIF peers, it removes the fear of the unknown for the faculty.”

Where does the faculty’s fear come from? The blog post explains, “The unfortunate truth in [Humera’s] statement is that universities are laggards (i.e. extremely slow adopters). The ironic part is universities shouldn’t be, and we as University Innovation Fellows, understand this.”

Now, on the one hand, this is just Millennial entitlement all hopped up on crystal meth. But on the other hand, there is something deeper and more troubling going on here. The early innovation studies thinker Everett Rogers used the term “laggard” in this way to refer to the last individuals to adopt new technologies. But in the UIF, Rogers’ vision becomes connected to the more potent ideology of neoliberalism: through bodies of thought like Chicago School economics and public choice theory, neoliberalism sees established actors as self-serving agents who only look to maintain their turf and, thus, resist change.

This mindset is quite widespread among Silicon Valley leaders. It’s what led billionaire Ayn Rand fan Peter Thiel to put $1.7 million into The Seasteading Institute, an organization that, it says, “empowers people to build floating startup societies with innovative governance models.” Seasteaders want to build cities that would float around oceans, so they can escape existing governments and live in libertarian, free market paradise. It’s the same notion undergirding the Silicon Valley “startup accelerator” YCombinator’s plan to build entire cities from scratch because old ones are too hard to fix. Elon Musk pushes this view when he tweets things, like “Permits are harder than technology,” implying that the only thing in the way of his genius inventions are other human beings — laggards, no doubt. Individuals celebrated this ideological vision, which holds that existing organizations and rules are mere barriers to entrepreneurial action, when Uber-leader Travis Kalanick used a piece of software to break city laws. And then they were shocked, shocked, shocked when Kalanick turned out to be a total creep.

Now, if you have never been frustrated by bureaucracy, you have not lived.Moreover, when I was young, I often believed my elders were old and in the way. But once you grow up and start getting over yourself, you come to realize that other people have a lot to teach you, even when — especially when — they disagree with you.

This isn’t how the UIF sees things. The blog post “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” advises fellows to watch faculty members’ body language and tone of voice. If these signs hint that the faculty member isn’t into what you’re saying — or if he or she speaks as if you are not an “equal” or “down at you” — the UIF tells you to move on and find a more receptive audience. The important thing is to build the movement. “So I close with the same recurring statement,” the blog post ends, “By connecting to other campuses that have been successful . . . it removes the fear of the unknown for faculty.”

Is there any possibility that the students themselves could just be off-base? Sure, if while you are talking someone’s body tightens up or her head looks like it’s going to explode or her voice changes or she talks down to you and doesn’t treat you as an equal, it could be because she is a demonic, laggard-y enemy of progress, or it could be because you are being a fucking moron — an always-embarrassing realization that I have about myself far more often than I’d like to admit. Design Thinkers and the UIF teach a thoroughly adolescent conception of culture.

Edmund Burke once wrote, “You had all of these advantages . . . but you chose to act as if you had never been molded into civil society, and had everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you.” The brain-rotting … [more]
leevinsel  designthinking  2018  d.school  tedtalks  tedx  cults  innovation  daveevans  design  d.life  humerafasihuddin  edmundburke  natashajen  herbertsimon  peterrowe  robertmckim  petermiller  liberalarts  newage  humanpotentialmovement  esaleninstitute  stanford  hassoplattner  davidkelly  johnhennessy  business  education  crit  post-its  siliconvalley  architecture  art  learning  elitism  designimperialism  ideo  playpump  openideo  thommoran  colonialism  imperialism  swiffer  andrewrussell  empathy  problemsolving  delusion  johnleary  stem  steam  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  georgeorwell  thinking  howwwethink  highered  highereducation  tomkelly  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  commercialization  civilrightsmovement  criticism  bullshit  jeromelemelson  venturewell  maintenance  themaintainers  maintainers  cbt  psychology  hucksterism  novelty  ruthschwartzcowan  davidedgerton 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Why Normalizing Struggle Can Create a Better Math Experience for Kids | MindShift | KQED News
"Math educator Dan Finkel grew up doing math with ease and completed calculus as a freshman in high school. But it wasn't until he went to math summer camp and learned how to think like a mathematician that he truly fell in love with math. It helps to have a positive relationship with math because when people are uncomfortable with it they are susceptible to manipulation. (Think of predatory lending interest rates, convenient statistics to support a thin argument, graphs that misrepresent the truth.)

“When we’re not comfortable with math, we don't question the authority of numbers,” said Finkel in his TEDx Talk, “Five ways to share math with kids.”

He is also a founder of Math for Love which provides professional development, curriculum and math games. He says math can be alienating for kids, but if they had more opportunities for mathematical thinking, they could have a deeper, more connected understanding of their world.

A more typical math class is about finding the answers, but Finkel says to consider starting with a question and opening up a line of inquiry. For example, he might show a display of numbered circles and ask students, "What's going on with the colors?"

[image]

He says it’s important to give people time to work through their thinking and to struggle. Not only do people learn through struggle, but puzzling through a tricky math problem resets expectations about how much time a math problem takes.

“It’s not uncommon for students to graduate from high school believing that every math problem can be solved in 30 seconds or less. And if they don’t know the answer, they're just not a math person. This is a failure of education," Finkel said.

[video]

He also said parents or educators can support a child when she is struggling through a problem by framing it as an adventure to be worked through together.

"Teach them that not knowing is not failure. It’s the first step to understanding." "
math  education  mathematics  struggle  kisung  2019  danfinkel  problemsolving  cv  inquiry 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Oppenheimer Moment - Alan Cooper | Open Transcripts
[direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/254533098 ]

[via: https://twitter.com/TopLeftBrick/status/1123865036370468864 ]

"All of our social sys­tems bias us toward a pre­sen­tist focus: cap­i­tal­ist mar­kets, rapid tech­no­log­i­cal advance, pro­fes­sion­al reward sys­tems, and indus­tri­al man­age­ment meth­ods. You have to ask your­self, how will this be used in ten years? In thir­ty. When will it die? What will hap­pen to its users? To be a good ances­tor, we must look at the entire lifes­pan of our work.

I know I said that there were three considerations, but there’s a strong fourth one, too. Having established the three conduits for bad ancestry—assumptions, externalities, and timescale—we now need some tactical tools for ancestry thinking.

Because it’s a systems problem, individual people are rarely to blame. But people become representatives of the system. That is, the face of bad ancestry will usually be a person. So it takes some finesse to move in a positive direction without polarizing the situation. You can see from the USA’s current political situation how easy it is to slip into polarization.

First we need to understand that systems need constant work. John Gall’s theory of General Systemantics says that, “systems failure is an intrinsic feature of systems.” In other words, all systems go haywire, and will continue to go haywire, and only constant vigilance can keep those systems working in a positive direction. You can’t ignore systems. You have to ask questions about systems. You must probe constantly, deeply, and not accept rote answers.

And when you detect bad assumptions, ignored side‐effects, or distortions of time, you have to ask those same questions of the others around you. You need to lead them through the thought process so they see the problem too. This is how you reveal the secret language of the system.

Ask about the external forces at work on the system. Who is outside of the system? What did they think of it? What leverage do they have? How might they use the system? Who is excluded from it?

Ask about the impact of the system. Who is affected by it? What other systems are affected? What are the indirect long‐term effects? Who gets left behind?

Ask about the consent your system requires. Who agrees with what you are doing? Who disagrees? Who silently condones it? And who’s ignorant of it?

Ask who benefits from the system? Who makes money from it? Who loses money? Who gets promoted? And how does it affect the larger economy?

Ask about how the system can be misused. How can it be used to cheat, to steal, to confuse, to polarize, to alienate, to dominate, to terrify? Who might want to misuse it? What could they gain by it? Who could lose?

If you are asking questions like these regularly, you’re probably making a leaky boat.

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about what I call working backwards. It’s my preferred method of problem‐solving. In the conventional world, gnarly challenges are always presented from within a context, a framework of thinking about the problem. The given framework is almost always too small of a window. Sometimes it’s the wrong window altogether. Viewed this way, your problems can seem inscrutable and unsolvable, a Gordian Knot.

Working backwards can be very effective in this situation. It’s similar to Edward de Bono’s notion of lateral thinking, and Taiichi Ohno’s idea of the 5 Whys. Instead of addressing the problem in its familiar surroundings, you step backwards and you examine the surroundings instead. Deconstructing and understanding the problem definition first is more productive than directly addressing the solution.

Typically you discover that the range of possible solutions first presented are too limiting, too conventional, and suppress innovation. When the situation forces you to choose between Option A or Option B, the choice is almost always Option C. If we don’t work backwards we tend to treat symptoms rather than causes. For example we clamor for a cure for cancer, but we ignore the search for what causes cancer. We institute recycling programs, but we don’t reduce our consumption of disposable plastic. We eat organic grains and meat, but we still grow them using profoundly unsustainable agricultural practices.

The difficulty presented by working backwards is that it typically violates established boundaries. The encompassing framework is often in a different field of thought and authority. Most people, when they detect such a boundary refuse to cross it. They say, “That’s not my responsibility.” But this is exactly what an externality looks like. Boundaries are even more counterproductive in tech.

A few years ago, a famous graphic circulated on the Web that said, “In 2015, Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”

The problem is that taxi companies are regulated by taxing and controlling vehicles. Media is controlled by regulating content. Retailing is controlled by taxing inventory. And accommodations by taxing rooms. All of the governmental checks and balances are side‐stepped my business model innovation. These new business models are better than the old ones, but the new ideas short‐circuit the controls we need to keep them from behaving like bad citizens, bad ancestors.

All business models have good sides and bad sides. We cannot protect ourselves against the bad parts by legislating symptoms and artifacts. Instead of legislating mechanism mechanisms, we have to legislate desired outcomes. The mechanisms may change frequently, but the outcomes remain very constant, and we need to step backwards to be good ancestors.

And when we step backwards, we see the big picture. But seeing it shows us that there’s a lot of deplorable stuff going on in the world today. And a lot of it is enabled and exacerbated by the high‐tech products that we make. It might not be our fault, but it’s our responsibility to fix it.

One reaction to looking at the big picture is despair. When you realize the whole machine is going in the wrong direction, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with a fatalistic sense of doom. Another reaction to seeing this elephant is denial. It makes you want to just put your head back down and concentrate on the wireframes. But those paths are the Option A and the Option B of the problem, and I am committed to Option C. I want to fix the problem.

If you find yourself at the point in a product’s development where clearly unethical requests are made of you, when the boss asks you to lie, cheat, or steal, you’re too late for anything other than brinksmanship. I applaud you for your courage if you’re willing to put your job on the line for this, but it’s unfair for me to ask you to do it. My goal here is to arm you with practical, useful tools that will effectively turn the tech industry towards becoming a good ancestor. This is not a rebellion. Those tools will be more of a dialectic than a street protest. We can only play the long game here.

Our very powerlessness as individual practitioners makes us think that we can’t change the system. Unless of course we are one of the few empowered people. We imagine that powerful people take powerful actions. We picture the lone Tiananmen protester standing resolutely in front of a column of battle tanks, thus making us good ancestors. Similarly, we picture the CEO Jack Dorsey banning Nazis from Twitter and thus, in a stroke, making everything better."



"Now fortuitously, I had recently been talking with folks at the engineering school at the University of California at Berkeley about teaching something there. Renato Verdugo, my new friend and collaborator with the great hair, agreed to help. And we just completed co‐teaching a semester‐long class called “Thinking Like a Good Ancestor” at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation on the Berkeley campus. Renato works for Google, and they generously supported our work.

We’re introducing our students to the fundamentals of how technology could lose its way. Of awareness and intentionality. We’re giving the students our taxonomy of assumptions, externalities, and time. Instead of focusing on how tech behaves badly, we’re focusing on how good tech is allowed to become bad. We’re not trying to patch the holes in the Titanic but prevent them from occurring in future tech. So we’re encouraging our students to exercise their personal agency. We expect these brilliant young students at Berkeley to take ancestry thinking out into the world. We expect them to make it a better place for all of our children.

Like those students, we are the practitioners. We are the makers. We are the ones who design, develop, and deploy software‐powered experiences. At the start of this talk I asked you to imagine yourself as a tech practitioner witnessing your creations turned against our common good. Now I want you to imagine yourself creating products that can’t be turned towards evil. Products that won’t spy on you, won’t addict you, and won’t discriminate against you. More than anyone else, you have the power to create this reality. Because you have your hands on the technology. And I believe that the future is in the hands of the hands‐on.

Ultimately, we the craftspeople who make the artifacts of the future have more effect on the world than the business executives, the politicians, and the investment community. We are like the keystone in the arch. Without us it all falls to the ground. While it may not be our fault that our products let evil leak in, it is certainly within our power to prevent it. The welfare of our children, and their children, is at stake, and taking care of our offspring is the best way to take care of ourselves.

We need to stand up, and stand together. Not in opposition but as a… [more]
alancooper  design  ethics  ancestors  2018  time  systemsthinking  systems  capitalism  neoliberalism  technology  lifespan  externalities  economics  ancestry  legacy  side-effects  morality  awareness  intentionality  renatoverdugo  powerlessness  longgame  longnow  bighere  zoominginandout  taiichiohno  problemsolving  johngall 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Optimize What? • Commune
"Silicon Valley is full of the stupidest geniuses you’ll ever meet. The problem begins in the classrooms where computer science is taught."



"In higher education and research, the situation is similar, if further removed from the harsh realities of technocapitalism. Computer science in the academy is a minefield of contradictions: a Stanford undergraduate may attend class and learn how to extract information from users during the day, then later attend an evening meeting of the student organization CS+Social Good, where they will build a website for a local nonprofit. Meanwhile, a researcher who attended last year’s Conference on Economics and Computation would have sat through a talk on maximizing ad revenue, then perhaps participated the next morning in a new workshop on “mechanism design for social good.”

It is in this climate that we, too, must construct our vision for computer science and its applications. We might as well start from scratch: in a recent article for Tribune, Wendy Liu calls to “abolish Silicon Valley.” By this she means not the naive rejection of high technology, but the transformation of the industry into one funded, owned, and controlled by workers and the broader society—a people’s technology sector.

Silicon Valley, however, does not exist in an intellectual vacuum; it depends on a certain type of computer science discipline. Therefore, a people’s remake of the Valley will require a people’s computer science. Can we envision this? Today, computer science departments don’t just generate capitalist realism—they are themselves ruled by it. Only those research topics that carry implications for profit extraction or military applications are deemed worthy of investigation. There is no escaping the reach of this intellectual-cultural regime; even the most aloof theoreticians feel the need to justify their work by lining their paper introductions and grant proposals with spurious connections to the latest industry fads. Those who are more idealistic or indignant (or tenured) insist that the academy carve out space for “useless” research as well. However, this dichotomy between “industry applications” and “pure research” ignores the material reality that research funding comes largely from corporate behemoths and defense agencies, and that contemporary computer science is a political enterprise regardless of its wishful apolitical intentions.

In place of this suffocating ideological fog, what we must construct is a notion of communist realism in science: that only projects in direct or indirect service to people and planet will have any hope of being funded, of receiving the esteem of the research community, or even of being considered intellectually interesting. What would a communist computer science look like? Can we imagine researchers devising algorithms for participatory economic planning? Machine learning for estimating socially necessary labor time? Decentralized protocols for coordinating supply chains between communes?

Allin Cottrell and Paul Cockshott, two of the few contemporary academics who tackle problems of computational economics in non-market settings, had this to say in a 1993 paper:
Our investigations enable us to identify one component of the problem (with economic planning): the material conditions (computational technology) for effective socialist planning of a complex peacetime economy were not realized before, say, the mid-1980s. If we are right, the most notorious features of the Soviet economy (chronically incoherent plans, recurrent shortages and surpluses, lack of responsiveness to consumer demand), while in part the result of misguided policies, were to some degree inevitable consequences of the attempt to operate a system of central planning before its time. The irony is obvious: socialism was being rejected at the very moment when it was becoming a real possibility.


Politically, much has changed since these words were written. The takeaway for contemporary readers is not necessarily that we should devote ourselves to central planning once more; rather, it’s that our moment carries a unique mixture of ideological impasse and emancipatory potential, ironically both driven in large part by technological development. The cold science of computation seems to declare that social progress is over—there can only be technological progress. Yet if we manage to wrest control of technology from Silicon Valley and the Ivory Tower, the possibilities for postcapitalist society are seemingly endless. The twenty-first-century tech workers’ movement, a hopeful vehicle for delivering us towards such prospects, is nascent—but it is increasingly a force to be reckoned with, and, at the risk of getting carried away, we should start imagining the future we wish to inhabit. It’s time we began conceptualizing, and perhaps prototyping, computation and information in a workers’ world. It’s time to start conceiving of a new left-wing science."
engineering  problemsolving  capitalism  computers  politics  technology  jimmywu  2019  optimization  efficiency  allincottrell  paulcockshott  siliconvalley  techosolutionism  technocapitalism  computation  wendyliu  compsci  ideology 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
How Architecture Teaches Kids Patience, Problem-Solving - CityLab
"Through the organization Architecture for Children, Hong Kong architect Vicky Chan has taught urban design and planning to thousands of kids. Here’s why."



"Why should schools start teaching design to young kids?

What does urban planning have to do with education? Whether you’re a kid or an adult, I think the biggest challenge is often figuring out how to sift through information, deciding what information to use, and learning to make compromises. You have to understand that the best argument isn’t the loudest one. It has to be rational.

For example, we had a group of students decide to build a hotel at the top of the hill near the school, connected by a tram, because the location afforded excellent views. That’s good reasoning. But the next week, they realized that construction would be difficult, and decided to raze the hill! And I told them: “Wait, you had agreed last week that the hill was good for the hotel.” So it’s about teaching the students how to rationalize the process and to keep progressing from your original thinking to taking the next step.

Even if these students don’t end up going into the design field, these thinking skills are very important.

On the sustainability front, we also have to start teaching this from a young age. A lot of students think putting their plastic bottles in the recycling bin is what sustainability means. But there’s a broader way to think about it, [such as], how do you think about transportation to reduce car use? These are very broad and complex topics, and we have to simplify them for the students to get across the message that to make the future of cities more sustainable, you really have to think about a lot of different factors.

The students also learn how to draw as a form of expression. Nowadays, we’re surrounded by iPhones and iPads, but some students lack even simple mechanical skills. I think it’s very important to teach handicraft as a way to solve a technological problem.

With design, no solution is 100-percent right or wrong. It’s not like solving a mathematical problem. In sport, you can teach team spirit, but at the end of the day, it’s a competition and it boils down to winning and losing. But in design, there is no absolute answer, and it’s very much like in real life.

How might your students apply what they learn in their own communities?

I recently showed the students a photo of walled buildings [large buildings arranged in such a way that they form a wall, blocking an area’s air flow]. I asked the students whether they saw a problem with the wall effect. They didn’t see a problem; they haven’t yet been told what is good and what is bad. In fact, they might even live in walled buildings. But if we can teach them from an early age that there are better ways to build and construct, then perhaps flawed proposals will less easily find widespread support.

Here’s another example. In Kwun Tong, there’s Kwun Tong Road, which has multiple lanes and is very wide. When I used to live nearby, I thought, there’s the metro running overhead, so does the road really need to be this wide? But this question has to come from a certain doubt, a doubting of whether there’s a problem with the status quo. Sometimes after seeing the same thing day in, day out, you come to accept that it is right and just the way things are done.

But if you think more carefully, maybe you realize that Kwun Tong Road doesn’t have to be this wide, and that having more trees would be better. It’s about having a critical mindset. This is what we want to teach the students.

What do we lose by not teaching (and learning) design from an early age?

From a design perspective, I think you miss out on learning how to analyze a question. In math or science class, you learn to solve a problem formulaically. But you may not learn how to analyze the problem. Analysis is very important for students. In the working world, I sometimes come across very stubborn adults. It’s not that they’re not skillful enough, but that they can’t get to the core of a question and deconstruct it to find the different levels of reasoning. So I think design teaches kids how to creatively think out the reasoning.

The other thing is learning how to see opportunities. Once you discover a problem, you learn to see opportunities. Problems present opportunities. But if you can’t see the problem, then you can’t see the opportunity.

Recently, people have been debating different urban planning proposals [in Hong Kong], such as the East Lantau Metropolis [a $60 billion development plan to build a series of artificial islands in the sea]. The debates were very heated. But even after hearing the debates, I don’t fully buy into any of the proposals because at no point did anyone fully present all the pros and cons. I think if we can teach kids this from an early age, and they can as adults present ideas simply, we won’t have as many misunderstandings or misguided suggestions.

You also teach patience through architecture and design. In the first five classes, we were all planning and drawing. The students were getting bored and impatient. They were asking me, “When can we start building?” But then we started building, and no one knew how to begin. And I told them: “Didn’t we just spend five classes planning?” So we’re teaching them how important each step of the planning stage is.

What have you learned from teaching?

Once, I had some students build models of bridges. I went around and asked them what the Tsing Ma Bridge looked like to them. One student told me that it looked like a smile. I thought this was brilliant. It helped me see the bridge as a very simple message about a city’s smile. It showed me the importance of using imagination and creativity to simplify a concept so that even kids can understand it.

We architects spend a lot of time thinking about complex ideas, but sometimes you just need something simple and pure."
architecture  education  cv  teaching  making  howwelearn  vickychan  2018  design  howwethink  problemsolving  patience  howwteach  learning  schools 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Why so many U.S. students aren’t learning math | University of California
"Stigler has also analyzed how other countries — such as Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the Czech Republic — teach math and science, which, he says, helps us understand U.S. teaching practices more clearly.

“American students think math is about memorizing procedures,” Stigler said. “They’re not learning in a deep way. They think learning is supposed to be easy. That’s really not what learning is about. Students need practice in the things they can’t learn by doing a Google search. They need to think and struggle — like when they are practicing a sport or a musical instrument.”

In other countries, students are asked to work on a variety of problems. In the U.S., students work on many repetitions of, essentially, the same problem, making it unnecessary for U.S. students to think hard about each individual problem. We teach math as disconnected facts and as a series of steps or procedures — do this, and this and this — without connecting procedures with concepts, and without thinking or problem-solving.

“Don’t just memorize it and spit it back on the test,” Stigler said.

American eighth graders, for example, rarely spend time engaged in the serious study of mathematical concepts, Stigler said. Japanese eighth graders, in contrast, engage in serious study of mathematical concepts and are asked to develop their own solutions for math problems that they have not seen before.

Stigler thinks this memorization of facts and procedures applies to the teaching of many subjects in the United States.

Improving teaching has proven to be extremely difficult, and efforts to do so have achieved only limited success. But this disappointing record has not discouraged Stigler.

One of his projects, funded by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is to create and continually improve a university course. The course, which focuses on introductory statistics, includes an online, interactive “textbook” with more than 100 web pages and about 800 assessment questions.

Stigler began creating the course in 2015 in collaboration with Ji Son, a professor at Cal State Los Angeles, and Karen Givvin, a UCLA researcher and adjunct professor of psychology. He taught the course for the first time last spring and is doing so again this quarter.

As students work their way through the course, Stigler and his team collect all the data and can see what the students are learning and what they are not learning.

“Most professors don’t realize how little information we have about how much students are learning,” Sigler said. “I observed a professor once give a lecture where not a single student said anything. I asked him afterwards how he thought it went, and he thought it was great. But how could he tell if it was clear to the students without eliciting any information from students?”

With his interactive course, Stigler can get real-time information. He offers his statistics course for free to any instructor in exchange for getting access to the data showing what, and how, students are learning.

His goal is incremental improvement in teaching, believing that rapid, dramatic results are not realistic. “I want millions of students to get one percent better every year in what they learn,” Stigler said.

Stigler and Givvin are playing leading roles in a new organization, the Precision Institute — created by National University to test innovative teaching ideas and collect data with the goal of helping to solve some of the most challenging issues in higher education. Stigler is one of the institute’s first fellows. National University, a San Diego-based non-profit, offers more than 100 programs, both online and at more than two dozen locations in California and Nevada, and has more than 150,000 alumni.

Through the Precision Institute and its National Precision Research and Innovation Network, National University gets researchers to address its educational challenges, while researchers get to test their education theories in real time in a university setting.

Stigler hopes to add his statistics course to the National University curriculum. Ideas that work can be implemented at National University right away.

Students in the same course can be randomly assigned to use different materials, and Stigler and his team can analyze data and figure out which approach is more effective. Stigler will soon do this in his UCLA undergraduate statistics course and will bring this approach to the National University project as well.

“We’re improving the course while students are taking the course,” said Stigler, who believes strongly in the importance of collecting data to see what actually helps students learn. “We’re trying to measure what they actually learn and figure out how we can help them to learn more.”

Any academic content area could profit from this approach, and the intent of Stigler’s research team is to broaden its application in the future.

“I don’t know what the answers are and don’t have an ax to grind,” Stigler said. “I don’t want to argue in the abstract about theories of education. Let’s test ideas on the ground and see which ones help students.”

Teaching is hard to change. Stigler and Givvin are struck by how similar teaching methods are within each country they have studied, and the striking differences in methods they observed across countries. While the United States is very diverse, the national variation in eighth grade mathematics teaching is much smaller than Stigler and Givvin expected to find.

“The focus on teachers has some merit, of course,” Stigler said, “but we believe that a focus on improving of teaching — the methods that teachers use in the classroom — will yield greater returns.

“Even the countries at the top are trying to improve teaching and learning,” Stigler said. “It is a central problem faced by all societies.”"
math  mathematics  education  teaching  howweteach  us  learning  children  jamesstigler  jison  problemsolving  memorization  howwelearn 
october 2018 by robertogreco
James Bridle on New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future - YouTube
"As the world around us increases in technological complexity, our understanding of it diminishes. Underlying this trend is a single idea: the belief that our existence is understandable through computation, and more data is enough to help us build a better world.

In his brilliant new work, leading artist and writer James Bridle surveys the history of art, technology, and information systems, and reveals the dark clouds that gather over our dreams of the digital sublime."
quantification  computationalthinking  systems  modeling  bigdata  data  jamesbridle  2018  technology  software  systemsthinking  bias  ai  artificialintelligent  objectivity  inequality  equality  enlightenment  science  complexity  democracy  information  unschooling  deschooling  art  computation  computing  machinelearning  internet  email  web  online  colonialism  decolonization  infrastructure  power  imperialism  deportation  migration  chemtrails  folkliterature  storytelling  conspiracytheories  narrative  populism  politics  confusion  simplification  globalization  global  process  facts  problemsolving  violence  trust  authority  control  newdarkage  darkage  understanding  thinking  howwethink  collapse 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Dr. Kate Antonova on Twitter: "If anyone ever asked me, as a college prof, what qualities I'd like to see in my incoming students (no one ever has, tho a number of non-profs have told me what I'm supposed to want), it's this: curiosity and a reading habit
"If anyone ever asked me, as a college prof, what qualities I'd like to see in my incoming students (no one ever has, tho a number of non-profs have told me what I'm supposed to want), it's this: curiosity and a reading habit.

[Links to: "How Our Obsession With College Prep Hurts Kids"

https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-Our-Obsession-With-College/243459?key=3gZXXhLQjFMTjaMwNwzCEQpsINeRL6GkHu8ch6mHb8ZREuWEf6Qmo5gM5YChCxE0RmoxbHVSemFhLWJTcnJBUndoVFpqMFBBeXVYajZhaW9GMmdBbktRY1MwWQ ]

The other really important thing for success in college, IMO, is self-regulation, but that's a super-hard thing for everybody & esp kids who are still developing cognitively. I see no value, & a lot of harm, in forcing regulation before it's developmentally appropriate.

Plus, IME, if you have enough curiosity, you end up regulating yourself in ways that are nearly impossible for a task you're not into. So it all comes back to curiosity.

The other thing that'd be nice - but is not essential - to see in incoming freshmen is an accurate sense of what college is for. Most people are pretty madly and deeply misinformed on that, and that's harming kids.

Too many kids come to college bc they're told it's necessary, or bc it's the only way to a decent job. Both are lies. They should come, when they're ready, because it's the best way to achieve next-level critical thought specific to one or more disciplines.

So we're back to curiosity again. But the reading part is at least as important, & is interrelated. I'm not an expert on instilling curiosity or encouraging reading in k-12. But I'm damn sure standardized testing isn't the answer & neither is traditional, required homework.

I'm pretty certain, too, that seven hours of mostly sitting still and listening isn't terribly useful (and at the elementary level it's downright cruel).

I don't think anything I've said here is earth-shattering. Yet the conventional wisdom about what makes public k-12 education "good" is soooooo far off the mark.

If I cld fantasize ab what I'd like my future students to have done before college, it'd be this: read & write every day, a variety of texts; interact in a sustained way w lots of different ppl; & practice creative problem-solving in small groups, guided by knowledgeable adults.

That's something public schools *could* do, they just don't, because it's not what the public wants. Even the private schools that do some of that are usually pretty notoriously bad at exposing students to people different from themselves.

I've taught everyone from super-elite Ivy students from private high schools to the kids struggling to stay in CUNY after k-12 in troubled NYC publics. They were ALL missing out in different ways. The best students are always, always the readers.

The best of the best I've ever taught have been readers from backgrounds that happened, for whatever reasons, to expose them to a wide variety of circumstances.

School is almost never what brought those students either of those advantages.

But it could be."
kateantonova  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  education  curiosity  learning  purpose  2018  cognition  problemsolving  creativity  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  tcsnmy  cv  k12  statistics  calculus  reading  howwelearn  howweteach  highschool  publicschools  schools  schooling  children  adolescence  diversity  exposure 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Emery, N.: Bird Brain: An Exploration of Avian Intelligence (Hardcover and eBook) | Princeton University Press
"Birds have not been known for their high IQs, which is why a person of questionable intelligence is sometimes called a "birdbrain." Yet in the past two decades, the study of avian intelligence has witnessed dramatic advances. From a time when birds were seen as simple instinct machines responding only to stimuli in their external worlds, we now know that some birds have complex internal worlds as well. This beautifully illustrated book provides an engaging exploration of the avian mind, revealing how science is exploding one of the most widespread myths about our feathered friends—and changing the way we think about intelligence in other animals as well.

Bird Brain looks at the structures and functions of the avian brain, and describes the extraordinary behaviors that different types of avian intelligence give rise to. It offers insights into crows, jays, magpies, and other corvids—the “masterminds” of the avian world—as well as parrots and some less-studied species from around the world. This lively and accessible book shows how birds have sophisticated brains with abilities previously thought to be uniquely human, such as mental time travel, self-recognition, empathy, problem solving, imagination, and insight.

Written by a leading expert and featuring a foreword by Frans de Waal, renowned for his work on animal intelligence, Bird Brain shines critical new light on the mental lives of birds.

Nathan Emery is senior lecturer in cognitive biology at Queen Mary University of London. His research interests focus on what corvids, apes, and parrots understand about their social and physical worlds, especially others' mental states, insight, and imagination, as well as the psychology and evolution of innovation and creativity. He is currently working with the ravens at the Tower of London. He is the coeditor of Social Intelligence: From Brain to Culture and The Cognitive Neuroscience of Social Behaviour, and is on the editorial board of the journals Animal Cognition and Journal of Comparative Psychology. He is the author of more than eighty publications, including papers in Nature, Science, and Current Biology. His work has been extensively covered by international newspapers and magazines, in books, and on TV."
multispecies  birds  intelligence  animals  corvids  via:eden  nthanemery  parrots  empathy  tools  self-recognition  imagination  fransdewaal  problemsolving 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Design Thinking is Kind of Like Syphilis — It’s Contagious and Rots Your Brains
"Miller never bothers to define all the modes, and we will consider them more below. But for now, we should just note that the entire model is based on design consulting: You try to understand the client’s problem, what he or she wants or needs. You sharpen that problem so it’s easier to solve. You think of ways to solve it. You try those solutions out to see if they work. And then once you’ve settled on something, you ask your client for feedback. By the end, you’ve created a “solution,” which is also apparently an “innovation.”

Miller also never bothers to define the liberal arts. The closest he comes is to say they are ways of “thinking that all students should be exposed to because it enhances their understanding of everything else.” Nor does he make clear what he means by the idea that Design Thinking is or could be the new liberal arts. Is it but one new art to be added to the traditional liberal arts, such as grammar, logic, rhetoric, math, music, and science? Or does Miller think, like Hennessy and Kelly, that all of education should be rebuilt around the DTs? Who knows.

Miller is most impressed with Design Thinking’s Empathize Mode. He writes lyrically, “Human-centered design redescribes the classical aim of education as the care and tending of the soul; its focus on empathy follows directly from Rousseau’s stress on compassion as a social virtue.” Beautiful. Interesting.

But what are we really talking about here? The d.school’s An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE says, “The Empathize Mode is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge.” We can use language like “empathy” to dress things up, but this is Business 101. Listen to your client; find out what he or she wants or needs.

Miller calls the Empathize Mode “ethnography,” which is deeply uncharitable — and probably offensive — to cultural anthropologists who spend their entire lives learning how to observe other people. Few, if any, anthropologists would sign onto the idea that some amateurs at a d.school “boot camp,” strolling around Stanford and gawking at strangers, constitutes ethnography. The Empathize Mode of Design Thinking is roughly as ethnographic as a marketing focus group or a crew of sleazoid consultants trying to feel out and up their clients’ desires.

What Miller, Kelly, and Hennessy are asking us to imagine is that design consulting is or could be a model for retooling all of education, that it has some method for “producing reliably innovative results in any field.” They believe that we should use Design Thinking to reform education by treating students as customers, or clients, and making sure our customers are getting what they want. And they assert that Design Thinking should be a central part of what students learn, so that graduates come to approach social reality through the model of design consulting. In other words, we should view all of society as if we are in the design consulting business."



In recent episode of the Design Observer podcast, Jen added further thoughts on Design Thinking. “The marketing of design thinking is completely bullshit. It’s even getting worse and worse now that [Stanford has] three-day boot camps that offer certified programs — as if anyone who enrolled in these programs can become a designer and think like a designer and work like a designer.” She also resists the idea that any single methodology “can deal with any kind of situation — not to mention the very complex society that we’re in today.”

In informal survey I conducted with individuals who either teach at or were trained at the top art, architecture, and design schools in the USA, most respondents said that they and their colleagues do not use the term Design Thinking. Most of the people pushing the DTs in higher education are at second- and third-tier universities and, ironically, aren’t innovating but rather emulating Stanford. In afew cases, respondents said they did know a colleague or two who was saying “Design Thinking” frequently, but in every case, the individuals were using the DTs either to increase their turf within the university or to extract resources from college administrators who are often willing to throw money at anything that smacks of “innovation.”

Moreover, individuals working in art, architecture, and design schools tend to be quite critical of existing DT programs. Reportedly, some schools are creating Design Thinking tracks for unpromising students who couldn’t hack it in traditional architecture or design programs — DT as “design lite.” The individuals I talked to also had strong reservations about the products coming out of Design Thinking classes. A traditional project in DT classes involves undergraduate students leading “multidisciplinary” or “transdisciplinary” teams drawing on faculty expertise around campus to solve some problem of interest to the students. The students are not experts in anything, however, and the projects often take the form of, as one person put it, “kids trying to save the world.”

One architecture professor I interviewed had been asked to sit in on a Design Thinking course’s critique, a tradition at architecture and design schools where outside experts are brought in to offer (often tough) feedback on student projects. The professor watched a student explain her design: a technology that was meant to connect mothers with their premature babies who they cannot touch directly. The professor wondered, what is the message about learning that students get from such projects? “I guess the idea is that this work empowers the students to believe they are applying their design skills,” the professor told me. “But I couldn’t critique it as design because there was nothing to it as design. So what’s left? Is good will enough?

As others put it to me, Design Thinking gives students an unrealistic idea of design and the work that goes into creating positive change. Upending that old dictum “knowledge is power,” Design Thinkers giver their students power without knowledge, “creative confidence” without actual capabilities.

It’s also an elitist, Great White Hope vision of change that literally asks students to imagine themselves entering a situation to solve other people’s problems. Among other things, this situation often leads to significant mismatch between designers’ visions — even after practicing “empathy” — and users’ actual needs. Perhaps the most famous example is the PlayPump, a piece of merry-go-round equipment that would pump water when children used it. Designers envisioned that the PlayPump would provide water to thousands of African communities. Only kids didn’t show up, including because there was no local cultural tradition of playing with merry-go-rounds.

Unsurprisingly, Design Thinking-types were enthusiastic about the PlayPump. Tom Hulme, the design director at IDEO’s London office, created a webpage called OpenIDEO, where users could share “open source innovation.” Hulme explained that he found himself asking, “What would IDEO look like on steroids? [We might ask the same question about crack cocaine or PCP.] What would it look like when you invite everybody into everything? I set myself the challenge of . . . radical open-innovation collaboration.” OpenIDEO community users were enthusiastic about the PlayPump — even a year after the system had been debunked, suggesting inviting everyone to everything gets you people who don’t do research. One OpenIDEO user enthused that the PlayPump highlighted how “fun can be combined with real needs.”

Thom Moran, an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, told me that Design Thinking brought “a whole set of values about what design’s supposed to look like,” including that everything is supposed to be “fun” and “play,” and that the focus is less on “what would work.” Moran went on, “The disappointing part for me is that I really do believe that architecture, art, and design should be thought of as being a part of the liberal arts. They provide a unique skill set for looking at and engaging the world, and being critical of it.” Like others I talked to, Moran doesn’t see this kind of critical thinking in the popular form of Design Thinking, which tends to ignore politics, environmental issues, and global economic problems.

Moran holds up the Swiffer — the sweeper-mop with disposable covers designed by an IDEO-clone design consultancy, Continuum — as a good example of what Design Thinking is all about. “It’s design as marketing,” he said. “It’s about looking for and exploiting a market niche. It’s not really about a new and better world. It’s about exquisitely calibrating a product to a market niche that is underexploited.” The Swiffer involves a slight change in old technologies, and it is wasteful. Others made this same connection between Design Thinking and marketing. One architect said that Design Thinking “really belongs in business schools, where they teach marketing and other forms of moral depravity.”

“That’s what’s most annoying,” Moran went on. “I fundamentally believe in this stuff as a model of education. But it’s business consultants who give TED Talks who are out there selling it. It’s all anti-intellectual. That’s the problem. Architecture and design are profoundly intellectual. But for these people, it’s not a form of critical thought; it’s a form of salesmanship.”

Here’s my one caveat: it could be true that the DTs are a good way to teach design or business. I wouldn’t know. I am not a designer (or business school professor). I am struck, however, by how many designers, including Natasha Jen and Thom Moran, believe that the DTs are nonsense. In the end, I will leave this discussion up to designers. It’s their show. My concern is a different one — namely that… [more]
designthinking  innovation  ideas  2017  design  leevinsel  maintenance  repair  ideation  problemsolving  davidedgerton  willthomas  billburnett  daveevans  stanford  d.school  natashajen  herbertsimon  robertmckim  ideo  singularity  singularityuniversity  d.tech  education  schools  teaching  liberalarts  petermiller  esaleninstitute  newage  hassoplattner  johnhennessey  davidkelly  jimjones  empathy  ethnography  consulting  business  bullshit  marketing  snakeoil  criticism  criticalthinking  highereducation  highered  thomamoran  tedtalks  openideo  playpump  designimperialism  whitesaviors  post-its  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  art  architecture  complexity  simplicity  methodology  process  emptiness  universities  colleges  philipmirowski  entrepreneurship  lawrencebusch  elizabethpoppberman  nathanielcomfort  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  hucksterism  self-promotion  hype  georgeorwell  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  andréspicer  humanitariandesign  themaintainers  ma 
december 2017 by robertogreco
How Systemic Control Stunts Creative Growth – Rafranz Davis – Medium
"Last week our cohort of students began designing their making/coding engineering projects and as exciting as it was, we still had a moment of pause in which we thought that perhaps we needed to insert a little more control and guidance.
…for the sake of time and because it would’ve been much easier.
I’m glad that we didn’t.

In the aftermath of “plan day” and amidst the exhaustion of coaching and continuously trying to promote more “yes and” in lieu of “but”, I’ve thought about the diversity of ideas that kids had and the joy in their eyes as they were creating.

One of our groups is making a Scorpion-Dragon and another is making a combination of a Rube Goldberg machine with diet coke exploder. While I have no idea what the latter is, I am so excited to see it and am honestly still mortified at the thought that I even considered an outcome where kids would not have had such choices.

You see, I am one who is fortunate enough to have a front row seat to the power of creativity through my role as a nurturer for my nephew. I watch him experiment with a plethora of artistic choices and am constantly in awe of how much he learns just because he feels like it and most often because his project of choice demands it.

I’m also painfully aware how much a majority of his creative freedoms occur at home because school is most often not a place that is open to such thinking/doing…unless it is “holiday week”, early release day or the weeks after state testing is done.

This is the reality for so many but in all fairness, this is how we’ve been conditioned to “do” school in the face of accountability.

…and as much as teachers get a hard time for their lack of creative ventures, especially considering technology, it’s unfair to blame those who have no choice but to do as the system was created to do.

Too often, the de-creativeness of kids begins as soon as they enter the doors of early childhood. Creative play is replaced with scheduled assessments. Individuality is replaced with school uniforms of one color. Gender roles define everything from activities kids get to do, to who they sit with at lunch and who stands before or after them in line.

…the line where kids learn early to stand in silence with “bubbles in mouths” and hands behind backs

We still misinterpret quiet classrooms as the best classrooms.

If kids do get to create, they are all creating the same thing because the thought of “different” immediately triggers adult fears concerning time and we all know that in every classroom, time is a pretty hot commodity.

There just seems to be not enough of it.

I remember the first day in my high school algebra class when I decided to stop teaching according to the “lesson cycle” formula that our program seemed to have adopted. Kids lots their minds!

They wanted the template. They wanted the steps. They wanted me to do the thinking for them. They did not have the skills to creatively problem solve because in all the years that they had been in school, we did a great job of slowly but surely stripping this important ability away.

…an ability inherent in kids since birth as they utilize their senses to figure out the world around them.

…most often through curiosity driven play.

Right now, I’m sitting beside my nephew as he draws the header image for this piece. I spent yesterday watching him design and make an animatronic Christmas scene and over the last few weeks he’s been creating digital images and uploading his creations to redbubble so that for a small price, others could experience his vivid imagination.

This…in addition to his extensive work in puppetry, minecraft, oil painting, clay molding, music and just about anything that he feels like learning.

I’m not worried about my nephew though. He has us to support and guide him.

Not every kid has that and perhaps school should be the place that cultivates creativity in lieu of controlling it."
rafranzdavis  2017  creativity  math  mathematics  problemsolving  algebra  teaching  learning  howwelearn  control  freedom  children  unschooling  deschooling  sfsh  curiosity  schools  schooling  schooliness  making  art  education  howweteach  openstudioproject  lcproject 
november 2017 by robertogreco
crap futures — The automated island
"(For some background to this discussion of automation in our very eccentric and local context, revisit one of our first posts - ‘The pleasures of prediction’ [http://crapfutures.tumblr.com/post/133794965489/the-pleasures-of-prediction ].)

There’s a spot we often go swimming in Madeira called Ponta Gorda, ‘Fat Point’. It’s like a public swimming pool - in fact it does have a decent saltwater pool - but most people who go there dive straight into the open sea, which gives you the thrill of swimming in very deep water - 2,000 metres close to shore descending to 4,000 metres further out. So the sea is a public swimming pool, and you pay your euro for amenities like the changing rooms and cafe. It’s a good place for lunch or a cold beer when the sun is shining. Umbrellas and sunbeds cost extra, but we prefer to bake on the hot concrete after a cool swim.

Into this idyllic scene comes automation. There’s a person who works in the entrance booth and takes your euro, and adjacent to the booth is a row of turnstiles. Presumably until a couple of years ago you paid your money and went straight in. Since we’ve been going to Ponta Gorda, however, a newer system has been in place: an automated scanning system.

The system is supposed to work like this: first you buy a barcoded ticket or charge your card with the person in the booth; then you scan your ticket, unlocking the turnstile, and you walk through. (The scanner uses that red laser thing to read the barcode.)

What actually happens is this: we arrive at the booth, say hello to the friendly woman who works there - because we all know each other by now - pay for a ticket or charge our card (if we’ve remembered to bring it, which is rare), try to scan the barcode under the laser in the bright midday sun, fail miserably, smile at the woman in the booth to signal our failure, wait as she grabs her keys and comes out of the booth, watch as she tries in vain to scan it several times, exchange sympathetic smiles when she too fails, together blame the sun, stand by while she unlocks the gate at the side, and walk through.

We’re not sure why the automatic gate always fails. Things often don’t work on this island. They remain broken for months or years, and people get used to working around them. The parking garages and supermarket checkouts are the same: there is always someone to help you scan your ticket or purchases because the scanner never works properly. These are de-facto semi-automated systems that require the same human worker they required before the machine was installed. So why have a scanner at all? Who said this was a good idea? What was wrong with the old way?

Well, it’s progress, innit? Unfortunately what may work under ideal conditions in, say, London or Oslo may not necessarily work under less than ideal conditions, and without maintenance support, in Madeira. It’s like those tractors in the Soviet Union under collectivisation that broke down or simply ran out of petrol and were left to rot in the fields. Not to mention the fact that automation is often about efficiency, and efficiency - in terms of saving either time or labour - is not something this sleepy island particularly wants or needs.

People in Madeira are adaptable, they get along fine with less than optimal technology. But significant resources are wasted in the pursuit of Mainland ideas of progress. Then there are the side-effects of automation that are not particular to islanders: deskilling, alienation from labour. Few people actually lose their jobs because the technology can rarely be trusted - but everywhere you see people sitting idle in their work, passive, mere appendages of the machines they are paid to assist. Is this the techno-utopia we were waiting for? Sometimes on the periphery, as Laura Watts said to us recently, small perturbations are felt more distinctly than in the centre.

In his frankly curmudgeonly but still insightful essay ‘Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer’ (1987), Wendell Berry lays out his ‘standards for technological innovation’. There are nine points, and in the third point Berry states that the new device or system ‘should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better’ than the old one. This seems obvious and not too much to ask of a technology, but how well does the automated entrance at Ponta Gorda fulfill that claim?

Berry also has a point, the last in his list, about not replacing or disrupting ‘anything good that already exists’. This includes relationships between people. In other words, solve actual problems - rather than finding just any old place to put a piece of technology you want to sell. Even if the scanners at Ponta Gorda did work, how would eliminating the one human being who is employed to welcome visitors and answer questions improve the system? In Berry’s words, ‘what would be superseded would be not only something, but somebody’. The person who works there is a ‘good that already exists’, a human relationship that should be preserved, especially when her removal from a job would be bought at so little gain.

In the next post we’ll go deeper into a taxonomy of automation. Now we’re going for a swim."
crapfutures  automation  labor  madeira  wendellberry  technology  problemsolving 
june 2017 by robertogreco
4 years "real" — Funomena
"two very different games that each aim to express the same core messages about community, empathy, and the ultimate value of every person on this planet."



"Making games is a process of creative discovery - embracing the unknown. With each challenge, we have learned new ways to collaborate, to face uncertainty and most importantly to accept our own mistakes and failures as a part of the learning process that makes each of us better colleagues and creatives."



"Most importantly, the process of making art together helps us grow as individuals, capable of dealing with the ups and downs that naturally emerge while solving difficult problems, together, as a team."
funomena  robinhunicke  teams  collaboration  2017  discovery  creativity  empathy  games  gaming  videogames  problemsolving  community  personhood  uncertainty  mistakes  process  howwelearn  learning 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Alan Kay's answer to What made Xerox PARC special? Who else today is like them? - Quora
[I noted on Twitter that "1 through 5 easily adaptable for education. For example: teach students, not subjects."]

"A good book (pretty much the only good book) to read about the research community that Parc was a part of is “The Dream Machine” by Mitchell Waldrop. There you will find out about the ARPA (before the “D”) IPTO (Information Processing Techniques Office) set up in 1962 by the visionary JCR Licklider, who created a research community of 15 or 16 “projects”, mostly at universities, but also a few at places like RAND Corp, Lincoln Labs, Mitre, BBN, SDC, etc.

There was a vision: “The destiny of computers is to become interactive intellectual amplifiers for everyone in the world pervasively networked worldwide”.

A few principles:

1. Visions not goals

2. Fund people not projects — the scientists find the problems not the funders. So, for many reasons, you have to have the best researchers.

3. Problem Finding — not just Problem Solving

4. Milestones not deadlines

5. It’s “baseball” not “golf” — batting .350 is very good in a high aspiration high risk area. Not getting a hit is not an error but the overhead for getting hits. (As in baseball, “error” is failing to pull off something that is technically feasible.)

6. It’s about shaping “computer stuff” to human ends per the vision. Much of the time this required the researchers to design and build pretty much everything, including much of the hardware — including a variety of mainframes — and virtually all of the software needed (including OSs and programming languages, etc.). Many of the ARPA researchers were quite fluent in both HW and SW (though usually better at one than the other). This made for a pretty homogeneous computing culture and great synergy in most projects.

7. The above goes against the commonsense idea that “computer people should not try to make their own tools (because of the infinite Turing Tarpit that results)”. The ARPA idea was a second order notion: “if you can make your own tools, HW and SW, then you must!”. The idea was that if you are going to take on big important and new problems then you just have to develop the chops to pull off all needed tools, partly because of what “new” really means, and partly because trying to do workarounds of vendor stuff that is in the wrong paradigm will kill the research thinking.

8. An important part of the research results are researchers. This extends the “baseball” idea to human development. The grad schools, especially, generally admitted people who “seemed interesting” and judgements weren’t made until a few years down the road. Many of the researchers who ultimately solved most of the many problems of personal computing and networking were created by the ARPA community.

Parc was the last of these “ARPA Projects” to be created, and because of funding changes from the Vietnam war, got its funding from a corporation rather than from ARPA-IPTO. But pretty much all of the computer people at Parc had grown up in ARPA projects in the 60s, and Bob Taylor, who set up the computing research at Parc, had been the 3rd director of ARPA-IPTO.

Bob’s goal was to “Realize The ARPA Dream”.

Parc was highly concentrated with regard to wealth of talents, abilities, vision, confidence, and cooperation. There was no real management structure, so things were organized to allow researchers to “suggest” and “commit” and “decommit” in a more or less orderly fashion.

Quite a lot of the inventions Parc is most known for were done in the first 5 years by a rather small pool of researchers (Butler Lampson estimates about 25 people, and that seems about right).

One of the most interesting ideas at Parc was: “every invention has to be engineered for 100 users”. So if you do a programming language or a DTP word processor, etc, it has to be documented for and usable by 100 people. If you make a personal computer, you have to be able to make 100 of them. If an Ethernet, it has to connect to 100 devices, etc.

There was no software religion. Everyone made the languages and OSs and apps, etc that they felt would advance their research.

Hardware was trickier because of the time and costs needed for replication and doing and making new designs. In practice this worked out pretty easily most of the time — via not too many meetings — and the powers of HW geniuses like Chuck Thacker. A few things — like the disk sectors and simple Ethernet protocols, etc. — were agreed on, mainly to allow more important things to be done more idiosyncratically. In practice, Parc designed and put in the field a variety of Alto designs (about 2000 Altos were built), MAXCs, Dolphins, Dorados, NoteTakers, Dandelions, etc over a period of about 10 years — i.e. quite a lot.

There were key figures. For example, Parc would not have succeeded without Bob Taylor, Butler Lampson, Chuck Thacker, and a few others.

I would call the first 5 years “effectively idyllic”. And the second 5 years “very productive but gradually erosive” (the latter due to Xerox’s many changes of management, and not being able to grapple with either the future, or a possible grand destiny for the company)."
alankay  zeroxparc  2017  vision  goals  funding  milestones  deadlines  errors  tools  toolmaking  education  learning  innovation  creativity  arpa  sfsh  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  openstudioproject  lcproject  problemsolving  problemfinding 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Education Week: Taking a Relationship-Centered Approach to Education
"Let's play "what if" for a second.

What if schools used real-world scenarios to teach? What if learning were tied to complex problem-solving? What if students graduated from high school knowing how to negotiate peace treaties, stimulate depressed economies, and reduce obesity rates in America?

Now imagine a school where students and teachers decided collaboratively that the future of energy, the problem of inadequate access to safe drinking water, and the issues surrounding genetically modified organisms were among the topics of study. In this model, students would be taught to use skills and knowledge from the traditional disciplines—math, science, English, social studies, and so on—to take steps toward scaling and solving aspects of these complex issues. Teachers would work together, leveraging their content expertise in service of a problem. Students would navigate complex, unpredictable situations using a multitude of educational resources. This real-world problem-solving approach would partner with expert field practitioners, community members, research scientists, political leaders, and business owners, all showing students ways of addressing the pressing problems facing the world, from the local to the global.

Imagine how much richer this educational experience would be. Imagine how many more members of future generations would be engaged in tackling the world's toughest problems.

Sadly, there are very few schools like this in our nation, but not for a lack of trying. The heart of contemporary K-12 education reform is broad and disjointed: Curriculum standards, teaching strategies, school choice, teacher pay, quality and culture, and achievement gaps all take turns leading the charge. Alarmingly, the missing narrative is arguably the most important factor in preparing students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today's world: why we educate in the first place.

Right now, the vast majority of U.S. schools make use of a subject-centered approach to education, in which the emphasis is on gaining content knowledge, developing skills within disciplines, and advancing academic levels. In this view of learning, having young people master math, science, English, and other material theoretically equips them for life's next steps.

The hope in our current system is essentially this: Young people who command the disciplines will be "educated," thus enabling them to contribute meaningfully to society.

But as celebrated as that hope has been, what we need now is a relationship-centered approach to teaching and learning. Allow me to explain.

An educational purpose that includes, but ultimately rises above, the disciplines and highlights the relationships between them is the unequivocal way forward. We are all complexly related, to Earth and to each other, and these relationships are inescapable, inherently valuable, and increasingly interconnected. We would benefit from framing educational purpose around how we might improve the social (our relationships with each other) and natural (our relationship with Earth) worlds.

Mixing the disciplines to that end has clear benefits. To begin with, a relationship-centered approach to education has the potential to be considerably more interesting for students. A disturbing proportion of students—seven out of 10 in some national studies—are uninterested in school, primarily from its lack of perceived relevance. But having students examine topics that naturally transcend the disciplines—such as the Internet or world hunger or nuclear proliferation—can captivate and help students see the importance of their work. Giving students a say in the topics will go even further; the rapid exchange of information in this generation calls for rapid-fire exchanges of ideas in the classroom.

Another compelling benefit is that a relationship-centered approach demands that teachers plan curriculum together. Imagine groups of teachers from across disciplines reaching out to students, discovering their interests, and developing related curriculum. That kind of teamwork is not easy now.

Many educators' and policymakers' ongoing allegiance, spoken or unspoken, to the subject-centered approach is evident in how we prepare to teach in the classroom. Despite the emergence of up-to-date local, state, and national standards, learning outcomes remain divided into traditional subject areas. This division makes it natural and efficient for education leaders, administrators, and district officials to develop and map curriculum for each discipline independent of the other disciplines.

Thus, the planning process is a lonely one. With the exception of sharing best practices with colleagues and aligning curriculum, teachers are generally on their own.

The result of such isolated planning within the disciplines is costly: Students usually encounter potentially related standards in different classes, at different times in the school year, and with few connections between content areas. The subject-centered experience supposedly allows for specialization and makes certain that the accumulated wisdom of civilization is passed on to students.

But too often our disciplinary approach promotes compartmentalized thinking, fortifies intellectual barriers, and snuffs out cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural insights essential to addressing our world's greatest challenges. Our educational institutions are setting our students up for learned helplessness, Elizabeth Coleman, then the president of Bennington College, said in a 2009 speech.

When we focus instead on relationship-centered teaching and learning, teachers can implement curriculum mapping more successfully because they are involved in its development and can adapt it to their specific classroom and school situations.

Kim Marshall, a principal coach with New Leaders for New Schools, wrote in an Education Week Commentary in 2006 that when teachers "work together to plan multiweek curriculum units ... the result is more thoughtful instruction, deeper student understanding, and yes, better standardized-test scores."

Further, authorizing teachers to arrange standards around not just interdisciplinary topics but transdisciplinary problems can position students to offer creative solutions as they encounter related standards in all their classes, at the same time during the school year, and with multiple connections between the content areas.

Connections are the heartbeat of learning, and putting the disciplines to good use is at the core of innovation and progress. A subject-centered approach rigidly divides standards across the disciplines and stifles any impulse to collaborate and work in teams. A relationship-centered approach demands making connections and has a proven track record in students' formative years. Why, then, are we limiting that approach only to primary education?

Lastly, a relationship-centered approach to education can help close what many see as a growing gap between the number of job applicants with the necessary entry-level skills and the number of college graduates who cannot find work. Today, the ability to use whatever it takes to solve multifaceted problems is an essential ingredient for employment, yet our current educational philosophy gets in the way of this. Thankfully, philosophies can change.

In a way, we are all educators. We educate so that we can help leave the world a little better than we found it. Ignoring the local and global problems we face makes that impossible.

Imagine, instead, a world where conversations about important issues are validated and encouraged at a young age.

That is a world where change is possible. That is why we educate."
tylerthigpen  2013  education  relationships  sfsh  lcproject  openstudioproject  connectivism  transdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  disciplines  problemsolving  curriculum  teaching  howweteach 
november 2016 by robertogreco
The Importance of Recreational Math - The New York Times
"Baltimore — IN 1975, a San Diego woman named Marjorie Rice read in her son’s Scientific American magazine that there were only eight known pentagonal shapes that could entirely tile, or tessellate, a plane. Despite having had no math beyond high school, she resolved to find another. By 1977, she’d discovered not just one but four new tessellations — a result noteworthy enough to be published the following year in a mathematics journal.

The article that turned Ms. Rice into an amateur researcher was by the legendary polymath Martin Gardner. His “Mathematical Games” series, which ran in Scientific American for more than 25 years, introduced millions worldwide to the joys of recreational mathematics. I read him in Mumbai as an undergraduate, and even dug up his original 1956 column on “hexaflexagons” (folded paper hexagons that can be flexed to reveal different flowerlike faces) to construct some myself.

“Recreational math” might sound like an oxymoron to some, but the term can broadly include such immensely popular puzzles as Sudoku and KenKen, in addition to various games and brain teasers. The qualifying characteristics are that no advanced mathematical knowledge like calculus be required, and the activity engage enough of the same logical and deductive skills used in mathematics.

Unlike Sudoku, which always has the same format and gets easier with practice, the disparate puzzles that Mr. Gardner favored required different, inventive techniques to crack. The solution in such puzzles usually pops up in its entirety, through a flash of insight, rather than emerging steadily via step-by-step deduction as in Sudoku. An example: How can you identify a single counterfeit penny, slightly lighter than the rest, from a group of nine, in only two weighings?

Mr. Gardner’s great genius lay in using such basic puzzles to lure readers into extensions requiring pattern recognition and generalization, where they were doing real math. For instance, once you solve the nine coin puzzle above, you should be able to figure it out for 27 coins, or 81, or any power of three, in fact. This is how math works, how recreational questions can quickly lead to research problems and striking, unexpected discoveries.

A famous illustration of this was a riddle posed by the citizens of Konigsberg, Germany, on whether there was a loop through their town traversing each of its seven bridges only once. In solving the problem, the mathematician Leonhard Euler abstracted the city map by representing each land mass by a node and each bridge by a line segment. Not only did his method generalize to any number of bridges, but it also laid the foundation for graph theory, a subject essential to web searches and other applications.

With the diversity of entertainment choices available nowadays, Mr. Gardner’s name may no longer ring a bell. The few students in my current batch who say they still do mathematical puzzles seem partial to a website called Project Euler, whose computational problems require not just mathematical insight but also programming skill.

This reflects a sea change in mathematics itself, where computationally intense fields have been gaining increasing prominence in the past few decades. Also, Sudoku-type puzzles, so addictive and easily generated by computers, have squeezed out one-of-a-kind “insight” puzzles, which are much harder to design — and solve. Yet Mr. Gardner’s work lives on, through websites that render it in the visual and animated forms favored by today’s audiences, through a constellation of his books that continue to sell, and through biannual “Gathering 4 Gardner” recreational math conferences.

In his final article for Scientific American, in 1998, Mr. Gardner lamented the “glacial” progress resulting from his efforts to have recreational math introduced into school curriculums “as a way to interest young students in the wonders of mathematics.” Indeed, a paper this year in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics points out that recreational math can be used to awaken mathematics-related “joy,” “satisfaction,” “excitement” and “curiosity” in students, which the educational policies of several countries (including China, India, Finland, Sweden, England, Singapore and Japan) call for in writing. In contrast, the Common Core in the United States does not explicitly mention this emotional side of the subject, regarding mathematics only as a tool.

Of course, the Common Core lists only academic standards, and leaves the curriculum to individual districts — some of which are indeed incorporating recreational mathematics. For instance, math lesson plans in Baltimore County public schools now usually begin with computer-accessible game and puzzle suggestions that teachers can choose to adopt, to motivate their classes.

The body of recreational mathematics that Mr. Gardner tended to and augmented is a valuable resource for mankind. He would have wanted no greater tribute, surely, than to have it keep nourishing future generations."
math  mathematics  fun  recreationalmathematics  2016  1975  marjorierice  problemsolving  puzzles  martin  gardner  games  play 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Ethan Zuckerman: Solving Other People's Problems With Technology - The Atlantic
"In other words, is it possible to get beyond both a naïve belief that the latest technology will solve social problems—and a reaction that rubbishes any attempt to offer novel technical solutions as inappropriate, insensitive, and misguided? Can we find a synthesis in which technologists look at their work critically and work closely with the people they’re trying to help in order to build sociotechnical systems that address hard problems?

Obviously, I think this is possible — if really, really hard — or I wouldn’t be teaching at an engineering school. But before considering how we overcome a naïve faith in technology, let’s examine Snow’s suggestion. It’s a textbook example of a solution that’s technically sophisticated, simple to understand, and dangerously wrong."



"The problem with the solutionist critique, though, is that it tends to remove technological innovation from the problem-solver’s toolkit. In fact, technological development is often a key component in solving complex social and political problems, and new technologies can sometimes open a previously intractable problem. The rise of inexpensive solar panels may be an opportunity to move nations away from a dependency on fossil fuels and begin lowering atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, much as developments in natural gas extraction and transport technologies have lessened the use of dirtier fuels like coal.

But it’s rare that technology provides a robust solution to a social problem by itself. Successful technological approaches to solving social problems usually require changes in laws and norms, as well as market incentives to make change at scale."



"Of the many wise things my Yale students said during our workshop was a student who wondered if he should be participating at all. “I don’t know anything about prisons, I don’t have family in prison. I don’t know if I understand these problems well enough to solve them, and I don’t know if these problems are mine to solve.”

Talking about the workshop with my friend and colleague Chelsea Barabas, she asked the wonderfully deep question, “Is it ever okay to solve another person’s problem?”

On its surface, the question looks easy to answer. We can’t ask infants to solve problems of infant mortality, and by extension, it seems unwise to let kindergarten students design educational policy or demand that the severely disabled design their own assistive technologies.

But the argument is more complicated when you consider it more closely. It’s difficult if not impossible to design a great assistive technology without working closely, iteratively, and cooperatively with the person who will wear or use it. My colleague Hugh Herr designs cutting-edge prostheses for U.S. veterans who’ve lost legs, and the centerpiece of his lab is a treadmill where amputees test his limbs, giving him and his students feedback about what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to change. Without the active collaboration with the people he’s trying to help, he’s unable to make technological advances.

Disability rights activists have demanded “nothing about us without us,” a slogan that demands that policies should not be developed without the participation of those intended to benefit from those policies.

Design philosophies like participatory design and codesign bring this concept to the world of technology, demanding that technologies designed for a group of people be designed and built, in part, by those people. Codesign challenges many of the assumptions of engineering, requiring people who are used to working in isolation to build broad teams and to understand that those most qualified to offer a technical solution may be least qualified to identify a need or articulate a design problem. This method is hard and frustrating, but it’s also one of the best ways to ensure that you’re solving the right problem, rather than imposing your preferred solution on a situation."



"It is unlikely that anyone is going to invite Shane Snow to redesign a major prison any time soon, so spending more than 3,000 words urging you to reject his solution may be a waste of your time and mine. But the mistakes Snow makes are those that engineers make all the time when they turn their energy and creativity to solving pressing and persistent social problems. Looking closely at how Snow’s solutions fall short offers some hope for building better, fairer, and saner solutions.

The challenge, unfortunately, is not in offering a critique of how solutions go wrong. Excellent versions of that critique exist, from Morozov’s war on solutionism, to Courtney Martin’s brilliant “The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems.” If it’s easy to design inappropriate solutions about problems you don’t fully understand, it’s not much harder to criticize the inadequacy of those solutions.

What’s hard is synthesis — learning to use technology as part of well-designed sociotechnical solutions. These solutions sometimes require profound advances in technology. But they virtually always require people to build complex, multifunctional teams that work with and learn from the people the technology is supposed to benefit.

Three students at the MIT Media Lab taught a course last semester called “Unpacking Impact: Reflecting as We Make.” They point out that the Media Lab prides itself on teaching students how to make anything, and how to turn what you make into a business, but rarely teaches reflection about what we make and what it might mean for society as a whole. My experience with teaching this reflective process to engineers is that it’s both important and potentially paralyzing, that once we understand the incompleteness of technology as a path for solving problems and the ways technological solutions relate to social, market, and legal forces, it can be hard to build anything at all.

I’m going to teach a new course this fall, tentatively titled “Technology and Social Change.” It’s going to include an examination of the four levers of social change Larry Lessig suggests in Code, and which I’ve been exploring as possible paths to civic engagement. The course will include deep methodological dives into codesign, and will examine using anthropology as tool for understanding user needs. It will look at unintended consequences, cases where technology’s best intentions fail, and cases where careful exploration and preparation led to technosocial systems that make users and communities more powerful than they were before.

I’m “calling my shot” here for two reasons. One, by announcing it publicly, I’m less likely to back out of it, and given how hard these problems are, backing out is a real possibility. And two, if you’ve read this far in this post, you’ve likely thought about this issue and have suggestions for what we should read and what exercises we should try in the course of the class — I hope you might be kind enough to share those with me.

In the end, I’m grateful for Shane Snow’s surreal, Black Mirror vision of the future prison both because it’s a helpful jumping-off point for understanding how hard it is to make change well by using technology, and because the U.S. prison system is a broken and dysfunctional system in need of change. But we need to find ways to disrupt better, to challenge knowledgeably, to bring the people they hope to benefit into the process. If you can, please help me figure out how we teach these ideas to the smart, creative people I work with—people who want to change the world, and are afraid of breaking it in the process."
technology  technosolutionism  solutionism  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  problemsolving  2016  ethanzuckerman  design  blackmirror  shanesnow  prisons  socialchange  lawrencelessig  anthropology  medialab  courtneymartin  nutraloaf  soylent  codesign  evgenymorozov  olcp  wikipedia  bias  racism  empathy  suziecagle  mitmedialab  mit  systems  systemsthinking  oculusrift  secondlife  vr  virtualreality  solitaryconfinement  incarceration  change  changemaking  ethnography  chelseabarabas  participatory  participatorydesign 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Berlin Biennale | All Problems Can Be Illuminated; Not All Problems Can Be Solved
"“There is no technology for justice. There is only justice.”12 Ursula Franklin answered when I asked her in December 2015, what to do. I reached out because I wanted her to tell me how to act on the perspectives she brings to the traditional story of progress. As someone building internet technologies, working within this received wisdom, I wanted a recipe, something I could share with others (with you!) and throw my body into.

She was warm and generous and incredibly insightful, and she gave me no smooth answers, no simple way.

Central to our conversation was my worry about the massive surveillance capacities enabled by internet technologies and the way in which public assent to surveillance is fueled by the racism and militarism of the now eternal “War on Terror.” What could we do to combat this narrative? What could we do to change the underlying technologies such that they respect human agency and privacy?

Franklin agreed. This is a grave problem. But not a “technological” problem:

“Whether it’s heathens, witches, women, communists, whoever, the institution of an enemy as a political tool is inappropriate. The only solution is an insistence on a civilized democratic society. A civilized democratic society combats this and the wish of an authority to collect personal information on citizens and their activities and loyalties. Whether it’s done by spying, by bribing children, by workplace monitoring, by confession in the confession box of the church—the collection is the issue. The means—the technology—is secondary. The problem is a problem of authoritarian power. And at the root of this problem is the issue of justice, and justice is political.”

While justice can be understood, can be felt, there is no template to follow, or checklist to work through for ensuring a just outcome. The requirements are humility, a respect for context, and a willingness to listen to the most marginalized voices. Let these define the basic requirements of whatever you do. You must “put yourself in the position of the most vulnerable, in a way that achieves a visceral gut feeling of empathy and perspective—that’s the only way to see what justice is.”

Understanding justice, honoring those most vulnerable and including them as authors of any plan that impacts them, is a necessary starting place. But the problems associated with our current technologies won’t be solved by tweaking gears or redesigning mechanisms. A roadmap that centers on justice is only the first step. “For a very long time gadgets and machinery have been anti-people. If one wants to get away from the anti-people component, then you don’t argue technology as much as you argue capitalism.” Even with a view of what justice would look like and could be, attempts at radical change will, of course, be repulsed by powerful actors who benefit richly from the unjust status quo. Political change must be a part of the equation.

This isn’t a frenzied call for revolution. The bigger the scale, the bigger the vision for just change, the more difficult it will be to “get it through” a system in which power is aligned against justice (and, of course, the more difficult it will be to truly understand this vision’s vast impact on vulnerable populations and thus ensure it really supports justice.) Not that working to build practices and plans isn’t worthwhile—it is incredibly worthwhile. But you’re unlikely to have much real impact if you start with a grand announcement. “To proceed in a hostile world,” Franklin suggests, “call it an experiment. Admit that you don’t know how to do it, but ask for space and peace and respect. Then try your experiment, quietly.” In conditions not conducive to success, situate yourself out of the spotlight and proceed subtly, humbly, and be willing to downplay expectations while new forms incubate.

“My favorite word is an old Quaker term, ‘scrupling,’ used as an activity,” Franklin begins, addressing how to approach the vastness of the political and social problems we were discussing. “It comes out of the anti-slavery movement, originally. People would get together to ‘scruple,’ that is, discuss and debate a common problem, something they had scruples about—say, justice—for which they did not have a solution. This is scrupling, and this is something you and your friends can do.”

Gather and talk. Empathize and listen. Don’t chase the spotlight, and accept that some problems are big, and difficult, and that what you’re good at may not fix them. These are not the ways of charismatic executives and flash-bang inventors. These are not instructions for entrepreneurial success. These won’t produce bigger faster newer ways of doing things.

Her parting words were meant to comfort me. “For your own sanity, you have to remember that not all problems can be solved. Not all problems can be solved, but all problems can be illuminated. If the eggs are scrambled, they’re scrambled. You can’t unscramble them. All you can possibly do is cook them and share them with somebody.”"
ursulafranklin  justice  technology  meredithmeredith  2016  efficiency  compliance  listening  empathy  progress  racism  militarism  surveillance  waronterror  democracy  society  humility  inclusivity  inclusion  vulnerability  radicalchange  power  statusquo  politics  scrupling  conversation  problemsolving  jacquesellul  capitalism  consumerism  innovation  quakers  systems  interrelationships  systemsthinking  complexity  culture  materials  art  mindset  organization  procedures  symbols  orthodoxy  luddism  occupywallstreet  ows  resistance  disruption  speed  humanism  science  scientism  legibility  elitism  experts  authority  privilege  experience  civilization  authoritarianism  socialjustice  revolution  peace  spotlight  hardproblems  success 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Solving All the Wrong Problems - The New York Times
"We are overloaded daily with new discoveries, patents and inventions all promising a better life, but that better life has not been forthcoming for most. In fact, the bulk of the above list targets a very specific (and tiny!) slice of the population. As one colleague in tech explained it to me recently, for most people working on such projects, the goal is basically to provide for themselves everything that their mothers no longer do.

He was joking — sort of — but his comment made me think hard about who is served by this stuff. I’m concerned that such a focus on comfort and instant gratification will reduce us all to those characters in “Wall-E,” bound to their recliners, Big Gulps in hand, interacting with the world exclusively through their remotes.

Too many well-funded entrepreneurial efforts turn out to promise more than they can deliver (i.e., Theranos’ finger-prick blood test) or read as parody (but, sadly, are not — such as the $99 “vessel” that monitors your water intake and tells you when you should drink more water).

When everything is characterized as “world-changing,” is anything?

Clay Tarver, a writer and producer for the painfully on-point HBO comedy “Silicon Valley,” said in a recent New Yorker article: “I’ve been told that, at some of the big companies, the P.R. departments have ordered their employees to stop saying ‘We’re making the world a better place,’ specifically because we have made fun of that phrase so mercilessly. So I guess, at the very least, we’re making the world a better place by making these people stop saying they’re making the world a better place.”

O.K., that’s a start. But the impulse to conflate toothbrush delivery with Nobel Prize-worthy good works is not just a bit cultish, it’s currently a wildfire burning through the so-called innovation sector. Products and services are designed to “disrupt” market sectors (a.k.a. bringing to market things no one really needs) more than to solve actual problems, especially those problems experienced by what the writer C. Z. Nnaemeka has described as “the unexotic underclass” — single mothers, the white rural poor, veterans, out-of-work Americans over 50 — who, she explains, have the “misfortune of being insufficiently interesting.”

If the most fundamental definition of design is to solve problems, why are so many people devoting so much energy to solving problems that don’t really exist? How can we get more people to look beyond their own lived experience?

In “Design: The Invention of Desire,” a thoughtful and necessary new book by the designer and theorist Jessica Helfand, the author brings to light an amazing kernel: “hack,” a term so beloved in Silicon Valley that it’s painted on the courtyard of the Facebook campus and is visible from planes flying overhead, is also prison slang for “horse’s ass carrying keys.”

To “hack” is to cut, to gash, to break. It proceeds from the belief that nothing is worth saving, that everything needs fixing. But is that really the case? Are we fixing the right things? Are we breaking the wrong ones? Is it necessary to start from scratch every time?

Empathy, humility, compassion, conscience: These are the key ingredients missing in the pursuit of innovation, Ms. Helfand argues, and in her book she explores design, and by extension innovation, as an intrinsically human discipline — albeit one that seems to have lost its way. Ms. Helfand argues that innovation is now predicated less on creating and more on the undoing of the work of others.

“In this humility-poor environment, the idea of disruption appeals as a kind of subversive provocation,” she writes. “Too many designers think they are innovating when they are merely breaking and entering.”

In this way, innovation is very much mirroring the larger public discourse: a distrust of institutions combined with unabashed confidence in one’s own judgment shifts solutions away from fixing, repairing or improving and shoves them toward destruction for its own sake. (Sound like a certain presidential candidate? Or Brexit?)

Perhaps the main reason these frivolous products and services frustrate me is because of their creators’ insistence that changing lives for the better is their reason for being. To wit, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who has invested in companies like Airbnb and Twitter but also in services such as LikeALittle (which started out as a flirting tool among college students) and Soylent (a sort of SlimFast concoction for tech geeks), tweeted last week: “The perpetually missing headline: ‘Capitalism worked okay again today and most people in the world got a little better off.’ ”

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, where such companies are based, sea level rise is ominous, the income gap between rich and poor has been growing faster than in any other city in the nation, a higher percentage of people send their kids to private school than in almost any other city, and a minimum salary of $254,000 is required to afford an average-priced home. Who exactly is better off?

Ms. Helfand calls for a deeper embrace of personal vigilance: “Design may provide the map,” she writes, “but the moral compass that guides our personal choices resides permanently within us all.”

Can we reset that moral compass? Maybe we can start by not being a bunch of hacks."
2016  allisonarieff  siliconvalley  problemsolving  disruption  claytarver  sanfrancisco  capitalism  jessicahelfand  books  invention  narcissism  theranos  comfort  instantgratification  hacking  innovation  publicdiscourse  publicgood  inequality  marcandreessen  morality  moralcompass  soylent  venturecapitalism  brexit  us  priorities 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Ray Eames and the Art of Entertaining - Curbed
"Ray Eames also understood housewifery as part, though far from all, of her and Charles’s design practice, as historian Pat Kirkham argues in an essay in a new book on the famous design couple. "Ray enjoyed nurturing through hospitality, and her ‘at home’ performances blurred the boundaries between her roles as wife, friend, and artist, designer and filmmaker with Charles," Kirkham writes in The World of Charles and Ray Eames (Rizzoli), a catalog which accompanies a recent retrospective at the Barbican in London. Other essays in the lushly illustrated tome cover their films, their dress, their multi-media exhibitions, and, in architect Sam Jacob’s contribution, their "California-ness."

Ray was luckier than many working women of her day, in that she could call upon her workplace for help. "Before the arrival of friends for an ‘informal’ evening at home, Ray, like a stage manager, art director, or production designer, would oversee a small Eames Office team assigned to preparing the house for the coming performance of hospitality."

She would orchestrate the arrangement of objects, the plumping of pillows, and the burning of candles to specific lengths. Food was generally simply prepared but of high quality, with a focus on arrangement of fruit, cheese, breads, and chocolate on dishes selected by Ray.

"Composition, colour, and colour coordination were central to Ray’s table-laying, and she drew on her large collection of crockery, from finely made Japanese pottery in plain bright colours to Royal Copenhagen’s prettily patterned tableware in blue and white." Woven baskets added texture; tablecloths, napkins, flowers and candelabra more colors. Staff had to be out of sight before the guests arrived, however, so as not to dispel the illusion.

In the documentary The Architect and the Painter, architect Kevin Roche tells the story of being served three bowls of flowers after a meal at their house. Ray called it a "visual dessert"—he reports later going to Dairy Queen.

On occasion, Ray even did themes, as when, in 1951, she planned a tea ceremony to welcome sculptor Isamu Noguchi and his movie-star wife Yoshiko (Shirley) Yamaguchi. Photos show tatami mats on the floor of the Eames House living area, with one of their wire-base tables in front of each guest. The room is uncharacteristically uncluttered, with plants in the corner and a Toy, with its multi-colored plastic-coated triangles, on the wall as a piece of abstract art.

Charlie Chaplin was also a guest, and later posed for photos with a Japanese fan. Could these elaborate events have served as inspiration for a sequence in the Eameses’ multi-screen show at the 1964 World’s Fair, "Think," in which a dinner party seating chart is used to explain problem-solving techniques to the masses?

In a 2006 essay for the Journal of Design History, I suggested the Eameses were not alone in performing modern marriage for publicity; the Girards, the Knolls, and the Saarinens also blurred the line between life and work, appearing in photographs in homes barely distinguishable from showrooms, and vice versa.

The Los Angeles Herman Miller showroom the Eameses designed predates their Pacific Palisades house, but was set up the same way, with seed packets keeping company with Giacometti, Japanese kites, and tumbleweeds. Eventually the Eameses would turn the decoration of their house into a third piece, the film House—After Five Years of Living (1955). The performance rolled on.

Acknowledging Ray’s hospitality as part of the Eames Office—as labor, as well as a design project—causes me to reflect differently on the occupations of previous generations. My mother and her parents were trained designers, and I had a great-grandmother who was an art teacher.

But a talent for composition, color, detail and arrangement can be handed down through the generations without a curriculum, if you think of it as a set of affinities. Brilliantly composed quilts and intricate afghans, balanced flower arrangements and gridded gardens use some of the same skills, and show the same daily devotion, as design practice. More housewives than Kjartansson have made homes performance art.

I think of the mother of my artist uncle, who was president of her state garden club, or the father of my architect husband, a businessman, who spent his spare time building a hedge maze. They were also designing—as Ray knew all too well, and as Kirkham has thankfully now explained.

The design world wasn’t the only place where table settings had a professional role to play, either. When I was growing up the dinner party was still, in academia, part of a winning promotion package, and it was rarely the male assistant professor doing the cooking and arranging.

Ray’s dessert flowers remind me of an elaborate dish my grandmother made at Easter, one that would be a worthy final project for Housewife School: paskha, an Eastern European egg custard molded into a dome and then decorated with fresh fruit in symmetrical floral patterns. It is a definitely a performance, and one that combines cooking, knife skills, composition, and color sense. (It is also, to my palate, better admired than consumed—sorry, Grandma!).

It seems Eames-esque: a folk tradition based on handwork and patterns, a food arranged rather than cooked. Shot from above, a paskha would fit right in with the photographs of rainbow grids of spools, crayons, and buttons that adorn the Eameses’ House of Cards. In a 1973 article in Progressive Architecture, critic Esther McCoy, a friend of Ray’s, wrote, "They were the first to fill in the spartan framework so acceptable to modern architecture with a varied and rich content." Later, she ended a remembrance of Ray with a vision of "her wide craftsman’s hands placing the bouquets on the table, moving them an inch this way or that.""
eames  charleseames  rayeames  alexandralange  2016  design  dinnerparties  performance  problemsolving  housewives  housewifery  calvintompkins  ragnarkjartansson 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Remarks at the SASE Panel On The Moral Economy of Tech
"I am only a small minnow in the technology ocean, but since it is my natural habitat, I want to make an effort to describe it to you.

As computer programmers, our formative intellectual experience is working with deterministic systems that have been designed by other human beings. These can be very complex, but the complexity is not the kind we find in the natural world. It is ultimately always tractable. Find the right abstractions, and the puzzle box opens before you.

The feeling of competence, control and delight in discovering a clever twist that solves a difficult problem is what makes being a computer programmer sometimes enjoyable.

But as anyone who's worked with tech people knows, this intellectual background can also lead to arrogance. People who excel at software design become convinced that they have a unique ability to understand any kind of system at all, from first principles, without prior training, thanks to their superior powers of analysis. Success in the artificially constructed world of software design promotes a dangerous confidence.

Today we are embarked on a great project to make computers a part of everyday life. As Marc Andreessen memorably frames it, "software is eating the world". And those of us writing the software expect to be greeted as liberators.

Our intentions are simple and clear. First we will instrument, then we will analyze, then we will optimize. And you will thank us.

But the real world is a stubborn place. It is complex in ways that resist abstraction and modeling. It notices and reacts to our attempts to affect it. Nor can we hope to examine it objectively from the outside, any more than we can step out of our own skin.

The connected world we're building may resemble a computer system, but really it's just the regular old world from before, with a bunch of microphones and keyboards and flat screens sticking out of it. And it has the same old problems.

Approaching the world as a software problem is a category error that has led us into some terrible habits of mind.

BAD MENTAL HABITS

First, programmers are trained to seek maximal and global solutions. Why solve a specific problem in one place when you can fix the general problem for everybody, and for all time? We don't think of this as hubris, but as a laudable economy of effort. And the startup funding culture of big risk, big reward encourages this grandiose mode of thinking. There is powerful social pressure to avoid incremental change, particularly any change that would require working with people outside tech and treating them as intellectual equals.

Second, treating the world as a software project gives us a rationale for being selfish. The old adage has it that if you are given ten minutes to cut down a tree, you should spend the first five sharpening your axe. We are used to the idea of bootstrapping ourselves into a position of maximum leverage before tackling a problem.

In the real world, this has led to a pathology where the tech sector maximizes its own comfort. You don't have to go far to see this. Hop on BART after the conference and take a look at Oakland, or take a stroll through downtown San Francisco and try to persuade yourself you're in the heart of a boom that has lasted for forty years. You'll see a residential theme park for tech workers, surrounded by areas of poverty and misery that have seen no benefit and ample harm from our presence. We pretend that by maximizing our convenience and productivity, we're hastening the day when we finally make life better for all those other people.

Third, treating the world as software promotes fantasies of control. And the best kind of control is control without responsibility. Our unique position as authors of software used by millions gives us power, but we don't accept that this should make us accountable. We're programmers—who else is going to write the software that runs the world? To put it plainly, we are surprised that people seem to get mad at us for trying to help.

Fortunately we are smart people and have found a way out of this predicament. Instead of relying on algorithms, which we can be accused of manipulating for our benefit, we have turned to machine learning, an ingenious way of disclaiming responsibility for anything. Machine learning is like money laundering for bias. It's a clean, mathematical apparatus that gives the status quo the aura of logical inevitability. The numbers don't lie.

Of course, people obsessed with control have to eventually confront the fact of their own extinction. The response of the tech world to death has been enthusiastic. We are going to fix it. Google Ventures, for example, is seriously funding research into immortality. Their head VC will call you a "deathist" for pointing out that this is delusional.

Such fantasies of control come with a dark side. Witness the current anxieties about an artificial superintelligence, or Elon Musk's apparently sincere belief that we're living in a simulation. For a computer programmer, that's the ultimate loss of control. Instead of writing the software, you are the software.

We obsess over these fake problems while creating some real ones.

In our attempt to feed the world to software, techies have built the greatest surveillance apparatus the world has ever seen. Unlike earlier efforts, this one is fully mechanized and in a large sense autonomous. Its power is latent, lying in the vast amounts of permanently stored personal data about entire populations.

We started out collecting this information by accident, as part of our project to automate everything, but soon realized that it had economic value. We could use it to make the process self-funding. And so mechanized surveillance has become the economic basis of the modern tech industry.

SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM

Surveillance capitalism has some of the features of a zero-sum game. The actual value of the data collected is not clear, but it is definitely an advantage to collect more than your rivals do. Because human beings develop an immune response to new forms of tracking and manipulation, the only way to stay successful is to keep finding novel ways to peer into people's private lives. And because much of the surveillance economy is funded by speculators, there is an incentive to try flashy things that will capture the speculators' imagination, and attract their money.

This creates a ratcheting effect where the behavior of ever more people is tracked ever more closely, and the collected information retained, in the hopes that further dollars can be squeezed out of it.

Just like industrialized manufacturing changed the relationship between labor and capital, surveillance capitalism is changing the relationship between private citizens and the entities doing the tracking. Our old ideas about individual privacy and consent no longer hold in a world where personal data is harvested on an industrial scale.

Those who benefit from the death of privacy attempt to frame our subjugation in terms of freedom, just like early factory owners talked about the sanctity of contract law. They insisted that a worker should have the right to agree to anything, from sixteen-hour days to unsafe working conditions, as if factory owners and workers were on an equal footing.

Companies that perform surveillance are attempting the same mental trick. They assert that we freely share our data in return for valuable services. But opting out of surveillance capitalism is like opting out of electricity, or cooked foods—you are free to do it in theory. In practice, it will upend your life.

Many of you had to obtain a US visa to attend this conference. The customs service announced yesterday it wants to start asking people for their social media profiles. Imagine trying to attend your next conference without a LinkedIn profile, and explaining to the American authorities why you are so suspiciously off the grid.

The reality is, opting out of surveillance capitalism means opting out of much of modern life.

We're used to talking about the private and public sector in the real economy, but in the surveillance economy this boundary doesn't exist. Much of the day-to-day work of surveillance is done by telecommunications firms, which have a close relationship with government. The techniques and software of surveillance are freely shared between practitioners on both sides. All of the major players in the surveillance economy cooperate with their own country's intelligence agencies, and are spied on (very effectively) by all the others.

As a technologist, this state of affairs gives me the feeling of living in a forest that is filling up with dry, dead wood. The very personal, very potent information we're gathering about people never goes away, only accumulates. I don't want to see the fire come, but at the same time, I can't figure out a way to persuade other people of the great danger.

So I try to spin scenarios.

THE INEVITABLE LIST OF SCARY SCENARIOS

One of the candidates running for President this year has promised to deport eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, as well as block Muslims from entering the country altogether. Try to imagine this policy enacted using the tools of modern technology. The FBI would subpoena Facebook for information on every user born abroad. Email and phone conversations would be monitored to check for the use of Arabic or Spanish, and sentiment analysis applied to see if the participants sounded "nervous". Social networks, phone metadata, and cell phone tracking would lead police to nests of hiding immigrants.

We could do a really good job deporting people if we put our minds to it.

Or consider the other candidate running for President, the one we consider the sane alternative, who has been a longtime promoter of a system of extrajudicial murder that uses blanket surveillance of cell phone traffic, email, and social media to create lists of people to be tracked and killed with autonomous aircraft. … [more]
culture  ethics  privacy  surveillance  technology  technosolutionism  maciegceglowski  2016  computing  coding  programming  problemsolving  systemsthinking  systems  software  control  power  elonmusk  marcandreessen  siliconvalley  sanfrancisco  oakland  responsibility  machinelearning  googlevntures  vc  capitalism  speculation  consent  labor  economics  poland  dystopia  government  politics  policy  immortality 
june 2016 by robertogreco
dy/dan » Blog Archive » Your GPS Is Making You Dumber, and What That Means for Teaching
"Ann Shannon asks teachers to avoid “GPS-ing” their students:
When I talk about GPSing students in a mathematics class I am describing our tendency to tell students—step-by-step—how to arrive at the answer to a mathematics problem, just as a GPS device in a car tells us – step-by-step – how to arrive at some destination.

Shannon writes that when she used her GPS, “I usually arrived at my destination having learned little about my journey and with no overview of my entire route.”

True to the contested nature of education, we will now turn to someone who advocates exactly the opposite. Greg Ashman recommends novices learn new ideas and skills through explicit instruction, one facet of which is step-by-step worked examples. Ashman took up the GPS metaphor recently. He used his satellite navigation system in new environs and found himself able to re-create his route later without difficulty.

What can we do here? Shannon argues from intuition. Ashman’s study lacks a certain rigor. Luckily, researchers have actually studied what people learn and don’t learn when they use their GPS!

In a 2006 study, researchers compared two kinds of navigation. One set of participants used traditional, step-by-step GPS navigation to travel between two points in a zoo. Another group had to construct their route between those points using a map and then travel segments of that route from memory.

Afterwards, the researchers assessed the route knowledge and survey knowledge of their participants. Route knowledge helps people navigate between landmarks directly. Survey knowledge helps people understand spatial relationships between those landmarks and plan new routes. At the end of the study, the researchers found that map users had better survey knowledge than GPS users, which you might have expected, but map users outperformed the GPS users on measures of route knowledge as well.

So your GPS does an excellent job transporting you efficiently from one point to another, but a poor job helping you acquire the survey knowledge to understand the terrain and adapt to changes.

Similarly, our step-by-step instructions do an excellent job transporting students efficiently from a question to its answer, but a poor job helping them acquire the domain knowledge to understand the deep structure in a problem set and adapt old methods to new questions.

I’ll take that trade with my GPS, especially on a dull route that I travel infrequently, but that isn’t a good trade in the classroom.

The researchers explain their results from the perspective of active learning, arguing that travelers need to do something effortful and difficult while they learn in order to remember both route and survey knowledge. Designing learning for the right kind of effort and difficulty is one of the most interesting tasks in curriculum design. Too much effort and difficulty and you’ll see our travelers try to navigate a route without a GPS or a map. While blindfolded. But the GPS offers too little difficulty, with negative consequences for drivers and even worse ones for students."
education  teaching  gps  belesshelpful  instruction  math  mathematics  2016  annshannon  learning  howwelearn  navigation  attention  knowledge  curriculum  domainknowledge  problemsolving 
june 2016 by robertogreco
my first commencement speech | Abler.
"Congratulations, class of 2016. It’s an honor to be with you. I want to start with a story from candidates’ weekend this past February. As you all know, Candidates’ Weekends are when the applicants for admission who’ve made the first cut come to campus for a full weekend of events—events we design to help us understand them as people. You all did this some four years ago now.

So one thing I did on Candidate’s Weekend was the solo interview session. The setup is three of us: myself, as the faculty member, plus one current student, and one recent alumnus sit together to ask a series of questions of these young people. And—they’re 17, right, so they’re nervous. It’s a profound and moving thing to see up close their quivering hands, their flushed cheeks. We try to set them at ease and to learn something in a short amount of time: about what makes them tick, what they’re passionate about.

And at the end of each interview, as instructed, we allow for questions from the candidates themselves: and they do have questions—about Olin life, or what we like about engineering, things you would expect.

And on that day, these questions from the candidates were indeed more or less the usual fare. With one exception. We asked this one affable young high school student if he had any questions, and without missing a beat, he said, right away, he said: “What’s up with the doors here?” Just like that, totally unself-conscious. What’s up with the doors here? And my interview partners—the student and the alumnus—just *erupted* in recognition and laughter. Because apparently the doors at Olin are notorious among students for their poor design: it has been, for all these years, weirdly unclear whether and where you push or pull. It’s not intuitive where your weight should fall to hold them open. It’s awkward entering and exiting all over campus.

Lots of Olin students have remarked on and complained about this phenomenon, and here was this young person: so immediately alert to the subtlety of this condition in his first weekend here, and brazen enough to call it out.

That guy got in. I checked.

This young hopeful candidate for engineering school had found himself among his people. And I’m happy to say that in the intervening weeks and months since then, somehow some door cues—saying “push here” or “pull” have mysteriously appeared on various handles around campus. Not sure who’s responsible for that, but someone got the message.

Now. That story might seem like just a funny anecdote, but it actually reveals something big, I think, about engineering and engineers. Asking What’s up with the doors is more than an idle observation. I think it indicates a way of being in the world.

A lot of times engineering is framed as a penchant for problem-solving, in various permutations and with various caveats. Problem-solving: that is, skills and knowledge to materially improve the operations of the world. You’ve heard this.

But What’s up with the doors, I think, signals something more profound. It’s the full knowledge that the inherited conditions of the natural and built environment need not be as they are. It’s the understanding that atoms and bits—the material and the digital—these conditions aren’t permanent. They don’t have to remain mysterious. Atoms and bits, bits and atoms: unlocked, un-black-boxed, malleable, contingent.

To understand the systems of the built world is to know, in your bones, something powerful: that things might be otherwise. The doors, the engines, the mechanisms, the software and systems: you all know that these are the results of design decisions that can be reversed, unwound, utterly reconceived. Because you understand how they work. What’s up with the doors underscores that power, and it’s a power that you all now have. We send you out to the world with it. So: it’s a good day.

However. However.

I won’t cheapen this day by offering you a simple victory narrative. If only, IF ONLY the doors of the world were entirely made of wood and steel. If only it were so simple—to make the world better, just using atoms and bits.

Think about the doors of the immaterial kind: the portals, the thresholds, the entry points to human flourishing that are only open to some, and sealed shut for others. These are doors whose pushing open and pulling closed are social, political, interpersonal mechanisms—mechanisms that no amount of physics alone can sway.

In other words: to find yourself equipped as an engineer in the physical, technical sense—to be able to intervene and even dismantle the doors of the tangible, built world—is still to find yourself an ordinary citizen with a much harder set of questions to engage. How do we share this planet? How do we talk to each other, people unlike ourselves? How do we grapple with the legacies of history? How do we build not only the future we can construct, but the just and sustainable future we want to live in, one that includes all of us? To pry open and build these kinds of entrances, you will use your engineering, yes, but you’ll need so much more than that. You’ll need wisdom, and you’ll have to look for it and recognize it far outside of technology.

Be brave with these questions. Keep asking them. See that all kinds of openings and closings are everywhere.

And as you go out from here, know that the doors of this campus remain open to you."
sarahendren  olincollege  commencementaddresses  accessibility  engineering  2016  access  criticalthinking  problemsolving  doors  power  howthingswork  portals  thresholds  intervention  wisdom  technology  politics  commencementspeeches 
may 2016 by robertogreco
From AI to IA: How AI and architecture created interactivity - YouTube
"The architecture of digital systems isn't just a metaphor. It developed out of a 50-year collaborative relationship between architects and designers, on one side, and technologists in AI, cybernetics, and computer science, on the other. In this talk at the O'Reilly Design Conference in 2016, Molly Steenson traces that history of interaction, tying it to contemporary lessons aimed at designing for a complex world."
mollysteenson  2016  ai  artificialintelligence  douglasenglebart  symbiosis  augmentation  christopheralexander  nicholasnegroponte  richardsaulwurman  architecture  physical  digital  mitmedialab  history  mitarchitecturemachinegroup  technology  compsci  computerscience  cybernetics  interaction  structures  computing  design  complexity  frederickbrooks  computers  interactivity  activity  metaphor  marvinminsky  heuristics  problemsolving  kent  wardcunningham  gangoffour  objectorientedprogramming  apatternlanguage  wikis  agilesoftwaredevelopment  software  patterns  users  digitalspace  interactiondesign  terrywinograd  xeroxparc  petermccolough  medialab 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems — The Development Set — Medium
"“If you’re young, privileged, and interested in creating a life of meaning, of course you’d be attracted to solving problems that seem urgent and readily solvable.”"

"Let’s pretend, for a moment, that you are a 22-year-old college student in Kampala, Uganda. You’re sitting in class and discreetly scrolling through Facebook on your phone. You see that there has been another mass shooting in America, this time in a place called San Bernardino. You’ve never heard of it. You’ve never been to America. But you’ve certainly heard a lot about gun violence in the U.S. It seems like a new mass shooting happens every week.

You wonder if you could go there and get stricter gun legislation passed. You’d be a hero to the American people, a problem-solver, a lifesaver. How hard could it be? Maybe there’s a fellowship for high-minded people like you to go to America after college and train as social entrepreneurs. You could start the nonprofit organization that ends mass shootings, maybe even win a humanitarian award by the time you are 30.

Sound hopelessly naïve? Maybe even a little deluded? It is. And yet, it’s not much different from how too many Americans think about social change in the “Global South.”

If you asked a 22-year-old American about gun control in this country, she would probably tell you that it’s a lot more complicated than taking some workshops on social entrepreneurship and starting a non-profit. She might tell her counterpart from Kampala about the intractable nature of our legislative branch, the long history of gun culture in this country and its passionate defenders, the complexity of mental illness and its treatment. She would perhaps mention the added complication of agitating for change as an outsider.

But if you ask that same 22-year-old American about some of the most pressing problems in a place like Uganda — rural hunger or girl’s secondary education or homophobia — she might see them as solvable. Maybe even easily solvable.

I’ve begun to think about this trend as the reductive seduction of other people’s problems. It’s not malicious. In many ways, it’s psychologically defensible; we don’t know what we don’t know.

If you’re young, privileged, and interested in creating a life of meaning, of course you’d be attracted to solving problems that seem urgent and readily solvable. Of course you’d want to apply for prestigious fellowships that mark you as an ambitious altruist among your peers. Of course you’d want to fly on planes to exotic locations with, importantly, exotic problems.

There is a whole “industry” set up to nurture these desires and delusions — most notably, the 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S., many of them focused on helping people abroad. In other words, the young American ego doesn’t appear in a vacuum. Its hubris is encouraged through job and internship opportunities, conferences galore, and cultural propaganda — encompassed so fully in the patronizing, dangerously simple phrase “save the world.”"



"We are easily seduced by aid projects that promise play. The SOCCKET, an energy-generating soccer ball, made a splash in 2011 when it raised $92,296 on Kickstarter. Three short years later, the company that created it wrote to its backers: “Most of you received an incredibly underwhelming product with a slew of manufacturing and quality control errors… In summary, we totally f*#ked up this Kickstarter campaign.”

Reading their surprisingly candid mea culpa, I couldn’t help but wonder where the equivalent message was to the kids in energy-starved areas whose high hopes were darkened by a defunct ball.

In some cases, the reductive seduction can actively cause harm. In its early years, TOMS Shoes — which has become infamous for its “buy one give one” business model, wherein they give a pair of shoes for every one sold — donated American-made shoes, which put local shoe factory workers out of jobs (they’ve since changed their supply chain).

Some development workers even have an acronym that they use to describe these initiatives: SWEDOW (stuff we don’t want). AIDWATCH, a watchdog development blog, created a handy flow chart that helps do gooders reality check their altruistic instincts. It begins with the simplest of questions — “Is the stuff needed?” — and flows down to more sophisticated questions like, “Will buying locally cause shortages or other disruptions?”

Second, the reductive seduction of other people’s problems is dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve avoided. While thousands of the country’s best and brightest flock to far-flung places to ease unfamiliar suffering and tackle foreign dysfunction, we’ve got plenty of domestic need."



"I understand the attraction of working outside of the U.S. There’s no question that the scale and severity of need in so many countries goes far beyond anything we experience or witness stateside. Why should those beautiful humans deserve any less of our best energy just because we don’t share a nationality?

(And I’m not arguing that staying close to home inoculates kids, especially of the white, privileged variety, like me, from making big mistakes.)

But don’t go because you’ve fallen in love with solvability. Go because you’ve fallen in love with complexity.

Don’t go because you want to do something virtuous. Go because you want to do something difficult.

Don’t go because you want to talk. Go because you want to listen.

Don’t go because you loved studying abroad. Go because, like Molly Melching, you plan on putting down roots. Melching, a native of Illinois, is widely credited with ending female genital cutting (FGC) in Senegal. But it didn’t happen overnight. She has been living in and around Dakar since 1974, developing her organization, Tostan, and its strategy of helping communities collectively address human rights abuses. Her leadership style is all about finely calibrated moments of risk — when she will challenge a local leader, for example — and restraint — when she will hold off on challenging a local leader because she intuits that she hasn’t yet developed enough trust with him. That kind of leadership doesn’t develop during a six-month home stay.

The rise of the social entrepreneurship field in the last few decades has sent countless young people packing across continents. In 2015, global nonprofit Echoing Green received 3,165 applications for about 40 fellowship spots, the majority of them from American applicants interested in social change abroad. For the last decade, recent college grads have been banging down the doors at places like Ashoka and Skoll World Forum, both centers of the social entrepreneurship universe, and SOCAP, focused on impact investing. And, to be sure, a lot of those grads are doing powerful work.

But a lot of them, let’s be real, are not. They’re making big mistakes — both operationally and culturally — in countries they aren’t familiar with. They’re solving problems for people, rather than with, replicating many of the mistakes that the world’s largest development agencies make on a much smaller scale. They drop technology without having a training or maintenance plan in place, or try to shift cultural norms without culturally appropriate educational materials or trusted messengers. Or they’re spending the majority of their days speaking about the work on the conference circuit, rather than actually doing it.

This work can take a toll on these young, idealistic Americans. They feel hollowed out by the cumulative effects of overstating their success while fundraising. They’re quietly haunted by the possibility that they aren’t the right people to be enacting these changes. They feel noble at times, but disconnected from their own homes, their own families, their own friends. They burn out.

There’s a better way. For all of us. Resist the reductive seduction of other people’s problems and, instead, fall in love with the longer-term prospect of staying home and facing systemic complexity head on. Or go if you must, but stay long enough, listen hard enough so that “other people” become real people. But, be warned, they may not seem so easy to “save.”"

[Two responses:
https://medium.com/the-development-set/the-global-development-long-game-a1a42b8c67ee#.36h0y6rtl
https://medium.com/the-development-set/the-hand-that-gives-9187a8ccfcd0#.3x4h3miel ]
courtneymartin  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  problemsolving  colonialism  solvability  2016  privilege  virtue  complexity  mollymelching  roots  culture  idealism  cznnaemeka  guns  homelessness  homeless  prisons  criminaljusticesystem  tomsshoes  aidwatch  globalsouth  disruption  charitableindustrialcomplex  socialentrepreneurship  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Most Likely to Succeed | American RadioWorks |
"In most modern work places employees are expected to be self-directed and also work collaboratively. But do conventional public schools do enough to encourage creative and critical thinking?

We’ll hear from Ted Dintersmith, executive producer of “Most Likely to Succeed,” a film that takes a look at how traditional high schools need to change in order to prepare students for the innovations of tomorrow. Dintersmith wasn’t always a film producer. For 25 years he was a successful venture capitalist. He says he noticed that many of the people he hired looked really good on paper – they’d done well in large, structured corporate environments. But they didn’t seem to thrive in smaller, more innovative environments. At home, Dintersmith also noticed that his children’s homework assignments focused on getting students ready for standardized tests, rather than getting them to think creatively. Ted Dintersmith recently spoke to American RadioWorks associate producer Suzanne Pekow."
mostlikeltosucceed  hightechhigh  teddintersmith  2015  sandiego  education  learning  schools  kipp  colleges  universities  collegeadmissions  standardizedtesting  standardization  problemsolving  meaning  purpose  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  deschooling  edg 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Problem With Ketchup Leather - The Atlantic
"The technology critic Evgeny Morozov calls this sort of thinking “solutionism”—the belief that all problems can be solved by a single and simple technological solution. The “problem” of being a living creature who has to eat and, therefore, who must take breaks from working can be “solved” by Soylent, which takes both the decision-making and the prep/fetch time out of eating. The “problem” of finding and using a regulated taxi service can be “solved” by Uber, which offers easier access to cars for hire.

Morozov is concerned about solutionism because it recasts social conditions that demand deeper philosophical and political consideration as simple hurdles for technology. The availability of certain types of solutions—the app-driven “sharing economy” and so forth—make them seem like the right solutions for problems just because they are available as solutions.

But solutionism has another, subtler downside: It trains us to see everything as a problem in the first place. Not just urban transit or productivity, but even hamburgers. Even ketchup!

The fact that tech rags like Tech Insider and Mashable are covering ketchup leather as technology or innovation exemplifies the issue. When presented as a solution, ketchup leather demands that a problem exist. And so we invent one—sogginess, for example.

In truth, what’s really going on at Plan Check, the Los Angeles restaurant credited with “solving” the burger problem through ketchup leather, is something far more modest—and more interesting—than solutionism allows.

Specifically, an ancient food-preparation technique, dehydration, is being applied in a novel and clever way. There’s no problem whatsoever, and certainly not one solved by dried slaps of tomato paste. If your burgers are soggy, it probably means they’re not being cooked to proper temperature. Some folks love their meat medium-rare, but a medium or well-done burger makes for better hand-edible cooked sandwiches (and also better protects you from the risk of food contamination).

When seen from a culinary rather than a technological vantage point, the ketchup-leather technique doesn’t solve a problem so much as it offers a different way of experiencing ketchup on burgers. The pleasure of a cheeseburger comes from the hot patty’s ability to melt and meld with the cheese, yielding a glorious merger of flavors. When squeezed or even spread, condiments must either be applied to the bun or atop the patty. Both approaches resist incorporating the flavors into the burger itself. By dehydrating tomato paste, Plan Check is able to create a thin layer of ketchup flavor that reconstitutes into the burger like cheese.

It also serves an ornamental and exhibitionist purpose, of course. Anyone who’s made meatloaf knows that getting tomato flavor into ground beef is a “solved problem,” as it were. But the delight of watching ketchup melt like cheese is one that burger lovers are justified in wanting to experience. To encounter familiar materials in new ways is one of the delights of dining."
ianbogost  food  ketchup  evgenymorozov  solutionism  design  innovation  problemsolving  technosolutionism  2015 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Learning how to learn
"Bateson himself uses the analogy of movement:

• Learning 0 is direct experience: I put my hand in the fire – it gets burned

Learning 0 is like the position of an object

• Learning I is what we routinely refer to as "learning": generalisation from basic experiences. I have experienced "hand in fire" and "being burned", and I won't do it again. This is straightforward and compatible even with behavioural views, as well as the cycle of experiential learning.

Learning I is its speed when it moves

• Learning II (which he sometimes called "Deutero-Learning") contextualises Learning I experiences. It is about developing strategies for maximising Learning I through the extraction of implicit rules, and also putting specific bits of Learning I in context: I don't generally risk getting burned, but I might do so to save someone else from a fire.

Learning II is acceleration (or deceleration)—a change in speed

• Learning III contextualises Learning II, and is not understood, but it may be the existential (or spiritual) level: What does it say about me that I would risk getting burned in order to ...?

Learning III is a change in the rate of acceleration — a change in the change of the change of position... The higher the level, the less we understand about the process, and although such higher level learning undoubtedly takes place, the more difficult it is deliberately to manage it.

Note that levels of learning are different from levels of understanding, as exemplified in Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives, and also to be distinguished from the similar terminology of Gagné.

This account does not do justice to Bateson's very complex thinking, which starts from posing the question why people get better with practice at doing fairly meaningless tasks such as remembering nonsense syllables.
The interesting question for academic practice is the qualitative shift required to move from Learning 1 to Learning II, which some people find more difficult than others, perhaps in specific subject areas. How do we help them to achieve it? This may be the biggest remaining problem in in pedagogic/andragogic practice.

Some clues are contained in

• reflection, in
• problem-based learning and action learning,
• situated learning,
• and even in intelligence,

but we still don't have reliable answers.

Rant

This is more properly located on my personal site, but I can't contain myself. In the UK, we have this misbegotten, patronising, arrogant, (insert whatever other insulting adjectives you favour) idea of "teaching" "key skills" at college level.

"Key skills"—derived from the generic skills employers say that they want—include "Communication" and "Application of Number" [the comparative of "numb"—sorry, but I am ranting] (what are the schools supposed to have been teaching for eleven years before students reach further education?) and "teamworking" and "improving own learning" etc.

Note that I refer above to "the generic skills employers say that they want"; there is some evidence, which I can't presently be bothered to look up, which suggests that there is a mismatch between what employers actually go for when appointing their staff, and what they say they go for when asked by trade and official bodies.
What is more, it is routine for universities to require the specification of key skills outcomes on the templates even for post-graduate courses. How patronising and infantilising can you get? Fortunately, most academics treat such requirements with the contempt they deserve.

It has been my misfortune for several years to have to observe some very gifted student teachers wrestling with the thankless task of getting learners to provide evidence of "key skills" competence. They have stopped an animated discussion in class, for example, to get students to "discuss"—in a very desultory fashion—some topic in which they have no interest whatever, in order to be able to tick a box on a competence check-list. It is even more stupid than the idea of "Liberal Studies", which is where I started my teaching career: at least that was "high-minded" in its conception.

What the education control-freaks fail to realise is that some things are only learned by experience and practice. You can't short-circuit the process by teaching them.

Rant over! The relevance of this to the present topic is that the "soft" key skills project confuses Learning I and Learning II: you cannot address the key skills (which are Learning II) by simply adding on more Learning I competences: this is precisely the "category error" against which Bateson inveighs But the key skills advocates (and here I risk alienating my closest colleague and friend) seem to believe that all skills are at the same level. "Application of Number", and IT skills may be Learning I, but the "wider" key skills ("Working with Others", "Problem Solving", "Improving Own Learning and Performance") and even the central key skill of "Communication"—which includes the "discussion" requirement—are clearly Learning II, and although we know they can be learned, we do not know how to teach them in any meaningful way."
gregorybateson  learning  howwlearn  jamesatherton  2013  problemsolving  actionlearning  situatedlearning  reflection  intelligence  context  transcontextualism  bloomstaxonomy  education  experientiallearning  behavior  transcontextualization 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The Problem With Math Problems: We're Solving Them Wrong - The New York Times
"The following question, from a mother concerned about her daughter’s math education, landed in my email box recently:
My husband and I talked to our daughter’s pre-calculus teacher about her poor grades. He said that many students hit a wall at this point in math, moving from memorization — apply this theorem to this problem — to more abstract how-can-I-solve-this-problem thinking. I accepted that because that’s what is happening for her. What I thought later was that why can’t we find a way to help these many students get over that wall, instead of using it as a tool to weed out less developed brains? I really feel I have no way to have an impact on this teacher’s blind spot since it is shared by all math teachers and so many other teachers: If you don’t understand, it’s your fault.

As I’m not a math teacher, I asked three experts on mathematics instruction to weigh in. They told me that this question perfectly illustrates what’s wrong with math education and why we need to change it. Much of what we teach kids during their first decade of math education relies on students’ blind compliance and memorization of rules and facts. We reward correct answers, but we do not not encourage students to think independently about what these rules and facts might mean in the bigger mathematical picture.

Tracy Zager, a math-education specialist and the author of the forthcoming book “Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had,” explained in an email why this kind of math education fails students: “It was never a sensible idea to try to have students memorize first and understand later; this approach to mathematics instruction is structurally flawed. I really feel for these parents and this kid, but the frustration they face is inevitable. If we teach kids math without understanding, we build on a house of cards.”

That house of cards will be fragile, and liable to collapse, when students move from elementary mathematics to complex problem-solving, said Steven Strogatz, an author and a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University.

“If you follow the rules, you can do pretty much everything that’s expected of you without ever having to think imaginatively,” Mr. Strogatz said in an email. “This is not the way math should be taught, even at an elementary level. There really ought to be problem solving and imaginative thinking all the way through while kids master the basics. If you’ve never been asked to struggle with open-ended, non-cookbook problems, your command of math will always be shaky and shallow.”

Mr. Strogatz suggested, however, that this math teacher isn’t wholly to blame for her students’ frustration. “This teacher may have been brought up in a culture in which skill at problem solving is seen as a matter of talent; either you have it or you don’t,” he said. “Everyone can be taught techniques and strategies for better problem solving, and can be taught to feel pleasure in the struggles that make us smarter. With practice, all of us can get much better at it.”

While avoiding the kind of frustration this mother describes in her letter will require a larger shift in mathematics education, there are some things this parent can do now to help her daughter.

Mr. Strogatz suggested playing with age-appropriate puzzles. “Kids love puzzles, and wrestling with good ones can help them fall in love with math and get stronger at it,” he said.

After playing around on a couple of recommended websites, I fell in love with with Steve Miller’s Math Riddles. Mr. Miller, a mathematics professor at Williams College, has amassed a wonderful collection of puzzles, ranging from easy to very challenging, and even I, an admitted math phobic, had a lot of fun playing on the site.

For teachers and parents looking to improve their own problem-solving abilities, Mr. Strogatz recommended George Polya’s book “How to Solve It.” While it’s not exactly light reading, it introduces new ways to approach problems, and is a classic in the field.

Purchase two copies of Carol Dweck’s Mindset, one for you and one for your child’s teacher. Ms. Dweck’s book is already required reading in many school districts because it articulates the difference between a fixed mindset (either you have it or you don’t) and a growth mindset (everyone can be taught to feel pleasure in the struggles that make us smarter). A growth mindset is a powerful thing and is an essential first step toward more effective teaching and learning (and parenting).

If you are frustrated by your child’s math homework and want to improve your capacity to help, read Christopher Danielson’s “Common Core Math for Parents for Dummies,” which will be published this month. Mr. Danielson’s book can help parents reorient their thinking about mathematics so that they can begin to help their children more effectively.

And check out Mr. Strogatz’s New York Times series, on the “Elements of Math.” It begins with a preschooler’s understanding of numeracy and progresses all the way through to an examination of infinity. Tellingly, the most advanced topic discussed in the series was inspired by a 6-year-old’s question.

Above all, Mr. Strogatz concluded: “It’s crucial to help our students realize that it’s fine to get stuck – after all, the life of a professional mathematician (or any other creative person) is about being stuck nearly all the time! It’s how you get past being stuck that matters. And that’s one of the most valuable lessons that math has to offer.”"
math  education  teaching  problemsolving  memorization  criticalthinking  2015  stevenstrogatz  tracyzager  howweteach  howwelearn  context  mathematics  via:christaflores 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Peter Worley on Should children do philosophy?, Aeon...
"There is a story told about Socrates that just before he drank the poisonous hemlock he had been sentenced to drink by the citizens of Athens, following a charge of teaching false gods and corrupting the young men of Athens, he heard someone playing a tune on a flute. Socrates said to the player, ‘Can you teach me that tune?’ His friends said, ‘What use will learning that tune be, you are about to die?’ Socrates said, ‘No use, it’s just a beautiful tune.’ So, my first argument is non-instrumental. Anyone, including children, should engage in philosophy for the same reason that they do music, because it is good to do, in and of itself.

Just this morning I saw some 7-year-olds grappling with the question of whether or not it is possible to do nothing, this led to someone saying that you can do nothing only if you are dead; someone else said, ‘but when you are dead you are doing something: you’re being dead.’ Others disagreed: ‘But, when you’re dead you’re not being dead, you just are dead.’ This led to a discussion about the difference between the two ideas. Later, they were trying to establish whether statues do anything. ‘If a statue falls,’ said one child, ‘then it’s falling, which is doing something’, ‘but,’ objected another, ‘the statue is only falling because someone has pushed it, the statue isn’t doing anything, it is having something done to it.’ Finally, someone said that statues are made of rocks, but rocks don’t do anything. Then, one girl said, ‘Rocks do do something; they’re being a rock.’ Like Spinoza’s conatus or Schopenhauer’s will to life this 7-year-old was understanding being as a positive, active force against nothingness or non-existence.

I did very little in this session, my job was to provide a catalyst (I set the task to do nothing!) then I asked some simple questions at salient points such as ‘So did X do nothing?’ (After one of the children had made an attempt) or ‘So, is it possible to do nothing?’ or later, ‘If something moves does that mean that it is doing something?’ What I do is provide the conditions for a group of children (or adults) to see philosophical problems for themselves and then to afford them the opportunity to explore those problems and how they might solve them together. I help them to follow the dialectical demands and implications of their own ideas and explorations.

Apart from the fact that witnessing this is like hearing a beautiful tune, many readers may want more reasons why doing philosophy is something children should do. Just this month, some very positive research came out showing the benefits of doing philosophy with children, but this research focused on the non-philosophical benefits such as reading and maths scores. I would like to add to these findings by making an a priori, reasoned argument, from problems the children encounter in their everyday lives, for why children should do philosophy.

If children encounter puzzles and problems that have a philosophical basis then children need a systematic way of approaching and tackling them. Puzzles and problems that have a philosophical basis are those where a tension or conflict arises between the concepts we have and our experience of the world. For instance, a child may have a conceptual intuition that time is constant, but then experience time seeming to fluctuate (‘Time flies when you’re having fun!’) Another example might be: ‘I am always the same person, but I change physically and in terms of my personality, so I can’t be the same person, can I?’ These are real problems for children, but unless they are given the opportunity to stop, reflect on, and explore these puzzles and problems, they are unlikely to go any further with them. So, because children do, in fact, encounter philosophical puzzles and problems, I argue that they should be given an opportunity to explore them, but also be given a systematic method for doing so. Philosophy provides such a method. In short, I capture this with 4 Rs. Philosophy is…

- Responsive

- Reflective

- Reasoned

- Re-evaluative

So, when children encounter, as I argue they do, philosophical puzzles and problems they should be given the opportunity to respond to the problem and perhaps to acknowledge that there is one, to reflect on the nature of the problem or to reflect on the central concepts by asking and exploring questions such as, ‘What is time?’ or ‘What is change?’ Then they can try to order their thoughts and ideas in a process of rational thought using reasoned arguments, and finally they should be invited to evaluate and re-evaluate their answers in light of those and other reasons given by themselves or their peers. The important thing to understand here is that, when it is done well, philosophy - as much with children as with adults - is not simply a sharing exercise in which opinions are offered, it is an evaluative process based on the quality of reasons given. According to this picture of philosophy, one answers according to the demands of reason.

In addition to this, puzzles and problems of a non-philosophical nature (e.g. a maths or science one) share structural qualities with puzzles and problems of a philosophical nature (this is one possible reason the research yielded good results with maths), and so, by doing philosophy one is practising the sort of thinking that will also be needed in other subjects, when problem-solving for instance. But, because philosophy is dedicated to conceptual thinking, one does not need to know a body of knowledge to begin philosophising. All children need is a brain, ears and a mouth, something to think about (and perhaps a good facilitator!) in order to start practising good thinking - indispensible for all learning and all subjects.

And the reason this should be begun when children are young? For the same reason that children start doing maths or music when they are young, so that they can learn, as a disposition, to be proficient with maths, music and good thinking. And what could be more important to a learner than proficiency in good thinking?"
via:anne  education  schools  teaching  pedagogy  curriculum  philosophy  cv  2015  peterworley  thinking  reflection  classideas  reasoning  problemsolving  criticalthinking 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Unexotic Underclass | The MIT Entrepreneurship Review
"The startup scene today, and by ‘scene’ I’m sweeping a fairly catholic brush over a large swath of people – observers, critics, investors, entrepreneurs, ‘want’repreneurs, academics, techies, and the like – seems to be riven into two camps.

On one side stand those who believe that entrepreneurs have stopped chasing and solving Big Problems – capital B, capital P: clean energy, poverty, famine, climate change, you name it. I needn’t replay their song here; they’ve argued their cases far more eloquently elsewhere. In short, they contend that too many brains and dollars have been shoveled into resolving what I call ‘anti-problems’ – interests usually centered about food or fashion or ‘social’or gaming. Something an anti-problem company might develop is an app that provides restaurant recommendations based on your blood type, a picture of your childhood pet, the music preferences of your 3 best friends, and the barometric pressure of the nearest city beginning with the letter Q. (That such an app does not yet exist is reminder still of how impoverished a state American scientific education has descended. Weep not! We redouble our calls for more STEM funding.)

On the other side stand those who believe that entrepreneurs have stopped chasing and solving Big Problems – capital B, capital P – that there are too many folks resolving anti-problems… BUT just to be on the safe side, the venture capitalists should keep pumping tons of money into those anti-problem entrepreneurs because you never know when some corporate leviathan – Google, Facebook, Yahoo! – will come along and buy what yesterday looked like a nonsense app and today is still a nonsense app, but a nonsense app that can walk a bit taller, held aloft by the insanities of American exceptionalism. For not only is our sucker birthrate still high in this country (one every minute, baby!), but our suckers are capitalists bearing fat checks.

On the other other side, a side that receives scant attention, scanter investment, is where big problems – little b, little p – reside. Here, you’ll find a group I’ll refer to as the unexotic underclass. It’s rather quiet in these parts, except during campaign season when the politicians stop by to scrape anecdotes off the skin of someone else’s suffering. Let’s see who’s here.

To your left are single mothers, 80% of whom, according to the US Census, are poor or hovering on the nasty edges of working poverty. They are struggling to raise their kids in a country that seems to conspire against any semblance of proper rearing: a lack of flexibility in the workplace; a lack of free or affordable after-school programs; an abysmal public education system where a testing-mad, criminally-deficient curriculum is taught during a too-short school day; an inescapable lurid wallpaper of sex and violence that covers every surface of society; a cultural disregard for intelligence, empathy and respect; a cultural imperative to look hot, spend money and own the latest “it”-device (or should I say i-device) no matter what it costs, no matter how little money Mum may have.

Slightly to the right, are your veterans of two ongoing wars in the Middle East. Wait, we’re at war? Some of these veterans, having served multiple tours, are returning from combat with all manner of monstrosities ravaging their heads and bodies. If that weren’t enough, welcome back, dear vets, to a flaccid economy, where your military training makes you invisible to an invisible hand that rewards only those of us who are young and expensively educated.

Welcome back to a 9-month wait for medical benefits. According to investigative reporter Aaron Glantz, who was embedded in Iraq, and has now authored The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle against America’s Veterans, 9 months is the average amount of time a veteran waits for his or her disability claim to be processed after having filed their paperwork. And by ‘filed their paperwork,’ I mean it literally: veterans are sending bundles of papers to some bureaucratic Dantean capharnaum run by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, where, by its own admission, it processes 97% of its claims by hand, stacking them in heaps on tables and in cabinets.

In the past 5 years, the number of vets who’ve died before their claim has even been processed has tripled. This is America in 2013: 40 years ago we put a man on the moon; today a young lady in New York can use anti-problem technology if she wishes to line up a date this Friday choosing only from men who are taller than 6 feet, graduated from an Ivy, live within 10 blocks of Gramercy, and play tennis left-handed…

…And yet, veterans who’ve returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have to wait roughly 270 days (up to 600 in New York and California) to receive the help — medical, moral, financial – which they urgently need, to which they are honorably entitled, after having fought our battles overseas.

Technology, indeed, is solving the right problems.

Let’s keep walking. Meet the people who have the indignity of being over 50 and finding themselves suddenly jobless. These are the Untouchables of the new American workforce: 3+ decades of employment and experience have disqualified them from ever seeing a regular salary again. Once upon a time, some modicum of employer noblesse oblige would have ensured that loyal older workers be retained or at the very least retrained, MBA advice be damned. But, “A bas les vieux!” the fancy consultants cried, and out went those who were ‘no longer fresh.’ As Taylor Swift would put it, corporate America and the Boomer worker “are never ever getting back together.” Instead bring in the young, the childless, the tech-savvy here in America, and the underpaid and quasi-indentured abroad willing to work for slightly north of nothing in the kinds of conditions we abolished in the 19th century.

For, in the 21st century, a prosperous American business is a soaring 2-storied cake: 1 management layer at top thick with perks, golden parachutes, stock options, and a total disregard for those beneath them; 1 layer below of increasingly foreign workers (If you’re lucky, you trained these people before you were laid off!), who can’t even depend on their jobs because as we speak, those sameself consultants – but no one that we know of course — are scouring the globe for the cheapest labor opportunities, fulfilling their promise that no CEO be left behind.

Above all of this, the frosting on the cake, the nec plus ultra of evolutionary corporate accomplishment: the Director of Social Media. This is the 20-year old whose role it is to “leverage social media to deliver a seamless authentic experience across multiple digital streams to strategic partners and communities.” In other words, this person gets paid six figures to send out tweets. But again, no one that we know.

Time and space and my own sheltered upbringing defend me from giving you the whole tour of the unexotic underclass, but trust that it is big, and only getting bigger."



"There’s nothing wrong with the entrepreneurship-as-salvation gospel. Nothing wrong with teaching more people to code. But it’s impractical in the short term, and misses the greater point in the long term: We shouldn’t live in a universe of solipsistic startups… where I start a company and produce things only for myself and for people who resemble me. Let’s be honest. Very few of us are members of this unexotic underclass. Very few of us even know anyone who’s in it. There’s no shame in that. That we have sailed on a yacht of good fortune most of our lives — supportive generous families, a stable peaceful democracy, excellent schooling, prestigious careers and companies, relatively good health – is nothing to be ashamed of. Consider yourselves remarkably blessed."



"When I look at the bulk of startups today – while there are notable exceptions (Code for America for example, which invites local governments to request technology help from teams of coders) – it doesn’t seem like we’ve aspired to something nobler: it just looks like we’ve shifted the malpractice from feeding the money machine to making inane, self-centric apps. Worse, is that the power players, institutional and individual — the highflying VCs, the entrepreneurship incubators, the top-ranked MBA programs, the accelerators, the universities, the business plan competitions have been complicit in this nonsense.

Those who are entrepreneurially-minded but young and idea-poor need serious direction from those who are rich in capital and connections. We see what ideas are getting funded, we see money flowing like the river Ganges towards insipid me-too products, so is it crazy that we’ve been thinking small? building smaller? that our “blood and judgment” to quote Hamlet, have not been “so well commingled?”

We need someone bold (and older than us) to stand up for Big Problems which are tough and dirty. But what we especially need is someone to stand up for big problems – little b, little p –which are tough and dirty and too easy to overlook.

We need:

A Ron Conway, a Fred Wilson-type at the venture level to say, ‘Kiddies, basta with this bull*%!..  This year we’re only investing in companies targeting the unexotic underclass.”

A Paul Graham and his Y Combinator at the incubator level, to devote one season to the underclass, be it veterans, single moms or overworked young doctors, Native Americans, the list is long:  “Help these entrepreneurs build something that will help you.”

The head of an MIT or an HBS or a Stanford Law at the academic level, to tell the entire incoming class: “You are lucky to be some of the best engineering and business and law students, not just in the country, but in the world.  And as an end-of-year project, you are going to use that talent to develop … [more]
creativity  entrepreneurship  poverty  inequality  wickedproblems  purpose  siliconvalley  class  venturecapital  problemsolving  economics  capitalism  work  labor  unemployment  veterans  via:sha  underclass  inequity  business  cznnaemeka  2013 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Michael Winter, Ursula Franklin - Home | The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers | CBC Radio
"The news anchor Tom Brokaw coined the term "the greatest generation" to describe the Americans who grew up during the Depression and sustained the ravages of the Second World War. Shelagh thought of that description after she read a book of speeches by the acclaimed scientist, pacifist, and feminist Ursula Franklin.

Ursula Franklin isn't an American but she is a member of that great generation of people shaped personally by the War - very personally in her case.  

She was born in Germany and spent the war in a forced labour camp. Her parents were both in concentration camps.. Miraculously, all three survived and came to Canada. 

Ursula Franklin has spent her life in this country devoted, as she says, to "being useful". She's put her intelligence, discernment, and humanity to many uses. She's a physicist who has made important discoveries and advancements in science, a Quaker who has advocated tirelessly in the service of peace, and a ground breaking feminist.
 
Ursula Franklin Speaks is a collection of speeches and interviews from 1986 to 2012. She collaborated on it with her friend and University of Toronto colleague Sarah Jane Freeman. 

We hope you enjoy this extended version of Shelagh's conversation with Dr. Ursula Franklin."
ursulafranklin  2015  interviews  feminism  quakers  shelaghrogers  canada  collectivism  citizenship  humanism  pacifism  clarity  patriarchy  capitalism  privatization  socialism  scrupling  scruples  hope  hopelessness  optimism  change  civics  activism  discourse  problemsolving  townmeetings  commongood  conversation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Science teacher: CCSS: Creative, Competent, Social Students
"You do not need to know anything about mitosis to know how to live.
You do not need to know anything about how to live to learn mitosis.

Too many of us strive to do whatever it is we must do without a thought to why we do anything the way we do it.

It's not learning that matters, it's living. Learning is an evolutionary tool shared by a lot of species better at this living thing than the current version of H. sapiens. Animals who choose to ignore the world around them do not last very long. Humans are no exception.

We have fetishized education as some sort of independent structure, institutionalizing what we think matters without thinking about what actually does matter. Why else care who graduated from where, or class ranks, or SAT scores?

Why do we let a few strangers dictate a "common core" defining what should be learned?

Here's my CCSS--we need to foster competent, creative, and social students. It's not my place (or anyone else's) to dictate a child's life path, but if we must have common standards, here are a few I think are worth sharing:

• Students should know what's edible in their area, and how to prepare it. Around here it could be wild cherries, dandelions, squirrel, deer, clams, or hundreds of other fine food sources. Not saying they need to forage like Wildman Steve Brill, but using primary sources for food ought to be at least as important as using primary sources for some term paper no one will read besides a teacher.

• Students should know the basics of their dwellings, and be able to use truly digital tools like hammers, screwdrivers, and saws to make and repair the things we need within our dwellings. Knowing how to approach a simple plumbing problem (or any mechanical problem) matters more than knowing how to "apply the Binomial Theorem."

• Students should know what they need to stay alive, what goes into them (and where it came from) and what goes out of them (and where it goes). If they don't know this, they literally don't know shit.

Our economy depends on sustaining learned helplessness; our current way of schooling does just that.

Our children need to learn to read, to write, to develop reasonable number sense, and to solve problems. They need a reasonable sense of what's real (and what's not), and a reasonable chance to live a happy and productive life.

They also need to live as the animals that they are."
michaeldoyle  2015  education  standards  living  life  helplessness  economics  commoncore  howwelive  howwelearn  schools  arneduncan  problemsolving  context  local  experientiallearning  animals  humans  bighere 
march 2015 by robertogreco
#TheDress and the Rise of Attention-Policing - The Atlantic
"This is a line of logic that will be familiar from most any Meme Event—the logic that says, basically, "don’t look at that; that is unimportant." It’s attention-policing, and it’s reminiscent of so many other strains of rhetorical legislation that play out in online conversations: You can’t say that. You can’t talk about that. GUYS, the attention-policer usually begins. How can you be talking about a dress/a leg/a pair of llamas/a dancing neoprene shark when climate change/net neutrality/marriage equality/ISIS/China/North Korea is going on?

The world, to be sure, is a complicated and often tragic and often deeply unfair place. It contains famines and genocides and war, births and deaths, Katy Perry and Björk, Big Macs and kale and Bloomin' Onions, privilege and the lack of it, llamas that are caged and llamas that are free. And we humans—animals who are striving to be so much more—have a big say in the balance between the good and the bad. We should not be glib about any of that. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that, if you find yourself with the ability to use the most transformational communications platform the world has ever known to engage in debates about the color of a dress being sold on Amazon dot com, you are, fundamentally, extremely privileged. And thus in a better position than most to make the world better. Attention is a valuable thing; we have an obligation to be selective about where we direct it.

And yet. The problem with attention-policing—besides the fact that it tends to be accompanied by humorlessness and marmery, and besides the other fact that it serves mostly to amplify the ego of the person doing the policing—is that it undermines the value of Internet memes themselves. Those memes, whether they involve #thedress or #llamadrama or #leftshark or #whathaveyou, are culturally lubricating. They create, and reinforce, the imagined community. Last night, we needed each other—not just to share and joke and laugh, but also to prove to ourselves that we weren’t going completely crazy. “TELL ME WHAT COLOR THIS DRESS IS,” I texted a friend. “OKAY, PHEW,” I texted again, when he saw it as white-and-gold. I also, on the other hand, mock-disowned a significant percentage of the people I love in a haze of #whiteandgold partisanship—but even that kind of faux-fighting has its value. Theorists of play, from Huizinga to Piaget, have pointed out how powerful the infrastructures of games can be. They allow us to explore ideas and bond in a mutually-agreed-upon environment. Jane McGonigal, the game designer and theorist, suggests that the alternate universes provided by video games allow us to think in terms of collaboration and problem-solving. Games’ constraints, she argues, are actually empowering.

And what are memes if not games? They are small; they are low-stakes; they are often silly. (Sorry, #llamadrama.) But they are also communal. They invite us to participate, to adapt, to joke, to create something together, under the auspices of the same basic rules. That is not a small thing. That is, in fact, a huge thing—particularly when it comes to the very concerns the attention police like to remind us of. If we have any hope of solving the world’s most systemic and sweeping problems, we will have to come together. Inequality, climate change, injustices both enormous and less so … these will require cooperative action. They will require us to collaborate and compromise and value diversity. The dress makes a pretty good metaphor for all that. Also, it is totally white and gold."
attention  megangarber  2015  attentionpolicing  #thedress  memes  games  play  seriousness  condescension  marmery  humor  humorlessness  playfulness  culture  society  twitter  internet  web  online  compromise  collaboration  problemsolving  interaction  community  cooperation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
No Panaceas! Elinor Ostrom Talks with Fran Korten - Shareable
"Fran: Many people associate “the commons” with Garrett Hardin’s famous essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” He says that if, for example, you have a pasture that everyone in a village has access to, then each person will put as many cows on that land as he can to maximize his own benefit, and pretty soon the pasture will be overgrazed and become worthless. What’s the difference between your perspective and Hardin’s?

Elinor: Well, I don’t see the human as hopeless. There’s a general tendency to presume people just act for short-term profit. But anyone who knows about small-town businesses and how people in a community relate to one another realizes that many of those decisions are not just for profit and that humans do try to organize and solve problems.

If you are in a fishery or have a pasture and you know your family’s long-term benefit is that you don’t destroy it, and if you can talk with the other people who use that resource, then you may well figure out rules that fit that local setting and organize to enforce them. But if the community doesn’t have a good way of communicating with each other or the costs of self-organization are too high, then they won’t organize, and there will be failures.

Fran: So, are you saying that Hardin is sometimes right?

Elinor: Yes. People say I disproved him, and I come back and say “No, that’s not right. I’ve not disproved him. I’ve shown that his assertion that common property will always be degraded is wrong.” But he was addressing a problem of considerable significance that we need to take seriously. It’s just that he went too far. He said people could never manage the commons well.

At the Workshop we’ve done experiments where we create an artificial form of common property such as an imaginary fishery or pasture, and we bring people into a lab and have them make decisions about that property. When we don’t allow any communication among the players, then they overharvest [the commons]. But when people can communicate, particularly on a face-to-face basis, and say, “Well, gee, how about if we do this? How about we do that?” Then they can come to an agreement.

Fran: But what about the “free-rider” problem where some people abide by the rules and some people don’t? Won’t the whole thing fall apart?

Elinor: Well if the people don’t communicate and get some shared norms and rules, that’s right, you’ll have that problem. But if they get together and say, “Hey folks, this is a project that we’re all going to have to contribute to. Now, let’s figure it out,” they can make it work. For example, if it’s a community garden, they might say, “Do we agree every Saturday morning we’re all going to go down to the community garden, and we’re going to take roll and we’re going to put the roll up on a bulletin board?” A lot of communities have figured out subtle ways of making everyone contribute, because if they don’t, those people are noticeable.

Fran: So public shaming and public honoring are one key to managing the commons?

Elinor: Shaming and honoring are very important. We don’t have as much of an understanding of that. There are scholars who understand that, but that’s not been part of our accepted way of thinking about collective action."



"Fran: Do you have a message for the general public?

Elinor: We need to get people away from the notion that you have to have a fancy car and a huge house. Some of the homes that have been built in the last 10 years just appall me. Why do humans need huge homes? I was born poor and I didn’t know you bought clothes at anything but the Goodwill until I went to college. Some of our mentality about what it means to have a good life is, I think, not going to help us in the next 50 years. We have to think through how to choose a meaningful life where we’re helping one another in ways that really help the Earth."

[via: http://solarpunks.tumblr.com/post/112050255339/theres-a-general-tendency-to-presume-people-just ]
elinorostrom  2010  economics  behavior  longterm  slow  community  communities  communication  organizing  business  problemsolving  fisheries  environment  sustainability  cooperation  collaboration  garretthardin  frankorten  collectivism  commons  landmanagement  governance  resourcemanagement  robertnetting  freeriding  freeriders 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Hooked on labs
[via: http://interconnected.org/home/2014/12/05/filtered ]

"From startups to venture capital, arts to social policy, everyone wants to experiment and to do so they want labs…

To understand labs we need to go back to 1660 where Robert Hooke's experimenting went hand-in-hand with discussion

Labs are places where people conduct experiments to test out theories. The new labs proliferating outside the hard sciences are a symptom of the spread of experimentalism as an ideology for how we should shape the future.

Curiosity is at the core of experimentalist culture: it holds that knowledge should develop by being testable and therefore provisional; and that the best theories should be designed to be examined by both data and open debate. That commitment to experimentalism is at the leading edge of a wide range of fields. …

Having a lab is a way to signal an attachment to experimentalist culture, testing our way into an uncertain future…

The most prolific, Nobel Prize winning labs of the 20th century were places where people debated…

New social labs around the world are trying to kindle the hope of finding clear and authoritative ways to solve problems…

"Some of our biggest challenges transcend the laboratory, demanding new kinds of experiments"



"Over the next few years inner-city labs will sprout all over the world, from the ambitious plans of Novartis, the pharmaceuticals giant based at a research campus in Basel to lean biotech startups in San Francisco. In downtown Stockholm a giant life sciences cluster is taking shape in Hagastaden, an area with four universities; the Karolinska University Hospital; 5,300 life scientists; and more than 100,000 students to recruit from both for work and for clinical trials. This is a science district which markets its credentials by noting that Stockholm is held in high regard by Monocle magazine. A major highway will be covered over to create the area known as Stockholm Life, with its slogan “greater science, greater business, greater life.”

The resurgence of inner-city science does not just mean that labs will return to the heart of cities, rather than being located in lifeless suburban science parks. It marks a further shift in urban culture, lifestyles and patterns of work towards an explicit and deliberate experimentalism. But this is anything but a new idea. When the scientists at the Crick Institute and the Google campus start migrating into Kings Cross they will feel modern, in their gleaming new buildings replete with computers, WiFi, gene sequencers, servers, teleconferencing, smartphones, 3D printers and much more. Yet the fundamentals of the way they work, the way they assemble knowledge, the culture they create, even the lifestyles they aspire to will be following a path first taken by that remarkable, irascible bohemian eccentric who frequented the taverns and coffee houses of Bishopsgate in the 1660s, Robert Hooke: the original pioneer of the experimental life."
charlesleadbeater  labs  laboratories  studios  lcproject  openstudioproject  2014  1660  roberthooke  experimentation  uncertainty  debate  social  howwelearn  problemsolving  science  experiments  curiosity  knowledge 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Report: Teachers Better at Using Tech than Digital Native Students -- THE Journal
[Agree, but with some skepticism. While I agree that we shouldn't make assumptions about tech savviness and that the concept of digital natives is problematic, if the primary basis of “using tech better“ is about productivity and academic “success” than. On the other hand “using technology to solve daily problems” sounds like a great measurement. Time to dig into the details of the research. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11423-014-9355-4/fulltext.html ]

"The report's conclusion: "Today's school-age learners are no more technology savvy than their teachers. The previous assumption used to profile students as digital natives did not apply to the students in this study. In fact, teachers' technology use experiences surpassed students whether it [was] inside or outside of school."

The researchers found that "students used technology outside of school for working on school projects, maintaining social networks and entertainment" — but mostly for playing games and listening to music. Teachers showed similar patterns of usage but with greater frequency. Teachers also tended to depend "much more on using technology to solve daily problems, to improve productivity, and as learning aids."

Wang noted that teacher age had no impact on the kinds of technology skills they have. The gap between them and their students lies with how little opportunity students get to practice technology beyond pursuing their personal interests.

"In many ways," the researchers wrote, "it is determined by the requirements teachers place on their students to make use of new technologies and the ways teachers integrate new technologies in their teaching."

The report recommends that "high-quality training" be provided to teachers to help them learn how to integrate content-specific technology into their lessons and how to teach their students how to use technology more effectively."

"School-age students may be fluent in using entertainment or communication technologies, but they need guidance to learn how to use these technologies to solve sophisticated thinking problems," Wang noted. "The school setting is the only institution that might create the needs to shape and facilitate students' technology experience. Once teachers introduce students to a new technology to support learning, they quickly learn how to use it."
technology  education  digitalnatives  2014  communication  entertainment  criticalthinking  problemsolving  learning  howwelearn  productivity 
october 2014 by robertogreco
American Schools Are Training Kids for a World That Doesn't Exist | WIRED
[So much to say about this and the nature of the comment thread (as I mentioned on Twitter).]

"Are Americans getting dumber?

Our math skills are falling. Our reading skills are weakening. Our children have become less literate than children in many developed countries. But the crisis in American education may be more than a matter of sliding rankings on world educational performance scales.

Our kids learn within a system of education devised for a world that increasingly does not exist.

To become a chef, a lawyer, a philosopher or an engineer, has always been a matter of learning what these professionals do, how and why they do it, and some set of general facts that more or less describe our societies and our selves. We pass from kindergarten through twelfth grade, from high school to college, from college to graduate and professional schools, ending our education at some predetermined stage to become the chef, or the engineer, equipped with a fair understanding of what being a chef, or an engineer, actually is and will be for a long time.

We “learn,” and after this we “do.” We go to school and then we go to work.

This approach does not map very well to personal and professional success in America today. Learning and doing have become inseparable in the face of conditions that invite us to discover.

Over the next twenty years the earth is predicted to add another two billion people. Having nearly exhausted nature’s ability to feed the planet, we now need to discover a new food system. The global climate will continue to change. To save our coastlines, and maintain acceptable living conditions for more than a billion people, we need to discover new science, engineering, design, and architectural methods, and pioneer economic models that sustain their implementation and maintenance. Microbiological threats will increase as our traditional techniques of anti-microbial defense lead to greater and greater resistances, and to thwart these we must discover new approaches to medical treatment, which we can afford, and implement in ways that incite compliance and good health. The many rich and varied human cultures of the earth will continue to mix, more rapidly than they ever have, through mass population movements and unprecedented information exchange, and to preserve social harmony we need to discover new cultural referents, practices, and environments of cultural exchange. In such conditions the futures of law, medicine, philosophy, engineering, and agriculture – with just about every other field – are to be rediscovered.

Americans need to learn how to discover.

Being dumb in the existing educational system is bad enough. Failing to create a new way of learning adapted to contemporary circumstances might be a national disaster. The good news is, some people are working on it.

Against this arresting background, an exciting new kind of learning is taking place in America. Alternatively framed as maker classes, after-school innovation programs, and innovation prizes, these programs are frequently not framed as learning at all. Discovery environments are showing up as culture and entertainment, from online experiences to contemporary art installations and new kinds of culture labs. Perhaps inevitably, the process of discovery — from our confrontation with challenging ambiguous data, through our imaginative responses, to our iterative and error-prone paths of data synthesis and resolution — has turned into a focus of public fascination.

Discovery has always provoked interest, but how one discovers may today interest us even more. Educators, artists, designers, museum curators, scientists, engineers, entertainment designers and others are creatively responding to this new reality, and, together, they are redefining what it means to learn in America.

At Harvard University, where I teach, Peter Galison, in History of Science, asks his students make films, to understand science; Michael Chu, in business, brings students to low income regions to learn about social entrepreneurship; Michael Brenner, in Engineering and Applied Science, invites master chefs to help students discover the science of cooking; and Doris Sommer, in Romance Languages, teaches aesthetics by inviting students to effect social and political change through cultural agency. Similarly, in the course I teach, How to Create Things and Have Them Matter, students are asked to look, listen, and discover, using their own creative genius, while observing contemporary phenomena that matter today.

Because that’s what discoverers do.

Learning by an original and personal process of discovery is a trend on many US university campuses, like Stanford University, MIT, and Arizona State University. It also shows up in middle school, high school and after school programs, as in the programs supported by the ArtScience Prize, a more curricular intensive version of the plethora of innovation prizes that have sprung up in the last years around the world. Students and participants in these kinds of programs learn something even more valuable than discovering a fact for themselves, a common goal of “learning discovery” programs; they learn the thrill of discovering the undiscovered. Success brings not just a good grade, or the financial reward of a prize. It brings the satisfaction that one can realize dreams, and thrive, in a world framed by major dramatic questions. And this fans the kind of passion that propels an innovator along a long creative career.

Discovery, as intriguing process, has become a powerful theme in contemporary culture and entertainment. In art and design galleries, and many museums, artists and designers, like Olafur Eliasson, Mark Dion, Martin Wattenberg, Neri Oxman and Mathieu Lehanneur, invite the public to explore contemporary complexities, as in artist Mark Dion’s recent collaborative work with the Alaskan SeaLife Center and Anchorage Museum on plastic fragments in the Pacific Ocean. Often they make visitors discovery participants, as in Martin Wattenberg’sApartment, where people enter words that turn into architectural forms, or sorts of memory palaces. In a more popular way, television discovery and reality programs, from Yukon Men to America’s Got Talent, present protagonists who face challenges, encounter failure, and succeed, iteratively and often partially, while online the offer is even more pervasive, with games of discovery and adventure immersing young people in the process of competing against natural and internal constraints.

All this has led to the rise of the culture lab.

Culture labs conduct or invite experiments in art and design to explore contemporary questions that seem hard or even impossible to address in more conventional science and engineering labs. Their history, as public learning forum, dates from the summer of 2007, when the Wellcome Collection opened in King’s Cross London, to invite the incurably curious to probe contemporary questions of body and mind through contemporary art and collected object installations. A few months later, in the fall 2007, Le Laboratoire opened in Paris, France, to explore frontiers of science through experimental projects in contemporary art and design, and translate experimental ideas from educational, through cultural, to social practice. And in the winter 2008 Science Gallery opened in downtown Dublin to bring contemporary science experimentation to the general public (and students of Imperial College) with installations in contemporary art and design. Other culture labs have opened since then, in Amsterdam, Kosovo, Madrid and other European, American, Asian, African and Latin American cities. In the USA, culture labs especially thrive on campuses, like MIT’s famous Media Lab, Harvard’s iLab, and the unique metaLAB, run by Jeffrey Schnapp within Harvard’s Berkman Center. These will now be joined by a public culture lab, Le Laboratoire Cambridge, which opens later this month near MIT and Harvard, bringing to America the European model with a program of public art and design exhibitions, innovation seminars, and future-of-food sensorial experiences.

The culture lab is the latest indication that learning is changing in America. It cannot happen too fast.

We may not be getting dumber in America. But we need to get smarter in ways that match the challenges we now face. The time is now to support the role of learning in the pursuit of discovery and to embrace the powerful agency of culture."
education  us  culturelabs  openstudioproject  2014  davidedwards  howwelearn  highered  highereducation  culture  society  howweteach  lcproject  science  art  design  problemsolving  lelaboratoire  innovation  petergalison  michaelchu  michaelbrenner  artscienceprize  discovery  olafureliasson  markdion  martinwattenberg  nerioxman  mathieulehannaeur  participatory  inquiry 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Mozilla Web Literacy — Andrew Sliwinski has recently joined Mozilla as a...
"Andrew has a background in learning, as well as engineering and design. He thinks digital literacy is a ‘huge and valuable thing’ that has shaped is life. The first thing we discussed was that the Web Literacy Map presupposes that the user sees value in the web / technical domain being described. People in Bangladesh or under-served communities in the US don’t necessarily see this straight away. Job One is getting them to care.

Web Literacy is about empowerment, says Andrew - not trying to turn users into anything other than more empowered versions of themselves. This is tricky, as this empowerment is not something you understand before (or even during) the process. Only afterwards do you realise the power of the skills you now have. Also, contextualisation only happens after the learning has taken place. That’s why learning pathways are interesting - but “as a reflection tool rather than an efficacy tool”. Pledging for a pathway is aspirational and has motivational benefits, but these aren’t necessary to learning itself.

Andrew thinks that the ‘creamy nougat centre’ of the Web Literacy Map is great. The Exploring / Building / Connecting structure works and there’s ‘no giant gaping holes’. However, we should tie it more closely to the Mozilla mission and get people to care about it. Overwhelm them with how amazing the web is. One way of doing this is by teaching problem-solving. Get them to list the things they’re struggling with, and then give them the mental models to help them solve their problems.

Getting over the first hurdle can be difficult, so Andrew explained how at DIY.org they used personas. The skills on the site are aspirational titles - e.g. ‘Rocketeer’ - which draws the user into something that gives them “enough modeling to start momentum.” Andrew did add a disclaimer about research showing that over-specificity of roles is not so motivational.

We need a feedback loop for the Web Literacy Map. How is it being used? How can we make it better? Andrew also thinks we should use personas across Webmaker to represent particular constituencies. We could liaise with particular organisations (e.g. NWP) which would inform the design process and elevate their input in the discussion. They would be experts in a particular use case.

We discussed long-term learning results and how subject matter plays into the way that various approaches either work or don’t. For example, Khan Academy is linear, almost rote-based learning, but that suits the subject matter (Maths). It does efficacy really well. Everyone points to DuoLingo as a the poster child for non-linear learning pathways, but there’s no proof it works really well.

Andrew’s got a theory that “the way to get people to build life-changing, amazing, relevant things is to have fun and be creative”. We should build tools to facilitate that. Yes, we can model endpoints, but ensure the onboarding experience is about whimsy and creating environments where the user is comfortable and feels accepted. It’s only after the fact that they realise they’ve learned stuff.

We should start from ‘this is awesome!’ and then weave the messaging on the web into it. Webmaker as a platform/enabler for cool stuff. What are the parts that we all see at the same time that makes the web special, Andrew asked? He thinks one of these things is the incredibly long tail of content, from which comes incredible diversity. This is the differentiator, making the web different from Facebook or the App Store. We don’t see this from an individual user perspective, though. Although we love looking at network maps, we don’t really get it because we visit the same 20 websites every day.

Part of web literacy is about building ‘cultural empathy’, says Andrew - and showing how it helps on an everyday basis. We should focus on meaning and value first, and then show how skills are a means of getting there. What’s our trajectory for the learner?

Andrew believes that we should approach the Web Literacy Map from a ‘personas’ point of view - perhaps building on the recent UX Personas work. These are very different from the Mobile Webmaker personas that Andrew’s team have put together. We should focus on a compelling user experience from start to finish for users to navigate literacies and to create their own learning pathways. For Andrew, the Web Literacy Map is the glue to hold everything together."
andrewsliwinski  2014  interviews  webliteracy  web  online  problemsolving  learning  fun  projectbasedlearning  webliteracymap  mozilla  personas  motivation  duolingo  howwelearn  modeling  culturalempathy  inclusivity  webmaker  roles  contextualization  khanacademy  rotelearning  linearity  efficacy  dougbelshaw  beginners  making  care  lcproject  openstudioproject  onboarding  experience  userexperience  ux  whimsy  sandboxes  pathways  howweteach  momentum  remixing  enabling  platforms  messiness  diversity  internet  open  openweb  complexity  empowerment  teaching  mentoring  mentorship  canon  facilitation  tcsnmy  frameworks  understanding  context  unschooling  deschooling  education  linear  literacy  multiliteracies  badges  mapping  reflection  retrospect  inclusion  pbl  remixculture  rote  inlcusivity 
september 2014 by robertogreco
‘Building a Better Teacher’ and ‘Getting Schooled’ - NYTimes.com
"Similarly, each of Lampert’s lessons centered on problems that were “rich,” “open” and “productive.” She would then ask her students to “confer,” “conjecture” and “prove.” She took “calculated” gambles when calling on her students, and like Ball, she didn’t immediately correct them. “The students had to look to themselves for the correct answer,” one of her colleagues marveled. “They couldn’t just say, ‘Oh, it’s the right answer because the teacher said so.’ ”

This kind of teaching can look like . . . nothing at all. So can working on just one problem per class, as though the teacher is just watching the clock while students chase a false supposition down a rabbit hole. In fact, those rabbit holes are where we learn; we begin to understand through trial and error, dead ends and towers of reasoning that collapse because of their faulty assumptions. Allowing students to make these errors, then identify and correct them, is one of the best things a teacher can do."



"It wouldn’t hurt if we had another million Garret Keizers. In “Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher,” Keizer has returned to the classroom after a 14-year hiatus “mainly because my wife and I needed the health insurance.” A contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and the author of more than a half-dozen books (including “No Place but Here: A Teacher’s Vocation in a Rural Community,” which he wrote while on ­sabbatical during his first, 15-year stint at Lake Region Union High), Keizer — who once imagined for himself the oh-so-Vermont bumper sticker “I’m a homeschoolin’ gun-totin’ Bible-bangin’ . . . SOCIALIST” — is an irascible idealist. He’s just the kind of teacher Green celebrates: one who challenges his students and teaches them that learning can be an exciting endeavor rather than a demoralizing slog. His beautiful book holds much insight into the joys and frustrations of teaching.

Keizer’s industry is astounding. He’s up at 4 a.m. for a few hours of work before school, and he often works late. His industry nearly kills him, when he loses a month of teaching to pneumonia (but emails his lesson plans to the school every day). Standardized testing doesn’t surprise him, but he’s dismayed that in the name of accountability, he is asked to devote “more time to the generation and recording of data and less time to the educational substance of what the data is supposed to measure.” Keizer sees the ­requirement to fill out daily electronic attendance and grade sheets “as part and parcel of the way in which ‘the school of the 21st century’ is continually trying to mask the ambiguities of evaluating student performance by a pretense of ­rigorous objectivity.”

The reward of Keizer’s experience and perspective is a prognosticatory modesty: “I’d as soon predict the weather on a day 30 years from now as predict the achievements of any student walking into his 10-year class reunion.” Furthermore, “anything you do is bound to be, on some level and for some kid, wrong.”

That is, while there are such things as “best practices” for teaching, there is no practice that is 100 percent effective, no practice that generates deep learning as well as perfect test scores. Students aren’t widgets; neither are their teachers. We should stop pretending they are."
teaching  howweteach  learning  2014  math  mathematics  magdalenelampert  deborahball  garretkeizer  schools  bestpractices  pedagogy  inquiry  problemsolving  objectivity  standardizedtesting  accountability  data  elizabethgreen  charterschools 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Where The Wild Things Play : NPR Ed : NPR
"There are only a handful of these "wild playgrounds" in the country. They embrace the theory that free, unstructured play is vital for children and offer an antidote to the hurried lifestyles, digital distractions and overprotective parents that can leave children few opportunities to really cut loose.

"It's really central that kids are able to take their natural and intense play impulses and act on them," says Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychologist and the founding director of the National Institute for Play.

Children need an environment with "the opportunity to engage in open, free play where they're allowed to self-organize," he adds. "It's really a central part of being human and developing into competent adulthood."

Brown says this kind of free-range fun is not just good; it's essential. Wild play helps shape who we become, he says, and it should be embraced, not feared.

Some educators advocate "dangerous play," which they say helps kids become better problem solvers.

Patty's Place

In Europe there are lots of these kinds of free-range public playgrounds. They flourished after World War II. Europeans more readily embraced spaces for children to engage in what developmental psychologists like to call "managed risk."

But in the U.S. today there are barely a half-dozen. There are the Anarchy Zone in Ithaca, N.Y., which is just two years old, and a handful of others including a few in New York City.

This one in Berkeley is run by the city's parks and recreation department. It's funded largely by docking fees from the adjacent marina.

But, in many ways, this is Patty's place. "I've been involved here at the adventure playground since its inception — about 35 years," says Patty Donald, the playground's longtime coordinator.

Donald has been on a crusade to promote kid-driven, hands-on play. "A lot of people learn by touching and feeling and doing, and they excel that way," she says. "People drive two, three hours to come here."

Five staff members handle everything from replenishing the zip line's dirt landing zone to facilitating wood-painting and other play activities.

They keep a careful — yet mostly distant — eye on the children and what they're doing. If kids turn in wood with splinters or with a nail sticking out — called a "Mr. Dangerous" — they can earn paint and tools.

"You got it! Yay, Aly!" one staffer yells to a young girl as she makes her way across an old surfboard precariously balanced on a barrel.

The Cellphone Problem

So ... why are there so few of these wild playgrounds in the U.S.?

Fear of litigation is certainly an issue. But there are other factors, too, experts say. Among them are safety-obsessed, overprotective parents shepherding hyperscheduled children, and the fact that in America's cities and suburbs, play itself is in decline.

Donald worries that today's kids are controlled, coddled — and overscheduled. And some parents, she says, are often too distracted. "I find there are a lot of adults who don't know how to play with their kids."

Wait a minute, I ask: What do you mean there are parents who don't know how to play with their kids? I'm imagining awkward, distracted parents, fiddling with their iPhones because they don't get that they can actually interact with their children.

"Probably 75 percent of the parents that come in do that," Donald says. "The cellphone probably is the biggest problem we have. The parents are standing here, they're physically here."

But ... they're not really present, she says.

'Like A Pillow'

"This is awesome; this is a neat little place," says Dave Davirro. He and his 11-year-old son, Nicholas, are in from Hawaii visiting relatives in California.

He says kids need more places like this. "They're tearing down swings in my city," because they're dangerous, Davirro says. "We're way overprotective. I want my child to experience that, you know, there is some danger in everything.""
play  playgrounds  children  2014  adventureplaygrounds  wildplaygrounds  problemsolving  overscheduling  parenting 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Is Coding the New Literacy? | Mother Jones
"Not every cook is a David Chang, not every writer is a Jane Austen, and not every computational thinker is a Guido van Rossum, the inventor of the influential Python programming language. But just as knowing how to scramble an egg or write an email makes life easier, so too will a grasp of computational thinking. Yet the "learn to code!" camp may have set people on the uphill path of mastering C++ syntax instead of encouraging all of us to think a little more computationally.

The happy truth is, if you get the fundamentals about how computers think, and how humans can talk to them in a language the machines understand, you can imagine a project that a computer could do, and discuss it in a way that will make sense to an actual programmer. Because as programmers will tell you, the building part is often not the hardest part: It's figuring out what to build. "Unless you can think about the ways computers can solve problems, you can't even know how to ask the questions that need to be answered," says Annette Vee, a University of Pittsburgh professor who studies the spread of computer science literacy."



"Or take Adopt-a-Hydrant. Under the hood, it isn't a terribly sophisticated piece of software. What's ingenious is simply that someone knew enough to say: Here's a database of hydrant locations, here is a universe of people willing to help, let's match them up. The computational approach is rooted in seeing the world as a series of puzzles, ones you can break down into smaller chunks and solve bit by bit through logic and deductive reasoning. That's why Jeannette Wing, a VP of research at Microsoft who popularized the term "computational thinking," says it's a shame to think CT is just for programmers. "Computational thinking involves solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior," she writes in a publication of the Association for Computing Machinery. Those are handy skills for everybody, not just computer scientists.

In other words, computational thinking opens doors. For while it may seem premature to claim that today every kid needs to code, it's clear that they're increasingly surrounded by opportunities to code—opportunities that the children of the privileged are already seizing. The parents of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg got him a private computer tutor when he was in middle school. Last year, 13,000 people chipped in more than $600,000 via Kickstarter for their own limited-edition copy of Robot Turtles, a board game that teaches programming basics to kids as young as three. There are plenty of free, kid-oriented code-learning sites—like Scratch, a programming language for children developed at MIT—but parents and kids in places like San Francisco or Austin are more likely to know they exist."



"The 1980s made computers personal, and today it's impossible not to engage in conversations powered by code, albeit code that's hidden beneath the interfaces of our devices. But therein lies a new problem: The easy interface creates confusion around what it means to be "computer literate." Interacting with an app is very different from making or tweaking or understanding one, and opportunities to do the latter remain the province of a specialized elite. In many ways, we're still in the "scribal stage" of the computer age.

But the tricky thing about literacy, Vee says, is that it begets more literacy. It happened with writing: At first, laypeople could get by signing their names with an "X." But the more people used reading and writing, the more was required of them."



"It may be hard to swallow the idea that coding could ever be an everyday activity on par with reading and writing in part because it looks so foreign (what's with all the semicolons and carets)? But remember that it took hundreds of years to settle on the writing conventions we take for granted today: Early spellings of words—Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote—can seem as foreign to modern readers as today's code snippets do to nonprogrammers. Compared to the thousands of years writing has had to go from notched sticks to glossy magazines, digital technology has, in 60 years, evolved exponentially faster.

Our elementary-school language arts teachers didn't drill the alphabet into our brains anticipating Facebook or WhatsApp or any of the new ways we now interact with written material. Similarly, exposing today's third-graders to a dose of code may mean that at 30 they retain enough to ask the right questions of a programmer, working in a language they've never seen on a project they could never have imagined."



"It's no surprise, then, that the AP computer science course is among the College Board's least popular offerings; last year, almost four times more students tested in geography (114,000) than computer science (31,000). And most kids don't even get to make that choice; only 17 percent of US high schools that have advanced placement courses do so in CS. It was 20 percent in 2005.

For those who do take an AP computer science class—a yearlong course in Java, which is sort of like teaching cooking by showing how to assemble a KitchenAid—it won't count toward core graduation requirements in most states. What's more, many counselors see AP CS as a potential GPA ding, and urge students to load up on known quantities like AP English or US history. "High school kids are overloaded already," says Joanna Goode, a leading researcher at the University of Oregon's education department, and making time for courses that don't count toward anything is a hard sell.

In any case, it's hard to find anyone to teach these classes. Unlike fields such as English and chemistry, there isn't a standard path for aspiring CS teachers in grad school or continuing education programs. And thanks to wildly inconsistent certification rules between states, certified CS teachers can get stuck teaching math or library sciences if they move. Meanwhile, software whizzes often find the lure of the startup salary much stronger than the call of the classroom, and anyone who tires of Silicon Valley might find that its "move fast and break things" mantra doesn't transfer neatly to pedagogy.

And while many kids have mad skills in movie editing or Photoshopping, such talents can lull parents into thinking they're learning real computing. "We teach our kids how to be consumers of technology, not creators of technology," notes the NSF's Cuny.

Or, as Cory Doctorow, an editor of the technology-focused blog Boing Boing, put it in a manifesto titled "Why I Won't Buy an iPad": "Buying an iPad for your kids isn't a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it's a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals."

But school administrators know that gleaming banks of shiny new machines go a long way in impressing parents and school boards. Last summer, the Los Angeles Unified School District set aside a billion dollars to buy an iPad for all 640,000 children in the district. To pay for the program, the district dipped into school construction bonds. Still, some parents and principals told the Los Angeles Times they were thrilled about it. "It gives us the sense of hope that these kids are being looked after," said one parent.2"



""Our curriculum doesn't lead with programming or code," says Jane Margolis, a senior researcher at UCLA who helped design the ECS curriculum and whose book Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing provides much of the theory behind the lesson plans. "There are so many stereotypes associated with coding, and often it doesn't give the broader picture of what the field is about. The research shows you want to contextualize, show how computer science is relevant to their lives." ECS lessons ask students to imagine how they'd make use of various algorithms as a chef, or a carpenter, or a teacher, how they could analyze their own snack habits to eat better, and how their city council could use data to create cleaner, safer streets."



"IT WAS A LITTLE MORE THAN a century ago that literacy became universal in Western Europe and the United States. If computational skills are on the same trajectory, how much are we hurting our economy—and our democracy—by not moving faster to make them universal?

There's the talent squeeze, for one thing. Going by the number of computer science majors graduating each year, we're producing less than half of the talent needed to fill the Labor Department's job projections. Women currently make up 20 percent of the software workforce, blacks and Latinos around 5 percent each. Getting more of them in the computing pipeline is simply good business sense.

It would also create a future for computing that more accurately reflects its past. A female mathematician named Ada Lovelace wrote the first algorithm ever intended to be executed on a machine in 1843. The term "programmer" was used during World War II to describe the women who worked on the world's first large-scale electronic computer, the ENIAC machine, which used calculus to come up with tables to improve artillery accuracy 3. In 1949, Rear Adm. Grace Hopper helped develop the UNIVAC, the first general-purpose computer, a.k.a. a mainframe, and in 1959 her work led to the development of COBOL, the first programming language written for commercial use.

Excluding huge swaths of the population also means prematurely killing off untold ideas and innovations that could make everyone's lives better. Because while the rash of meal delivery and dating apps designed by today's mostly young, male, urban programmers are no doubt useful, a broader base of talent might produce more for society than a frictionless Saturday night. 4

And there's evidence that diverse teams produce better products. A study of 200,000 IT patents found that "patents invented by mixed-gender teams are cited [by other inventors] more often than patents … [more]
tasneemraja  coding  computationalthinking  programming  education  development  learning  gender  girls  teaching  blackgirlscode  codeforamerica  thinking  criticalthinking  problemsolving  literacy  race  diversity  janemargolis  ipads  ipad 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Episode Eighty Six: Solid 2 of 2; Requests - GOV.UK 2018; Next
"Today, reading LinkedIn recommendations as they came in felt like reading eulogies. Apart from me not quite being dead. Not yet, at least. Or, I was dead and I hadn't realised it yet. It doesn't matter, anyway: all the recommendations from people I've enjoyed working with over the past three years just feel, unfortunately, like double-edged knives - ultimately good but only really readable with a twist.

Right now is a bad time, one of those terrible times when it doesn't even really matter that one of my good friends has pulled me aside, insisted that I have something to eat and sat patiently with me in a pizza joint while I stare off into space and mumble. It doesn't matter that he's great and doing these things for me and telling me that this too will pass: I am hearing all of the words that he's saying, the sounds he's making as that make all the little bits of air vibrate and hit my ear and undergo some sort of magic transformation as they get understood in my brain. But they don't connect. Understanding is different from feeling. And right now, I'm feeling useless and broken and disconnected and above all, sad. But I can't feel those things. I have meetings to go to. Hustle to hust. Against what felt at times like the relentless optimism of an O'Reilly conference I had to finally hide away for a while, behind a Diet Coke and a slice of cheesecake, because dealing with that much social interaction was just far too draining.

And so I'm hiding again tonight, instead of out with friends, because it's just too hard to smile and pretend that everything's OK when it's demonstrably not."



"Over the past couple of days at Solid it's become almost painfully apparent that the Valley, in broad terms, is suffering from a chronic lack of empathy in terms of how it both sees and deals with the rest of the world, not just in communicating what it's doing and what it's excited about, but also in its acts. Sometimes these are genuine gaffes - mistakes that do not betray a deeper level of consideration, thinking or strategy. Other times, they *are* genuine, and they betray at the very least a naivety as to consequence or second-order impact (and I'm prepared to accept that without at least a certain level of naivety or lack of consideration for impact we'd find it pretty hard as a species to ever take advantage of any technological advance), but let me instead perhaps point to a potential parallel. 

There are a bunch of people worried about what might happen if, or when, we finally get around to a sort of singularity event and we have to deal with a genuine superhuman artificial intelligence that can think (and act) rings around us, never mind improving its ability at a rate greater than O(n). 

One of the reasons to be afraid of such a strong AI was explained by Elizer Yudkowsky:

"The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else."

And here's how the rest of the world, I think, can unfairly perceive Silicon Valley: Silicon Valley doesn't care about humans, really. Silicon Valley loves solving problems. It doesn't hate you and it doesn't love you, but you do things that it can use for something else. Right now, those things include things-that-humans-are-good-at, like content generation and pointing at things. Right now, those things include things like getting together and making things. But solving problems is more fun than looking after people, and sometimes solving problems can be rationalised away as looking after people because hey, now that $20bn worth of manufacturing involved in making planes has gone away, people can go do stuff that they want to do, instead of having to make planes!

Would that it were that easy.

So anyway. I'm thinking about the Internet of Things and how no one's done a good job of branding it or explaining it or communicating it to Everyone Else. Because that needs doing.

--

As ever, thanks for the notes. Keep them coming in. If you haven't said hi already, please do and let me know where you heard about my newsletter. And if you like the newsletter, please consider telling some friends about it."
danhon  2014  siliconvalley  ai  empathy  problemsolving  society  californianideology  unemplyment  capitalism  depression  elizeryudkowsky  humans  singularity 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Buzz Andersen — I suppose I understand the perspective of these...
I suppose I understand the perspective of these engineers, though I don’t think their fear is of abstraction. It is a fear of improper abstraction, which is often the product of trying to create an abstraction before you even understand the problem; you know sit around and talk aimlessly for a couple of hours driven development. Good abstractions start very simple and evolve overtime to become useful mental models for a particular problem.

—Abstraction - A Tool For Collective Thought [Merrick Christensen https://dayone.me/8WwzfO ]

"I’ve been wanting for awhile now to write a post about programmatic abstractions that would be very much along these lines. I think this is a really important insight that separates great abstractions that hold up over time from lousy ones that are fashionable for a season until people start to understand their limitations. Good abstractions start simply—often close to the minimal solution possible—and evolve over time in a way that is always informed by specific use cases encountered in the wild. Abstractions that start out as monolithic, seamless, end-all-be-all solutions tend to break down very quickly when exposed to anything but the textbook use cases their creators anticipated, whereas more humble efforts, judiciously managed, tend to grow more organically into true general purpose tools with real staying power."
buzzanderson  tools  abstraction  2014  small  scale  simple  simplicity  problemsolving  toolmaking  lms  purpose 
april 2014 by robertogreco
danah boyd | apophenia » Whether it’s bikes or bytes, teens are teens
"If you’re like most middle-class parents, you’ve probably gotten annoyed with your daughter for constantly checking her Instagram feed or with your son for his two-thumbed texting at the dinner table. But before you rage against technology and start unfavorably comparing your children’s lives to your less-wired childhood, ask yourself this: Do you let your 10-year-old roam the neighborhood on her bicycle as long as she’s back by dinner? Are you comfortable, for hours at a time, not knowing your teenager’s exact whereabouts?

What American children are allowed to do — and what they are not — has shifted significantly over the last 30 years, and the changes go far beyond new technologies.

If you grew up middle-class in America prior to the 1980s, you were probably allowed to walk out your front door alone and — provided it was still light out and you had done your homework — hop on your bike and have adventures your parents knew nothing about. Most kids had some kind of curfew, but a lot of them also snuck out on occasion. And even those who weren’t given an allowance had ways to earn spending money — by delivering newspapers, say, or baby-sitting neighborhood children.

All that began to change in the 1980s. In response to anxiety about “latchkey” kids, middle- and upper-class parents started placing their kids in after-school programs and other activities that filled up their lives from morning to night. Working during high school became far less common. Not only did newspaper routes become a thing of the past but parents quit entrusting their children to teenage baby-sitters, and fast-food restaurants shifted to hiring older workers.

Parents are now the primary mode of transportation for teenagers, who are far less likely to walk to school or take the bus than any previous generation. And because most parents work, teens’ mobility and ability to get together casually with friends has been severely limited. Even sneaking out is futile, because there’s nowhere to go. Curfew, trespassing and loitering laws have restricted teens’ presence in public spaces. And even if one teen has been allowed out independently and has the means to do something fun, it’s unlikely her friends will be able to join her.

Given the array of restrictions teens face, it’s not surprising that they have embraced technology with such enthusiasm. The need to hang out, socialize, gossip and flirt hasn’t diminished, even if kids’ ability to get together has.

After studying teenagers for a decade, I’ve come to respect how their creativity, ingenuity and resilience have not been dampened even as they have been misunderstood, underappreciated and reviled. I’ve watched teenage couples co-create images to produce a portrait of intimacy when they lack the time and place to actually kiss. At a more political level, I’ve witnessed undocumented youth use social media to rally their peers and personal networks to speak out in favor of the Dream Act, even going so far as to orchestrate school walkouts and local marches.

This does not mean that teens always use the tools around them for productive purposes. Plenty of youth lash out at others, emulating a pervasive culture of meanness and cruelty. Others engage in risky behaviors, seeking attention in deeply problematic ways. Yet, even as those who are hurting others often make visible their own personal struggles, I’ve met alienated LGBT youth for whom the Internet has been a lifeline, letting them see that they aren’t alone as they struggle to figure out whom to trust.

And I’m on the board of Crisis Text Line, a service that connects thousands of struggling youth with counselors who can help them. Technology can be a lifesaver, but only if we recognize that the Internet makes visible the complex realities of people’s lives.

As a society, we both fear teenagers and fear for them. They bear the burden of our cultural obsession with safety, and they’re constantly used as justification for increased restrictions. Yet, at the end of the day, their emotional lives aren’t all that different from those of their parents as teenagers. All they’re trying to do is find a comfortable space of their own as they work out how they fit into the world and grapple with the enormous pressures they face.

Viewed through that prism, it becomes clear how the widespread embrace of technology and the adoption of social media by kids have more to do with non-technical changes in youth culture than with anything particularly compelling about those tools. Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook may be fun, but they’re also offering today’s teens a relief valve for coping with the increased stress and restrictions they encounter, as well as a way of being with their friends even when their more restrictive lives keep them apart.

The irony of our increasing cultural desire to protect kids is that our efforts may be harming them. In an effort to limit the dangers they encounter, we’re not allowing them to develop skills to navigate risk. In our attempts to protect them from harmful people, we’re not allowing them to learn to understand, let alone negotiate, public life. It is not possible to produce an informed citizenry if we do not first let people engage in public.

Treating technology as something to block, limit or demonize will not help youth come of age more successfully. If that’s the goal, we need to collectively work to undo the culture of fear and support our youth in exploring public life, online and off."
teens  adolescence  children  trust  mobility  internet  online  risk  risktaking  2014  danahboyd  via:lukeneff  creativity  ingenuity  problemsolving  isolation  fear  parenting  overprotection  snapchat  tumblr  twitter  facebook  society  culture  safety  social  socialmedia  labor  experience 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Systemantics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail
"The immediate motivation for undertaking this work was provided by the bizarre experience of a colleague of the author (let us call him Jones), a medical scientist specializing in the study of mental retardation. This field, until recently, was a very unfashionable one, and Jones considered himself fortunate to be employed as Research Associate at a small State Home for retarded children. In the humble, even despised, position he was too low on the Civil Service scale to merit the attention of administrators, and he was therefore left alone to tinker with ideas in his chosen field. He was happily pursuing his own research interests when, following presidential interest and national publicity, mental retardation suddenly became a fashionable subject. Jones received an urgent invitation to join an ambitious federally funded project for a systematic attack upon the "problem"[*] of mental retardation.

[Footnote. See The "Problem" Problem, Chapter XI.]

Thinking that this new job, with its ample funds and facilities, would advance both his research efforts and his career, Jones joined. Within three months his own research had come to a halt, and within a year he was completely unable to speak or think intelligently in the field of mental retardation. He had, in fact, become retarded relative to his previous condition.

Looking about him to discover, if possible, what had happened, Jones found that a dozen other skilled professionals who made up the staff of the project had experienced the same catastrophe. That ambitious project, designed to advance solutions to the "problem," had, in fact, taken most of the available workers in the field and neutralized them.

What had gone wrong? Jones, knowing of the author's interest in systems operation, turned to him for advice, and the two of us, jointly, tried to analyze the problem. We first reviewed Parkinson's classic essay on Institutional Paralysis,[*] hoping to find enlightenment there. Was the disease a fulminating case of Injelititis?[*] Obviously not. The professional staff of the Institute were competent, dedicated, and hardworking. Furthermore, the administrators were experienced, energetic, and extremely logical in their approach to problems. The Institute was failing in spite of the best efforts of every one of its members."
johngall  1975  systemsthinking  systems  problemsolving  bureaucracy  institutions  via:caseygollan  organizations  failure  systemicfailure  purpose  paralysis 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Episode Nine: Everything In Silos, Forever and Ever, Amen
"Just Good Enough is bullshit. Just Good Enough means that a company doesn't have to produce a useable site that provides easily findable manuals or reference for its product, because Google will index that content eventually. Just Good Enough means I can just about use your site on my phone. Just Good Enough means that the timekeeping software that everyone in the building uses (and has to use - otherwise the entire business screeches to a halt) is only Just Not Irritating Enough to have to deal with. Just Good Enough means that you can whip up a Word document that you can save and then email to me for comment and I can open it up where it's saved in my Temporary Outlook Files and then save it as Your Document - Dan Comments.doc in my Temporary Outlook Files and then email it back to you, where you'll revise it and then send it to a project manager who will then rename it Your Document - Dan Comments - Final Feb 4 2014.doc and then email it back to me for more comments. Or where Google Docs is Just Good Enough to use single sign on so that in theory we can all use it together, but that its text formatting doesn't quite work and not everyone uses it.

It's bullshit. Just Good Enough should be offensive. Just Good Enough is the digital/software equivalent of a bridge that doesn't quite kill anyone most of the time, instead of one that actually does the fucking job. "

[…]

"This is what the threat of the consumerisation of IT is, then, to entrenched divisions and groups. It means that five years ago, the apocryphal story of someone at the BBC being quoted however many tens of thousands of pounds for a Rails server from outsourced IT deciding to, bluntly, fuck it and just stick an AWS instance on their card and expense it was the inevitable sharp end of the wedge: digital, devolved from some sort of priesthood that existed to serve itself, and instead unlocking its potential to the people who have problems that need solving now, and don't particularly care whether something is a solution or not, or has properly gone through procurement (and yes, I realize that this opens you to the possibility of a raft of 'Just Good Enoughs').

But you can't have one without the other. Leadership that reacts to teams reaching for their cards and organically using AWS or Basecamp or whatever because it's Just Good Enough and flies under the procurement radar, or reaching out to Get Stuff Done with small external groups rather than using internal resource by asking: "what's the problem here, and why are our employees choosing to react in this way rather than internally?" and fixing that internal provision of resource are the ones that are going to win. Which is, again, why GDS is building internal capability rather than external.

In a conversation with GDS's Russell Davies about this, the one comment of his that stood out was that none of this was new to those of us who've been working in digital or interactive. There was no stunning insight, no secret sauce, no magic recipe. Just that, from a leadership and organizational point of view, digital was an important concept to align around as a way of achieving their goals: and then, GDS conceived on (again, my external reckoning) with teams constructed around delivery. It was just that the will was there.

So here's the thing. (And this type of wrapping up inevitably feels like a Church of England sermon or Thought for the Day).

Siloed organisations, where digital is "over there", aren't going to succeed. At the very least, they're only going to unlock a fraction of the opportunity that's available to them. At the very worst, they'll find themselves both slowly ("oh, they've only got a few tens of thousands of users") and quickly (Blackberry, Nokia) disrupted. Runkeeper will come and eat their lunch. Netflix will become the next video network. Uber, much as I hate them for being Uber, will come along and work out that hey, digital actually can make your business of cars that move things from one place to another better for the end user. 

They're just not. 

It's just a question of how fast we get there.

My brother, when asked when video games will finally be treated as mainstream culture, used to say: "When enough people die." 

GDS is showing that we don't need people to die for digital to work. We just need leadership that wants it."

[Reference post: http://russelldavies.typepad.com/planning/2013/04/the-unit-of-delivery.html ]
danhon  2014  gov.uk  russelldavies  services  digital  organizations  technology  edtech  bbc  basecamp  problemsolving  leadership  management  siloing  culture  it  justgoodenough 
february 2014 by robertogreco
gis-advice.md
"Find interesting people. You’ll learn a lot more from a great professor (or mentor, or friend, or tutorial) talking about something outside your specialty than you will from someone boring who’s working on exactly what you’re interested in. Don’t get insular! All the best artists I know have close scientist friends and vice versa.

That principle alone should expose you to enough interesting ideas that you will be able to see the most productive paths for yourself. I guess I could go on:

Look for real problems. “Let’s make a map of the furthest point from a McDonalds in each state” may be a useful exercise, but it’s not a real problem. Accurately measuring how earthquakes propagate is a real problem. Making sure that indigenous land rights are represented is a real problem. Finding early evidence of village destruction is a real problem. That doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time on scientific and humanitarian topics, especially as a student! But your work is valuable and should be spent on things you care about, even if they’re silly. If you learn to ask interesting questions that no one else is asking, you will get a good reputation among the people whom you would actually want to work for.

Learn as much statistics as you reasonably can. Trust me. Half the time I solve a tough technical problem it involves learning some stats, and then suddenly I see all these other places where that bit of knowledge applies. In fact, I’m making a note: I should learn more stats.

Read Edward Tufte’s books front to back several times, even the parts that don’t seem to have anything to do with maps."



"If you need to do some work (a course, a job) that you don’t believe in, fine, and try to learn something from it. Pay the bills. But don’t bring it on yourself. Don’t say “Well, Yoyodyne makes kitten-seeking missile guidance computers and their contract doesn’t allow side projects, but I need something solid on my résumé, so I’ll just spend four years there while I get on my feet.” It might work by chance, but odds are it’ll lead to selling out, burning out, and just generally being no use to yourself or anyone else. The GIS industry is a moving target: don’t aim for a good job, aim to invent it.

One of my coworkers came to the company from a project to map the history of the ancient Mediterranean; another got on the radar because he was mapping the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk. Our lead developer was a philosophy/studio art major. I dropped out. Very few of us majored in GIS or CS. But we all ended up here because each in our own way we fundamentally care about geography – place, space, and helping people work with representations of their world more easily. Of course we’re a startup so things are a little unusual, but really, to any company worth working for, showing initiative, carefulness, curiosity, and delight in geography itself matters so much more than any one item on your CV.

When people say “do what you love” they don’t mean “goof off and trust the world to provide”; they mean “you’ll be working below your abilities whenever you don’t have intrinsic motivation, so find it”.

Stick with open-source tools as much as reasonably possible. There are various advantages, but one is that in principle you can always look inside them and figure out exactly what they do. In practice that’s rarely easy, but it’s still valuable. You also get to share your work with a much larger community – given that maybe 3% of the population can afford a closed-source GIS package, 97% of Earth’s latent GIS talent is in the open-source world. Help bring it to fruition:

Teach. Any time anyone is paying attention to you, you’re teaching anyway, so it’s good to be deliberate about it. This might take the form of a notebook blog, for example: “Today I tried to do X with method Y, but got result Z. Will try again next week”. Teaching forces you to think carefully in certain ways (as does programming!). Teaching also helps you keep ethics in mind. Mapping is a special kind of power that most people cannot tell is being abused even when it is; having to justify something to a student is one technique to keep in mind the consequences of things."
charlieloyd  2013  advice  learning  interestedness  problemsolving  gis  teaching  inventing  understanding  unschooling  values  motivation  intrinsicmotivation  potential  interested 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Rigor Redefined
"Today’s students need to master seven survival skills to thrive in the new world of work. And these skills are the same ones that will enable students to become productive citizens who contribute to solving some of the most pressing issues we face in the 21st century.

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving…

2. Collaboration and Leadership…

3. Agility and Adaptability…

4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism…

5. Effective Oral and Written Communication…

6. Accessing and Analyzing Information…

7. Curiosity and Imagination…



Across the United States, I see schools that are succeeding at making adequate yearly progress but failing our students. Increasingly, there is only one curriculum: test prep. Of the hundreds of classes that I’ve observed in recent years, fewer than 1 in 20 were engaged in instruction designed to teach students to think instead of merely drilling for the test.

To teach and test the skills that our students need, we must first redefine excellent instruction. It is not a checklist of teacher behaviors and a model lesson that covers content standards. It is working with colleagues to ensure that all students master the skills they need to succeed as lifelong learners, workers, and citizens. I have yet to talk to a recent graduate, college teacher, community leader, or business leader who said that not knowing enough academic content was a problem. In my interviews, everyone stressed the importance of critical thinking, communication skills, and collaboration.

We need to use academic content to teach the seven survival skills every day, at every grade level, and in every class. And we need to insist on a combination of locally developed assessments and new nationally normed, online tests—such as the College and Work Readiness Assessment (www.cae.org)—that measure students’ analytic-reasoning, critical-thinking, problem-solving, and writing skills.

It’s time to hold ourselves and all of our students to a new and higher standard of rigor, defined according to 21st-century criteria. It’s time for our profession to advocate for accountability systems that will enable us to teach and test the skills that matter most. Our students’ futures are at stake."
tonywagner  rigor  education  testprep  testing  standardizedtesting  schools  teaching  learning  criticalthinking  problemsolving  collaboration  leadership  agility  adaptability  initiative  entrepreneurialism  communication  writing  speaking  information  curiosity  imagination 
december 2013 by robertogreco
The White Cane as Technology - Sara Hendren - The Atlantic
"A conversation with scholar Georgina Kleege about what her cane tells her, how tech designers should think about visual impairments, and why "bluetooth shoes for the blind" are a terrible idea"

[See also Alan Jacobs in reaction: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2013/11/bluetooth-shoes.html

"And there’s another aspect of this: the white cane is clearly a superior technology here, but connectivity is just what we do now, technologically. Bluetooth is cool in a way that Lucite is not. People want to offer digital solutions to problems — or pseudo-problems — that are not really digital in nature. It’s like rummaging around in your ear with a screwdriver." ]

[See also: http://ablersite.org/2013/11/06/the-white-cane-as-technology/ ]
sarahendren  blind  2013  assistivetechnology  technology  alanjacobs  problemsolving  disability  georginakleege  disabilities 
november 2013 by robertogreco
The Radical New Institution to Liberate U.S. Data - Robinson Meyer - The Atlantic
"Creating an ecosystem like that—getting municipalities to publish their hunting season times and requirements, recruiting an organization to host those agglomerated data, and alerting app developers that the data are coming—requires a central advocacy organization capable of talking to developers and public servants. It’s the kind of community Jaquith hopes to set up—and then walk away from.

“Ideally, the U.S. ODI’s role is forgotten,“ he said.

Jaquith hopes the institute itself, in fact, will be forgotten. If this brief, experimental phase seems successful, he said, and the Knight Foundation establishes the institute, it will be designed to last only a few years.

“We’re gonna term limit it, and we’re thinking that limit will be four years,” he said. In other words, if the institute is widly successful, it will close in 2017.

Advocacy organizations, said Jaquith, either succeed in their advocacy or fail. If they fail, they should stop and let other organizations step in.

Jaquith said he hoped the defined end date would give the U.S. ODI a sprint-like atmosphere. An institute extant for four years would span a year into the term of the next U.S. president, bridging the gap between administrations. It would not, however, erect a zombie institution.

“If there’s never an end date,” he said, “then what’s the urgency?“

Right now, though, Jaquith is looking forward to a shorter, six-month sprint. The ODI, striving to be as lean as possible, won’t even have an office now. And, at this point, the ODI remains a plan rather than a place."
robinsonmeyer  2013  waldojaquaith  intentionallyephemeral  problemsolving  data  odi  usodi  advocacy  organizations  plannedobsolescence  adhoc 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Teaching Timmy to Ride — Dorian Taylor
"The push­bike isn't a mode of trans­porta­tion as much as it is a ped­a­gog­i­cal tool. Made out of cheap ma­te­ri­als (in the­ory at least, the one pic­tured is crazy ex­pen­sive), the pur­pose is to focus Timmy on bal­anc­ing first, then he can move up to ped­alling on a real bike once he's mas­tered bal­anc­ing and starts to yearn for some speed. (Ped­alling is eas­ier to mas­ter, any­way.)

I framed this as an en­gi­neer­ing/de­sign di­chotomy be­cause en­gi­neer­ing is al­ways about work­ing with what we have. The ef­fect is that the prob­lem-solv­ing focus alights on the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the tech­nol­ogy, which can often lead to parochial so­lu­tions. The de­sign ap­proach is about fo­cus­ing on a pur­pose and imag­in­ing what we need to make it hap­pen, ir­re­spec­tive of our cur­rent in­ven­tory. When we have a strong pur­pose, it be­comes abun­dantly clear what is im­por­tant and what isn't. The re­sult, as such, stands an even chance of using less tech­nol­ogy, be­cause so­lu­tion turns out to be sim­pler.

And that is the time to call in the en­gi­neers."
design  engineering  doriantaylor  2013  simplicity  less  problemsolving 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Problems of Engineering and Problems of Life | The American Conservative
"I have suggested that the cultural health of Europe, including the cultural health of its component parts, is incompatible with extreme forms of both nationalism and internationalism. But the cause of that disease, which destroys the very soil in which culture has its roots, is not so much extreme ideas, and the fanaticism which they stimulate, as the relentless pressure of modern industrialism, setting the problems which the extreme ideas attempt to solve. Not least of the effects of industrialism is that we become mechanized in mind, and consequently attempt to provide solutions in terms of engineering, for problems which are essentially problems of life." — T.S. Eliot
life  responsibility  criticalthing  industrialism  alanjacobs  2013  1944  culture  problemsolving  technosolutionism 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Art Teaching for a New Age - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
[NB: Tagging this one Black Mountain College and BMC, not because it is references in the text, but that it reminds me of BMC.]

[Also related, in my mind: http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/15046238819/our-middle-school-is-an-art-school and http://www.graphpaper.com/2007/10-17_what-i-learned-in-art-school-is-it-design-thinking ]

"The technological changes we are witnessing will not threaten conceptual rigor or craft, nor will the ease of expression and communication make art obsolete. But these shifts are changing what we mean by art making and what counts as meaningful, crafted expression. To say so is not to judge the quality of that expression or to lament the rise of vulgarity or the lowering of standards. It is simply to observe that this democratization of expression will alter fundamentally how students—aspiring artists—think about art, its meaning and purpose, and the ways in which it is made.

These shifts will also change the professions for which educational institutions like mine prepare students. After all, if technology becomes smart enough to make design decisions, then designers could increasingly become technicians, operators of machines instead of creative professionals. But the more profound—and less visible—impact will be on how students think about their creative pursuits.

We cannot say with certainty what that impact will be. The first generation of so-called digital natives is reaching college only now; the environment they grew up in—which seemed so radical and new to many of us just a decade and a half ago—is already a punchline. Soon it will be an antiquated joke that doesn't even make sense anymore. Remember AOL? Remember plugging in to access the Net? Today's students don't.

They arrive at college having shot and edited video, manipulated photographs, recorded music—or at least sampled and remixed someone else's—designed or assembled animated characters and even virtual environments, and "painted" digital images—all using technologies readily available at home or even in their pocket. The next generation of students will have designed and printed three-dimensional images, customized consumer products, perhaps "rapid-prototyped" new products—I can't imagine what else.

Students today are not simply bombarded by images, consuming them in great gulps, as previous generations did; they are making the environments they inhabit, and making meaningful connections among images, stories, mythologies, and value systems. They are creative and creating.

But their notion of what it means to create is different from ours. It's something one does to communicate with others, to participate in social networks, to entertain oneself. Making things—images, objects, stories—is mundane for these students, not sacred. It's a component of everyday experience, woven tightly into the fabric of daily life.

So what is the task of arts educators? Is it to disabuse these young people of what we think are their misconceptions? Is it to inculcate in them an understanding of the "proper" way to create, to make art or entertainment? Is it to sort out the truly artistic from the great mass of creative chatterers—and to initiate them into some sacred tradition?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Or maybe the task of the educator is to help them develop judgment, to help them to see that creating, which they do instinctively, almost unconsciously, is a way of learning, of knowing, of making arguments and observations, of affecting and transforming their environment. And perhaps that's not so very different from what we do now.

We do it now, though, in the context of a curriculum and institutional histories oriented toward specific professional training and preparation. We seek to develop in students the critical faculties needed to thrive in clearly defined professions. But in the future, we may have to rethink our purpose and objectives. We may have to reimagine our curricula, recast the bachelor-of-fine-arts degree as a generalist—not professional—degree.

In a media-saturated culture in which everyone is both maker and consumer of images, products, sounds, and immersive experiences like games, and in which professional opportunities are more likely to be invented or discovered than pursued, maybe the B.F.A. is the most appropriate general-education experience, not just for aspiring artists and designers but for everyone.

That poses challenges for arts educators. We are good at equipping students who are already interested in careers in art and design with the skills and judgment necessary to succeed in artistic fields and creative professions that are still reasonably well defined. We are less good at educating them broadly, at equipping them to use their visual acuity, design sensibility, and experience as makers to solve the problems—alone or in collaboration with others—that the next generation of creative professionals may be called on to solve. These will be complex problems that cross the boundaries of traditional disciplines, methodologies, and skill sets—ranging from new fields like data visualization, which draws on graphic design, statistical analysis, and interaction design, to traditional challenges like brand development, which increasingly reaches beyond logos on letterhead to products and environments.

To do that, arts colleges would have to reorganize their curricula and their pedagogy. Teaching might come to look a lot more like what we now call mentorship or advising. Rather than assume that young people know what they want to do and that we know how to prepare them to do it, we would have to help them to explore their interests and aspirations and work with them to create an educational experience that meets their needs.

Curricula would not be configured as linear, progressive pathways of traditional semester-long courses, but would consist of components, such as short workshops, online courses, intensive tutorials, and so forth. Students would pick and choose among components, arranging and rearranging them according to what they need at a particular moment. Have a problem that requires that you use a particular software program? Go learn it, to solve that problem or complete that project. Want to pursue a traditional illustration-training program? Take multiple drawing and painting studios.

Linking all of this together would not be a traditional liberal-arts curriculum but what one faculty member at the University of the Arts has called a liberal art curriculum—one focused on design as problem solving, on artistic expression as the articulation and interrogation of ideas. Instead of an arts-and-sciences core curriculum separate and disconnected from studio instruction, we would build a new core that integrates the studio and the seminar room, that envisions making and thinking not as distinct approaches but as a dynamic conversation.

This fantasy of an alternative arts education—which resembles experiments that other educators have attempted in the past—begins to veer into utopianism, though, and a vague utopianism at that. It would be impossible to administer and to offer to students cost-effectively. And most students would probably find it more perplexing than liberating.

But I see an urgent need for new models that respond to the changing conditions affecting higher education—models that can adapt to conditions that are in constant flux and to an emerging sensibility among young people that is more entrepreneurial, flexible, and alert to change than our curricula are designed to accommodate.

We need an educational structure that takes instability and unpredictability as its starting point, its fundamental assumption. If a university is not made up of stable, enduring structures arranged linearly or hierarchically—schools, departments, majors, minors—but rather is made up of components that can be used or deployed according to demand and need, then invention instead of convention becomes the governing institutional dynamic."
arteducation  art  education  expression  artisticexpression  internet  web  making  unpredictability  uncertainty  liberalarts  generalists  specialists  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  multimedia  lcproject  tcsnmy  tcsnmy8  ncmideas  openstudioproject  2013  seanbuffington  teaching  learning  criticalthinking  problemsolving  communication  bfa  mfa  highered  highereducation  generaleducation  curriculum  altgdp  design  craft  internetage  medialiteracy  media  newmedia  rapidprototyping  projectbasedlearning  bmc  blackmountaincollege  pbl 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Infovore » Toca Builders, and the spirit of Seymour Papert
"Toca Builders takes the abstract building of Minecraft – tools attached to a disembodied perspective (albeit one hindered by some degree of personhood – factors such as gravity, and so forth) – and embodies them to help younger children answer the question which tool would you use to place a block where you need to? Or sometimes backwards: which block shall we place next? It is not quite as freeform as Minecraft, but it actually forces the user to think a little harder about planning ahead, lining up his builders, and which builders go together well. Measure twice, cut once.

To that end, it’s much more like real-world building.

Papert was very clear about one particular point: the value of this is not to think in mechanical ways; it’s actually the opposite. By asking children to think in a mechanical way temporarily, they end up thinking about thinking more: they learn that there are many ways to approach a problem, and they can choose which way to think about things; which might be most appropriate.

And so Toca Builders is, in many ways, like all good construction toys: it’s about more than just building. It’s about planning, marshalling, making use of a limited set of tools to achieve creative goals. And all the while, helping the user understand those tools by making them appear in the world, taking up space in it, colliding with one another, and needing moving. All so that you can answer the question when you’re stuck: well, if you were Blox the Hammer, what would you do?

Some of what looks like clunkiness, then, is actually a subtle piece of design.

If you’re interested in the value of using computers to teach – not using computers to teach about computers, but using computers to teach about the world, then Mindstorms is a must-read. It’s easy to dismiss LOGO for its simplicity, and to forget the various paradigms it bends and breaks (more so than many programming languages) – and it’s remarkable to see just how long ago Papert and his collaborators were touching on ideas that are still fresh and vital today."
via:blackbeltjones  computation  edtech  education  games  gaming  minecraft  tocabuilders  tocaboca  seymourpapert  constructivism  logic  thinking  criticalthinking  2013  objectsforthinking  mindstorms  logo  computationallogic  computing  constructiontoys  planning  problemsolving  debugging  troubleshooting  ios  applications  iphone  ipad  coding  children  programming  teaching 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Jugaad - Wikipedia
"Jugard or Jugaad (Hindi: जुगाड़) is a Hindi term widely used in India and by people of Indian origin around the world. Jugaad (also sometimes jugard) is a term applied to a creative or innovative idea providing a quick, alternative way of solving or fixing a problem. Jugaad literally means an improvised arrangement or work-around, which has to be used because of lack of resources."
jugaad  jugard  bricolage  hacking  makedo  quickfixes  problemsolving  resourcefulness  workarounds  words  india  hindi 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Constance Steinkuehler
"I research cognition and learning in online games. I’m especially interested in the forms of science, literacy, and sociocultural skills that young adults learn from online play. I am currently a Senior Policy Analyst at the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President where I advise on policy related to games and learning/impact. I am currently on leave from my position as Assistant Professor [vita] at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I teach courses on videogames, research methods, and the “smart” side of pop culture.

My research lab named PopCosmo investigates the forms of cognition & culture that arise in online games such as RuneScape, World of Warcraft, and Dragon Age Legends. Our current team consists of 8 doctoral students and 2 undergrads, each specializing in their own interest area. Studies and publications include: science reasoning, digital & print literacy, computational literacy, collective problem solving, distributed apprenticeship, and pop cosmopolitanism.

This work is part of a larger UW-Madison program Games+Learning+Society (GLS) that designs and studies interactive digital media ranging from console games to mobile devices to fantasy baseball to YouTube to 3D virtual worlds. We total over 30 doctoral students, half a dozen faculty, and an emerging undergrad course of study. As part of this initiative, I chair the annual GLS Conference, hosted every summer here in Madison WI."
constancesteinkuehler  games  gaming  videogames  literacy  reading  writing  boys  science  play  popculture  sciencereasoning  problemsolving  collectiveproblemsolving  research  apprenticeships  distributedapprenticeship  cosmpolitanism  popcosmpolitanism  pocosmo  youtube  learning  society  mmo 
may 2013 by robertogreco
a t l i n - “Thoughts on Filmmaking” Pictured: “Peter Beard...
"“Thoughts on Filmmaking”

Pictured: “Peter Beard takes a photograph of a charging lion.”

There is no mystery to filmmaking. The modern camera is a simple device comprised of retracting mirrors, lenses and software. There are far greater mysteries to be unraveled. 

We are light-seekers, chasers of sunsets and sunrises.  

Design is central. Create spaces for people to inhabit, paths to wander, and colors to taste.

Make films with people who do not share a common language. New ways of communication and understanding emerge. We all have something we want to say to one another. 

Work with non-actors. Everything starts with their story. If you need someone to go to a dark place, you need to go there with them.

Filmmaking is problem solving. The constraints make our work stronger. 

Small moments of spontaneity become grand miracles.

Put down the pen and pick up the camera. Spend more time making films than talking about them.  

Always sweat. Travel light with heavy dreams. 

This is an evolving list."
atlin  filmmaking  worldbuilding  film  films  language  light  peterbeard  photography  making  doing  lists  spontaneity  small  slow  problemsolving  communication  rules  guidelines 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Bill Watterson's Speech - Kenyon College, 1990
"It's surprising how hard we'll work when the work is done just for ourselves. And with all due respect to John Stuart Mill, maybe utilitarianism is overrated. If I've learned one thing from being a cartoonist, it's how important playing is to creativity and happiness. My job is essentially to come up with 365 ideas a year.

If you ever want to find out just how uninteresting you really are, get a job where the quality and frequency of your thoughts determine your livelihood. I've found that the only way I can keep writing every day, year after year, is to let my mind wander into new territories. To do that, I've had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness.

We're not really taught how to recreate constructively. We need to do more than find diversions; we need to restore and expand ourselves. Our idea of relaxing is all too often to plop down in front of the television set and let its pandering idiocy liquefy our brains. Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery-it recharges by running.

You may be surprised to find how quickly daily routine and the demands of "just getting by: absorb your waking hours. You may be surprised matters of habit rather than thought and inquiry. You may be surprised to find how quickly you start to see your life in terms of other people's expectations rather than issues. You may be surprised to find out how quickly reading a good book sounds like a luxury.

At school, new ideas are thrust at you every day. Out in the world, you'll have to find the inner motivation to search for new ideas on your own. With any luck at all, you'll never need to take an idea and squeeze a punchline out of it, but as bright, creative people, you'll be called upon to generate ideas and solutions all your lives. Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems."



"Selling out is usually more a matter of buying in. Sell out, and you're really buying into someone else's system of values, rules and rewards."



"But having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You'll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you're doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you'll hear about them.

To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble."

[illustrated: http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/browbeat/2013/08/27/watterson_advice_large.jpg ]
billwatterson  art  life  meaning  meaningmaking  living  1990  commencemtspeeches  thoreau  via:tealtan  creativity  leisurearts  playfulness  play  johnstuartmill  cartoons  comics  comicstrips  inquiry  thinking  thought  lifeofthemind  problemsolving  values  sellingout  expectations  motivation  intrinsicmotivation  soulownership  worth  subversion  eccentricity  success  achievement  salaries  money  artleisure 
april 2013 by robertogreco
Machines of Laughter and Forgetting - NYTimes.com
"The hidden truth about many attempts to “bury” technology is that they embody an amoral and unsustainable vision. Pick any electrical appliance in your kitchen. The odds are that you have no idea how much electricity it consumes, let alone how it compares to other appliances and households. This ignorance is neither natural nor inevitable; it stems from a conscious decision by the designer of that kitchen appliance to free up your “cognitive resources” so that you can unleash your inner Oscar Wilde on “contemplating” other things. Multiply such ignorance by a few billion, and global warming no longer looks like a mystery."

"Imagine being told that “you visited 592 Web sites this week. That’s .5 times the number of Web pages on the whole Internet in 1994!”

The goal here is not to hit us with a piece of statistics — sheer numbers rarely lead to complex narratives — but to tell a story that can get us thinking about things we’d rather not be thinking about. So let us not give in to technophobia just yet: we should not go back to doing everything by hand just because it can lead to more thinking.

Rather, we must distribute the thinking process equally. Instead of having the designer think through all the moral and political implications of technology use before it reaches users — an impossible task — we must find a way to get users to do some of that thinking themselves."

"While devices-as-problem-solvers seek to avoid friction, devices-as-troublemakers seek to create an “aesthetic of friction” that engages users in new ways. Will such extra seconds of thought — nay, contemplation — slow down civilization? They well might. But who said that stopping to catch a breath on our way to the abyss is not a sensible strategy?"
design  friction  frictionlessness  seams  scars  ambient  evgenymorozov  canon  civilization  thinking  2013  slow  slowtechnology  transparency  problemsolving  problemshowing  contemplation  via:anne  cognitiveresources  technology  globalwaming  mindfulness  narrative  forgetting  memory  seamlessness 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Dis/Ability: Moving Beyond Access in the Academy | HASTAC
"Converging at the intersections of disability theory, pedagogy, and media studies, this forum intends to harness both theoretical and praxical discussions. We are interested in sharing ideas about how disability theory can positively intersect with our larger understandings of accessibility and the potentiality of technologies and multimodality. We are interested in classroom practices—the practical strategies folks have developed for increasing accessibility and centralizing issues of dis/ability as both material condition and social construct. We are interested in the everyday ways that we—as scholars and researchers and teachers—take up (or don’t, for various personal or institutional reasons) the challenge of creating more accessible physical and digital spaces for learning, teaching, and researching.

• What strategies do you use in your classrooms to increase accessibility or even to cater to or accommodate particular disabilities? What challenges have you faced making your classroom more accessible? Have some strategies backfired? Are there particular issues that have prevented you from making accessibility-related changes?

• What technologies are people using (whether assistive technologies or broader tech like YouTube & Twitter) to meet the needs of students? What technologies are used to create and/or support online disability identities?

• How can our own scholarly research be more accessible? I mean this both in terms of wider availability (open access publishing, perhaps) and in terms of ensuring that a range of people with various physical differences can access our new media projects. How might accessibility enhance a digital or multimodal project?

• How does disability theory intersect with technology, particularly in relation to race & resistance studies; “assistive” technologies; innovation, hacking & appropriation; and gender & queer studies?"

[From Sara Hendren's comment: http://hastac.org/forums/disability-moving-beyond-access-academy#comment-21573 ]

"I think some of the strongest art/design-and-technology practices result in objects or interactions or performances where “use” isn’t the mandate at all—and therefore, leaving aside the creation of resonances for use, at least as a goal. Usefulness or functionality may result, but it’s not the destination, if you will, of the work. And indeed true “interrogative” works, in my estimation, are best when they suspend questions indefinitely. They press and hold two or more opposing functions or symbolic/expressive gestures together at once, without resolve.

I think that strong interrogative objects, when engaging ideas in disability studies/politics, help skirt the artificial denoument of erasing difference, a la Jay’s “whack-a-mole” analogy. That is, resisting the seduction of “solutions” in design where “problems” become invisible."
via:ablerism  ability  disability  academia  marylalper  melissahelquist  stephanierosen  jaydolmage  alanfoley  maramills  cyndirowland  questions  questioning  unfinished  solutions  solutionism  transparaency  visibility  problems  problemsolving  design  art  technology  interactions  interrogativeworks  resolution  laurenmccarthy  matthiasgommel  jennifercrupi  accessibility  assistivetechnology  hacking  appropriation  innovation  resistance  unresolved  seams  seamlessness  canon  sarahendren  allisonhitt  disabilities 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Click Here to Save Education: Evgeny Morozov and Ed-Tech Solutionism
"This flight from thinking and the urge to replace human judgments with timeless truths produced by algorithms is the underlying driving force of solutionism. Bruno Latour distinguishes between “matters of facts,” the old unrealistic way of presenting all knowledge claims as stable, natural, and apolitical, and “matters of concern,” a more realistic mode that recognizes that knowledge claims are usually partial and reflect a particular set of problems, interests, and agendas. For Latour, one way to reform our political system is to acknowledge that knowledge is made of matters of concern and to identify all those affected by such matters; the proliferation of self-tracking—and the displacement of thinking by numbers—risks forever grounding us in the matters-of-fact paradigm. Once we abandon thinking for optimizing, it becomes much more difficult not only to enact but to actually imagine possible reforms of the system being “measured” and “tracked.”"

“Technostructuralists,” he argues, “view information technologies ‘neither as technologies of freedom nor of tyranny but primarily as technologies of power that lock into existing or emerging technostructures of power.’ Thus, any given technology is allowed to centralize and decentralize, homogenize and pluralize, empower and disempower simultaneously.”

"I’ve been told quite often that I’m too negative. Too critical. Too unsupportive of education technology entrepreneurship. Too loud. Too mean. And lately, I’ve wanted to retort, "Maybe. But I’m no Evgeny Morozov” — even though, truth be told, I think ed-tech desperately needs one. Ed-tech, once so deeply grounded in progressive educational theory and practice, has been largely emptied of both."
audreywatters  2013  evgenymorozov  technology  solutionism  technosolutionism  education  mattersoffacts  mattersofconcern  criticalthinking  quantifiedself  knowledge  brunolatour  optimization  efficience  scale  questions  questioning  edtech  technostructuralism  kevinkelly  janmcgonigal  jeffjarvis  clayshirky  timoreilly  timwu  books  problemsolving  problemdefining 
march 2013 by robertogreco
You Can't Just Hack Your Way to Social Change - Jake Porway - Harvard Business Review
"Any data scientist worth their salary will tell you that you should start with a question, NOT the data. Unfortunately, data hackathons often lack clear problem definitions. Most companies think that if you can just get hackers, pizza, and data together in a room, magic will happen. This is the same as if Habitat for Humanity gathered its volunteers around a pile of wood and said, "Have at it!" By the end of the day you'd be left with a half of a sunroom with 14 outlets in it."
data  bigdata  jakeporway  2013  hacking  hackathons  problemsolving  framing  questionasking  askingquestions 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Don't Trust Anyone Over 70 - By Gautam Mukunda | Foreign Policy
"It may be a fraught subject, but aging often has enormous effects on people's personalities and cognitive function. Some leaders can maintain their vitality and abilities into extreme old age, but after enough time in office, a leader's performance probably will decline, perhaps precipitously. And, although many scholars argue that leaders have little impact on foreign policy because political systems tend to produce dispensable candidates, there are specific circumstances in which individuals become enormously important -- one of the most notable being when they change radically once in office, surprising the system. This is precisely what happens to anyone who spends a long time in senior government positions, because of both the effects of power itself on those who wield it, and the effects of age on every human being."

"Even beyond the immediate effects of illness, aging can have pronounced effects on personality. Put simply, in general people really don't mellow with age. Instead, Jerrold Post and Bert Park have shown that they tend to become exaggerated versions -- almost caricatures -- of themselves, with their normal tendencies and patterns becoming intensified. This tendency is particularly likely to affect foreign policy. The aggressive can become belligerent, the passive, apathetic. Tendencies that would otherwise have fallen within an acceptable range can suddenly become problematic -- a shift that, when it happens to a head of government, is particularly likely to upset foreign policy."

[Readability link: https://www.readability.com/articles/xfhqcte8 ]

[Goes well with http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2013/03/01/facebook-college.html and http://www.aeonmagazine.com/world-views/nigel-warburton-cosmopolitanism/ ]
age  aging  intellect  thinking  problemsolving  pope  popebenedictxvi  leadership  power  personalities  government  decisionmaking  2013  illness  termlimits  ceos  limitations  jerroldpost  bertpark  rosemcdermott  willpower  roybaumeister  jontierney  congnition  personality 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Dr. Jeannette Wing | Jon Udell's Interviews with Innovators
"For Interviews with Innovators, Jon Udell speaks with Jeannette Wing, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientists who coined the term computational thinking. Her idea is that ways of thinking and problem-solving that involve algorithms and data structures and levels of abstraction and refactoring aren't just for computer scientists, they're really for everybody."
podcasts  tolisten  jeannettewing  computationalthinking  problemsolving  algorithms  datastructures  2007  abstraction  refactoring  compsci  thinking 
february 2013 by robertogreco
hyperbolic.guitars.home.: On my mind
"When we go through our reasons for why we teach a discipline, we'd better have more substantial reasons than "It'll be beneficial in the future" or "You need it to get into a good college" or "It teaches thinking skills" or "Shut up and eat your broccoli". I recognize that historically, traditionally, math was sold to students in all of those ways, and with varying degrees of success. But educational history and tradition are proving poor guides to our current situation. The questions that our students will have to face are, fundamentally, unlike any ones previous generations have had to:

• What happens if/when the climate changes dramatically?

• What happens if there are no more "good jobs" for most people?

• What happens if the dystopian visions elaborated by William Gibson, Aldous Huxley, Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, and many others, start to become real?

• More optimistically, what do students need to know/be able to do/figure out to be engaged, thoughtful, intelligent citizens of the world they will inherit?"
via:carwaiseto  education  teaching  math  mathematics  whyweteach  bigquestions  cv  purpose  learning  problemsolving  criticalthinking  mathinisolation  williamgibson  society  dystopia  aldoushuxley  philipkdick  raybradbury  mikethayer  2013 
february 2013 by robertogreco
PandoMonthly: A Fireside Chat With Sarah Lacy And Chris Sacca - YouTube
[via http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4965041 relating to http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/07/23/a-self-made-man-looks-at-how-he-made-it/ ]

[Once specific portion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViHuU6-CFDo ]

"I think, sometimes, like, arguing with libertarians can be really frustrating because, I think, it can be, um..., I think it can be intellectually lazy. And I think it can be convenient, and, in the same way that, um, you know when everything is going right it's easy to attribute it to your own success and when things are going wrong, it's because you got fucked or because you were unlucky etc., like, I think sometimes, like, the libertarian point of view can be, um..., can be rooted in a limited set of circumstances where you give yourself a little more credit than, um.., than you want, or than you are due, probably."
problemsolving  money  optimism  buckminsterfuller  wealthdistribution  incomegap  entrepreneurship  gambling  finance  decisionmaking  incentives  motivation  employment  elitism  regulation  government  traviskalanick  uber  politics  startups  women  gender  pandomonthly  sarahlacy  paternalism  economics  society  venturecapital  venturecapitalism  capitalism  2012  chrissacca  libertarianism  sharingeconomy 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Leveling up: handling conflict like a boss | tending the garden
"Friends have remarked to me that I “seem so confident” or that they “wish they could be as sure about things” as I am.

When someone says that to me, I get confused for a minute. Because I question myself all the time, wonder if I am doing the right things, and often think that I am really, really screwing things up. I used to never talk about those moments with other people. I felt pretty alone.

People have told me that I’m “argumentative,” or more politely “a little intense.” I tend to engage in conflict directly, and to resolve problems with people by talking or having arguments. I can be the type of conversationalist that’s a little scary to people who aren’t used to so much directness. But here’s the secret: I wasn’t born like this."

[Advice follows]
relationships  problemsolving  johngottman  advice  marriage  contempt  conflictresolution  tcsnmy  cv  instensity  conflict  confidence  2012  selenadeckelmann  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
Steven Berlin Johnson: Instead of building cathedrals in learning, we need to learn to build cathedrals | Creativity, Imagination, and Innovation in Education Symposium
"“Collaboration between different intelligences is the hallmark of innovative spaces,” he remarked. But it wasn’t always easy for Johnson, who has an undergraduate degree in semiotics from Brown University and a graduate degree in English Literature from Columbia, to see how science and the humanities could be entwined. It wasn’t until he was exposed to the work of former Columbia Professor Franco Moretti that he realized bridges could be built joining the two.

Moretti gained fame for controversially applying quantitative scientific methods to the humanities. Johnson mentioned reading Moretti’s Signs Taken for Wonders, and the mind-blowing impact the professor’s use of Darwinian techniques to analyze literature had on him. It was the first time he saw scientific procedures being employed to evaluate literature.

From that moment on, Johnson began researching iconic innovators."
cathedralsoflearning  everythingbadisgoodforyou  gaming  games  multidisciplinarythinking  connectivesyntheticintelligence  connectiveintelligence  multidisciplinary  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  generalists  specialization  interconnectivity  patterns  conenctions  innovation  multipleintelligences  diversity  problemsolving  systemsthinking  parenting  videogames  teaching  schools  collaboration  gutenberg  crosspollination  feathers  exaptation  devonthink  evolution  stephenjaygould  commonplacebooks  creativity  darwin  francomoretti  semiotics  hunches  learning  2011  stevenjohnson  charlesdarwin  interconnected  from delicious
july 2012 by robertogreco
Will · Getting Bold With Parents
“Teachers need to know that you or parents aren’t going to come after them with pick axes if scores go down."

"Parents are the most important constituency to engage in conversations around the shifts we are experiencing. We have to be willing to provoke and engage in those conversations on an ongoing basis."

"We have to trust that creating inquiry based, technology rich, connected spaces for learning will help students accomplish traditional outcomes (such as passing the test) as well."

"We have to admit that we don’t have all the answers, but that we need parents to be a part of the solution. “Parents can get comfortable with the idea that we’re figuring this out together.”"

"Teachers can feel very empowered when they know parents have their backs."

"We can’t wait for policy or politics to change. We have to be the impetus for change."
change  partnerships  learning  parenteducation  parenting  parents  comments  2012  problemsolving  boldschools  schools  tcsnmy  administration  leadership  teaching  schools  education  willrichardson  from delicious
april 2012 by robertogreco
Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving - Welcome
"This book was started with the intent of changing design and social entrepreneurship education. As these disciplines converge, it becomes evident that existing pedagogy doesn't support either students or practicioners attempting to design for impact. This text is a reaction to that convergence, and will ideally be used by various students, educators, and practicioners:

One audience is professors and educators of design, who are challenged with reinventing their educational curriculum in the face of a changing world. For them, this book should act as both a starting point for curriculum development and a justification for why this development is necessary—it should answer the question "what should design and social entrepreneurship education look like?"…"

[See also: https://www.createspace.com/3775207 ]
socialdesign  social  ac4d  socialentrepreneurship  disruptivedesign  disruptiveinnovation  disruptive  ebooks  jonkolko  criticalthinking  problemsolving  designforgood  books  design  from delicious
april 2012 by robertogreco
Synectics - Wikipedia
"Synectics is a way to approach creativity and problem-solving in a rational way. "Traditionally, the creative process has been considered after the fact... The Synectics study has attempted to research creative process in vivo, while it is going on."

According to Gordon, Synectics research has three main assumptions:

* The creative process can be described and taught;
* Invention processes in arts and sciences are analogous and are driven by the same "psychic" processes;
* Individual and group creativity are analogous.

With these assumptions in mind, Synectics believes that people can be better at being creative if they understand how creativity works."

[See alos: http://books.google.com/books/about/Synectics_the_development_of_creative_ca.html and "Making It Strange".
metaphor  williamgordon  psychology  process  problemsolving  creativity  synectics  from delicious
march 2012 by robertogreco
The Aporeticus - by Mills Baker · Design & Compromise [So much more within, read the whole thing and the comments too.]
"…why does compromise have its “undeservedly high reputation”?…b/c we are discomfited by philosophical implications of fact that some ideas are objectively better. We exempt science from our contemporary anxieties because its benefits are too explicit to deny, but in most creative fields we are no longer capable of accepting the superiority of some solutions to others; unable to sustain confidence in soundness of artistic problem-solving process, we will not provoke interpersonal/organizational conflict for sake of mere ideas.

This sad, mistaken epistemological cowardice turns competing hypotheses into groundless, subjective opinions, & reasonable course of action when managing conflicting, groundless opinions…is to compromise, because there is no better answer.

But the creative arts are not so subjective as we tend to think, which is why a talented, dictatorial auteur will produce better work than polls, fcus groups, or hundreds of compromising committees."
creativecontrol  dictatorship  dictators  dictatorialcreativity  violence  stevejobs  wateringdown  choice  debate  persuasion  2011  waste  stagnation  innovation  creativity  madetofail  setupforfailure  problemsolving  hypotheses  brokenbydesignprocess  democracy  control  procedure  process  inferiority  superiority  average  averages  means  politics  policy  howwework  meetings  committees  mediocrity  epistemology  philosophy  authoritarianism  cowardice  ideas  science  art  design  millsbaker  compromise 
january 2012 by robertogreco
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