Category Archives: Problem finding and problem solving

The Problem is Not Climate Change; the Problem is Irrational Thinking

I rarely use this space to discuss themes that might be interpreted as political.  If the reader interprets this post as political, they are missing the point.  This post is about history, knowledge, what we do with knowledge, and the utterly unique role that education plays in that sequence.

imgres-1In the last week I read two articles about scientific research on coral reefs. One reported that enormous swaths of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have died in the last three years.  The other reports on a group of scientists who predict that 90% of the world’s coral reefs will be dead by 2050 due to rapidly increasing ocean water temperatures throughout the tropics.  I am specifically NOT citing a link to either of these articles because they were in newspapers and I did not read, nor would I be able to authoritatively discern, if the research cited in the articles was of such quality as to be considered “fact”.  I am not a marine biologist or a climatologist. There are likely scientists and others who disagree with both the rate of reef die-off and the causes.

I was, back in the day, a marine geologist, and recall well working with and learning from older oceanographers who researched global warming.  Way back in the 1960’s and 1970’s the best research and computer projections indicated that our planet would warm substantially over the coming century.  The predictions included melting of ice across Antartica, Greenland, and in mountain glaciers, rising sea levels, changes in average weather and rainfall patterns, and warming sea temperatures. Those predictions have proven both right and wrong. The planet has warmed, with almost all of the projected impacts, only it has all happened much faster than we predicted.  The vast majority of scientists and lay people around the world agree that this rapid warming is caused by the parallel increase in human-induced, carbon-based air pollution.

imagesCoral reefs are not just pretty places to visit.  They are very much that; I have visited and studied some of the prettiest in the world, but threats to beauty are not existential.  Coral reefs are one of the two most diverse, productive ecosystems on the planet (the other are the terrestrial equivalent, rain forests). They are incubator, breeding ground, nursery, and home to enormous webs of life that support the marine food chain, including humans.  Losing 90% of coral reefs in thirty years is a global crisis that is already in motion. Hundreds of millions of people rely on food that is supported by living coral reefs.  That is a simple fact.

Here is where education comes in. Research can be wrong.  We and our students need to have the capacity and mindset to look at research that suggests a global calamity within our lifetimes. What if the die off is slower?  What if only 50% of reefs are dead by 2050? Is that a good thing? We have proven throughout human history that we can change our planet, but we can’t change the laws of physics and nature. As educators, it is our moral duty to help students understand the impacts of messing with the laws of physics and nature.

imgres-2We have arrived at a place in America where somehow the burden of proof is on scientists to prove at a level of 100% that they are right about a future that is almost apocalyptically bad for virtually every human being. Any rational, well-educated person would take the opposite view: that you err on the side of caution; that if there is even a fair chance that something really horrible is going to happen, and you can do something about it, you do it.  The bigger the chance it will happen, and the worse the possible outcome, the more vigorously you pursue potential solutions. Then-vice president Dick Cheney, a person with whom I disagreed on almost everything he he ever said, used this logic with his famous “1%” doctrine: That if there were a 1% chance that terrorists were going to acquire a nuclear weapon, then any action to stop them was justified. T

The doctrine applies: Loss of 90% of coral reefs is the equivalent of dozens of nuclear weapons exploding in slow motion.  I hate to even think it, but the long-term pain and suffering that will result from loss of 90% of the world’s coral reefs will be vastly greater than a nuclear attack on a major American city. No one on the planet is immune from the changes in store when 90% of coral reefs die in a period of 30 or 40 or even 100 years.

Let me be clear: we did not wake up this week and realize the coral reefs are dying at horrendous rates. We have predicted and known it for decades.  If you are an educator, you need to help your students understand the relationship between history, knowledge, and their futures.   As educators we want our students to be problem solvers.  Well, this is a perfect example of finding the right problem to solve.  THE PROBLEM IS NOT CLIMATE CHANGE.  THE PROBLEM IS THAT, NEARLY UNIQUELY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, A SEGMENT OF THE AMERICAN POPULATION DOES NOT BELIEVE IN SCIENCE THAT HAS PROVEN TRUE OVER DECADES. That is a problem that educators and students can and must solve.

If you are upset with me because I wrote about something that you think is political, or because I suggested that to disagree with my premise indicates irrationality or a lack of education, then I apologize for your discomfort.  You may stop following my blog; or please post a comment that points out the flaws in my logic; or denounce me.  Any discomfort among us does not measure up when it comes to problems of this magnitude.

Reunion With a Teacher-Hero Who Taught Us to Learn

The great transformation in which education is engaged in the first quarter of this 21st century is simply this: we are changing our focus from what we teach to how we learn.  Forward leaning schools are shifting, in the words of Bo Adams, from teaching organizations to learning organizations.  Perhaps most of all, we are remembering that learning is not the mere transaction of knowledge.  While that transaction is important, truly great learning is the relationship between learner and teacher, learner and co-learners, learner and self, and learner and the experience of learning.

Last weekend I had lunch with one of my own teacher-heroes, my 7th grade Western Civilization teacher who I had not seen in 47 years.  In 1969, Diane Heilman (now Diane Heilman Rolfe, but forever Miss Heilman to me) was a 26-year old veteran of just two years in the classroom. We, her students, found ourselves launched from six different elementary schools into our first stormy year in junior high school.  The first day of school, just three class periods into a new life, I saw something different.  The desks in Miss Heilman’s class were set up in a huge circle around the room, not in rows. Her perch was a high chair behind a podium at one front corner of the room.

Reflecting back, Miss Heilman told me that she still remembered the advice given her by an older veteran mentor as she started her teaching career.  “Treat your students as scholars”, he told her. “Learning is about your relationship to your students, nothing more”.  All that year she called us her “scholars”.

What is both wonderful to recall and tragic to realize, is that how Miss Heilman taught us nearly five decades ago, now is the stuff of books and blogs and conferences; many or most teachers have yet to transform their teaching to what we now call a “deeper learning” model.  In that circle of desks, we discussed and discoursed.  We held the great debate of Sparta vs Athens (I was an Athenian and we won the debate), and we carried out a mock trial between two Romans over a disputed parcel of land (which my side won as well!).  Of course there were many times when Miss Heilman lectured to us; I remember the way she would wipe the chalk dust from her hands as she re-took her perch and provoked us to reflect, respond, and defend on what we had heard.

Those were turbulent years, as are these, and that turbulence found its way into the classroom.  A poster of a smiling, dashing Moshe Dayan hung on the back wall as we brought the battles between Israel and the Arab world into our studies of the cradle of western civilization.  We looked into the roles of faith and philosophy, not in their linear sequence in the march of history, but in their impact as thematic drivers of the human condition.

I have long forgotten many of the details that we learned in Miss Heilman’s class, but I sure have not forgotten how we learned, and how it launched the learner in me.  She was one of the four or five best teachers I had, from kindergarten through Stanford graduate school, for a simple reason.  She primarily was a farmer of scholars, not a teacher of knowledge, and by excelling at the former, she succeeded at the later.

Are You Talking Honestly About Grades?

As you start the new school year, here is another thought that should creep into the school’s organizational consciousness and bug the heck out of you:

imgresAre we measuring what we really value in our students?  Most teachers spend an enormous amount of time calculating a grade that they believe represents something, or at least that is defensible to the anxious student or the angry parent.  And yet we know for a fact that those letter grades are virtually meaningless, that they are almost useless in terms of describing how well a student has learned, let alone exhibits, the traits we say we value.  In Are You Smart Enough, UCLA professor Alexander Astin cites studies that prove that over the last 45 years, “the number of college freshmen reporting high school grade averages of ‘A’ has tripled, from 18% to 53%.”  In other words, ‘A’ has somehow become the average grade for high school students, while a single ‘C’ will doom a student from being accepted at most prestigious colleges.  Grades have become a valid measure of almost nothing.

Standardized tests, from those taken in 3rd grade to the SAT and ACT college admissions exams have been similarly condemned as flawed by too many people to cite (though Anya Kamanetz’ book The Test is a great place to start).

Where does that leave us?  In lower grade levels many teachers use written narrative to describe student progress and performance. Some teachers do this really well, while others are great at the “cut and paste” method of quarterly reporting.  But at least this form of assessment contains some potential bandwidth that letter grades clearly do not.  And then as students get older, we fall slave to what we perceive are the hard boundaries of the college admissions process…and ridiculously inflated, largely meaningless grades dominate our portrait of a student.

Solutions are available and increasingly on the horizon, many of which are being piloted today or have been in use for years.  Before you search for a solution, however, see if there is recognition at your school that you have a problem.  See if your colleagues are willing to discuss objective data on this critical point of the learning process, and go from there.  And this will be part of a chapter in my upcoming book (working title: Moving the Rock) that is now in peer-feedback stages!

Can Simple Rules Overcome Fear of the Unknown?

Can a few simple rules guide our personal and professional decision pathways?  Can they help alleviate the fear that I am going to leap into a bottomless chasm of future uncertainty?  Can they get us past the chokepoints of inertia that stand in the way of following a true passion?

I think so.  A few months back I reported on the book “Simple Rules“, and am increasingly using a set of activities in my workshops based on the concepts I found.  The authors found, after studying many highly effective organizations and individuals, that they often reduce highly complex situations down to just a few simple rules that guide major decision pathways.

As we ask educators to embrace a “new” role based on the tenants of student-centered deeper learning, we are asking them to take a risk. Many educators are not natural risk takers, hence the discomfort of change.  For whatever reason I have taken a few pretty large risks in my professional life, and when I traced back to how I made those decisions, I found that, unknowingly at the time, I had created a set of “simple rules” that have guided many of my riskiest decisions for more than 30 years.

Before I left college, I asked myself what criteria I would use to find an ideal job. It took me three days, but I came up with these four criteria:

  1. I want to work with smart people.
  2. I want to help solve difficult problems; easy problems bore me.
  3. I want to create elegant solutions; less than elegant is not satisfying.
  4. I want to work on something I care about.

Those four simple rules still guide my decision making today.  I left the for-profit sector because my work satisfied the first three, but not the fourth.  I left a school I worked at for many years because they were no longer interested in tackling difficult problems.  Having a set of simple rules actually made these decisions much easier than I had imagined; I knew that my safety net of personal rules would mitigate the danger of jumping off of professional cliff.

I think if our schools take the time to create a set of simple rules, and if we encourage our stakeholders to do the same, it will help to overcome many of those moments of uncertainty, moments in which we default to our fear of the unknown and stay on a well-worn path that may be a familiar path, but not the best path.  And, darn, but it would sure make schools more efficient to NOT repeat the same conversations year after year after year!

 

No, I Will NOT Tell You What I Want From You!

After a day of workshopping this week, a teacher gave me some honest feedback. “You need to be more clear on the questions you ask. It wasn’t really clear what you wanted us to do or what you were looking for.” After thanking the teacher for this honest and helpful feedback, another teacher at the table pounced in. “That is the point!”, she exclaimed. And of course, she was right.

I pointed out to the first teacher that, in fact, I had not asked any questions of the working groups at all. I had issued a challenge for the groups to think collaboratively and expansively, to co-generate and share some new ideas within a broad set of guidelines. Then I had backed off, answered some questions, waited for the outcomes, and facilitated feedback. (In an after-action meeting, there was pretty universal agreement that the outcomes, despite the lack of a proscribed roadmap, were outstanding!)

Hopefully the meaning of this real-life parable is obvious. Many of us are uncomfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. We want to be told what is expected of us. That is how we learned in school and it forms our comfort zone. But students are not uncomfortable with similar ambiguity and freedom to think and work creatively, at least at younger ages before they have that bit of their natural DNA carved out of them by our current education system. I have enormous empathy for the teacher who provided this feedback; she clearly was uncomfortable with the dissonance created by the lack of a clearly-defined process and expected outcome. I would have felt the same had I attended a professional development day and been tasked to quickly create a piece of art or invent a new physics formula.

The reaction from this teacher represents a fundamental fork in the road:

  • Are we going to create a learning system that embraces ambiguity and creates a broader range of potential learning directions and outcomes for our students?
  • Or are we going to continue to largely craft the path for our students?
  • If the former, are we willing to model and embrace that uncertainty ourselves?

The honest feedback this teacher offered reminds me that there are always 10-20% of my audiences, perhaps more, who feel this way but who are too nice to say so. I need to help all of my co-learners make this connection, not only the ones to whom it is obvious. After that it is up to each of us to decide which fork in the road we prefer.

Simple Rules: An Important Step in School Transformation?

Here is something I bet we can all agree on: simple is almost always better than complicated. What if we could take those messy problems at our schools that always seem to circle back on us, that confound us with inertia, dead ends, and multiple stakeholder turf battles, and find some simple guidelines to sort through to a better solution?

imgresThat is the premise of another impactful, guiding book I read this summer, Simple Rules:  How to Thrive in a Complex World, by Donald Sull of MIT and Kathleen Eisenhardt of Stanford. I plan to use the key elements of this book extensively in my strategic work with schools.  Simply, if schools can create a set of simple rules or guidelines to decide complex questions, the efficiencies will be enormous.

The authors cite many examples of simple rules; here are two to give you an idea of what simple rules are:

  • Prior to WW II, battlefield injuries were treated at field hospitals largely on a a first-come, first served basis. Fatality rates were staggering. Doctors came up with the triage system of sorting patients into four groups based on simple guidelines that could be very quickly measured upon patient arrival, focusing scarce resources  where they could do the most good for the most patients. Survivability of battle field injuries amongst those who make it to a field hospital using triage rules have risen ever since, and the triage method of decision-making has expanded well beyond the field of war medicine.
  • Athletic trainers for Stanford football found that just three eating habit guidelines were more beneficial to the entire team than the set of complex rules they replaced: eat a good breakfast; hydrate; eat as much as you want of things you can pick, grow, or kill.

 “Simple rules” is about deciding some of the boundary conditions before we start solving the problem or playing the game.

Here is a concrete example that many schools are struggling with: We want to find time in the daily schedule for… (take your pick: mindfulness, balance, reflection, global programs, capstones, new courses, more sleep for students, teacher collaboration, etc). But there are a limited number of minutes in the day. And everyone has their own pet need or bit of turf to protect. How do we decide what to add, what to keep, and what to let go?

Let’s start by drafting some simple rules; they might sound like:

  • “The social and emotional needs of students will take precedence over higher performance on tests.”
  • “Time will be apportioned based on student identification and pursuit of knowledge, not pre-determined subject areas.”
  • “Learning takes place where knowledge resides, not necessarily within a classroom.”

The rules for your school might look nothing like this; that is not only OK, but powerful. Schools and the students they serve are not all the same, so the rules will be different.  By creating sets of guiding rules like these, though, we will make decisions, some of which are uncomfortable, based on what we think is most important overall, not what is most expedient in the moment.

I will be writing more on this in the weeks to come: how do simple rules interact with a design thinking approach to problem solving?  Are there any universal simple rules upon which most schools would agree?  How might we best create simple rules within a school community?  And I will be piloting the use of simple rules at some of my workshops this fall, so stay tuned for practical updates!

 

Students Rising to the Unknown

Once in a while I get the pleasure of working deeply with students, asking the adults to sit back and watch how their students expand and rise to unbounded, untested, unknown mini-challenges.  That was the kind of day we had at the Shipley School last fall; here are just a few minutes out of our day. We merely gave students, grades 5-12, permission to wander, observe how learning takes place in their school, and then ask expansive questions to imagine deeper learning. I know the ripples are still spreading at Shipley as both students and adults found untapped sources of learning empowerment!

The Junction of “Surprise” and “Ah-Ha”

What if school was primarily a place where students and teachers co-searched for surprises?

We often find the best ideas, the most creative solutions, the profitable surprises, not in the expected, the well-trodden, the known, but in the outliers, the untested, and the unusual.  Maybe they have been passed over by others because they are partially hidden by data, methods of observation, or point of view. Maybe they have been ignored because they run contrary to doctrine.  These are the places of discovery, insight, and creational thinking.  They are the canyons of the unknown that bisect the plateaus of the known.

imgresJulia Galef, the president and co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality wrote a wonderful piece in Slate (HT to Grant Wiggins for the Tweet I followed) on the nature of surprise and how it can dramatically enhance learner understanding.  She largely cites the experience of science and the scientific mind:

If I could ensure that kids come away from science class with one thing only, it wouldn’t be a set of facts. It would be an attitude—something that the late physicist Richard Feynman called “scientific integrity,” the willingness to bend over backward to examine reasons your pet theories about the world might be wrong.

Surprising observations push science forward. Philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn sometimes called them “anomalies,” observations that don’t make sense under the current paradigm. Eventually they help replace that paradigm with a new one. In the 16th century, an inexplicable kink in the path of Mars across the night sky helped overturn the geocentric model of the solar system in favor of the heliocentric one. And in the 19th and 20th centuries, the unexpectedly fast rotation of Mercury’s orbit helped overturn Newtonian mechanics in favor of general relativity.

Galef’s arguments resonated profoundly with me; my first book, The Falconer, explores the nature of point of view, the balance of the possible and the probable, and the recognition of outlier ideas in a pathway of problem finding and solving that even young children can understand.  Ultimately, what I believe we want for our students, the highest goal of learning, is for them to become creational thinkers, to find and fill in the gaps of the unknown, not to re-0x600tread the known. An example from this week: Forbes introduces us to 30 entrepreneurs, all under the age of 30, who are successfully leading or contributing to new start-up businesses and not-for-profits in the K-12 education sector.

Galef started to keep a record of surprises in life, a “surprise journal,” to help her “notice moments of surprise or confusion, and use them as a cue to examine my assumptions.” A teacher-colleague took the idea of a surprise journal into the classroom, asking his students to record three elements of surprise: the moment; why it was surprising; and the lesson it tells one about one’s self.  Galef shares several of these in the article, like:

Moment of surprise: When we thought we were early to the airport, but we were late.
Why it was surprising
: Because we planned ahead before the night of the flight, but we had the time wrong.
What this tells me
: that before planning ahead make sure the information you have is correct.

This kind of observation, understanding, synthesis, and reflection is not specific to scientific inquiry at all; it is a fundamental element of how we effectively identify opportunities and overcome obstacles in our daily lives…like being on time for airplanes!  It reminds me of what the students learn from the observation walks and journalling in a Jill Gough/Bo Adams type Synergy class. It is an elegant, simple tool that we should be teaching all of our students, all the time, a tool of self-learning: to be aware of the unexpected; question the non-routine; learn from surprises.

 

 

What Student Ownership of Learning Looks Like: A Remarkable Day at The Shipley School

What does student ownership of learning look like? How do even young students rapidly engage when given the freedom to ask expansive questions? Do students really need to start at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy before building to abstraction and synthesis? Do we even begin to tap the insights of students that would contribute richly to our schools’ strategic thinking? Read on for examples and key lessons!

I rarely get a day to work with students, so was honored when Steve Piltch, head of The Shipley School, with no guarantee of success, allowed me to spend almost two hours with groups of about 15 students from each of the lower, middle, and upper schools last week.

IMG_1457I turned the 4th and 5th graders loose to wander their campus for ten minutes and return with observations about something that interested them. Most raced outside and returned with long, long lists. I then gave them just a few minutes to ask “what if” questions based on their observations, writing them one to a post-it note. Here are a few of the gems they jotted down:

  • What if there were unlimited letters in the alphabet and you were just allowed to make up new ones whenever you wanted?
  • What if there were no teachers?
  • What if there was no school?
  • What if people were born knowing how to read?
  • What if there was no color? What would our life be like?
  • What would it be like if there is no sky at all?
  • What if we didn’t win the French and Indian War? Would we be speaking French?
  • What is there was no such thing as fun?

Working in groups, I gave the students about six minutes to affinity map (categorize) their questions. One group struggled and an adult was tempted to step in to help, but resisted. Two minutes later the students had named three groups: “Humanity”, “Knowledge”, and “School Mishaps”. Priceless! 4th and 5th graders; just a few minutes; virtually no instructions.

IMG_1460With the middle and upper school students I tweaked the group work based on an existential challenge that had been thrown down the previous evening: for an individual and a school, what is the difference between “success” and “significance”, between “great” and “leading”? I asked groups to take about ten minutes and build idea maps exploring those questions. Some moved quickly to Venn diagrams; others grabbed an area of white board and rapidly built extensive systems-level maps; still others focused their discussion on defining the words within a context they created. The level of discourse was remarkable; we captured much of it via the idea maps and am sure this will be shared with both the faculty and the school’s trustees.

I then sent the students off on a ten minute walk around the school to “observe how learning takes place, think about what is most relevant to you, and come back in your groups to prototype and pitch an idea on now to improve learning at the school”.

Twenty-five minutes later, the student had pitched:

  • Livening the classrooms with bright colors (“to wake us up a bit in the morning and late afternoon”).
  • Changing furniture styles so “our backs don’t hurt from sitting down for most of the day”.
  • Flipping classrooms (with an extensive listing of the strengths and weaknesses of the approach).
  • Adding an assistant teacher in the room to increase differentiated learning.
  • Creating mechanisms for students and teachers to meet frequently, adjust curriculum to interest, increase intrinsic motivation (their words), and allow students to help design assessment plans.

IMG_1463The level of discussion among the students, with virtually no direction from any adult, was astonishing. In just a few minutes they shared observations, synthesized new ideas, tested them against their own understanding of great learning, imagined solutions, shipped the ideas to colleagues, and gathered feedback.

There were comments so honest they could only come from students given true freedom of expression. One student said he had observed a class of students taking a test and saw “deep melancholy” on their faces, as opposed to another class that was in rich discussion with a teacher. He wondered “how can we inject passion into the classroom?” Another student told us that she learns Latin verb conjugations “until the weekly quiz is over, then I forget them until the semester exam. Then I forget them again.” She also said she is pretty sure she will learn and forget the formulas for calculating parabolas by the end of the week.

IMG_1465One of the Shipley staff is a seasoned filmmaker and followed us all day; I can’t wait to share the remarkable experience through that medium. Here are the key takeaways from a day like this:

  •  Allow students to observe, ask questions about, and learn from THEIR world. Build content acquisition around these lenses and students will be much more likely to construct context that deepens the learning.
  • Allow students to find ways to organize their thoughts without significant adult direction.
  • Allow students to work out of their seats, on the floor, on the walls, in any configuration that allows them to move more freely.
  • Spend more time on higher-order skills; that is where interest, passion, and engagement are found. Even younger students understand that strict adherence to Bloom is often wrong.
  • We VASTLY underuse deep student inputs in our strategic thinking. Schools that have one student sit in on portions of trustee meetings, or who invite a panel of students to present ideas at a faculty meeting once a year, or who allow student councils to focus largely on pizza parties and dance preparations are tossing away an enormous bank of talent. My experience is that some students groups (more than we think) are able to contribute to strategic-level thinking with every bit as much insight as their adult co-learners.
  • This kind of learning should be the rule, not the exception.

Adding to My Classroom Innovation Toolkit

What does a transformed and deeper learning experience look like, and how can schools move intentionally in that direction?  Last year I was honored to co-present a session at NAIS with Bo Adams in which I focused (in a general sense) on the strategic or organizational side of this coin, and Bo focused on the evolution of the classroom. I am increasingly called upon to help school teams complete the arc from a forward leaning vision to what is taking place each day amongst their (hopefully) co-learning teachers and students. In adding to my toolkit I am adopting some of the elements that Bo has adapted from The Innovator’s DNA by Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen. The key elements that the authors prescribe to build organizational innovation DNA are:

  • Observing
  • Questioning
  • Associating
  • Experimenting
  • Networking

Not surprisingly, these five elements align closely to design thinking routines, which align closely to what I would have just called “great problem solving” in the past.  In following this guide, here are a few of the points I try to emphasize:

  • Gather and use data.  Don’t default to the easy anecdotal evidence that everyone has on the tip of their tongues. You don’t have to have a data reduction model, benchmarks, or a PhD in quantitative analysis to get started.  Remember that data are just data; they do not have the qualities of right and wrong, good and bad, high or low.  Those interpretations are up to you as you continue to gather, iterate, and refine your techniques.  Data gathering can also be highly time consuming, so be realistic and start small.
  • THE biggest failure of problem solving, in my opinion, is solving the wrong problem. We leap to solutions way too fast. Asking questions leads to understanding of the nature of problems…and only then can we move on.  Good problem solvers and innovators will ask dozens or hundreds of questions before they even begin to search for solution pathways.
  • Mapping French grammar via Chris Harte http://chrisharte.typepad.com/learner_evolution_chris_h/2011/04/solo-im-ridin-solo.html

    Mapping French grammar via Chris Harte http://chrisharte.typepad.com/learner_evolution_chris_h/2011/04/solo-im-ridin-solo.html

    We filter and start to focus by mapping, associating, grouping, “bucketing” questions and observation.  This is the starting point of effective solutions, and I love the suggestion from Ewan McIntosh in his book How to Come Up With Great Ideas to map our ideas using hexagonal rather than rectangular sticky notes as they allow much more complex and accurate relationship mapping of ideas.

  • Connected networks are cited time and time again by knowledgable authors of innovation as THE key to successful innovation. Importantly, we must connect not only with those “close” to us (other educators), but those less proximal in thought and discipline. Diversity of viewpoint, and working at the edges of multiple areas of thought and knowledge are key ingredients of innovation.

Off to Malaysia for a week to give a series of four workshops at the annual conference of the East Asian Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS); will be tweeting using #elc14.What a great way to find areas of overlapping and possibly divergent interests and insights!