Not knowing the answer is better. 

Beta: I dictated this on my walk this morning.

Recently, I asked a room full of legislators if they can go back in time with me. I asked them to go back to high school and think about the following question: if you had access to the teachers addition of all of your content area books, how many of you would have gotten an A? Most of the hands went up.
As a follow up, I asked them to flash forward to the late 80s, early 90s. I asked: if we were sitting together back then, and, I asked can you be successful if you can connect to any idea, any resource, and any person, at any time, and anywhere, would you be successful? Most raised their hands in affirmation.
Here we are at a time and place in history where we can connect any idea, any person, and any resource, at anytime, and anywhere. What stops is now from being successful?  The room felt uncomfortably quiet.
I proposed a reason. I argued that the goal for schooling then and now still focuses on answering the question defined by others who already know the answers.
How we demonstrate success is in one’s ability to show a command of answering those questions correctly in a timely matter.
What is missing here is the power of essential questioning.  We forgot, along the way, to teach people to ask better questions. So, who cares if we can connect anywhere, anytime, with any idea, any resource, and with anybody if we don’t know what questions to ask.
Knowing the answer does not have the same value add that it once did. Now, the ability to ask a better, more essential question, is the key to unlock the potential of what tomorrow needs to look like.
I saw an interview with David Bowie in 1993 where he talks about his excitement towards the Internet and what it means to people who want to change things — for good and bad. He said he’s excited about how anyone will be able to create anything and share it with anyone else at anytime and anywhere. He challenged the interviewer to think about that. The interviewer looked confused and even doubtful. David Bowie gleamed with excitement for  the possibilities and what that really means to everything.  David Bowie saw new opportunities to new questions.
Even though were 15, scratch that, 16 years into the 21st-century, can you think about the power we can generate if we teach people to ask better questions?
The opportunity has never been greater then it is today, the day after the death of David Bowie, to hear his words, absorb them deeply, and figure out ways to leverage this connectivity to make things better.

 

Thanks to Mark Nichols and Rosa for their brains.

Stories matter! Lessons from a chef. 

Inspiration on the power of story.   
In a recent interview I saw online,  chef Roy Choi talked about the art of making great food. This is my take away lesson form his chat!

If you like the meal, great!  But, the process of making it is  magical.  As you make it, you’re thinking about the chemistry: how do these ingredients work with each other.  You need to think about the math and the balance needed to make it work. There is obviously a science to the techniques from how to cut something, to holding a pan, to working the environment into your dish. There’s a beauty in the activity and movement to the process, too, it’s like a dance when you watch an amazing cook or chef. 
However, it’s the story in the end that you infuse into the bowl or plate that differentiates you. This is the part that can only be measured by the experience, how one interacts with it, and how one responds to it. People forget that the secret ingredient is love.
Sometimes, a chef peaks through the kitchen window out to the patron who is about to eat that very special dish you just poured your heart and soul into and you wait to see if your emotional contribution translates. It’s a lot deeper than buying an ingredient, cutting it, preparing it, cooking it, and serving it. That’s easy and measurable. The other part isn’t, the part that matters to me.  
I love this guy!  
Think about it. Connect your own dots!

Curiosity. Make it matter!

Lesson learned: curiosity is our best friend, storytellers! 
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
– Albert Einstein

________________________
What I love about quotes is knowing the back story. It adds so much more to the impact. So, why would one of the smartest minds say something like this. 
Context for me:

A few years back, the chief education scientist for CERN AND the ATLAS Hadron Collider project in Switzerland, told me in an interview that American schools should focus on making kids love science and help them see beyond the obvious. When I asked how, he responded that science fiction is key to get kids to ask WHAT IF questions. Once the WHAT IF is clear– the process to use imagination, inquiry, and experimentation means more. More science isn’t The option. Getting children to love science is. 
Curiosity + Love + Connection + Possibilities = the WHY to dream! 
Back to Einstein’s quote. The power of a fairy tale is rooted, grounded on curiosity, on making possible the impossible, on love, on imagination, and on hope. WHAT IF is the fuel to the place that lives in ONCE UPON A TIME…. We got to space because of dreaming. We were driven to fight for our civil rights because of a dream. We need dreams to move us, inspire us, push us, provoke us, get us new ideas– create new dreams. A Black matter scientist told me this!!!
Make it matter. Make curiosity win for you. The stories will remind you why you do this. If you can sit with Albert Einstein today and have a coffee, tea, or even beer with him, I bet he’d tell you that fairy tales are not about the RIGHT ANSWER, but about new questions, new possibilities. 
Challenge: Make it matter more!
M

What does efficient and effective mean to you?

DRAFT: dictated
While at a public house with a few of my education friends, we talked about ideas on how to make the 2015/2016 year more effective and more efficient.  Initially, the conversation focused on defining what does it mean to be efficient and effective. Does that just mean we get to scores that are favorable in a shorter period of time? Does that mean that we just get the increase percentages set out by the district after each benchmark exam?  It wasn’t clear if student achievement mean more that an associated score.  
Is it effective and efficient for students? How? Or, is it effective for the adults? How? They believed they didn’t consider what’s best for the kids and their families in the long run. Or, if they did, it wasn’t very clear on the immediate and the long-term benefits for a more effective and efficient learning experience.
I shared with them the reflection from a teacher in vista California who told me that the part of the brain that reduces the fear, increase his confidence, is the same part of the brain that has empathy and relationship building.  I shared with them a Facebook article I posted a few weeks back that talks about how directly connected the feeling of safety, the feeling of comfort, and the feeling of confidence are directly linked to successful pathways. One of my friends said she wasn’t very clear with that argument considering she knows a lot of shy people who are very good at school.  One of our other friends, responded that that’s a different type of confidence. That is the social confidence type. You can still develop confidence in subject area knowledge. The challenge is that having that type of confidence is not as valuable anymore as it once was– this alone isn’t enough. The reason is that knowledge, the knowing of stuff, can be looked up much easier.  Even if the answer isn’t available on your Apple Watch, I’m sure you can find someone in your network who can begin to point you in the direction of the answer. So, I regrouped and asked the question again: how can we be more efficient and effective this coming year?
To bring additional context into that very loaded question, I shared with them the conversation I had with my boss last month.  We agreed that creating successful moments is way more valuable than putting all of the energy in test preparation. Learning strategies and skill building with content area goal as prompts can be super effective. The main reason is that success and victories can be seen and experienced immediately.  If we smart reflect, we can smart adjust to create more victories. Soon, A student and or a teacher can’t stop, turn around, look at the path they had covered and realize how far they’ve come and, most importantly, why.  How can we create more successful  moments? How can we capture the stories along the way, how do we showcase and share?
After a pause and a wonder look around the room, a good idea we shared.  Why don’t we take our main learning goal for the unit or the week and asked the students to collect as much evidence as possible on how and why this matters beyond my classroom?  I added, they can use a variety of media tools to collect evidence. They could interview their parents, other family members, and even neighbors. 
For example, I took some teachers on a photo learning tour in Philadelphia and we talked about the science and the math behind the art of photography.  
Right there, on the spot, I read an email to my friends from a teacher in North Carolina who shared that she will be asking additional questions at the start and at the end of each unit to see how students can make the content area and skill set connections more obvious for her and for themselves. For example, 

how do you plan with this information?

how does this help you produce new information?

how and why is it important to present, reflect, and adjust other things in your life with this unit’s goal(s), where do you see those connections?

how do you get other people to know what you did and how you thought it through?

SsWe agreed this is difficult, but one of my colleagues said that this sounds like fun. Fun + hard (challenging) is key to greatness, too!  
Immediately, someone else shared a cool idea from the relational comment made earlier.  What if students and teachers, after knowing the content area goals for that unit or week, they can generate new questions based on left brain and right brain themes.  She referred to Dan pink’s book on the need to focus on right brain thinking, A Whole New Mind. After being asked to elaborate, she threw out some ideas. Since most of the questions already are focused on logical, knowledge-based, sequential, and mathematical– what do questions look like if you asked students to generate ones around empathy (connect), symphonic or big picture (Why), creative (what if), relational (patterns)– what would some of those look like? The mind is in just a computational tool, it’s an emotional machine as well. Stories are a bridge between the two, she shared that Dan Pink makes this clear in the book, too. 
Our table was silenced after that idea. I could just feel everyone’s energy thinking through series of questions they would ask about, I guess, anything.  I thought this was a brilliant idea. Instead of just assessing one tiny part of the learning journey: do you know what or not? We leverage deeper reflective questions that we can collect evidence on/ for. 
Could this create the necessary successes and victories to help the school ultimately achieve their reality of scores and testing?  What if we strategically merged a social and emotional, right brain approach to weekly learning goals? What if there was a concerted effort to connect the content area calls with what it looks like outside of the classroom? What if this was our standard? Can this cast a wider net for us, increase our chances to make more victories?
Efficient and effective is an interesting term because after this conversation, I realized that ,for me, to be efficient and effective means to use the right and the left brain regularly and to showcase that we are doing it on an ongoing basis. The key is to make measuring this relationship CLEAR, relevant, meaningful, and applicable to everyone.
I really appreciated this conversation. I felt like I called time out, went back to the review station, looked at the video tape of our last game, fast forward it to the concerns, and begin to identify patterns.  Afterwards, I paused, looked at these patterns, and began to write down ideas on how to dot connect new ideas and ask new questions, see new possibilities for our upcoming school year.  
Is it scary? Yes. Is it exciting? Yes. Does that sound like fun? Yes!
Thanks, friends!
Cheers! 
(Tink….)

Draft: Leaders? Who are they at school? 

Let’s talk about perception. In edutalk, leaders for leadership usually refers tohigher level position people like superintendents, schoolboard members, directors, managers, principles, assistant principals, program coordinators, etc. teachers are teachers and students are students. At the surface level, these are the titles.  When you walk into a school and ask who’s the leader? Usually the answer is principal. I get it. However, how do we do a better job redefining leadership according to what people do as opposed to what their role is.

Don’t blog, share! Strategies to evolving your writing. 

Im a fan of many bloggers. I mean many.  When their blogs or stories move me, I let them know. I let them know why. One of my favorites told me that he doesn’t think of him self as a blogger, but someone who shares ideas like a photographer shares her/ his images. Blogging is the vehicle not the journey Nor the goal. He added, “It moves my ideas out and I value that because it helps me reach out.” Reaching out is the challenge, the goal. 

What is it you want to share? Why? Who are you writing to? As a photographer, I love to share a variety of things. The subject, object, the light, textures, the drama, the moment, the emotion, the story. Sometimes the goal of the image is product based. Sometimes it’s process based.  Ultimately, it’s not about the camera.  The goal is in your head. The camera is your tool to help communicate that idea.  This is important to note because we make the tool the goal and the focus sometimes.  This can be challenging when trying to connect with an audience around ideas.  A great writer/ storyteller engages an audience and makes them want to interact with the conent. They make people more curious, more interactive. As an educator, I always fought with the kids on writing.  It was such a distant skillset for them since they didn’t write a lot outside of school (now, it’s different due to texting, emailing).  Their audience was the teacher and the teacher would usually thrash their contribution with a barrage of red corrections.  The process of writing was the goal. The ideas were just prompts.  This created an artificial context.  In my education, we wrote 2 business letters that never went anywhere.  It was graded, red lined, and returned back to me where I studied it for .5 seconds (after seeing the grade), then, straight to my file cabinet– the trash can.  

Draft: storytelling tips on how to conduct a cool interview!

Documentaries are more about what people say then what is seen. what is seen supports what is being said. I know it sounds simplistic, however, there’s an art and a science to getting the right interviews.

Here are a few tips on how to collect, curate, cultivate, and create a good interview:

1. Don’t call it an interview! Make it more about a conversation. Be curious. The authentic with your questions. Most people I have met like to talk about things they are passionate about. so, have a conversation with them about it. I genuinely am curious about the people I am interviewing. I really want to learn from them. I don’t look at my notes. I look at them. I listen. I ask clarifying questions. Because of the genuine questioning, your learning comes across in the story.

2. Make them comfortable. before shutting the camera in their face, get to know them. tell them you’re excited to learn from them, to talk to them about the topic or big idea you’re exploring. Coordinate with your camera person prior to the interview to check audio levels during this “get to know them” period. The camera person/audio person can check the light, audio levels while you get to know them. This also allows you to focus on the person you’re interviewing and not on equipment. If you’re doing this by yourself, know the locations ahead of time. if you’re doing sound, monitor the sound with one year bud, making sure you’re getting good levels while still being attentive to the person you’re talking to. The key tip here is have the interviewee think about how to prepare for the question as oppose to thinking about the right answer. Don’t provide your questions ahead of time. You can, however, share with them the big idea, general points, goals, ideas. This way their not thinking about the answer ahead of time. I, personally, like it when I see them thinking. I love the pauses and the looking up to think about the question a bit more. Plan ahead.

3. Encourage the person you’re interviewing to include the question in their answer. This will help facilitate during the editing process. this way, you don’t have to add the question in the final edit. for example, if you ask, what’s Your favorite part of the guitar? The interviewee should respond, “My favorite part of the guitar is……” The more comfortable the interviewee is with you, the more you can coach them, model for them the appropriate way.

4. Listen. Listen carefully to the answers. If something needs to be clarified, ask a clarifying question. The good thing about interviewing someone where you are genuinely curious, you will ask the right clarifying questions if needed. if they say something profound or something that triggers ideas, you can stop and make a note. Tell the person you’re talking with that you must write a note down because of something important they said. Don’t take too much time, however, just make a quick note to remind you right after the interview. Listening is a critical tool for all storytellers.

5. Invest in a good Microphone. There are many microphone adapters you can buy for your iPhone/mobile device. I like the Rode lav mic. You can quickly attach it to someone and use the associated app to record the interview. Sometimes audio only is enough. You can listen to it later, take notes of what was said, and go out and shoot or collect coverage (footage) to support the interview later. If you don’t have a mic, storytellers today are lucky today because the iPhone, iPad, and many android devices have great microphones. Just place it by the person you’re interviewing, and hit record. Make sure you use an app that allows you to see audio levels. There are a few options for you to record using a microphone and monitor the audio. I’ll have to add a link to this later.

6. Do your homework. Before interviewing someone, you should have an idea of what you need for that interview. Invest in a cool small notebook like a Moleskin or livescribe notebook. Review your notes prior to the interview. write down notes after the interview. Try to create a system of notetaking that others can understand if they look at it. This way, you can scan, take a picture of it with your iPhone, send it over to another producer, director, camera person, or editor for notes or instructions. For example, I have a common language and common symbols. I write things like coverage, I have letters like W (for wide), M (for medium), C (for close up). I use B (for B roll), I also use A (for A roll). I draw a lot in my notebooks.

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