Professor Howard Gardner

Fresh from his recent tour of India here is an interesting interview given by Professor Gardner recently with CM Rubin for her Huffington Post series entitled ‘The Global Search for Education’.

I found his answers especially interesting where they related to wrong directions and the changes needed for both American education and American society. His views reinforce the severe danger that should be apparent to those in India hell-bent on mimicking ‘the American Way’;

Huffington Post – CM Rubin interviews Howard Gardner

I believe that there is a lot of sense in Dr Gardner’s suggestion that solutions for both education and the wider society will be found in renewed emphasis on the kinds of shared values we wish to have and a greater focus on citizenship.

Lots to ponder over.

10 Things to Make Obsolete in the School of Tomorrow

Here’s a great article from Mindshift that sets out 10 things that SHOULD be obsolete in schools today:

Mindshift Article

After reading, I will be very interested to hear which ones people agree with. Do you think any of these things still have a place in today’s schools?

Summer Reading List (Part 1)

A little while ago I committed to write a short summary of my summer reading. I had a really fun summer, so I’m sharing the list in two halves (to avoid having people believe that ALL I did was read!). Some of these were read in places like beside a pool! This is just the non-fiction. I didn’t keep track of the novels I read as well;

  1. Accelerated Learning, Colin Rose
    It must have been about 2 years since I last read this book – way too long. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. This relatively small book was one of the biggest influences for me leaving banking and moving in to the education field. There is so much in this book that is inspiring and thought-provoking for educators. For those who want to help students to build metacognition (thinking about thinking)(, to understand how their mind works and how learning happens, there is lots of material here.
  2. NLP Workbook, Joseph O’Connor
    One of the best general introductions to NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programing) supplemented with lots of exercises and practical applications to build the skills and habits of applying NLP techniques. For me, a good refresher before getting in to reading some more advanced material, as it’s a few years since I underwent NLP training.
  3. NLP: Sleight of Mouth, Robert Dilts
    One of those more advanced books on NLP. In depth analysis of language patterns, the Milton Model (named after Milton Erikson) and programmed language methods to shift thinking patterns. Dilts was one of the people training in the very early days of NLP by Bandler and Grinder and has produced some of the most innovative work on applications.
  4. Visionary Leadership Skills, Robert Dilts
    In this book Dilts uses NLP principles and practices to analyse the evidence of what made some of the world’s greatest leader figures great, through their actions, recorded words and writing.
  5. The Insubordinate, Seth Godin
    A short e-book published by Godin as an extension of his book “Linchpin”, it focuses on some examples of people operating and succeeding according to the Linchpin principles.
  6. Imagine, Jonah Lehrer
    See earlier blog post specifically on this book.

  7. Flow
  8. Finding Flow, both by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
    I was reading Flow for the second time, Finding Flow for the first. Both are fascinating and well written books about how to ‘get in the groove’ so that tasks don’t feel like tasks and we get more done of what we need to do to achieve our goals and aspirations.
    These prompted a conversation I had recently with a couple of students about how to create meaning and purpose in mundane tasks. I talked about how when I had menial manual jobs as a youngster I would set myself targets related to how quickly I might complete a task, how accurately, estimating various aspects and then seeing how close I could get to those estimates. As I did this I found time on task flew by, I avoided boredom, got the job done and felt satisfaction afterwards.

Part 2 of the reading list will follow soon.

The power of ‘I Intend to …..’

Here’s an interesting article on the subject of leadership, written for Fast Company by a retired Captain of US navy nuclear submarines. He shares some interesting insights into the power of the words that are used between leaders and subordinates to shape culture in the organization and to impact effectiveness;

Fast Company article

Live, Love and Leave a Legacy

In a world where it’s so painfully common for people to talk a big story, but not walk their talk I believe one cannot fail to respect everything that Stephen Covey stood for and achieved. Until his recent sad and untimely death resulting from a cycling accident (at the age of 79), Covey provided the tools, the guidance and direction for millions of people to live more enriching, meaningful lives.

When Covey wrote the blockbusting “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and for ever afterwards he was always adamant to stress that he wasn’t claiming to have invented the concepts embedded in the 7 habits. However, what he had uniquely and powerfully done was to organize them in to a sequence, a structure and a gestalt that made sense and what’s more – when consistently applied – really worked.

He was able to understand clearly that when writing or advising on how to be a better leader, the individual first had to start with their inner self (the private victory), before they begin to apply themselves to how they lead others. His work with schools that was written up in the book ‘The Leader in Me’ is very powerful and shows ways in which values learning can be embedded in to the day to day experience of school children (instead of being taught like some dry academic subject). If, as a result, the world has more schools existing as values-based learning communities, then the world will be a far better place.

Age didn’t slow down Covey’s pace. I believe in his later years he was still doing extensive work as a visiting faculty in universities in the USA. Also, I believe in many ways he actually topped the 7 habits when he published the 8th habit. Innovatively marketed with a superb DVD with some fascinating short films it carried a powerful message about everyone’s duty to both find their own voice and to help others find theirs.

Then, just last year, he published the very substantial work, “The 3rd Alternative”. This essentially took the 3 habits of public victory from the 7 habits; Habit 4: Think win-win, Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood and Habit 6: Synergise and explored them in greater depth. The thrust was around the idea that attempts to solve issues, be creative or work together with others will not work most effectively if it’s all about “my way, not your way”. Instead, he espoused the belief that creative, empowered people should be able to put their individual ideas aside in favour of created synergistic ideas that meet all needs.

I often sensed in Covey’s work a drive that came from some level of frustration when he looked around a world in which shallow concepts of the cult of the personality were gaining precedence over time proven principles of character. I often suspected that he never believed he could rest when he saw people ‘playing so far below their potential’, that he saw it as a duty as well as a right for all of mankind to strive for self-actualisation.

Covey sometimes shared the quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “People will pass away, but principles never will; they endure.”

The principles that Covey shared will continue to be of enormous value in our lives, if we are ready to take a moment to reflect on our greatest purpose and the character habits necessary to achieve it.

I share here a tribute piece from a Fast company contributor reflecting on Covey’s impact in her life:

Fast Company – Timeless Recipes for Success

A final thought we do well to remember;

“Sow a thought, reap an action;
Sow an action, reap a habit;
Sow a habit, reap a character;
Sow a character, reap a destiny”    Samuel Smiles

Digital Citizenship

In these days when a person’s ‘web presence’ is becoming as important as their ‘real world presence’ it’s vitally important that young people learn the ways, acceptable standards of behaviour and how to be an effective digital citizen as early as possible. So many young people fail to realise that misbehavior or inappropriate actions online can remain in existence long after the act – making them a threat to college admissions or job success.

Sometimes, the big internet players have not done enough to move behaviour in the right direction. In fact, sometimes their actions have made things worse. I was especially pleased this week to see that Youtube (owned by Google) is setting out to tackle the issues related to obscene, inflammatory and insulting comments placed against videos, often by young people hiding behind anonymity. They have now said that there will be a move away from anonymous presence and people will be showing their real identity when they post comments. I expect that when family, relatives and future employers can witness people’s behaviour, it’s going to make a big difference.

The second very positive step from Google this week is a contribution to education on digital citizenship – a set of 10 interactive lessons on the subject;

Google Interactive Lessons on Digital Citizenship

These can be used in the home by parents, or by teachers in the classroom.

English Language Skills of Engineering Students

Here’s a short report that shares some worrying statistics emerging out of a recent survey. These are worrying results and appear to endorse broader surveys in the past that suggest that Engineering colleges in the country are not adequately preparing students with what they need to be effective in their chosen professions;

Telegraph India – Engineering Students Flunk English Test: Survey

I believe it would be wrong, as has too often been done in the past, to place the ‘blame’ for results like these on the tertiary education sector. Colleges can only work with the raw material that comes from schools. We have a system within which it’s perfectly possible to pass the school leaving exams and the entrance exams for colleges (such as IITs) despite having fundamental gaps in learning, or ability to apply learning.

These problems will only begin to get solved when there are effective platforms on which business, colleges and schools all communicate effectively and work towards consensus about the learning requirements of students and the levels/ standards to be achieved. For that, we have a very long road ahead.

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