P.Q. & C.Q. – “Live the questions NOW.”

The Journey

Looking back to the beginning of this course, we were asked a series of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” type of questions, questions that made me stop and really think about my answers. Little did I know that that type of questioning was laying the ground work for the entire course and what was to follow would prove to be a very engaging and enlightening experience. A quote by David McCullough from Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas immediately resonated with me:

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view. Climb is to you can see the world, not so the world can see you”  (Berger, 2012, p. 191).

So often we are more concerned with the “prize” at the end that we don’t enjoy the journey.

Questioning your own life can be scary but it can also be exciting. Berger (2012) points out that while you’re questioning your own life, don’t only look for what’s missing also look for what’s there via “appreciative inquiry”. Berger (2012) explains that “the main premise of appreciative inquiry is that positive questions, focusing on strengths and assets, tend to yield more effective result than negative questions focusing on problems or deficits” (p. 190). Bottom line, focusing on what is missing and what we don’t have elicits negative feelings that can block progress. Happiness researcher Tal Ben-Shahar suggests to “cultivate the habit of gratitude” as “gratitude is the shortcut to happiness” (pp. 190-191).

Technology, Passions, & Curiosities

In the ever changing world of technology where one of the few constants is change, being knowledgeable and knowing your stuff aren’t the only skills that are going to land you a job or make you efficient in your field. As Thomas Friedland (2013) so appropriately states, “We are a world that taken us from connected to hyperconnected”, just look around next time you’re waiting in a doctor’s office or walk into a coffee shop – people are glued to their electronic devices, technology is all around us.

Just being good with technology isn’t enough but add passion and curiosity to the mix and you create a recipe for success. pqandcqinfographicWhat is important to you? What are you passionate about? What are you curious about?  I asked myself those fundamental questions not only how they relate to my teaching career but also how they relate to my life in general. I answered those questions and visualized them in an infographic that depicts my P.Q. (passion quotient) and my C.Q. (curiosity quotient) as Friedland wrote about.

My passions in life and my career include:

  • Health & Well Being
  • Creativity
  • Learning
  • Technology

My curiosities include:

  • How can I bring project-based learning to the classroom and make learning more meaningful?
  • How can continuing to expand my PLN online and offline help with change in the classroom?
  • How do I encourage students to ask the “tough questions”?
  • How can technology be used to enhance and bring excitement to learning?

Ask the questions and never stop questioning.

I’m enjoying the educational and personal journey I’m on, embracing the challenges and “beholding the view”, living my passions, exploring my curiosities, embracing technology, and in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, “Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.”

References:

Ben-Sharer, T. (2012, April). Five Ways to Become Happier Today. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/fLhpyzVTc8A
Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breathrough Ideas. New York City, NY: Bloomsbury USA.
Friedman, T. L. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q.. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=0
McCullough, D. (2012, June). You Are Not Special Commencement Speech from Wellesley High School. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/_lfxYhtf8o4
Rainer Maria Rilke > Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/7906.Rainer_Maria_Rilke
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A Wicked Problem with a Solution

My think tank and I have were tasked with finding a solution to the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking. Over the past few weeks, we have discussed our wicked problem as a group, engaged in what, why, and how questioning, researched numerous online resources, surveyed our community of practice and analyzed the results, expanded our PLNs (personal learning networks), revisited learning theories, and have examined different opinions, ideas, and perspectives to arrive at a solution for effectively teaching complex thinking.

The initial issue we encountered (and actually the most difficult) was having to define complex thinking. Doing a simple Google search for “complex thinking” yielded search results that included critical thinking, complex thinking, and computational thinking used interchangeably. There was not a clear and concise definition that we could use as a starting point so we decided it was necessary to create our own definition of complex thinking. What seemingly was a small piece of a very large problem greatly added to its wickedness. We defined complex thinking as:

"Complex thinking is thinking in which people analyze, evaluate, and synthesis knowledge for application or creation in unique and useful ways within familiar and/or new situations."

While we were struggling with defining complex thinking, we continued our questioning, our research, examining our survey questions and results, and monitoring our PLNs. We decided that another virtual discussion was needed in order to wrap our heads around a solution for this wicked problem.Puzzle Concept Design Plan Team by G. Altmann - https://pixabay.com/en/puzzle-concept-design-plan-team-535509

After many weeks of engaging, collaborating and sharing, we finally arrived at a solution to teaching complex thinking that involves the formation of a Professional Learning Community (PLC) within the teaching community. You can read about our solution in greater detail within our solution page on our website.

It has been a pleasure being a part of and working with my Think Tank group! The problem of teaching complex thinking reared its wickedness multiple times throughout the project but in the end, we have tamed the wicked problem. View our website to read about how we defined “complex thinking”, a background on learning theories as it relates to our wicked problem, our thoughts and the opinions of others (survey results, PLNs, etc.), and finally our solution. We also included links to our survey results and infographics on our References page  – just in case we’ve piqued your interest because after all, we all love data and information! Feedback is welcomed!

References:

Altmann, G. (2014, November). [Puzzle Concept Design Plan Team] [Image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/puzzle-concept-design-plan-team-535509/

A Healthy Info Diet, Data Deluge, & Filter Bubbles. Oh my!

I read it on the Internet to it must be true.

You may have heard this phrase said jokingly at one time or another but the reality is that we ARE constantly being bombarded with massive amounts of information and data on a daily basis –"data deluge" as Nicholas Carr (2010) describes it. As humans, we crave information. Search engines like Google and Yahoo and social networks like Twitter and Facebook feed into our information addiction. Social Network Tree by Gerd Altmann - https://pixabay.com/en/tree-structure-networks-internet-200795/How do we decipher fact from fiction in this digital environment that we’ve created or that was created for us? Can we filter the information we receive so that we have a balanced information diet of “information vegetables and information dessert”(Eli Pariser, 2011)? Or can’t we? Just like it’s important to have a balanced diet in our daily lives for good health, it’s important to have a balanced diet in our digital lives and not one that is solely based on “information junk food” (Pariser, 2011) and biased thinking. Lastly, we have to filter out distraction. In order to get the most out of the information technologies out there (e.g., Twitter, Text messages, email, Google), we have to develop the skill to be able to turn those technologies off (Carr, 2010) so we’re not living in a constant state of distraction.

The Information Gatekeepers

Back in the day (which really isn’t that long ago), the Internet was seen as more of a connection to the world and to each other but “there is now a shift to how information is flowing online, and it’s silent and if we don’t pay attention it will cause real problems” (Pariser, 2011). Pariser is referring to the “algorithmic gatekeepers” that filter the information that we see when look at our Facebook page or do a search on Google. Algorithms are built into the web that track what links we click on the most, what products we search for, or who we are following on Twitter and then tailor our digital experience for us accordingly. This doesn’t necessarily mean that our experience is balanced – we don’t get to filter everything that makes up our digital experience the algorithms are doing all of that for us whether we are aware of it or not.

This week I took a close look at my info diet and in all honesty, I found my info diet heavily filled with information and data that shared the same viewpoints and opinions as my own. Sure I have some information vegetables, some information dessert, and even some information junk food sprinkled in but it’s all information that would fall into my comfort zone, what I found missing were opinions and information that challenged my thinking. My “filter bubble”, described by Pariser (2010) as “your own personal unique universe of information that you live in online”, was very biased.

In reaction to this, I have added numerous RSS feeds to my blog and have created, and added to, a Twitter list that includes information outside of my present filter bubble to create a more diverse and more balanced info diet.

The Wickedness of it All

Working and teaching in the field of web development, I’m aware of the number of algorithms on the web tracking our “clicks” and what we’re searching for in order to craft a more personal digital experience. Listening to Pariser’s TED Talk “Beware online “filter bubbles”, was enlightening. I never thought of the space that I occupied online as a bubble and the information contained in that bubble was being filtered in and out by algorithms. I simply viewed my personalized digital experience as the outcome of typical online marketing tactics. Pariser (2010) makes the plea to coders on the web that these algorithms filtering all of our information “need to have coded in them a sense of civic responsibility”. He goes on to argue that algorithms don’t have ethics embedded within them and we need to have some control over our filters. Just as I can choose to follow someone on Twitter or not, I should be able to chose the criteria for what’s being filtered in and out of my filter bubble.

The whole idea of turning technologies off and filtering out distraction is truly a wicked problem. Nicholas Carr (2011) explains that finding a new piece of information produces dopamine in our brain. The production of dopamine encourages us to keep doing that activity because it makes us feel good. That’s why doing a simple product search can send you off on tangents and bombard you with information all the while hours have gone by. I understand the “data deluge” that Carr is talking about; I’ve been there. Carr also mentions that multitasking doesn’t exist. What we are doing is essentially switching our focus quickly from one thing to another and in doing so we lose our ability to distinguish important information from trivia – we become distracted. We have to learn how to filter out distraction and to turn the technologies of our distraction off. I think part of the solution boils down to self-discipline and it’s not a simple task in a “connected world”.

After watching Henry Jenkins’ video on Participatory Culture and Civic Engagement, I reflected on what I observe within the my classrooms and I don’t see a world where everyone is participating and students are engaged outside of the classroom leveraging the power of networks and getting together to learn from each other, at least not most of the time. There are clubs at the college where liked minded students engage and learn from each other, but not to the extent that Jenkins speaks of based on my personal experience. What would it take to create a more participatory culture? More guidance and information filtering so people aren’t left to learn on their own? What we don’t want is to create “feral children of the Internet” (Jenkins, 2011).

A Healthy Digital Environment

In creating a more healthy and balanced info diet to better tackle the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking, I’ve added numerous RSS feeds that focus on different areas in education, varied affiliates, critical thinking, and diversified opinions. RSS feeds on diverse subjects in education.I also created a new list on Twitter based on education that includes people and/or organizations that provide new ideas, new insights, and that challenge my current way of thinking about teaching complex thinking as well as support it. Frequently reviewing the RSS feeds on my blog and reviewing new information on my Twitter list provides a constant stream of diverse data that has created a more balanced info diet. Every article, tweet, or feed may not entirely relate to teaching complex thinking, but it may offer insight or “leads” about different areas to explore. Regardless of the type of data stream, it’s important to be critical of every piece of information you read, see, and hear online.

I used Hootsuite as a way to manage the Twitter list (Education Related) that I created as part of my new, healthy info diet.

Hootsuite used to manage a personalized Twitter list.

Hootsuite used to manage a personalized Twitter list.

I also used TweetBeam as a way to personalize a tweet show using the hashtag #education and was presented with a variety of data and information related to education. You can see in action here.

twitterbeam2

Eli Pariser (2011) sums it up nicely, “We really need the Internet to be that thing. We need it to connect us, introduce us to new ideas, new people, and different perspectives.” 

References:

Altmann, G. (2013, October). [Social Network Tree] [Image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/tree-structure-networks-internet-200795/

Carr, N. (2011, June). Information: Making sense of the deluge. [Video File]. Retrieved from http://bcove.me/7j4zpzwz

Jenkins, H. (2011, August). Participatory Culture and Civic Engagement. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/ZgZ4ph3dSmY

Pariser, E. (2011, May). Beware online “filter bubbles”. [Video file].  Retrieved from https://youtu.be/B8ofWFx525s