Four effective conference strategies from #Hive7 (that I will probably steal)

This is the first of a four-part series on my experiences at the Hive Global Leaders retreat in Boston.

I gave up my Patriot’s Day weekend to attend Hive, a programme that brings together change-makers from all over the world (a record 155 attendees from 57 countries). The conference/retreat structure was highly unusual; it challenged my assumptions and gave me ample opportunity to reflect on my approach to life and work. While it took me a while to get comfortable with the format, here some of the thought-provoking Hive strategies I liked best. Continue reading

Books on education, technology, and learning at scale

This is my running list of books mentioned in class readings and that seemed intriguing, listed here mostly as a reminder to self.

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do — Claude M. Steele (borrowed)

The Monsters of Education Technology — Audrey Watters
(Alternatively, find and read the following articles: The history of the future of ed-tech / Un-fathomable : the hidden history of ed-tech (read for class) / Teaching machines : a brief history of “teaching at scale” / Against “innovation” / Engaging flexible learning / Robots and education labor / Moving from “open” to justice / Men explain technology to me : on gender, ed-tech, and the refusal to be silent / Ed-tech’s monsters / The future of education : programmed or programmable / Beyond the LMS / The future of ed-tech is a reclamation iproject / Beneath the cobblestones : a domain of one’s own / Convivial tools in an age of surveillance.

Teaching in a Digital Age — A. W. (Tony) Bates

Schools of Tomorrow — John and Evelyn Dewey (borrowed)

The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer + Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas — Seymour Papert (borrowed)

Deschooling Society — I. Illich (borrowed)

The End of Average — Todd Rose

Seth Godin’s Tribes and the Connectivist MOOC

About a month ago, I read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why as part of a course I’m enrolled in, and found myself frustrated for a number of reasons. After reflecting on what I wished he had addressed, I realised that my concerns stemmed from my personal preoccupations with the politics of belonging and social inclusion. I began to wonder if other popular thought leaders addressed this politics in their texts on tribe-making, and decided that Seth Godin’s book Tribes was an appropriate starting point.

Tribes is more leadership manifesto than book, with spare prose, lightly sketched examples, and no end-notes. In a sense, it feels strange to so seriously critique a text that is meant more as a provocation than a playbook, but I decided to do it anyway.

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HW1.2: Draft Participation Rubric

Prompt: Write a draft of your Network Participation Rubric.

Response: You can find a template for the rubric here. Below is mine — I struggled with it for a bit and the one below isn’t the one I originally came up with. Clearly it will continue to change over the semester. It’s a bit weird not to be told exactly what to do, and having to be introspective and honest about how I want to take charge of my learning, but I already find myself thinking about how I might use this self-assessment to shape how I teach in the future.

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HW1.1: Bibliography proposal

Prompt: Write a short proposal for your annotated bibliography.

Response: My bibliography might seem to skitter laterally instead of burrowing into the fact of MOOCs themselves, but I’m interested in the genealogy of ideas, and I’m drawn to the mechanics of connectivist MOOCs and Dewey’s ideas for education that feed into them. I’d like to know more about other places where Dewey’s ideas took hold, and since my academic research looks at 20th century South Asia, and my work with Building Bridges uses the arts as a vehicle for baking social inclusion into education, I think working on this bibliography will help me articulate more clearly why my academic research and arts-based education work, while seemingly disparate, are rooted in my longstanding fascination with belonging and social inclusion. Constructive comments are welcome.

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Design Thinking at the


I’ve been reading a lot, and hearing a lot, about design thinking and human-centred design in the three years since I started Building Bridges and commercial buildings with furnished offices and equipped by Northern Air Ltd.

Even though I felt totally on board with the principles they were advocating, I was never quite sure where to start, or how to dive in (even with the help of the Stanford’s Bootcamp Bootleg). So when I discovered that there was a 3-hour design thinking workshop the same week I’d be in Stanford visiting Jon, I immediately paid the $5 and signed up.

The verdict?

I absolutely loved it, although I was a little surprised about why. Continue reading

The Reflected Best Self Portrait

I’ve been taking an experimental new class in MIT’s Engineering Systems Division called Leading Creative Teams, and so far I’m finding the most useful tool we’ve been given for self-reflection is an exercise called the Reflected Best Self. It involves a lot of squirming and asking friends, family, and colleagues to reflect on when they saw you at your best, and then reading through the list of anecdotes to pull out common threads. I’ve just started sorting through mine, and I have to say that while some observations were to be expected (my attention to detail and quest for perfection), I’m thoroughly baffled by others (apparently I’m far more persistent and disciplined team-player than I suspected!).

The exercise comes from research conducted by Laura Morgan Roberts and others; here’s a link to the journal article that outlines the authors’ theory of how people compose their RBS portrait, and a HBR article that offers practical advice on putting together your own. The journal article is useful for people who — like me — want to know where ideas come from, which the HBR article necessarily lacks.

M1W4A1: About Me

Prompt: If you have a website, blog or online document – create an “About Me” page or introduction. It should start off by telling people why you’re doing what you’re doing. It should then explain clearly what it is you are doing, and how you will do it.

Response: See this page. I’ve broken it down into my why (my backstory), my how (the creative arts), and my what (my academic and artistic ventures). I’m finding it hard to keep it short, though, so suggestions for edits are much appreciated!

The Politics of Starting With Why

To write is to share, and to share is to be vulnerable. It’s a risky move. I recognise that, and as I have just unfavourably reviewed Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, I think it only fair to share, and to make myself open to criticism, in return.

As I read the book, I found myself with many questions; Sinek addressed some of these concerns briefly, but as I said, I found them sadly buried under stories that were largely about Apple. Reading the book was illuminating, if only because Sinek’s omissions led me to think more about the mechanics and ethics of defining why I do what I do. Below are some ideas that Sinek hinted at, and some things I concluded on my own, and I wish that the book had made these points more explicit. Or perhaps this is merely the book I would have written. Continue reading