I spend about 25 percent of my day looking at a computer screen. I also spend about 37.4 percent of my day fighting luchadors. One of those statements is false, but illustrates the unique power of the Internet. In the past decade, all different types of media have been finding a digital counterpart to be distributed online, causing changes in the fabric of human interaction that have never been faced before. The Internet gives platform, although a very different kind, to anyone who wishes to speak, regardless of what they have to say.
Take knowledge for instance. Never before have so many people had access to so much free information through a little device in their pocket. Hyperlinking has become the new way of hyperwarping through different thoughts and ideas.
But as a computer science major in the year 2013, I can’t help but wonder what effect technology will have on people’s knowledge and understanding. Some claim that relying on technology to instantly and effortlessly answer questions makes people dumber. In a recent talk by Ken Jennings, the reigning jeopardy champion, he shares about how he feels when IBM’s supercomputer named Watson rendered him obsolete.
However, despite the images of robot apocalypse and other futuristic ideas portrayed by movies and novels, the future doesn’t have look like that. Technology is not something that should be feared, but understood.
Technology is fluid in the sense that it is always changing, and the person who understands how to use it has an advantage over the person who doesn’t. Being tech savvy means knowing how to creatively use technology to build new platforms and present new perspectives. Being tech savvy then, by definition, is a tendency to bend the rules, and even break them under some occasions. It means adding a whole other dimension of thinking and communication to life, one that is virtually limitless.
Of course, that means that people must remain knowledgeable enough about technology so that they can use the technology instead of the technology using them. Google shouldn’t be seen as a life force, but merely a supplement. The moment that people assume that technology is smarter than them is the moment that we resign ourselves to a place of servitude.
The only way that technology will make people dumber is if people use it as a substitute to learning instead of a supplement.
Don Wettrick, the founder of a new type of academic class in Franklin, Indiana, is taking principles of education reform by people like Sir Ken Robinson, Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, and putting it into practice. Wettrick’s Innovations class at Franklin Community High School is one of the many that are working to change education as we know it.
Wettrick, being an english teacher for fifteen years, knew that he had to find a better way to engage students and allow them to express their creativity. Inspired largely by Daniel Pink and Google’s work time model (where employees allocate 20% of their time to fun projects), Innovations is a student run, student taught, and student managed class. In the Innovations class, students have access to a television production studio, complete with computers and cameras and screens necessary to do practically any type of video work. Innovations is still in it’s early stages as a pilot program running for the first year, but there has already been significant results that have proven the power of such a class.
I had the chance of skyping with Mr. Wettrick and learn a little bit more about his Innovations class. While making the skype call, I was astonished by the quality of the equipment I saw in the classroom. The classroom does not resemble a typical classroom by any stretch, but more like a video producer’s playground.
With the equipment, the students not only have been working on their own personal or group creative projects, they have also used the equipment to reach out to and connect with industry leaders such as Microsoft’s Vice President and other international leaders.
To the class, social media is an integral part of what they do, and the students are realizing how powerful social media is to changing the world, and how they can put themselves out their by learning how to create their own personal branding. Being based largely on social media, the class aims to make teaching more transparent, because when teachers are transparent and collaborate, they are able to educate their students in a more effective manner.
According to Wettrick, “students don’t need to go to school to learn anymore. School should be a place where students can learn together.” Acknowledging the fact that learning from the Internet while collaborating with other students is much more powerful than listening to a teacher talk, the class allows for students to learn with their own preferences.
The truth is, many of the lectures and notes on the internet today are of much higher quality than anything a single teacher can produce on their own. Wettrick recognizes this especially in the field of video production, and instead of competing with online resources, he utilizes the resources on the internet to help his students to the highest quality content possible.
Since the beginning of Innovations, the class has made many accomplishments, one of the most significant being the selection to receive a pair of Google glass from Google’s testing program. Wettrick shared about how inspired he was by the way that the students pooled together the last minute to submit their application. Google glass will provide the students in the class to take part in the technology that companies around the world are developing.
Perhaps the most inspiring element of this class is how the students are able to take control of their own learning. Wettrick doesn’t need to assign projects and grade homework, because he is not interested in asking students questions with answers he already knows.
“The role of the teacher is to be a facilitator and motivator. It’s not about asking the right questions for students to answer, but inspiring students to ask the right questions.”
Education should be about pushing students to explore deeper than what is currently understood. Instead of observing areas of study from a distance or behind a textbook, students should be on the front lines, being the ones that explore and expand human understanding further.
Every school should provide the option for students to self-direct their learning, instead of forcing students into a systematic, factory model of education. To some, the Innovations class is seen as fluff, where students don’t really achieve that can be measured by a standard, but the effect of allowing students to explore on their own has had extremely positive results for the Innovations class.
If you are interested in helping out the Innovations class, they are currently raising money to extend the potential of the class. To them, having a budget leads students to come up with creative solutions to the challenges that they face.
The class currently has plans to publish a book, and if you are interested in connecting or helping the education revolution, check them out!
If you are reading this in 2013, I am willing to bet $20 that you haven’t used a floppy disk within the last week.
But even if you haven’t used one in years, the floppy disk is an image that is universally recognized, and will most likely never be forgotten. To kids currently learning to use computers, the floppy disk is no longer a physical data storage device, it’s an icon to click on in order to save a file.
The floppy disk is an obsolete artifact of the past, an illustration of what happens when people become accustomed to something that change becomes nearly impossible. The floppy disk represents tradition, something of the past that is no longer relevant today, but still lingers within culture.
To the entrepreneur, tradition is nothing more than an opportunity for change; a challenge to do things better rather than submit to the way things have always been done. Instead of blindly accepting artifacts of culture, the entrepreneur questions and thinks critically about things that can be changed.
Thus, to the creative, traditions are not seen as guidelines to stay within, but boundaries to advance and explore outside of. Creativity comes when a person thinks differently, creating something that has never existed before.
No matter how new an innovation is, or how many problems a new invention solves, the creative mind always thinks about it one step further, and is not satisfied with the current level of innovation. While this may seem like a never-ending treadmill of hard thinking, the life in being creative is not the end product, but the process it took to get there.
When you hear a past innovator talk about how things were like back in “their day”, they’re reminiscing on the process it took to bringing new innovation in, and how creativity changed their lifestyle.
That is why we aren’t carrying around black squares for data storage anymore.
Excitement is usually generated by a positive change in the present that implies a more positive future. Ultimately then, excitement is a response to things happening around a person.
Generating excitement is not terribly difficult. Maintaining it is usually more challenging. A one time significant event can spark excitement, but without a constant flow of progress, excitement is easily lost.
It’s easy to become attracted to rags to riches stories portrayed by the media because it gives us a sense of excitement because we see the potential and want to be just like them. Linsanity, a documentary about the NBA phenomenon Jeremy Lin, is a story about each one of us. Especially for Asian Americans, Jeremy Lin is an inspiration for teenagers to pursue their dreams and make history through the influence of what they are passionate about.
Significant stories are mirrors, inspiration for the significance can be achieved. Stories present themselves not as the success of superstars, but a bar to be surpassed. Every record that has been broken in the past has been the inspiration for the record to be broken again.
Before 1954, no one had ever run a mile in less than four minutes. According to experts, such a feat was physically impossible, until Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3:59 in 1954. After that, all world class runners were completing their miles in under four minutes.
Excitement over a new achievement quickly vanishes, unless it resonates deep with who you are and stirs up an emotion that goes much deeper than excitement: passion and purpose.
The thing about having a passion and a purpose is that it extends deeper than individual events. Having a passion and purpose allows a person to filter relevant events. Excitement without purpose easily fades, but when purpose creates excitement, progress is made.
The purpose of any leader or leadership organization is to bring some sort of change or obtain some sort of goal. It is not enough for a leader simply to know what to do, they must know how to communicate and bring people together.
I’ve written in the past about how high schoolers have poor training in leadership, and how leadership is about being significant rather than famous. At the heart of significant leadership, there needs to be a desire to empower future generations to accomplish things beyond what you have been able to accomplish. A leader that is afraid of his followers gaining more power than himself is one who builds a community around himself rather than around the group he is serving.
Significant leaders, ones that have a heart for the people they are leading, understand that they must surround themselves with other leaders, instead of surrounding themselves with obedient workers.
“Managers are maintainers, tending to rely on systems and controls. Leaders are innovators and creators who rely on people. Creative ideas become reality when people who are in a position to act catch the vision of their innovative leader.” – John Maxwell
With that said, I’ve noticed that there are four significant areas, that when properly understood, contribute to a leader. I am not claiming to be the perfect leader by any stretch, but these are simply based off of what I’ve noticed.
Create A leader must have a goal, vision, or an understanding of what he/she wants to change. The leader must understand how to accept himself and be vulnerable with the people he leads, in order to boldly and fearlessly take steps toward achieving the goal or vision. Having something tangible to show for often is a leader’s creation that will attract the interest of people, whether it be an idea, a teaching, a philosophy, a talent or skill, or anything else that catches the attention of people.
Express Leaders must be able to express their vision, goal, or creation to other people. A person who is unable to communicate what their creation is will have a hard time having people understand what they are about. In order to lead a group of people, communication allows people to connect with a leader and understand the leader. Effective communication is more than revealing your vision or goal, but also being open and vulnerable about the heart behind it, where it’s coming from, and the emotions and feelings that may be attached.
Inspire After communicating the purpose, vision, and goal with people, leaders must inspire people to make their own steps and choices. This often requires telling people why they should care, in order to get people excited and passionate about what a leader is trying to do. Giving people the freedom to be inspired means giving them the freedom to choose what their response is. Significant leaders understand that not everyone they pitch their idea to will come under their cause, but it’s more important to have a smaller group that freely chooses to accept what you have to offer rather than a larger group that comes through manipulation and pressure.
Empower A significant leader empowers others with the freedom to accomplish things that are greater than what they have accomplished. Significant leaders allow people to take their breakthroughs and build on them, instead of hiding them away. Empowering other people means giving up your control and trusting that people will be able to contribute as much to the purpose or vision that the leader can.
Being a leader is a position that requires an understanding of how to serve people, and being effective at leadership is a practice that is very much related to personal skills.
Your work, art, creativity, passion, and dreams are expressions of your identity. They do not reign as your identity, but are merely expressions of it.
People who are hesitant about broadcasting their work often do so because they are afraid of what might happen. They are afraid of how the might fail, and the attacks that might come their way. They have a fear that people might attack the core of who they are.
But the truth is, if your work is nothing more than an expression of your identity, the most that people can attack is the expression. The only person that can attack your identity is yourself, and that comes through choice.
When you choose to accept yourself, regardless of the calls that people make on your expressions, that’s when you get true freedom to be yourself. That’s when you have the freedom to stand up and say, “Here I made this. I’m not sure if it’ll work or if it’s even a good idea, but that doesn’t matter.”
“If you’re going to be loved anyway, your behavior doesn’t have to be driven by your yearn for an outcome; it can be driven by something deeper.” – Seth Godin
Vulnerability then, is being open and transparent with your audience about who you are and what you do, not to seek approval from them, but to step out of the bounds of comfort to make new discoveries.
And when vulnerability comes from a place of already being accepted, fear vanishes.
In the last couple of weeks, I have been working on making it easier to connect with Diplateevo and stay updated.
Subscribe via email with the new link in the header, and like the facebook page if you haven’t already!
Simple is not stupid.
Simplicity breeds consistency, which in turn creates reliability. Creating anything reliable and consistent, while innovating the way people live is how movements are started. And once these innovations reach millions, many of them will wonder why they never thought of the same idea.
There’s a certain elegance to the way that simple applications solve problems.
Simple is not just a way of doing things, or the features of a product, after all, there is a difference between a simple product that excels and a cheap product that disappoints. Simple is not cheap.
Simple is a new way of thinking about things, often reducing it’s problem to it’s most basic. The counter-intuitiveness of simplicity is that it isn’t stupid.
Movements gain momentum when ideas are clear and easy to express and understand, easily unifying multitudes of people.
Minimalism is a statement. It’s about taking away until you’re left with something that just works. It’s about removing the bells and whistles that often make something attractive, and clearing the toolkit until you only have a couple tools left.
But simplicity is not about what you do or what you do it with. Even if you put the fancy tools away in a box, it’s about releasing your creativity from the box.
Minimalism is about taking away. Simplicity is about thinking away. Simplicity can be manifested as minimalism, but is not defined by it.
World class chefs can create astounding dishes with only a handful of ingredients put together with only a handful of techniques. Skilled photographers can take jaw dropping pictures with a point and shoot. Talented authors can paint vivid pictures and convey fabu thoughts with pen and paper.
Stupid is not simple.
Understanding flow is something that no one taught me when I was younger, and only have I recently been thinking about. Flow, in this article, is defined as the zone of productivity when a person gives their complete, undivided attention to an activity, often to the point of losing track of time, and occasionally even other human needs (sleep, food, restroom breaks).
A friend recently sent me an email asking if breaking activities into one hour chunks was an effective way to be productive. Essentially, he was proposing a modified version of the pomodoro technique, which some people swear by.
However, an aspect that stands out about the pomodoro technique and similar techniques is the rigid time frame that can potentially end up interrupting flow. The reason the pomodoro technique works is because it is using time as a physical and tangible inspiration to become more productive.
Having an external motivator like time is often necessary, especially under circumstances where the activity at hand is not the most appealing, or you would otherwise have no desire to do the activity.
After I realized that something like the pomodoro technique was a way to inspire flow, I decided I would rather figure out a way to directly get into flow and maintain flow rather than using a measurement of time to inspire productivity.
The unfortunate truth is that relying on a time keeping device to manage your productivity can potentially train a person to value a length of time over productivity and creativity. And unfortunately, that’s exactly how the school system is set up with class and break periods.
Everyone at some point in their life has experienced flow without restraint from time, as those are the experiences when you lose track of time.
Getting into flow looks different for each person and looks different for each activity, but their are a couple of common attributes to every flow state.
- People in a flow state aren’t easily distracted – When a person gives their undivided attention to something, nothing can easily distract them from what they are doing. Thus, finding an environment without distraction is generally helpful to maintain flow, but is not necessary if flow is strong enough.
- People in a flow state generally do things faster – People who are highly focused in on learning something new generally learn a lot faster and a lot better. If information is coming in faster, it generally requires a much higher state of focus in order to comprehend and process all of it as it comes in. Driving a car at 120 mph definitely requires more focus than driving a car at 20 mph.
- People in a flow state care about the activity they are doing and understand why they are doing it – Also known as driven by an internal passion or bigger picture, flow states are usually accompanied by a somewhat deep desire to accomplish something. Therefore, a good place to start to get into a high level of focus is to figure out why you are doing something, and then dig even deeper.
Here are also some interesting stories on flow if you’re interested – Steven Kotler – Hacking Flow & Ultimate Human Potential at SuperheroYou.
But of course, understanding how flow works is only a piece to productivity, and learning how to implement flow into a healthy physical and emotional lifestyle is a whole other topic.
If you’re anything like me and come across talks on YouTube that are hours long on a regular basis, speeding up playback is a great way to get through them faster and have greater focus.
I like to watch videos at 1.5x speed, which is slow enough so I can still understand (usually), but fast enough so my mind can’t get distracted.
Enabling variable speed control on YouTube requires you to enter their beta HTML5 player trial, which you can find here. Keep in mind that your browser will need to meet certain requirements, and the video player may feel slightly different after you enable it.
After you’ve signed up for the HTML5 trial, clicking the little gear button on basically any video will bring up a selection of choices for playback. You can choose to play videos faster or slower.
Surprisingly, I found that when I started listening to talks at 1.5x speed, I ended up comprehending more of the talk than I did at slower speeds. I’m no cognitive expert, but it seems that playing the video faster causes me to pay much more attention.