Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dan Pink -- thank you

This is a very belated thanks to Dan Pink who sat in on Wilkes Tuesday group a few weeks ago. I started this post by transcribing a lot of what he had to say, but have decided instead to post the link to the recording and follow it with verbal snapshots of some of his ideas. Dan believes that anything enduring or great in life (eg. a love affair!) began with a conversation and he's hoping, that conversation by conversation, we can build a world that is 'just plain better'. I know Dan's ideas found fertile ground in our audience and I suspect there will be
"Fed Ex days" devoted undiluted autonomy popping up in more than a few classrooms. Thanks Dan for allowing us to pick your brains..

To listen to the archived recording of our conversation with Dan Pink
(session password = credenda-wilkes):

For a great summary of the book: see The Blue Skunk.

For some comments to tantalize and delight::
  • Too often business and education start from the wrong assumption: i.e. that were it not for carrots and sticks, people would just sit there -- inert. Interestingly, we do not feel that way about ourselves.
  • With even a 'rudimentary cognitive skill'. a higher reward leads to poorer performance.
On Autonomy:
  • 'Management' is a very good way to get compliance, but a very poor way to get, engagement which can only be reached through self-direction.
  • Teachers have less autonomy than workers in any other white collar profession.
On Mastery:
  • People are engagement-seeking missiles and will find it in other realms of their lives when they can't get it in a traditional job (or classroom?).
  • The biggest motivator by far is making progress.
On Purpose:
  • Humans want to be part of something larger than ourselves.
  • If we really want people to do great work and prepare students for their future we need to move away from the outdated motivational technology and capitalize on people's drive to do things because they're interesting and contribute to the world. The more we do that, the more we will do right by our kids and make schools a congenial, challenging place to learn.
  • Purpose doesn't have to be big or transcendent. If kids can see the context for what they're studying and how it all fits in, there will be less need for coercive tactics or bribery to get them to perform.
On Extrinsic Motivation (carrots & sticks):
  • The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to unleash their third drive (instrinic/its own reward).
On Education:
  • One of Dan's favourite writers is Carol Dweck (Mindset ; Self-Theories -1999 ): She puts foward 2 theories of intelligence: entity (fixed supply; can be measured by tests) vs growth (each encounter you have is a chance to increase your supply; people take more risks and engage in greater challenges). If you believe talent, capability, and intelligence can be grown, that takes you towards mastery. The entity theory precludes mastery for all but a very few.
  • The disengaged, aimless, purposeless kid is probably not that way in every realm of his/her life (music, sports, after school job, church group, volunteer activities). Often outside of class, kids are profoundly and passionately engaged. It's important to look at those kinds of things for hints about how to engage them: sense of collaboration, more freedom, can more clearly see progress, animated by a sense of purpose.
  • Standardized tests are impoverished measures of what it takes to be an educated person. A different kind of motivation can pay off on standardised tests. They're trying this in 'Big Picture schools' where individual curricula start from and are built around kids' interests.
  • What skills do kids need to be successful? Industry and business are looking for "multis" (-cultural, - disciplinary, -lingual) -- people who are "T's" with both depth and breadth. So let's equip students with great left brain abilities and right brain abilities so they're creative/conceptual thinkers. Let's be sure they have amazing work habits, that they care about others, are great collaborators, can span boundaries, can learn how to learn, and that they're persistent and persevering. That's a tall order ....
  • Any time there's a problem in North America we ask schools to solve it, then don't give them enough money and blame them when it's not solved.
  • Education seems to be making a concerted push right now on the second drive (reward/punishment) -- our schools are 'fighting the last war'.
  • Self assessment is an important habit of the heart. Grades have become a goal in themselves when they should be feedback on the road to mastery. Our (wrong) notion of kids as endlessly manipulable and fundamentally passive has led us to the (wrong) carrot/stick form of motivation. More promising will be to see them as little human beings who respond better to the third drive.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A second career

I have reached the 'arghhh' week in the 511 Video Production course. I have decided that although I love the editing part of the work, I am not a camera person at heart. I struggle to assess what's in the viewfinder of the camcorder with an educated eye, but I haven't figured out what the various light presets do which makes that difficult.

How is 'beach' different from 'snow'? or 'waterfall' different from 'profile'? (How often do you shoot a waterfall after all?) I have a colleague who says to look these things up in the manual, but there isn't much there to help me distinguish between them well enough to know what setting is best for say -- inside a white-walled living room on a sunny afternoon? That is where I did the shooting for the final project for this course. This week we have to look at all the footage and create a story board that goes shot by shot through the entire final video.

I did start with a shot list and a list of questions, but I've been reluctant to actually look at the footage because there isn't time to reshoot if I didn't light it correctly (there never was -- that would have tried my subject's patience too much) and I don't have the time to comb through it all this week before I get on the plane for Australia.

The conversation that I recorded was with my teaching partner and friend, Debra. We talk a lot about how we want to spend our last years in teaching and our early years out of it. She said she wanted to work at a local plant nursery because it isn't a people job. I used to say I wanted to tune pianos whenever the job got to be too much for me, but now I think I'd like to edit videos. The power that rests in your hands to pull the threads of a story together is amazing. You can literally put words in people's mouths by deftly rearranging what they've actually said to suit your own theme or purpose.

This week's slide show assignment has been fun from that point of view and I didn't have to take any of the pictures -- just find them and thread them together to create a story. Here is is for your comments and suggestions. I hope you enjoy it.