adapt, adopt, appropriate, banking, broadcast, cell phone, change, communicate, communications, convenience, critical decisions, culture, e-mail, email, facebook, history, humanity, humans, internet, learning, lifestyle, news, newspaper, online, people, radio, research, satisfied, tablet, technological, television, time, travel, twentieth century
Change is inevitable, we can’t stop it. I’m sure we can all agree that the rate of change has been increasing over recent history, particularly technological change. The past century, the twentieth century, saw probably more change that impacted our culture and humanity than any other century. One might argue that it began picking up steam in the middle of the previous century. During other periods of history, there were certainly some major changes, however, the speed of travel and communications brought the changes to more people faster than ever before during the twentieth century.
With some change, we have more options than with other sorts. Perhaps, that is not exactly accurate. Suppose you experience a flood. You could see it as the end of everything, or you could see it as opportunity to help other people. What about something like E-mail? Some of the newer technologies start out and seem to be optional, but as they become ubiquitous, it is expected from other people that you are reachable by E-mail. The cell phone is one change that has taken the world by storm. Small business owners will tell you that customers expect to be able to reach you anytime and that it often seems like an invasion into their life.
I would like to suggest three options you have when faced with and in dealing with change. They are pretty simple and you should be able to remember them so you can shape your decisions and actions. Let’s use the example of the daily news. You might be accustomed to getting your news from a combination of newspaper, television and radio. All of a sudden you can get all your news, anytime and immediately from the Internet. What do you do?
First, you may choose to adopt to the change. That means, however the change is attempting to influence your life, you accept it and make the changes to your life accordingly. In our case of the news, you think, you might as well give up on the other sources and get all your news through the Internet. In other words you adopt it completely.
Second, you may find it better to adapt to the change. This might mean that you change what you do somewhat in order to utilize the change. Back to the news, you decide that you will continue with your current sources, but add the Internet services as you have time. You have then chosen to adapt the change into your lifestyle.
Third, you make some critical decisions as to what your actions will be with the goal to appropriate the change into your lifestyle. This takes more time and thought, but can pay off with you being more satisfied. It takes research and testing to critique the change you are considering as to how it might be best suited to you. You want to make an informed decision. You want to ask how your options will impact your life and whether it makes you more or less human. Then you determine how you could best appropriate the change. In a way it is turning the other options from above around. You are not adapting to it, you are adapting it to you. In some way, you might be able to have it adopt your lifestyle. Either way, you are in control and the power remains with you.
It is about learning how your life can be changed and taking charge of what you do. You don’t want other people telling you that you need to do your banking online because that is the way things are going. You want to make your own decision after careful consideration. I have heard people say to someone that they need to be on Facebook. The truth is, no they don’t. You don’t have to do your banking online if you don’t want to. Look at the pros and cons of the possible choices. If you begin to communicate using Facebook, you may decrease the amount of time you spend face-to-face with people.
I will add that time seems to have a way of convincing us that we need the convenience of what the change is offering. You may not have time to catch the news when it is available on a broadcast and you may have an aversion to the recycling a newspaper requires. If you are on the go, as most of us are nowadays, a tablet might seem like a great option. But remember, sitting in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea or coffee is a relaxing time you might be losing. The choice is yours and you should be the one that make a difference in your life.
1950s, 1960s, 1961, analogies, analogy, analyze, arthur, bible, brainstorm, brainstorming, capacity, characteristics, cohort, college, color, colour, concepts, creative, creative outlooks, creative problem-solving, creatively, creativity, develop, development creative, distract, distraction, dryer lint, education, elements, faculty, familiar, force, force-fit, forget, fuzzy, garment, george, georgeprince, gordon, group, groups, harper, imagination, innovation, insight, instruction, interconnectedness, interest, interview, invention design, jesus, learning, little, masters, metaphor, metaphoric, metaphors, new york, parable, parables, prescribe, prescription, prince, problem, problem-solving, professional, publishers, research, result, row, solution, staff, strange, syncticsworld, Synectics, tape, tape recorder, teach, team, think, tool, transformative, transformative learning, unconnected, unknown, unrelated, weight, william, workshop, world
One day, while I was working for a college, the school was closed and a day was put on for all staff and faculty, to do some professional development all at once. During the afternoon sessions I found a workshop about creative problem-solving with metaphors. It caught my interest.
The process we learned was remarkable and, according to the originators, William J.J. Gordon and George M. Prince, guarantees to provide a solution that would not have been found using other methods. It began way back in the 1950s when companies were beginning to realize that innovation was no longer something that could occur through a single person. They realized that innovation needed to occur in groups or teams. Wondering how this could be encouraged, the Arthur D. Little Invention Design Unit took tape recorders into meetings to discover how creativity and innovation happens. After analyzing the tapes, distraction from the problem turned out to be the key.
When a group became distracted from the problem, innovative solutions usually resulted. Eventually, a carefully constructed set of instructions was developed. The person who was teaching us the process, had attended a workshop with one of the developers back in the 1960s and could produce only a single page of instructions for us.
At the time, I was doing a Masters of Education with a focus on transformative learning. I wondered if this might be a transformative process, so I began to research and was finally able to develop a workshop that I could deliver based on the original process. I called it Creative Outlooks—creative problem-solving using metaphors. I delivered it to my study cohort and many times over the following years.
The process is simple. It is called Synectics, meaning, “the joining together of different and apparently irrelevant elements.” The problem with solving a problem is that one may know too much about the problem. Problem-solving, according to the developers, is the opposite of learning, which intends to take the strange or unknown and make it known. Problem-solving involves making the familiar strange. In a way, we need to forget what we know about something in order to think creatively. They came up with using analogies or metaphors to distract one’s thinking away from what they know about the problem.
What has always amazed me, and I discovered I have a knack for metaphoric thinking, is just how much we can learn about something by using a seemingly unrelated and unconnected metaphor of something else. It demonstrates the unique interconnectedness of everything in our world.
In one of the workshops I was delivering, when we came to the step where groups selected a metaphor, someone raised their hand and asked if dryer lint would work. I got it immediately as an excellent example of a metaphor that has interesting characteristics. Characteristics is the foundation of the process.
Once the group has done a brainstorming session on the problem and selected an unrelated analogy, they carefully analyze the analogy for all its characteristics. With dryer lint: it is made up of tiny pieces of other garments; it looks grey from a distance, but actually may have many colours; it is soft; it is light in weight; it is fuzzy; it comes apart easily. The list can go on for quite a length. The process even involves someone becoming the metaphor and the other group members interviewing it.
Once all the steps are done, the group then force-fits the characteristics back on to the problem with amazing new insights, results and solutions. While not all the participants are quick to catch on the process, when they do, it becomes and exciting time of imagination and creativity within the group.
We usually think of creativity and innovation as being something that is not easily prescribed. Yet Synectics is a prescription for achieving creativity and innovation in a group setting with guaranteed results. Learning Synectics gave me a new tool for looking at the world and learning new things. In the Bible, Jesus always used parables (a metaphoric story) and metaphors to teach concepts.
The Synectics research lead to many innovative learning tools. I continue to learn through metaphors and gain new insights by applying a metaphor to something seemingly unrelated.
My workshop, Creative Outlooks, works well in about 2–4 hours. This provides time to learn the process and run through a couple of problems in each group.
academic, accusation, advanced diploma in adult education, alcohol, brain, canada, certificate, citizen, classroom, college, computer, corporation, courses, creative, creative learning solutions, curriculum, dairy, desktop publishing, diploma, distance education, drinking, educated, education, educator, english, entertainment, environment, grade twelve, groupware, high school, indoctrinate, information, innovative, instruction, instructional skills, instructor, journalism, leadership coaching certificate, learn, learning, learning style, lesson, life, m.ed., mac, mac plus, machine, macintosh, monday, newspaper, online, prepress, press, printing, programs, provincial instructor diploma, read, school, society, sunday, teacher, teaching, thinking, training, u.s., weekend, workshop, writing
I’ll let you in on a bit of my past. School for me was, well not for me, right from the start. School and I simply did not get along. It is not that I didn’t have interests that were covered in school curriculum. Something about the classroom experience and the delivery of information really didn’t suit me. I guess I had some difficulties settling in to the routine and understanding what was happening and what was being taught.
This is the story of how I came to learn about education and became educated about learning. Most important, it is about how I came to learn how to learn. If that sounds strange to you. Keep reading. You might be interested in why learning is more important to me than education.
As I scraped through the grades, made to repeat a grade when we moved from the U.S. to Canada, I began to live for the weekends. In later grades, I needed to forget the week and find some way to enjoy the weekend. I hated Sunday night and Monday mornings. Parties and drinking became weekend norms. By grade twelve, with just passing grades, I vowed to never set foot in an academic environment again.
Today, I still struggle with plenty of life, yet, I have managed to avoid alcohol for over 30 years and have earned an M.Ed. among other certificates and diplomas. How did this happen? What do I know now that has made the difference?
Let’s pick up the trail after grade twelve and race through a few years. After working in a dairy, I decided to go to college to learn about printing. I didn’t consider this academic and thus not breaking my vow, even when I studied some journalism. The number of educators who have strongly influenced me during my life have been few. One was an associate music teacher in high school. Yes, there were a few positive experiences. This teacher asked me if I would like to do an entertainment review for the local newspaper. My response, ‘But I’m barely squeaking through in English.” His, “You know what you like and don’t like, so just write what you think.” So began a small career as a part-time entertainment reviewer that lead me to take some journalism so I could get more free press passes to shows.
After working in the printing industry for a few years, I managed to get my hands on a Mac Plus computer to teach myself the new prepress method then known as desktop publishing. Soon, I found myself doing some training. One other piece of the puzzle developed when I was contracted by an educational institution to help develop a new distance education project using an online groupware product I was a representative for. I ended up writing the first course and delivering it to the group of instructors who developed the courses and programs at the institution. I had little understanding of what I was doing. I remember the project manager saying “To ensure your long-term participation in this project, you might what to get some training in developing training courses.” We traded some work for the Instructional Skills workshop, part of the Provincial Instructor Diploma.
During that workshop, the reality of the world of education and learning began to be revealed to me. Wait, was this academic, could I actually learn something and enjoy it? Even more surprising, this shy guy actually ended up standing in front of people to teach a short lesson. I enrolled in another course and got to really grapple with my own learning. It was a tough slog. I had to find my learning legs. I had to apply the little I had already learned about learning to my own learning. Finally, I learned a few things about how to learn, how I learn.
In the following years, I completed the Provincial Instructor Diploma, the Advanced Diploma in Adult Education, a Leadership Coaching Certificate and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction. Perhaps one day I’ll continue my story about learning. For now, let me talk a bit about education and learning.
What comes to the forefront of your mind when you think of school, education, or learning? What is the difference? What do they look like to you?
Would it surprise you if I stated that education, to me is a production machine? It is an attempt to bring about the result of learning to the masses of society and to indoctrinate them into the norms of society; to make citizens who can function within the framework of society, meet the employment needs of corporations and to behave in an acceptable manner. That may sound like a strong accusation of a major societal institution, yet, this is what school is about.
The institution of education is so massive that it actually has a number of difficulties. When you think of school you probably think of a classroom of tables and chairs and the teacher at the front of the room teaching. The sage on the stage as we came to call it. Educators now know so much more about how people learn than when I went to school. With this research, one might think that the school experience would be quite different. Perhaps it is, slightly, but in truth the machine keeps churning as usual. Even with the ability to deal with the students who struggle or have other differences or challenges, the system can’t help in ways that could make a huge difference.
In the past, less was known about what the problems really were, or how to provide assistance. Those who did not fit in, might be labelled as troublesome or lazy. Today, research has revealed much about how people learn, yet, notions such as mainstreaming all students or financial cutbacks have limited improvements to education. In addition, the educational machine is very slow to change and seems to be entrapped by the expectations of what school and education should look like—people expect it should look the way it looked when they went to school. Teachers teach the way they were taught.
Here’s the point. So much more is known about how we learn. From varying the delivery of instruction and teaching to meet learning styles to brain research, the educational experience should be so different from what it is. In addition, we now know that creative, innovative thinking needs to be developed in learners to meet the complex needs of society today. Employers are constantly changing what they are looking for in potential employees.
Since education seems inadequate, at least to me, I tend to focus on learning. Now, you should understand why education to me is a formal ridged, inflexible processing machine. What I seek are creative learning solutions. I’ll probably write more about creative learning solutions. Perhaps a series. Watch for it.