Studying identity through structured serendipity. My start to #identity in 2013. #CuratingPurpose

This morning, while attending “Walking with Lucy School,” I studied identity. I didn’t pre-intend to do so, specifically, but the opportunity presented itself because of structured serendipity. I have structured my podcast app with about a dozen different podcasts. Each morning, while walking my dog Lucy, I listen to the somewhat serendipitous collection called the “unplayed” playlist offered by the app.

This morning, the playlist looked like this –

  • The Moth, “A Dish Best Served Cold.” A young man finds something of a true identity for himself – albeit temporary – by searching for the person who committed identity theft with his credit card. I love that he found his identity by doggedly pursuing something that mattered mightily to him.
  • Radiolab, “Solid as a Rock.” Trying to get to the bottom of what makes stuff, the podcasters challenge the listener to consider that the most basic components of things are composed of mostly empty space. With physics, this short plays with our sense of what makes a thing a thing – it’s reality, perception, and identity. It reminded me of two blog posts that I had written, so I went back and read them – here and here.
  • 99% Invisible, “Episode 69- The Brief and Tumultuous Life of the New UC Logo.” Roman Mars and crew examine a metaphorical anecdote about resistance to change by exploring the visual-identity debacle that the University of California system has undergone recently. Among other lessons, I appreciate that there are levels of design investigated in this piece. Maybe most importantly, the transformation itself was poorly designed, and I learned a great deal relative to the work that I now do with educational change and transformation design.

Additionally, a fourth “class” became a part of my structured serendipity on identity this morning. During our walk, I decided to take a detour to my parents’ house. After all, my own identity was initially and powerfully formed by these incredible people. So, Lucy and I changed course and walked to my parents’ house. They were very surprised to see us, but I think they were incredibly pleased. In many ways, I was thanking them for my identity which they helped create. And I started the New Year by telling them Happy New Year in person. A great detour for identity.

All in all, I’d say this was a great way to start January 1, 2013. Now I feel well primed for my identity work in the New Year.

What “classes” and structured serendipity are you pursuing this year about your own identity? How might you help the learners at your school(s) explore their own identities? After all, as Sir Ken Robinson says, it’s about “How are you smart? Not – How smart are you?”


Bonus (and paradoxically the real meat)! A few reads archived on my Diigo that this walk made me re-read … and a TED talk:


[Note for further investigation: I thought my “class” this morning was pretty great. I learned a lot. I am inspired and motivated to learn further. Much of my motivation comes from the fact that I curated my own learning here. I collected the podcasts; I pursued the follow-up, related readings; I returned to a TED talk connected to what I was thinking relative to identity (to me Zander is talking more about identity and purpose than classical music).

In fact, part of my identity is defined by what I have chosen to open myself to this morning … by what to include here. How often do we use school to facilitate students pursuing their own identities? Not within the peripherals of school, but among the core functions and operations of school.

I am developing a new hypothesis – there is actually an 8th C of 21st C. Learning, namely “curation.” Perhaps the other 7 Cs largely depend on the practices of curation. Developing communication, creativity and innovation, critical thinking, etc. may all be connected through curatorial endeavors. And in school, the teachers typically do most of the curation. If When students are allowed to curate more of their school, then they will more likely develop the 7 Cs … as well as more of their own true identity. As they explore and discover “How am I smart? Not – How smart am I?”]

4 thoughts on “Studying identity through structured serendipity. My start to #identity in 2013. #CuratingPurpose

  1. “Does (or can) the filing and lighting happen simultaneously?”
    Yes, I think so.

    “Who decides when to re-fuel the lamp?”
    I think that the most wonderful re-fuelings happen when the owner of the lamp decides for himself/herself. However, I know that my lamp has been re-fueled occasionally despite my willingness and openness, and for that I am thankful (usually later, though!)

    “Can the lamp take many different fuels and who decides which fuel is the right one?”
    I think the lamp does take different fuels – different fuels for different purposes. I think of those lamps that can run on kerosene, gasoline, oil, etc. The flame differs from the different fuels. I also think it matters, too, depending on how much ambient light is around the lamp.

    “Does the lamp come already built or is this (deciding on the shape, size and fuel type) part of identity journey as well?”
    Love this question. I think parts of the lamp come ready for assembly. Others have to be searched and discovered. I think the lamp requires assembly, and this is THE major part of the identity formation. I think this is what determines how many kinds of fuel will work, what lighting and wind conditions will complement the lamp best, etc.

    “Should the lamp be lit all the time or is it okay if it take years to light?”
    I think it’s a constant process – a cycle and symbiosis.

    “What if the fuel is the wrong fuel and burns the lamp out? How do we fix this?”
    Is there a wrong fuel? Or is it that some fuels just work better in certain conditions?

    “Who decided how much fuel to start the lamp off with?”
    Ultimately, the owner of the lamp must regulate this. I think of babies that turn away when they’ve had too much stimulation.

    “If winds keep blowing the lamp out how can we build a cover to protect new flames from strong winds?”
    Find a new setting. Find friends to help shield. Find an accessory. Find a way for the wind to actually fan the flame and make it stronger.

  2. Hi Bo,

    Just a couple of quick unpolished thoughts in regards to the lamp:

    Does (or can) the filing and lighting happen simultaneously?
    Who decides when to re-fuel the lamp?
    Can the lamp take many different fuels and who decides which fuel is the right one?
    Does the lamp come already built or is this (deciding on the shape, size and fuel type) part of identity journey as well?
    Should the lamp be lit all the time or is it okay if it take years to light?
    What if the fuel is the wrong fuel and burns the lamp out? How do we fix this?
    Who decided how much fuel to start the lamp off with?
    If winds keep blowing the lamp out how can we build a cover to protect new flames from strong winds?

    I used to think (looking back) that I was lit from the outside by an event or a person and I was limited to when, where and how I could be inspired to dream, to light up.
    I know now that 100% I am lit from the inside when I select (curate) which “fuels” work best for me, and the act of “fueling” myself is what produces my strongest surest light yet. 🙂


  3. Hi Bo, Happy New Year to you! Another lovingly thoughtful post which triggered my memory of a post by Darren Kuropatwa – Some thoughts on Curation , his post is done “while walking” (love the serendipity of that!).
    I see curation as not just the acquisition of the raw materials, a pile of info selected by an individual, but it implies action, a knitting together, a fusion that is unique to the curator. Curation takes time, freedom to explore (often times the missing piece comes from a unrelated or unexpected source), open mindedness, and serendipity. I whole hearted agree and concur with you that curation combines in a very meaningful way other 21st century skills. Sadly, time, freedom, open mindedness are often discouraged as they are not viewed as “useful” to getting to the end point. Most times in education, we have the destination pre-determined, the course is set and the “learner” is meant to move obediently along it, not wavering in their attention along the way.
    I like the idea of identity as a unifying force or theme; we all have a story to tell and I ask my kids: (students) how will they tell their story? This “story” is what unites us (we all have one, we all have a beginning, middle and end) but we each have our own achingly beautiful story to tell, discover, curate, create. And yet I know I want kids to tell their story, but still struggling on the how to get there completely part, but I am on it, I am on it!

    Thanks for a great start to 2013,

    • Carolyn,

      What an incredible and beautiful response. Thank you! I agree with all that you have said, but I think my deep appreciation for your comment comes more from its wisdom and grace than from my agreement. I look forward to exploring the Darren Kuropatwa post – hopefully later today.

      I believe there is much to explore around this idea of a pre-determined destination. Increasingly, I grow to believe that we must find a better balance with learning goals and learning freedom. So much of that balance rests in devising improved ways to facilitate the story creation and story discovery and story sharing that you mention here. I guess that much depends on how we define the “learning goals” of formalized education. If it’s about a fire lighting rather than a vessel filling, I get very excited. Yet both actions seem ingredient to lamps – they are vessels and flames simultaneously. I’d love to get into a more thorough discussion on this with you.

      I love the earnestness in your last sentence, and I get the realness of you being on it! I am thrilled for this new connection and for the possibility of us helping each other to get to such facilitation and curation of story for our co-learners.

      Thank you for a great start to 2013!


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