Curiosity, Control, and Caring. #fsbl and Bran Ferren’s TED talk on Pantheon miracles.

The best passionate pursuits of learning always seem to begin with exploring, observing, questioning, and being curious. This is why we started #fsbl – “father-son-based learning” – in my family.

As I listened to “Bran Ferren: To create for the ages, let’s combine art and engineering,” I smiled almost continuously throughout the talk because I pictured Ferren on an #fsbl adventure that started with raids of electronics piles, trips to science museums, and a mesmerizing visit to the Pantheon. And his adventure is still going.

Ferren’s curiosity was allowed to flourish as he was granted a high degree of control over his explorations and observations. And from such foundations of his surrounding adults’ pedagogies (and parenting), he developed deep caring for what he was discovering and learning. From these depths of curiosity, control, and caring, Ferren maintained the persistence and intrinsic motivation that nurtures his continuous inquiry, innovation, and impact.

If there is a “formula” for passionate pursuit of learning and difference making in this world, then I believe this is darn close to it!

Curiosity Tap Root @boadams1


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Just for fun – Aparna Rao: Art that craves your attention

As I watched Aparna Rao: Art that craves your attention, I felt fairly overwhelmed with joy and wonder… and fun.

Over several years, I have somewhat trained myself to ask certain questions as I observe, too:

  1. Where would this “fit” in traditional education?
  2. How would learners be provided space and time to pursue work/play like this?
  3. What about this is consistent/inconsistent with how we have organized and concepted traditional schooling?
  4. What might we learn from this that could spur us to enhance learner experience in formalized school?
  5. What if “school” were more like this?



238 Provocations for School 3.0 – John Maeda’s TEDGlobal 2012 Talk #School3pt0

There are at least 238 provocations for School 3.0 in “John Maeda: How art, technology, and design inform creative leaders.”

I see ideations for such things as form + content, networking diagrams for learning communities, play leading to powerful discovery, and 235 more!

What do you see?

Intent. Design. Creative Process. Teachers as artists of school change. #ASI2012 #MICON12


Last week and the week before, I communed with artists and designers. They invited me into their galleries and studios. At the time, I thought I was attending educational conferences – first Lovett’s American Studies Institute and then The Martin Institute’s 2012 Summer Conference. However, after watching and studying “John Hockenberry: We are all designers,” and after listening to NPR’s TED Radio Hour on “The Creative Process,” I realize that I communed with artists and designers at these phantasmagoria .

In the large-group sessions, I explored galleries of thinking – both from the featured speaker who held stage at that moment and from the co-participants “thinking and designing out loud” on Twitter (#ASI2012 & #MICON12). Through tweets, we talked about art and artists…designs and designers. During the break-out sessions, I literally traversed the museum of art and design in education as I chose to saunter past some works of art so that I could stop and peruse in-depth a particular frame and painting – like Bob Dillon’s “Picture This: How Images Impact the Momentum of Change.”

Our INTENT as educators and teachers is to design moments and experiences, while capitalizing on relationship and curiosity, that light fires in learners’ hearts and minds. We INTEND to stir emotions and motivations, not by filling vessels, but by lighting passions. We paint and sculpt. “We who cut mere stone must always be envisioning cathedrals.” Our lesson plans are blue prints and schematics. Our classes unfolding are jazz riffs and improvisations that can never be experienced again as they were played that day and period.

We are artists and designers.

And we are crowd sourcing. We are gathering as tribes to share our designs and our sketches and our framed pieces. For we intend to change the world – one student at a time, if need be. Our INTENT is to compare palettes and prototypes and to borrow from the masters and apprentices who gather around our conference fires to tell stories and share tales.

Please don’t think me dramatic or histrionic. I believe what I have written above, especially upon re-reading. I am moved by the artists and designers with whom I co-designed and co-created at Lovett and Presbyterian Day School. I see our paints mixing and intermingling as we contemplate and prepare for Teaching for Tomorrow and Connecting Across Disciplines.

Such is why I fear the silo-ing of subjects, disciplines, and departments. What if we don’t design with INTENT so that the colors might mix and re-mix? For we do not teach subjects. We teach people. And our people deserve the richness of infinite colors – mixed and complex.

What do you see as the INTENT of schools and teaching in the next decade and century? “What is school for?” Are you designing and creating such that our works are beautiful pieces of art WHO can inspire the world in the years to come?

Discipline and creativity must synergize, and we should check our INTENT so that we know we are using our limitations to enlighten that which can be possible next (from Abigail Washburn in the TED Radio Hour linked above).

What do you do?

I teach.

Oh, what do you teach?

I teach children.

No, I mean what do you teach?

I teach the curious to paint and design in this world with grand INTENTIONS.

Oh, so you teach art?

Yes, and math, and history, and science, and English, and… I use all the paints because my canvas deserves the infinite possibilities, and I refuse to limit what could be possible. I teach children and adults and learners of all ages. I teach people, and I learn from them far more than I could ever teach them. For they, too, are artists and designers. And I will not steal their dreams.

And what do you do?

Learning to See & Seeing to Learn #Coaching #DBL

My oldest son, PJ, is seven. He loves art, and he sees himself as an artist. According to Dan Pink, in A Whole New Mind, many children grow out of identifying themselves as artists. I hope and pray that PJ always sees himself as an artist. I believe that visual communication and design will only increase in importance as PJ grows up and inherits this world. No matter what he becomes professionally, I believe design and visual communication will be critical as our professional communities address the issues and problems of society.

I possess great hope that PJ will continue to identify as an artist. I possess this hope because PJ has a coach, also named PJ (so I will call her “PJ2”). My son PJ asked if he could take art lessons this year. Thanks to my wife and a good colleague, we were able to find an art teacher – PJ2. PJ2 comes to our home on Tuesdays, and she coaches my son PJ in “learning to see and seeing to learn.” I love this! She is helping him understand the shapes and forms of things. She helped him see the circles, ovals, rectangles, and frowny faces in the frog that my son PJ drew at his first lesson. My son PJ knows circles and rectangles, so he believes that he can do this drawing thing. He is learning to draw what he sees by looking at the whole, breaking it down into parts, and reproducing a creative whole of his own.

At his second lesson, PJ drew this bear and fish. My wife and I are trying hard to follow Carol Dweck’s advice in Mindset and praise the specific, repeatable behaviors that are helping PJ enact his seeing, drawing, and learning. We are trying hard not to say things like, “Wow, you are such a great artist.” It’s really hard not to say such things. I mean look at what he is drawing! A proud dad, I am.

But, I think I am even more proud as an educator than I am as a dad. We all have this capacity within us. We may not all have the interest or passion that lasts, but I believe we all have the capacity. PJ2 is “simply” teaching my son PJ to see what is in front of him. She is coaching him to transform a piece of blank paper into something from the future – his drawing. She is drawing out of him what is already there. She is coaching him to see this capacity in himself. She is practicing educare – to draw forth what lies within. She is coaching him in design thinking.

Recently, a colleague of mine who lives and educates in New York sent me this “Personal Best” article by Atul Gawande from The New Yorker. I am meandering through the article because it is so rich and full of wisdom about COACHING and the teaching profession – all professions, really. I am fascinated that she sent me this article at this moment in time. She and I do not converse or exchange messages at any regularity. But, at the time in which my son PJ is receiving coaching in art, JB sends me this article about coaching and the critical need for more coaching across the board.

I hope you will make time to read the article from The New Yorker, and I hope to write more about learning to see and seeing to learn. For now, I am merely recording some emerging thinking at the crossroads of an article and my son’s personal experience.

Coaching seems the key ingredient. In the article, Gawande describes coaching as “outside eyes and ears.” These coaching insights help us to see the future of what we can do and become. We need coaches. We need to be coaches. Coaches may be the central ingredient to schools making the transformation that faces us now in this 21st century. Coaching can help us see what is possible. Coaches can guide our processes of learning to see and seeing to learn. Coaching is more akin to what I hope to do next professionally.

May we all retain the childish belief that we are artists. May we all work diligently to repeat endlessly that word which Robert Fulghum described as the first real verbal magic of childhood: “LOOK!” May we lead from the future to transform blank canvas into beautiful works of art. The capacity to do so is in us all – if we will learn to see and see to learn.

Thanks to the visionaries and coaches!