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?”]

Monday morning ideation – imagining the future of schools and schools of the future #WhatIfWeekly

Three idea seeds from my weekend “studying”…

1. What if we developed “nutrition info” for our school courses? Looking at an egg crate this weekend, I wondered why we don’t have something like this for our courses in schools? How might we develop guides for the 7Cs that could accompany a course description and indicate to folks what’s actually in the content-and-skills meal that one’s about to partake in?

2. What if we understood capital-P PBL as futebol de salão? Reading Farnam Street, I learned about a game credited with developing the soft skills of young Brazilian soccer players.

This insanely fast, tightly compressed five-on-five version of the game— played on a field the size of a basketball court— creates 600 percent more touches, demands instant pattern recognition and, in the words of Emilio Miranda, a professor of soccer at the University of São Paulo, serves as Brazil’s “laboratory of improvisation.”

For students working on real-life problems in a curriculum more balanced toward challenges and contexts, instead of so content-centric, they could be developing such soft skills for problem finding and problem solving in comparable improvisation labs for applying their interrelated subjects of math, science, English, history, etc.

3. What if we devised ways for personal learning, like Susan Solomon describes medicine is developing personal drug treatments? Listening to the TED talk “Susan Solomon: The promise of research with stem cells.” I was struck by this part of the transcript:

But it isn’t really enough just to look atthe cells from a few people or a small group of people,because we have to step back.We’ve got to look at the big picture.Look around this room. We are all different,and a disease that I might have,if I had Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease,it probably would affect me differently than ifone of you had that disease,and if we both had Parkinson’s disease,and we took the same medication,but we had different genetic makeup,we probably would have a different result,and it could well be that a drug that worked wonderfullyfor me was actually ineffective for you,and similarly, it could be that a drug that is harmful for youis safe for me, and, you know, this seems totally obvious,but unfortunately it is not the waythat the pharmaceutical industry has been developing drugsbecause, until now, it hasn’t had the tools.

And so we need to move awayfrom this one-size-fits-all model.The way we’ve been developing drugs is essentiallylike going into a shoe store,no one asks you what size you are, orif you’re going dancing or hiking.They just say, “Well, you have feet, here are your shoes.”It doesn’t work with shoes, and our bodies aremany times more complicated than just our feet.So we really have to change this.

Too much of formalized education in schools seems targeted to the mean…or overly generalized, so that many experience something comparable to the shoe store that says, “Well, you have feet, here are your shoes.” With the advances in technology and brain research, how might we design personal learning, like Solomon describes designing personal drug treatment?