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?”]

Walking Myself and My Dog to School, or Braiding NPR and a Cup of Joe

I’ve gone back to school. Well, at the very least, you might say that I am enrolled in a course. In some places, one might see the class title listed as “Multitasking 101.” In other catalogs, one might discover the course name as “Mornings with Lucy.” Or, it might make the board as “Mix-alot Podcasts and a Cup o’ Joe.” You see, I’m not sure what to call the class – I am designing it myself. Here’s the backbone of the offering:

  • Task #1: In the early morning, I take my pointer-hound mix on a walk. Her name is Lucy, and her whole body wags in anticipation. If I weren’t fearful of pulling some infrequently used muscle, I might wag my whole body, too. I love our walks, and we modulate between a stroll and a mild cantor for 30-90 minutes.
  • Task #2: I enjoy a travel mug of house-brewed coffee. Leash in one hand, mug in the other.
  • Task #3: Listen to a podcast on my iPhone. I have this great set of comfortable ear phones. Beats they are not. I think they cost $9.99 at Target, but they wrap ergonomically around my ear and provide some extraordinary listening pleasure.

All three task-strands weave together to make quite a braid. A bit of cardio in the pre-sunrise hours, a socially-accepted stimulant that thrills the tastebuds, time with my beloved, four-legged companion, and a chance to listen and think. Shear bliss. And not the ignorance is bliss kind, either. Real bliss.

A few weeks ago, at a workshop, a co-participant alluded to some research that claims that multitasking damages our IQs. I think my month long experiment could do some damage to this claim. I believe my IQ has increased during this morning line-braiding. I haven’t even tripped or mis-stepped, but, mind you, I haven’t added chewing gum to the equation. That would be the honors level course, I feel certain.

What am I listening to? What’s on the ear-syllabi? Here’s a smattering:

TED Radio Hour on NPR

Planet Money

This American Life

While enjoying this morning syllabus of self-directed learning for the past month, I am also re-reading Michael Michalko’s Creative Thinkering, which tackles as its thesis the nature of creativity to be the combining and integrating of seemingly unrelated things. So, as I walk Lucy, drink my coffee, and listen to the chosen podcast(s) of the day, I play some of the games and thought experiments listed in Michalko’s work – I try to find and create connections among what I am listening to and what I have listened to in the past. I try to think of Education and Schooling through the lenses of the morning listening. For instance, I have wondered lately how School is like the health care issue, I have wondered how School is like the economic crises in Europe, and I have re-imagined Education through the lenses of many of the interwoven TED talks on the TED Radio Hour.

I am having a blast, and I am learning a ton. I wonder…What if we built in such self-directed discovery into the typical school week or school day? Minus the coffee of course. I just don’t know how I feel about kids drinking coffee. Do we allow for, support, and create enough space and time for young learners to decide on their own paths of schooling? Do we empower them to weave in these lessons with what they are directed to learn in school? How can self-directed learning methods inform the ways we think about and structure schools of the future? How are we hybridizing what school has been and what school could be? Are we rotating our crops and fields so that we continue producing good (brain)food? [Okay, that metaphor just jumped in from nowhere, but Michalko has encouraged me not to backspace out those thoughts while I am thinking.]

Have a good “walk” today! Where are you going to school? What are you learning? How are you multitasking and thinking creatively? I would love to read or listen to what you have to share!