Great quotes from ‘Play’

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Tara Brabazon’s new edited book Play, which I recently reviewed, has some terrific insights about teaching and learning. Here are just a few of my favourite quotes:

– “Teachers, one could easily state a case for, are the ultimate designers – every day they orchestrate the environment to optimize candidate learning, to create conditions for inquiring, collaborating, questioning, and playing.” (From Linda Charko, Cameron Fraser, Don Jones, and Umar Keoni Umangay’s chapter).

– “[I]t is in everyone’s interest to help teachers find joy in their work. So teachers must strive in whatever ways they can to own their teaching so that each morning they can enter their classrooms knowing there will be golden opportunities for them – as well as for their students – to experience the joy in school.” (From Steven Wolk’s Joy in School, quoted by the authors listed above)

– Today’s new orientation to knowledge “moves away from understandings of knowledge as fixed, stable and something that exists ‘out there’ waiting to be discovered. Instead knowledge now needs to be configured as ‘networked expertise,’ generated and created in collaborative spaces not in individual heads. As such, knowledge becomes active, a verb, something we do rather than something we have.” (From Jae Major and Alison Ayrton’s chapter)

– “Becoming a teacher is a dream for many and a privilege for a few. Educating the next generation is an occupation of profound significance” and “While our senses are drawn to the familiar, the role of teaching and learning is to stretch our perspective and perception.” (From two of Tara Brabazon’s chapters)

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Mastering the mind

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quote_painted_iyanla_master_your_mindAin’t it the truth. The quote above comes from a recent episode of Iyanla: Fix My Life.

It’s not the first time Iyanla Vanzant has talked about the importance of mastering the mind. On an episode of Arise Entertainment 360 (in 2014), she commented that the mind is like a puppy. If left untrained, the mind “runs all over; it eats your socks; it humps your guests; it chews the ends off your furniture; it pees on the carpet. So, think of the mind like a little puppy. You’ve got to train it. The mind can be trained to believe good things, to create good things, to do good things.”

[Post title updated on 27/11/2016]

Creativity tips from the “finest minds”

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creativity_insights_from_bafta_guru(Above: a screenshot from the BAFTA Guru web-page)

In a recent book chapter, I outlined tips for enhancing creativity drawn from comments made by some of “the finest minds working in the film, TV and games industries” featured in BAFTA’s Guru initiative. These professionals included production designers, actors and screenwriters (like Julie Walters, John Stevenson, Keira Knightley and Reece Shearsmith).

So, what were some of the creative tips that I synthesised from these brilliant brains?

They included:

– Honing personal qualities like self-confidence and trust in one’s instincts
– Learning to recognise when to be spontaneous and when to prepare thoroughly
– Breaking rules and deliberately undertaking new challenges
– Recognising when to use external stimuli and when to look inward for inspiration (potentially through isolation)
– Developing skills like listening and empathising (in recognising that creativity is often collaborative)
– Giving fellow collaborators freedom, but also challenging them in supportive ways

[Post updated 28/09/16]

Little white lies = big lies to yourself

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Quote_Oprah_White_LiesThis oh-so-true life lesson comes from a discussion between Oprah and Ali MacGraw. The prompt for this terrific insight was another terrific insight from their conversation: “White lies are, really, big lies to yourself”. Yes, indeed: whenever we agree to do something we know we don’t want to do – thereby telling a white lie – we betray ourselves. As Oprah points out, “there are no white lies to yourself”.

[Post updated 23/09/2016 and 28/09/2016)

Winners on winning teachers

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Many of the world’s most exceptional minds owe their talent to exceptional teachers. The official website of the Nobel Prizes has posted a series of short videos on its homepage featuring “Nobel Laureates about their Teachers – Heroes behind Past, Present, and Future Nobel Prizes”.

These “heroes” have helped the laureates in different ways. Some (as in Oliver Smithies’ case) inspired them. Others (like Malala Yousafzai’s) taught them to believe in themselves and be brave.

Two videos feature anecdotes about particularly wonderful teachers.

When Martinus Veltman did his final high school exam, one of his educators cycled to the other end of town and told his student’s parents that he should study tertiary-level physics. Without this generous act, the laureate says, he would not have ended up receiving a Nobel Prize.

One of Eric Kandel’s high school teachers (John Campagna) encouraged him to apply for admission to Harvard University. However, his parents could not afford to pay for the application. “And so I told that to Mr Campagna,” the laureate says, “and he gave me the money to apply to Harvard.”

Image from NobelPrize.Org

Fully valuing failure

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Quote by Rob Yeung on failure

A few weeks ago, I posted some insights from Rob Yeung’s (exceptional) book E is for Exceptional. I couldn’t resist adding one more excellent quote: “Failure is rarely final and almost never fatal.”

This terrific observation reminds me of the advice to ‘fail forward’ (coined by John C. Maxwell).

It also calls up J. K. Rowling’s remarks about the value of failure. Rowling, giving her Harvard Commencement Address (now in book form, published as Very Good Lives), told graduates: “The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive.” This knowledge, she added, “is a true gift, for all that is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I’ve ever earned”.

Flying Kangaroo-style service

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Qantas has released a beautiful new series of videos showcasing its employees. I think these clips capture servant leadership even better than the airline’s last series. These are some of my favourite quotes from the ‘Flying Kangaroo’s’ staff that could just as easily apply to teaching:

– “Go hard, or go home”, “We’re going to get this job done” and “Look forward to the next one” (Baggage Handler George Fountoulakis);

– “It’s a human journey every time, and that’s why it’s so special” (A330 captain Egon Mahr);

– “I always hold myself accountable for the work that I do. Would I be comfortable with my friends and family flying on that aircraft [or being in my classroom]? And the answer is yes, every time” (Engineer Rachel Bacon); and

– “It’s all about the people. Everyone has different needs” and “At the end of the day, it’s all about the customer, and their needs, and making sure they’re happy” (Lounge Host Jennifer Catalano).

Exceptional insights

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E_is_for_exceptionalHow do high achievers become successful? Rob Yeung provides some clues in his book E is for Exceptional (originally published as The Extra One Per Cent). Among my favourite teaching- and learning-related insights from this great publication are:

– the notion that learning is about “experiencing new topics in eclectic ways”;

– the point that high achievers engage in critical practice (i.e. they make time to work out how to do things better);

– the idea that we always need to ‘fail forward’ by actively learning from errors and failures; as Yeung reminds us: “Exceptional people see blunders and failures as feedback, [as] constructive criticism”;

– the comment that “[t]o help younger generations prepare, we must ensure they enjoy learning. … Stuffing knowledge into their heads isn’t the same as inspiring them to learn for the rest of their lives. Rather than simply teaching them, we must encourage them to find the answers themselves”;

– the observation that “people buy people” (courtesy of Johnny Roxburgh): a reminder of the importance of relating to, and serving, others; and

– Amy Wrzesniewski’s finding that some (successful) people are able to engage in ‘job-crafting’: “redesigning their own jobs in ways to make them feel more fulfilled”.

Many, many more such gems abound in the book.

Choosing to learn everywhere, from everyone and everything

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Quote_painted_Oprah_Winfrey_use_your_life_as_a_class

“Use your life as a class.” This short but incisive piece of advice is one of my favourites from Oprah’s Master Class series. There are lessons to be learnt, at all times, from all of our experiences, from each encounter with each person, and from everything we read, watch and hear: provided we are willing to choose to learn from life consciously, actively, continually.

This idea brings to mind Tom Bodett’s nice little quote: “The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

It also reminds me of Dr Phil’s insight from a Lifeclass episode that if you learn from a mistake, “it at least becomes tuition”. (Some other great Dr Phil-isms appear, below, in the clip from that episode.)

Testing across time

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How have individuals been assessed throughout history? What will tests look like in the future? Patrick Griffin, from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, answered both of these questions in his recent thought-provoking presentation at the University of Melbourne.

Particularly interesting points for me included:

– The discussion of Dr. Knox’s Cube Test
– The remark that it is possible to develop multiple choice tests that assess deep learning or deep knowledge
– The statement that, in a multiple choice test, “very few answers are the result of a random guess”
– The notion that the three Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic) were essential for education in the industrial age, but in the information age, it will be the four Cs: collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking
– Findings from a study by The Economist that “problem solving, teaming working and communication skills are the skills that are currently most in demand in the workplace”, but that “education systems are not providing enough of the skills that students and the workplace need”
– The suggestion that assessment in the future will be: in-formative, interactive, internet-based, interventionist, and give instant feedback

I also loved Patrick’s anecdote about the road-tests that he and a colleague used to do of a particular set of multiple-choice exams: “Nathan and I used to do much of the analysis of the tests for the College of Surgeons and also for the College of Obstetrics. You’d be very, very pleased to know that I and Nathan could each pass the test because we could work out how to eliminate many of the questions by just a sheer knowledge of the way in which the questions were worded.”