TTI Mission: Change the World – One Kid at a Time!

“It’s an opportunity to create the future he wants to live in,” said his sponsor, David Sengeh, PhD Student at the MIT Media Lab. “For many years Sierra Leone and many other African countries received aid, but it does not necessarily get us anywhere. We’re not looking into the future, we’re not designing our own future. Unless we have a host of young people who can think at any given point ‘Here is a challenge. Here is a problem, but it’s an opportunity to solve it’ there won’t be a state of growth in national development.”

kelvinDoeCollage

Every once in a while, you come across something that makes you stop and think… As I watched this video as few years ago, I knew without a doubt what we are doing here at Innovation Academy is more than just great summer tech camps and engaging STEM classes. It’s more than just the cool factor or the thrill of presenting at conferences.

It’s about developing innovation in students and inspiring them to be like THIS kid who used everything available in his environment to explore his curiosity and improve his community. It’s about giving students the tools they need to create and invent and become all God designed them to be, and from there, to change their world… to change OUR world. At Innovation Academy, we believe innovation and world change is important, and we are spreading the enthusiasm. Sierra Leone may be thousands of miles away, but we have students right here in our own neighborhoods who, if given access to the right tools and mentoring by someone who cares, will change the world too. Isn’t that worth investing in? Ask us how!


15-Yr-Old Kelvin Doe Wows M.I.T.
 

Persistent Experimentation: Kelvin Doe at TEDxTeen
 
Learn more about who we are, what we do, and what other people say about us, and then let us know how we can help you make your ideas come to life!
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Good SAT scores are the key to success, right? Not Really!

If you are concerned about how to prepare your teenager for the harsh realities of life after high school, you are not alone.  There’s test prep.  Keeping up the grades.  Extracurricular activities.  And somewhere, a social life.  

Yet studies have shown that SAT scores aren’t a good predictor of future success.  Grades are also an iffy predictor for success, according to Google’s hiring team.  These assertions are disconcerting for parents like me who love to see those “A’s” on the report card.  How can I make sure my kids are ready for the world they are inheriting?

Is there a cheat sheet for the most important things teens need to know?

Fortunately, there is.

In an interview with the VP for Operations of an aerospace company, we discussed this exact topic.  I wanted to know how to help young students to find their way to success.  Scott Glaser oversees the flight operations for his company, and his answers about success may surprise you.  Here is the list he gave me.

Keys to create a successful life

  • Chase your goals, because course corrections keep you aimed.

  • Invest in relationships, because success is about people.

  • Prepare to fail often, because success isn’t easy to create.

  • Feed passion, because success needs fuel.

  • Commit to life-long curiosity, because it fuels your skills.

 

To hear more of the interview with Scott, you can listen to it here.

 

 

References

I tried to track down some definitive answers about test scores, grades, and overall academics, but I mostly found a mixed bag.  At the end of the day, the list above will serve both students and young professionals as they move into careers.

  • http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/business/in-head-hunting-big-data-may-not-be-such-a-big-deal.html
  • http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=1071921
  • http://www.medicaldaily.com/high-school-gpa-strongly-predicts-future-income-and-later-well-being-283304
  • https://www.ets.org/s/workforce_readiness/pdf/rm_12_23.pdf
  • http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/study-finds-high-sat-act-scores-might-not-spell-success/

 

 

Think teens only know how to work an iPhone? Watch This!

These are candid videos of teens caught doing amazing things during Engineering Camp.  Listen to these students describing what they have been doing.  Lots of experimentation.  Lots of learning.

 

 

These guys built the world’s coolest “Hello World” program:

 

They modified the program even further, and this is what they had to show the audience during their project exhibitions.

 

Major 3D design and 3D printing innovation for the interplanetary ship docking challenge:

 

Amazing electronic wizardry.  These guys were creating wireless communication between the two blue boards.  They managed to make it work despite interruptions from a persistent little brother!

 

This young man is an inspiration.  He’s describing an algorithm on blue tape that they then translated into computer code:

 

This is the result when they ran the autonomous docking program in front of an audience.  Impressive!

 

Our students focus on process learning rather than outcomes learning. Even though there may be lots of false starts, the end product is a deeper understanding of the subject.

 

 

8 Startling Truths about Teens

One night not too long ago your dear, sweet child went to sleep in their safe little bed.  But during the night the Teenager Fairy flew in the window and sprinkled pixie dust around the room.  In the morning your radiant ray of sunshine had been replaced by a moody teenager!

I remember that transition quite clearly for each of my older children.  One day they are helpful and kind, and the next they are temperamental and stubborn.

Or are adolescents really as insufferable as we paint them?

I’d like to help you reframe the image of your teenager.  Those annoying behaviors they have are really quite necessary and part of a much bigger destiny.  Teens receive quite a bit of bad press, but let’s follow them on a journey to see what’s really happening.

Think back to your own childhood and remember those fun days at the end of childhood.  Those were good times:  kicking soccer balls, running on the playground, and going to friend’s houses to hatch big plans.  Then one day, your body started changing.  You didn’t ask it to grow bumps in funny places or get acne or revolt on you, but it did anyway.  Everything started to go crazy, but where could you go?  It was YOUR body doing these things to you.

Like it or not, a quest had begun.  If you had wise parents or family friends, they gave you bits of wisdom about how to navigate the tempestuous seas of adolescence, but in the end, you had to face the storm on your own to find your own answers.

BUT…

What if someone had told you about all those hormones and what they meant?  What if all those unpredictable things were quite predictable…  AND desirable?

Let’s take a closer look at the HORMONES and transformation taking place in your child.

Hormone Surge

During adolescence, there is a significant rise in hormonal activity for both genders as the body begins to change.  Estrogen and Testosterone begin to flow in massive quantities causing the body to change and grow.  Teens need this surge in hormones to grow an adult-sized body for adult-sized dreams and ambitions.  

Why? Because a quest always requires strength and physical prowess!

Oxytocin Modulation

As the estrogen and testosterone steroids begin to circulate in the blood stream, they modulate another crucial hormone:  oxytocin.  This change in oxytocin urges them to find new friends.  Teenagers are actually hardwired to find new friends as oxytocin causes them to make new attachments.  

Why? Because every good quest needs a fellowship!

Reward Cycle Shift

Inside of our brain is a circuit known as a “Reward Cycle”.  Whenever we do a task that pleases us, our brain sends a little “great job” reward called dopamine.  Dopamine is like your own personal, natural high and functions similarly in childhood and adulthood.  However, it is down-regulated during adolescence, causing the individual to seek bigger rewards to get the same high as they did when they were kids.  The result?  Teens seek out much bigger risks, new situations, and more fun.  

Why? Because every quest will require risk!

Maximum Gray Matter

Every human is born with 100 Billion neurons.  If they were pennies, they would cover a city almost the size of Hartford, CT, or wrap around world almost 50 times!  Those neurons immediately begin to massively connect to each other when we are born, and by 2-3 years old they are more connected than at any other time in your life.  Then the circuits that aren’t used are slowly trimmed away while others which are used continue to grow.  

Upon entering adolescence, the teenager has the most gray matter they will ever have during their life, and the combined computing power of one human brain with its several hundred Trillion connections and 1000’s of chemical synapse switches gives the teenage mind more circuits than all the transistors in every piece of electronics in the world (computers, servers, and cell phones included)!  

Why? Because you have to be Wicked Smart to go on a quest!

Optimistic Risk Assessment

Decisions always have pros and cons.  Whenever our mind is called upon to render a judgment on a situation, we tend to tally up the positive and negative outcomes by putting them on a scale:  positives on one side and negatives on the other.  Both children and adults use this kind of logic.  

However as you might have suspected, teenager brains do things a little differently.  The teenage brain puts all the positives on one side and all the negatives on the other side of the scale just like they always did.  Then their brain does something interesting.  It adds a little more weight to the positive side–on purpose.  Teens know they are doing this, but they just can’t help it.  

Why? Because every quest needs hope–lots of hope.

Nimble Neurons

Inside of a child’s brain, those neurons have dendrites running around in the brain like wires with important signals running every which way.  To learn the most and get the most connections, those wires are mostly unimpeded, but that also means the wires aren’t coated very well.  

As adolescence comes on, the brain begins to protect the important circuits with something called myelin which is like an electrical coating on the wire.  When this happens the signals on the wire can go 100 times faster and also that the signals can be sent 30 times more often which means that the communications in the brain speed up 100 x 30 = 3000 times!  The teenage brain’s internal communication is 3000 times faster. 

Why? Because the hero has to be Wicked Fast on a quest!

Exploring Identity

As your child begins to make the transition into adolescence, you probably noticed them pulling away sometimes.  They need their own space more often.  Usually, they prefer to spend time with their friend than with family.  This can be painful at home, but it is very necessary.  

Psychologists call this process “differentiation”, but that’s just a fancy word for identity–becoming ourselves instead of our parents.  Teens take many cues and habits from their family, but in the end, they will leave to take their own quest.  They need to test themselves against the world and find their own superpower.  

Why? Because a quest is really about finding out who you are!

Significant Brain Plasticity

The child’s brain is rapidly growing and changing.  This process is known as “plasticity” or the ability to be changed and reformed.  Learning about the world is a complex task requiring lots of changes along the way as life throws us curve balls, but as the teenage brain begins to myelinate, the plasticity slows a little to give them stability.  However, the adolescent still has much more plasticity than an adult.  They are in this unique place where their thinking is becoming more stable and reliable, but when needed, it can still make significant adaptations beyond what an adult brain is capable of handling.  

Why? Because every quest requires creativity and adaptability!

When your teenager completes this quest through the wilds of adolescence, they have been on a quest to find purpose, themselves, and significance. They return as much more than they began, and it is all necessary in order for the quest to succeed!

Carpe Diem!

 

 

092 – Multidisciplinary Projects with Zack Dowell

Multidisciplinary Projects with Zack Dowell

There is also value in blowing minds. It’s not as easily quantifiable, but it is, ultimately, a more human measure and a more predictive measure of whether people are learning. -Zack Dowell

dowell_headshot_edit

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[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • Can a fish be trained like a dog?

  • Can a school project be both art and science as well as entertainment and curiosity?

  • How do we bring engagement back to the classroom?

    Today’s podcast will grab you by the ears and entertain them all the way through.

Welcome to the Table Top Inventing Online Radio Show. Every week we interview successful individuals from across the career spectrum and share their stories. We want parents and educators to learn the tools they need to get and keep the interest and curiosity of teenagers.

Zack Dowell_Table Top Inventing Podcast

Today’s guest is a special treat. Zack Dowell knows how to have fun and learn at the same time. He’s sort of a professional at it. He’s currently working on the most fun project!

This project involves several departments across his campus: math, science, engineering, computer science, theater arts, and Zack is planning to recruit sociology and psychology as well. What kind of a project could capture the interest of so many different kinds of people?

Keep listening, and I’ll let Zack tell you.

Every now and then I have a guest that “Nerd Snipes” me. The term “Nerd Sniping” is from the XKCD cartoons, funny but somewhat irreverent. Essentially, today’s episode grabbed the nerd inside me, and I got a little excited.

Projects like the one Zack is working on are a perfect example of the kind of learning we seek and value at Table Top Inventing. If you want your kids to be exposed to more fun and interesting applications of technology that capture the imagination, let’s talk. Visit our website, ttinvent.com, and find out how we can connect. Kids need inspiration, and we love to provide it–just like Zack is doing at Folsom Lake College.

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

Click here to go to the top of the page

Guest Bio

 Zack is on the faculty at Folsom Lake College, where he runs the  college’s Innovation Center, providing training, resources and energy  to assist faculty and staff in the development of innovative approaches  to teaching and learning. 

A primary focus of the Innovation Center is Making Across the  Curriculum, an effort to help faculty from a variety of disciplines  integrate the ethos, tools, and techniques of making into their practice.

Zack is a lifelong tinkerer, maker, circuit bender, musician and  gardener, and is happiest when helping others manifest their ideas in  the service of learning, and when bouldering, rock climbing,  snowboarding, and whitewater kayaking.

Zack Dowell_Table Top Inventing Podcast

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Zack Dowell_Table Top Inventing Podcast

Zack’s Favorite Quotes

 “A.B.P. ­ Always Be Prototyping.” ­I’m not sure who coined this phrase,  but it has changed my approach to almost everything, and is central to  my work with faculty. 


 “Start your own band, paint your own picture, write your own book!”  ­Mike Watt


 “Everything is made.  Everything is in the making.  Nothing is finished,  nothing was not made.  This is astonishing and worth lingering on.  The  mountains, your hands, the stars, laws, social movements ­ all made  and all on­going.  When we speak of making it is worth sensing how  big and remarkable an action we are discussing.” ­-
Iain Kerr (Director of Creative Practices at the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at  Montclair State University) 


 “Your hands are like dogs, going to the same places they’ve been. You  have to be careful when playing is no longer in the mind but in the  fingers, going to happy places. You have to break them of their habits  or you don’t explore; you only play what is confident and pleasing.”  ­Tom Waits

Favorite Teachers

Mrs. Dochterman, in fourth grade, saved me and helped set me on the path of becoming a teacher. Paul Sparks, PhD helped to refocus my energy and in doing so, changed the course of my life.

Something Zack Made Recently

I just finished a drip aquaponics system combining recycled plastic bottles and open source 3D printed nozzles.

Something Zack Learned Recently

I learned how to calibrate pH and conductivity sensors for use with Arduino, using solutions with known pH and conductivity values.

Additional Notes

Connect with Zack:

Additional Links:

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Text Transcript Coming Soon!

There is also value in blowing minds. It’s not as easily quantifiable, but it is, ultimately, a more human measure and a more predictive measure of whether people are learning. -Zack Dowell

Zack Dowell_Table Top Inventing Podcast

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088 – Designing Success with Tracy Hazzard

Designing Success with Tracy Hazzard

My 7 year old is already starting to 3D print, and I believe an introduction to 3D printing is required in every classroom. It’s not a technology we can just ignore… I believe this is one of the technologies girls will love, and that’s one of the things that drives me. –Tracy Hazzard

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TracyLHazzard_Table Top Inventing Podcast

[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • How does a young lady pursuing a career in biogenetics find herself a successful artist?

  • How can a small company file a lawsuit against a huge company without getting crushed?

  • How do you fall in love with 3D printing after avowing never to use it?

The stories behind these curious juxtapositions are waiting for you in today’s podcast.

Welcome to the Table Top Inventing podcast. I am Steve Kurti, aka “the Mad Scientist”, and I’m pretty jazzed about something that happened this last week.

We just finished up our first Inventor Camp of 2016 in Apple Valley, CA, last Thursday, but on Wednesday while we were in full swing, I had the coolest thing happen.

One of the challenges this year involves binary numbers, byte conversions, and ASCII tables. If you’re a techno geek, you’ll get those references, but if you’re not, those are terms for how the data moves around in your computer, cell phone, and the internet. I wanted the kids to see under the hood so-to-speak and see that things aren’t really as mysterious as they seem.

I was talking to Lilli and Trevor who were tasked with programming up a little solution for encoding letters and numbers into binary, and Lilli was telling me about how her program worked. She was pretty excited that she could look at the 8-bit represented by the LED lights and look up the letter on a chart.

I turned to Trevor to ask him if he knew what they needed to do next. He answered,

“Yup. I’ll get to that in a minute, but right now…

MY BRAIN IS ON FIRE!”

It was so awesome and so funny, I had a fit of laughter on the spot. That is what I love to see: Kids with their imagination on fire. 

3D HazzDesign Girl_Table Top Inventing PodcastToday’s guest, Tracy Hazzard, also loves to see kids with their imagination on fire. Tracy is the CEO of Hazz Design Consulting, a design company headquartered in Orange County, CA. Let’s find out how Tracy is igniting the imagination. 

Tracy said my favorite phrase “Successful Failure”. We have a dozen different ways to say this same thing: “failing forward”, “Failure is the first step to success”, and a host of others. The basic idea is to stop being so afraid of being wrong or of making a mistake along the way.

Anything big requires learning, and true learning always starts by being bad at something before being really good at it. If you want your kids to experience “successful failure”, check out Inventor Camp at TTInvent.com.

Let’s Ignite more Imagination.

 

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

Click here to go to the top of the page

Guest Bio

 Tracy Hazzard is CEO of design firm Hazz Design and co-­designer of  250+ consumer products bought everyday generating almost $1 billion  for her clients. Through her Inc. magazine column, By Design she  pushes companies of all sizes to strategically and tactically design in  success and accelerate business growth through innovation. Tracy co­hosts the WTFFF?! 3D Printing Podcast, the start point for the next  industrial revolution. hazzdesign_Table Top Inventing Podcast

Tracy has a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in Textile Design and has worked directly for Malcolm Baldridge award-winning companies like Milliken & Herman Miller as well as consulted with or developed designs in the US, Europe, Canada and Asia for well-known brands like Martha Stewart Living and Costco. Her expertise has been featured in magazines such as Working Woman, Wired, Interiors and Fortune Small Business, as well as authored articles on color and design featured in ICON and Archi-Tech magazines.

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hazzard_soCal Maker Con_Table Top Inventing Podcast
Additional Notes

Connect with Tracy:

Additional Links:

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Favorite Quote

“Hope is not a plan.”

Teacher

Ms. Mauthe ­ she was the first Ms. I ever came in contact with and the  first woman I knew who flew planes. Interestingly enough though, it  was a painting of her in an art class that only occurred once a month  that showed my potential in art and design. 

Make

We make things every day ­right now we are working on educational  examples of the potential for 3d printed products that don’t look like  plastic junk.

Learn

I am bolstering my selling skills through a book and on­line course  called Velocity Selling. We have to sell ourselves, our projects and our  wares every day, so why not be great at it? 

 

087 – Games and Politics with Jay Obernolte

Games and Politics with Jay Obernolte

If there’s one message [about learning to be more social], it’s that anyone can do it. It’s an acquired skill… I’m proof positive of that. –Jay Obernolte

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087 - Jay Obernolte-Table Top Inventing Podcast

[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • What is it like to write a video game from code in a printed book?

  • Can techie kids learn to have good people skills?

  • How does a computer game programmer become a politician?

You’ll have to listen to today’s episode to learn the answers to these fascinating questions.

Hi, this is Steve, “The Mad Scientist” Kurti, and today’s guest on the Table Top Inventing podcast is a first for us. We’ve had game-changing researchers, game-changing teachers, game-changing investors, and other game-changers on our podcast including other programmers.

obernolte_campaign0717_editHowever, we’ve yet to have a game-writing politician. Today’s guest has experience as a programmer and coder right down to the assembly language level, but he has also started a small company and has now crossed over into the world of politics.

As a tech person myself, I was curious what would drive a successful programmer and business owner to step into the political arena. The path is an interesting one as always.

Let’s welcome our first public servant to the podcast, California Assemblyman, Jay Obernolte.

Jay mentioned my favorite concept on the podcast toward the end: life-long-learning. I have always wondered what causes someone to leave a successful career to try something new, but learning and trying something new is a great reason in my book. As a perpetual learner myself, I am always interested in challenging my skills against some new idea or task.

I also understand what Jay said about moving from coding into managing people. My personal experience with starting a business has hit multiple roadblocks as I try to navigate how to understand the social world of marketing. Tech folks like us often choose computers, engineering, or science because at some level it is simpler to understand than people.

However, there is no shortcut in life to success that doesn’t include learning to have great relationships. That’s why in our Inventor Camps we always have students work in teams and show off their work at the end. Talking to other teammates and presenting our work to others are crucial skills for any professional in today’s world.

Subscribe to the Table Top Inventing podcast to hear stories of other world-changers to equip yourself and your teens for the rowdy world of innovation.

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

Click here to go to the top of the page

Guest Bio

Jay has over 25 years of private sector experience as one of the nation’s leading high-tech innovators and has served as a public servant for nearly a decade. His unique background led to his selection as the Assistant Republican Leader of Innovation and the New Economy. In this capacity, Jay serves as the leading voice of the Assembly Republican Caucus on policy goals that encourage growth and opportunity within California’s vibrant innovation economy.

As a junior in high school, Jay discovered his passion for computers while creating his first commercial computer program. Jay earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech where he also founded his business out of his dorm room. He went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Artificial Intelligence at UCLA. Today his company, FarSight Studios, employs 25 local residents and develops video game technology for Sony, Microsoft, and Apple.

As a public servant, Jay was first elected to the Board of the Big Bear City Airport in 2005 where he served three terms as President. In 2010 he was elected to the Big Bear City Council and was elected Mayor in 2013 and 2014. Jay also served as Chairman of the Big Bear Lake Fire Protection Board and a member of the Big Bear Fire Authority. Regionally, Jay has served as a Director on the Mojave Desert and Mountain Integrated Waste JPA Board, the Mountain Area Regional Transit Authority Board, and on the League of California Cities Desert-Mountain Division. In November 2014, Jay was elected to represent the 33rd Assembly District.

In addition to Jay’s dedication to public service, he has a number of other interests including martial arts and aviation. He holds a fifth-degree black belt and believes martial arts instills the virtues of discipline, hard work, and mental fortitude. Jay has also flown light aircraft for 24 years. He has an Airline Transport Pilot’s license—the highest category of pilot license—and volunteers with the Veteran’s Airlift Command to provide transportation to injured and disabled veterans.

He and his wife Heather have two sons, Hale and Troy, and have made the 33rd Assembly District their home for 19 years.

Jay Obernolte-Table Top Inventing Podcast

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Jay Obernolte-Victor Valley College-Table Top Inventing Podcast

Additional Notes


Connect with Jay
:

Additional Links: 

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Text Transcript Coming Soon!

“If you ever get home at the end of the day and think, ‘I really didn’t learn anything today,’ then maybe it’s time for you to think about doing things where you will learn… because I think we all have an obligation to be the best that we ourselves can be.” –Jay Obernolte


“If there’s one message [about learning to be more social], it’s that anyone can do it. It’s an acquired skill… I’m proof positive of that.” –Jay Obernolte

 

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Just a Minute, My Brain is on Fire!

A few weeks ago we finished our first Inventor Camp of the year.  The first Inventor Camp of the year is always a little intense.
 
I’m guilty of raising the level of the challenge yet again.  Last year, we asked the students to do more complex wiring than we had in the past (see below for a description of the past few challenges).
 
This year I stretched the students yet a little further.
 
During camp, a couple of students and I were having a conversation about binary and how bits can represent a byte and how that can be transmitted over a wire or through the air.  The young lady then proceeded to show me how her program lit up 8 LEDs to represent a byte of ASCII data and what character she was currently displaying.
 Brain On Fire 01_750px
I asked if they understood what they needed to do next, and the young gentleman next to her said,
 
“Yup.  I’ll get to that in a minute…
 
RIGHT NOW, MY BRAIN IS ON FIRE!”
 
I can appreciate how he felt.  I had that same experience while I was talking to Peter Skillen during our podcast interview.  Peter has been a forward thinking educator for years, and he’s still pushing people’s buttons and limits.  If you need a little fire this week, subscribe and listen to his episode:
 
Let’s light more imaginations on fire,
Steve
 
PS – Here’s that little overview I promised of what we’ve done at Inventor Camp the past few years.
  • In Year 1, the students used two sensors together with a good mechanical design to stop an intruder from taking a Top Secret device.  They had to program the Arduino microprocessor to recognize the input from each sensor and interpret the signal to create an artificially intelligent security system.
  • In Year 2, the students had to make one of the two sensors into a proximity alert and the other into a red alert.  They had to program the Arduino microprocessor to recognize the input from each sensor and interpret the signal to create an artificially intelligent security system.
  • In Year 3 (last year),the students connected an H-bridge amplifier between the Arduino microprocessor and a motor because the microprocessor has current-limited output.  They also integrated one sensor as in past years to decide when to stop the motor.  The challenge was to automatically lower a probe onto a comet without destroying the probe by crashing it into the surface.
  • This Year, the students have 3 challenges that dovetail and require lots of teamwork (just as in the past).  Because we don’t want to ruin the surprise, I can’t tell you exactly why they are doing the following tasks, but you can sign your kids up to find out!
    • The first challenge involves creating a wireless communication system using binary (the kids really DID understand the concepts–I was impressed).
    • The second challenge involves a tight specification on a 3D design which is considerably harder than what we’ve asked in the past.  The final 3D printed parts have to fit snugly into a complex figure, and I challenge a bachelor’s level mechanical engineering student to create a good design on the first try!
    • The third challenge involves programming a small robot and designing a mechanical setup on the robot to retrieve an important payload.
The kids totally stepped up to challenge this year.  I am amazed at what they did.  I’m amazed every year.
 
 

The Evils of Kits and Step-by-step Instructions?

I like things to be ideal.  In fact, my most dreaded fear in the universe is a set missing one item.
 
Ok, I admit it.
 
I’m a little OCD.
 
Elmyra DuffBut some things in life suffer from too much attention.  Take for instance, Elmyra Duff, from the old Warner Bros. cartoons who loves her animals to the point of escaping in terror.
 
Her yard is littered with abandoned dog houses, bird cages, and food bowls of animals who escaped because–with the best of intentions–she drove them absolutely crazy.
 
Every now and then I myself get struck by a fit and grab my cat Roger, pick him up, hug him a little too close, and croon, “I’ll love you and hug you and call you George!”  I then fall over in fits of laughter while he escapes to the back of the couch to scorn my foolishness with such contempt as only a cat can conjure.
 
How is this related to Kits and Step-by-step instructions?
 
In our eager desire to prepare our kids for a successful future, we usually run down to the local mart and buy a LEGO® kit with step-by-step instructions.  Then we give this “box of creativity” to our kids and sagely pronounce, “I grew up with LEGOs®.  They will help you be creative.”
 
But today’s kits with step-by-step instructions for building the latest Starship Tardis Galactica is exactly the opposite of inspiring creativity.  When we were kids, LEGOs® were all some variation of a rectangle, and to make anything “cool” required us to experiment with the shapes until some reasonable approximation of a truck, plane, or house emerged–with NO instructions.
 
What is the difference?
 
In the case of step-by-step instructions, little creative thinking is required, and creativity is actually somewhat discouraged, because if the Indiana Clones kit gets mixed with the Desert Hover Board kit noone will ever be able to reconstruct the original from either set.
 
Joanie Connell - Table Top Inventing podcastSo our kids today aren’t ever bored…
 
But they aren’t ever really excited either…
 
The solution?
 
Let them be bored.
 
WHAT?!
 
Yeah, you read correctly.  Letting kids be bored drives them to find creative solutions for becoming “un-bored”.  If you don’t believe me, listen to this week’s podcast with engineer turned PhD psychologist, Joanie Connell.  Together we barbeque just about every sacred cow in the helicoptering parenting pasture.
 
It’s funny.  It’s sad.  It’s real…
 
And a little too close to home…
 
But totally worth it:  http://InventingPodcast.com
Carpe Diem,
Steve
 
PS – I still like LEGO kits, though, because they have all sorts of cool parts–even if they do get hopelessly mixed up with other kits in one grand mele of LEGO® goodness.

086 – Understanding Engineers with Joanie Connell

Understanding Engineers with Joanie Connell

“Let your kids be bored…  When you’re bored and you have time to let your mind wander, that’s when you have time to be creative.  Structuring and feeling like we have to be in an “educational moment” at all times has taken away that opportunity for kids to explore and figure things out on their own.”  –Joanie Connell, PhD

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Joanie Connell - Table Top Inventing podcast

[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • How much does work-life balance matter to today’s professionals?
  • Why do people communicate differently on email vs phone vs face-to-face?
  • What are the effects of helicopter parenting on the kids we are trying to protect?

Today’s podcast will reveal the answers to these crucial questions.

Welcome to the Table Top Inventing Online Radio Show.  Every week we interview successful individuals from across the career spectrum and share their stories.  The best information on how to raise intelligent, curious, successful kids is out there, and we’re collecting it into one place on our on-demand radio show.

Joanie Connell - Table Top Inventing podcastToday’s guest is particularly well-acquainted with the pitfalls surrounding current trends in parenting and education.  Joanie Connell is a PhD psychologist with a degree in engineering who coaches high-performing professionals.  In her work with these high-profile individuals, she has become painfully aware of some glaring issues in modern parenting and education habits.

Let’s jump straight into this action-packed interview.

Joanie and I discussed things I’ve believed for quite some time, but she brings the psychological and social credibility.  Her background in engineering and work with professionals strikes a curious juxtaposition with the stories and woes of executives with unmotivated kids.

I loved her advice to just let kids be bored sometimes.  It’s so easy as parents to feel like we must be in an “educational moment” all the time, but Joanie’s wisdom says we should back-off and allow kid’s natural curiosity take over.

I couldn’t agree more.  Our whole Inventor Camp framework revolves around letting kids jump into the deep end of the pool to see if they can figure out how to swim.  Standing back while kids discover things on their own inspires more learning than over-scheduling or helicoptering ever can.

It is a hard thing to let our kids face life on their own.  I know.  I have teens too.  But you don’t have to take this road alone.  Sign your kids up for Inventor Camp and become a part of a growing community of parents who are learning to pull back on the helicoptering.  Head over to our Inventor Camp page and sign your teen up for the best summer of their lives!

We’ll help you step back and let your teenager step up.

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

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Guest Bio

Dr. Joanie B. Connell is an organizational consultant and leadership coach who specializes in maximizing leadership potential.  She works with companies to attract, develop, and retain top talent.  She works with individuals to improve their success and happiness in their careers.  She is also an author of the book “Flying without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life“.

As a consultant, Joanie develops leaders across generations.  She coaches executives and youth at Flexible Work Solutions.  She consults with organizations in a variety of areas, including executive leadership development, diversity, generations, flexible work arrangements, work-life balance, life transitions, character and ethics, team building, and virtual teams.   Her clients are from Fortune 100 companies, not-for-profit, and government agencies and high tech, biotech, healthcare, finance, legal and other industries.

As a professor, she teaches/has taught business and psychology students of all ages at the Rady School of Management at the University of California San Diego, the Marshall Goldsmith School of Management at Alliant International University, and in the Masters in Human Behavior program at National University.

Joanie earned a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. in Engineering from Harvard University.

Joanie is available to consult, coach, present keynote speeches, and make media appearances.  She also likes to write guest blog posts.

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Joanie Connell in Paris - Table Top Inventing Podcast

Favorite Quote

Muriel-Strode-Quote

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.” ­­Muriel Strode

About a Teacher

“Ms. Spanuolo was one of my high school English teachers. I never liked English because I thought it was boring until she came along. She inspired me to enjoy classic literature to the point where I took her AP English class. She not only taught me how to appreciate literature, but also to keep an open mind. Look how far I’ve come; now I’m a writer!”

Something Joanie learned recently…

“I just got a new scheduling app called ScheduleOnce. It allows me to send a link to someone to schedule a meeting with me at times I have already selected to be available. It’s a great app, but I also decided to try it for personal calls. I sent the link out to a few friends around the world whom I hardly ever talk to and we scheduled time to meet via Skype. It was so much fun!”

Something Joanie made recently…

“The last thing I made was a coaching tool to help people think about their beliefs and assumptions behind their thoughts and actions. I created a model based on research in the field and wrote up an example to go with it that people could relate to.”

Additional Notes

Connect with Joanie:

Additional Links:

Joanie Connell - Table Top Inventing podcast

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Text Transcript Coming Soon!

“I was more interested in Engineers than in Engineering.”  –Joanie Connell, PhD


I’m trying to help communicate to this younger generation and their parents that we’re so focused on the “education piece” on the getting into college and getting the “right” education that we’re losing touch with the other important life skills…  My new book is about taking these lessons learned from successful people in the workplace and bringing their wisdom to younger people.  It’s not just about getting A’s or taking AP English.  It’s about being independent, having the resilience to bounce back after a failure.  It’s about being creative–a skill we are losing by over-scheduling children.  –Joanie Connel, PhD


Helicopter parents are working a lot harder to help their kids–with the best intentions–to be successful in life, but the helicoptering is what’s holding them back from being independent individuals who can be resilient and communicate effectively.  –Joanie Connell, PhD


Let your kids be bored…  When you’re bored and you have time to let your mind wander, that’s when you have time to be creative.  Structuring and feeling like we have to be in an “educational moment” at all times has taken away that opportunity for kids to explore and figure things out on their own.  –Joanie Connell, PhD

 

Joanie Connell at the Harvard Book Club Meeting - Table Top Inventing podcast

Joanie Connell at the Harvard Book Club Meeting

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085 – Young Makers with Peggy Healy Stearns

Young Makers with Peggy Healy Stearns

“Education is more than knowing answers.  It is important to be curious… and as we discover ourselves in the context of community, we have a chance to find our own voice and develop the courage to express ourselves.” –Peggy Healy Stearns

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085 - Peggy Healy Sterns

[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • Can you learn to write software without programming experience?
  • How is educational software unique?
  • How important is technical confidence for young learners?

Join us for a look at technology through the lens of educational software.

Welcome to the Table Top Inventing Online Radio Show.  Every week we interview successful individuals from across the career spectrum and share their stories.  Hearing the stories of others who have been down a tricky path and navigated to success has a way of inspiring confidence that I too could find success.

Today’s guest, Peggy Healy Stearns, began developing and writing educational software on some of the very earliest personal computer systems.  What was the road like?  What lessons has she learned about the intersection between technology and education?

Buckle up for a fun journey through the development of some of the best selling educational software inspired by the advent of the personal computer.

Every now and then, I have a guest who completely educates me on the history and perspectives of a particular aspect of education.  Peggy has seen educational software from one end to the other.  There probably isn’t a trend in ed software in the past 30 years she hasn’t touched.

Sometimes it’s just good to reach out for someone else’s expertise, and I’m so glad I get the opportunity every week to be educated by some of the best minds in the country.

If you think you might like a little extra help inspiring your teens this summer, point your browser to the ttinvent.com website and find Inventor Camp.  This summer at Inventor Camp, teenagers across the country will be inspired to try on the title “Inventor”.  Your kids may need a little push to start, but just like Alex, after the first day at Inventor Camp, they’ll be hooked.

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

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Guest Bio

Peggy’s mission is to empower and inspire students, teachers and parents with compelling learning experiences and easy-to-use software that supports both formal and informal learning environments.

Peggy is an educator, author, and the designer of eight award-winning children’s software programs, including Stationery Studio® from FableVision and The Graph Club®, Neighborhood MapMachine™, and Community Construction Kit® from Scholastic / Tom Snyder Productions. She has designed extensive curriculum and resources to support classroom implementation. Peggy’s work has earned more than three dozen national awards.

Peggy is co-founder with Glen Bull of the Fab@School coalition and lead designer of Fab@School Maker Studio, an easy digital design and fabrication web app due out winter 2015-2016 from FableVision Learning. Peggy has 20 years experience at the K12 and university levels, was a district technology coordinator, and has presented seminars and conference sessions to thousands of educators across the country.

Peggy specializes in research, concept, and design of original applications; interface, documentation, user guides, classroom activities, editorial, and professional development.

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085 - Peggy Healy Sterns mountain_edit.jpg

Additional Notes

Connect with Peggy:

Additional Links:

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Teachers

I would like to acknowledge two educators, neither of whom has been one of my formal teachers.

When I have questions about history or music or literature or myriad other topics, I turn to my husband, Gordon Stearns. His enormous knowledge base and ability to see connections and understand multiple points of view adds daily to my background and perspective. Gordy is also my primary editor, helping me hone my thoughts and present them more clearly. Our partnership has been a continual learning journey that has spanned decades and enriched my life.

Glen Bull, UVA Professor, brought me into the Fab@School project. When he first contacted me in January 2009, I knew little about digital fabrication, and nothing in the context of the K12 and STEM education. With Glen and the extensive network of educators with whom he connected me as guides, I have explored exciting new technologies and possibilities and was inspired to design Maker Studio It’s been an exciting, inspiring, and challenging journey ­­ somewhat akin to earning another graduate degree.

Making

My latest projects fabricated just a short time ago were two pop up cards, one celebrating Peter Reynolds’ book The Dot, and the other celebrating Peter and Paul’s book Going Places.

Text Transcript Coming Soon!

Perhaps the most meaningful learning comes from life experience and relationships.  Education is more than knowing answers.  It is important to be curious… and as we discover ourselves in the context of community, we have a chance to find our own voice and develop the courage to express ourselves.  I think that voice is the bridge to our own creative, unique potential.  –Peggy Healy Stearns


People think engineering is just about sending rockets to the moon or really complicated projects, but everything is engineered.  A toothbrush is engineered.  Everything we use is engineered, and people need to see engineering as being something that is familiar and something they can approach.  –Peggy Healy Stearns

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Follow Your Passion? Think Again!

I don’t like being told what to do…
asparagus
 
But have you ever tried something just because you were told to try it?
 
Yeah, my mom told me just to try my asparagus.  It looked about as appetizing as a sliver of raw alligator.  Something inside told me this was not going to be good, but I knew that slimy green stalk of mushiness stood between me and playing outside.
 
So I took the plunge.  My mom was right that it didn’t kill me, but it did make me shiver like I’d just been thawed out from an iceberg.  However, the funny thing is that, today, I love asparagus. It’s one of my favorite veggies.
 
Who do I have to thank?  Yup!  My mom.
 
I think Alex felt the same way about Inventor Camp.  The week before camp, he got into trouble and had a little penance to pay.
 
So when his dad signed him up for Inventor Camp, Alex thought it was a punishment.  He put a good face on it, because I didn’t know the background story until after camp.  To me, Alex looked like he was having a great time.
 
After camp, Alex’s dad pulled me aside to tell me the story.
 
Evidently, Alex was pretty bummed out about missing part of his break doing “something dumb like Inventor Camp.”  So the first day, Alex was basically dragged kicking and screaming to start camp.
 
However, that did not last long.
 
After the first day, Alex went on and on about what he did that day, and on the second day, he was excited to get to camp to work on his project.  I ask myself the following question all the time.
 
Why the change?
 
I don’t have a crystal ball, and even if I did, I don’t think they work on teenagers!  My best guess is that just like me with the asparagus, my preconceived opinions were getting in my way.
 
Some of the best experiences I’ve ever had were because someone else said, “Steve, come on.  You’ve got to try this!”
 
Change your teen’s world this summer.  Send them to Inventor Camp–even if they have some preconceived opinions.  Signup at http://ttinvent.com/InventorCamp.
 
Carpe Diem,
Steve
 
PS – Recently, Faith’s dad told me he originally thought Inventor Camp was like every other tech camp out there, but afterward he exclaimed, “This has been a life-changing experience for Faith.”  Sometimes kids have no idea what their passion even is until an adult helps them find it.
 
inventorCamp2016_smallPoster_allLocations
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Do we want Hoop Jumpers or Risk Takers?

Nothing compares to the first time you take the wheel of a car and feel the power and responsibility.
 
I was about 8.  My dad and I were driving in his blue Ford F-150 pickup truck.  He pulled over to the side of the road and slowed to a stop.
 
Then he said those words that changed my life.
 
“Do you want to drive?”
 
Ford Pickup 1988-500Half-believing I was dreaming, I climbed up onto my dad’s lap while he eased the truck back onto the sleepy little street we lived on.  As I took the wheel, a surge of pride and excitement washed over me.
 
Then I realized that I might run the truck off the road, and I froze.
 
My dad had to take the wheel, but a few days later he asked me again.  I tried again, and this time it was a little better.
 
This became a regular routine whenever we turned onto our quiet street until I became quite comfortable with the responsibility.
 
I have played out some form of this learning to take the reigns over and over throughout my life.  Sometimes it came very naturally, and sometimes it took a lot of practice.  In every case, though, I stepped up to the plate, swung for the fence, and eventually made things work.
 
I’ve had the same experience with students in our Inventor Camps.  When we give them the reigns, they step up and deliver outstanding results.
 
What if we did the same thing with every teacher in America?
 
What if tomorrow we decided to treat them like the professionals they are?
 
Ted Dintersmith believes this is the answer to our educational conundrums.  Listen to the TTI podcast this week to learn who Ted is and why this idea is so powerful.
 
Carpe Diem,
Steve

084 – Succeeding at Education with Ted Dintersmith

Succeeding at Education with Ted Dintersmith

“What if the purpose of education is purpose?…  Kids should leave school with a sense of purpose.” –Ted Dintersmith

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[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • Why would an entrepreneur and noted venture capitalist zoom in on education?

  • How serious are the educational challenges we face in the US?

  • Is there a simple path forward to creating a better education for every student?

My guest today is Ted Dintersmith, noted venture capitalist, author, and executive producer of the Sundance-acclaimed education documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed.”  Ted believes that with the best of intentions, we’re ruining the futures of our kids, and our country. He says we stubbornly cling to an obsolete education model that prepares kids for assembly line jobs that no longer exist and that failed policies have turned school into a dreary regime of testing and accountability. Worse,  he believes that even our best students learn little, as so many lose curiosity, creativity, intrinsic motivation, and sense of purpose.  Ted is fresh off a 50-state tour of schools and communities with his film, throughout which he has also seen the very best of learning experiences which have provided for Ted an inspiring vision of how schools can launch kids into lives of competence and purpose. 

There are lots of opinions about how and why we should change the education in the US. If you only take one point away from today’s show, consider this. What would happen if suddenly tomorrow we told every teacher in the country, “We trust you to turn our kids into curious, thoughtful, productive humans”?

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

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Guest Bio

Ted Dintersmith is a father of two young adults, and concerned about the world’s future. He is retired from his venture firm Charles River Ventures, a top-tier early-stage venture firm, and now focuses his time, energy, and money on high-potential education-related initiatives.  He spent the fall of 2012 in New York City, selected by the President to serve as part of the delegation representing the United States at the United Nations General Assembly, where he focused on education and entrepreneurship.  Now, he is traveling way more than he ever did when he was active in venture capital.

Some four years ago, he started working on several initiatives dealing with the collision of innovation with our education system.  

Here’s what he has accomplished so far.
Mr. Dintersmith organized and funded a feature-length documentary on education that was directed by Greg Whiteley and his amazing team —Most Likely to Succeed. The film premiered at Sundance in January and has had an amazing run since.  It’s been a featured selection at more than twenty major film festivals, has been the opening night film for a half-dozen top conferences on education, and was part of a reception in November, 2015, setting up the White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools. They have an innovative distribution model for the film, encouraging schools to show the film to their community. They get hundreds of requests each week. Here’s how you can bring it to your school.

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dintersmith04Mr. Dintersmith co-authored a book on education with Tony Wagner, which was released on August 18th to strong critical acclaim.  Check out this Chicago Tribune review and order a copy.

He recently gave a TEDx Talk in Fargo, North Dakota, to an audience of 1,700.

He has written several articles which have gotten lots of traction. Love the way social media can give an article real reach. The best include:

Mr. Dintersmith is active on Twitter (@dintersmith) and would love it if you followed him.

Currently his is off and running on a tour with the film, going to all fifty states. His goal is to bring together people in each state and encourage them to form their own modern “Committee of Ten” — and lay out the goals and objectives they have for their graduates, and support the innovations and changes needed in their schools to make these goals a reality for their students. The tour began on September 14 in Lexington, Kentucky, and will run throughout the 2015-2016 school year. Check out his blog for progress to date.

Mr. Dintersmith has had some defining experiences that have shaped his views on education. HIs career has been all about innovation and entrepreneurs, so he understands what our 21st Century economy will be like, and what types of capabilities will be required.  Along with his wife and two kids, Mr. Dintersmith took a remarkable year-long trip around the world in 2007-2008 (www.dintersmith.org), and home-schooled (or maybe world-schooled) their kids during that year. Their kids have been in several schools, with differing styles and in different parts of the country, and had some outstanding experiences as well as some clunkers.

What Mr. Dintersmith finds shocking is that schools aren’t preparing our kids for life in the 21st Century. Surrounded by innovation, he believes that our education system is stuck in the 19th Century. The skills and capabilities our kids need going forward are either ignored or outright trampled.  Here’s a talk presenting his views on education, and why our nation’s future depends on wholesale change in our priorities.  And here’s a much shorter talk he gave at William and Mary’s Convocation ceremony, welcoming the class of 2018 to the college.

Mr. Dintersmith is now on a mission — changing our education system so that it promotes, instead of vitiates, innovative kids. He is hoping to influence things nationally, but with four orders of magnitude fewer resources than the Gates Foundation. He is supporting initiatives he feels have high potential (see Portfolio) and bringing his film all over the nation in the fall. 

Mr. Dintersmith holds a Ph.D. in Engineering from the Stanford University, concentrating on Mathematical Modeling and Optimization Theory. He also holds a B.A. from the College of William and Mary, where Mr. Dintersmith graduated Phi Beta Kappa, with high honors, in Physics and English.

 

Additional Notes


Connect with Ted
:

Additional Links:

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Text Transcript Coming Soon!

“What if the purpose of education is purpose?  Wouldn’t it be interesting if we said we should be using these precious years when children are in school to help them understand that they have skills and talents and passion and perseverance to making their world better in ways they define through vehicles they create.  Really what we should accomplish with our kids is they leave school with a sense of purpose.” –Ted Dintersmith


“What if the purpose of education is purpose?… Kids should leave school with a sense of purpose.” –Ted Dintersmith


“I have lived in startups that failed, and failure isn’t great. You learn from it, but if you told me that I could either succeed or fail, I’ll take success every time. What is really debilitating is the fear of failure. What you find with people who do really well in the world of innovation is that failure doesn’t worry them. They say, ‘if setbacks occur I’ll figure my way out of it.'” –Ted Dintersmith


 Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants. –John W. Gardner

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083 – The Longterm View with Peter Skillen

The Longterm View with Peter Skillen

“Honestly through high school and those levels of school, I wasn’t a great student.  I was an average student, not a great student.  It wasn’t ’til I started teaching that I fell in love with learning.” –Peter Skillen

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[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • Do kids really secretly enjoy hard problems?
  • What happens when we let children control their own learning?
  • What can US educators learn from Canadian educators?

Join us for some perspectives from the other side of our northern border.

Welcome to the Table Top Inventing podcast. I’m going to begin today with an excerpt from Marvin Minsky’s book, The Society of Mind.

“Why are processes so hard to classify? In earlier times, we could usually judge machines and processes by how they transformed raw materials into finished products. But it makes no sense to speak of brains as though they manufacture thoughts the way factories make cars. The difference is that brains use processes that change themselves and this means we cannot separate such processes from the products they produce. In particular, brains make memories, which change the ways we’ll subsequently think. The principal activities of brains are making changes in themselves. Because the whole idea of self-modifying processes is new to our experience, we cannot yet trust our commonsense judgments about such matters.”

Minsky goes on to describe how difficult it is to study the brain, and conjectures that with further research, we will discover that the brain is simply a very complex computer with billions of small, interconnected parts.

I’m not sure if I agree with Minsky or not. We used to believe that cells were amorphous, gelatinous corpuscles, but the closer we look, the weirder they get–unlike atoms and elementary particles. In recent years, we’ve delved deeper into cells and their nano-processes than anyone ever thought possible… and cells are still… mysterious.

But I digress. Today, I want us to focus on the main job of learning: helping the brain become better at building itself.

Today’s guest is an expert at helping children learn to build their brains. Peter Skillen is a truly fascinating individual, and I think you’ll agree with me by the end of the podcast.

From our experience at Table Top Inventing, the approaches and ideas Peter shared are spot on, and Peter has decades of experience letting kids take charge of their learning. If you want to see what happens when kids grab their learning by the horns and charge off in unexpected directions, find an Inventor Camp near you. Signup now at ttinvent.com/InventorCamp.

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

Click here to go to the top of the page

Guest Bio

Peter Skillen is a learner & he is a teacher. Simple. The two, for him, are inseparable and part of the whole.

After 4 decades in the K-12 field, Peter is now the Manager of Digital Age Learning with the YMCA of Greater Toronto. This is similar to his previous role in planning the professional development for teachers in a school district in Toronto.

However, he still is deeply involved in educational practice through the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF), the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) &, of course, in online learning spaces.

Peter has been using computers with kids & teachers since 1977. He has seen many ‘saviour’ technologies come and go. So he sticks to his roots although he enthusiastically welcomes new developments. He advocates models of learning which engage a learner’s natural ‘desire to know’ &, therefore is focused on social-constructivist uses of ICT in education.

In the early 80s Peter introduced project-based telecommunications to the Toronto school district through such applications as: FrEdMail, National Geographic’s Kids’ Network, GlobalLab, I*EARN, ThinkQuest, Orillas, CitySpace, Canada’s SchoolNet & Global SchoolHouse.

In 2000, Industry Canada & LCSI contracted Peter as Lead Designer of Journal Zone – a collaborative online journal – software that he conceived earlier in his studies.

In 2003, the YMCA of Greater Toronto hired Peter as curriculum leader for the YMCA Academy – a new secondary school focused on an holistic, constructivist and equitable approach to learning and teaching.

The difference between ‘learning in school’ & ‘learning outside of school’ has always been a passionate interest – although this dichotomy often has led him into conflict with the ‘system’. Nevertheless, Peter tries to retain optimism and sense of humour.

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 Peter Skillen Snowshoeing_edit

Additional Notes


Connect with Peter
:

Additional Links:

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Favorite Quote…

“If the role of the computer is so slight that rest can be kept constant, it will also be too slight for much to come of it.”
–Seymour Papert

“You can’t separate intellect and feelings in the work of the mind.”
–Eleanor Duckworth

“When students are treated as Pawns they don’t learn, they misbehave.When teachers are treated as Pawns they don’t teach, they become drill sergeants.”
–DeCharms, 1977

A Teacher Who Inspired…

Seymour Papert has probably had the biggest impact on my approach to education — complemented by my studies of ‘knowledge building communities’ with Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter.

It was really an intersection of these people that informed my practice over the last 35 years.

Seymour spoke eloquently of system change and advocated for kids to construct ­ both artifacts and meaning. He also, of course, developed Logo and turtles (along with others) to help kids to realize this reality. Marlene and Carl also developed systems and cultures for classrooms which empowered kids to build their own meaning and, indeed new knowledge, not just as individuals—but, as a community of learners.

I am fortunate to have spent much time with these three folks and learned to struggle to build such environments in my own way.

Something Peter Made Recently…

The last thing I made was a picture story book for my granddaughter for Christmas. ;­)

Something Peter Learned About Recently…

The most significant thing I learned to do in recent times was to ‘flare’ as you are coming in for a landing when paragliding. I learned that lesson by not doing it effectively! ROFL

Peter Skillen in Switzerland_editText Transcript Coming Soon!

“[Peter talking about programming with little kids] These little kids were standing around together, and when it worked, their eyes lit up, their shoulders squared, their heads raised.  When it failed, they said, ‘Let’s figure it out.’  They’d solve it, and there’d be cheers.  This was a moment when I realized that hard stuff was ok.  They liked hard stuff.  They just didn’t like the ‘school hard stuff’ which was totally disconnected from their lives.” –Peter Skillen


“Honestly through high school and those levels of school, I wasn’t a great student.  I was an average student, not a great student.  It wasn’t ’til I started teaching that I fell in love with learning.” –Peter Skillen


“Why are processes so hard to classify? In earlier times, we could usually judge machines and processes by how they transformed raw materials into finished products. But it makes no sense to speak of brains as though they manufacture thoughts the way factories make cars. The difference is that brains use processes that change themselves Ñ and this means we cannot separate such processes from the products they produce. In particular, brains make memories, which change the ways we’ll subsequently think. The principal activities of brains are making changes in themselves. Because the whole idea of self-modifying processes is new to our experience, we cannot yet trust our commonsense judgments about such matters.” –Marvin Minsky, Society of Mind


“The principal activities of brains are making changes in themselves.” –Marvin Minsky, Society of Mind

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The Truth about Avoiding Regret

Regret has a powerful pull.
 
They say one of the strongest feelings experienced as we get older is the regret of not trying something when we were younger.  What stops us from giving those opportunities a try?
 
Fear of failure.
 
That’s the most common culprit.  We’re afraid that we’ll look foolish when it fails, as if failure is some sort of trap from which we can’t recover.
 
That’s crazy.
 
One of my favorite quotes is from Sir Ken Robinson:
 
Sir Ken Robinson - Prepared to do wrong quote
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
 
Failure is generally not fatal.  In fact, the little failures along the way are opportunities to get better, but if we never take the risk, we never get the reward.
 
Scott Glaser is a pilot.  In fact, he’s one of the most experienced pilots around.  He has flown more than 80 different kinds of planes, but he had an appointment with regret when he was a teenager.
 
082 - Scott GlaserScott always wanted to fly military jets.  The idea of flying fast, having all that power, and the agility of those expensive planes was positively intoxicating to his senses.  Then a series of circumstances blocked his opportunity to join the military to learn how to fly those planes.
 
Regret had put Scott’s plans on the chopping block and was about to cut them into little tiny pieces…
 
But Scott knew the truth about avoiding regret.
 
He decided that even though he wasn’t able to join the military, he was still going to find a way to become a pilot qualified to fly his raucous aerobatic dreams.  He learned from the little failures and the big ones how to aim high, miss, and aim even higher.
 
Today, Scott regularly flies those powerful jets and other even cooler planes.  For Scott’s full story, listen to today’s episode of the Table Top Inventing podcast:
 
Carpe Diem,
Steve
 
PS – If you come back to this message is a few weeks, here is the direct link to Scott’s show notes page.
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