The design of the classroom from 1750 to today







The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids by Alexandra Lange 

The design of the classroom is a technology, and you can interpret that in a lot of different ways. Architects can make that look more, and less, typical. But the point is the instruction, the interaction in the classroom, not that it looks more like a circle or more like a square or whatever else.

(via NPR)

Bottoms up


Attention works like a loose gate. We can’t always control what information sneaks in, nor can we parse the data so it makes sense coming out.

We grind away at the information life throws at us, some of it tangible and worthwhile but most it nonsense.

Like a Google search, the stuff worth keeping is like finding a needle in a haystack. When we discover something of value, it sticks. We share the knowledge with others, recasting it as our own.

Yet, our minds remain terrible RSS readers.

It’s impossible to unhear and unsee things — conversations, teacher’s lessons, tweets — without getting sucked into the commercialization of attention. The public sphere promotes mindless chatter, so rationalization sinks to the bottom.

The race to admiration prevents the interrogation of ideas. The noisy flood of information buffers thought until finally, the chaos settles to the bottom. And pieces of clarity return.

Still ignorant, not stupid


A lot of people get dumber after college. It’s not entirely their fault. A job takes up all their time. Besides spending time with family and friends and doing chores — getting on with the business of living — a lot of free time is spent on staring at lite brites for entertainment.

“We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.” — David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity

Experience makes us wiser but not smarter

As we age, we’re able to resolve practical matters with less effort. But therein lies a skewed perception. We accidentally interpret how things usually go as facts rather than acknowledging that’ that’s how the world works now. Change is constant, the possibilities infinite.

An educated person should never stop learning. They should revel in their ignorance, not as an excuse to know less but as a means of staying interested in understanding more.

One page at a time


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Reading a book, preferably a physical one, is a good way to get your attention back.

The problem in reading on smartphones is distractibility. You’re a notification away from checking Instagram, email, or a text.

If you’re going to read on a digital device, make it a Kindle. Its lack of functionality — just try web browsing on it — is its best feature.

Reading is an escape from the endless buzz of the digital world. It builds focus. In today’s world, single-tasking is more important than ever.

Shake it up


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They say that it’s better to start something new when you’re young to avoid humiliation. As an adult, you’re not expected to learn new stuff: languages, sports, art, etc. Your skillsets are permanent. While that may be true, it doesn’t hurt to shake up the system to remind yourself that you’re still alive.

Think about how far you’d already come. You would’ve never thought you could pick up photography before the iPhone. Without music software like Garageband, you never thought you would’ve made music. Without Amazon Kindle author, you may have never been a publisher author. The list goes on.

Technology turned us all into foxes instead of hedgehogs. We might be amafessionals, but we’re far more capable of creative pursuits than before. It turns out all we needed was a widget, the Internet’s connectedness, and a little bit of curiosity.

We’ve been conditioned to avoid error and taught to keep doing what we’re good at. But learning to do more stuff keep things more interesting.

Talking out loud


They say the best way to learn something is to teach it to others.

They say one of best ways to talk to yourself is to talk to another person.

Knowledge is social. Identity is social. What you put out, what you share is what you should expect back in return, quid pro quo.

The knowledgeable person talks out loud but carries a meek stick.

Susan Sontag on taste


Intelligence is really a kind of taste- taste in ideas.”- Susan SontagFailure is notan option.png

“For taste governs every free — as opposed to rote — human response. Nothing is more decisive. There is taste in people, visual taste, taste in emotion – and there is taste in acts, taste in morality. Intelligence, as well, is really a kind of taste: taste in ideas.”

— Susan Sontag

From the essay “Notes on Camp,” available in Against Interpretation: And Other Essays (1964)

How was your day?


If you ask someone how they’re doing, they’ll usually provide a short answer like “well, thanks,” even if they’re having a bad day. No one wants to go into detail about their present state because of the length of time it would require to explain all the details. The truth may sound something like “I was late to work because the kid got sick, and then someone nicked my car.”

If you ask someone about their day when they come home from work or school, you can expect the same desultory answer most of the time such as “It was ok. Same old. The usual. You know…” Even the asking can be just as routine as the answer. You could probably get a better glimpse of your kid’s day by looking at their Snapchat or Instagram.

For some parents, however, asking the common question can be a substitute for as Lisa Damour at the New York Times puts it, “I love you and miss you and would like to touch base.” Damour suggests asking your teen something more particular like status on a group project or basketball practice.

If you’re going to ask either how someone is doing or how their day was and it’s meant to be more than small talk, the interrogator’s genuine interest, the tone of voice, and specificity is just as likely to produce an honest answer. Both ways can mean it. The truth is never banal.

“The map is not the territory”


"The map is not the territory'
Abstract thought

The human head consists of a left brain and a right brain, each with distinct cognitive functions. The left hemisphere is known for processing logic and doing verbal and mathematical analysis while the right half excels in creativity and imagination, the visual stuff.

But the left brain holds responsibility for how we react since it’s the one that interprets. As we think, so are we. As neuroscience writer Eric Barker points out, “anxiety and depression are caused by thinking problems.” In other words, we tend to exaggerate and jump to conclusions when there’s none to be drawn. Exhibit A:

Right Brain: The boss seems agitated.

Left Brain: Better get the resume together. We’re getting fired.

Mindfulness acts as the parent-guardian to a brain in flux. It helps people take a step back from the false information they design in their heads. Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski once said that “the map is not the territory.” In other words, a map is an abstraction of land, a mere model of reality just as skeuomorphism makes an icon for trash look like a garbage can. Similarly, the medium is the message.

There is no such thing as the left-right lateralization of brain function; there’s only one brain that works with the sum of its parts. Designers can be mathematicians and vice versa, as the brain may be partial to skills but impartial to sidedness. It’s how we think about ourselves and our surroundings that usually gets in the way.

Neuroscience Of Mindfulness: How To Make Your Mind Happy


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A zibaldone was a 14th-century scrapbook


Zibaldone italian scrapbook

Whether you journal, blog, or keep a collection of inspirational images and quotes on Pinterest or Tumblr, you’re continuing the tradition of zibaldoning. A zibaldone was a 14th-century scrapbook that means “a heap of things” in Italian.

“Some media scholars argue that commonplace books and zibaldones were precursors to the Internet, which is similarly scrappy and mixed-up, rich in influences and perfectly willing to zig-zag between genres.”


19th-century Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi was the person to modernize the zibaldone to include musings, drafts of his poems, and observations. Others hodepodgers like Thomas Jefferson copied passages of their favorite novels into his scrapbook for quick reference.

Zibaldones were a way to archive memories, bookmark notes, and make sense of the world. They served as a bank of reflections and a guidepost for a living. Said Leopardi’s on his commonplace notebooks:

“You learn about a hundred pages a day about how to live. But the book (this book) has 15 or 20 million pages.”

Modern-day zibaldones are web-based applications that have become a way to show your work and thinking as it progresses. But if you still prefer analog, “All you need to start your own zibaldone or commonplace is a blank notebook, a pen, an open mind, and maybe a roll of tape.”

How to Keep a Zibaldone, the 14th Century’s Answer to Tumblr

 

What’s the point of university?


is university education worth it?
Alternative education

If the SATs are a university’s way of evaluating  students, than a college degree is an employer’s way of making hiring decisions. If you don’t attend college at all, your chances of making decent money are slim.

Economist Tim Harford explores the costs and benefits of a university education. He cites recent research that institutions like Oxford enrich their communities not only as popular destination sites but also as signals of future investments in education, which boosts regional income. However, Harford also outlines the opposite argument from economics professor Brian Kaplan who thinks college education is a yardstick for socioeconomic status.

“To the extent that Caplan is right, undergraduate degrees have no value to society: they enable employers to pay higher wages to smarter workers, but lower wages to everyone else — and in order to enjoy these higher wages, smart people must waste time and money going to the trouble of acquiring a degree. Everyone might be better off if the whole business was abandoned.”

Furthermore, what purpose does college serve when in today’s Internet age, new skills emerge with rapid technological innovation and when anything you want to learn is online for free?

It’s hard to argue against the university as a worthy investment, if only for ensuring a backup plan. Careers rest on college degrees, and work becomes a way of life for most people, letting it determine their identity and social value.

University acts like modern day caste system. But at the end of the day, college is what you make it. For most people, that piece of graduation paper makes all the difference in their lives.

Are Universities Worth It?

This professor describes the future educated person


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Illustration by Clay Rodery

Dear digital denizens, please rest easy.

That so-called ‘internet addiction’ you have is an evolution of what humans have been doing along — curating, collecting, and sharing. We just do it with more often with the assistance of our screens.

According to professor Kenneth Goldsmith at the University of Pennsylvania, “an educated person in the future will be a curious person who collects better artifacts. The ability to call up and use facts is the new education. How to tap them, how to use them.”

Professor Goldsmith named his course “Wasting Time on the Internet”– an incentive that gets his students to sign up. However, it has the opposite effect. Instead of screen-staring, his students are more likely to create and collaborate.

“They became more creative with each other. They say we’re less social; I think people on the web are being social all the time. They say we’re not reading; I think we’re reading all the time, just online.”

The web is the world’s biggest copy-paste machine. On top of this, Google is our second brain. The fear is that humans will lose their ability to think. However, what happens instead is that we allow more ideas to have sex. Remixing ideas is what Maria Popova of Brainpickings often refers to as “combinatorial creativity.”

“When a D.J. brings a laptop full of music samples to a club he doesn’t play an instrument, but we don’t argue that he isn’t doing something creative in mixing those sounds to create his own effect. In the online world the only thing you’re the master of is your collection, your archive, and how you use it, how you remix it. We become digital archivists, collecting and cataloging things. I find it exciting.”

It turns out that wasting time on the Internet could be productive rather than harmful. To think the Internet also means the end of books and face to face communication is also an exaggeration. Of course, like any tool, it depends on what you are using the Internet for — playing games is not the same as sharing research and new ideas.

What’s your opinion on learning in the Internet age? Please share below in the comments.

Reading: A 21st-Century Migrant’s Essentials: Food, Shelter, Smartphone


I joked 3 weeks ago on Instagram that all you really need is ‘wifi and water.’ But it’s not far from the truth for migrants in today’s world.

“Every time I go to a new country, I buy a SIM card and activate the Internet and download the map to locate myself.”

Today’s migrants are bypassing traffickers and instead choosing to travel on their own, using tips from others shared on social media.

Migrants are a microcosm of what Westerners do locally, every day: check Google Maps, share their experiences online, and learn from each other so they can navigate life themselves. We’re all DIY digital nomads.

New York Times:  “A 21st-Century Migrant’s Essentials: Food, Shelter, Smartphone


Speaking of learning things online, a “Kenyan won the gold medal in javelin after learning how to throw on YouTube.”

“My coach is me, and the YouTube videos,” Yego said. Why? “Everybody in Kenya is a runner.”

Weary of Knowledge


Good knowledge is half-baked. It’s fragile enough to manipulate yet purposeful enough to help make decisions.

A world of facts is too predictable. Facts affirm the right way to go yet impede the will to experiment and try something different.

Why repeat the same old things even if they work? The canvass starts blank because everything deserves to be explored.

Mastery > Passion


When’s the last time you were excited about something you were bad at?

Mastery leads to passion.

Instead of looking for something you love, which tends to change the older you get any way, look and do things you’re naturally or already good at. If you continue to harness those skills you’ll become scarce and therefore highly valued.

Summary: Don’t look for passion. Ride the skills that make you unique. That’s what creates passion.