Friday, April 9, 2010

THE CRITICAL IMPORTANCE OF INQUIRY-BASED LEARNING

While surfing the net, I have found the following interesting article, 'Did You Ask a Good Question Today?, by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

For me, it contains a profound point of view:

Dr Isidore Rabi, winner of a Nobel Prize for physics, was once asked why he became a scientist.

He replied:

"My mother made me a scientist without ever knowing it. Every other child would come back from school and be asked, 'What did you learn today?' But my mother used to say, 'Izzy, did you ask a good question today?' That made the difference. Asking good questions made me into a scientist."

Judaism is a religion of questions. The greatest prophets asked questions of God. The Book of Job, the most searching of all explorations of human suffering, is a book of questions asked by man, to which God replies with a string of questions of His own.

The earliest sermons usually began with a question asked of the rabbi by a member of the congregation. Most famously, the Passover Seder begins with four questions asked by the youngest child.

So I can identify with Rabi's childhood memories.

When I left university and went to Israel to study in a rabbinical seminary, I was stunned by the sheer intensity with which the students grappled with texts. Once in a while the teacher's face would light up at a comment from the class.

"Du fregst a gutte kashe," he would say (you raise a good objection). This was his highest form of praise.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski tells of how, when he was young, his instructor would relish challenges to his arguments. In his broken English he would say:

"You right! You a hundred prozent right! Now I show you where you wrong."

Religious faith has suffered hugely in the modern world by being cast as naive, blind, unquestioning.

The scientist asks, the believer just believes. Critical inquiry, so the stereotype runs, is what makes the difference between the pursuit of knowledge and the certainties of faith.

One who believes in the fundamentals of a creed is derided as a fundamentalist. The word fundamentalist itself comes to mean a simplistic approach to complex issues. Religious belief is often seen as the suspension of critical intelligence.

As Wilson Mizner once put it: "I respect faith. But doubt is what gets you an education." To me, this is a caricature of faith, not faith itself.

Questions testify to faith - the universe is not impervious to our understanding, life is not chance.

What is the asking of a question if not itself a profound expression of faith in the intelligibility of the universe and the meaningfulness of human life?

To ask is to believe that somewhere there is an answer. The fact that throughout history people have devoted their lives to extending the frontiers of knowledge is a moving demonstration of the restlessness of the human spirit and its constant desire to transcend, to climb.

Far from faith excluding questions, questions testify to faith - that the world is not random, the universe is not impervious to our understanding, life is not chance.

That, I suspect, is why Judaism encourages questions. On the phrase: "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness," Rashi, the 11th-century biblical commentator, says: "This means, with the power to understand and to discern."

Critical intelligence is the gift God gave humanity.

To use it in the cause of human dignity and insight is one of the great ways of serving God. When faith suppresses questions, it dies. When it accepts superficial answers, it withers.

Faith is not opposed to doubt. What it is opposed to is the shallow certainty that what we understand is all there is.

Somehow, after reading it, it reminds me of an interesting as well as extensive article, 'Why Are Jews So Powerful?', written by an Islamic scholar & freelance columnist, Dr Farrukh Saleem, a couple of years ago.

Because of the issue of "sensitivity" I have chosen not to reproduce it here, but I feel readers can easily conduct a Google search.

Nonetheless, here are some snippets:

"There are only 14 million Jews in the world; seven million in the Americas, five million in Asia, two million in Europe and 100,000 in Africa...

... Over the past 105 years, 14 million Jews have won 15-dozen Nobel Prizes!"

Interestingly, according to an article, which I had found on the net:

"... The United States has had about one-third of all winners... Jewish names appear 127 times on the list, about 18 percent of the total. This is an astonishing percentage for a group of people who add up to 1/24th of 1 percent of the world's population..."

In conjunction with the foregoing, I like to share an interesting anecdote which I had first heard from a visiting Taiwanese Nobel laureate (Prof Lee):

It goes something like this:

In Asia, Singapore in particular, when a young kid comes home, his parents will ask

"“What did you learn today? How did you do for your tests?".

The kid will mumble an answer: "I score 85 marks!"

The parents will then shoot another question, "Did you score higher than Ah Beng or Ah Seng next door?"

To me, the culture of education obviously holds the key. But, more specifically, inquiry-based learning, which is rooted in personal learning with a questioning mindset.

To our educators & all parents out there: Food for thought!

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"... Many an organization have been trying to “formulize” the innovation process; which is fine at the execution level because by that point we usually know what we are doing and what we are going after.

But at the fuzzy front-end, where value inception occurs, the only formula that has proven to obtain is that of serendipity – which can’t be created; it can only occur...

... In any case, the question is: how do we do that in a financially-profitable manner on a consistent basis?

The answer from my humble point of view is in encouraging serendipity...

... The Eureka moments that accentuate the genesis of a good idea rarely embody the entire execution; in fact, it is the exception that proves the rule.

Most ideas come to life from one individual as a kernel and then get shaped, augmented and matured with the help of others. The diversity that other participants bring to this alchemy is the secret ingredient – experiences, expertise and different perspectives (be they, social, professional, cultural – or all) are the “differentiators" that make an idea unique!

These steps are the necessary elements that convert an inert idea into an actionable innovation..."

~ Andre Laurin, founder & CEO of BrainBank (an innovation consulting outfit), writing in his blogpost, 'Building Your Version of the Peanut Butter Cup™ - a study in the Innovation Process', under the 'Idea & Innovation' webblog;

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"I am a little different. I read something once that I think is so true. If you want to be successful, you have to do it the way everybody else does it & do it a lot better, or you have to do it differently."

~ Steve Spurrier, football coach (University of Florida Gators);

MAINTAINING A HEALTHY BRAIN FOR LIFE

At the recent inaugural SharpBrains Summit on Technology for Cognitive Health & Performance (January 18-20, 2010), attended by more than 40 leading scientists, clinicians, executives & technologists, famed neuro-anatomist Dr Marian Diamond of the University of California @Berkeley reviewed her brain research from 1969 to 2009.

She has continued to maintain that the brain can stay young through stimulation, which can be acheieved via her five-point paln, as follows:

1) DIET;

2) EXERCISE;

3) CHALLENGE;

4) NOVELTY;

5) LOVE;

[Readers can visit this link to read her excellent 2001 article, 'Successful Aging of the Healthy Brain', highlighting her five-point plan.\

By the way, readers can also explore many other great resources on neuroscience & learning at the foregoing link (New Horizons for Learning). Enjoy!

Alternatively, readers can get hold of a copy of her wonderful, though belated, book, 'Magic Trees of the Mind: How to Nurture Your Child’s Intelligence, Creativity, & Healthy Emotions from Birth Through Adolescence'.

I understand that the full transcripts of the SharpBrains Summit is available for download at this link, but be prepared to fork out US$195.]

Thursday, April 8, 2010

RAPID RECAP: THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads to way,
I doubted if I ever should come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Whatever you do in life, you need the best tools you can get & you need to keep them sharpened up & in pristine condition... keep them in good shape, & they will never let you down...

It's not how hard you work, it's how smart you work that makes the difference!"

~ Rich Brenchman, trainer with Star's Edge, the global institution behind the AVATAR training program;

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

PARENT'S GUIDE TO RAISING INVENTORS AT HOME

Here the link to downloading a useful parent's guide to raising inventors at home, with ten ways to creating inventing-friendly environment for your kids.

HELP GROW INVENTIVE MINDS! MAKE INVENTING A FAMILY ADVENTURE!

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTION TO PONDER)

Am I prepared?

What do I expect?

~ inspired by the remarkable work of success coach Kevin Eikenberry;

WHEN ATTITUDE, SKILLS & OPPORTUNITY COME TOGETHER, MASTERY & MAGIC HAPPEN!


"When Susan Boyle took the stage to audition for 'Britain's Got Talent', the judges & many in the audience snickered & rolled their eyes as the frumpy, middle-aged Scottish church volunteer shared her dream of becoming a professional singer.

But when she opened her mouth to sing 'I Dreamed a Dream' - a ballad from the treasured musical 'Les Miserables' - angels soared, jaws dropped, judges let out audible gasps, & hundreds in the audience stood to applaud & roared their approval as she sang her dream into reality.

She ended up second in the competition but first in the hearts of many new fans around the world.

On one day April 2009, Susan's hidden gift & dream exploded onto the world stage.

Within hours, YouTube postings of her performance had more than 20 million approving viewers.

Her 'Britain's Got Talent' videos were the most watched YouTube videos in 2009, attracting more than 120 million viewers worldwide, more than the next top three most-watched YouTube videos combined.

Millions were brought to tears merely watching her performance. Many have focused on the need to not judge a book by its covers.

That is a valuable lesson, but more important, you should never let your gifts & your dreams die within you.

Never forget that authentic gifts & empowering dreams produce amazing performances when unleashed.

Optimism is born when attitude, skills & opportunity come together at the right time to deliver excellence."

[Extracted from 'The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes & Actions into Results', by psychologist Terry Paulson;]

[For me, the lesson key to the foregoing Susan Boyle story is 'Follow Your Bliss', an apt phrase, which I had picked up from an unforgettable training session with the legendary Jim Channon in Kona, Hawaii, during the early nineties, even though the powerful phrase was often attributed to the great American mystic Joseph Campbell.

Readers can go to this link to read an excellent & extensive write-up on 'How to Follow Your Bliss: A Step-by-Step Guide';]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Gaining an edge in the future depends upon the ability to hone the hyphen - to creatively bundle & rebundle skills & knowledge. Cross-fertilisation gains when two or more unlikely fields combine. The industries of the future all have hyphens in them: bio-tech, multi-media, eco-production..."

~ Kate Kane;

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

IT'S TIME FOR AN INTERIM TUNE UP: QUESTIONS TO PONDER

How am I doing?

Or, how well am I you performing?

Is there a difference between what I want and what I have?

Have I set any new records?

Have I achieved a personal best?

Am I on pace for having the best year of my life?

What am I going to do differently starting today to get myself back on target?


~ inspired by the Goals Guy, Gary Ryan Blair;

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"My attitude is that creativity might be a commodity. So, the trick isn't really to be really creative or really strategic, but it's really to combine the two."

~ Alex Bogusky, Creative Director;

Monday, April 5, 2010

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Look what the educational system does to creativity. Every child learns at a very early stage that when they're asked a question in school they must first ask themselves a question: What answer does the asker expect? That's the way you get through school, by providing people with the answers they expect. Now, one thing about an answer that somebody else expects is it can't be creative because it's already known. What we ought to be trying to do with children is get them to give us answers that we don't expect-to stimulate creativity. We kill it in school."

~ Russell Ackoff, 'The Deming Library' (Volume 21);

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTION TO PONDER)

Today, what is education for?

Where should it take place? How? When?

What is the ideal school?

The ideal lifelong learning experience?

Who should be in charge of education?

And who pays for it all?


~ from the book, 'Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track', by systems scientist Russell Ackoff & education innovator Daniel Greenberg;

Sunday, April 4, 2010

RAPID RECAP: FLOW

Psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi has studied highly creative people who are passionate about their work or hobby but are not rewarded or motivated by money or fame.

He has attributed their passion to a concept called optimal experience or flow, which he has also broken down into nine elements:

1. There are clear goals every step of the way.

2. There is immediate feedback to one’s actions.

3. There is a balance between challenges and skills.

4. Action and awareness are merged.

5. Distractions are excluded from consciousness.

6. There is no worry of failure.

7. Self-consciousness disappears.

8. The sense of time becomes distorted.

9. The activity becomes autotelic [the meaning of the activity is within itself].