The Dynamo and the Social

Thought this was an interesting piece at Slate based on Paul David’s paper. There are some obvious parallels with personal or mobile computing and education and the difficulties we have with using it well.

“Electric light bulbs were available by 1879, and there were generating stations in New York and London by 1881. Yet a thoughtful observer in 1900 would have found little evidence that the “electricity revolution” was making business more efficient.

Steam-powered manufacturing had linked an entire production line to a single huge steam engine. As a result, factories were stacked on many floors around the central engine, with drive belts all running at the same speed. The flow of work around the factory was governed by the need to put certain machines close to the steam engine, rather than the logic of moving the product from one machine to the next. When electric dynamos were first introduced, the steam engine would be ripped out and the dynamo would replace it. Productivity barely improved.

Eventually, businesses figured out that factories could be completely redesigned on a single floor. Production lines were arranged to enable the smooth flow of materials around the factory. Most importantly, each worker could have his or her own little electric motor, starting it or stopping it at will. The improvements weren’t just architectural but social: Once the technology allowed workers to make more decisions, they needed more training and different contracts to encourage them to take responsibility.

Last year’s OECD report was one of many to suggest that it might, just might, be a little more complicated than putting more computers in classrooms. I do wonder whether, at some level, the school as an organisation will have to undergo a similar redesign to make the most of our new dynamos.

Jack Welch and Rates of Change

This, from Jack Welch, makes a lot of sense:

“I’ve always believed that when the rate of change inside an institution becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight. The only question is when.”


Given how quickly things are changing outside schools, it makes me wonder how best to keep the rates of change inside them up to speed.

“Not another gym”

Geelong Grammar School is Australia’s largest co-educational boarding school, It is over 150 years old, and full of tradition. I’d never heard of it until recently.

Its mission statement (as found on its website) is not a million miles away from any of the school mission statements you find here in England:

Geelong Grammar School offers an exceptional Australian education …

Through first class teaching and facilities, exceptional pastoral care and sound Christian values, we inspire our students to flourish, to embrace their learning opportunities and to lead positive, meaningful and engaged lives.

What is different about Geelong, it seems, is found in that word “flourish”. That’s how I stumbled on it, from Martin Seligman’s Flourish. Seligman describes how Dr Trent Barry (an interested teacher) and the head Stephen Meek invited him over to talk to wealthy alumni to persuade them to build a well-being centre. The talk went well, and Rupert Murdoch’s sister Helen Handbury, one of the alumni, is reported to have said “Not another gym; I want well-being for young people.” Next, the two teachers flew over to the US to ask Seligman what he would want for his ideal curriculum. And then they put it into practice.

First, there is the curriculum:

The implicit teaching of Positive Education takes place at each year level, at every campus and across all aspects of School life: academic subjects, pastoral life and the co-curriculum programme. Explicit teaching is delivered in Year 7 and Year 10 through specific Positive

Psychology programmes written by the world’s leading research psychologists and developed in collaboration with experienced classroom teachers.”


The aims of Positive Education are:

  • To increase the experience of positive emotions in our students;
  • To encourage students to engage their signature strengths for personal and community goals;
  • To engage students to live meaningful lives to find purpose and make a difference to our communities at large.

The implicit programme comprises seven over-arching topics that are explored from ELC to Year 12:

  • emotion
  • gratitude
  • strengths
  • creativity
  • self-efficacy
  • resilience
  • mindfulness

The explicit Positive Psychology Programmes taught in Year 7 and Year 10, teach students the following skills – which have been developed through scientific study – to help them to tackle life’ s challenges:

  • Thinking and Explanatory Styles
  • Thinking Traps
  • Detecting Icebergs (Underlying and Surface Beliefs)
  • Challenging Beliefs
  • Putting It Into Perspective
  • Real-time Resilience

Second, there is theHandbury Centre of Wellbeing.

Boasting a premium indoor activity facilities (including indoor courts, a pool, gymnasium and dance studio) the Centre encourages our young people to engage in and enjoy physical activity. It provides students with the opportunity to take control and have a positive impact on their own wellbeing.

The Centre is a special place where students can socialise, exercise, train and seek out information or expert advice. Students and staff are drawn to its friendly environment. Whether it’s swimming laps, talking to a counsellor, lifting weights, socialising with peers in the cafe, finding time to meditate, or getting online to look up information, the Handbury Centre for Wellbeing puts a range of comprehensive resources and trained staff, within easy reach of every student.

Definitely “not another gym”. And definitely inspirational. Similar funds my not always be there (it cost $16 million), but as a model I think it is fantastic on a number of levels. The openness to learn from an outsider like Seligman is a wonderful message for the students on its own. Embedding it in the curriculum, training staff, putting one’s money where ones mouth is, and innovating to meet current needs rather than aiming for ossified 150 year old practices … put it this way. If I ever go to Australia, Geelong will be up there with the Sydney Opera House and Ayer’s Rock for me

Reinventing British manners the Post-It way

Design thinking goes like this: firstly, immersion, whereby the designers research the problem by plunging themselves into it – talking to the people they're trying to help, working with them, interviewing experts. Secondly, synthesis – whereby they gather together their findings and look for patterns. Third, ideation – brainstorming solutions to the real problems identified by stage two. Then comes prototyping, making mock-ups of solutions to try out against the problem. After that comes the product. Only at the end, at the prototyping stage, are judgments made; until then, all ideas are given equal weight.

… design thinking places the designer at the heart of the innovation process… the methodology gives a firm framework within which a wider team can work. It takes the cliché of the lone creative mind being struck with genius, and replaces it with a process that a whole team can follow. Creativity, therefore, isn't a thing that magically appears, but a process you work through.

Source: here

How to Get the Most From Your Best Ideas

Clear processes are also essential for dealing with one of the hard realities of innovation: failure. In this context, innovation can be seen as analogous to baseball—a star player on offense is one who fails about 70 percent of the time.

As Otis’s Diehl puts it, “What’s important sometimes is not how a company deals with success but how it deals with failure. There is a sense in which the best innovators know how to reward failure, as oxymoronic as that may seem. An initiative that stretches an organization, that results in pushing back the boundaries of knowledge and of products—that’s something that companies have to find a way to acknowledge, even if it does not result in a breakthrough product or process.”

Indeed, the risk of failure may be the most frequent killer of innovation.

Source: here

Design Innovation and Innovation Ecotones.pdf (application/pdf Object)

While mangroves, themselves, are the dominant, or keystone species, of the tropical estuarine ecotone, their rhizomic root system is also analogous to the entire ecotonal ecosystem itself. It negotiates the air/water interface as a third thing.

From Carl Jung, to Deleuze and Guattari, to authors of hypertext, rhizomic systems have fascinated so many because they replace hierarchical constructs with an alternate model of heteregeneity and multiplicity. The rhizomic system is a model of integrated multiplicity and managed disturbance, both made highly productive for the regeneration and evolution of the total system. As a distributed system of populations, but one that functions as a single organism, the rhizomic structure is a precise and prolific analogy for the innovation ecotone space that this paper has put forward.

Source: here

YouTube – Yochai Benkler: After Selfishness – Wikipedia 1, Hobbes 0 at Half Time

Yochai Benkler 94 delivers a dynamic lecture on the future of social production to mark the occasion of his appointment as the Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies.

From the Harvard Law School Spotlight:
"Collaborative systems, built upon freedom and altruism, benefit from increased individual agency of motivated participants. As such, the newer systems are far more efficient and more capable of adapting to sudden changes. However, the task from the theoretical standpoint, said Benkler, 'is to develop a general framework for analyzing human systems of all forms, enabling us to design systems that are both more effective and more resonant with being human.'"

Source: here

Does Curiosity Kill More Than the Cat?

curiosity can distract men from secular obligations by so occupying their minds that there is no room left for other considerations. These men (and women) fail to register the pain of animals subjected to experiments in the name of knowledge, pay no heed to the social consequences of their investigations, and take no heed of the warnings issued in Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus,” Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau” and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (not to mention the myth of Pandora and the Incredible Hulk).

They are obsessive and obsessed and exhibit, says John Henry Newman, something akin to a mental disorder. “In such persons reason acts almost as feebly and as impotently as in the madman: once fairly started on a subject, they have no power of self-control” . They have no power of self-control because they have no allegiance — to a deity, to human flourishing, to community — that might serve as a check on their insatiable curiosity.

Source: here