Thursday, January 12, 2017

Linear Thinking and Hub 4 CIS^2

In his book "The Biology of Belief" Lipton does a great job shifting the paradigm of nucleo-centered biology to membrane-centered biology and uses quantum physics as a powerful tool to argument for the shift. (For a Youtube video of this book click here) The importance of this new way of looking at how cells function is that it gives the environment a critical roll in the behavior and development of cells and organisms in general. Environmental stimuli are critical in the way we think. In a similar way John Medina in his book Brain Rules tries to articulate principles that explain why the mind works the way it does. (To see the rules click here.)
When one thinks about how to learn something or how to teach something we normally assume many things and ideas that should not be assumed. For instance the fact that we are all different, we are different at the nanoscopic, microscopic, and macroscopic levels, meaning that there is a genetic, organic, and environmental difference. Paradoxically we all -at the same time- aspire to unity, homogeneity, and similarity. How can we work with this paradox in education? It really looks like the old nature versus nurture dilemma but it is not. This paradox provides with an integrative approach to understanding how we survive and thrive in our work, family, and society in general.

Changes require changing, as I belive Yogi Berra would say, so what kind of changes do we have to do in order to have a positive influence in the changes that inevitably are going on.
So far linear thinking has guided us here. In many ways our society is based on linear thinking, but that is not longer (maybe hasn't been for some time!) the case. We need to thing more organically. We need a non-linear -web like- way of doing things. The Internet has proven the efficiency of this model. But has also opened possibilities for wrong doing. This is where there is a very important role of education in guiding the changes that are occurring.
I have developed an idea for a setting; an idea for a context and an environment. I call it Urban Hub 4 CIS2. Urban Hub for Creativity, Innovation, Sustainability, and Stewardship. In this Hub 4 CIS2 people will join others in their pursuit of learning. Means and attitudes will be there to help all who want in the achievement of their goals. Including of course academic and vocational counseling to those who need it as some will need some help in defining their goals, objectives, and aptitudes to accomplish them. Students will flourish as they find their strengths and institutions will prosper as they increase the efficiency in which they serve their constituents. It is a win-win-win proposition. The individual wins as s/he becomes more involved, aware, and engaged with is his/her (hir) success. The institutions win as they become more effective, solid, and sustainable. And, of course, we all -society- wins as it becomes more just and equilibrated.   

Sunday, January 8, 2017

More Trust

It has been a long time since I posted on this blog, and it was about Trust. In it (click here to review) I mention how leadership is based on trust. But then I was not thinking so much about institutional trust, the trust that people have on institutions. Indirectly of course there is a relationship between personal/individual trust within an institution and the trust that refers to the institution. Now I want to address how trust in the institution affects the way we trust each other. In particular the trust that is necessary between educators and students to guarantee student success. (If there is any way to guarantee student success it is through trust.)

As we live in a continuous changing world we have to be aware of types, and areas where these changes are taking place. This analysis and awareness is difficult because the orthodoxies of life give the impression that there is some stability and the Status Quo dominates our actions, behaviors and aspirations. There is a strong inertia in our ability to read history and to understand who we are based on were we have been. Specially when, regarding education, there are norms established by accreditation institutions.

At the forefront of changes in education is the one related to science. STEM not only has fed changes with a lot of energy but in a way it has guided the direction in which these changes have occurred. Changes in medicine, energy, transportation, communication, and in general how we relate to our environment. We can't continue teaching science in the same way we have been teaching for the last 300 years. There are some paradigms like the definition and use of the scientific method that can and should continue to be adopted, but the delivery of these paradigms might (most like shouldn't) be different.

Paradoxically it looks like some of the changes that are occurring appear to move backwards. To some kind of original intent in our society. For example it looks like we are going back to the idea of personal prestige rather than the prestige of the institution. We have never lost the personification of some institutions as we clearly identify individuals with some corporations. More so if this institutions are of recent creation, say Microsoft is clearly identified with Bill Gates, but with older institutions where their founders are long gone is not that easy. Who can identify a person with GM, GE, Ford, MIT, or Harvard? If you are not in that area of business for sure you will not know who is in change of these macro-organizations. Who knows who control Twitter, PayPal, Uber, Airbnb, or the WWW? Again if you are not in the business you will not know. But... For sure you know what these are and what do they do, as most likely you are one of their users. (Note that I didn't mention Facebook!)

A recent TED talk by Rachel Botsman (Jun, 2016) discuss the implications of technology on the way that we trust each other, the way in which we grade and evaluate each other, including services provided by institutions. This is having a direct impact on the way we learn and teach. We now have institutions providing information and knowledge that in some cases is certified through MOOCs. These courses and certifications are from well established (accredited) institutions such as MIT, and others through their own systems of delivery (MIT OpenCourseWare) or through independent delivery systems such as edX, Coursera, and others.

Now, the question is how can we be ready for these changes. As an academic my interest has been on how can I be a better teaching professor? What kind of organization is better to confront the challenges of today? How can I be part of the strengthening of the organization? The answers to these questions are complex, and require deep analysis. But most importantly the answers require a sense of hope and optimism.

As an organization we have to become in many ways what Brown-McNair et al. in their book "Becoming a Student-Ready College".

A body of people focused on serving a diverse population of students.