Rethinking Reading | “Do you read me?”

Before we begin this post, an urgent note for those of you who are into comics – Halftone 2 is the App Store’s App of the Week. If you haven’t gotten this app yet, now is a good time to get into it!

Which brings us to today’s topic – Reading! Following on the theme of Divergent Thinking in a Convergent World, today we tackle ‘reading’. I mean, we read books, read comics, read a chart, but do we read a painting? As media converges, what will reading look like in the future? How can we prepare today’s learners to cope with its evolution?

“Do you read me?” – funnily enough this is radio talk… You can read about its history and significance here. Reading applies to more than just words and books. It can mean many things. So, why when we mention reading we automatically revert to the idea of reading a book and little else?

As the world of reading converges because of multimedia, innovative ways to communicate and sub-culturalism, a lateral approach to reading is required. Are our learners being educated to embrace and wrestle with this?

Reading will become more interactive and lateral

Instead of just reading words and sentences, the future of reading will become more lateral. iBooks and interactive books for example now present information in new ways. Learners will now need to ‘read’ not just literal words but also graphics, colors and ‘actions’. Pictograms and other graphical elements become the new universal language. Information can be presented multi-dimensional and layered – meaning, like an onion, information can be layered and you can take a different perspective as you digest and analyze information and go in different directions. And (scary thought for some), reading becomes non-linear. Like websites, pages don’t have to flow in a straight fashion anymore. You can have multiple sources of information AND choose to multi-read at the same time! Have you heard of De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats?

Some examples that stretch the idea of reading include

Reading will become more nuanced

Apart from media and new delivery methods, reading will also become more nuanced and personalised. One of the biggest trends in education today is personalized learning. Educators are beginning to see the inadequacy of ‘batched learning and teaching.’ Learners do not conform by age, demographics or psychographics. Because every individual is unique, his/her personal combination of nature and nurture will present a huge challenge for any system that reduces learning into a fixed, rigid and narrowed curriculum. Learning will become more outcome based, with building blocks that can be mixed and matched into countless combinations to suit the personal learning preference of each individual learner so he/she can each learn more effectively. Hence, reading becomes nuanced – while some learners ‘read’ books, others ‘read’ by listening to audiobooks, and others ‘read’ by playing a game. What is important is that learners understand there is no right or wrong way to read, just ways that are more effective than others depending on the goals and the media involved as they comprehend and engage with their world.

Some ideas to think about include

Writing and reading are obviously intricately related to one another. We sometimes take reading for granted because when the writing is done well, it just flows. That’s one of the reasons why I like movie scripts so much. They are writing that need to read well enough to be translated into a visual narrative that engages the audience and make them see, hear and feel the story. Wow, that’s one sentence that helps us see how many things converge when we talk about writing and reading!

Now, all we have to do is bottle that thought and take reading to the next level. Do you read me?

PS : Here’s a link to an article about how challenging it is to create something that reads well… Enjoy!

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Divergent Thinking in a Convergent World

Before it runs out, Apple’s App of the Week this week is an awesome app called 2Do. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and download it before it goes away (well, back to its normal price as opposed to FREE!). If you want to know more about it, visit their website. It’s definitely a keeper, I can personally say it’s a super-duper app that can help anyone become more productive and effective – especially if you’re into GTD. It’s a universal app so it’ll work on either iPhone or iPad! And it’s one of the few apps to sync across over to their app on Android too!

We are currently in a bit of a difficult position from a mindset point of view. We have begun to realize that the world needs people who can think divergently while generally, the entire world is converging. If anything, our mind needs to be opened more and more and be able to become adept at thinking divergently when processing information, addressing issues and solving problems. At the same time, we notice that like molecules in a superheated container, dots we assumed were separate are colliding and merging into newer, never-before-seen bigger and weirder dots. I am talking about how technologies, industries and faculties are merging in new ways and we are all struggling to keep up with them.

These two factors are creating all sorts of opportunities (and problems) while our learning and knowledge systems are trying to keep up and rationalize their very relevance and existence.

New models of schools and learning have emerged – and they all look very interesting indeed. There are some that deal with the content of learning and teaching, and some that deal with the process of teaching. Have a look at some of these…

What do you think, what’s happening? Before we go jump ship and go all gooey either way about where education is headed (good or bad), remember this?

Oh, btw, the VIC ed department has just released an app… get it here. Any comments?

Over the next few blogs, I will continue with the theme of ‘Divergent Thinking in a Convergent World’ as we explore how technology and spirituality will mould and shape education and future generations.

Tis’ the season to be merry…

Well, it’s the silly season again… And the debate has already started about whether Jesus would be at the centre of Christmas this time. I guess my response to that would be, it depends… on YOU!

Before we get into all that, what does Christmas signify for you, I mean, really? For me personally, Christmas has always been about starting afresh, about a new hope (by the way, have you seen this – for next Christmas?)… about wiping the slate clean and giving everything a chance to start over.

Funnily enough, I came across two articles today about education that I simply had to share, in the hope that someone out there would take note and dare to start over. In this day and age, starting over is so easy and possible. Our parents and their parents never had the chance to start over. By the time they realized they wanted another path, it was too difficult and too late to even try. Of course there were exceptions, but mostly, people just took it as a dream gone by.

Have a read, and see if they can spark a bit of a revolution in your mind and heart for next year. 365 days is a long time these days, and with a little bit of enthusiasm and a lot of teamwork, you can achieve almost anything. If you’re game, I’d like to be on your team!

Interesting how things panned out even if both these authors didn’t actually get the schooling they wanted / needed. But, you have the power the change all that for future generations – it starts with you!

Like it did with Jesus 2,000 years ago.

Looking for resources to share to start talking about Christmas, Baby Jesus and Advent?

Here are 3 to try out… (sadly, these are old but IMHO, they are still the best ones to use…)

 

And this one is a tad wacky but hey, it’s a wacky world out there! And it is the silly season…

I sometimes wonder if perhaps things were not a little bit more exciting and action-packed then than what we read now. After all, miracles, breakthroughs and all things magical were happening in those days much to the awe of the writers and chroniclers. Maybe they didn’t have the ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Movie-Review’ lingo in those days that’s why the stories don’t seem to be so ‘out-there’.

Which reminds me of this…

A little boy went to church with his grandma. He went into Sunday school with the other kids. After church he rejoined his grandma, who asked what he had learned that day.

“Well there was this guy named Moses,” the boy started, “and he was running from this mean pharaoh. Moses & his army came to the Red Sea, but pharaoh was closing in, so Moses had his engineers build a bridge real quick & they got in their tanks & went across it. They got to the other side & when pharaoh’s army was still on it they called in an air strike!!”

“I don’t think that’s the story you were told,” the grandma said.

“You’re right grandma, but if I told you the story they told us you wouldn’t believe it either.”

Speaking of Moses, Nic is going to watch Moses tomorrow… and believe it or not, it’s in the Bible… 🙂

 

Paying it Forward

There’s so much promising going on (because of the state election this weekend) it’s likely to make you cynical. In times like these, those of us who want to stay sane, positive and cheery need to look far and wide for that glimmer of hope and all things biophilic. Fortunately, with the internet and connectivity, we don’t have to stray too far to find glimpses of Heaven and goodliness.

 

Firstly, for those who haven’t already – Things is the App Store’s App of the Week (i.e. FREE!) – go download it quick. It’s a pretty good to-do manager for getting your life organised. It’s a bit different from listers like Wunderlist and heavies like Omnifocus but in a good way that may appeal to those who wish for simpler and more Zen-like options.

Before you get all cynical with all those promises on the TV, radio, internet and snail mail – watch this. Hopefully it restores your hope and faith in the little things that matter big time. Have a good week ahead and try to slow down this pre-holiday season. If you’re depending on others to do it for you, it’s not going to happen 🙂

 

 

RIP Robin

The world is reeling from the loss of one of its brightest sparks. This week, Robin Williams took his own life. What I felt most tragic and paradoxical about this is – How could this funnyman (if ever there was one) who is able to make almost anyone laugh so very easily and joyously was himself denied that joy that he so graciously and generously bestowed on others? There are so many stories now emerging of how sensitive and caring he was as a human being and not just as a career comedian. If only he had asked, voiced out and shared his heart. If only.

I remember 3 super-impactful seminal moments in my life inspired / challenged by Robin (and his character in the movies).

1. Dead Poet’s Society

It is awesome to note that DPS had inspired a whole new generation of teachers (people who actually, intentionally and purposefully redirected their life goals to become teachers – and impacted future generations) who took to heart the lesson Keating (Williams) ‘taught’ in the movie. For me personally, the scene that made a huge impact was this one – starting from 1:50. The thing about our ‘inner poet’… our inner voice… it validated and encouraged me to listen, and I have never stopped since. Thanks, Robin.

2. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Who could ever forget Robin Williams as King of the Moon in Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece? When I first saw the movie, I was so fascinated by his portrayal of a God in action. Remember the bit when he ‘created’ Spring? So, ‘I think, therefore you are’! This scene totally messed up my perspective on all things divine and Godly. It made me rethink and re-evaluate my ‘human’ perspective on God. It totally blew my mind away. Thanks, Robin.

3. What Dreams May Come

If DPS impacted my view about Life, then WDMC totally obliterated my view about Death. If I can list two movies / ideas that twisted my thinking around death and all things after-life, it’ll be ‘What Dreams May Come’ and the ‘Tears in Rain’ scene from Blade Runner. I really should watch ‘What Dreams May Come’ again, this time with my family. There aren’t many movies that can help people open up about death and letting go, in a meaningful and closure kind of way. And how many people in the world today could do with some closure because of unexpected good-byes of their loved ones?

To lose such a special human being so young (by today’s standards) is tragic enough. But to lose him to depression when he could potentially be the ultimate ‘every-one else’s antidote for depression’ is unbearable. If only.

 

Before I forget, please honor Robin – if there’s someone you know you care about who you think could benefit from a ‘If Only‘ right now – reach out to them and make it easy for them to share and speak up. Don’t wait for them – it might be too late.

Another spark that died too early in 1980 was John Lennon. His song, ‘Imagine’ inspired a whole new perspective of thinking that transcended the set beliefs and thinking of his time. Personally, I think his son Julian outdid his dad and released a song that unfortunately has failed to inspire a new perspective of thinking that could transcend our thinking and beliefs at this time. Although then it was a song mostly about the environment and our misdirected priorities, the theme hasn’t changed. Until we get this and are humbled into submission that we aren’t as clever as we think we all are, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our generation. I pray that one day we will wake up and rethink our values and what really matters to us and those around us. And do something about it.

 

Being an educator just got a bit more powerful…

Apple updated iTunesU app yesterday, and wow – is it getting even more fun for educators. Included in this latest update is the ability for any educator to create their own courses – right from their iPad!

Here’s what iTunesU version 2.0 can do for you (and your class) :

Introducing the new iTunes U

Let the discussion begin
• The new iTunes U makes it simple for students participating in private courses to pose questions on the course or any post or assignment.
• Other students in the class can jump into the discussion and ask more questions or provide answers.
• Teachers and students can keep up with the conversation when they receive push notifications as the discussion progresses.

Create courses on iPad
• Teachers can now create and update their courses using the iTunes U app on their iPad—getting started is fast, simple, and completely free.
• Provide every student a course outline, write posts, distribute assignments, upload class materials, easily track participating students, and much more.
• Take advantage of the built in camera on iPad to easily capture photos or videos and upload them for course assignments.
• Create materials using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—or other apps from the App Store—and add them to your course by using “Open in iTunes U” from within each app.
• Teachers affiliated with qualified institutions have the option to publish their courses to the iTunes U Catalogue—making them available to everyone for free.

To learn more about what iTunesU can do for you as an educator and for your ‘learners’, click here. Apple has also provided a very clear set of guidelines to help you get started on iTunesU courses. The beauty of Apple’s approach is that they let you be the educator and focus on teaching and gathering almost any type of content from the web to create your course. With collaborative tools built in, there are very few reasons why any educator would want to use anything else.

If you’re keen to create something a little more elaborate, what about iBooks Author?

With Apple’s suite of iWork apps (Keynote, Pages and Numbers) and iBooks Author all easily integrating into iTunesU course design and creation, you won’t need much time and effort to digitize your existing or even new course content.

The e-Learning race is heating up, recently with Google Classroom launching, and also forays into education scene by Samsung and many others. Educators and learners of all ages are winners here, and not a moment too soon 🙂

For me though, this is what I hope the future of education will look like one day soon. The technology is already here, and so is the vision. All we need is the human spirit and conviction to step up and embrace it to make it real – right here, right now.

 

Halftime @TheWorldCup : Is God Watching?

We’re almost at the halfway mark of the World Cup 2014. There’s been plenty of thrills and spills, and at the time of writing, a quarter of the quarter final matches have been confirmed. Many would agree that this has been one of the most exciting world cups in recent history. Why?

In my humble opinion, I think the world game and soccer in general has ‘equalized’. By this, I mean that the understanding and appreciation of the game is now complete, whether you are an ex-world champion with loads of experience, or a debut team with a lot of passion and determination and conviction to make it there and beyond. Because people generally now have access to the same resources and knowledge as others in the peer group (in this case, the world cuppers), managers, coaches and players can now strategize and plan their moves and counter-moves to overcome their opponents. This is what we are seeing in this world cup. Any team that comes in thinking they can just do what they did previously and hope to win will be in for a big surprise, as teams like Italy, England, Spain and even Germany have discovered. The only teams that stutter are the ones that refuse to adapt and evolve. Although seemingly insignificant, this great equalizing big idea powerfully enabled by technology and accessibility has given the Davids of this world tremendous ability to defeat the Goliaths.

However, the big spiritual question today that I want to ask about the World Cup is – Is God watching? I can’t help but be blown away by the humility and piousness of some of the players and managers (and fans too). Sometimes, you sense that players are playing for their country, fans and other players. But, the truly masterful and virtuoso performances I feel are played for God. How else can you explain the gestures and ‘actions’ of the players when they celebrate their goal? These ambassadors of God are shining their light in perhaps the biggest stage in their lives, and what a wonderful job they are doing.

Case in point is this morning’s goal by Jackson Martinez from Colombia. Here is a religious man who the commentator made it a point to state as someone who begins each day with the bible. Is that common knowledge? Is that what makes a soccer player stand out? How did that get in the script? He is but one example, there are so many you can see – what do players do before they step into the field, or off it? When they miss a goal, who are they asking forgiveness from (hint – they look up!)? When they score a goal, (more often than not), how do they celebrate?

What the world cup has shown is that it is more than a game, and tournament. It is an opportunity to showcase the human spirit and in a certain way, a form of worship for the players and fans. It is a pity that we have to wait 4 years to experience the next one. But, from the ominous signs of how it is evolving, I can’t wait to see what comes next. I have a feeling God feels the same way too.

Does anyone remember what happened in the last world cup !? Guess what he’s going to be when he grows up?

 

 

 

 

The Human Spirit


In less than a week, the biggest event in the world is going to begin… For as long as I can remember, I’ve been mad about the ‘world game’ – actually the first memory I do recall is in 1978… The Road to Argentina. That was when it kicked in for me, literally. I caught football (or soccer to some of you) fever as a kid in Standard 5 (similar to Year 5 in Australian primary school speak). I would save my daily allowance, skip lunch and instead buy a plastic ball for a dollar and by the end of the day, us football-mad kids would have busted the ball and the next day, the cycle began anew. It was always me, among the group, who would lead by buying the ball. I would have easily been the most ‘assetized’ kid in the block, and also the one crazy enough to skip food and instead choose to play football with my friends. Those were some of my best memories growing up.

I would spend countless hours at home perfecting moves playing against the wall. When friends came over, we didn’t need a field, any space would do. I had more than my fair share of scoldings and beatings (yes, we were ‘expected’ to be disciplined by the rod and worse) when we err… lost control of the ball and made a mess of things breakable. But, did that stop us? No!

We were totally addicted and passionate about ‘the game’.

The question was, and is, ‘How did we catch the passion and love of this game?’

When I wasn’t playing football in the field, I would invent games using cards, action figurines etc. Have you seen how creative kids can be using bottle caps to invent a game of table soccer? Even pieces of paper or card and a scrupled up ball with matchbox goal boxes? Then video games came along and I swear, being a video game junkie that I was (and still am) I had every known electronic soccer game ever written.

It is very interesting to note that this year, the game will be played in Brazil. Wow, Brazil. Home to the most recognizable, famous and universally acknowledged champions of the game – Pele, Zico, Socrates, Ronaldo and today’s would be legend Neymar. Can you imagine the pressure?

But, I digress. It’s normal when you start talking about something you are passionate about. These days, I can only play (well) on the iPad or as a manager in those sims on the computer or iPhone. Still passionate about soccer, but it’s a tad more intellectual. What I did want to point to, and I’m sorry it took more than half the blog to get there, is where did the passion come from?

I didn’t get taught this. I wasn’t very good at it – I only made it to the class team, not even the school team. But, I did score and made some spectacular goals in my time. I think that happened because I was passionate about the game and not the other way around. What about the game (and any other sport) influenced and attracted people like me to love it, feel for it and become a fan(atic)?

How did that happen? Wouldn’t it be great if we can distill this great insight and use it to create super-learners in schools today?

One thing I can say for certain is this… football and how I view and played it had made me who I am today. I am more creative and ‘adaptable’ because of the game and the stars of the game I idolized and admired. Players like Platini, Georghe Hagi, Glenn Hoddle, Scholesy were people I had looked at and wondered at their genius, vision and absolute artistry. They were able to create something out of nothing, just like that. And that was an ethos and mastery I had sought to emulate in everything else that I do.

It’s been a while since I last watched and followed the World Cup. In 2010, I didn’t even watch a single match in its entirety. But, this year I intend to reignite my love and passion for the game. With the internet, and live streaming, it’s easy. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

After all, it’s more than a game, it’s a celebration of the human spirit. But then, what is the human spirit?

Nike attempts to capture it in its World Cup ad… Enjoy!

 

RIP Maya Angelou

A great writer, poet and thinker – spiritual in every way – passed on today. Thank you Maya, for making spiritual sense of this muddled up, mixed up world. In her own special way, she used words to express spiritually what the world meant to her, as she saw it with her own eyes and heart, and with that unique talent of hers, she has enabled many to share her spirituality. She truly is ‘a light in the world’.

In the 1990 Paris Review, Angelou was asked, “You once told me that you write lying on a made-up bed with a bottle of sherry, a dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, yellow pads, an ashtray, and a Bible. What’s the function of the Bible?”

“The language of all the interpretations, the translations, of the Judaic Bible and the Christian Bible, is musical, just wonderful. I read the Bible to myself; I’ll take any translation, any edition, and read it aloud, just to hear the language, hear the rhythm, and remind myself how beautiful English is. Though I do manage to mumble around in about seven or eight languages, English remains the most beautiful of languages. It will do anything,” she replied.

The Paris Review reporter then asked, “Do you read it to get inspired to pick up your own pen?”

“For melody. For content also. I’m working at trying to be a Christian and that’s serious business,” Angelou asserted. “It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy—it’s serious business. It’s not something where you think, ‘Oh, I’ve got it done. I did it all day, hotdiggety.'”

She continued, “The truth is, all day long you try to do it, try to be it. And then in the evening, if you’re honest and have a little courage, you look at yourself and say, ‘Hmm. I only blew it 86 times. Not bad.’ I’m trying to be a Christian and the Bible helps me to remind myself what I’m about.”

To read the entire wonderful article from Christian Post, click here. Thank you Maya, may you rest in peace.

A Passage to India

You’ve seen it in movies, watched ads and National Geographic documentaries but until you land here and experience it with your own senses, you will not understand and appreciate the exhilaration and chaos that is INDIA.

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I’ve had the opportunity now to visit India for the 3rd time, and each time, you see a different facet of this remarkable culture.

This time around, I’ve also gotten to see first hand the setting up of a new school but more importantly, the idea of schooling for a people group (or caste) that has never been ‘allowed’ to have access to education. That’s the Snake Charmer caste.

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Can you imagine that? You are not allowed to go to school, to learn, to experience mental and intellectual growth… at least in the academic sense.

I had the opportunity to speak to them, these freshies. I asked them, ‘So what do you want to be when you graduate?’ before it dawned upon me, that’s way too far fetched for them to imagine. Funny how we take things for granted, eh? For centuries, these people have been ‘snake charmers’ – generation upon generation, that’s their one and only ‘career path’. If you are born here, you are a snake charmer. No career counseling required, or available.

Which reminds me, I need to make a mental note to buy and send the kids the awesomest book on snakes so that they can teach their parents about snakes and snake handling… 🙂