Better Ways to Educate

I had a discussion today with a former teacher of mine who is trying to take students to the next level in their learning. This teacher wants to provide a higher achieving platform for students than what is available to them in the ordinary high school classroom setting. They are searching for some of the patterns that have helped students the best in the past.

This got me thinking about a video I had seen in the past of Russell Ackoff and Dr. Demming about education. The video is directly below and then I’ve extracted some of the insights from the video and some other Russell Ackoff videos. There’s also a second video from Seth Godin on modern schools and education.

Russell Ackoff distinguishes analysis and synthesis. In the western world we’ve predominantly focused on analysis when teaching. For example, we break our schools down in to parts, the English department, Math department, Science department and others.

Teaching in a lot of schools focuses less on creativity, knowledge, understanding, wisdom and focuses mainly on the lower level data and information. This is data and information that someone else has chosen, the teacher or curriculum provider. The student is expected to give the answer the teacher expects, which leaves no room for the student to exercise creativity.

How can you switch to focusing on creativity? Have the student explain in which context a certain known answer would be correct. Have the student explain what contexts are important to them.

Many modern schools are also focused on attracting everyone of a certain age for the purpose of learning, but not all attending students will be learners. No one can force a person to be a learner. So a lot of energy goes in to convincing people to learn, instead of enhancing learning.

Using the idealized redesign technique, imagine if the current system was destroyed last night and you were in charge of making the new system, how would you make it? After this ideal system is conceived as an idea, then do not focus energy on convincing the existing education system to change, but focus on connecting the learners that find the new system valuable.

Seth Godin says “Connect the committed.” Don’t spend energy trying to convince people. Create a glide path for committed learners to do their best learning. This means, as a facilitator or platform provider, remove as much friction as possible for learners. Including accessibility to tools and content and convenient times.

There is also this great Seth Godin video on the modern school.

You can also download Seth’s free e-book Stop Stealing Dreams (What is school for?).

Integrating Systems Accelerates

I am working on integrating a variety of systems, some of which will only be known sometime in the future. Some of the challenges that arise are how to deal with the complexity and variety of systems. Below are some general thoughts on how to approach this type of work. With an increasing number of software systems in all walks of life, integration work will increase exponentially.

A system is the product of interaction between parts that cannot be achieved by any single part. Russel Ackoff has a good analogy. A car moves, but a motor can’t even move itself. Physical products were fixed products, whereas software systems usually integrate using versioned APIs with versioned back-end systems.

Below is one example of going about such integration work in a methodical way, not a comprehensive guide.

Pattern matching and analysis to understand the needs. How do you allow for variety, somewhat future-proof and enable scenarios through combining available and composable functions into a solution? Extensibility is implementing interfaces in a way that allow this. Classifying scenarios and analyzing them to find patterns can help create a map of needs. Someone thinking about extensibility should think in terms of using composable parts to then fulfill the needs.

Enabling architecture to meet needs and allow for variety through synthesis. Some of the useful parts of systems thinking that might help with successfully integrating systems include thinking of how the part fits in to the whole. Using classification techniques and then using pattern matching to run over the classifications can create a map of similar parts. A good part in our system tries to absorb variety while not being useless and ambiguous. Parts that can be combined to produce an increased number of useful interactions is better than a set of parts that produce less numbers of useful interactions. In reality, you will not know every scenario enabled, but you can do thought experiments and discuss it with other people to get an idea of which parts provide this better result.

Think in terms of the system when working with the parts. One thing that makes integration more complex than it needs to be is when people creating parts, expose the part implementation to people wanting to use the extensibility layer to make new interactions. It might be impossible in some scenarios to abstract away or hide the implementation details, but in a lot of cases it is something that can remain hidden. This does not mean parts have unique properties. It means that the unique properties exposed to the integrators should be thought of in terms of the system and whole the part fits in to the system, not how the part works.

An example of this with software is that you might need to transform data from one format to another. As a software developer creating the part, you might use XSL to transform the data, but having the integrator be responsible for providing XSL to an XSL part would be the more complex solution. If the system will require 10 parts to create the system, then this approach will theoretically require the systems integrator to understand 10 unrelated sets of technical details. Because the integrator is creating a system with parts, they will obviously have to know 10 different parts, but cognitive load should be related to the system and not the intricacies of the parts.

The systems engineer creating the parts might judge the complexity by the number of parts created, thinking that fewer parts means less complication. Thus the one XSL transformer that allows any XSL to be submitted might be judged better than the more strict phone translator. When you want an email translator, the part maker will have to make another part and this might be judged as adding complexity or work.

The less complex solution for system integrator in this example, would be if the part creator (software developer) created a set of parts around specific types of translators in the context of the system. If the system is about communication, then maybe there is a US Phone Number to International Translator. It will be more valuable for the systems integrator to talk about translating phone numbers every day they make systems from these parts than to reference XSL and its intricacies. It is appropriate for the systems integrator to think about area code, but not the syntax of an XSL if statement for example.

Free 3D Printer Designs

I added a new list to MakerShop for Free 3D Printer Designs so you can see at a glance high-quality designs that you can print for free right now.

The list includes:

New 3D Printing MakerShop Capabilities for 3D Designers

Come see what’s new at the 3D printer marketplace MakerShop on April 3, 2014. We have been working hard to give designers the online tools they need to distribute their best work. On April 3, we add a new way for 3D print designers to get their designs directly in the hands of home and office 3D printers.

If you’re a small business, a marketer or a serious 3D print designer then you will not want to miss this April 3rd news.