Posts Tagged ‘thinking’

“Unlearning.” That word by itself kinda hurts my brain. Isn’t that the opposite of what we want? Don’t we want to grow? Isn’t the way to grow to expand, to intake, to gain? Well, yeah, of course, buuuuuut…

A lot of people, educators and learners alike, live by the doctrine of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That’s a problem.

Bindaas Madhavi Photo CC-by Bindaas Madhavi


Will Richardson’s article about “unlearning” mostly deals with throwing out old misconceptions or outdated methods of thinking, particularly in classroom settings. Verbatim, Richardson claims “it’s simply learning to see things differently or to at least be open to it.” I’m going to kick this section off with the last of Richardson’s claims, and say that the most important thing that needs “unlearned” is that real change can happen just by thinking it into practice. This is not a thing. Action needs to happen for change to happen.

Unlearning simply means re-evaluating old concepts, and being open to new ones. In education, this is probably the most vital piece of advice that can be given. Too many times I was at the mercy of teachers who utilized tired-out techniques they learned in school, and were unwilling to budge in any way, shape, or form. Each person learns differently. Each person has different passions. In order to harness all of this potential, flexibility needs to be a key factor.

This semester, I’ve unlearned quite a few things. I’ve unlearned that no one is making a charge to reform education. I’ve unlearned that social media is useless for anything besides cat videos. I’ve unlearned that blog posts are useless, because there are people somewhere out there paying attention. I still have a ways to go, though. I need to unlearn that most authority figures are pompous assholes who have no intelligence or empathy. I need to unlearn some of my cynicism and be a little more willing to believe in the good in humanity. I’ll get back to you when this happens.

Don’t hold your breath.

Thomas Hawk Photo CC-by Thomas Hawk


In George Couros’s look into the mind of an innovator, he writes himself a mission statement:
“I am an innovative educator and I will continue to ask “what is best for learners”.  With this empathetic approach, I will create and design learning experiences with that question as a starting point.”

As an educator, Couros wants to focus on new ideas. He wants to focus on open-mindedness, much like Richardson, and above all else, he wants to focus on what’s best for learners. For educators, this involves quite a bit of humility and searching.

It means acknowledging that even if you are an expert in your field, you don’t know everything there is to know. It means acknowledging students as people and accepting the fact that they have things to teach you as well. It means figuring out how to work with each individual learning style, and doing your best to realize that teaching a group en-mass using the same technique is a busted-ass idea from the get-go. Couros understands that these things mean going out on a limb, upsetting an established status quo and taking risks for a reward that involves maximizing learning output for students.

Couros also heavily endorses technology as a medium for learning. He claims innovators can do their best by connecting to others globally, gathering , comparing, and discussing ideas from all perspectives. That being said, Couros also claims we no longer need to throw the title of “digital” on everything: literacy, storytelling, learning, etc. It’s now all implied. Learning is changing. It all ties back together in the fact that we need to “unlearn” the traditions of old in favor of innovating. As I said, learning is changing.

I’m not sure I’ve done much in the way of innovation this semester. If anything, I’ve played it close to the chest and stuck with what I know. Same routines, same attitudes, same techniques.. because they work. And because I’m afraid of change. Soon I won’t have the crutch of academia as an excuse anymore, and we’ll see what kind of innovator I really am.




TED Talks, to me, have always been sort of a recipient of my love-hate complex. I love listening to the stories of people with remarkable professions, how they got there, what that entails, and I love hearing innovative ideas that inspire. On the flip side, I hate the hallowed ground that TED Talks tread on. People walk away inspired, but often do nothing to change their lives or improve the world. They simply feel revitalized in a brighter, better future in the hands of all of these geniuses, and continue with business as usual. To me, that isn’t enough. To change things, feeling good about yourself isn’t enough, sorry to say.

It was difficult to find a TED Talk that was willing to go against the grain. When it came to ones with popular appeal, I found only 3. One by Sam Hyde, where he intentionally lied about the subject of his talk and trolled the audience for 20 minutes, one by Benjamin Bratton, where he rather viciously tears down our fetishization of ideas, and finally, one my Neale Martin, where has emphasizes that for TED Talks to matter, the inspiration we feel has to come to action to mean anything.

Your Brain on TED Talks

Martin, a former alcohol and drug counselor, focuses most of his talk on why our conscious brain has a difficult time turning our unconscious thoughts into actions. The conscious brain is lazy, easily distracted, and easily tired out. He says, as I’ve been saying since the class began, ideas aren’t enough. It isn’t enough to be inspired. It isn’t enough to want to do something. Something has to be done.

Martin dedicates the first half of his talk to describing how our human brains have evolved up from primitive, dinosaur-era simian brains, to our squishy, lazy, social-media driven ones that find us bored when travelling 65mph in a steel bullet. Besides his all-important assertions that inspiration and ideas aren’t enough to make change, Martin does make one other main point that I feel is equally important.

Photo CC- by pee vee, and life won’t wait


Emotional Response is the Only Response

We’re taught from a young age to disconnect emotional thinking from logical thinking. Logical thinking is considered superior: we are able to look objectively at a problem and assess it properly without the cloud of human emotion in the way. We make emotional decisions when it’s gut-check time, when our hormones and involuntary responses get the better of us. Right?

According to Martin, wrong. Your emotions tell you what’s important. Your emotions give your logical list of things an order of importance. If you make no emotional connection with something, you will not remember it. Martin says that when we combine emotion with logic, we get the human-specific capacity of judgment. Martin asserts that making a decision without including emotion is nigh but impossible, and that that’s alright. He claims that it isn’t our fault we have such a hard time adhering to diets, New Year’s Resolutions, and new habits – our conscious brain is simply too easy to sway. We get tired, we get hungry, and all “logical” thinking capacity is thrown away.

Trouble in Paradise


I did have a few problems with Martin’s talk, particularly toward the end when he’s describing how to turn goals into habits. At this point in the talk, it begins to feel like just any other TED Talk. We’re being given a “how to do this in -BLANK- easy steps!” list that many probably won’t remember, and won’t abide by. It’s in this particular instance that I would prefer Benjamin Bratton’s crass, rude delivery. Bratton seems like kind of a jerk, but his self-assurance and condescending tone make you pay attention. Anger is a great motivator.

Still, at the end of the day, I think Martin has a great point. Discipline is the only way we can change behavior. To do that, though, we have to care about more than a good idea. Only we’ve got the power to do more than just be inspired.

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