I’ve been blogging for the last seven years and I’m always on the lookout for ideas for posts. Not to go too far down the blogging rabbit hole, but when I find inspiration for a potential post, I add it to a note on my phone that is titled Blog Ideas. Since I never really know when inspiration will strike me, Blog Ideas often collects all sorts of half-baked thoughts. When I look back at the notes later, I’ll see a remnant of some quote that I quickly typed at the gym or some phrase or statement that I added while sitting at a red light. Sometimes when I look back at my notes, they’ll make complete sense. Other times, they don’t. I’ll encounter some hastily written, cryptic sentence and wonder “What in the world was I thinking when I wrote this?” The seeds of inspiration!
One of the ideas that’s been in the notes page for a while is a quote from Alvar Aalto. Alvar Aalto was a Finnish architect who was featured in a podcast on skateboarding in empty swimming pools. Aalto originally designed the pea-shaped pools that became popular on the West Coast as makeshift skate parks. Discussing his ideas and inspirations, Aalto writes:
“Perhaps they are, for instance, like some big salmon or trout. They are not born fully grown; they are not even born in the sea or water where they normally live. They are born hundreds of miles away from their home grounds, where the rivers narrow to tiny streams. Just as it takes time for a speck of fish spawn to mature into a fully-grown fish, so we need time for everything that develops and crystallizes in our world of ideas.”
In the spirit of Alvar Aalto and the fish that are not fully matured, this week, I’m going to deviate a bit. Rather than present “big salmon,” I’m just going to pull a few “specks of fish spawn” from my notes page and share them in their half-baked state. If I can recall, I’ll share the point of inspiration and what I was thinking at the time. Maybe some of my adventurous readers can help these ideas mature into more “fully-grown fish.”
“The Reasonable Man”
I heard this phrase in a podcast. It’s a legal standard used in court cases to decide what a reasonable person would do in a situation. At the time, I thought about what a parallel standard called “The Reasonable Educator” would look like. What practices, responsibilities and beliefs could we expect from the Reasonable Educator? What about a Reasonable Student? That’s about as far as I got with the concept.
“The T-shaped Professional”
This a recent addition to my notes page but I thought I’d share it. This comes from a recent report from the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education that discussed the need for developing “T-shaped professionals” who have a broad liberal arts background and a knowledge of soft skills (the T-top) and a deep knowledge of a specialty area (the T-stem). I still may develop this idea into a post but I found the “T” reference interesting and novel.
“Tyranny of the Urgent”
I actually don’t remember where I heard this phrase but I think it would be a good mantra for new educators. The phrase was coined by Charles E. Hummel and he is quoted as saying “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” Good stuff to consider as we move into the holiday season.
“GPS Mapping/Christopher Columbus/online teaching”
Really, that’s exactly what the note says. Despite my efforts to remember where it came from or what I meant at the time, I still have no idea. I do remember reading an article about people who blindly follow their GPS directions and end up driving into lakes and buildings. Maybe I wanted to draw a comparison to the way Christopher Columbus was able to cross the Atlantic without those tools because of his ability to navigate. There could be some parallels to online educators who ignore pedagogy and rely on their LMS too heavily. I know it’s a bit of a reach but that’s the best I could come up with.
“Chasing signal vs. Chasing noise”
This phrase came from a podcast on stereotype threat. Without digging too deeply into the research, stereotype threat refers to the risk of confirming negative stereotypes about an individual’s racial, ethnic, gender, or cultural group. The podcast took a critical look at the evidence for stereotype and I thought the phrases “chasing signal” and “chasing noise” could be interesting lenses to use when viewing classroom environments. I still need time to develop this further but what are the “signals” and “noise” of learning? How can we learn to focus on the important stuff (the signal) and ignore the stuff that isn’t (the noise)?
Returning to Alvar Aalto, you may see some of the ideas return in the weeks or months ahead. This post simply showcases the specks of fish spawn that may eventually grow and mature and crystallize into a world of ideas. Only time can tell.