Learning for the future: fundamentals

Your stick

Here’s a first try on the importance of fundamentals in learning.

Imagine you are holding a long stick – better yet, a sword or lightsaber – representing your ability to make a difference in the world.

The far end of the stick is the part that you’ll make the greatest impact with. It moves fastest, reaches furthest, hits hardest.

But it’s useless if you don’t know who or what you’re fighting for (and/or against).

And everything the end of the sword does depends on what happens at the handle. You need a good grip, and the part closest to the handle needs to be – I think – the strongest part of the sword (armourers?).

A small change in the person holding the sword, a small movement of the hilt, makes a huge difference to what happens at the pointy end.

The rest of the sword is just an amplifier.

Learning

Here’s a theory of learning:

  1. A person**…
  2. meets something new…
  3. has some kind of interaction with it…
  4. and is changed in some way.

I think these are the bare essentials. You can’t have learning with less, and everything else is detail under one of these headings. 

** Or animal, or…

Starting line

Where’s the starting line?

Sometimes we’re a few steps further down the track than the people we want to take with us:  we’ve given it more thought, we’ve done it before. We want it more.

We’re so keen to get people over the finish-line that we don’t notice that they’re still milling around at the start – or even that they’ve chosen to stay in bed.

How far away are you? How many steps backward will you need to take if you want to take them with you?

What do you need to communicate? What are the thousand other important things that you don’t?

When are you going to stop talking about techniques for crossing the finishing line and help them to put on their shoes?

 

*see also: Clarity. Simplicity. Focus.

 

Team performance (3): Learning and individual growth

Richard Hackman‘s third lens on teams and team performance looks at what happens to the individuals on the team.

Individual Growth

What happens to the individuals? Did they learn something? Did they grow and develop professionally, or was this a waste of their time or something that frustrated and alienated them?

Richard Hackman

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Team growth and individual growth are interrelated, but distinct. Team growth is (primarily) related to the team’s ability to work well together as a team, and whether their ability to get the job done is improving, and the improvement is sustainable.

Individual growth is about personal learning and development:

  • Are the members of my team developing their own vision?
  • Are they and exercising and deepening – or possibly redefining – their values?
  • Are they gaining new tools – ideas, skills, understandings – that will serve them and others well, beyond the team?
  • Are they developing significant relationships and resources that will help enrich their lives and the lives of those around them?

How is what you’re doing now going to make their lives better in future? How is the work of your team an act of generosity the teams of the future?

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I listened to Andy Kaufman interviewing Richard Hackman on the People and Projects Podcast.

Team performance (2): Team Growth

Richard Hackman‘s second lens on teams and team performance is about the team getting better at what it does over time.

If you’re leading a team, your evaluation of the team’s performance can’t be based solely on whether you delivered the goods last time. You’ve got a bigger picture to think about, including whether your team is getting better over time.

Team Growth

Team growth is key too: “What happens to the team itself over time? Does it grow in capability? Is it a better performing unit after its completed this project than it was before?

Richard Hackman

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As your team delivers the goods this time, is it getting stronger and better able to deliver the goods next

  • Is the team clear about a shared vision what it’s trying to achieve and where it’s going?
  • Are your values being strengthened through this project or are they compromised and in danger of withering?
  • Are you developing shared standards and practices that will make doing the same jobs easier tomorrow?
  • Are team members getting better at their individual roles?
  • Are you getting better at communicating, cooperating, helping each other out, having fun while you work?
  • Is the wrapper of essential resources and partnerships around the team being strengthened? (think ecosystem, not machine)

I listened to Andy Kaufman interviewing Richard Hackman on the People and Projects Podcast.

Team Performance (1)

I’ve just been listening to Richard Hackman on teams and team performance. His first lens for evaluating team performance is straight forward:

Delivering the goods

Did you get the job done? How well did you do it?

Who is the legitimate receiver, user, reviewer of this performance and what to they think of it? Did you serve the client first?

At a non-profit leader you might have several ‘customers’: the people you serve, donors, the team itself. If you can’t keep everyone happy, where do your priorities lie?

I listened to Andy Kaufman interviewing Richard Hackman on the People and Projects Podcast.

The hope of Audacity

In my blitz session to get my first podcast episode recorded I struggled to get to grips with Audacity. I’ve since watched this, and I think I’ll be using it for editing the first proper episode.

Still not sure about the glitch with the file though.

Anyway, thanks to Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income – there are links to a couple of his podcasting courses at the top of the homepage.

121 minutes to your first podcast episode

This is a different type of post – more of a howto or a ‘what I tried’, in the spirit of moving fast and getting something done. So here goes.

Start the clock.

Write the title: XX minutes to your first podcast (we’ll fill a time in the title when we put the full-stop at the end).

The Rules

Make a really short podcast, edit it, and distribute it to a global audience (hosted on this website, hopefully registered on itunes, stitcher and wherever it needs to be in order for me to listen to it on Podcast Republic) in as short a time as possible – ideally less than an hour.

Inventory

Fair’s fair – time for full disclosure. I’ve done a bit of recording audio on my phone before and been thinking about this for a while. My equipment consists of:

  • My Android phone – Motorola G4plus
  • A Boya BY-M1 mic
  • Voice recorder by Splend Apps – I’ve tried a few and found this to be the best functionality (records straight to .mp3, is easy to use, gives you what you need without requiring payment).

Steps

  1. Write the script
  2. Record the podcast
  3. Edit the thing
  4. Find out how to distribute it

Write the script

Intro music:

I love the first few bars of Everlong by Foo Fighters. As with my wonderful header image, I will consider myself an enormous success if the copyright holders ever ask me to change it, which I will gladly do.

Intro script:

Welcome to Driverless Crocodile, a podcast about making change happen, and building the future.  I’m Stu Patience, and this is episode 0.

Episode 0 script:

I’m making this inaugural Driverless Crocodile podcast to celebrate 100 blog posts about building the future. I’m hoping to run an occasional podcast series as part of the blog featuring conversations with non-profit leaders and others working to make change happen and build a better future. My particular focus is on community development and education in Indonesia, but I’ll interview anyone interesting, so please get in touch if you have a suggestion.

I’m interested in sharing the most useful knowledge and tools for building effective organisations and making things happen. By tools I mean ideas, values, practices, skills and qualities, processes and digital technologies – all things that we add to ourselves to extend our ability to change the world around us.

Paused the clock at 21 minutes 20s to grab a snack.

This is episode 0, so it’s just an introduction, and I’m on a bit of a tight deadline – read the companion post at driverlesscrocodile.com – which may or may not be linked to in the shownotes – to find out more.

And that’s the end of Episode 0 – thanks for listening and see you next time.

Driverless Crocodile – out.

Record the Podcast

Right. I’m upstairs in my office, and it’s 32 degrees centigrade and a bit sweaty. I’m going to turn my phone onto aeroplane mode (to avoid interruptions and beeps while recording), shut the door and turn my fan off now before I record the introduction and episode 0, hopefully in one take each – because it’s going to get hot with the door closed, but also because my phone’s battery is down to 11%.

Done! I was wondering all the way through how silly I’m going to sound, but I’ll worry about improving things next time.

The fan is back on, the door is open, and I’m up to 36 minutes and 49 seconds.

Edit the thing

Find free editing software online

Quick search… audacity looks best. I’ve used it before I think, but it don’t have it on this computer.

And.. Audacity is installed. While it was installed I listened to my recording. It’s okay… I sound a little more American than I probably should (sorry parents!) – I blame the Americans on the podcasts I listen to.

And I’ve shared the files I recorded to myself on googledrive.

So with audacity open in a parallel window, I’m ready to start…

Lost a minute waiting for files to sync…

Editing Episode 0 with Audacity

Hmm, trying to import the files and there’s a problem with the libraries for .mp3 files.

I followed the instructions in audacity, went to the download page, downloaded LAME for audacity, ran a quick virus check and installed them. And it’s worked. Intro is imported.

… but audacity doesn’t like the file.

This is taking too long. Switching to editing program number two on the list – Ocenaudio. Thanks TechRadar!

Trying again with Ocenaudio

It’s taking a while to download so I’m looking at making an RSS feed from wordpress while I wait. Looks a bit technical. Ah, found something that looks a bit easier here.

Editing with Ocenaudio

Here we go again…

The files worked straight away, but the editor wasn’t working for me – I was hoping to see both audio tracks and be able to drag and drop as on my old version of Sony Vegas, and couldn’t quickly work out how to do it.

Back to Audacity

I looked a little more carefully realised that I had only downloaded the export library, and downloaded FFmpeg libray by going to edit -> preferences, then clicking the download button for FFmpeg, downloading a zipfile, extracting it, then using the locate button to find the library in the folder I extracted the files to. It worked!

More problems

My intro works, but Audacity doesn’t like my episode, despite it playing as an .mp3 in my normal music player.

Okay, it looks like there’s a problem with the file – not sure what.

Going to try and get this thing done with the theme music and introduction.

Impatient Patience

Wow, neither of those were working. I’ve switched over to my old video editing software, Sony Vegas 10.1.

It might be because I’ve used it before but it just… works.

I now have an edited podcast episode in .mp3 format. A bit rough, but… ready.

Getting it online

Back to that wordpress howto… which wasn’t that helpful.

Found Powerpress by Blubrry and installed the plugin

Activated and started filling in the information… There’s more to do here than I expected.

And stopped for the night, at 2 hours, 1 minute.

The episode is recorded, and I could post it here – but I want to get the RSS distribution up and running tomorrow, so will sit on it for now.

Footnote

Phew. 2 hours. My timing was way over ambitious. There are tweaks to make to the episode, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it sounds, considering it’s a one-take wonder!

Deep literacy: what it takes

Put aside AI and machine learning for a minute, and ask instead:

“What does it take to equip a human to be self-teaching?”

As a starting point – how many lines of code does it take to make a child who can read with fluency and ease and with critical understanding, and who loves reading, and is motivated to read and learn more?

We just tidied my kids’ bookcase, and I took a moment – okay, more than a moment – to count the books.

bookcase with 519 children's books post cleanup

519

There are 519 books on this book case (including those on the floor and nearby that should be on it).

There are picture books, stories, touch-and-feel books, comics, small novels, catalogues, phonics books, kids bibles, magazines, science books, poetry, stories and non-fiction books about other cultures, lots of books about cars, even a couple of hand-written and coloured books by his great aunt, and a couple of notebooks with short and often unfinished stories that he’s written himself.

He’s had them read and re-read to him by a range of people, had pictures pointed out, words explained, sounds and meanings spelled out, questions asked.

He’s listened, looked, laughed, frowned, cried on occasion, got fed up, desperately begged to have them read to him, been indifferent.

And he’s read them repeatedly by himself: browsed their pages, poured over the pictures, flicked through them, gone back to favourite bits again and again, skipped the endings or skipped to the endings, tried out the words, phrases and attitudes, in the real world come to us with questions, absorbed our answers, disagreed with our interpretations, shared with us bits that he’s loved, come to us with things that have scared him, made up stories just like them, and new stories of his own.

250

Did I mention the 250 leveled reading books – the books specifically designed to help kids learn to read – that live upstairs? Here’s a selection:

shelf of books

Or the books we’ve borrowed from friends or read at their houses, the books read at or borrowed from libraries?

Or the ebooks?

He’s probably read about a thousand books.*

190,000 and the less-than-one-percent

But it’s not just about numbers – which books he’s read is as important as how many.  Most of these books are a custom selection, just for him, made by someone with his current tastes and future growth in mind (my wife is something of a book-picking phenomenon) from the roughly 190,000 books aimed at children under 12 that are available to him in our culture.**

So the selection on these shelves represents the tip of a huge pyramid – roughly the best, most engaging and most appropriate 0.5% of books written for people like him.

Don’t forget the wrapper

That – the books themselves and the wrapper of love, support, enthusiasm, the culture of curiosity and valuing education, the relative affluence, and living in an economy that makes books like these cheaper than ever before if you bide your time and look out for deals – is what it takes to produce a solid reader at age seven or eight.

*I’ll try to estimate how many words this represents another time
**My point of reference for this was the number of books available on Amazon.co.uk – see this post for more information.

Full disclosure: here’s the bookcase pre-cleanup:

bookcase with 519 books