Archive for November 4th, 2012

WSJ: How to Avoid a Bonfire of the Humanities

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Michael S. Malone contributed an article titled “How to Avoid a Bonfire of the Humanities” to the Opinion section of the October 25, 2012 issue of the WSJ. The article describes how disciplines in the humanities are resurgent in necessity to innovation. A specific example is cited with a quote from Santosh Jayaram that “English majors are exactly the people I’m looking for.” The thought continues that “storytelling” is a rare talent and today goes a long way towards competitive advantage. I would actually pose this is as great prospects for the hybridization of humanities thinking with science, engineering and business. We have already seen it in various ways – the graphical user interface (GUI) is a hybridization of art and technology. Usability is a hybridization of engineering, design, architecture ¬†and psychology.

We can use the notion of “storytelling” with the 90-second elevator pitch approach as well as the executive summary framework from Garage Technology Ventures. Together, youth can learn to be compelling and noticed.

Exercise: Name Scramble for Warm-up

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

For a middle school elective course on creative thinking that I am teaching, I came up with a (hardly unique) exercise to warm-up the students to the subject.

On the syllabus sheet that was waiting for them at each seat was a “Hidden Message” puzzle. The benefit of such an approach is that a student can start on something when they enter the classroom (and when they come in at different times, it is good to have something ready for them to do – I learned this from Challenger School where students start on work that is on the board when they enter the classroom first thing in the morning – they go directly to the classroom from drop-off).

There are no specific instructions; just the title “Hidden Message.” So, as expected, students are drawn to this puzzle (rather than the syllabus) and ask about it. I say that they should try to solve it. Some will ask what they should do; in response, I ask them what they think they need to do. To keep them on task and engaged, I provide hints as needed (maybe every 30 seconds or so).

For this puzzle, I took the name roster and inserted letters that spelled “CREATIVE THINKING.” Then I added dots to make the puzzle into an even-width shape. The name roster uses the possibility that they know each others’ names already or recognize their own name first. For a mixed level class such as this, the students needed a hint that this involved their names; they asked whether they could ask each other for their names and I reminded them there were no specific instructions so were free to use whatever method they could think of. So, they started talking – but the social dynamics provided some foil where some students were not cooperative – so workarounds or negotiation became involved.

The puzzle was solved within 15 minutes which is just right for a warm-up.