Archive for March, 2021

LinkedIn: Post by Anthony J James of “Fluidity” by designlibero

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

In my LinkedIn feed today, I noticed a post by Anthony J James commenting “Innovative design idea” about a dish drying rack with sections for small plants that would be watered by water that drips from the drying dishes. My reaction was “cool” idea and a wonderful idea using the convergence technique we use in the current YCISL ITW program.

But wait! There was more… There were negative comments aplenty. Many comments were based on lack of understanding and a resistance to the product idea being able to replace the traditional dish drying rack (fixed mindset, I would diagnose). Here are a few examples:

“What about the soap? Would that not be toxic to plants?” Careful how you use the word “toxic” because there are several beneficial plant applications for soap. You can also discard lightly soapy water into your garden (ever washed your deck or patio stone?) without harming the plants.

“Nice try, quite ingenious except lots of plants grow spores, mold, fungi, and insects larvae form their ecosystem and not ours.” Ummm…are you suggesting not having houseplants at all? Or would you like to have a 6 ft social distancing requirement from any plant?

“The person who designed it doesn’t wash dishes.” One of those responses that is most likely incorrect. Perhaps not the way you wash dishes.

“No herbs raised on detergent water will ever taste good or be good for your health.” Reminds me of the Mister Boffo phrase “Unclear on the concept.”

“It is likely that there will be trace of chemicals present in water, that might affect the plant?” Tip: The water you use has chemicals in it. Be it from water treatment, natural atmospheric dissolved gases, dissolved minerals from aquifers, etc.

There were many encouraging comments too. Mostly on the external form design which I agree is cool.

But what struck me is the lack of productive commentary. I don’t usually comment on LinkedIn, but since this product touches on so many personal and YCISL interests, I wrote:

“Iterate this idea. Forget hydroponics. Many houseplants (ie, indoor plants such as the ZZ shown) need humidity rather than constantly wet roots. The LECA balls would provide support and a porous way for humidity to rise to plant. Would suggest removeable bottom tray for periodic cleaning. Other applications would be micro greens or seed starting using seed starter mix where constant moist but not wet needs to be maintained, but would recommend pre-filter such as activated carbon.”

The idea is to collaborate, not object or discourage. Use your expertise, if you have it to share. Wonder out loud, if you like – but imagine the possibilities rather than close your mind. The surprising thing is the LinkedIn titles the negative commenters had; eg, Concept Designer, Team Builder, Entrepreneur, Consultant, and so on. Evident absence of growth mindset.

I would also further share that this product is called “Fluidity” and a full description can be found on the designlibero web site. First, note that the design is dated 2012. Then now also note this article dated November 23, 2020 “Scotts Miracle-Gro completes acquisition of company that makes home-grow kits” which reports how AeroGrow, the maker of the well-known AeroGarden, was acquired. The hydroponic countertop product was already finding a place in kitchens and other places around the home (let’s also remember the countertop composting worm bins!) where nature is succeeding over germaphobia. So I do feel there is a design genius within Fluidity. It just needs iteration based on constructive feedback and focus group testing.

If this was a YCISL DEZIGNBLÄST design project, we would be fully supportive and encourage iteration through further design thinking and divergent-convergent thinking. In the feature list exercise that we do, we would build Smart-app support, sustainability factors such as use of solar cells, and positivity in form and function. Then our students would craft a story to go along with this must-have product.

Just think…if this was made for college students living in a dorm. They would have just a few dishes, want late night snacks, and stress-relieving plants to look at and take care of. Find that early adopter to help you tell your story in a positive worldview.

PS. The other lesson is not to take criticism too harshly unless you have found reason to trust your critic. Do they have growth mindset and positive mindset skills (remember, it takes work)? Do they have emotional intelligence and an ability to brainstorm self-edit-free? Test their ability for active listening and mindful push/pull/centering.

WSJ: Standardized Tests, Ancient and Modern.

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

Back in 2018, I wrote a comment about a WSJ article titled “The Gatekeeper Tests.” Today, I read an article in my March 13, 2021 print copy WSJ titled “Standardized Tests, Ancient and Modern” (it is titled “The Ordeal of Standardized Testing” in the WSJ online edition; strange as this is reverse of the positivity in titling lesson that TED has followed) by Amanda Foreman.

The article tickles me a little because it tries to show a history of standardized testing systems – set in wholly negative circumstance. And it’s more of what is not mentioned as parallels in testing historically that bemuses me. Even today, the SAT (and ACT etc) are obviously more Big Business than Education in a present when superior alternatives are readily available. If the motivation (or better put, raison d’être) for standardized testing is actual academic ability and accomplishment, then the purpose works, and the autonomy and mastery elements join in too. This is consistent with the various historical settings described in the article.

It’s a tool. And if used correctly and applied correctly, can be quite valuable. And like most tools, they need periodic improvements and refinements. And if I use the YCISL idea of precision vs accuracy-based education, standardized testing could use the same paradigm shift.

Think about all the forms of testing that exist today. Would anyone think their test would improve if they followed the SAT model? From tech QA to chemical analysis to sports performance to transportation to whatever else…, the SAT model is the one you need to face away from.

Thought: How many chucks can a woodchuck chuck?

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

Actually the question that came across my mind is “How many students in a class can a teacher teach?” This follows on my earlier idea of precision education versus accuracy education. This also connects the idea of preparing for classroom teaching with emotional intelligence and design thinking.

Let’s make this an estimation exercise.

If we define “students being taught” as those who get a C grade or better, then perhaps we could estimate that 3/5 of a class is taught successfully (Salman Khan might twitch at this point since this would mean there are a whole lot of gaps).

When I teach a Stanford class, I have a cut-off where a B or A grade means the student should be allowed to exercise that knowledge professionally. So that might be 2/5 of a class (no, not really as you have to try really hard to get a C, D or F from me).

How about we consider only the students who have negligible demonstrated gaps? Let’s say those scoring 98% or above on tests? In my experience (and depending on several circumstantial factors), that’s around 10/100 of  a class.  Or how about those who get an A+ for the class? That’s anywhere between zero and 5/100 depending on the instructor’s mood.

And if we want to look beyond the tests? How many students who complete a course could actually engage in an intellectual conversation involving the subject just after the end of the course? How about the same conversation a week, a month or a year later? Of course, the answer is “depends” but if we were to keep this to estimation, the range would be none to a few.

The idea I would like to share is about judging students for their expandability as much as expansion. A teacher’s mission should be to cultivate a wholesome love for learning and propensity for connecting one thought to another. And they should be praised for being able to accomplish these. This is a low-cost/big impact idea that falls in the “Chief Detail Officer” and “Perspectives” action items imparted to us by Rory Sutherland in his TEDTalks. As Sir Ken Robinson told us in his epic “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” – “…it’s put us in a place where we have no idea what’s going to happen in terms of the future. No idea how this may play out.”

Maybe it’s time to give teachers quizzes, homework and exams so that they can review what they have learned from their class each day…and identify the gaps.