Happy Steve

Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

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Filtering by Tag: organisational frames

Alice Leung Does Stochastic Tinkering

I noticed Alice Leung tweeting about tinkering with the configuration of her classroom:


There developed a lovely conversation between her and @sarahjohanna :


Now I really resonated with what was going on here  and what I often notice in Alice's tweets: a constant energetic questioning and tinkering, and then reflecting on the results. Apart from anything else, I just want to shout a hearty 'hear hear!' and celebrate the moment.

The exchange also sparked some associations and I've thrown them here below: 

"Stochastic Tinkering"

I picked this lovely phrase up from Nassim Taleb in his books "The Black Swan" and "Antifragile". By stochastic he means random. For me, the word has connotations of deliberate intent to shake things up... staccato stabs at innovation. 

Stochastic tinkering isn't far off notions of edu-hacking. 


Taxonomy of Frames

In my 'frames' taxonomy for innovation, Alice is tinkering with "o-frames" - organisational frames. In this case, they are the physical frames in her learning space, consisting of furniture, empty space, etc, within the broader o-frame of the classroom building itself.

S Frame (1).jpg

Alice observes that "HS teachers don't really think about learning space layout".  

My aspiration for the 'frames' taxonomy is to expose these arbitrary elements and make them more susceptible to innovation. Alice, of course, does this instinctively.

Frames are for edu-hacking, stochastic tinkering.


Design Thinking  vs Hacking

I've noticed Design Thinking is getting more and more traction in educational circles. Indeed I myself have become rather besotted by it.  I suspect that within a year or two it will have the same horrible simplistic buzz word status as flipped learning, PBL, gamification. 

All these models wander in and out of the edu-zeitgeist.

As much as I love Design Thinking, I wouldn't want it to become a dogma to replace "fly by the seat of your pants" hacking/tinkering.

So much of life, experience, and nature, and everything is composed of ad-hoc tinkering.

Hacking is immediate, contextual, empowered, and subversive! It provides its own research data, because it either works immediately & sticks or it doesn't and doesn't.

A blog post contrasting Design Thinking with hacking is here, with lots of further links.


Whiteboard + Table Legs = Revolution

Whiteboard Table

Whiteboard Table

A couple of years ago my colleague Mitch Layland bolted an old whiteboard to some old table legs: 

The idea went viral - lots of teachers started asking for them:

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Consider what a revolution 90° makes. It's a political revolution!

A vertical whiteboard is for broadcasting. It is a one-to-many delivery system.

In contrast a horizontal whiteboard table is space to be claimed. It allows many-to-many collaboration via line-of-sight.

Vertical is tyranny, horizontal is  power to the people! 

Here are the tables in action, including a video:

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When we have visits by teachers from other schools, the whiteboard table is always remarked on. As soon as you seen one, the idea seems simple, powerful and obvious. 

But until you see one, the idea does not occur. 

Which begs a question: what else aren't we seeing? 

Or more broadly: How can we develop the ability to see the bleeding obvious?   

Some people are gifted it in this, but not me, and I want a method for acquiring the skill.

I label and describe physical objects as 'frames' in an attempt to uncover the obvious. 

I label and describe physical objects as 'frames' in an attempt to uncover the obvious. 

 In my last post I introduced 'frames theory' whose very purpose it is to develop this skill, exposing blind spots and challenging the tyranny of the familiar

 So I shall conclude by recasting the whiteboard table in the terms of frames theory.

Younglings reconfigure space without thinking about it.

Younglings reconfigure space without thinking about it.

The physical classroom itself is an 'organisational frame'.

An 'organisational frame' is matter organised in a particular way.

e.g. a classroom might be: four walls, a door, and some windows. 

Organisational frames are nested. Within a classroom we find lots of other frames: a vertical surface with legs, called a 'table', and another called a 'chair'. 

In frames theory we try to see these objects like lego bricks, and approach them with the attitude of a toddler who smashes things into other things, turns things upside down stacks things on things, and so on, with no end goal at all. 

The point is to be playful, and you can't be playful if you think space is immutable.

Obvious to young learners.

Obvious to young learners.

So we ask, what if we used the tables as chairs? or the chairs as tables? Or we turned them on their sides? Or added legs, or put them on wheels?

Then we notice the whiteboard up the front and we ask: what if we put it at the other end? Or put it on the floor? Or dangled it from the roof? What if we cut it in two?

Back to kindergarten for me to see the obvious.

Back to kindergarten for me to see the obvious.

What if we put it on a table? 

The language of 'frames' forces us to step back and label the bleeding obvious, which is a step toward transforming the familiar.  

Go into a space, and take an inventory of the frames, and define them like you're an alien from Mars.

 What is right before your eyes, that you're just not seeing?


 POST-SCRIPT: an excerpt from "Antifragile" by Nicholas Nassim Taleb, p188

"We keep being reminded that the Mesoamericans did not invent the wheel. They did. They had wheels. But the wheels were on small toys for children. [] They used vast quantities of human labor, corn maize, and lactic acid to move gigantic slabs of stone in the flat spaces ideal for pushcarts and chariots where they built their pyramids. They even rolled them on logs of wood. Meanwhile, their small children were rolling their toys on the stucco floors"