Cultivating Awe: Tending to the mind fires of 21st century educators

Awe is an emotion chocked full of wonder, admiration and excitement. It's engulfed in inspiration, possibility and motivation.

21st century educators - folks who have jettisoned 19th century teaching and learning methods, who care deeply about the future of our planet's youth and who embrace evolving technology to thrive in a world that demands its residents possess the knowledge, skills, habits and attitudes (habitudes*) necessary to not only navigate today's work and educational pathways, but tomorrow's as well.

21st century educators need not be employed as teachers. They are people who do not have their heads in the sand. They are people who are intricately aware of business and educational environments and have a keen eye for navigating the road ahead. And they are people who genuinley care for and about the educational and life development of our youth.

Who will most benefit from reading Cultivating Awe? Parents, teens, young adults and those interested in preparing our youth for post secondary education and the workforce they will one day enter. Also, other 21st century educators interested in their trailblazing peers.

I recently created a separate Website for Standing Out in a Sea of Sameness

*Angela Maiers' Habitudes

Community College Success

Community College Success by Isa Adney

"Dave, you do realize that most of your readers have been away from college...for years, right?"

I do. Most of our readers however, are people of influence. We speak to them. 

Isa Adney (pronounced eesa) has written a sure-fire prescription for community college success. It comes with one caveat however. In Isa's words, "I cannot teach desire, passion, perseverance, or diligence..." In other words the student must want it. Isa says you have to want to be more than average. Who doesn't want to be more than average? Perhaps the person who hasn't been asked that question?

"Isa is a young woman. What's to say that while her teachings might have worked for her, they will work for anyone else?"

Isa draws on many student quotes and stories that lend credit to her methodologies. While not scientific, you get a feel for her effectiveness by spending time on her Website Community College Success. This all lends credence to Isa, but for me a story much closer to home validates exactly what Isa teaches. Our older daughter Victoria, did almost everything that Isa prescribes (She was not the president of her sorority), while in college over ten years ago. Not only do I know the ending to that movie, I have enjoyed sequel after sequel!

But of course, the great secret is this: The more you invest in your own success, the more others will be willing to invest in you. Invest in yourself and ask for help everyday. Ask your professors to guide you academically. Ask them were you should transfer, and then take their advice.

I recommend that you, Mr. and or Ms. non-student, buy and read Community College Success. Then I suggest that you tell a dozen students in high school and those who might be just starting off in community college about it. Finally, buy a half dozen books and pass them out to those most deserving. 

But here's the deal, it isn't all about the students. As the herd bears to the left ahead, we're going right. What Isa teaches in Community College Success can be applied to any business or walk of life. So you buy and read the book with the intent of helping students. I encourage you to hold one sub-intent as you proceed. Be open to ideas for whatever your interests are. I firmly believe that most of us are lulled into common ruts when we read personal developmental material. Our brains have heard most of the content. There's mostly nothing new to hook our interest. Isa's material however, will sneak up on you. It will lift you out of that old neural pathway, create new synapses and make learning interesting again.

Isa weaves her own courageous story of a young woman growing up in a lower-middle class family who not only goes onto community college, but transfers to a four-year school, graduates and obtains a master's degree. Isa achieves wonderful, if not unbelievable things by following her own instruction here.

Here's a brief list of topics that Isa covers:

  • Engage in the college experience

  • Build your network

  • Be motivated

  • How to meet others

  • Ask questions

  • Bond with fellow students

  • Form study groups

  • Join and engage with a school club

  • Become a club leader

  • Connect with the student activity and career centers

  • Feed off of your friend’s encouragement

  • Choose a major early on

  • Transitioning to the four-year school

  • Take advantage of alumni

  • Learn how to informational interview

  • Utilize the rich resources and willingness of professors to help

  • Connect with and learn from professionals

  • Mentors

  • The hidden job market

  • How to get advice

  • Getting and setting appointments

Isa explains that the key to community college success and beyond is people. Through people opportunities come and through people we learn, move forward and succeed. 

Community College Success should be mandatory reading for all high school students (the lessons easily apply to four-year schools). Twelve bucks a book seems like a such a pittance in the grand scheme of helping a student. But in case you need an extra reason, I'll give you twelve. Isa provides a link in the book for free material that in value, probably exceeds the price of the book.

Feel like making a comment on this article? Go to our Standing Out in a Sea of Sameness Facebook page and look for this review dated 11/13/2013.


Emily Pilloton's Studio H: If You Build it They Will Come

The following is an e-mail news note that I received from Emily's organization yesterday. I can't wait to see this film!

April 4, 2013

Dear friends,

This Saturday, If You Build It, a full-length documentary film about our Studio Hprogram in Bertie County, NC, will premiere at the Full Frame film festival in Raleigh!

We are humbled and honored to have worked with executive producer Neal Baer (of Law and Order: SVUER, and more) and filmmakers Patrick Creadon and Christine O'Malley (previous documentaries include Wordplay and I.O.U.S.A) over the past three years to tell the story of Studio H, our students, and the educational and community architecture work we lived and breathed in Bertie County. We will be attending the premiere on Saturday along with our students from Bertie County, mayors, leaders, and community collaborators who helped to make the project possible. Our deepest gratitude goes out to everyone involved in the making of the film, the re-telling of our story, and the stories of our students' journeys and transformations throughout the school year.

View a teaser of the film here.


If You Build It-- Teaser from OCP Media on Vimeo.


Read recent press about the film's release in the Durham Herald-Sun and Indy Week.

Tickets for the premiere at the Full Frame festival are sold out, however the film will be screened in other venues soon. If you are interested screening the film at your school, organization, or venue, please drop us a note and we will connect you to the filmmakers.

From the Full Frame film festival website:

If You Build It: "Designers Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller bring their radical and innovative educational program to Bertie County, North Carolina, transforming people and place over the course of a turbulent and inspiring year. Each season brings a new set of challenges, both prescribed and unexpected, and the resourceful instructors (and their industrious students) must apply the principles of their curriculum—design, build, transform—to their lives as well as to their projects. Earnest, determined, and rousing, the film and its subjects, raise questions of self-reliance, citizenship, and community-building in its most literal interpretation."

We hope that through this film, we can continue to tell our story and inspire many more projects like Studio H around the country. Last year, we moved our Studio H operations to REALM Charter School in Berkeley, CA, where we continue to build community architecture projects with students. This film is a reminder of where we have come from and how much more work we have to do. Thank you to all of you who have supported us so wholeheartedly along the way.

Design. Build. Transform.

Emily Pilloton, Founder and Executive Director
Project H Design
Studio H
Studio G


To Sell is Human: Mind Map

This is my seventh mind map created using software. Yes, that's a disclaimer. I built this one to reinforce my own learning. Dan spends Part One of the book laying out the groundwork for those who need to be convinced that we are all in sales. I'm convinced so I did not include Part One in the map.

The map as you see it is as far as I've got. Digital mind maps allow one to hide topic elaboration. I'll probably go back and add more explanation. Again, this is for my own learning, I'm not trying to review or teach upon Dan's book.

I am presently using a trial version of this software and have not committed to purchasing it. But I do sort of like the idea of inserting a printed mind map inside books read.

I also created a mind map to assist in week planning and one for a writing project. I must say it's a bit addicting. 

Download To Sell is Human pdf


The Icarus Deception - Make Your Own Kind of Music

The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin.

The book's title is based on Greek mythology. It's based on the story of the father and son who are imprisoned on an island in the Icarian Sea. The dad makes a set of wings for each to wear. The object is to escape by flying off the island. As the wings are made of wax, dad warns son not to fly too high, too close to the sun. Dad also warns son not to fly too low as the water would ruin his ability to fly.

There is a gene in my body that stonewalls comparisons to Greek or any other kind of mythology. The only exception is of the stuff dragons, wizards, knights and princesses are made of. And I'm not even sure that is mythology. I reserve that folks who make up comparisons to mythology and those who understand it are far wiser than I. I find it's best not to torture myself and just let these relevancy's be. Then I attempt to get right down to the heart of the matter.

In The Icarus Deception Seth tells us that we are all artists. He describes art as the unique work of a human being that touches another. Works of art are about creating connections between people and or ideas. The embodiments of this is an attitude. Art is an attitude.

The book's undertow is that the industrial age along with all of its assembly line, factory and control factors is a thing of the past; it's been sucked back out to sea and buried in the depths of cold and turbulent waters. The challenge then is to connect with our human side. We need to make stuff, make connections, make relationships and make it happen.

As the current carries our effort down the river of our intentions, we are all bound to encounter a dam. Seth describes dams in terms of resistance and our lizard brain. Overcoming resistance is paramount to our success. And therein lies the value of The Icarus Deception.

To realize the powerful value of Seth's art here, I suggest that you not read and shelf this book...unless that shelf is located an arm's length away from where you are building your foundation of making stuff, making connections and nurturing relationships - where you are making your own art.

Consider using The Icarus Deception as a living guide and journal as you work through your project.

In describing assets that matter in today's connection economy Seth says:

We seek out people who tell us stories that resonate, we listen to those stories, and we engage with those people or businesses who delight or reassure or surprise in a positive way.

Light. This is pure light to me. This encourages my effort to connect with young adults and help them explore career pathways. Embrace Seth's book. Caress its light. And make your own kind of music.

I really feel for Seth. It's too bad someone hadn't written The Icarus Deception earlier so he could use its light to accomplish his project.


Pam Slim: Where do you go to stay on top of your profession?

I joined in on Pamela Slim's free monthly webinar the other day and asked her this very question. 

Pam's answer was brilliantly simple. The process she took to get to that answer however, is a lesson in and of itself. I've been connected with Pam for about seven or eight years. I've watched her grow and I absolutely know how she's doing it - at least a portion of it. To begin with she sewed the fields of knowledge and wisdom in a variety of ways. Basically the girl built some serious cred by paying some serious dues. It's my theory however, that Pam's growth over the last ten years or so is the result of something slightly different. It's the result of putting herself out there, doing her thing, learning, adjusting, tweaking, putting herself out there and repeating.

The free monthly webinar is a perfect example. It's a Q & A. You ask, she answers. While this is invaluable entrepreneurial learning for her participants, it's learning and growing on steroids for Pam. I am in awe of her bravery. 

CrossroadsAs we make our way to Pam's answer, you might find yourself at a crossroads. And it might prompt you to amp up your effort to engage more with the road you want to take as opposed to the cubicle you're trapped in.

Where do you want to be? What do you want to do? State an intent. Then search for resources that will help you get there. Engage with these resources. Write about them, talk about them, teach them. Make them relevant. The internet is burdened with interesting stuff. If it isn't relevant to your intent, put it on the back burner for now. Move forward with focused intent.

As her answer made its way through the dave-filter, I fear it lost a bit of Pam's succinct clarity. But that's the jist. And my one-hour time investment in Pam is allowing me to make a slight course correction, a slight tweak that can have a big effect down the road. Stay tuned.

The One World School House

The One World School House: Education Reimagined by Sal Khan.

Today's post is more of a deeper dive into Sal's book than a review. In addition to providing the information, I wrote it with the intent of reinforcing my own learning.

In 2004, Sal began tutoring his twelve-year-old cousin Nadia in algebra. She was in New Orleans and he was in Boston. He used an internet program where each could see what the other was sketching or drawing, while they spoke by phone. Soon he was tutoring her younger brothers and more. Sal wrote software that generated questions and kept track of how each student did with the answers. A friend suggested recording the sessions and posting to You Tube. That is how the Khan Academy began. Its mission is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

Sal Khan was a hedge fund analyst. He wasn't a teacher nor had he studied education. He was just a really bright guy from Louisiana who recognized that today's teaching and learning methods were overly outdated. The process in which Sal did something about it and his philosophy on teaching and learning is what The One World School House is all about. 

The book is broken down into the following parts:

  1. Learning to Teach
  2. The Broken Model
  3. Into the Real World
  4. The One World Schoolhouse

Learning to Teach - No-frill videos means no talking heads or lectures. It's chalk writing on a simulated blackboard and they're ten minutes long. The idea is for students to view the videos prior to class. This way, because the teacher does not have to lecture, she is freed up for quality interchange and time with the student. Mastery learning means that students should understand a concept before moving onto a more difficult one. Under this premise the student should take responsibility for learning. Education is built upon a process in the brain that makes connections at the cellular level. Connections are reinforced by learning something new that associates to something already known. Connections make way for continuous knowledge where ideas flow. The sweet thing about Sal's philosophy is that concepts should not be learned in a vacuum. Robust knowledge occurs when one is able to understand how learning is not turned off like a spigot on one concept. Continuity allows ideas to flow. Gaps in learning need to be bridged. If a student isn't totally dialed into a concept, he can go back and revisit the video until he is. Learning is further enhanced when the student motivated to figuring things out, one who doesn't view it as a passive sport, has control over where and when the learning takes place. 

Continue reading "The One World School House" »

The Art of Possibility

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander & Ben Zander

Note: This post is longer than one of my normal reviews. It is a Cliff Note type of experiment designed for Explorers who either don't have the time to read the whole book or choose not to.

There are many different ways to look at a situation or problem, right? You know that. But how often do you consider more ways than one, namely, the first one that comes to mind?

The Zanders' premise behind this book is that most often the framework of assumptions we place around circumstances block us in our daily lives. Change the framework and possibilites are possible. 

The book is written around twelve practices designed to transform our outlook, perceptions, beliefs and thought processes. An Amazon reviewer recaps the practices here

To guide us into a receptive frame of thought and set the book's tone, the Zanders begin with:

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region in Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying: Situation hopeless Stop no one wears shoes. The other writes back triumphantly: Glorious business opportunity Stop they have no shoes.

Moving forward here and at Standing Out in a Sea of Sameness I  am going to slowly assemble a library that consists of foundational books that I believe to be of importance to the Explorer. The Art of Possibility is the first book that I am placing into this collection. 

Of the twelve practices designed to transform our perception, I feel a strong connection with the Explorer to the following five:

  1. It's All Invented
  2. Giving an A
  3. Being a Contribution
  4. The Way Things Are
  5. Creating Frameworks of Possibility

To be real, any or all of the twelve apply. These are the ones that resonate in my framework of the Explorer creating a universe of possibility.

It's All Invented - The world is. Our perception of the world is created by life-long programming or mental maps. Our mind percieves and or constructs based upon what it knows. This is what Ben and Roz mean by it's all invented. They go onto suggest that we might as well invent a framework that enhances our quality of life then. Here's their process:

First ask yourself:

What assumption am I making, that I'm not aware I'm making, that gives me what I see?

Then ask:

What might I now invent, that I haven't yet invented, that would give me other choices?

Do you see a hopeless situation where no one wears shoes? Or do you see a big opportunity?

 Giving an A - The Zanders reference Michelangelo when they say, "inside every block of stone or marble dwells a beautiful statue; one need only remove the excess material to reveal the work of art within."

They then bring this concept into a child's education. Chip away at the stone. "...getting rid of whatever is in the way of each child's developing skills, mastery and self-expression." When a teacher presents the child with an A upfront, the child does not have to live up to a measurement of some preset standard, it gives them room to evolve from inside the block of stone. It focuses the teacher on chipping away at that stone as well. And, it focuses both on the outcome...the beautiful statue within. 

Although Ben uses an example from his classroom where he actually did give students an A based on them carrying out his instruction, the idea of giving an A transcends the classroom to our dealings with one another. And by giving the A we speak to the recipient's passion. The Zanders say, "This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into."

Continue reading "The Art of Possibility" »