Simple and Complex? It’s Simplex! #BCSLearns

There is no doubt that we live in a more complex world – for myriad reasons.  It seems as technological advances continue, global connectivity increases, and communities and organizations become more multifaceted, the complexity of those “things” around us mounts.  So, when I came across this concept of simplexity, it caught my attention.

Jeremy Kluger, author of Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (and How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple) , defines simplexity as “the smallest number of highly powerful strategies to achieve maximum gain.”  In the brief video below, Kluger give his introduction to the term and a peek into his book.  “The universe is full of things that allude our senses,” he says, which makes it critical, to me, that we understand this notion of why simple phenomena become complex and how to flip that narrative.  In his video he speaks to organisms that have a “symphony of systems and subsystems,” which begins to help demonstrate that “everywhere there is simplicity in complexity and complexity in simplicity…getting mashed up together.”

So, how can the complex be made simple?  The last teaser in the video, Kluger states, “It’s simple…………………………..or not.”  Which is it?  Simple or not?  Ecologist Eric Berlow doesn’t feel overwhelmed when faced with complex systems. He knows that more information can lead to a better, simpler solution. View his TedTalk below (the first 3:40) where he highlights strategies making the complex more simple concluding by sharing a seemingly daunting infographic on the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan making it simple.  Berlow seeks to prove that complex is not always complicated.

  1. Untangle complexity with quality visualization tools
  2. Step back, get the big picture, and embrace complexity
  3.  Simplicity often lies on the other side of complexity

As a principal, complex is not always complicated, we, as leaders, sometimes just make it that way. Let’s not!  Let’s clearly visualize with a positive solution orientation. Let’s avoid making decisions in a vacuum by stepping back, seeing the big picture, and embracing the complexity with finesse.  And, above, let’s collaborate with others to gather diverse insight to discover the simplicity on the other side of complexity.  After all, collaboration and diverse perspectives builds our collective efficacy.  And, what’s the factor that most influences student achievement according to John Hattie’s list of factors, by effect size:  collective teacher efficacy.  Dare I say that you could substitute another noun for teacher the would most positively influence other areas.

  • Collective principal efficacy would most influence teacher improvement
  • Collective administrator efficacy would most influence principal improvement
  • Collective parent efficacy would most influence child improvement

Add others and don’t forget to have a look at the short videos below…


Wait! Happy and Successful? #BCSLearns

The theme of happiness is not a new one to my posts.  As far as I can recall, it has been a central topic in at least five of my previous posts over the years.

Why have I written about happiness?  Is it because I am trying to convince myself to be more happy? Nah, not really!  Generally, I feel I am a pretty happy and positive.  One strategy I employ to maintain a high level of happiness is to presume positive intent.  This helps me no doubt.  If I get cut off on the road by someone speeding and driving recklessly, I wish them well as they clearly have a major life crisis to which they are trying to attend. That said, presuming positive intent, according to the Harvard 70 year study, is not the key to a happy life nor is it simply meaning in life nor is it gratitude as some of my previous posts suggest; it is positive relationships that are the key as outlined by this CNBC report.  In his TED Talk (see below), Robert Waldinger summarized that “Our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships, with family, with friends, with community.”  My recognition address to 8th graders last June included a research study about the Italian island of Sardinia who boasts the worlds most concentrated number of centenarian (100 year olds).  The two most important factors to a long life that the research concluded were close relationships (#2) and social integration/social connectedness (#1).  Both of these supporting Harvard’s longitudinal study of the importance of positive relationships.  Let this be enough for us to continue to forge ahead in both our personal and professional lives connecting and building positive relationships with those we serve, adults and children alike.  View Waldinger’s Ted Talk below, and, just so you can rest easy, I am pretty certain this will not be my last post on happiness; Thanksgiving is right around the corner after all.

In the 15-minute video below Robert Waldinger answers two age old questions stemming from the Harvard study:

  • What makes us happy and healthy as we go through life?
  • If you want to invest in “the good life,” where should you put your time and energy?

Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and Zen priest. He directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and teaches at Harvard Medical School.

Not Just Happy, Meaningfully Happy #BCSLearns

Positive Attitude is the skill at the top of the list of skills inside our BCS Moral Compass.  Being grateful for what life offers us as we look around can help us maintain this positive attitude which supports us living into the other skills on our compass:  Honesty & Integrity, Respect & Kindness, and Responsibility & Accountability.  Thus, it is not about simply being happy.  There is more to life than being happy contends Emily Esfahani Smith author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters.  Smith argues that our culture is obsessed with happiness, though suggests there is a more fulfilling path. Happiness is fleeting, though the strategy she outlined in her book is long-lasting and key to a fulfilling life to include happiness. In the 12-minute TedTalk, Smith shares her thinking between having meaning in your life versus simply being happy.  In this Talk, she shares her four pillars of a meaningful life.

  1. Belonging – this is about relationships and feeling a part of a community.  Refer beck to my post What’s the Secret to a Long Life? and the importance of close relationships and social integration.
  2. Purpose – this pillar reminds me of the importance of altruism.  Having purpose in life and serving the greater good creates meaning in our lives.  May we support the students we serve in becoming Truly Altruistic.
  3. Storytelling – Smith urges us “to pull particularly relevant experiences in our lives into a coherent narrative that defines our identity” even those stories where we “overcame something negative” and grew from it.  We can learn from Scarlett Lewis who lost her son, Jesse, in the tragedy at Sandy Hook.  She started the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement as a positive way to move forward resulting in post traumatic growth staving off any possibility of acquiring post traumatic stress disorder.
  4. Transcendence – Discover in our lives experiences where “we feel we have risen above the everyday world to experience a higher reality,” according to Smith creating an others-focused mentality.  And remember, we need to experience Awe not Aww!

Have a look and listen to Smiths’s Talk below based on her book…

Mauritius – The Power of Valuing Diversity #BCSLearns

Early in my career, I had the privilege to participate in, and eventually be trained to facilitate for others, training that ended always confirming the educational leader I continue to strive to be – Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  With school culture at the forefront of my priorities and leading with empathy at the heart of who I aspire to be, I found myself remembering the story of Mauritius that Covey used in his training.  Mauritius, officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometers off the southeast coast of the African continent.  The compelling aspect of Mauritius, for the purpose of Covey’s training, is that the island includes people of vastly diverse religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The video I share below is used in Covey’s training and it demonstrates how the islanders have achieved multicultural diversity with an incredibly high level of valuing differences. The lessons learned through studying Mauritius can be applied to individuals, teams, organizations, and schools.  Following are the cultural norms by which the people of Mauritius live:

  • “Recognize the right of everyone to be different.”
  • “It’s just not the work of one ethnic group or one culture – give the very best of yourself.”
  • “When a question is asked, we don’t all give the same answer.”
  • “I can’t live without the the Chinese, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Creoles, the Franco-Mauritian…they make my humanity.”
  • “There is no religion of the world that preaches anything contrary to love, to universal brotherhood.” – “Look at others with heart.”
  • “We open the doors and the windows and allow all currents to come in, but we try to stay on our feet.”

The beginning of the video a man is interviewed sharing what is at the heart of what the people of Mauritius believe:  They “consider each group as a fruit…and we want to make Mauritius not a marmalade…[not] one marmalade with only one taste…[in Mauritius] we would like to have a fruit salad…where each one retains its individual flavor and taste.”  View the 12-minute video that shares the island’s unique history, interviews key individuals, and reinforces the aforementioned norms.  After viewing, what does this make you think about within your own life – personally and professionally?  To what norm ought we give attention to further self-actualize within our own family, school or organization?  May we begin to, in our great country, be sure we are looking “at others with heart!”

Invention and Innovation for All #BCSLearns

The theme of creativity was at the heart of a post of mine from a few weeks ago, Teach Questions, Not Answers.  This week, I want to share Harvard School of Education professor, Edward Clapp’s “Agency By Design” book on creativity called Participatory Creativity: Introducing Access and Equity to the Creative Classroom.  I the previous post, I shared Sir Ken Robinson’s animation and  TED Talk claiming how schools kill creativity, and this week, Clapp’s work can help us continue to build on us nurturing the creativity in the students we serve.  Clapp’s book “aims to make participating in invention and innovation accessible to all students…The core principles of the book are that individuals are not creative, ideas are creative; and that there are multiple ways for a variety of individuals to participate in the development of creative ideas” (view below TEDx talk).

Stemming from Harvard University’s Project Zero, Agency by Design’s current work focuses on developing tools that are designed with research, design, create learning environments in mind – Design Thinking.  The work is built on the the key components of “maker empowermentsensitivity to design, and the three maker capacities of looking closelyexploring complexity, and finding opportunity.”

All of us at BCS should be proud, I know I am, that every one of our students, each year through the programs and pedagogical approaches our teachers provide, have opportunities to participate in experiences that allow them to invent and innovate.  Service learning and project-based learning integrated in core curriculum, Choice Hour, Engage, Engineering Technology, etc. are all examples of programs allowing students to participate in invention and innovation.

Following are the core questions that guide Harvard and Clapp’s work:

  • How can learners make visible their ability to look closely, explore complexity, and find opportunity? 
  • How can teachers qualitatively measure students’ performance within the realm of these three core maker capacities? and
  • How can we collaborate with students and teachers to design a suite of practical documentation and assessment tools best suited to the development of maker empowerment?
Let’s keep up the important work we do as we continue our efforts to fulfill our vision statement to inspire students to lead in the global community through a passion for learning, innovating, and inquiry & design.
Be sure to have a look and listen at the two videos included below.
“Agency by Design: Empowering Young People to Shape their Worlds” from Alex Coppola on Vimeo (3-minutes).

Next is Edward Clapps TEDx talk on creativity as a participatory process (17-minutes).

Set up your Mind for Success #BCSLearns

Mind your habits with the Habits of Mind as your focus.  Authors Arthur Costa and Bella Kallick (2000) have worked with this idea of habits of mind for years and organized their research around the following 16 habits that they feel are in today’s world with the fundamental principle that learning is a behavior.  (Taken from ASCD PDonline.)  Notice, as I list these habits, most of the links I provide are to past posts from this blog indicating to me a major theme in educational thinking and research today.  That theme:  it’s not so much what you know, it’s how you act.  Review the 16 Habits and ask yourself:  do the children I support act this way?  Do I act in this manner?  Let it be an important focus for a way of being that we are…

  1. Persisting – some would call this “stick-to-itiveness“.
  2. Managing impulsivity – “Take your time. Think before you act. Remain calm, thoughtful, and deliberate.”
  3. Listening with understanding and empathy – Covey would call this Habit 5, Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.  Check out my post from a few weeks ago entitled Blend Empathy and Curiosity and See the Miracles.
  4. Thinking flexibly – “Look at a situation another way. Find a way to change perspectives, generate alternatives, and consider options.”
  5. Thinking about thinking (metacognition) – Here’s a post about The Gift of Metacognitive Moments.
  6. Striving for accuracy – Remember, thought, perfection is unattainable (see Roy McAvoy, Tin Cup video below).
  7. Questioning and posing problems – Teach Questions, Not Answers.
  8. Applying past knowledge to new situations – prior knowledge is a key foundation to all learning.
  9. Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision – “Be clear. Strive
    for accurate communication in both written and oral form. Avoid overgeneralizations, distortions, and deletions.”
  10. Gathering data through all senses –  “gustatory, olfactory, tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, and visual.”
  11. Creating, imagining, and innovating – What Leads to Innovation?
  12. Responding with wonderment and awe – Awe not Aww!
  13. Taking responsible risks – “Venture out. Live on the edge of your competence.”
  14. Finding humor – find moments to laugh with enjoyment, even at yourself, though not at the expense of others. Making “Joy” our School Culture
  15. Thinking interdependently – Give These Collaborative Team Roles a Try!
  16. Remaining open to continuous learning – this starts with humility (knowing you don’t know). Do You Have the Right Instincts?

Want to read about teaching the Habits of Mind? Check out ASCD PDonline to get you started.

Watch a quick clip from the movie Tin Cup. What Habits of Mind does Roy McAvoy invoke in his golf game?

And finally, below is an eight minute interview where Art Costa discusses some of the research and evidence supporting Habits of Mind.

Teach Questions, Not Answers #BCSLearns

How can schools help students find their right questions?  This question is at the root of passion-based or project-based learning – a key ingredient to the learning experience we give students at BCS.  For a learning, any age, discovering the right questions to ask is a creative approach.  When we teach answers instead of teaching questions through inquiry and discovery, we can stifle creativity for the learner whether we are facilitating the learning process for adults or children.  Need proof?  Take a look at the 2-minute video below highlighting Ernő Rubik and his Rubik’s cube.  It is a brief, but powerful, video making me think of Sir Ken Robinson’s argument of How Schools Kill Creativity.  Do schools kill creativity?  Robinson shares his take on this question in the below video.  His argument in the video is that we stifle creativity due to our often narrow view of intelligence.  Intelligence is not just academic; it is much broader.  The project based learning experiences we provide broaden this view of intelligence for us and the students we serve.  There are multiple intelligences (see below image on ways to be smart).

Multiple Intelligences

What Robinson wants us to remember are the three critical components of intelligence:

  • It is diverse (note above image).  As he states, “We think about the world in all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement.”
  • It is dynamic. “Intelligence is wonderfully interactive.”
  • It is distinct.  Human beings have all different ways of discovering their own decidedly unique talents.

In then end, let us nurture the creativity in each of us and our students to allow for our diverse, dynamic and distinct intelligence come to light in the process of nurturing creativity through inquiry and discovery.  Have a look and listen of the video to futher inspire our purpose and feel free to reference some of my previous blog posts related to the importance of creativity:

We have a responsibility to AWE and, to quote Sir Ken Robinson: “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”