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robertogreco : howthingswork   11

The Making of a Giant - bioGraphic
"Stretching hundreds of feet into the air presents some very real physical challenges. See how these massive trees have overcome gravity to become the giants of the forest."
trees  sequoias  giantsequoias  nature  plants  california  forests  2016  howthingswork 
november 2016 by robertogreco
my first commencement speech | Abler.
"Congratulations, class of 2016. It’s an honor to be with you. I want to start with a story from candidates’ weekend this past February. As you all know, Candidates’ Weekends are when the applicants for admission who’ve made the first cut come to campus for a full weekend of events—events we design to help us understand them as people. You all did this some four years ago now.

So one thing I did on Candidate’s Weekend was the solo interview session. The setup is three of us: myself, as the faculty member, plus one current student, and one recent alumnus sit together to ask a series of questions of these young people. And—they’re 17, right, so they’re nervous. It’s a profound and moving thing to see up close their quivering hands, their flushed cheeks. We try to set them at ease and to learn something in a short amount of time: about what makes them tick, what they’re passionate about.

And at the end of each interview, as instructed, we allow for questions from the candidates themselves: and they do have questions—about Olin life, or what we like about engineering, things you would expect.

And on that day, these questions from the candidates were indeed more or less the usual fare. With one exception. We asked this one affable young high school student if he had any questions, and without missing a beat, he said, right away, he said: “What’s up with the doors here?” Just like that, totally unself-conscious. What’s up with the doors here? And my interview partners—the student and the alumnus—just *erupted* in recognition and laughter. Because apparently the doors at Olin are notorious among students for their poor design: it has been, for all these years, weirdly unclear whether and where you push or pull. It’s not intuitive where your weight should fall to hold them open. It’s awkward entering and exiting all over campus.

Lots of Olin students have remarked on and complained about this phenomenon, and here was this young person: so immediately alert to the subtlety of this condition in his first weekend here, and brazen enough to call it out.

That guy got in. I checked.

This young hopeful candidate for engineering school had found himself among his people. And I’m happy to say that in the intervening weeks and months since then, somehow some door cues—saying “push here” or “pull” have mysteriously appeared on various handles around campus. Not sure who’s responsible for that, but someone got the message.

Now. That story might seem like just a funny anecdote, but it actually reveals something big, I think, about engineering and engineers. Asking What’s up with the doors is more than an idle observation. I think it indicates a way of being in the world.

A lot of times engineering is framed as a penchant for problem-solving, in various permutations and with various caveats. Problem-solving: that is, skills and knowledge to materially improve the operations of the world. You’ve heard this.

But What’s up with the doors, I think, signals something more profound. It’s the full knowledge that the inherited conditions of the natural and built environment need not be as they are. It’s the understanding that atoms and bits—the material and the digital—these conditions aren’t permanent. They don’t have to remain mysterious. Atoms and bits, bits and atoms: unlocked, un-black-boxed, malleable, contingent.

To understand the systems of the built world is to know, in your bones, something powerful: that things might be otherwise. The doors, the engines, the mechanisms, the software and systems: you all know that these are the results of design decisions that can be reversed, unwound, utterly reconceived. Because you understand how they work. What’s up with the doors underscores that power, and it’s a power that you all now have. We send you out to the world with it. So: it’s a good day.

However. However.

I won’t cheapen this day by offering you a simple victory narrative. If only, IF ONLY the doors of the world were entirely made of wood and steel. If only it were so simple—to make the world better, just using atoms and bits.

Think about the doors of the immaterial kind: the portals, the thresholds, the entry points to human flourishing that are only open to some, and sealed shut for others. These are doors whose pushing open and pulling closed are social, political, interpersonal mechanisms—mechanisms that no amount of physics alone can sway.

In other words: to find yourself equipped as an engineer in the physical, technical sense—to be able to intervene and even dismantle the doors of the tangible, built world—is still to find yourself an ordinary citizen with a much harder set of questions to engage. How do we share this planet? How do we talk to each other, people unlike ourselves? How do we grapple with the legacies of history? How do we build not only the future we can construct, but the just and sustainable future we want to live in, one that includes all of us? To pry open and build these kinds of entrances, you will use your engineering, yes, but you’ll need so much more than that. You’ll need wisdom, and you’ll have to look for it and recognize it far outside of technology.

Be brave with these questions. Keep asking them. See that all kinds of openings and closings are everywhere.

And as you go out from here, know that the doors of this campus remain open to you."
sarahendren  olincollege  commencementaddresses  accessibility  engineering  2016  access  criticalthinking  problemsolving  doors  power  howthingswork  portals  thresholds  intervention  wisdom  technology  politics 
may 2016 by robertogreco
On Repeat - Learning - Source: An OpenNews project
"How to use loops to explain anything"

"GIFs in the Future

I am pretty confident that there are many more ways to use GIFs for journalism. And while I’m not sure what sorts of forms GIFs will take in the future, I urge you to think of ways to bring loops into the world of storytelling on the web in a purposeful, insightful, or just plain humorous way. Because who knows what sorts of impossible or magical or transformative experiences we can create—all with the power of loops."
lenagroeger  gifs  journalism  video  looping  visual  history  animation  animatedgifs  eadweardmuybridge  howthingswork  explanation  probability  communication  classideas  repetition  storytelling  exposuretherapy  giphy 
june 2015 by robertogreco
What are you drawing, Lily?
""When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight fucking hours with 800 people at a convention center and… then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not fuckin’ good enough.’ Can you imagine?

It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old fucking drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll fucking start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a fucking computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol."

—Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana

I was watching my nieces the other day, Madeline and Lily. Madeline is 3. Lily is 4. They both sat there eagerly making things. They didn’t have excuses that they didn’t have the right markers or the right paper or the right idea.

I had run out of blank printer paper, so they started making paper airplanes out of magazine inserts. Madeline was thrilled to draw with whatever utensil she could get her hands on. Lily had found a pink ribbon someone had dropped on the street. She picked up the forgotten trash and later turned it into a kite.

Of course, their airplanes didn’t work. I have no idea on earth what Madeline had drawn. And the kite didn’t have a chance of actually flying. But it didn’t matter. They didn’t care. It was a start and you can see them just get better and better at making these things.

Later I heard of a conversation Lily had with her mom that sums up how little these kids care of perfection, and how much they just care about putting something, anything, that they’ve created into the world.

Lily’s mom: Lily, what are you drawing?

Lily: I don’t know, Mom. I haven’t drawn it yet."
doing  making  art  music  risktaking  joy  howthingswork  nirvana  children  davegrohl  materials  circumstances  perfectionism 
july 2014 by robertogreco
In Defense of Messiness: David Weinberger and the iPad Summit - EdTech Researcher - Education Week
[via: ]

"We were very lucky today to have David Weinberger give the opening address at our iPad Summit in Boston yesterday. We've started a tradition at the iPad Summit that our opening keynote speaker should know, basically, nothing about teaching with iPads. We don't want to lead our conversation with technology, we want to lead with big ideas about how the world is changing and how we can prepare people for that changing world.

Dave spoke drawing on research from his most recent book, Too Big To Know: How the Facts are not the Facts, Experts are not Experts, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room.

It's hard to summarize a set of complex ideas, but at the core of Dave's argument is the idea that our framing of "knowledge," the metaphysics of knowledge (pause: yes, we start our iPad Summit with discussions of the metaphysics of knowledge), is deeply intertwined with the technology we have used for centuries to collect and organize knowledge: the book. So we think of things that are known as those that are agreed upon and fixed--placed on a page that cannot be changed; we think of them as stopping places--places for chapters to end; we think of them as bounded--literally bounded in the pages of a book; we think of them as organized in a single taxonomy--because each library has to choose a single place for the physical location of each book. The limitations of atoms constrained our metaphysics of knowledge.

We then encoded knowledge into bits, and we began to discover a new metaphysics of knowledge. Knowledge is not bound, but networked. It is not agreed, but debated. It is not ordered, but messy.

A changing shape of knowledge demands that we look seriously at changes in educational practice. For many educators at the iPad Summit, the messiness that David sees as generative the emerging shape of knowledge reflects the messiness that they see in their classrooms. As Holly Clark said in her presentation, "I used to want my administrators to drop in when my students were quiet, orderly, and working alone. See we're learning! Now I want them to drop in when we are active, engaged, collaborative, loud, messy, and chaotic. See, we're learning!"

These linkages are exactly what we hope can happen when we start our conversations about teaching with technology by leading with our ambitions for our students rather than leading with the affordances of a device.

I want to engage David a little further on one point. When I invited David to speak, he said "I can come, but I have some real issues with iPads in education." We talked about it some, and I said, "Great, those sound like serious concerns. Air them. Help us confront them."

David warned us again this morning "I have one curmudgeonly old man slide against iPads," and Tom Daccord (EdTechTeacher co-founder) and I both said "Great." The iPad Summit is not an Apple fanboygirl event. At the very beginning, Apple's staff, people like Paul Facteau, were very clear that iPads were never meant to be computer replacements--that some things were much better done on laptops or computes. Any educator using a technology in their classroom should be having an open conversation about the limitations of their tools.

Tom then gave some opening remarks where he said something to the effect of "The iPad is not a repository of apps, but a portable, media creation device." If you talk to most EdTechTeacher staff, we'll tell you that with an iPad, you get a camera, microphone, connection to the Internet, scratchpad, and keyboard--and a few useful apps that let you use those things. (Apparently, there are all kinds of people madly trying to shove "content" on the iPad, but we're not that interested. For the most part, they've done a terrible job.)

Dave took the podium and said in his introductory remarks, "There is one slide that I already regret." He followed up with this blog post, No More Magic Knowledge [ ]:
I gave a talk at the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit this morning, and felt compelled to throw in an Angry Old Man slide about why iPads annoy me, especially as education devices. Here's my List of Grievances:
• Apple censors apps
• iPads are designed for consumers. [This is false for these educators, however. They are using iPad apps to enable creativity.]
• They are closed systems and thus lock users in
• Apps generally don't link out
That last point was the one that meant the most in the context of the talk, since I was stressing the social obligation we all have to add to the Commons of ideas, data, knowledge, arguments, discussion, etc.
I was sorry I brought the whole thing up, though. None of the points I raised is new, and this particular audience is using iPads in creative ways, to engage students, to let them explore in depth, to create, and to make learning mobile.

I, for one, was not sorry that Dave brought these issues up. There are real issues with our ability as educators to add to the Commons through iPads. It's hard to share what you are doing inside a walled garden. In fact, one of the central motivations for the iPad Summit is to bring educators together to share their ideas and to encourage them to take that extra step to share their practice with the wider world; it pains me to think of all of the wheels being reinvented in the zillions of schools that have bought iPads. We're going to have to hack the garden walls of the iPad to bring our ideas together to the Common.

The issue of the "closedness" of iPads is also critical. Dave went on to say that one limitation of the iPad is that you can't view source from a browser. (It's not strictly true, but it's a nuisance of a hack--see here or here.) From Dave again:

"Even though very few of us ever do peek beneath the hood -- why would we? -- the fact that we know there's an openable hood changes things. It tells us that what we see on screen, no matter how slick, is the product of human hands. And that is the first lesson I'd like students to learn about knowledge: it often looks like something that's handed to us finished and perfect, but it's always something that we built together. And it's all the cooler because of that."

I'd go further than you can't view source: there is no command line. You can't get under the hood of the operating system, either. You can't unscrew the back. Now don't get wrong, when you want to make a video, I'm very happy to declare that you won't need to update your codecs in order to get things to compress properly. Simplicity is good in some circumstances. But we are captive to the slickness that Dave describes. Let's talk about that.

A quick tangent: Educators come up to me all the time with concerns that students can't word process on an iPad--I have pretty much zero concern about this. Kids can write papers using Swype on a smartphone with a cracked glass. Just because old people can't type on digitized keyboards doesn't mean kids can't (and you probably haven't been teaching them touch-typing anyway).

I'm not concerned that kids can't learn to write English on an iPad, I'm concerned they can't learn to write Python. If you believe that learning to code is a vital skill for young people, then the iPad is not the device for you. The block programming languages basically don't work. There is no Terminal or Putty or iPython Notebook. To teach kids to code, they need a real computer. (If someone has a robust counter-argument to that assertion, I'm all ears.) We should be very, very clear that if we are putting all of our financial eggs in the iPad basket, there are real opportunities that we are foreclosing.

Some of the issues that Dave raises we can hack around. Some we can't. The iPad Summit, all technology-based professional development, needs to be a place where we talk about what technology can't do, along with what it can.

Dave's keynote about the power of open systems reminds us that knowledge is networked and messy. Our classrooms, and the technologies we use to support learning in our classrooms, should be the same. To the extent that the technologies we choose are closed and overly-neat, we should be talking about that.

Many thanks again to Dave for a provocative morning, and many thanks to the attendees of the iPad Summit for joining in and enriching the conversation."
justinreich  ipad  2013  ipadsummit  davidweinberger  messiness  learning  contructionism  howthingswork  edtech  computers  computing  coding  python  scratch  knowledge  fluidity  flux  tools  open  closed  walledgardens  cv  teaching  pedagogy  curriculum  tomdaccord  apple  ios  closedness  viewsource  web  internet  commons  paulfacteau  schools  education  mutability  plasticity 
november 2013 by robertogreco
How to see through the cloud
"The web isn't magic. It's not some faraway place we just 'connect' to, but a vast and complex system of computers, connected by actual wires under the ground and the oceans. Every time you open a website, you're visiting a place where that data is stored.

This tutorial will show you how to find some of those places."

[See also: ]
jamesbridle  infrastructure  internet  web  howthingswork  classideas 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Bat, Bean, Beam - A Weblog on Memory and Technology: What Do People Do All Day?
"Above all 'what do people do all day?' strikes me as such an excellent & important question. If you’ve ever had to explain to a child what it is that you do, you’ll know it can be a rather sobering exercise… How do we occupy our time, & how valuable or fun or enriching is it? To attempt a proper answer that goes back to the first principles means having to reflect on what we mean when we use words like economy & ecology, & to frame these reflections imaginatively, as children’s literature requires, adds further value to that. Simplified, purified, prettified, the economy as depicted by Scarry seems so much more humane, so much less monstruous, yet also perplexing & strange, in that everything is de-naturalised & has to be re-learned, which is to say reimagined.

It would be far too grandiose to call it the beginning of an education in utopian thinking, wouldn’t it?"
history  books  children  writing  work  whatdopeopledoallday?  occupations  time  purpose  economics  utopia  utopianthinking  richardscarry  cv  childhood  meaning  parenting  understanding  systems  systemsthinking  humans  ecology  classideas  timelessness  timeless  howthingswork  giovannitiso  humanities 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Blaise Agüera y Arcas, the Mind Behind Bing Maps | Creating -
"applied a coat of blackboard paint to the wall himself because he dislikes odor of whiteboard marker…manages about 60 people…most stimulating meetings…are "jam sessions," in which people riff on each others' ideas…Prototypes are crucial…most productive moments often occur outside office, w/out distraction of meetings. After he has dinner & puts children to bed…he & wife, neuroscientist at UW, often sit side-by-side working on laptops late into night…Though…greater management responsibilities over years…still considers it vital to find time to develop projects on his own. "You see people who evolved in this way, & sometimes it looks like their brains died"…finds driving a car "deadening," so he takes a bus to work from his home, reading or working on his laptop…When young…dismantled things both animal & inanimate, from cameras to guinea pigs, so that he could see how they worked"
blaiseagüerayarcas  meetings  distraction  microsoft  bing  maps  mapping  nightowls  management  administration  leadership  brainstorming  iteration  prototyping  ommuting  cv  buses  cars  driving  howthingswork  detachment  attention  work  howwework  creativity  invention 
november 2010 by robertogreco
TED | Talks | J.J. Abrams: The mystery box (video)
"traces his love of unseen mystery -- heart of Alias, Lost, and the upcoming Cloverfield -- back to its own magical beginnings, which may/not include an early obsession with magic, the love of supportive grandfather, or his own unopened Mystery Box."
jjabrams  lost  storytelling  mystery  technology  television  tv  creativity  discovery  ideas  writing  learning  crafts  craft  making  engineering  howthingswork  curiosity  stories  narrative  children  lcproject  unschooling  education  magic  glvo  democracy  consumer  consumergenerated  content  film  imagination 
january 2008 by robertogreco

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