Archive for category teaching ideas
I’m going to make this a regular feature of the blog (at least that’s the plan) – so I’m going to be kind of making up the rules of the reviews as I go along. I’m going to try to keep them to 100 words or less but I haven’t figured out how I’ll rate them yet. If you’ve read any of them, or have any specific questions, let me know.
Full disclosure: I keep an ‘I’m reading’ list on my profile on LinkedIn and will be using the reviews there as the basis for my reviews here. If I could just import them here, I would, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to embed them right now. Also, by doing it this way it forces me to think about what has changed since I wrote that review, and the update will hopefully make the review more accurate.
The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization
by Thomas Kelley, Jonathan Littman
I’m only through the first two parts of ten, but I can say already that if you’re interested in making a design-focused organization, or even just improving your marketing through empathy and understanding your customer, you’re going to want to have this book on hand. Update: I’ve kind of stalled on this one, though it isn’t because I don’t like it – I just got caught up in a few other books at the same time. While this book is not exactly how-to, it has a lot of great ideas and case studies to make things happen and provide inspiration.
13 Things that Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time
by Michael Brooks
This book is blowing my mind. There are so many interesting scientific anomalies that currently exist – from death as an aberration to the problem (or not) with dark matter – this book is definitely for the scientifically curious. Update: (I wrote the previous part a few weeks ago) I actually just finished this book last night. The last few chapters were not as good as the first few, but it’s hard to say if that was due to the mysteries being less interesting or me getting a bit tired of them. Maybe 11 things that don’t make sense would have been better.
Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative
by Edward R. Tufte
So far this is simply an amazing book about the role of design in great communication. When you read the part about the Challenger Disaster you will learn about statistics, understanding data, and communicating risks properly. Edward Tufte is a true gem. Update: we both hate PowerPoint. That is all.
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days
by Jessica Livingston
This book is great for anyone interested in entrepreneurship in general or specifically tech start-ups. It is really making me want to get something rolling on my own, which is both distracting and very exciting. I highly recommend this book. Update: I still highly recommend this book. I haven’t picked it up in the six months since I read it, but I do still plan on using one of the interviews as a basis for a one hour lesson in my entrepreneurship class at BrainBoost.
Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56
by Rafe Esquith
I’m about to be teaching a course again and this book is giving me a nice grounding in the non-technical aspects of teaching that I want to accomplish, or re-accomplish, as it were. Very entertaining and enlightening. Update: I am teaching that class now, as above, and this book was inspiring, but perhaps it’s more for someone who hasn’t done a lot of teaching. Then it will really get you excited to teach.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
I’m reading this book because I’m a bit of a junkie when it comes to books about the brain, how it works, and how we can improve outcomes for people in general. If we can improve the lives of others by changing design, why shouldn’t we? Let the default be a great option. Update: Started reading this again recently. It’s still pretty awesome, and definitely a great place to start if you’re fairly new to the subject.
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
by Jim Collins, Jerry I. Porras
A great book if you ever need to create a BHAG for a company you know little about and then give a presentation to its CEO less than 48 hours later. The Sauder MBA Capstone program – good times! Update: I haven’t looked at this one for quite a while now. It’s not for everyone, but it is particularly useful if you own/run/work for a small business and you want to set a course for the future.
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits
by C.K. Prahalad
A great book that features tonnes of actual pragmatic advice and lessons learned from companies opening up the bottom of the pyramid. Perfect for anyone interested in making the world a better place through business. Update: This book makes you want to move away and go help the less fortunate all over the world. That feeling passes – however, that is probably a good thing, as there is always a lot of good you can do in your own backyard – like volunteer in Vancouver.
Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide
by John Jantsch
Another book I’m only part way through, but this one has had some real gems in it. For example, mapping your customers out to see any interesting relationships between them. What if half your customers all came from the same neighbourhood? What does that tell you? Maybe you have an evangelist there, or maybe seeding a new neighbourhood with customers would be a good idea as perhaps it’s just friends talking to friends? You never know what you will learn from this exercise – and this is just one among many. Update: See, this is why I force myself to do this – why haven’t I picked this one up in a few weeks? I need to finish this one right away.
The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
by Dan Roam
Clearly I’m reading way too many books at the moment, but this is also a keeper. It helps show my current theme/interest, which is learning to communicate more effectively and efficiently through a number of different mediums. A lot of what I have found in here is fairly intuitive, however, like many things in life, forcing yourself to sit down with the intuitive can sometimes be quite enlightening. Update: I’m guilty here – I’m totally skimming the exercises and that is making the whole experience a lot less useful. I will update this one again in the next set of reviews assuming I go back and do these drawing exercises. Mea culpa.
One of my favorite Tufte posters – click for full-size:
Last week I went up to my little loft office (I think I’m allowed to brag that I now have, that’s right, a little loft as an office in our new place) only to find that my trusty desktop was unable to start up. It was very bizarre. Power on, but no noises, no blue screen of death, no hard drive light, no nothing. It didn’t even try to start up. Don’t you see? It wasn’t even trying*. That’s what was so weird.
So, I grabbed the other computer and searched for what this might be. One article said hard drive failure was the likely culprit since the HD light wasn’t flickering at all. So I did what any normal male would do and took the thing apart (OK, I banged the case a few times first to see if that would get whatever was wrong working again. This of course did nothing.)
Now, I have no practical experience with the hardware side of computers. But I do really like to do things myself, particularly when they are new to me, so when I saw that the case was held together by normal Phillips style screws, it was like the computer was practically begging to be taken apart. I have to say, it’s kind of thrilling to be taking something as supposedly delicate as a computer apart. I guess it’s probably like exploring the world if you lived like at least three centuries ago. You kind of feel like you never know what might be around the next corner. Screw going to space, just take apart some stuff in your house for that little thrill of exploration.
The Thrill of Exploration
Anyway, once you take the cover off, all the computer’s guts are totally exposed. After a bit of orientation I was able to locate the hard drive but had no idea how to get to it. So I just started pulling cables off of whatever looked removable. A few more screws here and there and eventually I get the dvd drive, some part I couldn’t identify, and finally the hard drive totally separated from the motherboard and chassis. Next I did something which I could only justify as very lightly supported by evidence at the time, but which now seems downright crazy. I put the hard drive in a zip lock back and then into my freezer for the next three days. I had read somewhere that this can supposedly fix a bad hard drive, depending on the error, and in the meantime it was the weekend so that’s how it ended up staying there for three whole days.
This morning I located the external hard drive in the hopes of transferring data to it, and so I removed the frozen one and set about getting all the computer bits near the right cords to see if I could at least get the data off of my bad drive. Somehow, before I even began, I knew it wouldn’t work. Over the weekend I had been replaying the error in my mind and I just kept thinking there’s no way it’s the hard drive. The computer is not even sending any information to the screen! It’s probably something else, and now I have a broken computer and my perfectly good data is frozen solid. Great. Score one for acting without thinking.
Plugging in the computer while it is all over the floor in heaps is about as thrilling as it sounds. It feels like you’re watching surgery, but you’re not sure if you’ll be electrocuted or maybe burn the house down. Of course, nothing much happened, just like before, so I returned to the laptop to read more about how to fix my computer on my own with no skills and no training.
Finding another online forum, a seemingly respected author offered up this tidbit: try banging the hard drive while it loads.** If that doesn’t work, try reorienting it, and then bang it harder. Repeat as necessary. (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically what it said). Now, like I said, I’m no hardware genius, but that didn’t sound like a great idea. However, frustration is a very motivating force sometimes, and so it wasn’t 10 minutes later I found myself taking this anonymous strangers advice. Still nothing, but a lot of weird noises from the obviously spinning hard drive.
If you fail, try harder
This of course motivated me further. Seeing as the hard drive is working, I reasoned, I might as well take apart something else. So I just unscrewed anything that was left, like this cooling fan for the processor, all the RAM, the CMOS battery, and some jumper pins and things. Turns out that this was all stuff I was supposed to do anyway (more or less) as I later learned from this checklist. (Also, this was another useful forum.)
The Turning Point
That checklist actually proved to be the turning point as I realized it kept mentioning the cooling fan as a potential error source and I realized it had never turned when I attempted to boot the computer. So I cleaned out the fan, losing a screw inside the guts of the computer in the process. I tried it again. It didn’t work.
Enragedly Stupidly, I flipped the computer over hoping to find the screw. Stuff banged around and suddenly the fan started spinning. My heart jumped. Yes! It was the stupid fan! I threw some parts back together and finally the computer started beeping on start up. They were weird, very alarming beeps, but I was so happy to have anything different happen that I hurriedly googled ‘beep error codes HP’ to understand what the stupid beeps meant.
According to HP, one short beep followed by one long beep meant a memory problem. I had just reseated the RAM and had a feeling that something was off there. Turns out you have to really push hard on those things in order to get them back in place properly. Of course, after this, the computer started up normally. I put everything back together and found I had only three screws left over, a new record!
For some reason, the mouse no longer works, but everything else is fine. I suspect I created this problem when I noticed a transistor was kind of leaned over a bit and so I decided to straighten it up. I don’t think this was such a good idea anymore. All in all, I’m going to call it a win.
Things I learned:
1. Freezing your hard drive, and then whacking it with a screwdriver while it loads, is not as obviously damaging as you might think.
2. Holding a spinning hard drive is a very weird feeling. It really has a gyroscopic feel to it, like it doesn’t want to be oriented in certain directions.
3. In general, don’t jump to conclusions about what is causing your computer problems.
4. Computers are surprisingly tough (see 1).
5. If you’ve got a screwdriver, more guts than sense, and a thirst for adventure you can pretty much fix anything you want.
6. Unless of course you use that screwdriver to straighten out some bent transistors.
7. Some things inside computers are supposed to look weird (see 6).
8. 5, revisited: If you’ve got a screwdriver, more guts than sense, and a thirst for adventure you can pretty much fix or break anything you want. It’s that simple.
Note: images used are not my own. I was
fixing charging the battery on my camera, so it was unavailable for duty. I stole these from the internet, but they are rough approximations of what I actually did.
*F. Scott Fitzgerald fans will probably get this reference from The Great Gatsby.
** That’s what she said.
This post has been a long time a brewin’. In aniticipation I created a little ‘Great TED Talks’ sidebar over there which will have a rotating (and growing) list of some of my favourites.
First, what does TED stand for? What’s it all about?
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.
The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).
(retrieved from the TED.com FAQ)
My friend Matty G first tuned me into these talks and I have been all over them ever since. We used them at BrainBoost Tutoring to engage students in the discussion of complex or philosophical ideas – because the presentations tend to be quite engaging, it was difficult for anyone to tune them out. They had a way of making learning fun…not that it isn’t normally, but this was like ninja-style learning, as if you really had no idea what was going on, but all you knew was that you really wanted to be part of the conversation. Your brain was always going, ‘Hey, wait a minute!’ or, ‘NO WAY!’, and you would generally have the urge to shout out something. We even occassionally had students asking to pause the video so they could say something (not a common occurence in most classrooms where videos=sleep).
In any case, because the ideals of TED (a non-profit organization) are both lofty and inclusive (i.e. ideas have the power to change the world; they are free; so please spread them!), they really encourage others to use the videos in pretty well any way they see fit (so long as you don’t profit from them directly) – there is a list of ways you can help the TED mission on the site. If you’re interested in something, I don’t know, maybe ‘urban design’, you just search for it there and at least a half a dozen videos pop up. Or maybe you need a 20 minute break, just take a stumble through their themed archives and you are sure to find something extremely interesting. Some pretty big names from just about every field you can think of have gone at some point to the annual TED conference and wowed the audience; notables include: Bill Clinton, E. O. Wilson, Dave Eggers, Jeff Bezos, David Kelley, Louise Leakey, Richard Branson, Richard Dawkins, Jill Tarter, Steven Pinker, Dan Dennett, Silvia Earle, Malcolm Gladwell, and my oh my, the list goes on.
For marketers, you pretty much have to check out Malcolm Gladwell’s talk on product design.
A ha! Never mind! I’ve learned to embed! Scratch that. I most definitely have not learned how to embed video. You will need to click through on the links provided. Damn you strikethrough!
And below here is one of my favourite talks that I forgot about until recently. It is weird and wacky, but completely representative of the kind of creative and revolutionary thinking that goes on in the minds of TED speakers. And best of all, it’s short if you only have a little time to relax and unwind.
Update: New TED Talk from Evan Williams on How Twitter’s spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected uses. http://tinyurl.com/ba4uu7