The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath-Review

Chip Heath and Dan Heath have returned with another  engaging book, The Power of Moments. The question, these bestselling authors strive to answer in The Power of Moments is “Why do certain experiences have extraordinary impact?” And I would add-“and why does that matter…”

Chip and Dan Heath, brothers, business professors, writers, have written a series of books that survey research from both business and psychology to create a very engaging, easily accessible guide to living, creating and succeeding.

In The Power of Moments they strive to understand one small question, “Why do we remember certain things more than others?” This is a springboard for understanding not only how memories are formed but why these memories have such strong sway over our lives and how to use that for own own growth and development.

They identify four main attributes for a memorable experience- elevation,insight, pride, and connection. That is, an experience that taps into one of these four domains will have more longevity and resonance than one that does not.

What makes their work engaging is the breezy, accessible writing style, filled with numerous examples and anecdotes that illustrate their research (a tactic they delve into in their popular book Made to Stick-Why Some Ideas Thrive and Others Die).

As an educator, I believe most teachers and schools already create moments like this-think of graduation, honors nights, plays, concerts, athletic events-etc. As they illustrate in The Power of Moments- what if we found ways to bring more of that into the classroom in an intentional way?

Many schools do this of course, through senior speeches, creative role plays, living museums, simulations, interesting labs, etc., but it does get more challenging in light of an increasingly disengaged student population and the demands of an increasingly narrow set of outcomes. While spending several weeks on a fascinating research project may be incredibly memorable and significant to a student- we also know that it likely will not raise the student’s score on the final exam, or on the standardized test in the spring.

In a grand irony, as the employment sector clamors for a highly educated workforce of excellent communicators, subtle thinkers, rigorous analysts, profound problem solvers, and capable critical thinkers, they have thrown their lot in the most narrow set of outcomes possible- a simple data point that is easily verifiable, measurable, comparable, yet of little value. For an educator, a data point that may determine whether or not  you are employed the following year.

So, will you choose your job, or creating a memorable moment? Where is the guide to finding that elusive middle ground where both are possible?

In an effort to be fast paced and accessible, the Power of Moments picks research to support their claims and does little to highlight when that research might be limited or whether other factors might contribute to the outcomes they claim.

An example that was especially glaring for me was the highlighting of Stanton Elementary School in Washington D.C. According to the narrative established in The Power of Moments, the school had an amazing success using one of the memory creating tactics of “deepening ties” in which staff made a one hour home visit to the students families during the school year. As they tell it, this simple fact alone was enough to significantly increase parent engagement and student behavior and achievement.

Of course, they don’t mention that the school developed a brand new staff, new administration, as well as likely implemented a new curriculum, new discipline policy, and probably lost a fair amount of students through the school closure process. One wonders, is it possible that any of these other factors could have had any impact whatsoever on more parents attending conferences or on an increase in test scores? Could it be multiple factors? Could it be the novelty effect itself?

It should be noted, that although the test scores rose, it was still significantly below average, and there were still a high level of student absenteeism in the school.  Given, that the school website does not contain any current achievement data that I could locate, one wonders if the home visits continue to succeed and the school now has the highest test scores in the district? It should be noted that the principal is now leaving after seven years at the helm. One wonders how much staff has turned over in that time period as well?

The editing and precision of language ,while permissible in self-published work and blogging  fall short from a work of a major publishing house- Simon and Schuster.

For example, one entrepreneur received “countless emotional thank you’s from people saying “Couch to 5k changed their lives” (p. 161.)  “Countless” really? Also, were these emotions favorable? Anger and sadness are also emotions. Were these lives changed for the better? But precise writing, modest claims from conflicting research and clear analysis do not sell books in the voluminous ways that the Heath and their cottage industry have achieved.  Interestingly, the founder of the program mentioned above did not even invent the program for which he is recognized-alternating walking and running. This is form of locomotion is as old as human mobility itself -and even as a training method was more formally developed by running coach, Jeff Galloway in 1974 as RUN WALK RUN. I do not see Mr. Galloway’s work cited in The Power of Moments. 

Indeed, that is really the heart of this book-marketing.  How can I package this to appeal to as many people as possible? To this end, the Heath’s are utterly brilliant and I give them tremendous regard. Now that they have achieved enviable success, I wish they would turn their formidable communication skills to honestly communicate that real research is slow, full of conflicting data, and occasionally wrong; but ultimately more satisfying and significant, like human social progress itself.

Until we as educators, which the Heath’s assuredly are, acknowledge that true research is fraught with complexity, nuance, and confusing results, we are doing a disservice to our students and the general public as well.

I would recommend checking this out from the library as I did and appreciating the breezy, optimistic view of human progress, as well as a cautionary tale for the perils of superimposing a signal where there is only noise.

Rust Belt America-Flint in Perspective

Those of us who live in Michigan, are well versed with the challenges facing the Flint community over the last several decades (and longer.)

Beginning with the hit by Michael Moore- Roger and Me which explored the devastating impact that the decline on the auto industry had on the community, through the Water Crisis, the emergency manager, and so on, a multi-disciplinary course called “Rust Belt America-Flint in Perspective,” could be an important addition to a university curriculum or upper level high school thematic unit.

An important element to the Flint story would be the work the many glimmers of hope-including the Flint Institute of Arts, currently undergoing a major expansion. They are putting on an important exhibit through the end of March, curated by the Smithsonian Anacostia, called Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence, which I also wrote about here.

I would encourage anyone who is able to visit the Flint Institute of Arts to catch this moving, challenging, and ultimately hopeful exhibit.

To add to the inspiring work to improve the lives of the citizens of Flint, I would like to point out the work of Michigan State University researcher Joshua Introne, assistant professor in the Department of Media and Information. Introne’s work is an app that would help turn Flint from a food desert into a food oasis.

A food desert is an area with limited access to healthy, fresh food options. Through this app, “Flint Eats” Introne hopes to provide a flow of information to consumers and retailers to improve access to healthy food.

As reported in the MSU Today article by Kristen Parker,”The key is that we have to build some trust back into the community,” We have to give residents a sense of ownership over the food system. The project is not an app. The project is trying to address some fundamental social and economic problems. The app is really the visible part of this much larger effort.”

Here’s hoping Introne’s work succeeds and is one of many bright spots to emerge from Flint.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the a food desert?
  2. What factors contribute to a food desert?
  3. How does the Flint Eats app address a root cause of the food desert in Flint-identify the root cause.
  4. What other solutions to address this issue might you consider?
  5. Below is a sample list of topics/questions  for a course called, “Rust Belt America: Flint in Perspective”-what would you add or change?

graypath

RUST BELT AMERICA: FLINT IN PERSPECTIVE TOPICS

  1. Naming the Rust Belt- What is the Rust Belt?  How is it named? Who is able to name a region?
  2. Why is Flint, a city with a current population of about 97,000 important to study? What are the historical trends and demographics of Flint? In what ways do demographics define a city/region? How can you examine Flint from the lens of human geography?
  3. Boom and Bust Cycles in Flint- Examining the Economic History of Flint.
  4. Flint and the World: Macroeconomic backdrop to the Crisis
  5. Timeline of Crisis: What actually happened and when did it happen? An urban studies/journalism perspective.
  6. The Crisis and Citizens-how did the crisis impact citizens and how did they respond? How were self-governance and representative democracy impacted? A political science perspective.
  7. The Crisis and Children-how did this affect the most vulnerable and what are the long term impacts of lead on brain development-a neuropsychological and mental health perspective.
  8. Flint and Culture: How did artists respond to the crisis? An MFA perspective.
  9. Flint in the Media: How has Flint been portrayed in the media? A media studies perspective.
  10. Flint and Opportunity: What are some promising developments in Flint- a business/entrepreneur perspective.
  11. What does Flint mean to the region, the country, the world? Is the “Rust Belt” still a meaningful name? A summation and next steps.

I would love to hear what you think about the questions posed above and to hear about other good news coming from Flint.  Please plan a visit to check out the Flint Institute of Arts and best of luck to the Flint Eats team!

 

75 Years of the Nuclear Age- University of Chicago

On December, 2 1942, in a lab at the University of Chicago, scientists created the first self-sustained controlled nuclear chain reaction.

Seventy five years later, the university is engaging in a thought-provoking reflection and examination of this event with events throughout the community and via excellent resources posted on their website.

One of the most compelling is the public art installation of Nuclear Thresholds which is integrated into Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy.

The seventy five foot long black cords lay in a messy heap next to Moore’s well contained forms, leaving the viewer uneasy, unsure of what to make of the thin black materials.

For sure, this piece will generate conversation and hopefully a deeper reflection on the role this technological advancement has played in our society.

If you missed the actual anniversary last month, I believe a well thought out thematic unit can still explore the numerous questions evoked by this anniversary. A great video resource produced by UChicago Creative is a must see for all secondary educators interested in using this topic for critical reasoning and discussion-Nuclear Reactions-a Complex Legacy. 

How are you teaching about this significant historical event?

It seems like following the inspiration of University of Chicago and approaching it with a multidisciplinary perspective might be a wonderful way to engage your students and discuss a topic whose relevance is as timely as ever. The video concludes with a call for interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle the world’s biggest problems and asks, “What is your contribution going to be?”

A great question to reflect upon as we begin this new year.

Questions for Discussion following the video:

  1. What is your reaction to the quote by University of Chicago president, George Wells Beadle in 1967?
  2. What was the initial reaction to the development of the atomic bomb?
  3. How did the University of Chicago faculty respond to the development of the atomic bomb?
  4. How was nuclear technology used to benefit people?
  5. The video asks,” How do we get to a world without nuclear weapons?”

 

Helping Farmers in East Africa- Michigan State University Researchers

Michigan State University Research

It is so exciting when researchers are able to take concepts and ideas from the classroom and apply them in a real world setting.

It is especially exciting when it means that this can make a difference in people’s lives.

That is exactly what a team of researchers from Michigan State University did when they travelled to Tanzania and Kenya to help improve agricultural practices.

MSU doctoral candidate in media and information studies, Tian Cai, and a research team, created a research project-creating low-budget videos of videos that communicated farmers perspectives for not using drought resistant maize.

Then, they  showed a group of villagers the videos followed by a discussion. The control group did not receive the videos. An additional treatment group received the videos and a text message.

This group indicated they were most likely to use drought resistant maize, which would benefit their likelihood of success, and help the environment.

This is a great example of applied research and the significant impact that researchers can have in helping those that might not have access to the necessary information and support to make lasting changes. Teachers of media studies, environmental science will especially want to share this research with their students.

For a link to the MSU news article by Nicole O’Meara, please click here. 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Who was involved in providing input at the initial one day workshop?
  2. What government agency provided funding?
  3. What is the local language of the region studied?
  4. Which condition had the most impact?
  5. What additional data would you want to review to determine the efficacy of this research?
  6. What changes might you make to this research to potentially improve its outcomes?
  7. Why did professor Steinfield say this research was aligned to the philosophy of the media and information department at Michigan State University?

Improving Test Scores

Improving Test Scores

Have you ever felt like you were spinning your wheels when it comes to studying for exams?

Do you notice your students studying, but still not getting results?

If so, you definitely want to check out Milenko Martinovich’s new article in the Stanford News. This article features the work of Stanford University psychology professor, Patricia Chen’s new work on how to help students study more effectively.

In the study, the intervention group was encouraged to utilize their meta-cognitive abilities- quite simply to “think about their thinking.”

Specifically, students were given an online survey prior to their exams in a statistics course and asked to “think about what might be on the exam and then strategize what resources they would use most effectively”  according to Martinovich’s article.

Importantly, students were then asked to self-reflect, recalling why they chose the resources they chose and how they believed it would be effective in their learning.

This intervention lead to an increase in grades in the course by almost a third of a letter grade.

Please click here to read the article.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was professor Chen’s research hypothesis?
  2. What is meta-cognition?
  3. Describe their intervention- “Strategic Resource Use.”
  4. In what circumstances does professor Chen say this would likely be most effective?
  5. What might educators need to do to support students in a “resource-scarce” environment?
  6. Besides studying for tests, how else does Chen suggest this might be used?
  7. How would you develop further research to learn more about this topic?

EnableUC-Engineering Students Changing the World with 3D Printing

                                                           enableuc
EnableUC, a University of Cincinnati engineering student group, is on a mission.
Quite simply, they want to make your life better. This inspirational group, whose work on providing prosthetic limbs, created by 3-D printing to underprivileged individuals,  have taken the time to share their story with us.
Below, is an email interview primarily with Michael, member of EnableUC, edited only for clarity.
1. Can you tell Wide Open Research readers a bit about how you wanted to go into engineering and specifically how you chose to work on the prosthetics?
“For me personally, I always have wanted to help people out medically because I see it as one of the most immediate ways to improve someone’s life as well as get to work directly with the people you help.
As I explored majors and careers, however, I felt that my mind was more engineering driven. With this in mind, biomedical engineering just seemed like a perfect fit. I thought initially that a lot of BMEs do prosthetics and such, but the major is much more broad, and I never was really exposed to that world until Jacob, our president and founder, reached out to me about starting Enable UC.
I think Jacob really saw an opportunity through the larger E-nable open source site to help patients he had interacted with at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime. Since kids are constantly growing, they don’t want to waste it at that age, but a lot of times. by the time a child is fully grown, they are so used to using their non defective hand that when they actually get a prosthetic, they don’t even use it. This helps  combat both of those issues.”

“The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime.”

2.  What sort of general knowledge did you learn in high school that was foundational for your engineering success at college? Concepts, skills, facts, etc. 
“I would say the biggest thing I learned is how to solve problems. While the classes I take here can sometimes be much different than my high school classes, I would say the science and math I took began to help me find ways to solve problems, and that is really what an engineer’s job is all about. So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

“So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

3. How much time do you commit to the Enable team and how do you balance your class responsibilities? What advice would you give high school students on managing the demands of college….
“I personally work on a lot of the upfront patient relations of the enable team, so a lot of my time was spent up front finding patients for us to design solutions for.
While this takes some time, I would say the best things to do are to be realistic with your time, schedule it out, and write down the things you want to accomplish and get done with each task.
The biggest advice I would give to a high schooler transitioning into college is to establish habits early and stick to them because they will create your patterns for the rest of your career. “
4.  What are some cool science/tech things you wished you would have explored more in high school?
“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity and help you understand the trajectory of science and tech moving forward.
Things like 3D printing, unique clean energy solutions, nano-technology, and more are really cool things that show how much our world is constantly innovating and creating new solutions to the many problems we have in our world.”

“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity….”

5. Did you have any moments in high school where it really became apparent that you wanted to go into engineering? Any classes or teachers that really inspired you?
“I don’t remember their being a really strong moment for me in terms of an ah-ha moment, but I do remember absolutely loving designing both a mouse trap car and a Rube Goldberg device during my science classes in high school.
What I think I loved was figuring out how to best solve the problem and doing so in a group setting that allowed me to work with and understand a team and how each individual works within that team to solve our problem.”

6.  With the many distractions that high school students face these days, how would you recommend teachers really engage students?
“I think one really unique way to do this would be to challenge them at the beginning to tell me some cool things they might want to learn from the subject and having them outline some of what they want to get out of the class besides just an A.
I think if that could then be tied in more deeply with the lesson plans, that would help engage students because they would feel they had an active part in determining their learning.”
7. Any  luck with the crowd funded project?
“We have had some awesome luck with it. We reached our initial goal to provide funding for our first myo-electric prosthetic project, which is currently in the design process already! We think our unique organization allows students to really get hands on experience and change lives. This translates really well to people who might have a few bucks to get rid of. I think we will continue to see this success moving forward as well.”
A hand they made from 3-D printing:
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8.  I know  that Enable UC was interested in helping high school students who might not know much about engineering become exposed to the field. What sort of outreach have you been working on?
“We have done some local Cincinnati high school outreach where we are basically trying to get students exposed to what we do by showing them our organization as well as providing seminars about engineering, design, Solidworks, etc.
This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at UC to try to draw them towards engineering. We also plan to go into schools and set up those seminars that I mentioned, but we are in the early stages of our outreach.”

“This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at University of Cincinnati to try to draw them towards engineering.”

9. Any good ideas about how to help more “non-traditional” students become interested in engineering?
“I think the best way to get non-traditional students to really get interested in engineering is to relate it to their interests. For example, maybe they are an athlete. Being able to teach them about the forces their muscles provide when doing their sport could make them interested in engineering. Just finding ways to relate engineering concepts to their interests is the best way to pique someone’s interest.”
After graduation Michael is going to be working in a tech-start-up, other UCEnable members are continuing their studies in medical school, graduate school, and work in the medical device industry.
EnableUC is still seeking to serve. So, if you would like to contact them to get more information about their group or if you know someone who could benefit from their work on prosthetics please reach out to them @EnableUC.
For more reading on 3-D Printing, please read this article:

Benefits of Peer Support in Learning from Michigan State University

Benefits

As an educator, I find this new study from Michigan State University a bit troubling. Quite simply, peer feedback was more beneficial than teacher feedback in an online psychology course.

The research study, co-authored by Michigan State University associate professor of education, Carey Roseth, published recently in the International Journal of Educational Research, found that when students were given feedback to the question, “Why do I have to learn this” from a peer (a confederate posing as a peer) the student averaged a 92 percent for the entire semester long course.

The students who received the feedback from the teacher earned an 86 percent for the course.

Quite surprisingly, the control group, those that did not receive any feedback, earned a 90 percent for the course-still better than those that earned feedback from a teacher.

Professor Roseth explains,”… As a student, I can identify with my peers and imagine myself using the course material in the same way they do. This gives the material meaning and a sense of purpose that goes beyond memorization. When I hear a peer’s story, it connects to the story I am telling myself about who I want to be in the future.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. How many students were in each of the groups? (Why is it important to know the sample size?)
  2. If there was only one course instructor, what other possible explanations for this outcome could there be?
  3. Do you predict the outcomes would be the same in a face to face course?
  4. What did the script say? Why is it important to know what the script was-how could the wording of the script impact the outcome? Would the response be different with a different script?
  5. These were all introductory education students-could that have an impact on the results?
  6. How else could you extend this research-replicate, different subjects different design?
  7. How could you use this information in your own classroom?

For more information, please read Andy Henion’s article on the Michigan State University website, MSU Today.