Deenie and Nini Critiques

My sister Deena and my daughter Anine are both in grad school working on their Masters as well. I have been doing a lot of work helping with their theses and research, and so it seemed only fair for them to be my critical friends, especially as Deena was a part of my target audience, and was always with me when I was working with her students. Her are her suggestions.

Deena swims

Deena’s Critiques

  • Emphasize heated discussion including their engagement in it on who liked what cookie
  • Change Ms. Hardings name to and alias for privacy concerns
  • I call our event the “Holiday Open House”
  • My Programs name is not G3 but is “Special Day Class for Students with High Functioning Autism.”
  • Add that for the party they decided that since data was inconclusive they would go with the prettiest.
  • After winter break we returned to refine the testing process.
  • Reflect on how lovely it would be as part of a TV segment on the process of scientifically solving this student generated question.
  • In conclusions add more about the quality of the engagement of the students and the enthusiasm of the discussions and how it reflected the efficacy of the hands on learning in a subject that is so often perceived by students as unrelated to life when in fact just the opposite is true.
  • Reiterate why you wanted to do it and how it relates to course work.

I have integrated all of these into my revised presentation.

Nini swims

Anine’s Critiques

  • You should put attributions on all your images.
  • Do you have permission to share the images of these kids?
  • Did you have a review by a Human Subjects Review board? Is it appropriate to use their first names?
  • What happened to the data your target audience of colleagues that I was a part of. We provided information about the program elements, but I don’t see it here.
  • I don’t understand the title: “FSO MS-EMDT” I presume that is the name of your program but your audience will not understand either.
  • I’m not familiar with the term “prior art”, what do you mean by that?
  • You should define CBR.
  • I like your description of the baking methodology in the phase two, too bad the kids were not involved in that. Do you have pictures?
  • You should include some real statistical analysis of your results.

Nini is in a much more rigorous program at CUNY’s Hunter College, and is doing original research on therapy dogs, so she expects a bit more than I am offering here. I have incorporated most of her suggestions, but am not really sure if we were supposed to do some sort of human research subject review.

I do have permission from the parents for all the kids I photographed, there were a couple in the group who did not want to be on camera, and they were not. I will redact all the real names though.

Again, a little sad that I was forbidden from continuing with my target audience split into two groups providing two different types of data. She had been an enthusiastic participant in that part of my study, especially since she learned science at my knee in much the way I am trying to teach it here.


Literature Dialogue: The Art of Possibility 2


Image: manostphoto /
Chapter 9 brings many ideas, among them passion (lighting a spark) and attitude.
It was the latter idea, one of attitude, that got my attention as i read. The idea that it’s not always what you are asking for, but HOW you are asking for it, that matters. People want to help, many more so than they realize, but it often takes the right approach to reach that well of good nature.
Again, through artful language Zander reminds us that our own perspective on a situation greatly influences how we interact with others in that situation, even when we don’t realize it. If we can change our perspective (into something more positive), we at least stand a change at changing the outcome.
It was this sentence that really lit the light bulb above my head for this chapter:
“Like a tap to a  kaleidoscope that shifts identical pieces of glass into different patterns, the scene changed before out eyes from bankruptcy to abundance with just the slightest nudge to the frame”.
The Art of Possibility, Zander and Zander, pg 116.
And of corse, reality isn’t always like this. Poor is still poor, whether quality, finances, etc. However, perspective and attitude can make all the difference between a closed door and an opened one.
 “Being the Board” (the next chapter, Ten) follows up nicely on this concept, although it does rehash some of the same ideas. The chapter discusses the idea of framework (or at least that’s my interpretation of it).
But then we move into Chapter 11 which directly states it’s about framework, and then goes into more detail and more discussion of framework.
So now i’m left wondering what it was i was supposed to get out Chapter 10. Or rather, what is chapter 10 really about?
It seems to be this weird in-between mixture of Ch 9 and 11.
But the 12th, and last chapter sums everything up nicely i think. The result of everything said previously, the sum of all the previous ideas… that the life journey of an individual isn’t really about just the individual, even if they think or desire that to be so. Everything we do influences someone else in some way, so we should do what we can to make those influences positive ones, to impact the society of “US”.

I rather like that idea.

Image: Sarunyu_foto / FreeDigitalPhotos.netI REPLIED:

Despite the fact that we were both a bit critical of this book, (I was downright snarky in a couple of my posts, but you much less so) I also quite liked this book. I mean, how else could the conductor of a venerable symphony be but egotistical? In fact, I think Zander is actually pretty courageous for hanging himself out there, and copping to it.
I really enjoyed the thread, almost a subplot, of his arrogant ways being reformed by his wife’s therapeutic practice, kind of like self-help life counseling.
I too really resonate with the summation, and especially his remarks in the Coda about living life as an artist, creating our own lives. This is one of my strongest personal values, and in fact this whole book is really very close to my own world views. My boss just chewed me out the other day for being arrogant, and I suspect many of the folks I have met here at FS find me even more so, an arrogant, pompous and bombastic blowhard, a lot like Ben Zander perhaps, and maybe it was that self-recognition that made me lash out at him.


Topanga Canyon Blvd is closed

“Schmience” was born as I sailed back from a mind blowing experience at the first 5D conference on immersive design. It was put together by one of my heroes, a colleague and the production designer I most respect, Alex McDowell. During one session a physicist presented a charming flash animation of a lab-coated Einsteinian figure and a cute young woman pushing a Sisyphusian boulder up a hill in a call for artists to take up the mantle to help educate the general public about the nature of science.

Go, Sisyphus go!

As someone whose business card reads “Artist & Scientist” his plea nagged at me, and as I processed the experience while returning home, under the moonlight with a brisk evening breeze, I spent the bulk of my 3 hour sail from the southern most to the northern most end of massive LA harbor, designing a science program for elementary aged kids: Science? Schmience!

I enrolled in this EMDT program with the express goal of using the coursework to detail out this plan, and eagerly began to do research on how to best structure it and what tools would be best used to facilitate it. I know I am beating a dead horse here, but it has been an interesting education for me in how educators can go so wrong with the best intentions. I see how my pushing back against the rigid structures created in this program challenged the egos of those running it and caused them to dig in their heels. I came to understand how such rigidity could be the result of the need to be able to do efficient assessment, and most of all I learned why it is so hard to overcome the massive inertia of our educational system.

The take away for me has been that I need to work outside of that system, and try to get most of the support and allies I will need to make my Schmience dream a reality from the world of art and not of science or education. Mythbusters is successful not because it is such a good science education program (and it is) but because it is entertaining and well done. Thankfully, my greatest expertise is in that world of entertainment. So, my program has gotten something really valuable from this program, and that is the understanding that educators are likely the last people able to grok what I want to do, something I would never have thought before I began this EMDT program.

The challenge I accepted is still alive, but the one I will address here is an action research project about using real world questions to structure classroom science instruction. I met with a target audience and found a question they wanted to answer: what brand of cookies should they make to have as refreshments at the annual Holly Days party they hosted in their classroom. Together we developed a taste test protocol to test a variety of Christmas sugar cookies. The results were confounded by variables we had not controlled, and the best part of the process educationally was turning that disappointment with the first round, into a refining of the methodology for the second round.

In that second round we tested chocolate chip cookies, and made a number of changes so that more of the variables were controlled and especially so that they did not have to wear blindfolds as they had in the first round. The second round did generate significant and even surprising results and left at least some of the students with a much better grasp of the nature and process of scientific inquiry.

Alan is cool!

I would like to present at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) area conference in Portland in 2013. I suppose though if I get further along with the development of my actual program in the next few months that i might also think about presenting at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting next February in Boston.

Here are the extremely redundant links to my previous posts:
Week One Leadership Post
Week Two Leadership Post
Week Three Leadership Post

Here are the links to the non-google-doc versions of my presentation:
Leadership Project Powerpoint
Leadership Project Keynote

More Chaos

Lorenz Attractor

We are each, in whole and part, just small segments of a gigantic interconnected system, in which everything we do, every thought, word and deed, changes in some way the course or the unfolding of the universe. In the early 70’s, Edward Lorenz, working on chaos theory, used the example of a flap of a butterfly wing creating a tornado in Texas.

Many people see this as a metaphor, but in fact it is a mathematical and scientific fact. Chaos theory describes how very small differences in initial conditions can have large effect in the eventual development of the system. In fact in terms of barometric pressure, the main value meteorologists use to track weather patterns, what Lorenz realized was that tiny fraction of a millibar change that the flap of butterfly wing might cause, could actually, when plugged into a computer simulation of a weather forecast, be the difference between having a tornado form or not form some days later.

It is in this way that each of us cannot help but “be the board” and that it is always the story of WE that we are each telling. Our individual natures are in so many ways illusions, albeit powerful and seemingly concrete ones, but trying to see the reality of what is, the profound and infinite connection that exists between each molecule within us and without, and to take responsibility for our reality, in whatever miniscule ways we can (and our power is always miniscule when seen from a sufficiently grand perspective) can be very liberating and empowering.

Literature: Get Out of Your Own Way: Art of Possibilities


I took a number of take-a-ways from this weeks reading. I really resonated with Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s discussion about childlike behaviorisms following people into adulthood. All to often you encounter people who exhibit questionable behavior due to insecurities. They posture and put up fronts of power, many times becoming extremely stubborn unwilling to relent that they have made a mistake or are wrong, simply because they fear that this admonition will diminish them from the perspective of others. Good leaders must learn humility, be willing to learn, and extend their trust to those that they depend on. This behavior tends to make hypocrites of people as well.

They will persist in a way of thinking even after changing circumstances force them to take actions that are completely contrary to their supposed beliefs.It reminds me of the term “flip-flopper” used so often as an insult in politics. I hate this term because a person, especially a policy maker, should be able change their mind as new information presents itself. This does not necessarily make someone untrustworthy or indecisive, it makes a person lucid.

The authors’ comment of leading from any chair tie right into the work my school has been doing to shift the focus of our classrooms from teacher-centered to student-centered. It is an amazing thing to witness a group of students learning from not just one teacher, but the 15-20 other teachers that are in the class with them. There is almost a palpable change of energy in the room when it takes place. You can sense a feeling of empowerment and mutual respect from all.

Tesla Coil at NIMBY
by Willivolt

Unfortunately it does not always work for everyone. Benjamin Zander describes empowering all of his musicians by viewing them as “glorious lovers of music.” However this is an obvious truth. Why else would they have pursued this career? I have to say that high school students do not always have even a slight amount of passion as many times they feel forced to participate either by law or the pressures of parents or requirements to graduate. They did not make the choice to be in a particular class and as a result simply do not have an interest. For these students the first battle is helping them to make some sort of personal connection to the subject matter and igniting even a small spark of passion.

I absolutely love the Rule Number 6. If the super egos of the world could get out of the way I truly believe there would be greater understanding amongst all. Plain and simple.

The authors’ concepts of being present to the way things are shares many similarities to the philosophy of yoga. Yoga teaches you to be present in the moment. When things become difficult you it is important to focus on your breath and breath through it. As long as you are aware of your struggle, you are in control of your struggle, which enables you to persist through it. Once you make it through you will find yourself stronger and more flexible, ready to take on even greater challenges.

The Dog Ate My Homework
by mygothlaundry

I also believe one of the keys to achieving this type of growth is, as the authors stated, eliminating denial, blame, or other escapes from your thinking. This could very well be favorite behavior of a typical high school student. If something goes wrong it is always someone else’s fault. It’s the classic, “the dog ate my homework.” Even students that have obviously misbehaved immediately try to shift blame by questioning other’s behavior rather than reflecting on their own. This may be one of the most frustrating aspects of working with high school students for me. They look like adults; they want to be treated like adults, yet most are still very much under the influence of the childlike behaviors of the calculating self.

As for chapter eight I have always giving way to passion. When I have committed to something I have always been fully committed. That said, this idea has been shed in a new light since I have become a teacher. My goal for every day is for every student I teach to exist in a state of passion while they are in my classroom. Alas, this is not the reality. However, this perspective has been one of the driving forces throughout the last year during my own educational journey. Many of my friends gave me hard time about the amount of work I put into this program. They would question whether I always had to do “A” work or if I couldn’t just do enough to get by. But that has never been a question for me. I am all in.


I so agree with your perspective (and Zander’s) on the persistence of childlike ego-defensive behaviors. Funny how amazingly counterproductive it is to puff up and deny, which only extends conflict and grows anxiety. So often a little “my bad” can reset the whole reaction and allow us to move forward, and yet folks fight it with passion.

A lot of it is habitual I think. I recall when I was about 8, lying in my bed feeling all wronged after having been sent to my room for something I did not think I was responsible for. My mom felt badly and came to try and talk me into coming out, but I ignored her and continued to pout. Suddenly as I heard her click her tongue and walk away, I was awestruck by the crazy self-destructiveness of my behavior.

I realized that laying there, in misery, feeling sorry for myself was hurting mostly me. I was forfeiting my own joy to somehow manipulate her. I suspect we had learned this dance because my pouting had, as it naturally must in the context of motherly love, hurt her and made her want to give in to me in many similar interactions we must have had throughout my life. Our natural inclinations, me with my childish drive for power and her mother’s drive to protect her offspring, had led us to teach each other this destructive pattern.

I got up and went out and gave her a hug and apologized for being such a little snot. Ever since, I vowed to always squelch that little angry baby crying “I’ll show them”, take a few breaths and find a new perspective. But, I still feel these messed up little scripts well up in me now and then, where I want to lay blame, get pay-back, or surrender to self-hatred, and try very hard to be aware and check myself. Like you I wish I could teach this to my students, and wish my kids were better at it.

Literature: Leading from Any Chair: The Art of Possibilities


Wk 3 Reading: The Art of Possibility Chapters 5 -8
As i have said before, I find moments where I agree with the text, and moments where I disagree.
But I really enjoyed the chapter on “Leading from Any Chair” the most. While in other chapters I found myself agreeing with parts of a chapter, but not others or even the majority, here I found myself agreeing for much, if not all of this chapter.

I really liked his image/example of a conductor, in making the point.

Luigi diamanti /

This seance especially struck me that “….but his [the conductor’s] true power derives from his ability to make other people powerful.”

While it applies acutely to the example of a conductor, this idea can really be applied to anyone in a position of authority, and especially management.

As many grumbling employees in any position may attest, managers themselves don’t always do a lot. It’s often the employees below that do the “grunt” work (hence the term). But, a mangers “power” resides in his ability to empower those below him or her and inspire them.

I appreciate the idea of the “White sheet”, and wish more working environments used them and used them *honestly*, where employees aren’t afraid to give feedback.

Also by offering others the ability to provide feedback, and contribute, they feel like they “own” part of the conversation, business, practice, etc. When people have that sense of ownership, they do strive to do and be better.

And I think that should be the focus of any leader; to encourage others to become their leaders in their own right, and to constantly strive to be better.

This also ties into the 8th “practice”/chapter of giving way to passion. We as educators, and leaders, have the ability, and maybe even the responsibility to inspire and promote the spark of passion in our students, and even each other as fellow educators. I like, and agree with the idea that just as important it is to “find” one’s passion, it’s equally important to continue to nuture it, lest one becomes numb and forgets the purpose… or, as it is more eloquently stated:

“Like the person who forgets he is related to the waves in the sea or loses continuity with the movement of win through grass, so does the performer lose his connection to the long line of the music when his attention rests solely on perfecting individual notes and harmonies.”
The Art of Possibility, Zander and Zander, pg 116.

It is so easy to lose sight of the larger picture and your bigger goal, when you get stuck in the mundane, repetitive tasks that are required for that larger picture. I agree it’s important to remember and get back in touch with that initial passion… however, I feel the chapter/author is lacking and disappointing in helping the reader to understand or find realistic ways to actually get back in touch with that passion.

This book, ironically, has a lot of potential, but falls short in the worst places I think.

There are many examples, anecdotes and stories of experiences and elegantly worded passages, but not always a lot of practical sense or advice.

Perhaps I need to read it again.


As usual, you an I seem to be on the same wavelength. I understood a little better how Mr. Zander manages to be so full of himself after watching the video that Prof. Bustillos posted this week.

Zander is indeed a passionate and charismatic speaker, and my incredulity at his comment that the headmistress of a Catholic girl’s school should write to tell him that “Beyond The Fuck It” had become her school’s unofficial motto, faded as I watched him gesticulate and shout.

Literature: One Buttock Playing: The Art of Possibilites

I am getting a bit bored by the redundancy in this book, as well as by Mr. Zander’s monumental ego. I think it might work better distilled to one long essay rather than being drawn out into a book, giving me so much time with his self-congratulation and somewhat pretentious language flourishes (though she is worse than he in this I think). But still the central insights of openness to possibilities, of connection to the moment and to community are true and powerful.

The worst catch phrase so far in the book, one that I will not adopt, is “one-buttock playing”. Perhaps he finds the irony of its relationship to the idiom “half-assed” amusing. But just as Roz spoke about the way language and conceptions can create a resistive inner reality, I feel this linguistic connection to half-assed doing just that with this catch phrase, probably because I am not a piano player and so have no somatic connection to how one’s buttocks feel as one plays passionately.

A few years ago, I suppose in a bit of a midlife crisis, I gave up my movie career and moved up to Berkeley to try and fulfill my youthful dreams as a starving artist. I lived in a cold and leaky shipping container on ramen and dumpster diving while trying to make art in the brilliant, punk rock artistic community I had come to know from Burning Man.

My solar installation at The Shipyard

I was too old and too much of a hippie to thrive among them. Most of my memories from those times are of bitter cold, loneliness and frighteningly drunken and angry young men, but one of the things that still shines in my heart was my regular Tuesday night trips to the venerable Freight & Salvage’s open-mike nights, where for only 2 bucks, I could get a whole evening’s entertainment.

And it was good, often really good, to me paradoxically good because these were almost never very good players. What I discovered there was that the reputation and history of that stage tended to bring out a commitment in these artists, who would throw themselves into their performances with a gusto and presence that imbued even mediocre playing with a sense of humanity and emotion that were unmistakable and immensely moving.

I think this is what Zander is getting at in these chapters about the way things are and giving way to passion, however misguided and egocentric his ensconcing of “one buttock playing” and “beyond the fuck it” as tropes of wisdom and insight.