Entrepreneurial Actuaries

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I read an interesting blog post from Thought Leaders recently. This somewhat long passage from the post really captured my attention: “What do entrepreneurial actuaries do? They learn to be aware of those moments when an opportunity presents itself (the essence of entrepreneurship) and learn how to quickly sort out the risks and rewards of pursuing the opportunity (the function of an actuary). It’s not all about entrepreneurship—you can and should leverage these skills within an established organization. The problem is, we are not typically trained to do this. Our education system works best when students pay attention and avoid distractions. Focus on the work in front of you and accept the solution you’re offered. How many times were you encouraged to think of a problem in a different light or to develop your own solution in school? Probably not often.” The phrase, entrepreneurial actuary, in particular was both new and intriguing to me. In doing a search, I found that this actuarial activity is far from new, for most everyone but me that is.  ‘Quickly sorting out the risks and rewards’ makes all the sense in the world when an opportunity is identified. [Aside: It seems that the Society of Actuaries has recently recognized that intrapreneurial actuaries, working within organizations, are important contributors to success as well. As a result, the Entrepreneurial Actuary Section has been renamed the Innovation and Actuary Section. The inclusion of innovation to me perfectly captures the entrepreneurial / intrapreneurial activity.]

Here’s the part of this extended quote that I’ve been Considering extensively: The problem is, we are not typically trained to do this. Our education system works best when students pay attention and avoid distractions. Focus on the work in front of you and accept the solution you’re offered. First and foremost, I object to the use of ‘trained’ in it. Training anyone presumes that (1) you have the full understanding and skills to be able to transfer to others; and (2) that you can in fact transfer those skills and understanding to another one well enough for that person to be useful. I would submit that neither is true. The second sentence says ‘our education’ emphasizes paying attention, avoiding distractions, working on efforts presented, and accepting solutions given. Certainly, this will never lead graduates to value efforts entrepreneurial actuaries bring.

Note in the last part of the quote, consistent with the author’s description of education presently, it is suggested that today’s students are rarely ‘encouraged to think of a problem in a different light or to develop your own solution in school.’ For sure that’s a fairly safe assumption.

I have made clear in my writings and my conversations (for example, my recent blog post) that Effective Learning including developing the skills necessary to do the same must become the broadly used model in schools. That model involves the important creative problem solving. It must expand beyond the excellent but small pockets of useful / valuable education happening today. I would submit use of this model would include at least rudimentary entrepreneurial actuarial considerations. Most likely these students will begin their careers fully appreciative of such assistance.

In the the very near future, I will begin a series of blogs dealing with my beliefs regarding Effective Learning. Yes, that phrase is one others might not use regularly, certainly not capitalize. But the blogs will link to published relevant study outcomes, ones that I believe lend credibility to my notion of Effective Learning. I hope you’ll Consider them when available.

Success – in Athletics and in Learning

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As I seek to do frequently, I have been revisiting my notes on articles / posts I’ve found, ones that for me somehow seem connected or aligned with my beliefs on Effective Learning. (I firmly believe good input for addressing any situation can come from any source – including ones that seem totally unconnected.) This blog post is the result of my further Considerations of one article’s content and my belief that there are strong alignments between good athletic coaching / winning programs and good learning facilitation / effective student learning.

From an article by Carl Adamec titled “WINNING FORMULA” in the Manchester Journal Inquirer of Thursday, November 12, 2015:

“So many times teams that put the focus on ‘Refuse to lose’ would be better off putting it on ‘Desire to win,’ ” UCONN coach Geno Auriemma said. “No one wants to lose. Who goes into a game saying it’s OK to lose? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to win.

“Some have a greater will to win. To do that, you can’t be afraid to lose. Sometimes teams are their own worst enemies. Coaches are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don’t talk about losing. We know that losing is part of the game. Any time they keep score, you might lose. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, ‘What do we have to do to be successful?’ It works for us.”

[Aside: For those of you who don’t follow NCAA Women’s Basketball, Geno Auriemma is the head coach of the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball program. They have won eleven national championships since 1995. But, in the most recent NCAA tournament in April, 2017, UCONN did indeed lose to Mississippi State.]

Let’s take the above athletic-connected excerpt from the Journal Inquirer and change or add just a few words:

“So many times schools and teachers (coaches of learning) that put the focus on ‘work to make no mistakes’ would be better off putting it on ‘Desire to learn,’ ” UCONN coach Geno Auriemma said. “No one wants to make mistakes. Who goes into a situation saying it’s OK to make mistakes? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to learn and get the best outcome.

“Some have a greater will to learn and get the best outcome. To do that, you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes teams of learners are their own worst enemies. Teachers are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don’t talk about making mistakes. We know that making mistakes is part of the learning / doing process. Any time they work on learning, you might make mistakes. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, ‘What do we have to do to learn from our mistakes and be successful?’ It works for us.”

Two thoughts: First, Coach Auriemma could talk about his team and his coaching style using the alternate version I concocted and his players might wonder about the lack of basketball terminology; but they would understand the message I think. Second, I believe this alternate version should be one of the goals of all schools and teachers working with their students: take risks, learn from your mistakes, don’t focus on not making mistakes, and you’ll have greater success.

Getting to THEIR Optimum Vision

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Are you a follower of the posts of Jesse Lyn Stoner? She is a business advisor and coach – as well as a bestselling author. I am a very dedicated follower. Her business leadership posts are quite often easily (and importantly) adapted to education; and her posts and quotations (such as the one in the featured image) are very aligned with my values and those of many others.

When I encountered this image on Twitter, I was, as usual, very much in agreement with its message. In fact, I added a comment: “Even worse are the people who don’t discuss issues with ANYONE… They simply select someone’s points of view as theirs!!!”

The title of my blog, “Considerations,” relates to my strongly held beliefs. It is our responsibility to ourselves, our country, and to humankind that we gather a broad body of information believed relevant to a topic of current importance. Subsequently, we must understand, assess for relevance, and organize into a Vision associated with the topic. ‘Vision’ is my term for the interrelationships/ linkages on the topic that enable us to deal appropriately and usefully with situations associated with the topic. ‘Appropriately and usefully’ is an extremely key phrase… One important use of our vision is discussions on the topic with others. While habitual dedication to ‘Considering’ will help us become better with the process, it would be frightening (to me at least) to allow ourselves to believe that personal vision is totally, automatically useful. (It’s no more automatically useful than the visions or points of view of anyone else.) Consistent with the quotation in the featured image above, discussions with a diverse group of people will indeed provide their assessment of and feedback to your vision and introduction to their vision – both improving the visions AND thus the outcomes for situations appropriate for application of those visions.

So how do people develop the skills of Consideration leading to these visions? For sure, each of us can and likely will self-develop the skills if we in fact seek to make a difference; we will self-assess our efforts during and after the application to identify and subsequently refine those skills. And, yes, our parents and family are hopefully successful in their efforts; and if so, they are likely to provide feedback and encouragement to us to refine our skills – starting at a young age.

It is my firm belief that formal education’s most important task is to facilitate the development of those skills. The four skills most critical, I believe, are Effective Learning, problem solving, communicating, and working in groups. Effective Learning deals with the gathering, understanding, and organizing information for use in developing a vision. [Aside: This Effective Learning will also prepare students for in-school assessment including the useless (IMHO) Standardized tests.]

Problem solving starts with recognition of a problem, continues with determination of the true objective, includes the building of aligned visions, obviously involves application of those visions to develop outcomes useful to addressing the objective, and ends with reflection on and documentation of outcomes and efforts made. Application of problem solving enhances both Effective Learning and formal School assessment by the way.

Communicating is important to our improved vision building as noted earlier; it is also obviously the route to our sharing of our efforts with others. I often remarked to my students that “It would be sad if our Nobel-prize efforts never were seen by others.” Of course, the likelihood of ‘Nobel-prize efforts’ are slim. But hopefully our efforts are valuable / useful to others for their adaptation and refinement. Those efforts will be so only if our preparation of material for clear communicating occurs – the complete skill of communicating.

Finally, there is the skill of working in groups. Very often, our efforts are a part of a formalized group effort; but even ‘individuals’ work in informal groups. An artist, for example, works with their manager, agent, materials suppliers, reviewers, gallery people, … Developing the skill of working in groups is important (including for working in study and project groups in school) and must be included in education priorities.

So there is my thesis on the preparation for successful formal education, for lifelong learning so important to a successful personal life and career, and for the critical exercise of our citizen responsibilities. If we educators facilitate the development of these skills and help them to become habitually used through student-centered addressing of our carefully developed driving questions, we will help our students understand the importance of getting to their optimum visions and doing so through discussions with people having diverse views.

Good Tension? Maybe …

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I believe we all have our favorites when it comes to authors whose pieces we search for. You know, the ones that nudge us to re-Consider our current thinking on a topic or – occasionally – introduce us to a topic we’ve not really Considered before. If you look through the archives of this blog, you’ll quickly identify quite a few of my favorites. These days, with all of the flexibility of access due to social media, these writings are easily gathered. [Aside: I feel compelled to caution that ‘favorites’ should never become unquestioned sources. Rather they must always be simply one of many sources, all Considered carefully and deliberately as we develop our beliefs and positions.]

This blog post grew out of a post from Seth Godin. It’s titled “Tension vs. Fear.” Quoting from the piece: “Fear’s a dream killer. It puts people into suspended animation, holding their breath, paralyzed and unable to move forward. Fear is present in many education settings, because fear’s a cheap way to ensure compliance.  ‘ Do this,’ the teacher threatens, ‘or something bad is going to happen to you.'” And: “Tension is the hallmark of a great educational experience. The tension of not quite knowing where we are in the process, not being sure of the curriculum, not having a guarantee that it’s about to happen.”

Yes, this particular post led me to Consider my thinking and beliefs on both education and personal success. For me, by the way, education (Effective Learning, really) is a critical contributor to personal success. While this particular Consideration is far from reaching resolution, I nevertheless wanted to share my thinking to date. For me, fear is indeed all too often the source of blandness and status quo. “I / we can avoid failure if I / we simply keep doing what I / we have always done. Think of the negative impact on me / us if I / we fail. And you know how common failure is. I / we will be seen as worthless or useless, despised by colleagues and many friends.”

My response to those gripped and controlled by fear: Get over it! Success – in any way one defines it – depends upon our being curious and then creative in addressing that curiosity. Creativity in turn most certainly includes the risk, the probability, of failure during our efforts. But this should not be feared; these failures (love the acronym, FAIL: First Attempt In Learning) must be seen as routine, as opportunities to reflect and refine our efforts. Opportunities that are helpful and valuable to our efforts leading to success.

But here’s where I have some problems with Seth Godin. Does this mean the fear must be replaced by tension? Yes, I know he sees tension as a good thing… Yes, I presume that he thus doesn’t see it impacting our well being negatively. But I’m of the strong belief that success can occur without significant tension. Of course, we must expect tension to exist at various times during the creative addressing of important situations. But visualizing efforts to address important situations as including routine / constant tension, I believe, is a negative approach – probably leading to fear most of the time.

Again, quoting Godin: “Effective teachers have the courage to create tension. And adult learners on their way to levelling up actively seek out this tension, because it works. It pushes us over the chasm to the other side.” Create tension, seek out this tension… Again, I ask why? A betterapproach, I believe: Teachers must facilitate development of four skills: Effective Learning, problem solving, communicating, and working in groups. Developing these skills is accomplished via student efforts on addressing meaningful defining questions generated to align with appropriate standards. Will this be hard work for students and teachers? Yes, of course! Should it ‘create tension?’ Of course not!

The importance of this effort (What percentage of teachers think this is their main responsibility in the classroom? Probably quite low, agreed???) lies in developing these skills into habitual skills, in a non-pressure environment. The post-secondary college or employment then has been prepared for; the lifelong learning absolutely required for a successful career and personal life has then been prepared for. Yes, there will be short periods of tension dealing from time to time with situations that arise in the course of addressing meaningful situations. But there will be no creating tension, no seeking tension!

So, good tension??? I continue to believe any tension can be minimized and dealt with when it occurs. I don’t think that’s the tension Seth Godin was talking about – his good tension… Maybe minimal natural tension that’s addressed; maybe that’s “good” tension!

“Business” or “Busyness” of Life

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I’m starting to read Amy Blankson’s book, “The Future of Happiness.” (From what I’ve learned from the press associated with the book and author, I’m quite certain I’ll be posting blog(s) related to this book in the near future.) In the Foreword to the book, her author / brother, Shawn Achor, writes: “Amy has her fingers on the pulse of what YOU can do in the midst of the busyness of life to harness technology to serve our true needs: social connection, meaning, and well-being.” This was the first time that I had seen the ‘busyness of life’ – and, for me, led immediately to the conparison found  in the title of this post.

That quote of Shawn Achor also triggered my seeming recollection of related writing of a favorite author of mine, the late Stephen Covey. Sure enough, looking through the Covey pages of Brainy Quotes (a great source by the way if you haven’t checked it out), my recollection was validated via the quote found in the featured photo above, referring again to life.

The two quotes I truly believe are so very compatible to each of our lives – including a critically important portion, education / learning. I totally reject and rebel against Considering education a business; it’s not!!! But because ‘busyness’ is so close to ‘business’ in the dictionary, the title of this post is acceptable to me – with business being associated with the “change, choice, and principles of Covey!

True for any activity as noted but limiting this blog post to learning, there are far too many politicians, policy people, citizens, and – yes, sadly – educators that either somehow believe strongly in (or just can’t see ‘the forest for the trees’ in getting overwhelmed with) the ‘busyness’ of education instead of the facilitation of Effective Learning. Front and center as Exhibit #1 has to be Standardized Testing!!! And I would add memorizing facts, exams, most homework, grading, … The ‘busyness’ of education that can only be defended with the comment “That’s how we’ve always done it” is robbing our students of the preparation for a satisfying / rewarding career and personal life.

So here’s my proposal: Let’s all agree to work together to make a list of the efforts currently being facilitated in education and the efforts that are being proposed for facilitating learning in education as well as efforts that we ourselves might propose for facilitating learning in education. Next, let’s include our students, parents, and interested community members in a determination of the school culture. Then, let’s assess out full list of efforts with regard to both school culture and the “change, choice, and principles” (most importantly principles) of Covey to develop a general local school approach to Effective Learning. I’m absolutely convinced, minimizing the busyness will provide more than sufficient time to implement this general approach.

But then it’s not straight to the classroom… First, we educators need to engage with our PLCs and PLNs to become more prepared to bring this general approach to each classroom. Next, each teacher needs to Consider the tweaks necessary for each student; one general approach will never be optimal for every student in the classroom. Finally, the facilitation of learning begins – with ongoing assessment and refinement of approach since planning / preparation can never be perfect!

That’s my thoughts with eliminating the busyness of education in order to facilitate Effective Learning. I’d love to learn your thoughts!!!

A Highly Anticipated Twitter Chat

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I participate regularly in Twitter chats, including #OklaEd, #VAChat, and #TWOTCW among others. The last one, #TWOTCW,  is moderated by Steve Wyborney in conjunction with his latest book “The Writing on the Classroom Wall.” The featured image above, in fact, is Question 1 from the #TWOTCW chat of April 18, 2017 (tonight as I work on this post).

As with many of Steve’s questions, this one featured really grabbed me: ‘Create a list of eight words that describe students.’ Asking for a list has occurred in his previous chats and generates two types of responses – a list of eight individual words or a phrase involving eight words. My reply usually is of the latter type but I cannot tell you why… Providing the questions early is a good one in my thinking, enabling chat participants to Consider their replies. Indeed, my post would have been something like “Exactly what their early environment enabled their becoming” – as noted, a phrase… But the subsequent questions by Steve reveal he’s seeking eight individual words such as the one I’ll likely post in a short while: “unique, culturally dependent, engaged or not, skilled learner / not.” Yes, I know – mostly shorter phrases.

But these are critical characteristics for students and their learning, I believe; and ones that I at least don’t know might have single-word replacements. And, yes, I even had to change ‘or’ to ‘/’ to get eight and not nine words… I’ll not discuss this list further here; but a recent blog post might provide more insight into my reasoning. Also, I had already made a note to develop another blog post on this topic. Stay tuned if you’re interested.

The real point I hope that I’ve illustrated with this particular post is that participating in Twitter chats does enable / encourage the level of Consideration of a topic that leads to Effective Learning. My experience with chats suggests that there are almost always one or more such questions that spark further Consideration / Effective Learning. Yes, having the questions ahead of time maybe contributes to richer participation; but having one’s tweets enables Consideration after the chat. Storify files are even better!

I hope you find this latest post of mine of value. Thanks for your reading it; feedback is always valued.

 

Words Are Not Adequate

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Let me paint my circumstances: We are still arranging our furniture and ‘goodies’ in our newly-built home – so exciting of course but still time consuming – five months later. We had a mandatory trip back to New England for some unavoidable appointments (and some great socializing with friends). And, finally, as with any moves, there are required effforts to both in dropping licenses, voter registrations, … at the previous location and adding the same at our new location.

And of course, George Couros chose the past five plus weeks to facilitate the second edition of his online Innovator’s Mindset MOOC! Having gained so very much personally from the first offering, I really didn’t want to miss this second offering. I made the commitment to actively participate – in the weekly live YouTube sessions, the book re-reading (in my case), the Wednesday night #IMMOOC Twitter chats, and individual assignments. This blog post in fact fulfills the last individual assignment.

To say that I’m so glad that I made the commitment to actively participate cannot be overstated… While I gained much knowledge, experience, links, contacts, and confidence from participation in the first offering, I can honestly report that the most valuable outcome, I now understand, was preparation for the second offering. But then, those of us dedicated to lifelong Effective Learning know it to be critical to happiness / success (regardless of our definitions of both). Perfection is a useful if unattainable goal but continued attention to it will always be of great value. Yes, things change rapidly; but goals such as happiness and success can always be better approached with a better ‘tool box.’

So what did I accomplish as a direct result of my participation in this second IMMOOC offering? Here’s a (most certainly) incomplete list:

  • I resumed my posts to this Considerations blog – after a year-long hiatus associated with preparation for and implementation of our move from Connecticut to Virginia.
  • I gained a better understanding of the rewards of blogging (a central focus of the IMMOOC) – including developing visions of how knowledge and skills interact to enable improved use, self-assessment of those visions through sharing with others, refining those visions via dialogue with readers of the blog, and building my Personal Learning Network.
  • I was once again reminded how valuable the information found within “Innovator’s Mindset” – much more so because it was the second reading / Consideration of it for me (as with all books of relevance and value; most have at most one of these but not both).
  • I was introduced to the power and value of live broadcasting of presentations / dialogue – such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • I was reminded of the richness and value of Twitter chats. I regularly participate in #OklaEd, #Vachat, and #TWOTCW but understand better the value of exploring others as time permits.
  • I have gained a new thinking of my possible contributions to improved Effective Learning facilitation. I believe I do have contributions to make through my blog posts and am excited to be back adding new posts regularly. I’m also looking forward to Considering two new opportunities: writing a book as well as facilitating ongoing, online educator professional development.

So, GOOD NEWS??? Yes, for me for sure!!! And for other participants as well, from my reading their posts. AND for all others learning about IMMOOC too late to participate in this offering. (Start by reading and Considering George Couros’ book! Follow the IMMOOC facilitators on Twitter: @gcouros, @KatieMTLC, and @TaraMartinEDU. Search the #IMMOOC hashtag on Twitter. And watch for (hopefully) future offerings of the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC.)