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  • Firefly News Flash, September 2012, The Firefly Group
    a similar situation This leads to a new Concrete Experience and the cycle begins again For students an important implication of the cycle is that learning is not complete unless they spend time in each phase Having an experience is never enough Only by going through the cycle do students transform the experience into real learning Educators then have the responsibility to ensure that every lesson has a link to each phase of the cycle They must offer a variety of activities for students to engage with the material think about the learning and consider the thoughts and observations of other students This means that educators have to play a variety of roles to move their students through the cycle After all it takes a different focus preparation and level of energy to read a lecture lead a discussion provide feedback or monitor progress Kolb s latest innovation is the Educator Role Profile a self assessment tool designed to help educators identify their preferred role and be intentional in the use of four different roles to maximize their effectiveness with students The four educator roles are summarized here Facilitator Help learners reflect upon their experiences often through group discussions Expert Help learners connect their reflections to a theoretical base often through lectures Evaluator Help learners apply knowledge and skills often through standards based performance activities Coach Help learners apply knowledge to achieve their goals often through feedback and action plans This is just a simple description of the educator roles with only one or two of the many techniques one could employ in each of the roles The point here is that effective educators must not only become comfortable in all roles but also know when to use a particular role with a specific student This is what enables students to complete the whole cycle and it s what distinguishes outstanding educators from people who are merely good teachers To read an article by David Kolb with a diagram of the Experiential Learning Cycle click HERE Ideas A Safe Place for Learning Carol s experience in Home Economics class as related in the 99 Word Story certainly highlights the influence educators have on the learning process No matter what teaching techniques they might be using many times it is the presence they model that teaches the most Recall your own teachers and likely you will agree that whether it was their sense of humor concern for students or ability to respect and connect with others what they modeled as human beings was as valuable as the academic lessons they taught During a recent conference presentation David Kolb emphasized the social aspect of learning He talked about the fact that the ability of students to transform their experience into learning is wrapped up in their self image history culture and the relationship to their teacher If trust is lacking if a judgmental tone is present if there s too much pressure students emotions go into overdrive and their brains shut off

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  • Firefly News Flash, August 2012, The Firefly Group
    which releases 90 of its energy as heat bioluminescence is 100 light As a result fireflies and similar animals can produce light completely out of proportion to their size and energy expenditure This light is the result of a reaction between the chemical luciferin a pigment and luciferase an enzyme With oxygen acting as a catalyst the luciferin molecule actually fits into the luciferase resulting in a burst of light How the organism controls this process to produce the desired flashing signals is still a question for discovery In the meantime scientists have been using the properties of bioluminescence to conduct noninvasive research into the spread of infectious diseases and the growth of cancer cells In addition bioluminescence can be used to study the effectiveness of drugs that are designed to cut off the blood supply to cancer cells All this research is accomplished by injecting cancer cells or stem cells with luciferin then following its light to track the drug s effects The study of bioluminescence demonstrates how discoveries in nature can spark creative solutions in unexpected situations Ideas Light for Learning What is the connection between bioluminescence and learning Learning and knowledge are often symbolized by a lamp emitting light to reveal the truth In contrast we often equate ignorance with darkness the inability to see and understand the world around us But we don t gain knowledge by having an expert hand us a flash light Each of us decides whether to turn that light on and which dark corner to point it toward No matter how expert our teacher no one but the learner holding the light can determine what to do with it Each person makes internal decisions about whether where when and how to use what they learn This is where bioluminescence is a helpful metaphor Everyone has the inner capacity the pigmentation luciferin for learning Add knowledge the enzyme luciferase presented by an engaging teacher the oxygen catalyst and you can ignite learning and new action The 99 Word Story suggests that this process is evident even in very young children Frankly I have no idea how my daughter gained her inner capacity her luciferin but when given new information in the presence of people who cared for her she was able to profoundly change her behavior Real learning results in changed behavior This happens by tapping into the internal motivation of learners When teachers help people make connections between the subject being taught and a sense of purpose or desire for meaning the light in people s eyes will flicker into brilliance As with bioluminescent sea life the deeper you challenge people to go in their thinking the more likely you are to find that internal light Educators who do all the talking especially by lecturing are probably creating more heat than light They do not ask their students to invest any internal energy or challenge them to change long standing behaviors However by inspiring students to interact with the material on

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  • Firefly News Flash, July 2012, The Firefly Group
    sense the connection Susan Gamel Otto is founder and owner of Training Modules com LLC which offers customized and off the shelf Instructor and Participant Guides which internal trainers and non trainers use to facilitate training Susan s emphasis is on design development and documentation and making the training experience interactive and more meaningful for participants Ideas Follow Your Nose Engagement is central to the success of businesses non profits government agencies and teams as well as for our success as individuals Business literature abounds with talk of engagement An engaged workforce is motivated and committed to the mission of the organization There are fewer accidents more efficiency and better relationships with customers clients vendors and partners Clifford Nass The Man Who Lied to His Laptop points out that traditionally organizational cultures were designed to control emotions by relying upon established policies rules and hierarchies Touchy feely training activities are still dismissed by many leaders as irrelevant to the needs of the business Yet Nass points out that employees with no emotional connection to their work do only what they are asked while those who are passionate about their work take risks to excel Dan Pink in his book A Whole New Mind cites empathy as one of six senses essential to cultivate in what he terms the Conceptual Age He defines empathy as the ability to imagine yourself in someone else s position and to intuit what that person is feeling Identifying and interpreting feelings is an innate human skill but it usually works below our conscious level Developing one s ability to interpret and manage emotions can be critical for success in today s world says Pink Other researchers agree Stephen Denning in The Secret Language of Leadership notes that attention is engaged by emotions Emotion slows down the process of analytic thinking thus making the object interesting If you want to engage people in an important message try to reach them on an emotional level Made to Stick the book by Chip and Dan Heath cites emotion as one of six criteria for crafting a message that will resonate with listeners and lead to action The authors describe a study of two anti smoking campaigns one with an emotional focus the other intellectual After two years of the emotional campaign smoking among high school students dropped by 18 percent and among middle school students by 40 percent In contrast students exposed to the intellectual campaign were 36 more likely to smoke Why do emotions have such influence over our rational thinking An explanation is offered by Kent Greenfield in his book The Myth of Choice He notes the distinction between our highly evolved prefrontal cortex which is involved with thinking and analysis and our basal ganglia which control involuntary actions Usually these separate parts of our brain coordinate so we can do things like drive a car and carry on a conversation at the same time But Greenfield notes that our intellectual brain is easily overruled by

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  • Firefly News Flash, June 2012, The Firefly Group
    brought about our ability to stand erect and walk on two legs An article in the May 2012 issue of National Geographic Magazine The Common Hand makes the point that a variety of vertebrates have a similar bone structure from shoulder to fingertip including some version of a hand X ray photos in the article comparing the bone structure in animals from frogs to elephants reveals the similarity a large bone for the upper arm two bones for the middle arm a wrist with many bones and ending with five digits In all these creatures hands have developed specialized functions from swimming to standing to flying to climbing trees Our hands with their opposable thumbs have given us an increased facility for using tools Most primates have an opposable thumb to some degree but the human thumb has the greatest range of flexibility Interestingly we are not the only species with truly opposable thumbs Koalas have two opposable digits They use them to securely grip the tree branches where they feed and spend most of their time We have come to associate the opposable thumb with advanced intelligence to such a degree that The Onion a satirical magazine has published an article speculating about what would happen if the highly intelligent dolphin species had evolved an opposable thumb Would it suddenly make them even smarter The concept is carried to a frightening extreme By now my hand is fully mended and like my friend in the 99 Word Story who lost her glasses I ve gained a new perspective in the process Sometimes objects that are the most familiar can bring new insights into reach when seen through the lens of curiosity Ideas On the Other Hand Your wonderfully oppositional thumb How fortunate we are to have a strong thumb opposite our remaining four fingers With it we enjoy two types of grip power and precision A power grip is when your fingers grab an object and your thumb applies pressure in the opposite direction You use a power grip to hold a hammer or grab a bicycle handlebar With a power grip you use the strength of your whole hand and it s possible only with the oppositional ability of your thumb A precision grip is when the tips of your fingers and thumb come together to hold an object It s useful for writing with a pencil picking up coins from a flat surface and doing similar fine motor work We don t think much about how our opposable thumb makes hands so much more useful Similarly we don t appreciate the value of opposition in other aspects of our lives The oppositional people on our teams only seem to cause problems Our competitors whether in the market place or the corporate space are obstacles to be defeated And our political opponent is certain to be wrong about everything Yet opposition has its useful side My daughter from her high school statistics class informs me that it is

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  • Firefly News Flash, May 2012, The Firefly Group
    bathrooms cafeteria and meeting spaces so that employees have many opportunities for chance contact with colleagues they may not normally work with The highest performing employees consistently engage in the most interactions in their workplace Simply increasing the quantity of office conversations increases everyone s creativity The most creative ideas come when we are not alone The best scientific research occurs when scientists are working within 10 meters of each other Cities are inherently more creative places than rural areas Simply moving to the city will increase your creativity and productivity by 15 When people come together they become more productive per capita so that doubling urban density ups productivity by 28 That is why more patents per capita are filed from dense urban areas like New York City than from diffused areas like Phoenix Outsiders those who are young or new to a particular discipline are often most creative They lack the mental baggage that can accumulate after years of exposure to the same problems When working in groups there is an ideal balance one can strike between the number of people who know each other well and the number of outsiders who are new to the group and bring their fresh perspective to the team The time honored practice of brainstorming is overrated Research has shown that brainstorming groups generate fewer ideas than the same number of people who work individually and pool their ideas later Our culture frequently discourages the sharing of innovative ideas by means of patents copyrights company policies non competition agreements confining people to their own departmental responsibilities or even approving the shades and hues in their box of colored pencils In contrast Lehrer repeatedly makes the case that ideas become more valuable when they are shared and his book provides inspiration for individuals teams and organizations who want to do just that Imagine How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2012 ISBN 978 0 547 38607 2 Ideas Brainstorming is Broken What brainstorming does not work There are several ways Lehrer s book Imagine challenged my own assumptions about how creativity works and this was one of them I remember my first exposure to brainstorming as a teenager during a youth leadership meeting We were asked to invent as many uses as possible for a paper cup As a facilitator I have relied upon the technique for my whole career I have used countless variations and even led an activity that confirms for participants that their collective imagination is superior to their individual effort Lehrer describes how much energy at Pixar is focused on meetings to refine ideas Several hours might be spent with editors animators writers and others redesigning a film sequence frame by frame But this relentless critique seems to contradict my own experience that ideas get better when we build upon them rather than when we focus on fixing the flaws The concept of Yes And is an example of this In the April 2012 issue of The

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  • Firefly News Flash, April 2012, The Firefly Group
    the barn was lifted and carried to its new foundation six feet higher and 115 further away from the creek You can watch a video of this remarkable story here http www youtube com watch v o83W0gj CRE Ideas A Foolish Idea Move a barn by simply picking it up What a foolish idea Yet what a moving story The friend who told me about Ostry s barn and the people of Bruno included a brief commentary Often people think something cannot be done because they know they cannot do the task by themselves It s easy to become so overwhelmed by the size of a task that we never even start Like the 99 Word Story we let our immediate frame of reference limit how we view the situation We become discouraged before even making a trial first step I liked this interpretation but the folks in Bruno demonstrate such a wonderful spirit that I was inspired to think about their story in other ways How many layers of learning could I derive from their barn move I decided 12 would be a good number to shoot for but I failed in my goal Instead here are a dozen plus two lessons I was able to derive from the Bruno barn move 14 Lessons from Moving a Barn Power of Vision a well articulated inspirational vision can galvanize people around a task that seems impossible Effectiveness of Collaboration as a group our work is exponentially greater than that of a single person alone Big Problem Small Steps breaking a big problem into small steps makes it manageable Group Effort most tasks worth doing take the effort and cooperation of many people Leading and Following there s a time to be a leader and a time to be a follower Planning is Essential for big project success everyone must know their part in the plan and stick to it Foolish Ideas sometimes a crazy idea is more inspiring than a conventional idea Generate Enthusiasm a crowd of cheerleaders has a big impact on our inspiration and purpose Avoid Technology relying on human power rather than technology builds more than barns it creates community Embrace What s Weird foster free for all anything goes brainstorming because the outlier ideas can be the most promising Leaders must Provide Information What was it like as one of the lifters inside the barn where they could not see the result of their efforts The voice of the leader informing of the progress was critically important Head in the Clouds Feet in the Clay It s important to combine hair brained creative ideas with practical knowledge grounded in real world experience Maximize Impact Connect your idea to an even bigger cause like Bruno s centennial celebration for a multiplying effect The Power of Possibility Learn to say Yes more often See the Activity section below for ideas about this I invite you to use one or more of these lessons to spark a discussion in

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  • Firefly News Flash, March 2012, The Firefly Group
    and Energy by Listening and Speech Productivity by a Talking Bird Though efforts to teach improved skills for communication through writing reading and speaking have been around for quite a while it has only been in the last 50 years that serious research has focused on how to refine listening skills As a result Amazon now lists over 24 500 volumes under the search term listening skills A similar search on Google will snag 11 800 000 page references in only 0 2 seconds assuming you don t mind waiting that long You can also find tests quizzes exercises and games associated with better listening Listening has garnered so much attention because it s complicated Here s my theory about why There are many dimensions to listening and most of them happen below the surface of our awareness Like this month s 99 Word Story part of communication is what is obvious the information It covers the hillside of our communication like trees in a forest It s a huge job to process the enormous quantity of all that explicit information We often forget about what is going on under the surface There we find emotions that put us in tune or out of touch with the speaker We find egos that are strong and forceful or reluctant and lacking self esteem We also find assumptions and judgments that lead us to give advice and commands that were not requested If we take away only the explicit information from a conversation we leave the speaker with a stump of negativity and hurt feelings But if we can understand communication as a whole tree both above and below the surface listening becomes a way to nurture a growing relationship as sweet as maple syrup Ideas Like Attracts Like While researching the topic of listening I came across this random tip If you re finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying try repeating their words mentally as they say them this will reinforce their message and help you stay focused Mind Tools I was immediately reminded of mirror neurons When we are fully engaged observing another person s behavior an fMRI scan of our brain will show activity in the same neural pathways as those in the brain of the person we are observing It is as if we are doing the observed activity ourselves Is this mirroring I wondered what happens when we use our best active listening skills I soon found confirmation from several sources An article in the Chicago Tribune by Jen Weigel quoted author Travis Bradberry Emotional Intelligence 2 0 We tested more than a half million people and the best listeners are unconsciously mimicking the people they hear When you re caught up with thinking about what you re going to say next you aren t listening But if you stop what you re doing and really focus on the person talking you activate neurons in your brain and your body starts to

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  • Firefly News Flash, February 2012, The Firefly Group
    nasal spray But we don t need to We can feel its influence any time we see the smiling face of a loved one get a hug receive praise shake someone s hand express gratitude offer assistance or find something in common with a stranger Even at 50 miles per hour as the 99 Word Story relates oxytocin can give our mood a boost Oxytocin does not necessarily override all our feelings of fear According to research by Dr Carsten K W De Dreu a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam as reported in the New York Times the effects of Oxytocin induce feelings of loyalty to one s own group When people get together with others who share their values that drives up the level of oxytocin he said In The Myth of Choice reviewed in the January News Flash Kent Greenfield describes the many influences on our decision making not least of which is our brain chemistry To say that our positive mood is a result of chemicals sloshing through our neocortex seems to put the regulation of our disposition out of our control However we can choose to change our mood By making a conscious decision to reconnect to someone we care about we can give ourselves a shot of oxytocin and become a bit less susceptible to the whims of our hormones and our primal fears Perhaps the month of February is a good excuse to send plenty of Valentines if only to give ourselves an oxytocin kick in the amygdala Ideas Fight Flight or Friend If we can find friendships or at least positive feelings of good will at 50 mph there are probably many other situations when we would benefit from a boost of oxytocin What can we do in various situations to promote attachment commitment and connection This was the challenge raised by Allan Silva a keynote speaker at the most recent conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association Silva a professor of the Neuroscience of Leadership Development at Antioch University talked about the well known stages of group or team evolution put forth by Bruce Tuckman in 1965 Tuckman suggested that every group must go through the same four stages before it can function effectively These stages include Forming members are driven by a need to be accepted by each other Storming members express competing ideas that may be contentious Norming members agree upon goals and standards of behavior and Performing members function as a unit getting the job done smoothly and effectively But Silva has been researching the effects of oxytocin so he raised an interesting question Do we have to endure the painful Storming stage in order to become effective team members in the Performing stage After all when we are angry tense or fearful less blood flows to the neocortex while more blood flows to the limbic system Rational thought gets hijacked by emotions How effective can learning or collaboration be if we are overly stressed Humans

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