I was impressed with first episode of CBC TV’s This Is High School


Click here to watch the First Episode: Grade Nine is the Worst Year >

[end of update] 


I was impressed with the first episode of This Is High School, a TV series that the CBC Media Centre (see link in the sentence you are now reading) describes as follows.

The episode, which I learned of directly at the CBC website or maybe through a link of Twitter,  prompted me to reflect about things I have learned over the years about documentary filmmaking in Canada, and about high schools.

As a person who seldom watches television, I’ve made a point of watching this particular series. I found the first episode of This is High School of much interest.

This Is High School a six-part series that gives audiences unprecedented access into the world of today’s teenagers. Producers put 50 remote-controlled cameras in a typical secondary school – and let them run for eight weeks.”

I don’t generally watch TV – I didn’t grow up with it, in the 1950s, when many people had TVs in their homes. We did not have a TV in our home until I was in my late teens. I never developed an interest in watching TV. Previous to watching This Is High School, the other TV production that I had the interest, to sit and watch, was the last show of The Tragically Hip Farewell Tour.

I much enjoyed that show – and I was also intrigued to read a Sept. 15, 2016 Canadian Art article, entitled “On the Politics of Staying in Canada,” which presented one writer;s opposition the message that the Farewell Tour entailed. An enjoyable feature of the Canadian scene, I would say, is that there remains the opportunity for people to present a wide range of view regarding any topic.

The Tragically Hip show was broadcast on CBC and was staged by Insight Productions, which was founded in Toronto by Pan Densham and John Watson in 1970, before they left Toronto to launch successful film careers in Hollywood:

Pen Densham and John Watson founded Insight Productions in 1970

I recall recently re-reading an article in Cinema Canada in which Pen Densham shared some clever thoughts about non-fiction film production in Canada in the 1970s:

Precarious establishment: Cinema Canada article from 1978 about Canadian independent film production in the 1970s

A sensibility other than an NFB documentary sensibility

I have long been interested in documentary making as a genre of storytelling. One of the most widely visited pages at my website is concerned with a particular practitioner of storytelling, namely the Canadian social psychologist / sociologist Erving Goffman (sometimes described as an American academic, which is understandable given that his academic work was based in the United States); I refer in particular to a widely-read (as indicated by Google Analytics) post at my website entitled:

Erving Goffman began his graduate work in Chicago in 1945

Why that particular page is of interest to site visitors escapes me; my speculation (for which I have a very small smattering of evidence by way of informing my speculation) is that there must be university students at the undergraduate or graduate level who need to find out about who Goffman was, and what his career was about, and my page about the launch of Goffman’s academic career covers a lot of group, succinctly.

In high school in the 1930s, Erving Goffman majored in science and math

The above-mentioned post notes that Goffman was born in 1922 in Mannville, Alberta, the son of Jewish immigrants. In high school he majored in science and mathematics. In 1939 he enrolled at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg where he studied chemistry. During his three years as an undergraduate in Winnipeg, Smith notes (p. 8), “his academic interests gradually shifted towards the social sciences.”

He then moved to Toronto and subsequently worked at the National Film Board in Ottawa where he met Dennis Wrong, a recent University of Toronto sociology graduate. Wrong, who encouraged Goffman to complete a BA degree in sociology at the University of Toronto in 1945, discusses this stage in Goffman’s life in Authors of their own lives: Intellectual autobiographies (1990). Other authors in the latter study also share recollections about his early career.

Wrong notes in the latter account (pp. 9-10; see link in previous paragraph) that as an undergraduate, “Goffman had studied philosophy and had actually read in full Whitehead’s Process and Reality. He argued in Whiteheadian language that reality should be conceived ‘along the lines on which it is naturally articulated,’ a rule he obviously followed in his later work.”

Smith notes (pp. 14-15) that “Goffman’s contribution to the war effort was to work for an agency [that is, the NFB] then heavily involved in the production of propaganda films. At that time the noted Scottish documentary filmmaker, John Grierson (1898-1972) directed the Board.

Decomposing ordinary life into elements, then putting the elements back together – reconstructing them as a representation of reality – with a particular communications strategy in mind

“While Goffman’s duties were mostly low-level and routine (boxing films for dispatch and preparing cuttings files from magazines), he could not have avoided exposure to discussions about filmic practices for decomposing ordinary life into elements that could then be reconstructed as a representation of reality [Y. Winkin, ed., Erving Goffman: Les moments et leurs hommes (1988), pp. 20-21].”

Sherri Cavan has noted that since childhood, Goffman had been acquainted with the theatre, card games and confidence games, and carnival life.

Toronto Telegram, Toronto Sun: Representations of reality, tailored for a target audience, with particular needs and interests

In the late 1970s I worked as a freelance writer, writing articles and reviews about 1970s Canadian films and filmmaking. I also worked as a ghostwriter for a Toronto Sun columnist. In both capacities, I learned a few things about storytelling, and about the craft of tailoring stories to connect with target audiences.

You can see a sign advertising The Toronto Telegram at Thomas Variety in Long Branch on the south side of Lake Shore Blvd. West near the corner of Long Branch Avenue. When the Toronto Telegram folded, some of the employees connected to it launched the Toronto Sun, which is still going strong – or as strong as any newspapers are going, given the current search for a viable business model for the Canadian newspaper industry. Jaan Pill photo. Click on the photo to enlarge it; click again to enlarge it further.

Writing an article for the Toronto Sun, by way of example, is decidedly different from writing an essay for a university professor. The main distinction, in this case, is that the person reading and grading a university essay is paid to mark the essay, and has no choice but to read it.  By way of contrast, the person reading the Tor0onto Sun has a choice: the person is not required to read anything, and only reads material that captures her or his attention.

Ghostwriting for Lynne Gordon’s Consumer Beware-type column (maybe that was the title of the column; I don’t remember) at The Toronto Sun in the 1970s

From my vantage point as a ghostwriter for Lynne Gordon, a Toronto Sun columnist, I learned that the headline for a story has the purpose of stopping the reader in his or her tracks. Whether or not the headline has much to do with the content of the story is not of particular importance, in the circumstances. As well, the opening sentence has to capture and hold the reader’s attention; that is the sole purpose of the opening line. Whether or not the opening sentence or paragraph of the column has anything to do the rest of the column is beside the point, in the circumstances.

I recall a Royal Commission, or some other kind of commission many years ago in which a study was made of the newspaper industry in Canada, as it existed at that time, I recall a newspaper report in which an executive from The Toronto Sun made a helpful comment. The comment was that The Toronto Sun does not claim to be a “newspaper of record,” or words to that effect. I thought that comment was apt. That is, if you want a factual record of what is going on, look elsewhere.

The Toronto Sun arise from the ashes of The Toronto Telegram, as noted in a previous post:

Bailey Bridge extends across the Queen Elizabeth Way at Applewood Village Plaza in Mississauga

Natalie Edwards at Cinema Canada

I also learned many things about writing in those years from Natalie Edwards, in the course of my visits to the Toronto offices of Cinema Canada in those years, in particular when the offices were at an address on Jarvis St. For some time, the magazine reunited several rooms at a large historic house on Jarvis; the office was a great place for me to visit and meet people connected with the magazine. Some years later, before the magazine folded, the offices were on Portland St. in Toronto.

In one of my first encounters with Natalie at the Jarvis St. office, she sat down with me and proceeded to tear a manuscript, that I had drafted, into shreds. She showed me how to say in a sentence what I had taken three, double-spaced pages to say.

Having my text torn to shreds didn’t bother me, in the least. I knew I was a  good writer. I had graduated from high school with top marks in the graduating class in the two English courses (something like Composition and Literature) that all Grade 11 students were required to take. I had also served as editor of the student newspaper at Simon Fraser University, and had achieved a reputation as a writer and editor who was capable of ensuring that content, even regarding the most contentious issues, was accurate and balanced.

Writing well came naturally to me, and feedback that would enable me to improve my game was most welcome, from my way of seeing things. Natalie Edwards wrote beautifully – succinct pieces that, as she explained to me, required a lot of work and effort, so that they come off as effortless, off-the-top-of-one’s head compilations of succinct, emotionally engaging texts. I learned so many things from her and owe her many thanks.

I learned many other things, as a freelance writer, before I turned to a career as a public school teacher, where I could write report cards and other documents to my heart’s content, and get paid for it. In contrast, with rare exceptions (involving exceptional talent and being at the right place at the right time), making a living as a freelance writer can be a challenge.

Writing student report cards is a great way to make a living as a writer

Now, as a freelance writer working for Cinema Canada from 1975 to 1980,  I saw a lot of NFB films, and met a lot of NFB filmmakers. In the years that followed my freelance career, I also saw a good number of more recent NFB productions. What struck me about every NFB production was the fact that, no matter what the topic – and no matter what the technical approach – every NFB film felt to me to be exactly the same.


There was an air of earnest didacticism in every production, and the thought, regarding what Erving Goffman learned at the NFB during the Second World War, has stayed in  mind in recent years when I’ve made the attempt to make sense of this feeling, that I’ve experienced every time that I have seen an NFB film. It comes down to the concept that the name of the game, from an NFB perspective, is to take some slice of representative reality, and link it to some other slice, and then you typically hire a voice over person with a sonorous, authoritative delivery who intones whatever it is that a producer wishes to communicate, in the spirit of top-down didacticism.

This Is High School, a CBC production, has avoided didacticism of the kind that was a central feature of NFB documentaries

There is an element of didacticism in the first episode of the CBC TV series, This Is High School – but the didacticism is highly suitable, given the topics that are covered. It’s not a heavy-handed, top-down kind of didacticism that is, in my view, frequently featured as a central element in NFB documentaries. The CBC episode has an open-ended quality about it. Nothing is being rammed down your throat. You can view the episode, and can arrive at your own conclusions. You can reach your own sense of closure, whatever that sense may be, in the course of watching the episode.

Let me define my terms. A definition at literaydevices.net notes that:

Didacticism is a term that refers to a particular philosophy in art and literature that emphasizes the idea that different forms of art and literature ought to convey information and instructions along with pleasure and entertainment.

[End of text]

A more complete definition of “didacticism” in included in a Comment below.


Dashan – I may have the name spelled incorrectly; however for the purposes of my review let’s say his name is Dashan – is described, and presented in the first episode, as a “good kid” who likes to create disturbances at the school. The vice principal refers to a series of negative sanctions that do not produce the desired change on behaviour. A switch in tactics is presented: If Dashan can manage to get through a specified number of days, without being sent to the office, he will be able to play a leadership role in a rugby practice.

Dashan manages to get through the requisite number of days, without an incident that would trigger a journey to the vice-principal’s office, and thus has the opportunity to demonstrate his leadership skills in a socially appropriate – that is, positive as contrasted to negative – context.

The story about Dashan is provided in a context where there is a degree of didacticism in the message – but it entails a form of didacticism that makes sense in the best sense of what didacticism entails, as I view it from my perspective as a retired public school teacher. The following text, regarding what didacticism entails, which is applicable – applicable in a frame of reference that I, personally, view in positive terms – from the above-noted literacydevoces.net definition, notes:

Didacticism in Morality Plays

Morality plays of medieval Europe were perhaps the best exemplars of didactic literature. These plays were a type of theatrical performance which made use of allegorical characters to teach the audience a moral lesson. The most common themes that that were presented in morality plays were what are commonly known as the seven deadly sins: pride, lust, greed, envy, wrath, sloth and gluttony. Another theme that such plays exploited was that repentance and redemption was possible for a person even when that person intentionally gives in to temptation. Historically, morality plays were a transitional step that lay between Christian mystery plays and the secular plays of the Renaissance theatre.

[End of excerpt]

The story of a student we’ll call Pat: Social media exclusionary tactics, and the role of the school in addressing such issue

The second person featured in the first episode is a high school student that I’ll call Pat. I’m not good with remembering names. For the purposes of a review, let’s say the name of the student is Pat. That may or may not have been the name used in the episode.

The episode describes a scenario where a rumour, which puts Pat in a bad light, circulates. The resulting handful effects are addressed, in a manner that appears satisfactory for all concerned with the incident, by two guidance counsellors who set up a meeting with Pat and the student who was involved with the spreading of the rumour.

The incident brings to mind for me (1) the concept that bullying is a fact of life in high schools, as documented among others by practitioners of linguistic anthropology, and (2) that agency among high school students can take many forms, positive as well as negative as outlined in a previous post:

Aside from bullying, Marjorie H. Goodwin (2006) focuses on collaboration and political agency

Advertising sequences on CBC’s This Is High School show

As I’ve noted at the start of this post, I don’t watch a lot of TV. Thus as an infrequent viewer of television I can add that the advertising that accompanied the above-noted TV show were in my view intriguing, The storytelling was put together with high production values – so many captivating mini-sagas – in favour of products such as Advil.

The Advil ads bring to mind CBC news stories related to Advil and similar products:

A Sept. 27, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Heart risks of anti-inflammatory drugs vary.”

An Aug. 25, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Caution on chronic, high-dose use of acetaminophen in pregnancy: Occasional acetaminophen use in 1st trimester not a cause for alarm, professor says.”

A July 10, 2015 CBC article is entitled: “NSAID pain relievers’ heart warnings boosted in U.S.: Heart attacks and strokes can occur in the first few weeks of taking the drugs.”


With reference to the ubiquity of cell phones in the first episode, I was interested to read an Oct. 3, 2016 CBC article entitled: “Fed up with nagging, Toronto teacher asks parents’ help confiscating kids’ cell phones: ‘As hip and connected as you want to be, you need to be able to think clearly,’ teacher says.”

Also of interest, and value, is an Oct. 2, 2016 CBC article (with a link to an online interview) entitled: “When it comes to raising children, be a gardener, not a carpenter.”

I heard the interview on my car radio.

The Gardener and the Carpenter (2016)

The article refers to a book entitled:  The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children (2016).

In the above-noted CBC interview, Alison Gopnik advocates learning situations for children where they are autonomous enough to be active in situations that entail some degree of risk, such that failure – from which a child can learn many things – is built into the situation.

In her view, the completion among high school students for university positions entails an attempt by individuals to gain a competitive advantage – in a situation where, when the dust settles, everybody is worse off in the long run.

She also speaks of Finland – where children are in early childhood education settings until the age of 7. That is, school as we know it does not begin until the age of 7 in Finland. Teachers are also very highly valued in Finland, a country that is consistently at the top range of international student achievement tests. Gopmick notes, as well, that Finland has an extensive, well-funding early childhood education system in place.

She also notes, in the interview, that she is not worried about all of the time that teenagers spend looking at screens. She add that we won’t know, until 20 years from now, what the results of social media usage will be, in terms of the effects that such usage will have on cognitive and social function. She adds there has been a cycle of horror stories related to the introduction of new technologies with each passing generation of children. The cycle begins with horror, she notes, followed by a realization that the alarms were nor warranted.

She notes, as well, that we learn things in a different way when we are children, as contested to when we are adults. When a child is learning information technology while she or he is growing up, that is, the technology is taken in stride; it’s taken for granted as a part of everyday life. In contrast, for adults the same technology is often viewed as strange and as a challenge to adjust to.

She says: The best question to ask, with regard to children today, is: “Are we / I thriving? Is there something that I can do, to ensure the thriving occurs, and continue?” We don’t need, she says, to think: “Will this person come out in a particular way.” She says as well that good and bad experiences, with the passage of the years, are the lot of all of us – these things are a part of being human, the author notes.


9 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Definition of didacticism

    A definition at literaydevices.net notes that:

    Didacticism is a term that refers to a particular philosophy in art and literature that emphasizes the idea that different forms of art and literature ought to convey information and instructions along with pleasure and entertainment.

    The word didactic is frequently used for those literary texts which are overloaded with informative or realistic matter and are marked by the omission of graceful and pleasing details. Didactic, therefore, becomes a derogatory term referring to the forms of literature that are ostentatiously dull and erudite. However, some literary texts are entertaining as well as didactic.

    Didacticism in Morality Plays

    Morality plays of medieval Europe were perhaps the best exemplars of didactic literature. These plays were a type of theatrical performance which made use of allegorical characters to teach the audience a moral lesson. The most common themes that that were presented in morality plays were what are commonly known as the seven deadly sins: pride, lust, greed, envy, wrath, sloth and gluttony. Another theme that such plays exploited was that repentance and redemption was possible for a person even when that person intentionally gives in to temptation. Historically, morality plays were a transitional step that lay between Christian mystery plays and the secular plays of the Renaissance theatre.

    Didacticism Examples in Literature

    Let us analyze a few examples of didacticism in literature:

    Example # 1

    John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” is one of the best didacticism examples in the form of spiritual allegory. The poem describes a religious and spiritual journey of a man on the way to deliverance.

    The poem describes an ordinary sinner “Christian” who leaves the City of Destruction and travels towards Celestial City, where God resides, for salvation. On his way, he finds a companion “Faithful” who helps him on his way to the City.

    On many occasions, many characters “Hypocrisy”, “Apollyon”, “Mr. Worldy Wiseman” and “Obstinate and Pliable” try to discourage or stop him from achieving his aim. Finally, he reaches the Celestial City carried by Hopeful’s faith.

    The moral or didactic lesson that this allegorical poem intends to instruct is that the road to Heaven is not easy and it is full of obstacles. Moreover, a Christian has to be willing to pay any cost to achieve his salvation. Besides, a man is full of sin, but this does not stop him from achieving glory.

    Example # 2

    Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man” is a moral treatise. It is a satirical verse that intends to instruct individuals in an indirect way by ridiculing vices of a society. For example:

    “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
    The proper study of Mankind is Man.
    Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
    A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
    With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
    With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
    He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
    In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
    In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
    Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
    Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
    Whether he thinks too little, or too much;”

    The above excerpt is taken from the first verse paragraph of the second book of the poem. It clearly sums up the humanistic and religious principles of the poem.

    Example # 3

    George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is an allegory or a moral and didactic tale that uses animals on a farm to describe the overthrow of the last of the Russian Tsars, Nicholas-II and exposes the evil of the Communist Revolution of Russia before WWII. Clearly, the actions of the various animals on the farm are used to expose the greed and corruption of the Revolution. It also contains the depiction of how powerful people can alter the ideology of a society. One of the cardinal rules on the farm for the animals is:

    “All animals are equal but a few are more equal than others.”

    The animals on the farm stand for different sections of the then Russian society occupying Russia after the revolution. For example, “pigs” represents those who became the authority after the revolution, “Mr. Jones” the owner of the farm represents the overthrown Tsar Nicholas II, “Boxer” the horse, represents the laborer class etc. Didacticism in the novel permits Orwell to make his position apparent about the Russian Revolution in order to expose its evils.

    Function of Didacticism

    Didacticism in literature aims at offering something additional to its readers than merely intending to offer pleasure and entertainment. Some critics may argue that didacticism may reduce literature to a tool for boring instructions but nevertheless it definitely gives readers a chance to improve their conduct and comprehend evils which may lead him astray.

    [End of text; the source is cited at the beginning of the text]

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I absolutely love the Comments section at this website. I can write to my heart’s content in the knowledge that I’m not putting material at the main content area, of a given page. The only people who will read the Comments sections are site visitors who actually have an interest in further reading.

    The Comments section also enables me to fulfill a need that I have, to articulate my thoughts and to organize my thinking, regarding a range of topics. I can write at length, without a need to take 5 or 6 weeks of intensive work to create a longform article as the main contents of a website, as I did in the case of my draft of A History of Long Branch. The longform articles featured as primary content on a page at the Preserved Stories website are in a separate category; the History of Long Branch is my first attempt at something of this length. I’m pleased that quite a few people have read the article – despite the fact it is in excess of 10,000 words!

  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Ambiguity and definition of the situation

    An Oct. 3, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Ambiguous figure illusions: do they offer a window on the mind? Do you see a wife, or a mother-in-law in this picture? Ambiguous figures have intrigued scientists since the 1800s, but what can they tell us about our visual system?”

    I mention the above-noted article because ambiguity drives scams and scamming.

    I have had a strong interest in the role of ambiguity as it relates to visual representations; I became particularly interested in the topic in the 1960s when I read Art and Illusion. The link in the previous sentence refers to the edition of the study that was published in 2000. A blurb reads:

    Considered a great classic by all who seek for a meeting ground between science and the humanities, Art and Illusion examines the history and psychology of pictorial representation in light of present-day theories of visual perception information and learning. Searching for a rational explanation of the changing styles of art, Gombrich reexamines many ideas on the imitation of nature and the function of tradition. In testing his arguments he ranges over the history of art, noticing particularly the accomplishments of the ancient Greeks, and the visual discoveries of such masters as Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt, as well as the impressionists and the cubists. Gombrich’s triumph in Art and Illusion arises from the fact that his main concern is less with the artists than with ourselves, the beholders.

    [End of text]

    Another book from the 1960s that has had a strong impact on me in subsequent years is The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959).

    The latter study is by Erving Goffman. Some years ago, I was thinking of posting information about the latter author at my website. At first, I thought, “Who would be interested in Goffman, who wrote so long ago?” But then I began to notice that he was still being sited, extensively. As it has turned out, one of my posts about Goffman is among the most widely-visted pages at my website:

    Erving Goffman began his graduate work in Chicago in 1945

    Another page about Goffman that has been widely read is entitled:

    Erving Goffman’s “total institutions” warrant inclusion in a comprehensive theory of management

    The fact that readers have responded to the two, above-noted posts is of much interest to me. the response underlines for me that social media is indeed a two-way, interactive process, a two-way street.

  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Speaking from my own anecdotal perspective as a retired teacher, I would say that classroom management and the general maintenance of discipline in a school is a great challenge, which every teacher and school must of necessity come to terms with well. It’s beautiful to see schools, as I have had the pleasure to see, where he issues related to such matters are addressed, and addressed well.

    Teaching can be stressful. One of the best things that came out of my own teaching career, as seen from my personal perceptive, were all of the insights and skills that I inevitably picked up over the years. As I’ve explained elsewhere at this website, one of the other great things that came out of my teaching career was that I learned to practise mindfulness meditation, and to practice mindfulness in my day to day work as a teacher. Learning mindfulness was a real plus for me; I can think of it as a gift that keeps on giving.

    As I’ve also explained elsewhere at this site, it’s been my experience and observation that mindfulness need not be tied in with a particular belief system or religious faith. It can be practised in any setting – in education, at any level of the business world, and in the military. It’s simply a technique, and a very effective one, as extensive research to date has documented.

    I fell into it quite by accident, so to speak: I wanted to get through the day without my health being put at risk. I’m really pleased that, as a result of desperation to maintain my health, I took a course in mindfulness meditation.

    I had no idea whether it would help me in the classroom. I was willing to give it a try, to give it my best shot. It turned out to be highly effective as a way to handle stress – much more effective than I would have imagined. The course worked for me because I was a conscientious student, and applied the key things that were necessary for me to apply. As with many things, having the knowledge is one thing; applying what you learn is another matter.

  5. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Another thing comes to mind. As I’ve noted elsewhere, it’s a feature of human memory that our memories over time tend to get stretched into particular shapes or structures. That said, I have a vague memory of a workshop about classroom management where a presenter, either a vice-principal or principal, told the teachers at the workshop her own story. She said that, as a student in elementary school, she had often been sent to the principal’s office because of her behaviour. She would be made to sit on a bench outside the office. Or maybe it was inside the office. As I say, the details escape me,

    At one point, a teacher or administrator sat down with her and said, “There’s something that stands out about you. You are a born leader.” The subtext was that the troublemakers at a school, under the right conditions, can channel their capabilities into socially acceptable configurations such as constructive (as opposed to destructive or disruptive) leadership.

    The student, still in early elementary school, took the advice to heart. She became a leader, in the positive sense of the word. I love that story. As a elementary school teacher, after that workshop I would often communicate, to students who were ending up in hot water, that they had tremendous potential – as future leaders of our country! I told them, in so many words, that they had my vote. I like to think that, in at least a few cases, what I said was taken to heart, by a given student. Whether or not this actually occurred, I will never know.

  6. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World (2016)

    To continue the theme addressed in the previous Comment: Many studies – expressing a recurring trope regarding the value of disruption, of “creative destruction” – are available regarding innovation and creativity. Among them is:

    Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World (2016).

    A blurb reads:

    The “author of Give and Take examines how people can champion new ideas – and how leaders can encourage originality in their organizations… In Originals he again addresses the challenge of improving the world, but now from the perspective of becoming original: choosing to champion novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battle conformity, and buck outdated traditions. How can we originate new ideas, policies, and practices without risking it all? Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and how leaders can fight groupthink to build cultures that welcome dissent.

    [End of text]

  7. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    How to Fly a Horse (2015)

    Another study also addressing creativity and innovation entitled: How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery (2015).

    A blurb reads:

    Inspiring and empowering, this journey behind the scenes of humanity’s greatest creations reveals the surprising way we make something new. What do Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream recipe, Coca Cola, and Chanel No. 5 have in common? They all depended on a nineteenth-century African boy who, with a single pinch, solved one of nature’s great riddles and gave birth to the multimillion-dollar vanilla industry. Kevin Ashton opens his book with the fascinating story of the young slave who launched a flavor revolution to show that invention and creation come in unexpected shapes and sizes. From the crystallographer’s laboratory where the secrets of DNA were first revealed by a long-forgotten woman, to the electromagnetic chamber where the stealth bomber was born on a 25-cent bet, Ashton weaves tales of humanity’s greatest creations to unpack the surprising true process of discovery. Drawing on the Amish and the iPhone, Kandinsky and cans of Coke, Lockheed, South Park, and the Wright brothers–who set out to “fly a horse”–he showcases the seemingly unremarkable individuals, gradual steps, multiple failures, and countless ordinary–and usually uncredited–acts that led to our most astounding breakthroughs. Creators, he shows, apply everyday, ordinary thinking that we are all capable of in particular ways, taking thousands of small steps, working in an endless loop of problem and solution. He explores why innovators meet resistance and how they overcome it, why most organizations stifle creative people, and how the most creative organizations work. In a passionate and profound narrative that amazes and inspires, Ashton’s book sheds new light on how “new” comes to be.

    [End of text]

  8. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    How to Fly a Horse (2015) – March 2015 CBC The Current interview

    A March 13, 2015 CBC The Current article is entitled: “Kevin Ashton dismantles creative genius in ‘How to Fly a Horse’ “.

    The opening paragraphs of the article read:

    In How to Fly a Horse, author Kevin Ashton makes a case that creative genius is a myth. He argues great flashes of inspiration are never the work of just one person, even if one person gets all the credit.

    Call it a flash of inspiration, or a spark of genius, but whatever you call the act of creation, it’s often portrayed in our culture as something like magic.

    We’re used to the idea that only certain savants, geniuses, or whizzes, are blessed with an ability to see in their minds’ eyes what we could never imagine, and bring awesome creations into being. But that’s an idea that Mr. Ashton believes to be deeply flawed — and even dangerous.

    Ashton is the co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Auto-ID Lab, and is actually the man who first coined the term The Internet of Things.

    [End of excerpt.]

    The above-noted text in its original form includes several links. I have left out the links, but you can find them if you go to the link at the start of this Comment and read the CBC article. The podcast is also worth listening to; the CBC interview served as the means by which I learned about the book.

  9. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Smartphones in the classroom

    Anecdotal evidence that I’ve encountered indicates that in at least one Toronto-area community college (Humber College) that I know about, quite a few students are strongly resistant to the concept that it would be a good idea to put their cellphones away during a class and participate – with focused and full attention – in classroom activities. The classroom-management approaches that teachers take, in order to address this situation, is a source of fascination for many people, and a topic of extensive discussion among educators and students. Among the options available for teachers: Either you give up or you deal with in-class smartphone use head-on, and in a consistent way.

    Oct. 3, 2016 – CBC Metro Morning segment on smartphones

    An Oct. 3, 2016 CBC Metro Morning article / podcast is entitled: “Mobiles In Class.”

    The text reads: “Walk into any high school and you’ll likely see groups of students huddled together with their heads down, staring at their phones. Matt Galloway spoke with Shahnaz Khan, she is an English teacher at Northern Secondary School.”

    Oct. 4, 2016 – CBC The Current segment on smartphones

    An Oct. 4, 2016 CBC The Current article / podcast is entitled: “Teachers debate the merits of smartphones in classrooms.”

    The opening paragraphs read:

    Many Canadian school boards allow phones in high school classrooms, albeit with some restrictions that are left to the teacher to decide and police.

    Paddy McCallum, a media and literature teacher at Chatelech Community Secondary School in Sechelt, B.C., has many different approaches to dealing with smartphones in class.

    “We set rules at the beginning of the class beginning of the semester as to how the class the phones and technology will be used, and whether or not we even have any use for it, McCallum tells The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti.

    “But I also teach media rich courses like photography and video where the kids do use their phones to film, edit, and upload to our website, and actually do a lot of creative work with the phones.”

    [End of excerpt]


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