Archive for January, 2010

My Home Treadmill Desk

January 25th, 2010

If you’re like me and always been in intrigued by the concept of a treadmill desk, you’ve probably wished for a cheaper alternative.  Well, here’s a start: the Surf Shelf.

Let me back up – “Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic came up with the idea of a “Treadmill Desk”.  The idea is to slowly walk on a treadmill while working at a desk built around the tredmill… Dr Levine’s research revealed that on the average his subjects burned 100 extra calories every hour while walking slowly — at 1 mile per hour — than while sitting in a chair.”

Here’s the downside:

  • Almost every time I mention it to some one at the office, I get a weird look.  (I’ve also suggested taking walks for meetings and usually someone will only do it once or twice.)
  • I can’t figure out where to buy it.
  • Seems complicated to build one yourself.
  • I’m not sure I have room in our current office set-up for a treadmill desk.

So, while I’m hoping someone will make a treadmill desk commercially available at a reasonable price (yes, I’ll get over the other objections then), I’m using the SurfShelf at home.  It straps on to your exercise machine and can hold papers or a laptop.  While I don’t remember where I found it, I can let you know this is not a paid endorsement!

Admittedly, I’m not sure if you get the full stress reduction benefits of exercise.  You still have your mind on your work after all.

That said, I’m a fan.  I even wrote this post while using it.

If You Can Dream It You Can Do It

January 24th, 2010

Recently had a dream summit with my family.  What’s a dream summit you say?  That’s were we spent most of a day talking about things we want to do or experience in the future.  (Like one giant GTD Someday/Maybe list combined with some real living breathing goals.)

If you can dream it you can do it

If you can dream it you can do it

We wrote down all our ideas and then went through them one-by-one to figure out the next step.  What was the one concrete thing we could do to push them forward.  For example, my sister put on her calendar the date she wants to start training for a particular race.

I’m excited by helping people achieve their dreams.  It’s a lot of the drive that keeps me interested in YES and YEI.

I know that concrete challenges will prevent some of us from getting every dream we have.  Yet, there is a lot of research backing up the notion that having a written set of goals helps you achieve them.

Does that help you understand why I was so enthusiastic when my wife took this picture of me at the Art Institute in Chicago?

The School of the Future

January 24th, 2010
What I know about running a school comes from going to school, reading a few books and talking to a few people.  So, take the following comments with a grain of salt.  That said, if you’re ready for a what if, read on…
Many schools in the US are designed like factories to train people to work in factories.  Students move through the assembly line from grade to grade and are trained how feel comfortable on an assembly line.  Focus is on your own work while sitting in rows.  You learn static material from books.
More and more students in the US will be expected to be future knowledge workers not factory workers.  The most rewarding work for them financially and personally requires a different set of skills than those emphasized in many schools.  Read The World Is Flat, or Emotional Intelligence, to see that the skills that are valued in the future aren’t about working in factories.

What if schools emphasized self mastery (like emotional intelligence and GTD), life long learning and separated content experts from educational coaches?  That is my idea of the school of the future.

Self Mastery
The school of the future, would emphasize a foundation of self-mastery.
  • Emotional Intelligence and Related Skills.  Students would understand and develop emotional awareness and fluency about themselves and others.  They would learn the ability to short-circuit negative emotional feedback loops, how solve problems with others and how to communicate desires and emotional state.
    There are a number of great models out there.  For example, you could choose from NVC, 6Seconds, Self Science or others.
  • Time Management and Goal Setting.  I’m a huge GTD fan, so I’m biased here.  Regardless, I believe that the ability to keep track of commitments, organize your work and move forward on projects is critical to personal success.  In knowledge work, often no one else can truly define the work or the next steps for you.  Without the skills to manage yourself, you may have trouble.

Team Work

Individual contributions are important.  Yet, don’t many schools focus on them to the exclusion of team-based projects.  Most knowledge work jobs require some level of team work and collaboration.  Learning how to do this effectively should start in school.  (I almost put this under self-mastery, because it builds on those skills, but is probably separate.)

Life Long Learning

Education should be the lighting of a fire not the filling of a bucket. (who said that?)  Especially in a world with accelerating change, the facts you learn in school may be obsolete by the time you go to apply them.

  • Literacy and Numeracy.  The basic foundation of being able to continue learning throughout life is to be fluent in written communication and basic concepts of math (including some stats and probability).
  • Tap Passions.  Could you build a curriculum around a student’s passion for blowing things up?  Or model airplanes?  I think you could as everything is connected via history, literature and science.  People are more likely to remember what they learn in the context of something they care about and that is based on self-directed goals.  I’m not sure how scalable this idea is but great if you could figure out how to pull it off.
  • Research Skills.  To keep learning, students will want to be experts at finding information online and otherwise.  And they will want to be able to evaluate what they read in context: who is the author and what are their views?  Was their an editor/filter and in what content was this content created?  How can I find other opposing views to get a more complete picture?

Separate Content from Coaching

  • Generate the Best Content.  With today’s technology, why isn’t every lesson delivered by the most inspired and inspiring teacher?  And I don’t just mean having a committee create the best curriculum to be presented by the classroom teacher as if they know and understand the material as well as the people who created it.  (I’m talking about a public version of the Teaching Company for all levels of education that captures/records the best teaching where ever it is.  And adds a lot more interactivity/multi-media to it.)
  • Use Technology to Share the Content Experience.  I’m talking about using video, social software, group IM and virtual reality to bring students together around common areas of interest.  There may be a “lecture” still, but there could be many virtual classrooms or interactions going on during it that inform the learning experience and help shape it.
  • Refine Classroom Teachers as Coaches.  Redefine classroom teachers as experts on creating motivation for learning and change rather than content experts.  Train coaches in solutions focused brief therapy or anything else that works for high impact change.  Notice what students are doing.  Recognize positive learning behavior.  Help them discover and create conditions to keep learning going.
How’d I do?