Monday, November 29, 2010

Play: Super Summary

Play: Games, Humor, & Joyfulness
People need to play and the way to do that is through games, humor, and joyfulness. We need to spend some time getting to know video games. I plan on spending my snow day exploring the games that my daughter loves so much on the Wii, Playhouse Disney, and Webkinz. (I am pretty sure she would beat me if she didn’t have school today.) I will also take the time to watch my son play. Isn’t it amazing how they discover and laugh out-loud.
So, can I interest anyone in a laughing club, a gaming adventure, or just being joyful? After all, tis the season! I will spare you all the agony of me trying to tell or dissect a joke and just get directly to the summary.
Dr. Madan Kataria is a physician in Mumbai, India. He believes that laughter can infect people. His mission is to promote an international laughter epidemic that will improve health, wealth, and perhaps peace. He has created free laughter clubs where people learn to laugh even if there is no joke to laugh at or anything funny to watch. (See more under joyfulness)
The conceptual age: There is a shift from seriousness toward play. According to Dr. Kataria, as told to Daniel H. Pink on page 186, “When you are playful, you are activating the right side of your brain. The logical brain is a limited brain. The right side is unlimited. You can be anything you want.”
Henry Ford thought that work and play were a toxic combination and many other businesses thought the same. Now however there is a shift in this way of thinking. It is now thought that play and joyfulness can help workers become more productive. Daniel H. Pink believes that play is an important aspect of business, work and personal well-being, its importance is shown through games, humor, and joyfulness.
An example of the game, America’s Army, was not created by gamers, but was designed by the American Army and Colonel Casey Wardynski, a West Pont Professor, as a way to promote recruiting for the armed forces. The game was released for free on and was so popular on its release that it caused the Army’s servers to crash. Had the Army sold the game, it would have earned about $600 million the first year. The purpose of the game was to promote teamwork, values, and responsibility as a means of achieving the goal. Players of the game start with basic training as any soldier joining the military. These soldiers work their way into a unit and can receive promotions even to the Green Beret Level. The game also involves fighting with enemies and killing enemies, but it promotes completing a mission with everyone in the unit remaining alive. There are also consequences for ignoring the mission and misconduct. A player can be banned from the game for such offences. This game has been so successful that the Army produced a sequel, America’s Army: Special Forces.

Gaming Facts:
• Half of all Americans over age 6 play computer and video games.
• Over 40% of gamers are women.
• The video game industry is larger than the movie industry.
• Visual perception tests show game players score 30% higher than non-gamers.
• One study showed that physicians who spent a minimum of three hours a week playing video games make fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery and performed faster than their colleagues who did not play video games.
• Video game playing enhances the right-brain ability of pattern recognition problem solving.
• Some evidence shows a correlation between game-playing and aggressive behavior.
• Some games are time-wasters.
• Gaming is more of a whole-mind vocation.
Many adults have not yet seen the importance or significance of video games. For this generation, video games are the same as television was to previous generations. In colleges, several surveys indicate that all students have played video games such as Super Mario Brothers, and how not all have seen the same movies or television shows.
According to James Paul Gee, a professor at the University of Wisconsin feels that, “games can be the ultimate learning machine (Pink, 193).” Video games allow for students to connect and manipulate facts, not just memorize them.
Gaming and the Six Conceptual Senses
• Gaming is linked with symphony by following trends, making connections, and showing the big picture.
• Gaming is linked with empathy through role-playing games.
• Gaming is linked with design by looking for more artists or designers, producers, and story tellers. Many art schools offer degrees in game art and design.
• Gaming is linked with story through offering real-life situations and people wanting to talk about their gaming experiences.
Hearing a joke and recognizing the punch line involves both the right and left sides of the brain. The left side of the brain does not like surprise or incongruity and it wants things to make sense. The right hemisphere is critical to understanding and appreciating humor.
According to Daniel H. Pink on page 198, “Humor embodies many of the right hemisphere’s most powerful attributes – the ability to place situations in context, to glimpse the big picture, and to combine differing perspectives into new alignments.” This is why it is so important in the workplace. According to research, the most effective executives used humor two times more than less successful managers. However we must be cautious of negative humor, which can be very destructive. Humor can help find the soul of an organization and work to bring people and departments together.
An important point is that humor cannot be replicated by computers and it is being seen as a very valuable concept.
Laughter Clubs start with exercises like yoga and calisthenics and method acting. The “Namaste laugh”, “just laughter”, and “lion laughter” are some of the exercises. Daniel H. Pink describes the laugher club experience as, “simultaneously weird and invigorating (pg. 201).” Dr. Kataria found that patients got better faster when they laughed so in 1995 he wrote an article, “Laughter: The Best Medicine.”
Kataria decided to combine laugher with yoga breathing. He also states that you do not need humor for laughter. The laughter club concept is “thought-free” laugher. The difference is explained by perhaps the over-simple thought that, “happiness is conditional; joyfulness is unconditional (pg. 202).” One way to demonstrate this is that very young children and infants laugh even thought they do not yet understand humor.
Studies have shown:
• Laughter can decrease stress hormones.
• Laughter can boost the immune system.
• Laughter has aerobic benefits.
• Laughter is a social activity.
• Laughter is a form of nonverbal communication.
• Laughter can create more creative and productive workers.
The Play Portfolio:
• Find a Laughter Club
• Play the Cartoon Captions Game
• Step on the Humor Scale
• Play at Inventing
• Get Your Game On
• Go Back to School
• Dissect a Joke
• Play Right-Brain Games

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

symphony and empathy pages 148 to 184

Part Two of the book explores the six R-Directed aptitudes that will help us to develop the skills and aptitudes needed for a successful shifting from a left to right brain mind set.

The book calls the process of putting different pieces together “Symphony”. It gives several suggestions (exercises) on how to develop and practice Symphony. Not surprisingly, the book suggests actually listening to five classical symphonies as a way to develop Symphony. Two of my favorites were mentioned: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Another exercise is to select 10 different publications (newspapers or magazines) that you would not normally have little interest in buying. This activity will give you a new perspective and outlook on different topics than you would usually read. Reading is a great way to expand your horizons and look at things differently. Learning how to draw is another way that you can get a change of perspective and get back in touch with the inner artist that we had as children. I found the idea of keeping a “Metaphor Log” interesting. The book suggests that a person should write down new metaphors encountered during the day for a week. The goal is to enrich your daily life and to become more creative both in our writing and in our thoughts.

Internet surfing can also be an exercise in Symphony by following the various links found under a topic that you are researching. Numerous connections can be made between previous knowledge and the new ideas you are learning as you follow the many detours from your original web site. Just be sure to allow some extra time to enjoy these new paths. Perhaps you will discover new solutions or ways to fix a problem by looking at it with a different viewpoint. If you have discovered a solution to a problem could that solution also be used to solve other problems? The book explores this idea by suggesting changing the default option on organ donations on driver licenses. For example, instead of the current default being organ donations are based on the person choosing to be an organ donor; the default would be if the person chose not to be a donor. The assumption would be that everyone wanted to be a donor unless a person specially said they did not want to donate.

The book encourages us to practice Symphony by creating an “Inspiration Board” of pictures, fabric, or anything that may be something that a person can make a connection with. Several books to read are suggested along with rules on how to successfully brainstorm in a group. The section concludes with asking the reader to look for the negative space in the big picture, to look at the overlooked sections in a picture, or their surroundings. You may be surprised at what you had not noticed before.

Chapter 7 explains the importance of empathy. Empathy is putting you in someone else’s shoes. It allows us to see the other person’s viewpoint. It has become a valuable aptitude as we move beyond the Information Age. Being able to correctly read emotions bases on facial expressions will enable people to be more successful at developing business and personal relationships. The book explains that damage to the brain’s right hemisphere makes it difficult for people to correctly recognize facial emotions. Damage to the left brain actually makes it easier to read facial expressions. In general women have brains that are more wired for empathy than men but both groups can increase their empathy abilities. An easy exercise to do is to eavesdrop on people’s conversations. Put yourself in the place of one of the people. What emotions do you pick up on? What connections can you make? Become a detective by examining (with permission) a person’s purse or wallet. What can you learn about them (without reading their names) based on what they carry with them?

The last few pages of the section give several ways to utilize empathy. A way to become more empathic with fellow co-workers is by trying to figure out what a person does on a daily basis. What are the highs or lows in their job? What frustrations do they deal with on a regular basis, what rewards? Discuss with your co-workers to see how accurate you were. Taking an acting class is another way to put you in someone else’s mind set. It will help to understand how and why people behave as they do. If you don’t want to take an acting class volunteering is a wonderful way that you can learn more about people that you may not normally meet plus you have the added benefit of helping others.

In summary, these two areas of Symphony and Empathy will be useful tools for teachers. Our students will need to learn how to see the big picture. Students do not often understand that writing and math can enhance the study of science. They think that everything has to be a separate topic and that they have no connection to each other. Students need to be encouraged to look at things from many different viewpoints. As teachers the more we use our right brain to understand and empathize with our students the better relationships we will have with them.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Design: Section 2

They start out this section about telling a story about how all children believe they are artists. Through time though, our perceptions of ourselves change. We begin to look at the social norms. The fact is we should make it a point to always believe we are artists. We don't realize we all possess some type of artistic sensibility. What this means is that in our professions, we are all designers of some sort or another. Richard Koshalek, President of The Art Center College of Design says, "I think designers are the alchemists of the future." Times are changing.

There is a charter school called, The Charter High School for Architecture & Design in Philadelphia. This charter school gives all students a free education which allows for the demonstration of design. It was founded in 1999 and it was the first school with a design-centered curriculum for all students regardless of race or social economics. This school doesn't have the typical problems such as other schools have. The Charter High School for Architecture & Design teaches "how to work with people and how to be inspired by other people." As the book states the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) is becoming the new MBA.

Designs means business and business means design. All business people should be designers. Paul Smith, Fashion Designer says, "Design correctly harnessed can enhance life, create jobs, and make people happy - not such a bad thing." It used to be consumers were excited about a V-8 engine and now consumers are happy about "harmony and balance." Another example is shopping for cell phones. All the bells and whistles with a cell phone appeal to the right side of the brain. Inventing something we didn't think we needed, but now realize we do.

Designing our future includes the design of specific buildings. Some medical facilities are being designed to make patients feel more comfortable. Educational settings are changing as well. "A study at Georgetown University found that even if the students, teachers, and educational approach remained the same, improving a school's physical environment could increase test scores by as much as 11 percent." The last example Daniel H. Pink gave was with the 2000 U.S. presidential elections with Al Gore and George W. Bush. Daniel H. Pink believes if the ballot would have been designed differently, George W. Bush would have lost the election.

What can you do to make yourself more aware of design? Keep a design notebook with you at all times. Take time to notice great design. Channel your annoyances in your notebook. Read design magazines to broaden your design. Become a design detective by going to realtor open houses or visit a design museum. The four basics of effective graphic design according to Robin Williams (not the famous actor) are contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. The last is put it on the table to observe and be choosy. "Choose things in your life that will endure, that are a pleasure to use. And never let things be more important than your family, friends, and your own spirit."