(#368) Fake, Illegitimate Or Incomplete Information?

June 11, 2017

Just because you find a lot of information does not mean
you have found accurate or credible information

If, as famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright claimed, “An expert is a man who stops thinking because he knows,” then can we say the same for a person who claims one source of information as the fount of all legitimacy and contrary accounts to be illegitimate or “fake”? Has she stopped discerning because she “knows” what is legitimate and what is fake?

More than five years ago, I shot a quick video (see below) outlining four basic considerations when considering information to address an issue or task?

  1. What information do you need for the task at hand?
  2. Where will you find that information?
  3. How will you evaluate the information you find for accuracy and legitimacy?
  4. How will you organize and use the information for your audience?

Can we grow as individuals if we filter what we read, hear, and see through one source (or a number of like-minded sources)?  Are we motivated to grow–or just “be right” even in the face of confounding information?

Do we care?

A friend shared two stories this week.  I doubt they are apocryphal.

  • A neighbor asked my friend where she got her news. My friend rattled off a list of seven or eight sources. Out of hand, the neighbor dismissed the entire list as thoroughly “illegitimate.” When asked what her source of information was, the neighbor mentioned one source. Just one source. It was, according to her, legitimate. End of story. (See numbers two and three, above.)
  • My friend has found the same situation in her college classroom.  No matter the topic,  two camps emerge. Diametrically opposed. Refusing to listen and discuss with the other. Each considering their source(s) of information legitimate and the others’ suspect at the least and fake at the worst.

Is this a sign of intellectual laziness? A lack of critical thinking? Or is this sort of thing nothing new—just magnified because everyone can have a social media platform where we surround ourselves with “likes” and “shares” and then block opposing viewpoints?  (I still remember my mother often warning me (more than fifty years ago) not to speak about politics or religion.) It does seem like today’s volume, as well as the personal vitriol, has been cranked up considerably.

I offered a suggestion to my friend.

  1. Pick two sources of news that generally disagree on issues and stances.
  2. Find one current news story on which both of these sources present a similar account of the issue or event.
  3. Print both stories without any attribution (nothing that would identify the sources).
  4. Ask your friend (or students) to identify the “illegitimate source” based solely on the content presented. If both stories are drawing the same conclusion then how can the argument hold that a particular source is always illegitimate?

Perhaps you could do it as well to at least start a rational conversation. Start with common ground and move from there.


Video recommendation for the week.

Just because you find information does not mean you have credible information.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.



For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#357) Perspective

March 26, 2017

Our attention will determine our interpretation.

What thoughts and feelings come to mind when you see the photo below?

 

Now, same question as you expand the view and context of the photo?

Hmm. Marriages performed juxtaposed with a bedpan–with a prickly little cactus.

How about this view?

My, my. Marriages performed connected to a bedpan with a smirking vulture (with beads, no less) standing guard.

When I first saw the scene (in Cedar Key, Florida), my eyes were immediately drawn to the vulture. “Is this an art gallery or second-hand shop?”   As my eyes drifted to the right, I saw the sign.  I said to Laurie, “I’ve got to have a photo of that. It’s priceless.”

It was not until later in the day that I spied the bedpan. I laughed at what I had missed and another spin on the message popped into my mind.

A scene, situation, or dilemma takes on different meanings depending on where our gaze falls.  Our attention will determine our interpretation.

We have to understand perspective if we want a clear (or clearer) picture of a situation at hand.

One definition of perspective requires “seeing all relevant data in a meaningful relationship.”

It’s something to consider with collaboration and relationships. Do we narrowly frame a situation and thus miss opportunities? Do we start with answers and, consequently, miss the important questions?  Do we think of moving the spotlight or adjusting the focus so we go a little off-center?

We all have to be aware of our cognitive traps. This week, consider moving the spotlight a little. Whether you find a smirking vulture or not, your shifting perspective could help you better understand what you need to do in a perplexing situation.


Video recommendation for the week.

Do you believe what you perceive you receive?  Consider this perspective!


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

All photos taken by Steve Piscitelli. (c) 2017.

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#351) Show Don’t Tell

February 12, 2017

Saying it doesn’t make it so…too much talking mutes the story. 

The teacher becomes the student—again.

This past week, I received a full manuscript review and critique of (what will eventually become) my first novel.  The reviewer—a student of mine from thirty some-odd years ago—did a masterful job of pointing out the challenges as well as a few bright spots.

As I read and reread her critique, one of my writing offenses fell in the category of “Show Don’t Tell.” In other words, my characters and narrator did a lot of talking when they should have been taking action to move the story forward.  Or a character would label something as “desolate” or “beautiful” but not fully paint the picture. Saying something is “desolate” does not have the same punch as painting a picture of desolation for the reader. Saying it does not make it so.

My manuscript reviewer said this (“show don’t tell”) rears its head with many novelists (at least, I guess, the ones who struggle to grab the attention of the readers).

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

I thought back to the times I worked with students and their essay writing.  Often, they would “tell” me that something was “major,” “critical,” “important,” or “sensational” but would fall short on proving or “showing” how the descriptor was apt.  They failed to support their assertions with detail.

In short, too much talking mutes the story—whether that story is an essay, a book, a memo, or a policy initiative.

I can see a lesson here beyond academic or novel writing.  Think about how we might encounter or be guilty of using “show don’t tell” in our lives.  We either think we are clear or do not know how to paint a picture for the audience.  Our dialogue ends up muting the point. What we say or do not say stands in the way of making powerful connections.

For example:

Around the house.  My wife and I plan on building and planting a raised-box garden in our backyard. We read about how to do it. We said that we would “put it in the backyard.” But until we actually drove some stakes into the ground, all we had were words, little action. The stakes provided a visual of where the garden will eventually stand. It “showed” us location, sunlight, actual size, and potential challenges and assets.

In the gym.  Ever work with a trainer in the gym? Do you want one who will tell you about each piece of equipment but nothing else? Or would you get more from a trainer if she “showed” you how to use specific equipment to target muscle groups important to you?

Learning with video.  An effective “How To” video does more than just tell you what to do. It will “show” and label steps for you. It provides a vivid description.

At work.  A boss who wants a healthier workplace has to do more than provide information (written or spoken) that exalts the importance of diet, exercise, sleep, and downtime.  He has to “show” it by modeling appropriate action.  (Don’t tell me to disconnect when I go home—and then expect me immediately to respond to a late-night email.)

In music. Think of your favorite songwriter. Maybe a particular song paints vivid imagery for you.  Chances are the bard “showed” you an emotion or action rather than just told you.

You might be able to transform your leadership skills when you “show” the power of what you want your team to do rather than just telling them.

Think of the impact of this for you and your goals. A simple goal statement (in writing or in your head) might be a great start—but is it powerful enough to drive you forward? Have you created the imagery of what the goal will look like?

Do you have “show and action” in your plan—or is it just talk?


Video recommendation for the week:

Maybe I should asked these young people for help developing my characters!  Notice how they tell what to do and then “show” it.  To the head of the class!


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#324) What Motivates Your Reasoning?

August 7, 2016

It can be very easy to point out the window…
The challenge is to look into the mirror.

A quote attributed to Alan Alda reminds us that our “assumptions are the windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while or the light won’t come in.”

Assumptions. We all make them. They can help us make sense of our world and navigate our journey.  They can also create huge obstacles, narrow-minded thinking, and fear-based decision making.

Early in their book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work Chip and Dan Heath outline four cognitive traps (they label them as “villains of decision making”) when it comes to decision making (and critical thinking). If we do not recognize and understand these pitfalls we undermine our abilities to make appropriate and right-minded decisions.

  1. Narrow Framing. This occurs when we look at a situation and only give ourselves limited choice options (usually just two).  Either A or B.  This one or that one. Black or white. Go or stand still.
    #My example. Listen to the political diatribes and the shrill voices of the 2016 presidential campaign. Lots of “either my way or no way.”  Not much choice other than either you are “with the team” or “against the team.”  This way is correct; that way wrong.
  2. Confirmation Bias. This happens when we lean toward or agree with only information that confirms already held personal beliefs. We tend to overlook or dismiss anything that may challenge or disprove our opinion.
    #My example. Perhaps you know folks who get their “news” from only one source or perspective. Anything else they consider suspect. Or a corporate manager or educational leader wants to move the company/college in a certain direction. She believes so strongly in the position, only evidence that supports that decision is given any real attention.

    Image: stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Image: stockimages/
    FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  3. Short-term Emotion. Pressures and conflicts in the near term can cloud the long-term solution. If we make decisions based on an immediate and visceral response we may be missing the bigger picture.
    #My example. This really calls to question what we pay attention to. If we steep ourselves in nothing but fearful images (see #1) about a topic, issue, or group of people then our decision may be knee-jerk with little well-rounded information to support our position.  Would we want to make a business or financial investment or career move in this manner? (The Heath brothers present an intriguing statistic: In 2009, more than 60,000 tattoos were reversed. What was initially embraced with enthusiasm, wanes on further consideration after the fact. See page 5.)
  4. Over Confidence. Confidence and belief in self can be powerful. And it can create awful consequences if we do not step back and understand and question our assumptions about what we know and what we do not know.
    #My example. A strategy I used with my students encouraged them to move outside of their “I-know-all-about-this” mindset. I would write three columns on the board: “What I definitely know about this topic,” “What I think I know about this topic,” and “What I would like to know about this topic.”  Then we would start to support, debunk, and add to our knowledge base.  No shame in not knowing. I would think it would be more embarrassing to continually shout shrilly about a position, only to be dead wrong (see Confirmation Bias above).

When we make decisions we have to understand that cognitive traps will undermine us.  You need only look at political debates, corporate politics, community disagreements, or even your own self arguing with your own self!

Video recommendation of the week.  Julia Galef in this TEDx Talk explains the decision-making dilemma as “motivated reasoning” with an interesting metaphor.

As this week unfolds, it would do us all well to pause from time to time and analyze our decision making and critical thinking. It can be very easy to point out the window and say, “Geez, if only they knew how to critically think.”

The challenge is to look into the mirror and ask, “How am I doing with my critical thinking?

Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcast (about ex-offenders and resilience).  You can find my podcast series at The Growth and Resilience Network (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts).

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#294) Benefits Of Remaining A Continual Learner

January 10, 2016

It can help us fill in gaps between assumptions and realities.

A few months ago on this blog I posed the question, “Do we take time to experience what our customer, client, or student is experiencing?” Regardless of your profession or calling, do you remain a constant learner from the perspective of the people you are serving?

We have all heard (what can become) the cliché about the importance of “life-long learning.” At one level, that can mean staying current with reading, new trends, and updated content in your calling. Important for sure.

I’d like to dig down a little deeper on this; go beyond “staying current” by reading an article or two. Let’s move to learning from the perspective of the people you are serving.

Stephen Brookfield puts forth a simple reminder in his book Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.

brookfield

Teachers need to remember what it is like to be a learner in a “foreign” (read: unknown; difficult; demanding; uninteresting to them) field.  One way for those of us in “front of the class” to stay in touch with our inner learner is to take a course in a “foreign” field. Perhaps a history instructor enrolls in a chemistry class or the English teacher signs up for Algebra.  I did this sort of learning when I participated in an 8-week improv workshop this past summer. I’m doing it now as I participate in an online writing Master Class by James Patterson.  Experiences such as these can bring us face-to-face with feelings of anxiety, boredom, irrelevance, and vulnerability—just like a student has to do when sitting in a required core class.   It can help us fill in gaps between assumptions and realities.

Ph.D. candidates may face the same feelings as they complete the required coursework for the degree. I know I did when I had to take M.Ed. and M.A. classes that I had absolutely zero interest in taking. I had to find ways to soldier through—and that kept me in touch with my students.

Video recommendation for the week:

Brookfield aptly points out that when teachers, in particular, take on the role of a student in an area/class in which they have no or limited skill/knowledge they will have a better chance of understanding the trepidation that their students have in front of them.

Maybe the college administrator teaches a full semester course (not just one or two sessions) to acquaint (or re-acquaint) herself with what it’s like to be the classroom teacher who has to, each semester, “learn” the dynamics of a particular class/group of students. This includes facing these students each class day of the semester and dealing with the human drama that comes in the door.  That is a lot different from reading the latest research about a pedagogical breakthrough.  And the experience can remind the administrator of the joys and frustrations of teaching.  A similar argument can be made for a teacher participating in an administrative training class.

I had a colleague who taught French. During the summer, he would immerse himself in learning a new language. I seem to remember Chinese was one summer’s undertaking. This could help the teacher see the perspective of an online student.

Another example. I have been regularly working with a trainer in the gym over the last eight months.  Each session, I’m a learner as I pay attention to form, reps, weight and sets. And each session I come up short on some routines; and I excel on others. I am reminded about the need to be fully present in the class (my training) and do my “homework” in between sessions.

Besides staying in touch with the student’s, client’s or customer’s perspective, I think this type of intentionality helps to build resilience. Placing oneself in a difficult or vulnerable to failure position (not unsafe or unhealthy), requires and develops a certain amount of flexibility.

Where can you become a neophyte over the coming months? How can you better understand the perspective of those you serve?

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts). 

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


(#284) Gaining Clarity

November 1, 2015

We would do well to surround ourselves
with people who care about us—
but won’t allow us to skate by with minimal reflection and action.

I first read about the Clearness Committee  (Quaker tradition) in Parker Palmer’s works. This powerful tool allows the “focus person,” along with a selected group of people,  to tap into his/her inner truth to gain clarity on a vexing personal or professional challenge. No advice is allowed. No leading questions. No pontificating. Only genuine, honest, and clarifying inquiries may be presented by the group.

I’ve attempted to model this in reflective practice sessions I have facilitated—and it is extremely difficult to do.  In our fast-food-give-me-a-quick-fix society, allowing someone space (within a group) for reflective deliberation may be viewed as a waste of valuable time. Silence can be awkward.  Advice and here’s-what-worked-for-me-so-you-should-use-it-too-so-we-can-get-back-to-work strategies seem to be the default position.

Image by: Steve Piscitelli

Image by: Steve Piscitelli

One of the functional, yet challenging, structural components of the Clearness Committee is it’s two-hour meeting length.  All members commit their undivided (read: no texting, emailing, technology) attention to what the group is saying and doing for 120 minutes.

Last week I had the opportunity to address the opening session of the Florida Developmental Education Association annual conference. Our topics during the keynote were resilience and passion. As a follow-up , I facilitated a session on the power of reflective practice for a professional community. Throughout the day I often thought about the Clearness Committee concept. What a wonderful way to gain insight and clarity about one’s direction. Participants readily listened to one another about their respective journeys.

If given the chance, who would you place on your clearness committee to help you gain clarity about a personal or professional challenge? In the spirit of the Clearness Committee, allow me to pose a few questions:

  • Who do you trust with information about your challenge?
  • Who would you not trust to be on your committee? (The Clearness Committee process allows the focus person to name those she would like on the committee—and those she would not want.)
  • Can you clearly and succinctly describe your challenge?
  • What steps have you already taken to address the challenge?
  • Are you willing to accept (possible)long periods of silence during the group meeting? (Silence, as Palmer states, “… does not mean that nothing is happening or that the process has broken down. It may well mean that the most important thing of all is happening: new insights are emerging from within people, from their deepest sources of guidance.”)
  • When will you implement your Clearness Committee?

Video recommendation for the week:

Listen to Parker Palmer‘s explanation of what a clearness committee is and does.

I’ve written here before about No B.S. Friends and a personal Board of Directors. The Clearness Committee is one more alternative to help one gain clarity and focus. One commonality that I see is that each possibility depends heavily on choosing your surrounding people with care.

As I mentioned to the conference participants, we would do well to surround ourselves with people who care about us—but won’t allow us to skate by with minimal reflection and action.  While they don’t tell us what we should do (in the true sense of the Clearness Committee), they will hold up a mirror and allow us to come to grips (sometimes emotionally kicking and screaming) with what our inner self knows and is struggling with at the moment.  Some might call it tough love.

I  like to think of it as having people around me who will have my back and be ready to kick my butt when needed with hard honest questions.

Choose well, my friend.

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts). 

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


(#253) Bridging the Gap: The Stories We Tell Ourselves and the Stories We Live

March 29, 2015

Stories we tell ourselves vs. stories we actually live.
What stories are you telling yourself?

For years I’ve been using a professional and personal growth exercises with my students and audiences.

  • Start with one piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
  • Draw a line down the center of the page.
  • At the top of the left column write the word “VALUE” and at the top of the right column write the word “TIME.”
  • In the VALUE column list the three things that are the most valuable/the biggest priorities in your life right now. (You could do this with 5, 10 or more items.)
  • In the TIME column list the three things that take most of your time each week—not counting sleep.
  • The final step ends up being the eye-opener as I pose this question: When you look at what you say you value and how/where you actually use your time, do you see any disconnections?

I think you see the point of the exercise.  All of us can talk about what is important but when it comes to walking our talk, do our actions match what we say?

Image: tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The VALUE column represents our intentions; the stories we tell ourselves about what is important.

The TIME column indicates the stories we actually live.

Inspired by Tony Schwartz’s book The Way We Are Working Isn’t Working, I have added a third column to the exercise. (I rolled this out in a reflective practice session with my faculty colleagues this week.)

Video recommendation for the week:

Go back to the two-column page and do the following:

  • In the VALUE column, rate how important in your life each item is. Use the scale of 1 (not particularly important) to 10 (extremely important).
  • In the TIME column, rate how much of week is devoted to this stated value/intention. Again, use the scale of 1 (nearly no time) to 10 (a great deal of time).
  • Label the third column THE GAP.
  • Subtract the number you wrote in column 2 from the number you wrote in column 1. This is your gap between intention and reality.

The bigger the gap, the more work you need to do.  The “work” could be a re-evaluation of what you actually value (as opposed to what you say you value). Or it could be a re-commitment to your stated priorities by re-arranging the way you spend your time. (Personally, I’d rather invest my time than spend it.)

One final note.  About six or seven years ago I did this exercise with a group of students.  One young woman became quite perturbed with the exercise.  When I talked with her, she announced to the class, “I don’t like your activity!”

When pressed as to why, she said her job took most of her time each week—and she hated her job. “According to you,” she said, “I should value my job.”

I said, “Then why don’t you quit.”

She informed me that was not possible as she was a single mother and needed the money for necessities of life.

After careful thought I offered that it appeared the job was indeed very valuable to her.  The exercise did not ask what she liked—but what she valued.  She was telling herself one story while living another story.

What stories are you telling yourself?

Make it a great week. And H.T.R.B. as needed.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please share it (and any of the archived posts on this site) with friends and colleagues. You also can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page and join in–or start–a conversation (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli).  If you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment.

Check out my website (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

Information on my book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


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