Sunday, June 28, 2009

NECC09 Openning Keynote - Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell starts of NECC09 with a fantastic keynote!

Gladwell's keynote to NECC delegates talked about the importance of creating meaningful learning environments in our classrooms.

So what does it take to create these Meaningful Learning Environments? Here are my notes from his keynote:

When we look at someone who masters something, we tend to “telescope” how long it took to learn or master that skill. Meaning we skip over how long it actually took for them to really master a skill. Gladwell said it is important to talk about how long it actually took to master a complex task or enjoy success. Throughout his speech, Gladwell used the example of Fleetwood Mac. This band was not discovered overnight, nor did it enjoy instant success. It wasn't it's first album that was its first #1 hit, it was its 16th album.


1st lesson: Effort, Attitude and Practice:

Gladwell talked about his book Outliners where he discusses the idea of the 10,000 hour rule. His theory is that it takes someone 10,000 hours or 4hrs/day for 10 years of practice before they can be masters of a particular skill or talent.

Examples given:

  • Bobby Fisher – 9 years of practicing chess before becoming a master.
  • Mozart – first big Concerto: #9271 when he was 23 years old after 14 years of practice.
  • Beatles – Practicing in a club in Hamburg 12,000 times live. In the end, the band played together live before coming to America 7 days/week for a number of years.

Implications of this rule:

Even with talent, you need to have a great attitude about effort. An approach that says that effort is crucial to me being successful.

Another example given by Gladwell was a story about a questionnaire consisting of 120 questions before doing a complex math assessment. Results of countries who are successful in teaching math are those who are successful in teaching or reinforcing the attitude of effort. To do well at math means you need to have a positive attitude and need to demonstrate an effort towards math.

Another statement, the only way to catch up when you are behind is to work hard and to put in the time to learn.

2nd lesson: Compensation Strategy vs. Capitalism strategy:

The band builds on their failures. Compensation strategy is where you compensate for your weaknesses. Capitalism strategy is where you build on your strengths.

Hunger and effort are better gauges for measuring success than height, strength, looks, etc.

Leadership skills are important. Compensating for skills that people are missing or struggling with develop problem solving skills. Gladwell gave the example of someone with dyslexia. When they delegate to others reading and writing they are developing their problem solving skills and they are learning how to talk and be persuasive with others. In other words, they are developing their oral communication skills. Dyslexic entrepreneurs are those who managed to compensate for their disability.

Class size – students learn to compensate for the lack of teacher attention in bigger classes therefore they develop compensation skills.

Question: How do we create learning environments that encourage the practice of compensation skils?

3rd Lesson: Learning strategy- It is best to zigzag not follow a linear path – the best learn through trial and error over a period of time before becoming great.

Gladwell gave the example of an experimental inventor who finds their way to genius through trial and error.

Cezanne is an example of an artist who practices this type of learner.

Incorporates the idea of feedback – timely and targeted feedback.

Trying something and then the feedback helps make this a success. How the learning takes place is more important than where the learning takes place.

If you would like to watch Gladwell's keynote yourself, you can do so by creating a free istevision account. The link to the video is: Gladwell on ISTE Vision