A TED Talk A Day, Day, Day 52: Having taught students before, it is sometimes tempting to always communicate to students through yardsticks and evaluation. But in the best moments teaching is really about connection and bringing out the best from students, as Rita Pierson so passionately argues here.
Teaching and learning is about people and about relationships. We all know why kids have problems in school, but we seldom discuss the important of human connection.
Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.
Some people think that building relationships is innate; but Pierson believes there are things we can do about it.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey.
Sometimes that means apologising when we’re wrong, even to our students.
We have to help our students to believe that they can do it, that they can do better, wherever they are.
The tough kids show up because of the connection, the relationship.
A TED Talk A Day, Day 46: A powerful talk about the real impact of technology on the relationships we have with ourselves and others, and how it is creating an illusion that we need to get out of.
Mobile phones don’t just change what we do, they change who we are. Things that would have been previously seen as odd have come to be normal, like texting and using Facebook during meetings and during classes. People sit together… but spend their times on their mobile phones.
Some say that it is about control, that we are now able to control what we want to pay attention to. But we if we do that we end up hiding from each other even as we are “connected”. “People can’t get enough of each other, if, and only if, they can have each other at a distance, at amounts they can control.”
Posting and texting allows us to present the self we others to see. Human relationships are messy, but technology allows us to edit and touch up the things we say and what we present to others.
The sum total of all the little bits of communication does not equal a conversation. They are good for small, quick messages, but are not good for us to learn from each other.
By not having real conversations, we compromise our ability for self-reflection, which is especially crucial for children. “We use conversations with each other to learn how to have conversations with ourselves.”
Many people admit to Turkle that they wish Siri (Apple iOS’ voice-activated “personal assistant”) would develop to a point where they could have a conversation with her.
People feel that no one is listening. This tempts us to want to have machines that can offer us companionship.
We expect more from technology and less from each other. We are now beginning to invent machines that can emulate the behaviour of living creatures; yet they are not actually animate, and cannot truly empathise with us.
We’re lonely but we’re afraid of intimacy. So we end up designing technology that gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.
The phone in our pockets create 3 “gratifying fantasies”:
We can control our attention and put it wherever we want it to be.
We will always be heard.
We will never have to be alone.
When we are alone we begin to panic, and reach for our phone. So we reach for connection, but this connection is a symptom of a problem that is not solved rather than being the solution to it.
We now believe in this: “I share therefore I am.” When we don’t share we can’t seem to “feel ourselves”. So as we try to connect we become isolated.
We become isolated is when we do not have the capacity for solitude, to be separate from others. When this happens we turn to others to even feel alive. And when we do this we don’t actually appreciate who others are; we are merely using them for our own purposes.
“If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will only know how to be lonely.”
The point in the end is not to reject our devices, but to be more aware of our relationships with them, with others and with ourselves.
Make room for solitude. Teach this to children. Create sacred spaces for conversation, at home and at work.
Listen to each other, including the “boring” bits. In the imperfect moments we reveal ourselves to one another.
Suggested action step: I will create opportunities to connect with others in a real way, and help others to connect.
A TED Talk A Day, Day 20: An entertaining talk that, yes, jumps between mathematics and sex/relationships, and contains a surprisingly simple and useful tip to trigger different thinking modes.
Above are 2 mathematical equations that can predict with 95% accuracy whether couples will be together in 6 years time! To use it we look at newly-weds talking about areas of contention (e.g. in-laws, money), and take into account how they respond to each other. In the equation W represents Wife, and H represents Husband.
Counter-intuitively, couples that responded the least to each other, had more successful marriages! Couples who compromised the least ended up being together the most. This is based on an “influence” factor at the end of the equation.
Instead of empathy, the cornerstone of most marriage advice, the equations suggests that “having high standards, and finding ways to reach for those standards are the way to go”.
Mathematics these days reaches far beyond the physical sciences, to areas like biology and medicine, or the social sciences. Even equations relating to how to create the perfect chocolate.
One key factor is whether we overestimate our partner’s qualities.
Mathematics also informs research accuracy. For example, studies of how many sexual partners people have had reveals a great difference between men and women… yet that doesn’t make mathematical sex. The number should be roughly the same on both sides, so somebody’s got to be lying.
Thinking about love before thinking about something else improves the ability to think in a creative/global/big picture way.
Think about sex first, on the other hand, improves process/detail-oriented thinking.
Now more about mathematics: it’s actually about pattern-recognition and precise, abstract thinking.
Mathematics originates from nature: pattern-recognition is at the core of the animal kingdom — it is required for animals to survive. The seed of the concept of numbers is also there: a pack of animals can identify if another pack is larger than theirs; and a rat can press a level an approximate number of times to get food.
However, past a certain number, neither rats nor humans are naturally able to continue counting and working with numbers; but language gives us the ability to extend that. We went further to abstract mathematics, like in algebra. In naming things we also got the benefit of ideas like cause and effect, and temporal reasoning.
Mathematics is also clear and precise in it’s operation, every step of the way. This makes it both useful, and also hard, because it tames those innate “numerical” sensations in the most precise possible.
Suggested action step: No question I will think about love before I need to do big picture planning, and thinking about sex before doing detailed work. That was easy.
A TED Talk A Day, Day 4: Funny, the things I find in my watch later list. I’m not sure where I picked this video up, but it’s definitely a topic anyone would be interested in. An absolutely fascinating talk on desire.
Good intimacy does not always lead to good sex, contrary to popular belief.
We are in an age (for the first time, she says) where we want sex purely for desire, i.e. not for having children or not out of duty, but because we simply want it for pleasure and connection. But the question is: what sustains desire and how do we maintain it?
We are trying to reconcile two opposing needs: the need for safety, permanence, certainty; and the need for novelty, risk, surprise, variety, excitement. What we look for today, a passionate marriage, is a contradiction in terms: the safety of an practical partnership with the excitement of a passionate lover.
Across cultures, people are most drawn to their partners when:
they are away. In short, when they can root their desire in imagination and longing.
they are in their element — radiant and confident.
they are surprised —when there is novelty, in terms of what aspects of their partners they see.
There is no neediness in desire. There is no care-taking: that can be loving, but it’s also an anti-aphrodisiac.
Humans are the only species who combine sex with the imagination. And generally people want better sex, which is to reconnect with the quality of eros, vibrancy and vitality, that is rooted in imagination.
A key question is “I shut myself off when…?”, not “You turn me off when…” or “What turns me off is…” Often the answer is when we feel low self-esteem, when we don’t perform at work, when I don’t have a sense of self-worth, when I don’t feel like I have a right to want and to receive pleasure, etc.
Another question is “I turn myself on when…?” When do I turn on my desires? Desire often comes from attributes that usually are in opposition with love and what is safe/responsible: power, jealousy, dominance, naughtiness, mischief.
Love comes from selflessness, but desire comes from selfishness. Selfishness in the best sense of the word — the ability to to stay connected to oneself in the presence of another.
Desire is rooted in exploration, and in the freedom we have. Take the example of a child who is told to go explore and that the world is fun, versus a child who is being shown anxiety and worry. The former would feel freer to explore.
We will sacrifice one part of ourselves to hold on to another, i.e. we will sacrifice our freedom in order not to lose connection, to stay safe. This may cause us to forget to how to go play and leave that safe place.
So how do we reconcile these needs?
Have sexual privacy. There is an erotic space that belongs to each person.
Foreplay doesn’t start 5 minutes before sex. It starts after the last orgasm ends.
Leave the “good citizen” behind. Responsibility and desire don’t go well together.
Passion waxes and wanes. But erotic couples know how to bring it back, because they know spontaneity is a myth. Committed sex has to be deliberate.
Suggested action step: I think this talk applies as much to life as it does to relationships, so I will remember to choose the less safe option when I can, explore when I can, and take risks in the moment.