Tie And Jeans

Planning a Make/Hack/Play Summer

I can tell it’s summer because I’ve read 4 books in three days.  I can tell it’s 2012 because when I finish one book, I click on the screen I’m reading three times and a new book appears.  This is awesome.  Expensive, but awesome.

While I’m in NY, thankfully missing out on the horrific DC/MD/VA weather, I’ve been trying to get my schedule and agenda set for the whirlwind section of summer.  In a week’s time I’ll be at Constructing Modern Knowledge, and from that point on there’s really no down time until August and the start of school.  Which, on reflection, isn’t really downtime at all.  Shoot.

One of the spaces I’m excited to visit this summer is Sprout & Co,  even though Sprout is avowedly not a maker/hacker space. They’re focused on becoming a community hub for science and design, for research and education.

Our neighborhoods and communities are among our least appreciated educational resources. The way we run our studios (and the benefits that have come our way as a result) is our vote of confidence in the value and feasibility of thinking more broadly about how spaces, people, and equipment can be made available to all.

I find that mission inspiring in it’s breadth and simplicity.

As I continue to experiment with audio for the still-hypothetical Make/Hack/Play podcast, I’m looking for questions that generalize out from the details of a particular domain to the challenges faced by all individuals and communities dedicated to exploration, discovery, problems solving.

There’s no call to avoid conversations about skills and craft. The best reflections, the best stories, are often grounded in a specific experience that requires some jargon or technical details. But the conversation should aim at something beyond an audio how-to.

So that’s my top-level thought process. Here’s some of the steps I’ve taken down two different “do stuff” paths.

The first is a short audio conversation with Ed Engelman, a family friend who teaches at DCMO BOCES. We spent a great morning at Ed’s house playing with his bicycle wheel windmill and trying to use the ISMO Oscilloscope for the iPad. The difference between the easy banter of those two hours and my clumsy over-steering of the 15 recorded minutes is a good reminder of how much I need to practice and develop this skill. My thanks to Ed for inviting me up to the house and being game for this experiment.

At the end of my conversation with Ed, I tried to ask a “big question” about failure and the learning process, and it went over like a ton of bricks. If I want to encourage people to reflect broadly from their specific experiences, I’ll need to have a stable of clearly formed questions that approach those big ideas.

Here’s my current bundle of questions around Princess Irulan’s favorite topic – beginings.

  • How do you begin? Is there something consistent that takes an idea or a new activity out the foamy realm on inconsequential fascination (“that’s cool”) into something that you’re actually DO-ING?
  • Experiments to new habits. Looking back, what separates the things you’ve tried once or twice, from those that became new habits, new parts of your personality and baseline experience? Was there an experience of early success? Encountering surprising depth? Support from a a mentor or a community?
  • How have you been effective when encouraging/mentoring beginners (for a particular subject/craft) or new beginnings? Is there a difference between those two?
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