Fab Fridays 10: Silver Lining in this Crisis

Digital tools that make social distancing feel less distant

Hi everyone!

Greetings from Panama.

In the past week we’ve seen an explosion of creativity as people try to use technology as a bridge across physical distances.

I’ve personally experimented with new kinds of socially distanced gatherings: workout classes streaming live, virtual concerts and yoga classes, Google Hangout dinners, Zoom parties, live online courses, and knowledge workshops.

“If there is a silver lining in this crisis, it may be that the virus is forcing us to use the internet as it was always meant to be used — to connect with one another, share information and resources, and come up with collective solutions to urgent problems.—The New York Times article: The Coronavirus Crisis Is Showing Us How to Live Online

These are the kinds of creative digital experiments we need, and they are coming at a time when we need them the most.

Today more than ever, I’m grateful for all the digital tools that make social distancing feel less distant. We need to continue creating digital communities and virtual spaces to support one another during these difficult times.

Fab Reads:

1.Niche Down: How to Become Legendary by Being Different

by: Christopher Lochhead (my spirit animal) and Heather Clancy

“The people we admire most in the world are original, unique, different. They take risks, claim new ground. They do not fit in, they stand out.”

This book is about how to become known for a niche that you own. The authors use simple, colloquial language and humor to describe a research-based approach to thinking about your life and business. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to be different and unique in their career.

Favorite takeaway: Being different is much more interesting than being better at something.

School teaches us to color inside the lines and "fit in."

Kids learn to play the comparison game, strive to be "better" rather than different, and pursue paths according to someone else’s rules.

In Write of Passage Summer Camp, we want the opposite of this—we want kids to stand out in a world that teaches them to color inside the lines. Inspired by the central message of this book— be different, not better—we want to challenge kids to break from the pack, find what makes them different, and create something legendary.

2. Why They Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities

by John Warner

This book offers a powerful diagnosis of what’s wrong with the way schools and colleges teach writing and what we should be focusing on instead.

Favorite takeaways:

  • Writing is a social and collaborative act, but school often “keeps ideas walled off from the world, shared only between student and teacher, and sometimes only shared between student and an anonymous grader.” And we wonder why kids feel discouraged…

  • Students are often graded on how well they imitate certain styles rather than how well they communicate their powerful ideas

  • By overemphasizing grammar and mechanics, rules and structure, we withhold kids from the most important and motivating part of writing—generating ideas

Here are 3 conclusions from a research conducted by The Meaningful Writing Project

Students find writing most meaningful when:

  1. They have some agency and control over what they're writing about. Freedom seems important to writing well.

  2. They view it as a "social act," as part of an "environment" much larger than the school assignment. 

  3. They understand how the writing fits inside the larger picture of their lives and experiences. In other words, when they choose a subject that is important to them.

These principles are aligned with the Write of Passage approach that we will use for our Summer Camp. Rather than thinking of writing through the lens of “assignments” or “proficiencies”, we see it as a collaborative communication tool. In Write of Passage Summer Camp, we will facilitate flexible writing “experiences” that give kids room to exercise choice and engage their intrinsic motivation.

3) The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

by Steven Pressfield

This book is a must-read for creatives navigating the challenges of living a creative life. It came to me when I needed it the most, and pushed me to examine my internal obstacles and change my attitude towards creating.

Humans have a tendency to fear and resist to create, and this book shows how to identify, defeat, and unlock your inner barriers to creativity.

The War of Art also helped me brainstorm ways to help future Write of Passage campers win their inner battles and fears so that they can unleash their creative superpowers.

4) Favorite Articles of the week

The Price of Discipline by David PerellWe act up because we're trapped by pressures for academic and professional success. Giving children agency now will help them avoid a dark cycle of work, pain, and reckless release in the future.

Entertain to Educate by John LanzaGood teachers are entertainers as much as they are educators.

Other Resources:

Below are a few other resources that you and your kids may enjoy at home:

  • Khan Academy has created daily schedules with interactive content—exercises, videos and articles—for students in every grade

  • Outschool is offering free live online classes to support public school families affected by closures in the wake of COVID-19. To get started taking Outschool classes for free, visit http://outschool.org and sign up

  • Mo Willems is hosting free online "Lunch Doodles" while kids are home

  • At stories.audible.com, you will find a free collection of stories to entertain, engage, and inform young people ages 0–18. These stories offer a screen-free option for kids at home and are available in different languages

I hope you and your loved ones stay healthy.

Until next week,

Ms. Fab