Sunday, January 27, 2008

21st Century JUICE!

The New York Times

January 27, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

The Age of Ambition

DAVOS, Switzerland

With the American presidential campaign in full swing, the obvious way to change the world might seem to be through politics.

But growing numbers of young people are leaping into the fray and doing the job themselves. These are the social entrepreneurs, the 21st-century answer to the student protesters of the 1960s, and they are some of the most interesting people here at the World Economic Forum (not only because they’re half the age of everyone else).

Andrew Klaber, a 26-year-old playing hooky from Harvard Business School to come here (don’t tell his professors!), is an example of the social entrepreneur. He spent the summer after his sophomore year in college in Thailand and was aghast to see teenage girls being forced into prostitution after their parents had died of AIDS.

So he started Orphans Against AIDS (, which pays school-related expenses for hundreds of children who have been orphaned or otherwise affected by AIDS in poor countries. He and his friends volunteer their time and pay administrative costs out of their own pockets so that every penny goes to the children.

Mr. Klaber was able to expand the nonprofit organization in Africa through introductions made by Jennifer Staple, who was a year ahead of him when they were in college. When she was a sophomore, Ms. Staple founded an organization in her dorm room to collect old reading glasses in the United States and ship them to poor countries. That group, Unite for Sight, has ballooned, and last year it provided eye care to 200,000 people (

In the ’60s, perhaps the most remarkable Americans were the civil rights workers and antiwar protesters who started movements that transformed the country. In the 1980s, the most fascinating people were entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who started companies and ended up revolutionizing the way we use technology.

Today the most remarkable young people are the social entrepreneurs, those who see a problem in society and roll up their sleeves to address it in new ways. Bill Drayton, the chief executive of an organization called Ashoka that supports social entrepreneurs, likes to say that such people neither hand out fish nor teach people to fish; their aim is to revolutionize the fishing industry. If that sounds insanely ambitious, it is. John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan title their new book on social entrepreneurs “The Power of Unreasonable People.”

Universities are now offering classes in social entrepreneurship, and there are a growing number of role models. Wendy Kopp turned her thesis at Princeton into Teach for America and has had far more impact on schools than the average secretary of education.

One of the social entrepreneurs here is Soraya Salti, a 37-year-old Jordanian woman who is trying to transform the Arab world by teaching entrepreneurship in schools. Her organization, Injaz, is now training 100,000 Arab students each year to find a market niche, construct a business plan and then launch and nurture a business.

The program ( has spread to 12 Arab countries and is aiming to teach one million students a year. Ms. Salti argues that entrepreneurs can stimulate the economy, give young people a purpose and revitalize the Arab world. Girls in particular have flourished in the program, which has had excellent reviews and is getting support from the U.S. Agency for International Development. My hunch is that Ms. Salti will contribute more to stability and peace in the Middle East than any number of tanks in Iraq, U.N. resolutions or summit meetings.

“If you can capture the youth and change the way they think, then you can change the future,” she said.

Another young person on a mission is Ariel Zylbersztejn, a 27-year-old Mexican who founded and runs a company called Cinepop, which projects movies onto inflatable screens and shows them free in public parks. Mr. Zylbersztejn realized that 90 percent of Mexicans can’t afford to go to movies, so he started his own business model: He sells sponsorships to companies to advertise to the thousands of viewers who come to watch the free entertainment.

Mr. Zylbersztejn works with microcredit agencies and social welfare groups to engage the families that come to his movies and help them start businesses or try other strategies to overcome poverty. Cinepop is only three years old, but already 250,000 people a year watch movies on his screens — and his goal is to take the model to Brazil, India, China and other countries.

So as we follow the presidential campaign, let’s not forget that the winner isn’t the only one who will shape the world. Only one person can become president of the United States, but there’s no limit to the number of social entrepreneurs who can make this planet a better place.

You are invited to comment on this column at Mr. Kristof’s blog,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Regional STEM Education Center (Partners & Collaborators)


(WILLIAM ARCHIE/Detroit Free Press)

Vincent Seefried, 15, rides through the Macomb Academy of Arts and Sciences in Armada as part of a physics lesson. Watching are Nicole Ewert, 14, in green top; Ashten Lindeman, 14; Kaitlyn Bushbaker, 15, and Christine Chorney, 14. All are from Armada. The girl at far left isn't identified.


Grants let regional math and science center expand kids' opportunities

January 23, 2008



A regional math and science center open to students from Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and St. Clair counties who pass an entrance exam is getting the money it needs to expand its programs.

More than $600,000 will flow into the Macomb Academy of Arts and Sciences in the village of Armada from public and private sources, giving it equipment and access to technology rivaled by few high schools in the country -- and the space to add scores of students.

"Those grants give everybody so many opportunities to lead them into their future goals," said Jill Szydloski, an 18-year-old senior from Armada Township. She has taken part in a Motorola marketing project funded by a grant from the electronics giant.

"It was about business and marketing. I'm going to be attending U of M, and I want to go into marketing because of that program," she said.

The largest grant headed to the school is a 5-year, $500,000 award from the U.S. Department of Education intended to create opportunities for students in failing districts to take part in the program. The grant will enable the academy to expand by 120 students, from its current enrollment of 178, said Superintendent Arnold Kummerow.

The grant also helps with additional equipment, Kummerow said.

The school could benefit from an additional $30,000 federal grant awarded to the Michigan Educational Alliance -- a partnership of Armada and Utica schools, Michigan State University, and the Chong Qing Municipal Education Commission in China.

The alliance is considering using the grant as seed money for possible K-12 programs, including a one-week international studies program, international internships in Chinese businesses, international camps for students from both countries, virtual language tours for students and student and teacher exchanges.

Those programs are likely to be available to the academy's students.

The district also has two grants, totaling $90,000, from the Convergence Education Foundation. The larger of the grants provides equipment for motion analysis for physics, biomechanics and research. The school has five such systems for student research.

"We're the only high school in the country that now has this equipment, and we're third" in amount of equipment "to the United States Olympic Committee and the University of Minnesota," principal Elsie Ritzenhein said.

The school also benefits from a partnership with Motorola, which sends it market and product research assignments aimed at the teenage market.

Only five other high schools in the country have such partnerships.

"Armada has found just untold success in the opportunities we're offering our students and area students in the areas of math and science," Kummerow said.

Contact PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI at 586-469-4681 or

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

ALERT: Position Practicum!

Students 2.0

21st Century Education: Thinking Creatively

Posted: 22 Jan 2008 01:15 AM CST

This was originally written for publication for my school’s newsletter’s edition on “21st century learning”. I present it to you here not as an attempt to present any new ideas, but in the hope that it might help to pull together many of the ideas that are floating around in online education discussions. Those familiar with Dan Pink might see some of his influence here. Enjoy.

Twenty-first century education won’t be defined by any new technology. It won’t be defined by 1:1 laptop programs or tech-intensive projects.

Twenty-first century education will, however, be defined by a fundamental shift in what we are teaching—a shift towards learner-centered education and creating creative thinkers.

Today’s world is no longer content with students who can simply apply the knowledge they learned in school: our generation will be asked to think and operate in ways that traditional education has not, and can not, prepare us for.

Education has long tried to produce students who can think (and at times, think critically) and it has, for the most part, succeeded. As we move into a world where outsourcing, automation, and the ability to produce a product, physical or intellectual, at the cheapest cost, become the cornerstones of our rapidly evolving global economy, the ability to think critically is no longer enough.

The need to know the capital of Florida died when my phone learned the answer.

Rather, the students of tomorrow need to be able to think creatively: they will need to learn on their own, adapt to new challenges and innovate on-the-fly. As the realm of intellectual accessibility expands at amazing rates (due to greater global collaboration and access to information), students of tomorrow will need to be their own guides as they explore the body of information that is at their fingertips.

My generation will be required to learn information quickly, use that information to solve new and novel problems, and then present those solutions in creative and effective ways. The effective students of tomorrow’s world will be independent learners, strong problem solvers and effective designers.

If we accept the above to be true, I would argue that there are two types of education that will prepare students for the world of tomorrow: experiential learning and project-based learning.

Physics Lab

Experiential learning can be best seen in extracurriculars and in some schools, senior projects. These experiences give students the opportunity to face first-hand the challenges that arise when applying the theoretical knowledge provided by traditional classroom learning to real-world challenges. Light designing for MICDS Theatre has taught me how to take my technical knowledge of lighting and apply it to a creative and artistic end. As issues arise, I must problem-solve within the constraints provided by my technical knowledge and my creative vision—I must think creatively.

Project-based learning is the in-class complement of experiential learning. The concept behind project-based learning is simple: give students the basic tools, then ask them to go above and beyond on their own projects, exploring the information in their own way, and on their own terms. The effect can be awe-inspiring. Our students are diving deeper into subject matter than ever before, and doing so on their own terms in ways that they enjoy. Whether it is through producing a movie on burlesque dance or deriving Kepler’s laws using calculus, students are not only learning, but they are learning how to learn.

Traditional-rote learning has its place too, as a jumping-off point for our intellectual endeavors.

We are, however, crippling our students if we don’t give them the tools necessary to be life-long learners.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Another Year ANOTHER Global Trade Mission PROJECT!

Automation Alley seeks sponsors for virtual global trade mission for students

Posted on 1/3/2008 8:08:57 PM

Automation Alley, the Troy-based technology business promotion group for Southeast Michigan, said this week it has partnered with the Macomb Intermediate School District, Oakland Community College and Oakland Schools to host its upcoming virtual, student-based Global Trade Mission and is currently seeking sponsors and volunteers.

Automation Alley’s GTM is a business simulation that prepares Southeast Michigan high school students for work in the global economy. With collaboration from business, education, and government, the GTM stands as a regional response to the challenges of the new global economy.

More than 200 students from Genesee, Macomb, and Oakland counties will learn skills for global citizenship; develop business solutions to trade challenges using the tools and information of the global marketplace; work hand-in-hand with business and trade experts; explore emerging careers in the region; and develop team skills to work effectively across diverse backgrounds.

“Offering high school students the opportunity to learn about international business at an early age is key to building our future knowledge-based economy,” said Ken Rogers, Automation Alley executive director. “As the world becomes increasingly flat and our economy diversifies, it is our hope that students explore new career opportunities.”

The GTM this year will be held at the Macomb Educational Service Center in Clinton Township from April 3-5 and Oakland Community College on Feb. 28, 29 and March 1.

Volunteer opportunities include being a cultural ambassador and educating the students on your home country; a cultural or business coach; helping students with their business plans; or a presentation evaluator. Available sponsorships include a Career and College Fair Sponsor at $5,000; a Global Trade Sponsor at $3,500; an Internship Sponsor at $2,500 and a Challenge Sponsor at $1,500. Other sponsorships are welcome.

If you are interested in participating or would like additional information, visit or call (800) 427-5100.

HOW! HARK: A Crack in the Ivory Tower!

« Getting Started With Blogging in the Classroom | Main | A model for permeable classrooms »


An essential concept in the study of biology is that of permeability. As a former biology teacher, it was my experience that students often struggled with this concept and what impermeable, permeable, and semi-permeable meant and how it applied to things such as diffusion and osmosis (you remember those, right?).

Permeability can be applied to other concepts besides biology. Specifically, the concept of permeability can apply to learning communities, and how open and closed they are to their members, and potential members. In a typical high school, learning communities are fragmented and isolated, if they even exist at all. It’s unlikely that any of us would label a typical high school classroom, with its characteristic five rows of six desks, limited access to information and conversation, a learning community. Very little interaction exists within the classroom, and interaction from sources outside the four walls of the classroom is generally non-existent-the classroom walls, in effect, are impermeable.

That certainly can be changed, and the tools (blogs, wikis, social networking, RSS, etc.) we have now at our disposal make it doable and achievable, but many things have to fall into place. Teachers have to be willing, the technology must be available, administrators must understand the need, and the school’s climate and culture, which is greatly influenced by the community that the school serves, must be supportive.

So, as a result, the formation of learning communities in schools depends greatly on the school itself. What is a solution, or a plan, in one school may not be a solution, or a plan, in another. Additionally, even within a school, there may be different needs-some teachers may be ready, others may be not so ready, so that a plan for building learning communities needs to be flexible and scaleable, and provide the necessary infrastructure to meet the varying needs of the different constituents of the school. One size does not fit all...

There is no right or wrong answer to building learning communities, but I do think there is a basic flow.

If the end goal is to help students and classrooms build learning communities with individuals and other schools or classrooms, and make the classroom permeable, you have to start with the teachers. Teachers have to learn the tools, learn how to connect and contribute (typically through a blog), learn how to manage time and feeds, learn how to adjust the membership of their learning community, and learn how to accept being criticized when their ideas oppose those of others. Teachers need to see firsthand the benefits of a learning community, and what it means to their personal learning, before it can ever translate successfully to students. To get learning communities to develop and stick, start with teachers first.

From there, I’m interested in building skills in students that will make them successful when they ultimately join wide-open learning communities. I’m teaching them how to read blog posts, how to collaboratively create content in wikis, how to comment appropriately, how to manage RSS feeds, and how to manage content resources with social bookmarking tools. I'm teaching them how to operate in a community. And I’m teaching them all about safety.

Is this a necessary step? Ask yourself-yes or no? If no, stop reading this post. If your answer was yes, then what’s the best way to do that?

What’s the best way to do that on a large scale, and in a systemic way? Where you can impact the most teachers and the most kids, in the most effective and safe way? I’m not talking just blogging now, I’m talking about building learning communities, which is what I’m interested in. Blogging OK, I get it. But that’s just a part of a larger goal.

You can do all of that in a number of ways. You can do it by asking teachers to manage multiple online tools that all work differently and require different management requirements. Or you can do it with a content management system where all of this is under one roof. And before some of you go CMS on me, you could also do it with Ning, couldn't you?

So, what's the plan? Expose the most teachers and kids to these capabilities, teach them in a controlled environment, where teachers and students, mostly new to the process of working in a learning community, can make their mistakes without too high of a cost? Or maybe the plan is to stay "true to the process" and put the kids out there, really out there, but certainly prepare them prior with what they need to know.

I’ll take Door #1 Bob, the semi-permeable classroom, where true community is first established within the classroom. That’s just me. It might not be you.

I think a classroom must be semi-permeable before it can become a permeable classroom.

Creating a truly permeable classroom is a major change in how classrooms work. It is a big departure from where most classrooms are now. You just don’t change that overnight with a few commonly available tools, and just by blogging. It’ll require a great deal of professional support and curriculum design, with a great deal of reflection and course-correction. I’ll approach that carefully. The stakes are too high not to.

And when the time comes, I’d turn them loose. When the specific curricular needs suggest a permeable experience is warranted, I’d turn them loose. When the teacher says, we need to connect outside of our classroom because of this and this, I’d turn them loose. When the teacher says I’m ready and so are my kids, I’d turn them loose.

But I’m crawling before I’m walking.

images from


I've been seriously groping with this issue on my campus lately David. As the tech. specialist for my school I've really taken the tact of keying in on 2 to 3 individual teachers and working with them solely to build their knowledge and comfortability with working with these tools.

From my experience is this, it's not so much the teachers who have been unwilling to change their teaching practices, it's the administrations unwillingness to change from antiquated learning practices. Which to continue with your permeability references, the learning is quite non-opaque

Permeability (even semi-permeability) is more easily said than done. Most teachers (heck, myself too) find it much easier to stay in the rut, in the comfort area, in the "I am in control" area and have to fight daily (even by the minute) with getting past all those barriers that truly allow one (and one's class)to able to be permeable.

It is very hard to take risks -- and most schools are not as fortunate as the school that you work at, that Tom works at, and that I work at that have the capable teacher support that assists, guides, and equips them to feel safe with being permeable. Hopefully, that will continue to change as more educators demand "tech support"!

It is always the baby steps and not the giant leaps forward that get most of us to where we are going. I see evidence DAILY of teachers being willing to open their minds to new ideas, to trying things they have never done before, to becoming "permeable" (if you will).....but it is very hard thing to do. I am just glad that I am there to assist them as they learn to not only be permeable but to also be pliable.

Good post. Lots to think about!

I have been giving this a lot of thought lately. In fact enough thought that I am looking seriously at moving back into the classroom. I think what I need is to prove to myself that I can make it work. Then as a school we can move forward. Then as a district and so forth.

I also think we need more great examples of this working. We need more who are making it work to let their stories into the wild. More like Brian Crosby and Clarence Fisher and others. Then we need to point these examples out to others.

Tom: I think that working with a small group of teachers first is generally a good idea. See what works, what doesn't and build momentum towards the inclusion of more teachers. And I would agree with you on the admin part; how many use these tools and understand their implications for classroom learning? I know of several districts where the administrators do use Web 2.0 tools, and it makes for a completely different set of expectations for teachers. That's a good thing, because the support and the infrastructure to support permeable classrooms is likely to be more available.

Jen: there certainly are many barriers to developing permeable classrooms, and risk -taking is one of them. One of the success stories in my school district has been using a CMS to reduce both the barriers and the risk-taking. We've been successful in helping teachers take those small steps, and over time, this can indeed result in significant change. Unfortunately, while I do agree with you that there are teachers out there who recognize the need for a different type of classroom, and a different type of learning, pressure from high-stakes testing and the enormous pressure of AYP pushes schools is just the opposite direction. I don't think that these are necessarily mutually-exclusive, but in many instances, schools (read administration here)seem to be moving backwards to try and meet these goals.

Kelly: I've given that more than one thought myself. When I left the classroom, none of this was available. Part of me would like to see what I could accomplish with my own students. I do get to work with students on a daily basis, but it's different.

And I agree, the stuff Clarence Fisher and Barbara Barreda, along with Darren Kuropatwa, will help us all understand how to create a different type of classroom.

Thanks for your comments.

Tom: I think that working with a small group of teachers first is generally a good idea. See what works, what doesn't and build momentum towards the inclusion of more teachers. And I would agree with you on the admin part; how many use these tools and understand their implications for classroom learning? I know of several districts where the administrators do use Web 2.0 tools, and it makes for a completely different set of expectations for teachers. That's a good thing, because the support and the infrastructure to support permeable classrooms is likely to be more available.

Jen: there certainly are many barriers to developing permeable classrooms, and risk -taking is one of them. One of the success stories in my school district has been using a CMS to reduce both the barriers and the risk-taking. We've been successful in helping teachers take those small steps, and over time, this can indeed result in significant change. Unfortunately, while I do agree with you that there are teachers out there who recognize the need for a different type of classroom, and a different type of learning, pressure from high-stakes testing and the enormous pressure of AYP pushes schools in just the opposite direction. I don't think that these are necessarily mutually-exclusive, but in many instances, schools (read administration here)seem to be moving backwards to try and meet these goals.

Kelly: I've given that more than one thought myself. When I left the classroom, none of this was available. Part of me would like to see what I could accomplish with my own students. I do get to work with students on a daily basis, but it's different.

And I agree, the stuff Clarence Fisher and Barbara Barreda, along with Darren Kuropatwa, will help us all understand how to create a different type of classroom.

Thanks for your comments.

A directory of exemplar examples of teachers using emerging technologies at different grade levels and within different content areas would be a great asset for all of us working with teachers. How do we collaborate to create such a directory as a dynamic document? Or does one exist already?

Lucie: I'm not aware of any such list, although it would certainly be helpful. A wiki would be the easiest way to do that, in my opinion.

I would point you to the following blogs of educators who, in my opinion, offer best practice classroom techniques, from several perspectives:

Clarence Fisher

Barbara Barreda

Darren Kuropatwa

Konrad Glogowski

I would also suggest getting a Twitter account if you do not have one, and follow some of the educators there. There are lots of good ideas there, and it is a logical place to connect with others who share the same passions.


Is this the sound of the ole impremeable "ivory tower" cracking?

Take note the students are well on their way over at Students 2.0

I'm sure they would be glad to lend a hand and minds to this effort.

Come on in the waters fine.

Much continued success here.



Thursday, January 3, 2008



Empower teachers, principals

A smarter idea gets left behind in NCLB act

January 3, 2008


A recent state report, that nearly 50% of Michigan high schools failed to meet important goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law, is nothing new. It's the message we've heard for 40 years: Schools are bad and getting worse.

Not surprisingly, the peons of the system -- school principals and teachers -- are offered up as sacrifices by NCLB, in collusion with powerful special interests who control the purse strings and rules of this 19th Century education system we keep trying to whip into shape for a 21st Century world.

Crack! "Teach those kids!"

"If you don't, we'll give them to other schools, leaving you fewer resources to do your job. We expect things to become so hopeless you'll need to have your school reorganized. You'll be out of work!"

Crack! "Have we got your attention, yet?"

This all-stick-no-carrot approach perpetuates a top-down system where power is held by people who have no accountability for the work to be done. The accountability rests on people who have the least control over the situation.

This is crazy.

So, is NCLB a bad law? Yes and no.

The law has a good heart. But that's about all.

At its heart is the idea that all children can succeed in school, no matter their sex, color, family finances, parents' education, home language or any other factor. Beyond that, the law has problems.

For example, it lets states set their own goals for achievement. They understandably set them as low as feasible. Coincidentally, Michigan, desperately deep in recession, decided it could teach its way back to financial health by raising high school standards to unrealistic college entrance levels -- "all students can learn" on steroids.

Producing college-ready students starts in the home for most, and progresses step-by-step through the grades. It takes time. Kids from families unlucky enough to fall below the middle class require special efforts -- preschool, early intervention, and so on. If they missed those benefits, more is needed: special alternative schools and programs. That's a tall order for a state that can barely put a budget together.

The education power brokers -- politicians, state and district bureaucrats, experts in universities and think tanks, teachers unions -- impoverished of ideas, are little help to impoverished students. Commands from on high have not worked. They will not work.

The best the powers-that-be can do is empower the peons to do the job, and get out of the way. Give individual schools the autonomy they need to accomplish their mission as they see fit.

The bureaucracy should give schools decision-making authority, as well as control over most of the resources to implement those decisions. Individual schools need to control at least 95% of the money their students bring into a district.

This idea is hugely threatening to current power brokers. Further, making this transition to a leaner, meaner, more agile system will be very disruptive. At first, schools will flounder, some more than others. It's a price that has to be paid.

Take heart. There are reasons to believe the transition can succeed.

Let me tell you about Lula and Lois.

Grandma Lula taught more than 40 years in country schools in west Michigan. She loved her students, respected their parents, kept a laser-like focus on student achievement. She was a force to be reckoned with, known and loved (or at least respected) throughout the county.

A generation later, Lois, my late mother-in-law, another no-nonsense teacher, had a similar approach to her work with second graders in city schools. Other teachers loved to receive students from her classroom -- they could all read! Students, long gone from her class, kept in touch, as did their parents.

Most of the teachers I've known over 40 years of working in schools are good, honest, responsible people like Lula and Lois, doing their very best to help students. They are beaten down by the bureaucracy, disrespected by the press and much of the public, captives to a system that offers little more than a paycheck as a reason to keep up the good fight.

Many Michigan teachers are ready to take on managing their own schools for the benefit of their students. They need the "daddy-may-I" power brokers to become "sister-can-I-help" coprofessionals. They need a system in which parents have more choices for schooling their children, so that a better match can be found between a school's mission and a family's needs. They need an assessment system that enlightens the task ahead. Something more than ...

Crack! "Do better, or else!"

BARRY McGHAN, 68, of Fenton worked for the Flint Schools for 33 years, 20 as a teacher and 13 in a variety of nonteaching curriculum specialist positions. He retired in 1995 and founded the Center for Public School Renewal ( ). Write to him in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48226 or at

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Go Figure!

The New York Times

December 30, 2007
Bright Ideas

Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike

IT’S a pickle of a paradox: As our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off. Why? Because the walls of the proverbial box in which we think are thickening along with our experience.

Andrew S. Grove, the co-founder of Intel, put it well in 2005 when he told an interviewer from Fortune, “When everybody knows that something is so, it means that nobody knows nothin’.” In other words, it becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know and think outside the box you’ve built around yourself.

This so-called curse of knowledge, a phrase used in a 1989 paper in The Journal of Political Economy, means that once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do. Your conversations with others in the field are peppered with catch phrases and jargon that are foreign to the uninitiated. When it’s time to accomplish a task — open a store, build a house, buy new cash registers, sell insurance — those in the know get it done the way it has always been done, stifling innovation as they barrel along the well-worn path.

Elizabeth Newton, a psychologist, conducted an experiment on the curse of knowledge while working on her doctorate at Stanford in 1990. She gave one set of people, called “tappers,” a list of commonly known songs from which to choose. Their task was to rap their knuckles on a tabletop to the rhythm of the chosen tune as they thought about it in their heads. A second set of people, called “listeners,” were asked to name the songs.

Before the experiment began, the tappers were asked how often they believed that the listeners would name the songs correctly. On average, tappers expected listeners to get it right about half the time. In the end, however, listeners guessed only 3 of 120 songs tapped out, or 2.5 percent.

The tappers were astounded. The song was so clear in their minds; how could the listeners not “hear” it in their taps?

That’s a common reaction when experts set out to share their ideas in the business world, too, says Chip Heath, who with his brother, Dan, was a co-author of the 2007 book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.” It’s why engineers design products ultimately useful only to other engineers. It’s why managers have trouble convincing the rank and file to adopt new processes. And it’s why the advertising world struggles to convey commercial messages to consumers.

“I HAVE a DVD remote control with 52 buttons on it, and every one of them is there because some engineer along the line knew how to use that button and believed I would want to use it, too,” Mr. Heath says. “People who design products are experts cursed by their knowledge, and they can’t imagine what it’s like to be as ignorant as the rest of us.”

But there are proven ways to exorcise the curse.

In their book, the Heath brothers outline six “hooks” that they say are guaranteed to communicate a new idea clearly by transforming it into what they call a Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story. Each of the letters in the resulting acronym, Succes, refers to a different hook. (“S,” for example, suggests simplifying the message.) Although the hooks of “Made to Stick” focus on the art of communication, there are ways to fashion them around fostering innovation.

To innovate, Mr. Heath says, you have to bring together people with a variety of skills. If those people can’t communicate clearly with one another, innovation gets bogged down in the abstract language of specialization and expertise. “It’s kind of like the ugly American tourist trying to get across an idea in another country by speaking English slowly and more loudly,” he says. “You’ve got to find the common connections.”

In her 2006 book, “Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine — and What Smart Companies Are Doing About It,” Cynthia Barton Rabe proposes bringing in outsiders whom she calls zero-gravity thinkers to keep creativity and innovation on track.

When experts have to slow down and go back to basics to bring an outsider up to speed, she says, “it forces them to look at their world differently and, as a result, they come up with new solutions to old problems.”

She cites as an example the work of a colleague at Ralston Purina who moved to Eveready in the mid-1980s when Ralston bought that company. At the time, Eveready had become a household name because of its sales since the 1950s of inexpensive red plastic and metal flashlights. But by the mid-1980s, the flashlight business, which had been aimed solely at men shopping at hardware stores, was foundering.

While Ms. Rabe’s colleague had no experience with flashlights, she did have plenty of experience in consumer packaging and marketing from her years at Ralston Purina. She proceeded to revamp the flashlight product line to include colors like pink, baby blue and light green — colors that would appeal to women — and began distributing them through grocery store chains.

“It was not incredibly popular as a decision amongst the old guard at Eveready,” Ms. Rabe says. But after the changes, she says, “the flashlight business took off and was wildly successful for many years after that.”

MS. RABE herself experienced similar problems while working as a transient “zero-gravity thinker” at Intel.

“I would ask my very, very basic questions,” she said, noting that it frustrated some of the people who didn’t know her. Once they got past that point, however, “it always turned out that we could come up with some terrific ideas,” she said.

While Ms. Rabe usually worked inside the companies she discussed in her book, she said outside consultants could also serve the zero-gravity role, but only if their expertise was not identical to that of the group already working on the project.

“Look for people with renaissance-thinker tendencies, who’ve done work in a related area but not in your specific field,” she says. “Make it possible for someone who doesn’t report directly to that area to come in and say the emperor has no clothes.”

Janet Rae-Dupree writes about science and emerging technology in Silicon Valley.

One Laptop Program attempts to LEAVE NO GLOBAL CHILD BEHIND!

In Peru, a Pint-Size Ticket to Learning

Officials Hope 270,000 Laptops for Poor Youngsters Improve Education System

By Frank Bajak
Associated Press
Sunday, December 30, 2007; A18

ARAHUAY, Peru -- Doubts about whether poor, rural children really can benefit from quirky little computers evaporate as quickly as the morning dew in this hilltop Andean village, where 50 primary school children got machines from the One Laptop Per Child project six months ago.

These offspring of peasant families whose monthly earnings rarely exceed the cost of one of the $188 laptops -- people who can ill afford pencil and paper much less books -- can't get enough of their XO devices.

At breakfast, they're already powering up the combination library/videocamera/audio recorder/musicmaker/drawing kits. At night, they're dozing off in front of them -- if they've managed to keep older siblings from waylaying the coveted machines.

"It's really the kind of conditions that we designed for," Walter Bender, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff, said of this agrarian backwater up a precarious dirt road.

Founded in 2005 by former MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte, the One Laptop program has retreated from early boasts that developing-world governments would snap up millions of the pint-size machines at $100 each.

In a backhanded tribute, One Laptop now faces homegrown competitors everywhere from Brazil to India -- and a full-court press from Intel's more power-hungry Classmate.

But no competitor approaches the XO in innovation. It is hard drive-free, runs on the Linux operating system and stretches wireless networks with "mesh" technology that lets each computer in a village relay data to the others.

Mass production began last month and Negroponte, brother of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, said he expects at least 1.5 million machines to be sold by next November. Even that would be far less than Negroponte originally envisioned. The price, higher than initially advertised, and the non-Windows operating system that is still being tested for the XO have dissuaded many potential government buyers.

Peru placed the single biggest order to date -- more than 272,000 machines -- in its quest to turn around a primary education system that the World Economic Forum recently ranked last among 131 countries surveyed. Uruguay was the No. 2 buyers of the laptops, inking a contract for 100,000.

Negroponte said 150,000 more laptops will be shipped to such countries as Rwanda, Mongolia, Haiti and Afghanistan in early 2008 through "Give One, Get One," a U.S.-based promotion ending Dec. 31 in which participants buy a pair of laptops for $399 and donate one or both.

The children of Arahuay prove One Laptop's transformative conceit: that you can revolutionize education and democratize the Internet by giving a simple, durable, power-stingy but feature-packed laptop to the world's poorest kids.

"Some tell me that they don't want to be like their parents, working in the fields," first-grade teacher Erica Velasco said of her pupils. She had just sent them to the Internet to seek out photos of invertebrates -- animals without backbones.

Antony, 12, wants to become an accountant.

Alex, 7, aspires to be a lawyer.

Kevin, 11, wants to play trumpet.

Saida, 10, is already a promising videographer, judging from her artful recording of the town's recent Fiesta de la Virgen.

"What they work with most is the [built-in] camera. They love to record," said Maria Antonieta Mendoza, an Education Ministry psychologist studying the Arahuay pilot project to devise strategies for the big rollout when the new school year begins in March.

Before the laptops, the only cameras the kids at Santiago Apostol school saw in this hamlet of 800 people arrived with tourists who visit for festivals or to see local Inca ruins.

Arahuay's lone industry is agriculture. Surrounding fields yield avocados, mangoes, potatoes, corn, alfalfa and cherimoya.

Many adults share only weekends with their children, spending the workweek in fields many hours' walk from town and relying on charities to help keep their families nourished.

When they finish school, young people tend to abandon the village.

Peru's head of educational technology, Oscar Becerra, is betting the One Laptop program can reverse this rural exodus to the squalor of Lima's shantytowns four hours away.

It's the best answer yet to "a global crisis of education" in which curriculums have no relevance, he said. "If we make education pertinent, something the student enjoys, then it won't matter if the classroom's walls are straw or the students are sitting on fruit boxes."

Indeed, Arahuay's elementary school population rose by 10 when families learned the laptop pilot was coming, said Guillermo Lazo, the school's director.

The XOs that Peru is buying will be distributed to pupils in 9,000 elementary schools from the Pacific to the Amazon basin where a single teacher serves all grades, Becerra said.

Although Peru boasts thousands of rural satellite downlinks that provide Internet access, only about 4,000 of the schools getting XOs will be connected, Becerra said.

Negroponte says One Laptop is committed to helping Peru overcome that hurdle. Without Internet access, he said, the program is incomplete.

Teachers will get 2 1/2 days of training on the laptops, Becerra said. Each machine will initially be loaded with about 100 copyright-free books. Where applicable, texts in native languages will be included, he added. The machines will also have a chat function that will let youngsters make faraway friends over the Internet.

Critics of the rollout have two key concerns.

The first is the ability of teachers -- poorly trained and equipped to begin with -- to cope with profoundly disruptive technology.

Eduardo Villanueva, a communications professor at Lima's Catholic University, fears "a general disruption of the educational system that will manifest itself in the students overwhelming the teachers."

To counter that fear, Becerra said, the government is offering $150 grants to qualifying teachers toward the purchase of conventional laptops, for which it is also arranging low-interest loans.

The second big concern is maintenance.

For every 100 units it will distribute to students, Peru is buying one extra for parts. But there is no technical support program. Students and teachers will have to do it.

"What you want is for the kids to do the repairs," said Negroponte, who believes such tinkering is itself a valuable lesson. "I think the kids can repair 95 percent of the laptops."

Tech support is nevertheless a serious issue in many countries, Negroponte acknowledged in a telephone interview.

One Laptop is bidding on a contract with Brazil's government that Negroponte says demanded unrealistically onerous support requirements.

The XO machines are water-resistant, rugged and designed to last five years. They have no fan, so they won't suck up dust; are built to withstand drops from five feet; and can absorb power spikes typical of places with irregular electricity.

Mendoza, the psychologist, is overjoyed that the program stipulates that youngsters get ownership of the laptops.

Take Kevin, the aspiring trumpet player.

Sitting in his dirt-floor kitchen as his mother cooks lunch, he draws a soccer field on his XO, then erases it. Kevin plays a song by Caliente, his favorite band, that he recorded off Arahuay's single television channel. He shows off photos he took of himself with his 3-year-old brother.

A bare light bulb hangs by a wire from the ceiling. A hen bobs around the floor. There are no books in this two-room house. Kevin's parents didn't get past sixth grade.

Indeed, the laptop project also has adults in its sights.

Parents in Arahuay are asking Mendoza, the visiting psychologist, what the Internet can do for them.

Among them is Charito Arrendondo, 39, who sheds brief tears of joy when a reporter asks what the laptop belonging to ruddy-cheeked Miluska -- the youngest of her six children -- has meant to her. Miluska's father, it turns out, abandoned the family when she was 1.

"We never imagined having a computer," said Arrendondo, a cook.

Is she afraid to use the laptop, as is typical of many Arahuay parents, about half of whom are illiterate?

"No, I like it. Sometimes when I'm alone and the kids are not around, I turn it on and poke around."

Arrendondo likes to play checkers on the laptop.

"It's also got chess, which I sort of know," she said, pausing briefly.

"I'm going to learn."