An Interview with Willow Dea: Steve Jobs’ Job is Not Done

Jan 2, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1) I understand that you are the editor of Igniting Brilliance: Integral Education in the 21st Century. What is this book or collection of essays all about?

Igniting Brilliance is all about providing educators, administrators and parents with a vision to enliven the quality and outcomes from any educational context – from pre-kindergarten to graduate school.

An integral approach to education takes both the subjective experiences of the student and teacher into account, along with the measurable academic performance outcomes. So one of our goals is to bring balance to the traditional and progressive educational practices currently in practice today, and evolve both of these camps toward a more integrative capacity – in both students and teachers.

The core of the book is a collection of “Teacher’s Greatest Hits,” short narratives written in first person perspective about the lessons, practices or methods that ‘hit it out of the park’ with students consistently. But the book as a whole is a snapshot of an emerging approach to education, with chapters on curriculum design, assessment, an overview of embodying with awareness, and a set of personal and professional practices to support the reader.

2) Steve Jobs recently died, but his work lives on, and his work will probably continue to live on. What would you say were his greatest contributions?

Steve Jobs propelled the insistent evolution of personal computers, phones, music and animation – often pushing his teams well beyond any comfort zone. In doing so, he evolved the global community’s daily experience of technology, establishing the concept of “friendly technology.” Many people have a significantly more positive relationship with the gadgets that support their lifestyle than they would have, had Jobs not insisted on streamlining and refining technology with such immovable dedication.

3) MANY teachers bemoan the fact that all this testing is destroying creativity and a love of learning. What can teachers, and then parents do to re-engage kids in learning?

Kids are amazing communicators. Most kids will tell directly what they like to do, what inspires them, or what they’re most curious about. Providing a whole context for them to engage their learning is a good starting point. By this I mean, if your son is interested in baseball, help him to connect to geometry as it relates to the design of the baseball field. Help him learn more about history through the filter of baseball, or science as a function of the way the field is grown, and maintained. Or the physics of throwing a curve ball. The possibilities are endless when we approach education through the contextual application of a student’s passion.

Find out what your students are doing in their spare time, and expand that topic to address a whole systems approach – pointing out their personal experience, the cultural implications, the environmental relationship and the measurable outcomes of such a hobby or interest. This will lead you into many more aspects of their inherent motivation, and enliven the conversation for them tremendously. You’d be amazed at what happens in a room, when each of their faces is lit up!

4) Let’s talk about “ Igniting Brilliance.” How can teachers implement this, particularly in an age of so many kids with special needs being included in the regular education classroom?

Let me be clear that what we mean by Brilliance is the quality of a room, when both the students and teacher are in a collective state of flow. Flow, as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

This sort of brilliance isn’t about any one person’s cognitive ability. The ability to ignite brilliance in a class requires a whole perspective and capacity for embodying a certain willingness to enter a stream of activity with the intent to include each student, address their various learning styles and engage with the real phenomena in the class whilst orchestrating the class in learning at an inspired level.

5) Mentoring: how important is it, who should be doing it, and when should they find time to do it?

Mentoring is extremely important for several reasons. Students can benefit from mentoring younger students in the skills they’ve mastered, particularly those who suffer from low self-esteem. My observation is that a well-crafted mentoring system has the power to empower large numbers of young people, while serving a large number of mentees.

As well, connecting middle school and high school students with professionals or trades people in the wider community for an independent learning project is invaluable. The capacity to engage in an area of interest, in an applied context is simply the best way to learn the most, for many. Providing these opportunities – even if for a week at a time – enables young people to discern what they want to do later in life.

6) There is MUCH that is right about education- but how do educators let parents and others know about the LARGE number of kids going to colleges, getting a good, well-rounded education and moving into positions of leadership, authority, and “ specialness?”

I’m not sure I understand your question here– ? Perhaps you’re asking about the way the young Millennials present challenges to conventional work practices? Or maybe you’re asking about how these young people will deal with the competition in the global economy as new graduates?

7) How would you characterize the thinking of Steve Jobs?

I would characterize Steve Jobs’ thinking as emergent, in that he was relentlessly inclusive in his approach to design – consulting artists, linguists, musicians and biologists to hone our human relationship with technology as a friendlier source of support.

He demonstrated several qualities and commitments:

· Self directed learning

· Aliveness: emergent edge

· Commitment to evolution

· Life long learning

· Commitment to aliveness

· Beginner’s mind – staying open

· Inclusive: connecting the dots

· Sophisticated simplicity

· Integrated end-to-end experience

Jobs enacted these commitments over the course of decades. We could see this as highly indicative of a mind that stayed connected to the present moment, in a creative practice of engaged curiosity.

8) We hear the words, “original,” “divergent,” “creative,” “elaborative” but how do they get implemented in the regular education classroom?

Originality and similar qualities that teachers may embody are ‘implemented’ in a classroom by the simple act of evoking them. By that I mean teachers can create the conditions for original thinking or creative activity by inviting students to exercise their imagination in any of a myriad of inquiries or assignments. One could facilitate a dialogue that engages students in a critique of a film, or to write steam of consciousness, to paint without lifting the brush, or to sing extemporaneously, just as an example.

Providing a safe emotional learning space, along with the physical materials to utilize, and a gentle developmental tug toward the unknown, one can call forth the elements of divergence or elaborative activity.

(Wouldn’t you agree?)

9) What have I neglected to ask?

Why should we care about integral education? What will it bring forward for the students and thus for the world?

An integral approach to education promises to equip students for the complexities of the 21st century with the internal agility and demonstrable performance skills such that the insufficiencies of the conventional approach are rendered in high contrast. Teachers enjoy guiding their students using an integral approach, as it tends to include their well being, balance and experiential quality of life. Everyone wins, and even more than that- the need for a higher order of presence and capacity in the world is met.

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