To learn is to be free

Meet Shameem Akhtar, who posed as a boy during her early childhood in Pakistan so she could enjoy the privileges Pakistani girls are rarely afforded: to play outside and attend school.

In this heart-warming, personal talk, Shameem recounts how the opportunity to get an education altered the course of her life – and ultimately changed the culture of her village, where today every young girl goes to school.

The nature of innovation

creativity.jpgAuthors of a recently published book, The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the WorldProfessors Anthony Brandt of Rice University of Texas and David Eagleman of Stanford University say that we keep begging as a society for more innovators, but we seem to be moving in the wrong direction in training them.

According to them, we are the only species which does things which are creative, and this is what differentiates the human brain from other species’ in this massive way. The human brain takes an input, mashes it up and puts out new versions. The point is: how can we shape the educational system so that we can make the most of this capacity in young people, largely untapped so far? Continue reading

Should good leaders still be learning?

followership.pngHow does experience influence the fact of being a good leader? And what role can education play in forming a good leader?

These seem pretty obvious questions, because of course both experience and education go hand in hand to create a good leader. The true question is, however: is it all about it? Is it enough to pair good education to a significant experience to automatically have a good leader? The answer is not as straight as it ought to be. Continue reading

Why we are distracted and won’t admit it

distractions-700x420Any of us reading these lines in this very moment would reply with a clear-cut “yes” if I asked: “would you define yourself as a multitasking person?”. Instead, if I asked “are you usually distracted when pursuing a really important and complex task?”, the “yes” would be certainly less convinced.

We commonly persuade others and ourselves that we are able to manage many tasks at the same time, limiting distractions as much as possible. However, a study from the neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and the psychologist Larry D. Rosen, published in the book The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World (MIT, 2016), show that our brain is not structured to deal with many tasks simultaneously. Continue reading

To raise brave girls, encourage adventure

We are raising our girls to be timid, even helpless, and it begins when we caution them against physical risk. The fear we learn and the experiences we don’t stay with us as we become women and morphs into all those things that we face and try to shed: our hesitation in speaking out, our deference so that we can be liked and our lack of confidence in our own decisions.

Caroline Paul, the video, in the aftermath of the International Women’s Day:

People with autism in the Israeli intelligence: the case of Unit 9900

Unit 9900 of the IDF, the Israel Defence Force, is the section dedicated to visual intelligence. The satellite captures images that should be analysed to determine risks and suspicious movements in a certain area.

It has been a few years since Unit 9900 recruited young men and women with autism. This job requires extraordinary – and uncommon – capacities for visual thinking and attention to detail, both of which lend themselves well to the highly specialised task of aerial analysis. According to a study from the University of Cambridge, those skills often come with autism. Continue reading

Setting a broad ground to a sustainable economic growth: a perspective glance by President Obama

dnews-files-2015-11-miracle-plant-670-jpg.jpgThe hope for a new future must be of an economic growth that is not only sustainable, but shared.

These are the final words to the article by the President of the US Barack Obama for The Economist. It is a message that shows progress and sets a way to development, that is about growth and points to the direction.

Speaking of the US he recalls many topics, valid for Italy and Europe as well: unemployment, inequalities, sustainability, access to education. These are factors that, intertwined, create a big picture that requires a detailed and multifaceted intervention that works as a domino effect to achieve the target of an inclusive, and sustainable, growth. Continue reading

Good teachers, good school

education-reform.jpgA good school is essentially made of two things: good students and good teachers. An American study cited on the Economist shows how a good teacher impacts the results students achieve much more than you might think. According to the study, in a single year’s teaching the top 10% of teachers impart three times as much learning to their pupils as the worst 10% do. Another suggests that, if black pupils were taught by the best quarter of teachers, the gap between their achievement and that of white pupils would disappear. Continue reading

Putting in someone else’s shoes: new worlds and other perspectives

7.jpgWhy should a professor decide to become an undergraduate once again? This is what Mike Cross, a chemistry teacher at Northern Essex Community College, in Massachusetts, did.

35-years-old, married with three kids, professor Cross decided to enroll in an associate degree in liberal arts to get a better feel for how his students juggle classwork, kids, and jobs. What happened next was a constant discover that he told about in an interview to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Going under cover, Cross lived a full year as a “real” student until graduation, finding out things he could have never known sitting on the other side of the desk. First, Cross had to face the difficulties of pursuing a degree while having a full-time job and a family. Therefore, if his kids needed help with homework, he had to postpone his to help them. This made him understand that often his students could not be on time with deadlines not because they are lazy, but because they might have important personal needs and they have to prioritise. In other cases, Cross had to spend time in classes sitting in uncomfortable chairs, which eventually diverted his attention from the lecture.

This experience, which is of course extreme, tells us about a common problem not just among professors, but even among entrepreneurs and in other more general situations. The main problem concerns the ability to put into the shoes of those who are before us for several reasons, whether students or clients.

How able of doing this are we? How can we really stay in someone else’s shoes and become so empathetic that we understand the others’ issues and work to get them better off?

The capacity of being so empathetic is only partially innate. The rest is shaped by circumstances and by an environment that facilitates such a synergy. In LUISS we have created evolving spaces that serve precisely that purpose.

But this is still not enough. A good environment is only a piece of the cake. The rest is made of a change in attitude and in mentality; of the capacity to get out of our garden and explore some new ones. We need to leave, at least temporarily, our role to take up another, understanding what others think and try to make their perspective ours.

It is hard work, but in the long-run this one of the few chances we have to survive to the overwhelming change already going.

We need to learn how to stare at the skyline and understand that beyond there is the other half of the world. This vision should guide our youth and call them to create “their” 4.0, as a personal and shared heritage. This vision is already the future.

The challenge of connected learning

Schermata 2016-04-01 alle 11.32.01In our connected world, even learning shall become more connected. Education cannot stay behind progress and should instead follow innovation, be more integrated and accessible to most people.

More than 180,000 people actually live in Kakuma refugee camp north-west Kenya, over 800 km far from the capital Nairobi. As reported in an article published on Chronicle of Higher Education, students who live in refugee camps hardly make it to traditional university. For this reason, the University of Geneva established within the camp InZone, a learning hub in which students are tutored online with high-quality, but-low-cost, post-secondary education – the cost is 300$ a year per student and there are no extra living costs because students are living with their families. Continue reading