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Updated: 2016-12-02T16:16:03+09:00

 



2 Great Visual Storytelling Books for Children

2016-12-02T16:14:18+09:00

There is loads of evidence that reading to children at bedtime is not only good for their emotional well being, it also has long-term benefits for their cognitive development. We have a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy. Since they...There is loads of evidence that reading to children at bedtime is not only good for their emotional well being, it also has long-term benefits for their cognitive development. We have a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy. Since they were babies they have been exposed to books. Bedtime stories are one of the great joys of parenting and is a nightly ritual for us. As it is the Christmas season, I thought I would recommend two books here that do a great job of presenting their material in an engaging, visual way. The first is the classic The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. There are many editions of this classic tale, but based on the amazing and numerous reviews on Amazon, I purchased Robert Sabuda's The Night Before Christmas Pop-up last year in time for Christmas.The pop-up art is amazing and imaginative. I was not sure at first that I would want a pop-up book for story time, but the great thing about the 3-D aspect of it is that the kids are always touching the paper and playing with the tabs and strings as the story progresses. They use their imagination to believe now that the story is about them and their house. In the final two-page spread, for example, a snow-covered town pops up with Santa flying over the houses. My son will say something like "here is our house and this is our bed room window." My daughter would then comment "here's grandma's house and here's our school across the bridge." I read each page, but we spend more time on questions and adding to the narrative before I move on to the next spread. It's a well-made book, but you need to be a bit careful with it, especially with infants. Still, if you are just a little careful, the pop-ups should keep working long after the kids are grown. My 4-year-old son pulls tab to have Santa and his reindeer fly above the snow covered village. My 6-year-old daughter opens the page which reveals the eight reindeer and Santa scurrying down the chimney. The second recommendation is not a pop-up, but rather a series of visual books that come with an audio reader than the child can control. My wife had a business trip to New York City about a year ago and brought back The Disney Star Wars Me Reader. It was an instant hit.The box comes with eight short illustrated books and a durable plastic electronic reader. Of course, I can read the book as my children follow along, but they actually prefer that I hold the book for them as they press the buttons on the reader to go through the story page by page. The electronic reader is intuitive to figure out for the child. We got this Star Wars set over a year ago when my son was 3-years old and he knew how to navigate the analog menus after 1-2 minutes of playing around. The narrator's English is extremely clear and easy to understand and I believe this has helped with their English pronunciation. The kids don't just listen but repeat phrases from the book — "It's a trap!" As we live in Japan, I am about the only person they interact with in English, so tools like this were surprisingly useful. My son is the Star Wars nerd (as am I), so I think we'll get a different Me Reader for my daughter for Christmas such as the Frozen Me Reader. The Star Wars Radio Youtube channel has a preview of one of the books along with the audio for each book. This should give you a feel for what they are like. We've already gotten a lot of mileage of these books. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="261" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZrfeEarl4Wo?feature=oembed" width="468">  May The Force Be With You. [...]



New Book for Researchers, Scholars, & Technical Presenters

2016-11-22T14:22:04+09:00

There's a new book just out that focuses on improving the kind of presentations that scholars, researchers, and other technical specialists need to give. The book is Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks by data-visualization pro Jonathan...There's a new book just out that focuses on improving the kind of presentations that scholars, researchers, and other technical specialists need to give. The book is Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks by data-visualization pro Jonathan Schwabish. Jonathan is a Senior Research Associate in The Urban Institute’s Income and Benefits Policy Center and a member of the institute’s communication team where he specializes in data visualization and presentation design. Jonathan is an economist by training and an expert in data visualization. He’s a numbers guy with a special skill for helping others communicate their data in ways that engage and connect with an audience.Jonathan also created the PolicyViz website which features a popular podcast that covers a range of topics related to effective communication and the display of data visualizations. Recently, I was a guest on the PolicyViz podcast. You can hear that episode here on the PolicyViz website. "Presenting is fundamentally different from writing," says Jonathan. "[But] with only a little more time, a little more effort, and a little more planning, you can communicate your work with force and clarity." Better Presentations is a simple, well-written, visual book that is useful for students, teachers, and other academics, as well as for anyone who needs to give data-driven presentations. Check it out. Links • Follow Jonathan here onTwitter.• The PolicyViz website• Jonathan's book Better Presentations on Amazon.com• A great book on using charts called Good Charts by Scott Berinato• Another book for tech presenters: Presenting for Geeks by Dirk Haun [...]



Steve Jobs on communicating your core values

2016-09-29T16:12:38+09:00

Shortly after he returned to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs gave an internal presentation to employees from the Town Hall building on the Apple campus (YouTube link below). This was an important presentation to let employees know where the company...Shortly after he returned to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs gave an internal presentation to employees from the Town Hall building on the Apple campus (YouTube link below). This was an important presentation to let employees know where the company stood and where it was heading. A typical CEO may have put together a slide deck and run through a kind of SWOT analysis. But in this presentation, Jobs —dressed in shorts, sandles and a black turtleneck— stood before the audience and took them on a journey, without notes or slides, where he did touch on Apple’s Strong & Weak points, and also on the Opportunities and Threats, but in a way that was conversational with clear examples. Jobs starts the talk by stating the problem (the “ideal world” is implied): “This is a very complicated world, it's a very noisy world. And we're not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us." Jobs then reminds people that Apple is one of the world’s top brands, right up there with Disney, Nike, SONY, etc. But even great brands need care. And that care had been lacking. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="345" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vmG9jzCHtSQ?feature=oembed" width="465"> In the presentation, Jobs said that marketing is not about touting features and speeds and megabytes or comparing yourself to the other guys, it's about identifying your own story, your own core, and being very, very clear about what you are all about and what you stand for...and then being able to communicate that clearly, simply, and consistently. As Steve says, people want to know who you are and what you stand for. The problem was, Apple had for a long time before Jobs came back got away from communicating its core values, and in fact the employees may have even forgotten what they were.Jobs used the example of Nike as a brand that did a great job of letting customers know what their brand stood for, not by focusing on the product, but by communicating its values: “Nike sells a commodity, they sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads, as you know, they don't ever talk about the product, they don't ever talk about their air soles, how they're better than Reebok's air soles. What's Nike do in their advertising? They honor great athletes and they honor great athletics. That is what they are about.” In the case of Apple, the brand's core value, as Jobs says in the presentation, is not about technology or "making boxes for people to get their jobs done." Apple's core value, said Jobs, is this: "We believe people with passion can change the world for the better....and that those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who actually do. The things Apple believes in at its core are the same things that Apple really stands for today, and so we wanted to find a way to communicate this." In the end Jobs introduces the now famous Think different TV ad that was about two months in the making. This campaign was an attempt, said Jobs, to get Apple back to its core values. It was only one of many first steps of the new branding campaign and Apple’s revival, but it worked. Clarity & Simplicity keyThe lessons in this talk obviously can be applied directly to the art of presentation, something Steve did very well in all his presentations, big or small. Good presentation is about story, just as good branding is about story. Clarity and simplicity are key, and the way to achieve these is by being relentless in abandoning the superfluous and identifying the absolute core of your message. Clarit[...]



Using storytelling to make a case for social change

2016-09-28T14:55:06+09:00

I asked TEDxKyoto founder Jay Klaphake which of the many good talks at TEDxKyoto was a great example of storytelling, he replied immediately that it was the 2014 talk by Sahel Rosa. Sahel’s presentation is a wonderful example of a...I asked TEDxKyoto founder Jay Klaphake which of the many good talks at TEDxKyoto was a great example of storytelling, he replied immediately that it was the 2014 talk by Sahel Rosa. Sahel’s presentation is a wonderful example of a presenter using their personal story to (1) shine a spotlight on a social issue, and (2) to make a pitch for people to support her cause. Sahel takes us on a journey that begins with her own harsh childhood spent in an orphanage in Iran. She overcame impossible odds thanks to the love of a nurse who adopted her and moved to Japan. She also received help from a Japanese lunch lady from her school who rescued her and her adoptive mother who were living in a park at the time. Her presentation ends by building on the remarkable love and support from her mother and others in Japan to ask all of us to remember the thousands of orphans in Japan, many of whom are waiting for adoption. And she asks us to get involved in orphanages as much as we can to help improve the lives of the children there. She also mentions that her dream is to start a home for Orphans called “Sahel’s House.” allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lKY9MCBfrq0?feature=oembed" width="500">The aim of good storytelling is to make people feel deeply and empathize with your situation. Many times while analyzing this talk I had tears in my eyes. Some of the things Sahel recalled will make anyone feel deeply moved, moved even to tears. Such as when Sahel recalled a time when she was bullied in school in Japan for being an orphan and another child said “You kids are living off our tax money!” That’s such a hurtful thing for a child to hear. Any audience member would feel great empathy for her. Or the time Sahel returned after twenty years to her orphanage in Iran. Children were so happy to see her success and hear her story, but when she asked a child what his dream was, his reply was “Ummm...I don’t know. I just want a mom.” This speaks to the helpless children often feel in orphanages, not in an abstract way, but in a concrete way that tugs at the heart.For the personal stories like this — “Telling Your Story”—there is another simple way to visualize the arc of the story. Most classic stories start in what’s called the “World of Perfection.” Then because of some incident, there is a descent into the “World of Imperfection.” In this latter world—which is often the biggest part of the story—our character struggles to overcome obstacles. If we put this on an X/Y axis, we can think of anything above the horizontal axis as Good Fortune (Positive, happy, normal life, etc.), and anything below the horizontal axis we can think of as Ill fortune (negative, unhappy, difficult, etc.). It is a simplification, but almost all storytelling arcs start near or above the horizontal axis, descend below, and eventually rise back to the “World of Perfection.” In Sahel’s case, you can see clearly how she starts positively in the current world and then descends into a world where there was some difficult to hear things about her personal story and the state of orphans and orphanages in Japan. By the end she ascends back up to a more positive world where there is hope for a solution and asks for three specific things from the audience. [...]



Storytelling advice from Akira Kurosawa

2016-09-15T19:47:38+09:00

Akira Kurosawa was one of the masters of cinema. Below is a six-minute interview where Kurosawa offers advice to aspiring filmmakers, but the advice can be applied more widely to other creative disciplines as well. If you want to make...Akira Kurosawa was one of the masters of cinema. Below is a six-minute interview where Kurosawa offers advice to aspiring filmmakers, but the advice can be applied more widely to other creative disciplines as well. If you want to make a film today, you don't need expensive equipment necessarily. Even a smartphone and a good microphone will do the trick. But before equipment and camera techniques comes knowing how to create a story. If you want to be a director, says Kurosawa, learn to write screen plays first. For a story, all you need is a pen and paper (or a cheap computer). When Kurosawa laments in the interview that most aspiring filmmakers want to get immediately to directing without first spending a lot of time learning the craft of story through the difficult task of writing, this is something that could be applied to other professional endeavors. Learning an art — any art — is not glamorous; it's tedious and difficult. Writing is hard and can be lonely. The most important quality to have, says Kurosawa, is to have "the forbearance to face the dull task of writing one word at a time." To have the patience to write one word at a time is key. Most people lack the patience to do this for very long, so they quit. But if you stick with it, Kurosawa says, over time the writing process will become second nature to you.   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/r-McmgQbee0?feature=oembed" width="459"> PatienceKurosawa says the many younger people want to get to the end quickly rather than spending the long, tedious time in first preparing. Creating a film is an enormous task Kursosawa says, but the important thing is to not let yourself get overwhelmed by the size of the task. His advice is not just for filmmakers but for writers or anyone else who has a big, creative job to do in front of them. As he says, when you climb a high mountain you must not look up to the peak so often but instead focus on the ground just a head of you. Step by step you make progress. But if you keep looking up at how far you have to go to finish it will be discouraging and also distracts you from the moment at hand. When I got my first book contract ten years ago, I wondered how I could finish the book in time. Dan Pink recommended I read the book Bird by Bird, a book about how to get through large tasks by taking one step at a time, as the author's father once advised her 10-year-old brother, who was worried sick over the scale of a book report on birds. His advice: "Just take it bird by bird." Kurosawa here is giving similar advice."Don't ever quit."Kurosawa says that he encouraged his Assistant Directors to never give up on the script halfway through, but to go all the way through and finish it. Even if it is not the best (yet) it's important to develop the habit of perseverance and fighting through until the end. Otherwise, Kurosawa suggests, people will get in the habit of quitting when things get difficult or do not go well. Kurosawa also talks about the importance of reading books in order to become a better writer and a better storyteller. Reading a wide array of subjects over a lifetime gives one knowledge and perspectives in a kind of reserve which they may use in unforeseen ways in future. "Unless you have a rich reserve within, you can't create anything," Kurosawa says. "That's why I often say creating comes from memory. Memory is the source of your creation. You can't create something from nothing." As Kurosawa says, whether it is from reading or your real-life experience, "you can't create unless you have something inside yourself."I highly suggest you read this great book by Akira Kurosawa: Something Like an Autobiography   [...]



Five Essential Questions to ask Yourself

2016-06-20T16:07:27+09:00

It’s graduation time around the United States, and while many speeches are forgettable, some of them stick. Dean James Ryan’s speech at the Harvard Graduate School of Education ceremony was one such speech. Dean Ryan’s central message is that developing...It’s graduation time around the United States, and while many speeches are forgettable, some of them stick. Dean James Ryan’s speech at the Harvard Graduate School of Education ceremony was one such speech. Dean Ryan’s central message is that developing an ability for asking good questions is key to one’s path to success and fulfillment. "I would urge you to resist the temptation to have answers at the ready and to spend more time thinking about the right questions to ask,” he says. The entire 24-min speech is here, but it is this six-minute section below that resonates most with me and many others. In this section Ryan says he believes there are five essential questions that we must regularly ask ourselves. Ryan's claim is that, if we get in the habit of asking these questions, we’ll have a great chance of being both successful and happy. And, he says, we’ll be in a better position to answer “I did” to the bonus question at the end of his list of five. (A summary of his list of five follow the video.) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bW0NguMGIbE?feature=oembed" width="500"> (1) Wait, what?"Wait what is actually a very effective way of asking for clarification, which is crucial to understanding,” Ryan says. "The wait, which precedes the what, is also a good reminder that it pays to slow down to make sure you truly understand.” Many of us often have an unconscious bias toward information which confirms our own views about the world. In the 21st-century where social media allows completely made up “facts” to be circulated unabated, it's more important than ever to slow down, and to stop, and to question anything which seems too good (or bad) to be true. (2) I wonder, why/if?"Asking 'I wonder why' is the way to remain curious about the world, and asking 'I wonder if' is the way to start thinking about how you might improve the world. As in, I wonder why our schools are so segregated, and I wonder if we could change this?” This is perhaps the most fundamental question of all. This is one of the most powerful questions an educated person—regardless of their schooling—can ask. Questions such as: Is it so (I wonder)? Is it really true? How do I know that it’s so? What would happen if__? We begin tackling the really big problems in the world—and the big problems in our personal lives—with the smallest of questions: I wonder why/if?(3) Couldn’t we at least?"It’s what enables you to get past disagreement to some consensus, as in 'couldn’t we at least agree that we all care about the welfare of students, even if we disagree about strategy?'” This is a way to obtain some common ground and make progress, no matter how small. Ryan says that it’s also an approach for getting unstuck or for getting started in the first place. I have found this to be a mind-hack of sorts. One of our biggest obstacles to progress in our work is procrastination. Most of us procrastinate because we focus on the enormity of the project or on it’s conclusion, a conclusion about which we are uncertain. So instead of focusing on finishing the project, simply concentrate on getting started instead. Just start it, you tell yourself, don’t worry about how it progresses or about the long road to finish it. Simply start. When you tell yourself that you’ll just get started for a bit and not worry about the size and perceived difficulties of the entire project, it’s very easy to sit down and just have a go at it. Often, we’ll surprise ourselves which just how much progress we make when our only aim was merely to "at least get started." (4) How can I help? "We shouldn[...]



Success & the Art of Developing Your Inner Coach

2016-05-12T16:21:48+09:00

Brett Ledbetter is a former college basketball player and author of the book What Drives Winning. I stumbled upon his TEDx talk somehow recently and I’m glad I did because it’s well worth watching. Brett's presentation showed good preparation with...

Brett Ledbetter is a former college basketball player and author of the book What Drives Winning. I stumbled upon his TEDx talk somehow recently and I’m glad I did because it’s well worth watching. Brett's presentation showed good preparation with a useful message, effective use of visuals, and a passionate, engaging delivery in front of a group of young people. Anyone will find the content useful, but younger people (and teachers) may find it especially helpful, even if only as a reminder. Brett talks about Basketball, but that is not the message. The message is not even just about sport, the message can be applied to life and work in general. Watch the video below or on TED.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/q7a5TIzOmeQ?feature=oembed" width="465"> 

Brett captured my interest in the first two-minutes by discussing the idea of each individual’s inner voice or private voice (or internal monologue). He asked us to question just how helpful our private voice really is. Here he introduced through video Dr. Jim Loehr. Loeher asks us if we would be proud to have the words of our inner voice broadcast on a wall for everyone to see, especially in tough times. He asks us to question whether our private voice is the kind of person that is really helping us out or is it breaking us down. I have to admit that this idea really made me think and feel a bit ashamed that often my inner voice is often not the kind of person I’d want to be around even today. When I was much younger — like the people in his audience — my inner voice was not a positive contributor all too often. So right away I was interested in Brett’s message.

I also loved the way he introduced the idea of process vs. results/goals by showing a basketball coach who maintains the same reaction to great failure and great success all within seconds of a thrilling finish of a basketball game. (Very effective use of the video.) Focusing on the process and the moment rather than worrying about victory or failure reminded me of this old Daisetz Suzuki quote: “The waters are in motion all the time but the moon retains its serenity." (See: Steve Jobs and the art of the swordsman).

“Winning is not a result. Winning is a process that is driven by character.” - Brett Ledbetter

Brett’s message may not be a new one, but the way he laid it out simply, clearly, and passionately was a nice refresher. I like the way he inserts video, quotes, and images/text into his talk. He does a great job, although a remote control would have helped him free himself from the computer. Still, a great message and a wonderful short-form presentation.

(image)



Bill Evans on the Creative Process & Self-Teaching

2016-05-02T16:42:20+09:00

Many years ago I spoke of Bill Evans and his great appreciation of simplicity, and his capacity for tremendous amplification through honest simplification. Recently I stumbled upon a rare, 45-minute interview from the 1960s which Bill Evans did along with...Many years ago I spoke of Bill Evans and his great appreciation of simplicity, and his capacity for tremendous amplification through honest simplification. Recently I stumbled upon a rare, 45-minute interview from the 1960s which Bill Evans did along with his brother—also a wonderful pianist—Harry Evans. If you can find time to sit down and watch the entire interview, it may be the best thing you see all week. But to give you a feel of the message, let me place the videos here and highlight the key points along with my comments.Part 1 (on YouTube) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YEHWaGuurUk?feature=oembed" width="464">  Above in the first clip Evans speaks of people’s tendency to approach a problem in its entirety in a vague, abstract way instead of just taking a small piece and focusing on that and really getting to know it and build from there. This, says, Evans is more honest. Here are just a few key quotes that stood out. "It’s better to do something simple which is real. It’s something you can build on because you know what you’re doing. Whereas, if you try to approximate something very advanced and you don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t build on it." "No matter how far I might diverge or find freedom in this format, it only is free insofar that it has reference to the strictness of the original form. That’s what gives it its strength.""They’re trying to do a thing in a way that is so general they can’t possibly build on that. If they build on that, they’re building on top of confusion and vagueness and they can’t possibly progress. If you try to approximate something that is very advanced and don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t advance." The key, too, is learning to enjoy the struggle that comes from taking a part of the complicated whole and getting better at those little bits step by step. "It is true of any subject that the person that succeeds in anything has the realistic viewpoint at the beginning and knowing that the problem is large and that he has to take it a step at a time and that he has to enjoy the step-by-step learning procedure." This is not to say that you should not be adventurous and take risks and experiment. Playing it safe is not what Evans is suggesting. What Evans is saying is that you need to understand the frame work and the rules and principles so that you can know for yourself what works (through your experiments) and what does not. Part 2 (on YouTube) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5QdM0oxWOZw?feature=oembed" width="464">  In the second clip above, Evans talks about the fact that it took him many years of playing before he really felt he was able to freely express himself. Evans could sight read from an early age but could not play even a very simple song he says without sheet music. He spent a good part of his teens and 20s learning on the job and working hard on deepening his understanding of music and developing techniques. “The whole process of learning the facility to play jazz, is to take these problems from the outer level in, one by one, and to stay with it at a very intense conscience concentration level, until that process becomes secondary and subconscious. Now, when that becomes subconscious, then you can begin concentrating on that next problem, which will allow you to do a little bit more…" Many people see only the end result, instead of the long path and all the richness the journey will provide them. You don’t learn anything meaningful or accomplish anything [...]