Friday, July 25, 2014

The Interlude

Last blog-post: June 12. Last tweet: June 19.

Between June 18 to June 20, I fulfilled a wish that had long been on my mind since 2001 -- to learn Graphic Recording and Facilitation skills from the pioneers, The Grove Consultants. Since the late 1990s, I had delved into visual thinking, mindmapping, and graphic recording. I loved doodling, thinking and writing. Graphic recording/facilitation allows me to combine all 3 loves in an interesting way.

While at the lovely Grove office at the Presidio, San Francisco, I received news on June 21 of my father's sudden demise and my mother's critically ill condition (Mom passed on July 25).

I thank my Twitter network of friends for sticking with me despite my month-long absence. I've never understood why anyone would want to "follow" me. I have nothing to sell. Twitter is simply a fun way for me to learn and connect with others around the globe. I'm not as consistent in tweeting and using the medium as I probably should be. I do believe, however, in being authentic and not playing games on Twitter or anywhere. My blogging and tweeting style is a mix of the personal with the academic. I don't tweet just for professional reasons. I don't believe in formulaic living -- that if I do this, I will get that. There is no formula to living life from the heart. I dislike intensely those who "follow" me to get attention and then "unfollow" me after seemingly having gotten something out of that move. Get a real life.

I started a Twitter account in 2007. Over the years, as my learning interests changed and expanded, I have followed folks who curate content about e-learning, research (AERA, AERA Division C, members of these communities), writing, dissertation writing, art and arts in its various forms, leadership, spirituality, motivational as well as humorous messages, etc. My Twitter followership is a broad description of my professional trajectory, from being an instructional technology consultant, to graduate student, graduate student leader, dissertation writing to my current position as a learning innovation design specialist.

As I pick up the pieces in Life A.D. (After Dad) and Life A.M. (After Mom), I look forward to connecting more with my old and new followers. Thank you for staying with me.    

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thought Vectors: How a Thinkaholic Feels

Hi, my name is Yin and I'm a thinkaholic. 
(Check out concept and picture by Leah of Dharma Comics.)

This chronic malady has its side effects. I've thought and blogged about its "collateral damage" quite a bit some 7 years ago. Here's a paragraph from the post, Inner vs. Outside World, December 12, 2007 (on a private blog) about solo fantasy thinking:
Quite often--, my inner world is more exciting than the outside world as my mind races through a myriad of topics and imagine the possibilities for adventure. I contemplate on the prospects for learning new things and connecting with people if I did A, B, and C or put A and B together first, then work on C, etc. For this reason, I'm --mothballed if conversation topics lack a focus. In such times, I turn inward to my own thoughts to avoid being rude and seemingly inattentive. I still listen but I'm disengaged because I cannot follow the flow of the conversation as it jumps from P to M and then from N to S, etc. Much more exciting is my private world when I can write a short essay in my head in the span of time it takes to listen to a speaker belabor on a topic I have difficulty following.
When I'm conjuring up plans to learn something new (e.g. my next sketch, story to write, movie to watch, next travel destination, how to best have a stimulating mental duel with someone), I feel exhilarated and a tad anxious. (And guilty for stealth thinking if I'm thinking all these thoughts while on the surface paying attention to something else.) I also feel like Lucy entering Narnia (refer to C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia book series). The exploratory planning-think is magical, and I feel unstoppable with all my wild untamed thoughts, waiting to be connected and moulded into something new! Kahnmn likens this thinking process to engaging in Wikipedia wars (I learned something new!) and how fabulous it is.

The times when the light and joy goes out of my thinking are those moments when, sometimes, the unknown future and the known unpleasant memories of the past coalesce to become a menacing spirit. The more effort and time I spend trying to fashion some understanding of this intimidating specter, the more my nerves play tricks on me. A tight clamp fastens itself around my head -- I think myself literally into a headache.

These emotions are two extremes. Most of the time, I don't pay much attention to how I feel when I'm thinking. I mostly think like I breathe. Thinking has become a habit, a disposition I've cultivated. It's paradoxical. I relish the opportunities to think and synthesize thoughts. Yet, I sometimes take for granted that I am capable of clear thinking -- until I forget a memory and wonder, with mixed emotions, if I'm losing cognition. You see, I have a loved one who has dementia. Thinking about not having cognition is painful. Maybe that's why I think with such vengeance, knowing that there is an expiration date on thinking that leads to honest living, good work and service.

Gardner Campbell blogged about varieties of thinking, effortful and goal-free (mulling) thinking, and the experience of thinking. I definitely support the design of quality thinking experiences that results in positive change. Hence my advocacy for the Visible Thinking approach (TM President & Fellows of Harvard College)! Tom Woodward reminded me about groupthink and how it feels. The magic of improv in the production and staging of a play is something I sorely miss.

But thinking, whether painful, joyful, light or heavy-duty, is something uniquely human and precious. The mind is at once so powerful and delicate, a battlefield and a mushy mass of tissues. I am mostly grateful to feel how I think, headaches or not. Although being introspective has its delights, I sometimes like to get out of my own head, instead of watching how the missiles of my mind dart about, aptly illustrated by Leah of Dharma Comics:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thought Vectors Self-Portrait

I know, I know. My apologies for another introductory post for a MOOC. I will try to make this short and sharp.

Greetings to my fellow MOOCers from Richmond, Virginia! For those who are just reading this blog, I wrote an earlier introductory blogpost which is more visual using a Life Story album cover and a Life Story playlist. That was for a Creativity MOOC by Tina Selig which I successfully completed for the second time! Yay!

The trail that led to this post began with a legendary tale about Ernest Hemingway. Allegedly, he was challenged to create a story using only 6 words (For sale, baby shoes, never worn). Gardner Campbell mentioned this in the Thought Vectors in Concept Space Live Hangout tonight. I've been mulling over for two days which six words will best do to introduce myself for this cMOOC. It's time I post my six-word life story:

Yin Wah Kreher: Six-Word Life Story.  Image says: Extravagant love,
green card, perpetual learning.

As a self-descriptor, here are six more words:

centered versatile boundary-crosser, quiet confidence, enigma.

Pleased to meet you all!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Wonder, Irresistible Learning and Heroic Imagination

The name game is an intriguing one. Word pantomime or labels? A number of people I know, and in the fields I work closely in, dislike labels. Many believe labels have the potential to subtract value from who they truly are. (Have you heard of the "Label Jars Not People" organization established by Siobhan Brady to reduce mental health stigma?) Yet, human beings like to find pattern in chaos and ways to make sense of the world. So being aware of layers of perception about organizers as starting points (versus sticky unchangeable labels) is necessary in disabling potential communication barriers and the tendency to form misjudgements too quickly.

In the world of paint, Donald Kaufman, a Master Colorist (Elle Decor, September 2012) has this to say:
Color names are extremely dangerous, which is why we use numbers instead. People see color differently because of names. Beige is undervalued because the name has a bad association. Mint sounds like the color of a hospital, but call it "faded eucalyptus" and people love it. 
One of our best sellers is a white we call DKC-5. Mariette Himes Gomez compared it to Chanel No. 5.
The beauty industry is a prime example of fabulous word craft. Think of the names of creams, lipsticks and nail polish (Sephora's Formula X nail polish -- Kapow, Zing, Radioactive, Jolt, Oomph, Turbo, Seismic, Dare Me, etc; Dr. Dennis Gross 20 days to radiance skincare, HUM Runway Ready cream, Philosophy Hope in a Jar...). Alluring?

Kaufman's words connected me to the world of words on learning motivation -- especially short phrases or words that help me to focus learner attention and stimulate curiosity. For instance, I tweeted this in December 2013 and mentioned Yenawine's (2013) book in a March 2014 blogpost:
In this post, I want to share some more "wonder" and wonderful phrases I've come across recently!

"Wisdom begins in wonder" digital image created by Yin Wah Kreher, 2014. Original quote by Socrates.
Teaching/Learning implications of both phrases:
  • In what ways can you give permission to students to wonder?  OR, what sorts of educational strategies challenge students to wonder?
  • How does that wonder extend into the development of wisdom? 
  • Are teachers prepared to assess and consider wonderment? 
My initial thinking is of course to recommend the Visible Thinking approach (refer to my March blogpost mentioned earlier for See-Think-Wonder). Ritchart's 8 classroom cultural forces would be a good framework to start with. 

As I came across these phrases, I started to sketch out several others I've come across:

Irresistible Learning ETC handdrawn image by Yin Wah Kreher, 2014
Teaching/Learning implications:
  • What is irresistible learning? What would students expect from a course that offers irresistible learning? What does it look like?
  • How indeed can we make learning IRRESISTIBLE?  
  • Do we want to make learning irresistible? Is it attainable?
  • The Institute of Play associates irresistible learning with serious games, intentional games, game-based learning and simulations. Are serious games the chief means to foster irresistible learning? Games arguably awaken playfulness and curiosity in learners. By incorporating play elements into learning, serious and intentional games support complex thinking. How do we support serious games and game-based learning in higher ed/schools? 
  • Learn more about key Irresistible Learning design principles outlined by Katie Salen, Director of Institute of Play.
  • Feedback is something we all crave in our learning journey -- we want teachers, supervisors and loved ones to engage with us. But a Fiesta? What will it look like?
(Hint: Google the word "irresistible" and see what shows up under "Images"! Surprise!?)

Heroic Imagination image hand-drawn by Yin Wah Kreher, 2014.
There is an abundance of advocates on creativity, innovation and imagination lately. I need not belabor the significance of these qualities. But the phrase heroic imagination is a new one to me. The Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) was founded by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University. The project website describes HIP as a "nonprofit research-based organization which provides knowledge, tools, strategies, and exercises to individuals and groups to help them to overcome the social and psychological forces which can keep them from taking effective action at crucial moments in their lives" (2013). Everyday heroism is also promoted on their social media and web sites. My guess or hypothesis is that it is powerful imagination (amongst other traits and factors) that propels "ordinary people to do extraordinary acts" of heroism for social justice and positive change. The premise of their argument is, Everyone can be a hero. You can be a hero too. Teaching/Learning Implications: How will you use your imagination heroically?

I can go on and on about a few other phrases; Desirable Difficulties by Robert Bjork and Productive Failure by Manu Kapoor, which I've mentioned in passing in an April 2014 blogpost. There is also Nudge Interventions and Theory (versus Coercion to comply) and many many others. But my blogpost is growing too long.

So I will leave you to “The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
 and all the sweet serenity of books” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) till my next post. Explore the links I've inserted for a start.

Heroic Imagination. You may be afraid, but do it anyway.

  • Feedback Fiesta (Please let me know if you know the source. I've not been able to track where I got this from.)
  • Awakening to Play is mine, I'm quite quite sure.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hodge Podge of Thoughts on Inclusive Teaching Institute

Looking down at Shockoe Valley from Richmond Hill Retreat Center

I thought of you 
In the land of plenty
Disconnected from the rest of Richmond city
Riding in a car
Someone pointed out
"This school's roof leaked. 
The ceiling tile hit a child!"
What went through the minds of young students
To be broken up and bused to different strange schools?
Further the car took me 
To another school sited next to the city jail
Hope sits adjacent to despair
City planning gone awry
Or a deliberate act of marginalization
In the four Courts silence pervaded
There were no children skipping in backyards
Nor grownups in congenial chatter
A police car, no, two, circled these housing projects
Turns in the road
Led me back to my rustic retreat
Cast down by the privilege of knowing


A girl received a scholarship offer to go to college but did not have $12 to pay for a required transcript for her application. When she finally found the money to do so, the scholarship fund had largely been depleted. 

A man was offered a job. He couldn't accept it because he couldn't get to work. City buses do not ply the roads of his neighborhood. 


My learning experience at the 2014 Summer Institute for Inclusive Teaching was thrilling and disturbing. Since the close of the Institute, I have found it difficult to write about the week's experience. I lost my "voice." I couldn't muster strength nor heart to blog or tweet. These activities seemed frivolous to me when poverty and injustice had stared at me so blatantly. I had never considered if I had been raised in circumstances of privilege. Yet listening to the speakers on all five days, I couldn't help but wonder if my education and hence privilege of knowing had led me to adequate action for the public good.

At the Institute, I was like a sponge soaking up new concepts. Having been raised in the island-state of multiracial Singapore, appreciation for and support of diversity has been a natural part of my life. But back there, I didn't think, or maybe more aptly, didn't have to think, about stereotype threats, gender inclusion or other forms of marginalization. I was a member of the dominant race. I was surrounded by friends of different racial and linguistic groups. Educated in a girls' school (Like bell hooks of Teaching to Transgress), I received empowering education. In the USA, I am or became part of a minority group -- an oft-perceived model minority group. I have often been told in the face that I'm over-motivated and that I need to "slow down." It seems in the USA people see me and read "privilege" or "always looking for number 1" (which couldn't be further from the truth). I frequently let these remarks pass. What are these names when I've been called worse things in the USA? These terms have no meaning to me. I'm having fun as I learn and do what other people perceive is "difficult" or too accelerated a pace for me. Yet, these remarks occur far too often the longer I've been in the USA and particularly when I encounter people who have limited cross-cultural awareness and experience.

"How did you find the strength to respond to such ignorance?" I was asked.

The short answer is, I didn't know my own strength. (Go check Whitney Houston's song)

As disturbing as the week's events have been, I relished my time of learning and the camaraderie that has developed among the participants and our Faculty Learning Community (which served as a planning committee for the Institute). We were as different and diverse as an inclusive FLC could possibly be within the constraints of a higher ed institution. Working with them was affirming and comforting. They understood my struggles. I am not alone with the misperceptions and sometimes coercion by other people to make me become more like them. For instance, when I'm not as noisy as some people want me to be, Lisa Webb, my disability work buddy understands it's because I'm comfortable with another language, a world without sounds. I'm at ease with Deaf people and that in the visual poetry of gestures and ASL, "voice" is realized a different way. I don't need to use sounds to draw attention to myself. More accurately, I dislike drawing attention to myself. I'd rather people look at my work and appreciate my ideas. [Yes, it's hard to separate the individual from the idea, but think Terence Malick of Tree of Life whose films I admire.] Chinese expresses it best for me: 不爱出风头。 Even when other people think I'm "silent," I'm not without voice. Most people don't cross as many "worlds" as I do in one setting - English, Chinese, Cantonese and signing. Lara dos Passos Coggin, one of my FLC members who is bilingual (or maybe more) expressed the multilingual person's struggles in a compelling way for me (not exact words):

"Some people who are monolingual do not understand the multiplicity of resources (and thus, interference) a multilingual person has access to and are processing as they seek to express themselves."

Something else she said continues to ring in my mind,

"Diversity nourishes and feeds my soul. I need it to flourish."

She captured a dominant desire of mine.

My plea to people who are experts in one language and focuses on only one: have patience and to not think you need to help multilingual speakers find the words they need to elegantly and eloquently express themselves. They have an abundance of symbolic conventions and knowledge domains to mash up into creative expressions.

It has been hard to write this post but I want to capture some of these memories before they fade from my mind. I might reword or add more thoughts later. Writing is one of my loves so it is a struggle to want to do your best at being clear, parsimonious (in the tradition of Howard Becker, inspired by my advisor) and thoughtful when your thoughts are half-formed. But this will do for now.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Canvas Babe

Once, there was a little girl who slept on a white canvas bed with wooden legs.

Every morning, she woke up and made her own bed.

She folded the white canvas bed and leaned it against the bedroom wall.

She also liked to sing and dance.

One day, she came home from dancing in a school concert. Her teacher had made up her face with some pretty colors -- blue on her eyelids, orange on her cheeks and red on her lips.

This image is a black-and-white drawing. It shows a picture of a girl
hiding behind a couch and 2 men talking to each other.

She saw papa talking to a man she had never met. She went to hide behind the wooden couch papa made. The man saw her.

He asked papa, "Why is your child's face all made up?" She kept this memory in her heart. She learned that Ah Tee was papa's supervisor. 

When she was about ten, she heard papa talking sadly to mama one night.

This image is a black-and-white drawing. It shows a girl sleeping
on a canvas bed, a couple talking and the canvas bed being folded up.

"Ah Tee said, no matter how bright she is, we'll never be able to send her to college!"

She didn't understand what those words meant.

Many many years have passed.

On May 9th, 2014, that "little girl" was hooded by her advisor at a doctoral hooding ceremony in Syracuse University.

Education fulfilled its promise in her life.

Yin Wah Kreher, doctoral hooding, 5/9/2014

Yin Wah Kreher with Marjorie DeVault, 5/9/2014

爸妈,虽然当天你们无法在场,我想您俩一定会很开心看到这些照片, 也希望在远方的你们会藉此感到骄傲. 我想要你们知道,你们永远在我心中是最重要的。感谢你们这么多年来,这么辛苦地养育我,培养我,默默地支持我。我只能说,在这一刻,我无法找到恰当的词汇来表达我对你们深深的感谢和爱。我会永远的感激你们和思念你们。女儿,燕华。

Friday, May 16, 2014

Border-Crossing Research Update in Syracuse

Open House & Research Update, Syracuse University, May 8, 2014. Short subtitles are included.

A more detailed description of the slides in the video in GoogleDoc
A more detailed description of the slides in the video in PDF
[Right-click to open document in new tab on browser] 

Sometimes, a somewhat ordinary remark dwells longer than it probably should in my mind.

"You like research, right?" Said in the context of new job duties being articulated at my workplace. 

I like doing research, just as I would likely say I like designing, painting, writing, storytelling, and several other things. My "like-ness" level for each of them, however, is slightly different and the nature of each "like-ness" is unique. The commonality among each of them is that these processes allow me to search for, express and synthesize ideas. The process is far more valuable than the outcome.

For instance, in conducting this research study among some Deaf people, I found the language to articulate some of my own struggles as a multicultural person and border-crosser. Who is the "other"? When difference is made visible, how do we handle it? Deaf people taught me to look beyond their mode of communication to see the whole person. Whether a person signs, writes notes or uses an interpreter, an individual is shaped by multiple dimensions. I may specialize in instructional design largely through my formal education and work, but I'm more than that, the sum of many things. For a long time, my Deaf friends were not aware that I was a Ph.D. student -- largely due to my inadequate signing (?) and me not wanting to talk about it when I'm away from my desk, not writing my dissertation. I simply just wanted to be me, Yin, at those intersectional spaces.

I cross intersectional spaces or borderlands (Anzaldua, 1987) everyday and my research interest centers broadly on how people learn and interact at places of change, hybridity and/or liminality (van Gennep, 1908). The above video archives an event that provided me an opportunity to give back to the community in some way by sharing what I had learned from them. The intrigue in doing research is in making connections among ideas and people and being in the intersectional space of change. Whether I write or talk about it, I find joy in sharing what I learned with people.

So yes, I like research, because I like people, ideas and learning. Most of all, to combine elements in an interesting way. The same with drawing, writing, designing, learning something new... Each activity is just another medium I've found and learned to use to express my creativity.

The pursuit of purposeful creative expression (through synthesis) that will make an impact on lives is my true love.