Time and space

I know that you may be expecting a post on something educational, and I hope this is educational, but not in an “educational leadership” kind of way.  Since this blog is about my own learning, I wanted to share something cool I learned this week.  So here goes – hope you learn something too!

Sitting on the couch the other evening, browsing the channel guide, my husband says, “Hey, what’s on Nova?”  The topic:

Fabric: The Illusion of Time

How could we not watch THAT?  The next hour was spent getting my mind expanded by Dr. Brian Greene of Columbia University, a professor of mathematics and physics, and probably a great guest to have at a party.  Okay, yes, that’s the kind of party I’d love to go to.  (I’m not sure how people like him do it, but taking the most complex theories of physics and making them understandable to regular old humans is a fabulous skill.)

I learned two or three pretty amazing things that I just thought I would share.  My reasons are several: as an educator, I know that by teaching someone else (in this case, you!) one’s own understanding of concepts is deepened and cemented; as a sci fi geek I love thinking, talking, and writing about this kind of stuff; as a competitive person I want to see if I can do as good a job of explaining as Dr. Greene.  Good luck on that last one, but here goes:

1) Time is not a constant, fluid entity.  It is a personal perception based on the experience of the individual.

2) Time is affected by movement.  The effect at slow speeds is infinitesimal, but any object that is in motion experiences a slowing of time.  This was tested by putting an atomic clock in a plane and flying it across the globe, and comparing that clock to one that remained stationary on the ground.  The difference between the two clocks was billionths of a second (which atomic clocks are able to measure!) but there was a difference.

3) The idea of “now” is not fixed.  (This part blows my mind…)  The past, present and future all exist simultaneously, depending on our position in the universe and our movement.  You’d need to see the visual to really get this one – basically the universe and space/time is like a loaf of bread (no really!) – but you can read the transcript and try to visualize it yourself if you want to!  In essence, if I am in one spot in the universe and an alien is across the universe at another point, and we are both not moving, we may experience “now” as a slice across space/time at the same “time”.  BUT – if the alien is moving, then his “now slice” is angled, either towards my “past” or “present” and so we may experience “now” at different “times”.  I am using way too many quotation marks here!

4) Using the ideas above, time travel may be possible, if you can build a vehicle that can expand travelling very close to a black hole (to travel to the future), as gravity as a force slows down time.  So if I travelled to a black hole and spent a few hours there, and then returned to Earth, what I may have experienced as a few hours may have been decades on Earth.  I would not have aged much but everyone else would – in essence, I would be in the future.  Wormholes are another theoretical way that time travel might be possible, but I’m just going to say that I don’t get them at all.  Hey, I can’t learn EVERYTHING in one hour!

So, I hope you learned something geeky about space/time today, and maybe you’ll tune in yourself to the next installment of the “Fabric of the Cosmos” series.  I may even try to jump in and join the #nova chat during the episode if I am brave enough.  Whatever happens, I am feeding my inner learnivore!



Positively awesome

Earlier this spring I came across two things that gave me a BOOM! moment (sorry for stealing your line, Mr. Wejr!)  One was a simple tweet by @Wise_Running (aka P. Mark Taylor) that said “You can’t be both awesome AND negative. Choose one.”  The second was a blog post by Dan Rockwell (aka @leadershipfreak) that you can read here about positive ways to overcome negativity.

From Dan Rockwell’s post, these are the two items that really spoke to me:

#3. Not all negativity is bad. Anticipating problems, resistance, choke points, and other difficulties helps leaders devise strategies and solutions. The down-side is imagined problems block forward progress.

This means I don’t have to beat myself up for having negative moments.  It’s just important to use that negative perspective to plan a way around, or above it.

#4. Confidence reinforces positive attitudes. Lack of self-confidence energizes negativity. If you can’t believe you’re capable, believe you can become capable. Confidence transforms “I can’t” into “I’ll learn.”

…and I can definitely say I have learned, and I will continue to learn, from those experiences that seem overwhelming, insurmountable, or even failures.

Dan’s and Mark’s thoughts came to mean a lot to me over the past few months, as we wound up a most atypically difficult year and some other more typically difficult situations arose to challenge me at school.  I’ve always been a bit of a Pollyanna so negativity has never really been a big problem for me, except as something in other people that bugged me =).

But my school keeps me on my toes and not a day goes by that I am not learning something new and working on a new challenge.  Sometimes it’s difficult to keep a positive outlook when some of the troublesome stuff piles up.  When that happens, I purposefully seek out a positive – I go for a visit in our StrongStart Centre, where the grandmas, dads, moms, caregivers, newborns, toddlers and our amazing facilitator Sophie are doing such great things, and I just grab some cars or a puppet or some playdough and remember where learning all starts.  Or I head down to a classroom where a teacher might be trying out something innovative and letting the kids be geniuses, or following my ears to where kids might be making up a rap song about matter (“What’s the Matter? What’s the Matter?  Solid, liquid, gas!” – thanks for that, Jaya!)  Sometimes I just shut my door for a moment and look up at my forest photos and just breathe.

Because what I’ve realized (and I hope a lot of people realize) is that there is a fair supply of negativity out there already, and it doesn’t help a thing by adding to it, or giving it life by dwelling in it.  It doesn’t even really help by getting things off your chest, or “venting”.  In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever really felt that much better after a session of being negative, or being with a negative person.  Simply, being negative doesn’t get things done.

So I will carry on with my positivity and know that I am getting things done, and that it is contagious – and the best way to stay awesome.

Hearing voices

I read books. Real ones with pages, and sometimes the e-type. Two books I’ve read recently (actually one I’m still reading) have reminded me of the importance of voice in writing. Both of these books have strong first-person narration that brings the voice to life.

One is

    The Help

by Kathryn Stockett. I picked up this book because I knew it had been made into a movie and I wondered what the fuss was about. The author gave a strong voice to not only the main narrator but also several other diverse characters. For someone to whom the experience of being a woman, white or black, during the Civil Rights movement is totally foreign, these voices in their authenticity were able to move me in a profound way.

I’m still in the middle of

    Half-Blood Blues

by Esi Edugyan. Again a strong and distinct voice for the narrator, a mixed-race jazz musician in Berlin in 1939/1940. His voice also draws in readers and brings the passions and politics to life.

These two books have led me to reflect on the importance of having a voice. First I joined Twitter @davison_carol and after lurking for a while, I started sharing things that were important, or funny, or just me. Then I began to use my voice to represent my school on our blog, Learning at Forsyth. I also invited students to bring their voices to the book blog page and as guest posters. Then, about two weeks ago, I decided to start a forum for my own voice. Now, I have some colleagues who don’t think their voice is important enough to speak. They have a Twitter account but have yet to tweet. They may think about blogging but again don’t have the confidence to believe that their voice is important. I would like to publicly encourage them (Judy? James?) to speak up. The thing is, the audience isn’t necessarily important. Giving yourself a voice is a form of personal reflection that is critical in personal growth and professional development.

As educators we also want our students to develop a voice in their writing. In fact, one of our school goals for the coming year is to develop students’ communication skills, orally and in writing. In essence, we want them to develop an effective voice. In our inner-city school, students have so many experiences that are shaping who they are and who they will become. Just like the characters in the books we read, that voice is a way of sharing that experience and understanding the lessons that our life experience teach us. I am optimistic that our teachers will take advantage of all of the new modes of expression available through technology (Audioboo, blogging, twitter, wikis, YouTube, etc.) to provide the impetus for students to want to have a voice, and to think critically about what their voice should sound like.

I can’t wait to keep hearing voices.