George Lucas Educational Foundation

Welcoming, Encouraging and Supporting the Unfamiliar

November 11, 2014

It's far less risky and expensive for to come up with new variations on Oreos than develop and market a wholly new cookie. The easiest thing in the world to sell people is what they already know and like. ~ Phil Rosenthal

A quote from an article referring to foods and TV shows. How new often isn't new - just a new version of a former familiar. People take great comfort in knowing what to expect. Look at the endless match-making reality shows; the popularity of franchise restaurants. People understand the shows concept or what their meal will be like and the process/how to order. It also brings to mind reading to my children when they were younger, they had hundreds of books on their bookshelves - yet they'd want to read the same book over and over. So often, that each of them had a book that they could "read" to me by the time they were 2 or 3 years old.

A few years ago we started hosting a few of our PTO meetings each year off-site. We chose to not be confined to our elementary school library. To go to our families instead of asking them to come to us every time. We live stream our in all reality, we were never truly confined to our library. Our meetings literally came to families in their living room, kitchen, office...or wherever they logged on. But, the idea to physically go to them in hopes that it would help connect families who maybe didn't previously feel connected or part of our school community.

After a little over a year of hosting these, I asked one of our ESL parents their opinion of these off-site meetings (fully expecting positive feedback). Instead, I got the exact opposite reaction. She said she preferred us to stick to one location, the school. Why? Why would she prefer that we stay at the school?? Her response....she knew what to expect. She knew how to get there, where to park, where to go once inside. She knew how much time she needed to get there. There was no research, calculating or planning needed before showing up. For this busy, working mom of two, this impacted if she could or would attend our meeting physically. She didn't want new - she wanted familiar.

The issue I have with sticking with only what is familiar to us...we become very close-minded, seeing things only through our own eyes and limiting our ability to be empathetic and inclusive of all. We stunt our growth. With limited exposure to new ideas and experiences, we become comfortable in a fixed versus growth mindset. won’t know of the extraordinary out there without stepping out.

Last month at the PA Conference for Women, I had the great pleasure to sit in on Dr Sunni "Doodle" Brown's session, "The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently". The goal of this session? To help one understand innovation and what is needed to inspire it through use of visual literacy and thinking. To demonstrate that we all have the capability to generate new, innovative ideas. How did she do this? Through, what seemed like at first, toddler-like gibberish games, that she referred to as “gamestorm: the use of infodoodles and games to help people think better and solve problems”. One of the games done in groups of three: the first person invented a word, the second person came up with a definition for it, and the third had 7 seconds to draw a picture of it. Oh the things you can think! She explained, among several reasons, it encourages one to look at solving a problem from a new angle and breaks habitual thinking patterns.

There are some absolutely wonderfully innovative ideas out there that can open the doors to a world of endless learning (just spend a short time on Edutopia, Twitter, blogs or Pinterest). There are many educators thinking outside of the box and trying new. Now, how do we take the idea of thinking differently and encourage mainstream to simply try these different and possibly unfamiliar ideas? How do we not only inspire new ideas - but also garner support for those trying?

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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