Monday, February 6, 2012

29 People

David Houle:

29 people. A meme*. Passion. This is not like Col. Mustard in the Library with the Wrench, but a different kind of Clue, where when combined makes for a powerful phenomenon. Enter David Houle.

At 8:37 am, 4 days ago in my Ringling College of Art and Design Psychology of Social Interaction class, where in a large circle, 27 students and I study the behaviors of face-to-face and virtual experiences, we had a room energy level of about .0008. David Houle, a guest lecturer who magically was available to come to our classroom, sat quietly at first as he took in the dynamics of our class.

While the class had previously been assigned with reading a Michigan State University case study on college students, Social Capital, and Facebook, I decided to examine the social interaction—or lack thereof that day—in our own learning space. Using our class as a case study to get a sense of our group consciousness, I told the students that, for the next 10 minutes, they could do whatever they wanted. They could read the previously assigned article handout, which only one student had merely skimmed, chat, text…whatever they wished.

It did not take the brilliant futurist David Houle long to get the current of the room. After 10 minutes of conscious free will, here is what the 27 students divvied up their attention to do:

  • 4 students briefly skimmed the homework-assigned article and found it too dense and abruptly moved on;
  • 9 students checked their email;
  • 6 people read posts on Facebook;
  • 5 students played games on their computer or phone;
  • 1 person sat idly, and
  • 2 students spoke to one another.

What do you find intriguing with our results?

What I found stunning was that in a class titled the “Psychology of Social Interaction,” other than David and me, only two students chose to speak with one another. With amazing finesse, this provoking and captivating speaker, who has given keynotes on all six continents, ten countries, to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and now to our classroom of sleep-deprived 19- to 23-year-olds, spoke with a gentle voice (meet them where they are, right?) and something happened. The “Shift” that David Houle speaks about all over the world unfolded in classroom #117.

David spoke of accelerated connectivity (preaching to the choir here: “To what do you give your conscious attention?”); he talked about his books, his “Evolution Shift,” “Memes to Movements,” their futures as Digital Natives and Milennials. When David asked about the Occupy Movement, every student in the class had familiarity. What they didn’t know was that Occupy began with a few dozen people getting together in a small Manhattan apartment with a common theme and passion. In less than one month, the Occupy Movement had gone viral with over 100,000 people in 80 countries. As he spoke, I watched. The body language, the faces, the once-semi-vacant eyes, began to change. Opportunity hammered in my heart.

I leapt: “What if we were to do a class project where we embraced a topic on which we were all passionate? We would have our class develop a case study and using your creativity—of which you all have tenfold—what could you do to create your own ‘meme-to-movement?’” At first, silence. Gentle prodding…”What are you passionate about?”

Amanda: “I know it has been said many times, but I really do care about peace.” Several eye rolls and sighs followed.

David asked the class if they didn’t want to examine peace, then what? Crickets.

In painstakingly soft exasperation, Tara spoke for the first time. “How can we do a project on peace, when we don’t even know what peace looks like?”

And therein lay the absolutely profound seed that has catapulted – and shifted - 27 students from a dormant state to impassioned action.

These newly emerged adults have never known a world in which peace exists. How come? Why not? They remember at age 8 or 9 or 10, the events and aftermath of 9/11. They know exactly what fear looks and tastes like. But they do not know what peace looks like.

David and I, as facilitators, marveled as our Ringling College of Art and Design classroom of 27 – those creatives ranging in age from 19 to 23 - got it. They saw the infinite vision of their own hearts and minds, and with positivity, confidence, and passion, are applying their great skills to set out and explore: “What Does Peace Look Like?”

In three days, the students acquired a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a webshare, and a project management site where almost all of the students have volunteered their preferences on which scope of the project they wish to share their multi-faceted talents.

If the energy shift in the classroom this past Thursday morning could have been measured in sound, it would have been deafening. With a fantastic wow factor, what would be the metrics for energy that is off the charts?

Now THAT is what peace looks like to me. You?

*Meme: Collins English Dictionary: “an idea or element of social behavior passed on through generations in a culture, especially by imitation.”

1 comment:

  1. What does peace look like to me? Good question. I'll be pondering that now.