K.I.S.S., Part Two


“That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to make your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”—Steve Jobs

I am not going to focus on Steve Jobs or Apple Computer in this post, but I did find a great deal of profundity in his statement about simplicity. My office mate and I were talking this morning about simplicity—how when you get to the core of your discipline and the workings of it, how elegantly simple the concepts are. We also observed that  the process of making information simple is considerably more difficult and at times daunting than unloading volumes of information on our students.befuddled

In teaching psychology, I cover a theory dealing with Gestalt psychology. For clarification, Gestalt psychology breaks down the theory explaining perception. Along with Kohler and Koffka , Max Wertheimer emphasized the significance of higher order thinking skills in the context of Behaviorism. The focus of their theory was on “grouping” information to achieve a clearer understanding of the information. There are four basic principles to their theory of learning. Among these principles is the concept of “simplicity.” Who knew?

Let’s take, for example, a football game. Yes, I said a football game. You, as a coach, have lost roughly half of your games this season. Each week you scour the internet (does this sound familiar?) to find new, complex plays and offensive schemes to improve player performance. Upon presentation of this fool-proof method, you find your players dazed and confused. Really? Yes, you overlooked that they had never mastered the last set of plays. The coaches are bewildered. What’s the solution? How can we fix this? Maybe it’s the offensive line that is having the most trouble. These guys aren’t having trouble with the plays but with the basic footwork and body positions to create successful blocking. Why hadn’t they noticed the absence of the simple skills?

keep it simple signLearning fundamentals can be “game changing” for most of your players, too.  An old cliché comes to mind that goes “you can’t see the forest for the trees”. When, as an educator, you focus on learning the basics, you will find that out of the ashes rises a Phoenix!

In your game to deliver the winning discipline, are you 1st and goal, or have you been sacked three times during this possession? Make sure you are an effective quarterback. Keep it simple. Address those fundamentals. Point out the forest.

If you can bear another take on this subject, I will continue with “Part Three” after the holiday break.


KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid

anneOh, the memories!

Yes, I know! Kiss was a rock band that began their road to fame in the mid to late 70s. They were renowned for their face paint and stage outfits. Their performances touted elaborate displays of fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drums and pyrotechnics. WOW! Who doesn’t remember those shows? kiss

Now that I am finished with “memory lane,” it’s time to focus on another KISS that focuses on teaching. “Keep It Simple Stupid” (KISS) is often seen in print. What does it actually mean, and how can one use it in the educational arena?

I reminisce by going back to a simpler life I had growing up on a farm in rural Kentucky. “Simple” then did not equate to easy, but it did mean that I found pleasure in everyday things. (Notice that one of our premises for learning is also “pleasure”? How clever of us!) The pleasure in learning team is completely sold on the idea that pleasurable classroom practices are essential for learning. “Simple” in the classroom does not mean easy, but it does require that we make that environment fun or pleasurable.

woman-computer-drawing1I have been working for about an hour-and-a-half this morning to gather statistics and information for my psychology class to help drive home a point about caregiving, with a special emphasis on the father’s role in this daunting task. Okay, so I have all of this wonderful information. Will it serve the purpose I had in mind, or will only serve as a vessel for confusion?

Hmm, I may have to reconsider this. Am I really making this simple, or am I causing a derailment of the concept in general? I am by nature an “informavor.” I will spend hours sifting through information sites to help me understand a certain concept. “Google” is my middle name. How do I feel after this marathon search? Well, to be perfectly honest, I sometimes think, “Why did I do all of this? I know very little more now that when I started. All I do know is that my head is now spinning!”

Does your idea of teaching or learning revolve around making sure that students are bombarded with every morsel of information you can provide? Would it be a better learning environment if you were to specify the main facts in the subject and use simple examples to drive those points home?Einstein-simple-quote I ask this because one of my students last week referred to my stories. From some of my earlier posts, you know that I have a reputation for telling stories. The student said that no matter how many times I chase down a rabbit hole in my lecture, the examples always make the information clear.
Maybe we need to look for those obvious rabbit holes. Happy hunting!