Immersed in Modern Art

Silhouettes of people in immersive Van Gogh experience

If you have a background in art, you can skip this newbie post. If you are engaged with art but otherwise inexperienced, continue on. 

I’m taking a course called Modern Art and Ideas from the Museum of Modern Art on Coursera. Two years ago, I completed their course In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting and I have a lot of paintings to show for it. One of the things I loved about the course is that each week focused on a different postwar abstract artist and then we would paint our own painting in that painter’s style. If you want to remember art and artists, this is an outstanding learning method. 

Something that occurred to me is a common misunderstanding about modern art. You have probably heard someone say: “I just don’t understand modern art!”

But modern art isn’t solely abstract or surrealist paintings. It’s really a post-industrial shift in how and why art was created. Modern art includes the work of Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper. 

Both Modern Art and Ideas and In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting are free to take on Coursera. Let me know if you enroll! And of course, I want to see your paintings!

Photo by Redd on Unsplash

Learning how to learn

Human brain on purple gradient background

One of my favorite online courses is Learning How to Learn by Barbara Oakley and Terry Sejnowski. And I’m not alone – 3+ million learners have taken the popular course on Coursera. 

Barb, Terry, and their colleague Beth Rogowski have a new book, Uncommon Sense Teaching, and a companion course on Coursera, so I signed up. It’s geared toward teachers but the content is relevant for anyone who has to teach others. One of the things I appreciate about the LHTL crew is their willingness to look deeply at and interrogate widely accepted beliefs about how we learn. I am just a few weeks into the course but I already can see why some teaching and training methods aren’t that effective in creating learning that lasts. 

Photo by Fakurian Design on Unsplash

Maybe it really is rocket science after all

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

I’m reading Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life by Ozan Varol. Part of me is a contrarian like Varol. The contrarian in me muscles by the good-girl programming asking a lot of hard questions like “Why does it have to be this way?” So, of course, I preordered his book. 

I’m about a third of the way through, and I already recommend it. I’m actively thinking about how to apply it to life and work. It’s simple, but not easy. 

It’s funny how “Common wisdom” sits on our shoulder whispering in our ear as hard to shake as an unwanted party guest. That voice that admonishes us to follow the well-worn, tried-and-true path even when we know it’s not optimal or that it’s not working at all. 

I keep thinking about Dick Fosbury and his high jump technique. Ridiculed for defying convention and jumping backward over the bar, Fosbury had the last laugh when he was standing on the top platform at the 1968 Olympics with his gold medal. 

I am an early adopter of technology, and there have been many moments where I backed a method, or a technology I knew was right — a better way — and faced ridicule, criticism, or derision. Email, instant messaging, the web, the BlackBerry, Amazon, (and online shopping in general), WordPress, Dropbox, Slack, online learning, and the list goes on. The lack of enthusiasm is hard, and I’ve questioned my judgment from time to time. Still, it hasn’t deterred me from being a contrarian when it comes to technology solutions. I’m always in search of a better way.

How do I keep doing that and doing it in other areas of my life? How do I ignore the voices that seek the safety of the familiar?

My biggest takeaway so far is that we can all conduct unlimited thought experiments without needed resources, money, permission, or specialized training. A sandbox environment in technology protects mission-critical work from experiments. It lets you play without bringing your whole environment down. Varol talks about creating that sandbox in our minds: if our thought experiments don’t work, it’s okay, we can just move on.

Check out Think Like a Rocket Scientist and let me know what you think!

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash