detox {history}

detox as a process of learning to learn

detox words


James Bach comments on detox:

Detox is a good term for it – from a schooled society to a mind society.

As I see it, detox isn’t about learning, not primarily, it’s about self-ownership and self-power in the context of society. It’s personal and social. Detox is about seeing a new kind of normal where you are able to make plans and have ambitions that don’t involve begging the indulgence of authority.
So my steps would be something like this:

  1. Relax, it’s going to be okay.
  2. You don’t have to do anything. But what do you feel like doing? Try to listen for that.
  3. Don’t try to study anything. Instead, if you feel excited about something, let yourself learn about it until you lose interest.
  4. Don’t worry about losing interest… It’s all part of the process.
  5. What process? The process of your mind discovering its passion.
  6. Look around. Who do you want to be with? What kind of people would you like to respect you?
  7. How do they behave? What do they know? Maybe you can learn about that, and impress them with your enthusiasm.
  9. You’re on your way!


Click here for a 6:32 min video version of all of the below.

Check out how Youth Voices [Bronx Academy Sr High, et al] is experimenting with notice/dream/connect/do here – click on anything labeled – self-directed learning.

Gathering more thinking about detox here:

SatoriSierraPeterCristianBethmonika, …

Updated thinking: Perhaps detox is more about the spaces of permission, and this process of learning is simply a prompt in those spaces. It’s like we’re experimenting with, and play acting out, what is the invisible part of a healthy, self-directed mindset. So when we say detox is temporary, we’re meaning this exaggerated playing out of detox is temporary. Self-reflection is a natural state we are promoting, in order to pump adrenaline back into the soul.
Also wondering about an app to ground the chaos while we’re getting back to that natural state of curiosity. Imagine creating serendipity by connecting to others who are noticing or connecting to the same things you are. ie: Text what you’re noticing – or a cuirosity, within the day, you get 5 text #’s back of people in your town with similar noticings, etc.

We believe learning is a natural process for anyone in a non-oppressive environment with exposure/access to resources. We believe that unfortunately, many of us have become intoxicated with compliancy and so are no longer able to self-direct our own learning. While intoxication does have a bad connotation, the compliancy hasn’t been all bad. It’s gained many people/organizations efficiency. And it didn’t come out of ill-intent. We believe people generally and genuinely seek to do good. Nonetheless, it’s hard for many of us to embrace inquiry and imagination, to question assumptions, because we often don’t even see them as assumptions, but rather as the way it is. We believe many of us need time and space and permission to detoxify our own learning back to a natural state.

Noah reflecting on detox:

What we’re calling detox is simply a process of learning to learn, of knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. A model of detox we are suggesting is the iteration/documentation of what a person notices, what they dream or imagine, with whom and what things they connect, and what they do. It’s a means to start seeing assumptions (mind chatter) for what they are in order to define our own success/value and do the things that matter to us and our community. We see it as a placebo-type play acting of a natural thinking/talking to ourselves, in order to get us back to that natural state, back to ourselves.

We believe, to notice the unlikely, dream boldly, connect to people and info, and do what matters, is a pretty good representation of the natural process of learning. Where it all begins is here, and if you’d like a little nudge beyond that, go here.

Perhaps this gets us back to a natural state of curiosity, where we become usefully ignorant (E McWilliam), knowing what to do when we don’t know what to do.

Curiosity is a luxury, developmentally speaking. Attachment is what matters most. Until some energy is released from having to pursue safe and secure attachments, venturing forth into the unknown is not on the developmental agenda. That is why peer orientation kills curiosity. Peer-oriented students are completely preoccupied with issues of attachment. Instead of being interested in the unknown, they become bored by anything that does not serve the purpose of peer attachment. Boredom is epidemic among the peer-oriented.
Because of the strong emphasis on peer socialization, emergent play—play arising from the child’s creativity, imagination, and curiosity about the world—has become endangered.         – Mate & Neufeld, Hold On to Your Kids


Why is this (detox) important as the glue:
Perhaps this focus, that the glue is a process of learning to learn, learning to be curious – again, allows for a world of andrather than either/or. Imagine saying good-bye to all that defense. Instead, people begin being, in a vulnerable and perpetual beta (MC Bateson). The individual becomes the center of a networked individualism (B Wellman – the brain, ..?), always experimenting, always alive, believing whimsy matters, craving co-creation. Imagine the future platform is indeed in each person’s head (V Miemis). Imagine programming tech to craft a network around you as you’re doing/being/creating throughout your day, rather than spending your time on proving yourself, (ie: pd and testing for credentialing purposes). Imagine we start to get back to the naturalness of a mesh network rather our manufactured linear pyramid. The main difference between the pyramid and the network is a foundation (D Weinberger). The network has no prescribed entry point. If it’s truly essential, it will show up. Our new structure is our own structure, how we learn/do/be, along the way. Start anywhere, follow it everywhere (M Rogers). If this is the glue, we’ve just pruned out all the time we currently spend on prep and proving and seeking accolades, and even more on defending and training for more micro-management of proof. (what really is provable anyway, no?)


where from:
The idea came from many years of my own observation of people through the eyes of a math and leadership coach and the last two years of intense research with students, listening to people’s ideas on how to change school. Our findings, everyone’s ideas were different. Multiple learning styles, personalities, preferred topics to learn, preferred means to assess/present learning, and multiple meanings of success, begged for personalization, but also created an intangible means to model learning within public education.
There exists a natural path to authentic learning. Focus on the process of learning as opposed to the compulsory content public ed subscribes to, appears risky to many in light of our current standard of measure. We have found however, that in fact, that standard of measure is now providing more of a risk in a world where self-directed learners are becoming indispensable. We also found that most people (80% ish) are so used to following direction that even if they choose to be free from rules, they aren’t quite sure what to do without them.

Schools teach but a billionth of a percent of the knowledge in the world, yet we quibble endlessly about which billionth of a percent is important, and the order in which is should be presented.  – Seymour Papert

We came across this paper by Eric McWilliam. In it, she pens the most needed skill, being usefully ignorantknowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. We decided to fashion a model of that process of learning. With the help/guidance of expert self-directed learners (such as James Bach, Alan Kayand Noam Kostucki) and experts in usefulness (learners seeking anti-jargon/buzzwords) we came up with a process/verbiage we’re hoping is user friendly (notice, dream, connect, do).
Personalizing in public education allows the learner to own their learning. Focus on the learning process, iterated no matter what the content, streamlines a standard curriculum, so to speak, to one skill. Something incredibly messy and complex, differentiating for each learner, now becomes very simple and focused. This simplicity and focus allows for a pruning out of unneeded content/busywork, as well as an intense, deep practice of the goal at hand. Iterations of the same process soon become second nature. And the learner has the skill set to do anything they previously didn’t know how to do.

Personalization in public education is a relatively new possibility. Web access allows connections to people/mentors and information we were never able to connect to before. Now every learner can create their own course/project/curriculum with their own expert tutor.  Web access also allows a global scan/view of the big picture of learning. That big picture is showing us that often our best mentors and info are found in unlikely places. Refocus to a natural learning process unearths unaccounted for time and resources. Now we can pay better attention, notice more empathetically, and make better connections.

While the exact words, notice, dream, connect, do, are certainly not set in stone, and certainly aren’t to be worshiped, we do see great value in detoxing along with others. Common verbiage and a means to access others’ experiences/documentation will be helpful. We have been working with Jim Folkestad at CSU to craft mappings of this process, this activity system, through documentation by the learner and their mentor.
We started out with the learners logging onto a form such as this at least once a week. Thinking that some of the student’s logs as well as their mentor’s would then be turned from a spreadsheet into a mapping. (watch Jim describe the mapping here and here).
After the course of our first year, we’re looking to more natural and useful ways kids share, youtube and wikipedia in particular. We have over 1000 youtube clips of raw footage, that we have been retagging (tsdil, student name, topic, notice, dream, connect, do) and hope to create some search engine widget that could be placed on our sites, as well as each of the kids blogs/portfolios. We’re especially interested in getting the submitting/editing process of wikipedia down, as we see wikipedia as a universal, organized, sharing space that already exists and is already acknowledged as such.

We created this site in the hopes of some sort of gathering space of people designing their own school/action. That their thinking aloud could then be aggregated and used to create gatherings that matter, people finding their people.


The video (via Jim) below shows students talking through the process with particular projects they are working on. (note: if using earbuds, :48 to 1:22 has no sound)


look here for write-up (2010) of detox (background) – and one student’s example from us using google docs as app (process)


imagination and play document – describing the elements of detox via this diagram:



more history here if you are so inclined.

or back to main pages on detox: detox, detox as detox, iterating detox


adding images below (used first year 2010-11? – most in early slideshares on detox above) that we used when experimenting with charts and app input prototypes.

ie: your action was when using redefineschool site as app – collecting buckets of ndcd; google doc template collected ndcd and the experimented with word recognition; spirals via Craig’s vision of career focus (green) and life long learner focus (yellow) and all the possible foci.. kind of going along with Papert’s quote – that there are billions of topics.. and we only teach a very small fraction in schools.. but mostly we argue about what very small fraction that should be..

ndcd_001 ndcd_002 ndcd_blank ndcd_full ndcd_half

ndcd ndcd