Tag Archive for 'ThinkersKeys'

The Ridiculous Key and mental exercise

Daily Mental Exercise

For the past few decades, health authorities around the world have exhorted us to find 30 mins (or more) a day to exercise our bodies. For very good reason. All other things being equal, we’ll each live a longer and more physically satisfying life if we engage in that exercise.

So, what about mental exercise? I would like to see an equally focused effort placed on intellectual exercise from the mental health authorities. In this case, it would involve a mass encouragement for us to stretch our intellect for 30 mins every day. The implications of not doing so are, in many ways, even more profound than the lack of physical exertion.

Now, some would say that their brain already works endlessly throughout the day, and thus it does not need to do anything further. Yet surely that also could be said about the body. Most of us need to walk around for much of the day, yet this hardly constitutes quality exercise.

So, what would worthwhile intellectual exercise really involve??

You could start with the plethora of technology that is presently being marketed around this theme. Lots of online and offline brain exercise devices abound, and some of them thankfully go much further than just moving coloured dots from one place to another. It’s worth having a look at some of them.

If you’re that serious about training your brain, what would be some of the cheaper (and in most cases) more effective ways of intellectually exercising your Self??

Well…let’s see. Reading books that challenge your longheld beliefs. Listening to people who have markedly different viewpoints to you. Studying a topic that is just a little bit beyond your present intellectual grasp. Learning a new language. Developing a different skill. The list is exhaustive.

The Ridiculous Key

However, here’s one of my consummate favourites. Just challenge the status quo, on almost everything. No, make that everything. And here’s a simple process for doing this. I call it the Ridiculous Key.

This is one of my twenty Thinkers Keys. And during my own lessons, it’s often proved to be the one that stretches students’ thinking the most. It works like this.

Make a totally ridiculous statement about some issue. And then set out to demonstrate how it could be done. You need to make the statement as over-the-top and as outlandish as possible. Here are some examples:

All mobile devices (eg cellphones, online mobile laptops) need to be banned during daylight hours. Without exception.

Some justifications:

  • People would get more creative about sending messages to others eg they’d start using carrier pigeons, they’d actually write love letters on paper, they’d ask someone else to pass the message on, they’d rediscover morse code
  • An underground movement called Let Us Decide (the LUDs) would build up around the world, protesting about this latest intrusion on privacy, and creating a sense of collaboration never before seen in society
  • There would be fewer traffic accidents, especially with drivers who previously were not focusing on their driving while talking on their mobile
  • Not as many people would be injured when walking into lamp-posts while texting someone
  • Fewer teenagers would go into debt with their mobile phone contract
  • More people might actually talk with each other in real life
  • It would allow authorities to fine people who persist in using their mobile devices in the day, and thus boost the funds in the public purse (hopefully to be used for educational expenditure)

Now it’s your turn. What type of justifications could you find for the following Ridiculous statements?

1. All schooling is to be provided online by 2010, without exception.
2. Advertisements on TV must feature in a single full hour from 7pm to 8pm each night. No other ads will be allowed at any time.
3. No one, anywhere in the world, can ever again complain about anything. Instead, every conversation about an issue must focus exclusively on solutions.

Enjoy your intellectual exercise.

Thinkers Keys: Matrix Key


Here’s one for all of those who are obsessed with teaching children to think at the highest intellectual levels.

As part of my blog contributions, I’ll occasionally include some of my Thinkers Keys. Feel free to download and use them to your heart’s content. So here’s the first offering: the Matrix Key. It has always been one of my favourites. In the earlier version of the Thinkers Keys (a free download is available here), I called it the Combination Key. However, here’s the update on it. Called the Matrix Key (you’ll need to download this, in order to make sense of the rest of this). Comes from the new Thinkers Keys CD-Rom.

For a variety of reasons, I find that kids all over the world love to use this process. Clear elegant process, with a direct visual framework. It can trigger the most innovative ideas. I’ve often used it in my own lessons. In its simplest version, it challenges you (or them) to combine two different items / concepts / products into a single new form. Here’re some of the ideas I’ve been offered from children:

A combination of surfboards and iceblocks (paddlepops). People who hire surfboards often bring them back too late, and ignore the calls coming from the beach. So, we need to make the surfboards out of a large piece of ice, and it would then just melt at the end of the period of time.

Some 8 year olds were asked how they could get some chocolates down from the top of a high refrigerator, using a wristwatch. Their response: They would throw the watch up in the air, and this would make time fly. They then would grow up really quickly, and they could reach up and grab the chocolates by themselves.