This is About Us. by Emi Day

On Sunday, I found out that I had won The Listserve. Each day, one person out of about 25,000 people all over the world, gets to write to everyone else. What would you say, knowing you only have 600 words and 48 hours to respond? Do you take the opportunity to share your story? Graciously promote whatever you're working on? Do you dispense some sage advice and life lessons from your experience? Entertain with travel stories? List all the small joys of music, books, and other consumables that have influenced you?

I went with some questions about us. The future us.

I don’t identify as a sci-fi fanatic or with the technology-as-savior cults but I do thoroughly enjoy artistically deconstructing possible futures. I love to ask my comrades around campfires, on lunch breaks, while waiting in lines and dinner party spreads to describe a day in 2065. I probe about the prolific use of online dating influencing mate selection, solar roadways and self-driving cars eliminating traffic and parking lots, endless "would you rather” scenarios and imagining all kinds of conversations with my grandkids that begin with “when I was your age …” 

I want your thought experiments, your dreams, and different versions of reality. I want your obstacles and your most cherished moments; more than anything I want to awaken your childlike wonder and let our minds play jazz.

Here’s one of those ideas: can someone just please invent a better way to vote! And by vote I mean harness the power of big data to poll the public, educate voters at a point of relevant decision-making, match consumer behaviors with intentions, and basically disentangle politics to become a monthly exercise for the average voter to access timely, hyperlocal issues that matter most to the welfare of their community, and weigh their own roles and responsibilities? I dream of that ideal user interface, the functionality and accuracy we’d achieve, and our collective potential.

Speaking of collectivism, do you ever think about an end of the world scenario, where you’d need to design your tribe to survive? What is your role and which part would you lead? Who would you surround yourself with, and how would you determine compatibility? What are the basic skill-sets you’d need to cover amongst all of you? 

If you apply all of these questions to your context today, what would you be doing, teaching, collecting? I’m interested in survivalism, but am more bent on educational reform and curriculum development. (More of these essential questions from Sir Ken Robinson’s book, The Element.)

Taylor Mali performing Totally like whatever, you Know on Def Jam Poetry- explaining our dwindling decisiveness

As a designer of learning environments and tribalist myself, I think about these questions—mainly what will we need to teach the next generation? How will we engage one another? How will we express concerns, navigate uncertainty, and negotiate trust? What happens when there are no experts in the room? Or when we’re all experts? I worry how our conversations have changed, and with them, the depth and authenticity of our interactions.

Will you judge others because of their optimism?

Will you patronize others because of their inexperience?

Will you establish a hierarchy of wisdom because that is what was done to you?

by Brene Brown, Daring Greatly (2012)

No matter your age, will you let yourself be seen in the name of learning? (See “The Daring Greatly Leadership Manifesto” by Brene Brown)

To face this fear to be wrong, the comparisons, the top-down rhetoric, the manipulative mindset of “should,” and your own crippling self-perception—we must realize our unshakable passions, thoughtfully talk about them, and invite others to explore with you. How can we co-mentor and develop meaningful, encouraging, symbiotic relationships from a place of humility and kindness?

So. Are you optimistic about the future? Do you let your wonder and curiosity run wild? Do you keep those that inspire you close? Are you asking questions that excite those around you?

Thank you to my dear friend Dan Strongwater for forwarding a Listserve contribution about passion a few years ago and thinking of me. You’re a gem.

And don’t forget, if you’re not struggling, you’re not learning.

Find me on instagram @emiday, and twitter @iamemiday


Eportfolios & Assessment by Emi Day

Some of you may know that my father is an English professor, but did you know that he's helping to develop the new writing standards for college acceptance? As a huge advocate for qualitative assessments, my father has been teaching English teachers how to evaluate student writing through reflective portfolios. 

He will presenting the 15 year eportfolio journey from experimenting with a couple classes to inter-institutional exchanges at the Conference of College Composition & Communication  with the National Council of Teachers of English next week. 

Check out our creative collaboration!

Exploring eportfolio implementation with my dad, Michael Day

27 on 27 by Emi Day

  1. Dancing with my French soccer team
  2. Meeting new people everyday, who always surprise me 
  3. Some free time to straight hang
  4. The 1000 LED balloon dance party to end all birthday parties
  5. Drumming... quietly.
  6. Learning how to love in many colorful ways
  7. Sweating balls through some exciting ass conversations 
  8. Fridays with lunch club
  9. Moving to a place that changed me forever.. for round two
  10. Combatting agism
  11. Being patient with my thumbnail chakras
  12. Passing licensure exams
  13. Getting mom drunk on the back of a cruise ship
  14. Driving a SmartCar for the first time
  15. Teaching friends how to row on the river
  16. Life lessons from The Lego Movie
  17. Feeling the sun rise over Africa in every part of my body and soul
  18. Finding enormous comfort in little things like a cush bath mat
  19. Listening to how I made people feel, good and bad
  20. Organizing a giant movie night on the roof 
  21. Being extra nerdy on a folding bike all year
  22. Cooking dinners with friends for more friends
  23. Walking to work everyday in awe 
  24. Tacos. taco crawls, tacos in my apt, tacos in my belly, tacos in wicker park, taco tuesday, shout out to tacos everywhere
  25. Surviving a juice cleanse 
  26. Becoming Katniss for an evening
  27. Writing & photographing every day like the adventure that it is

Kilimanjaro by Emi Day

It's been eight weeks since I've returned from Africa and I'm still waiting for my thumbnails to fall off...

Let me rewind. Tanzania was spectacular. It's hard to believe everything that happened- the wildlife, the singing, the Pepto pep talks, and of course, the climb. Trips like this push you to be your best self: friendly, forgiving, and fearless. It's one of those few times in your life that being the simple struggling and surviving human is all you can offer. When you don't have any energy left to hide your difficulty, discomfort, and desperation, who are you? 

The lack of atmospheric pressure pushed my skin outward and my nails didn't keep up. It was a unique type of torture: besides the excruciating pain at the base of my nailbeds, I was near the limits of my body, mind, and spirit with people I barely know. But that's just the beginning of things I didn't know-- how long a week really was, that I like to read aloud, how much I need slow, quiet mornings to sip tea and draw, or that an inflatable banana will not self-inflate at 19,341 ft.

I'm not as extroverted or fierce as am downtown on the ground, but I saw a side of myself that was patient and strong. We laughed about our pathetic complaints and we indulged in our discomforts with costumes and science experiments. I let myself be seen, and from that place of vulnerability, I wholly loved my beautiful, generous companions who took care to know me. 

As I watch my new thumbnails grow into place, I am grateful for these renewed senses, the slow and steady mountain mantras (polé-polé in Swahili), and the bare, bullshit-free base layer that keeps me real.

A moment of elation at Uhuru Peak

Our last day, singing and dancing with Assistant Guide Nyanda, Cook Peter, and our 12 porters.

 No makeup, no worries

No makeup, no worries

Learning Motion Graphics by Emi Day

I am absolutely captivated by visualizations that mix math, music, and moments. They allow us to understand deconstructed sounds and appreciate the song as a composition. What simple patterns and rules can we illuminate around us? 

Short film by Renaud Hallee. Official Selection Annecy 2010. Music generated by an abstract life cycle. 2009 Court métrage de Renaud Hallée. Musique générée par un cycle de vie abstrait. 2009

First Arabesque, by Claude Debussy, performed by Stephen Malinowski, accompanied by an animated score. FAQ To download this video or make a contribution to support this project: 

Mealsharing: Rooftop Cinema by Emi Day

Last night, more than 75 people joined us on my roof to celebrate Chicago. Serving up locally made popcorn, chocolates, cheeses, fruits, granola bars, and beers while featuring our best known Chicago film, the Blues Brothers, against the skyline, it was truly a night to remember. 

"We're just a group of friends who have a passion for the food and food systems within geographic proximity to where we live. We want to spread our appreciation and celebrate local food because it supports the local economy, travels fewer miles, and allows us to connect to the actual people growing, cooking, or preparing their food. We certainly aren’t the only local foodies in Chicago, but we're an active, interdisciplinary group that met last year through friends of friends. The thing that binds us: we would all consider ourselves local foodies. We aren’t exclusive though, which is why we started throwing parties to share our love of local food and meet new local foodies."
- Emma Zimmerman, fellow foodie

Big thanks to our very own Chicago startups MealsharingSkinny Pop, Kind Bars, GH Cretors, Local Foods, and Urban Counter, as well as my co-conspirators Kyle Henry, Emma Zimmerman, Zachary Damato, and Taylor & Adrian Ion. 

Being Half Japanese by Emi Day

Last night, I saw the first documentary about half-Japanese people living in Japan.

It surprised me that I was a little sad. I've lived in a few places (mainly South Dakota) where being "happa" or "hafu" was what really made me unique. I learned to be proud of my differences, even a bit smug that I travelled internationally throughout my childhood.

Tonight, I became acutely aware of my "special snowflake syndrome." While I logically knew that I wasn't the only one, emotionally, I'd never felt real empathy in dealing with things like wanting to be perceived as Japanese, striving to speak the language, or having to prove that I am my mother's child.

It opened up those weird middle school emotions of how we've each had to come to terms with our mixed identities.

I am grateful too: there's a lot of shaming and ostracism in Japan that I've never had to face. And my broken, cute, inebriated fourth-grade level Japanese impresses native speakers who only consider me American.

I've realized it's the baggage that came with my mother's Japanese identity and her adjustment to this culture that I've inherited and processed... This documentary showed that I know so little about being Japanese without her influence. 

There are only a few things about me that I attribute as Japanese: my cravings for comfort food include pickled radish, eel, sweet beans, rice, and noodles; my abilities to balance and refine as a designer; and my understanding of the spiritual world and karma. 

I still hope that someday I'll be able to unlock this secret elite world of pure Japanese culture, but for now, I'm pretty content being just another mixed-race American.

The Beauty of Mathematics by Emi Day

Wouldn’t it be exciting to see the forces acting all around us- as augmented reality? There are so many avenues- equations, diagrams, and video to learn about the way things work. These parallel truths explaining the same idea really intrigue me. What if we thought of education as finding your unique language or avenue to learning?

"Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music." —Bertrand Russell By Yann Pineill & Nicolas Lefaucheux

Employability & the Skills Gap by Emi Day

Originally posted on The Third Teacher + blog.

Recently, I’ve been concerned about the “skills gap,” a term describing the situation where employers complain that graduating students don’t have the skills to qualify for available jobs, while educators still believe their students are ready.  Having just made the leap from 7 years of higher education to entry-level employment, I feel that this is a ripe opportunity to reflect on this transition.

My main objective here is to reframe the question of why graduates lack skills for available jobs, and ask instead why graduates are not emotionally ready for employment.

I’d like to tackle the idea that once you graduate, you’re done. You’re set, you believe you’ve acquired enough knowledge and know-how to start changing lives and taking names. Let’s look at that a bit more closely. 

1. We already know that you don’t have to graduate from school to start something. You don’t have to earn a degree to do anything anymore. Some people recognize that school is just the fertile ground (diverse people, creative tools, crazy ideas) to GET GOING.  

How can we support students to run with their ideas into the real world? How can we change the metaphor of schools from employee factories (economy-centered) to leadership academies (student-centered)?

2. Different people take varying amounts of time to realize who they are and what they want to do.  When you graduate, it does not show how self-aware a person is.  For some people, looking for a job is the first time they’ve had to test their values against an organizations’.  It’s the first time that they realize we must each find a unique way to serve society; ideally, create their own position or niche. 

How can we create more time for focused reflection during school so that when training is over, young people know how to use their own internal compass?

3. Graduation is the end of formal institutional training, but learning is never over. Becoming educated must mean to learn how you, yourself learn; how you, yourself are motivated; how you, yourself, are inspired. Learning is simply a nimble mind: It’s open enough to accept new/challenging information, but closed enough to filter out spam.  It’s capable of making quick judgments but careful enough to reevaluate them later. It’s recalling main ideas but applying and sharing them to relevant people and situations going forward. 

How can we instill a fundamental love of challenging oneself to stimulate a lifelong learning mentality? How can we support and validate alternative paths to education?

Over the last year I’ve had great laughs about the Skills Gap- talking to my peers about meaningless degrees, collaborating with students to design our own education , and participating on OpenIDEO’s challenge to get young people employed. Fundamentally, it’s not about a skills gap, it’s about a mindset gap. We need graduates who know themselves enough to pursue a fitting opportunity, who are devoted to learning when it gets weird, and who strive to work with people they admire.

Learning to Learn by Emi Day

The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction — how to teach himself. Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.
— Alvin Toffler

Big Box Library by Emi Day

 LOVE the adaptive reuse of big box stores, the only thing missing is DAYLIGHT or some sort of connection to nature- skylights, or a giant inner courtyard would have been my first move.

LOVE the adaptive reuse of big box stores, the only thing missing is DAYLIGHT or some sort of connection to nature- skylights, or a giant inner courtyard would have been my first move.

by Emi Day

  This sounds like an incredible program. I met one of their lecturers and founder of  Public Architecture , John Peterson of a couple years ago while working for  450 architects  in San Francisco. Looks like UT Austin is making big moves in service learning and design for social impact!

This sounds like an incredible program. I met one of their lecturers and founder of Public Architecture, John Peterson of a couple years ago while working for 450 architects in San Francisco. Looks like UT Austin is making big moves in service learning and design for social impact!