Will We All Be Nomophobics?

Here’s some strong evidence of what is happening to us all as we get more and more hooked to our wireless devices:

Nomophobia Article – Fast Company

This article doesn’t really get in to the aspects that relate to the extent to which we lost efficiency with the ‘always on’ aspect of such devices. I’m now firmly of the belief that the ‘multi-tasking’ mythologists are on the retreat as they have to acknowledge that it may be perfectly possible to do two things that don’t matter very much (watch TV and post to twitter, facebook etc.), but as soon as a task has any importance it requires singular, uninterrupted focused attention.

So, for all these reasons, I’m planning to reduce the number of times in a day that I read emails (and respond to them), am thinking seriously about switching off my wi-fi for blocks of time and even blocks of time away from the workplace where all devices get switched off.

Already that’s making me feel anxious – that just exactly why I have to do it!! I’ve seen people lately advocating reading emails just once a day!! I think there are those who wouldn’t let me get away with that. However, some reduction is certainly in order.

And here’s some more evidence of the perils – the multi-tasking across devices is rewiring our brains (with consequences we don’t yet fully understand!):

Rewiring the Brain with Multitasking

Rex Conclive 2013-14

My thanks and appreciation to Jerry and all my friends at iCongo who have been loading online all the videos of the presentations and speeches from this year’s Rex Conclive which was held in Delhi in February.

We can all talk endlessly about the terrible state of public education in India. I shared my idea for how an idea from the Philippines might hold the answer for a mass involvement of the public that could turn the tide for these places. If the premises get sorted out and the environments improved one of the biggest excuses for the shoddy state of the teaching and education is removed

I’d love to hear what people think. I’m not naive. Even the Q and A session at the end of my presentation showed that people have a tendency to think skeptically on this issue. However, I still believe it’s worth us engaging in new ideas.

No Such Thing as Can’t

I was just so impressed with this video that I couldn’t resist sharing it here. With even half this girl’s spirit and drive, what could any of us achieve?

He For She

Emma Watson’s moving and powerful speech on gender equality to the United Nations.

Time for men to include our voice in the case for equality.

There’s much in this video (and the longer version which carries the full UN debate) that we in education have to think about long and hard. We have to be aware of how we individually and collectively perpetuate gender stereotypes that prevent equality and, as pointed out, this is a negative for both males and females in a modern society.

Violence in the Home

Two recent cases that have come to light in the American media shed a fascinating light on something about the society as a whole. One is a case of a sportsman assaulting his wife. Here, there’s little sympathy for the man and condemnation of those who may have attempted to brush his wrongdoing under the carpet.

The other also concerns a sportsman, but he’s been charged with causing injury to his son when assaulting him with a switch. Here, the condemnation is far more muted with media articles pointing out that corporal punishment for one’s own child is legal in almost every American state.

Is the underlying message that physical force is still acceptable in society where there is a relationship that is unequal – for the powerful to use force over the weak? Therefore, the only reason for stopping domestic violence against women is that they are no longer to be treated as weak, but equal.

Isn’t there now enormous evidence that children brought up to believe that physical force is used in the home to exert power equations and to get things done “your way” have a greater likelihood of growing up to people who use violent force on other family members as adults?

People campaign hard enough to prevent abuse and violence towards animals and pets in the home. Do they care more about protecting defenseless animals than defenseless children because somehow there’s a historical hangover that a parent has propietory rights over their child?

Domestic violence of any description is not a person’s private business. We must be ready to condemn it in all its forms.

Teacher Professional Development

Again, grabbing a brief chance to share some interesting self development material for teachers. In this case, some material put together specifically as advice for new teachers. However, I believe there are valuable insights here for all experience levels.

There are links here to 8 videos covering a variety of important topics for a fresh new teacher.

New teacher Guides

After you’ve watched these 8 videos I recommend clicking on the link in the top right of the page to go to TeachingChannel.com’s homepage. There you’ll find listings to many more videos covering all sorts of topics. It reminds me of the old ‘Teachers TV’ in the UK that made superb short films for teacher professional development until it was shut down due to withdrawal of government funding.

Marshmallows & Delayed Gratification

I felt very fortunate a few years ago when I first came across the writings of Alfie Kohn. The first pieces i read were ones in which he tore apart the weak ‘science’ behind purported studies that alleged academic and learning benefits from homework.

His book ‘Punished by Rewards’ has had a profound effect on many educators. Kohn gives us no choice but to question many of the simplistic beliefs that exist in society about how children are brought up and how schools should run. Over time, it might be concluded that on some things, Kohn himself is wrong, but nevertheless I believe he’s vitally important because far more people ought to be questioning and challenging in the ways that he does. He makes us think hard about what’s right for the child, what’s right for the learner – and that can only be a good thing.

The compassion of the man is unquestionable. It’s pretty clear, he wants us to think very very hard about what we do in our profession and to base practices on reality and more hard-edged research. That’s a very good thing.

In this recent article Alfie Kohn takes on the flurry of recent writing and thought in education circles, especially in the US that has sought to go back to the work of Walter Mischel at Stanford University and to apply it to how we educate children today (the well known marshmallow experiments).

Dispelling the Myth of Deferred Gratification – Alfie Kohn

The first point on which i would take issue with Kohn is on the motivation of those who have been interested in the issues of deferred gratification (and flowing from this self management and discipline). I am one of those who has been interested in the potential of this research and what it might suggest to us that we need to change. However, I would firmly refute the allegation he makes that this is because we are more interested in changing children than we are in changing the education system. In my view, for way too long, educators have behaved as though their only task and responsibility was to ‘deliver the syllabus or curriculum in chunks/ chapters/ portions etc. To acknowledge that any teacher has to take full account of aspects such as learner motivation, concentration span, self management abilities etc. is to acknowledge the broader responsibility of the educator to meet the learner where they are, as an individual – not to treat them as a homogenous group at whom the learning content is delivered.

As for whether people have tried to draw too many conclusions from Mischel’s research – here Kohn might have a valid point. However, i think this is already acknowledged by many and explains why more research and work is ongoing involving people like Carol Dweck, also at Stanford.

So, I don’t, by any means, agree with all of Alfie Kohn’s arguments. However, I appreciate enormously that he makes me think (and think hard) about our profession and the practices within it that are taken for granted or passed down as unquestionable through generations of educators.

In another blog post recently I drew parallels between teaching and medicine as professions. I believe, historically, medicine has been far better at facing up to realities where practices of the past come under challenge. As a result, as a profession it’s changed enormously over the last 50 or 100 years. Teaching hasn’t changed enough,. suggesting to me that educators haven’t been willing enough to challenge and question old orthodoxies. People like Alfie Kohn help to change that.

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