Will Your Child use Technology … or Will The technology Control your Child?

I am seeing more and more children who appear to be on the losing side when it comes to whether technology will be a powerful tool for good in their lives or a plague that can severely undermine their ability to fulfill their potential in life. I’m having personal experiences at home with my son, too, that raise difficult questions and challenges about what is right at what age. Perhaps what concerns and troubles me most here in India is that parents are to such a great extent oblivious to the facts, the implications or even that they have anything to worry about.

I’m pleased when I see articles such as this sensitive and very human piece from Mashable where the writer shares her personal family experiences with technology. We have all seen how some adults fall prey to the allure of addictive and compulsive behaviour.

Mashable Article: Are you raising tech-addicted kids?

For teenagers especially the ability to control or restrain impulse, to self-regulate and discipline or to maintain proportion are still developing and are therefore highly vulnerable. We still don’t know or understand yet the full perils or implications. However, if we have a sense that there is risk and that the risk is more than superficial, then I believe we owe it to our children to make ourselves as informed as we can and to then be the voice of reason and to help our children to limit their exposure to the risks.

For me personally, a few months ago, this entailed setting an example by removing all games from my phone and laptop. This was something I needed to do so that I could be crystal clear to my son that if I was doing something on a screen, there was a strong chance that it was something meaningful and productive, not something mindless and potentially addictive. Not necessarily a message he wanted to hear, but one I needed him to hear loud and clear.

Bring on the Superhumans

The Paralympics start today in London. Let nobody make the mistake of believing these are something lesser than the Olympics from a sports perspective. 2.3 million tickets sold so far and still going like hot cakes.

See the Team GB promotional video and then wonder – what is the power of sport to transform lives:

I also recommend, if anyone gets the chance to see the film ‘Murderball’, it is superb and incredibly powerful and moving. One of my all time favourites.

Will the Paralympions inspire me to shift my lazy old body a bit faster and harder in the gym. You bet. When these guys can do what they do, what right do any of us have to take up medical resources with ‘lifestyle illnesses’?

Re-Imagining Education

A thoughtful video exploring ways that today’s education needs to change in order to meet the needs of children and young people growing up today:

The website from which this comes: Soul Biographies

Summer Reading List (Part 2)

A little delayed, but here is the second half of my summer reading list, as promised. Before I get in to it, I want to stress again;

  1. The length of the list doesn’t signify a dull summer break. I had a good summer, and
  2. I don’t just read non-fiction. I read some great novels as well!

So, here goes;

  1. Giving Voice to Values, Mary C Gentile
    This book was a gift from Mr Amit Bhatia, the lead faculty for the TSRS-Aspen Summer Leadership Programme and a great read. Ms Gentile is a professor of Babson College, USA and the book explores the issues of finding courage to lead through values and inspire others,
  2. Drive, Daniel Pink
    As a long time reader of Pink’s books and his blog this book had been on my ‘to be read’ list for quite some time. It’s a fascinating exploration of human motivation.
  3. Mindset, Carol Dweck
    Without a doubt, one of my highlight finds of the summer. Already, I’ve advocated this book to a number of colleagues in the last couple of months. I believe it deserves to be right up at the top of the reading list for all educators and parents, in fact particularly parents. Carol Dweck is a professor at Stanford University. Her book explores, through research findings the impact of the Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset. The starting premise is a simple one, but as the book highlights the implications are massive. Educators and parents who are not aware of the findings in this book can be inadvertently reinforcing fixed mindset that can blight the lives of children as it infects their beliefs about academic abilities, propensity and skill in learning, creativity, sports and physical skills and abilities.
    If you choose to read only one of the books on this list, this is the one I recommend.
  4. HBR, Managing People
    This is a compilation by Harvard Business Review of some of the most powerful and groundbreaking articles on the subject published by them. It contains some superb articles with profound thinking that has shaped people management practices throughout the world. Stand out articles for me were those by Daniel Goleman, Chris Argyris and Frederick Herzberg’s on motivation.
  5. 50 Self Help Classics
    This is almost like a primer for planning one’s reading for a year or two in its own right. It contains short summaries of a whole range of books going back to the very earliest, to the modern day gurus and guides on how to live an effective life.
  6. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King
    King’s tragic and untimely death meant that he never got to publish his autobiography. In fact he would undoubtedly have considered he was too young for such a thing and was way too humble and modest to consider it. This book was published after his death by bringing together material from King’s family, friends and both published and unpublished writings. What emerges is a portrait of a simple, honest, humble man who saw issues that troubled him greatly and through strength of spiritual faith and character set out to right the wrongs he saw in society, at whatever personal risk to himself. The book carried great insights in to the life and beliefs of the man and especially the enormous impact in his thinking from Gandhi.
  7. How Children Fail, John Holt
    This and its sister volume “How Children Learn” should be compulsory reading for all educators, especially those in pre-primary and primary education. I have recently reread both for the third time. This time I was reading updated versions in which Holt has added fresh insights and observations based upon understanding of later research. Every time I read them I am moved by Holt’s obvious love for children and his evident curiosity about the workings of their evolving young minds. Educators who think like Holt know that we’re there to teach children, not syllabus, subjects etc.
  8. The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christenson
    Better known to many educators for his book “Disrupting Class”, this is a sometimes heavy but rewarding business oriented book. It explores with lots of evidence why great companies at the top of their industries can fail to miss the ‘wave’ of new industry innovation, that can even wipe them out as companies largely because they become victims of their own success, incapable of taking the courageous steps to innovate if it means going against their accepted ways of working, the desires of their established customer base and the mindsets of the people who took the company to that level of success. As I read the book, I couldn’t help thinking that what holds good for companies may not be so true for educational institutes. When great companies fail to innovate they can quite simply die. However, when great educational institutes fail to innovate or move too slowly they don’t die. Maybe this is one of the problems at the root of the failures of education to move adequately with the rapidly changing needs of the world.

  9. The Art of Living, Epictetus
    Nothing to do with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Instead, a slim but interesting little volume of principles set down by the Stoic philosopher nearly 2000 years ago. His key thrust is that man cannot control life, but we have complete control over how we respond to it.
  10. Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar
    A small slim book, but one of the highlights of my recent reading. The book is a bi-product of Tal’s course that he teaches at Harvard – the most popular and most attended course there. Yes, indeed, the young under and post-grads of Harvard are smart enough to realise that they can have all the skills, intelligence and ability to get in to one of the world’s great academic institutes, they might be destined for great professional success – but, none of that guarantees them happiness in life. Tal is a part of the ‘Positive Psychology’ movement that is applying the rigour of academic research and thinking to what might previously have been strictly the domain of the self-help movement.
    Very thought provoking and well worth exploring.

Media Depiction of Educators

As it’s not long until Teachers’ Day I thought it was a timely opportunity to share this. One of the writers for Edutopia has done the research to gather together some of the most significant Hollywood depictions of teachers;

Edutopia – Hollywood Teachers

Clarity on Climate Change

A couple of years ago I had the privilege to meet Bill McKibben and hear him speak in Delhi. Not only is he one of the most passionate, committed and dedicated campaigners for the future of our planet, but also I believe one of the most articulate and intelligent people I have ever had the privilege to meet. He heads the US organization 350.org.

I was therefore really pleased to come across this article that he wrote earlier this month for publication in Rolling Stone magazine:

Bill Mckibben’s Article for Rolling Stone

I believe it is one of the most effective and powerfully set out explanations of global warming and the role of man-made Carbon Dioxide that I’ve ever come across. Bill avoids overblown hyperbole in favour of cold, hard logic and very persuasive data. It’s a few pages to read, but well worth it.

More Online Education Material

Here are details of some more offerings that have come on to the scene that provide the opportunity to learn online

Mashable Article – New Startups in Online Learning

Incidentally, I’ve signed up for my first course on Coursera.org and I’m now waiting for the official start date.

I think there’s never been a better time to be a lifelong learner!

Videos to Support Learning

When it comes to the creation and availability of resources to support children’s learning it is exciting to see just how rapidly things are moving.

I’ve written a number of times here on the Blog about the work of Sal Khan and the Khan Academy. Well, I came to know this week about a new resource that just came out that aims to rival Khan’s work. We also shouldn’t forget TED Ed who are adding to their selection of videos continually. Competition and variety in this field can only help to improve choice and options for parents, teachers or even just for curious children who want to supplement their own learning.

The newcomer is a mix of free material and some that has to be paid for. Check out: Knowmia.com

Science Lessons at Altitude

It’s become all too easy (in fact, when wasn’t it), to bemoan the state of youth. They’re lazy, they’re direction-less, they’re irresponsible, they’re insensitive. But, there again, they said the same things about my generation and I’m sure that people will do about many more generations long in to the future.

Whether it ever was, or ever will be, true from time to time you come across evidence that strongly suggests there’s not much in it! What does your average Class XI Science student do with their summer vacation. Well, if you are Udai Singh of The Shri Ram School, Phase III Campus you get the urge to do something, then drop your teacher a short mail, in a very unassuming way, in case she might be interested in what you’ve been up to. This is what Udai wrote;

Dear Ma’am,

I’d like to share with you something that I did in these summer vacations.

In June 2012, I went on a trek to Ladakh with a special mission. I went there to conduct a Science workshop in a rural middle school in Photoksar, an extremely remote village in Ladakh located at 14000 ft. There I conducted science experiments with the children from a book that I had compiled. 

I have recorded my experiences in my blog:

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