Reaching For Amazing

Amazing

I’ve come to the end of sharing the series of articles that i wrote for Gulf News 6 years ago. The seventh and final piece was one in which I tied together issues which i believe are critical for the future welfare of students, especially in an Asian context;

a) The increasingly rapid commoditization of jobs that require relatively low skill levels and the increasing degree to which AI will compete with Asian workers for these roles, and
b) What some are calling the existential vacuum – the critical factor that young people need to find life meaningful and purposeful in order to gain satisfaction or even happiness from life.

My conclusion was that we only reconcile these two issues through setting out to do amazing work, stretching ourselves and aiming high.

gulfnews-article 7-06102013
(To open the article click on the link above. The pdf document will open either as a new tab or a new browser window)

 

Persistence Tops Talent, Education or Genius

Manu try

For the penultimate article in the series I wrote for Gulf news 6 years ago I focused on persistence and the reasons why it’s far more important in the journey to success than basic talent, genius or education.

(I couldn’t resist using a picture of England winning the Rugby World Cup Semi Final for this article! Swing Low, Sweet Chariot on Saturday for the final ………………)

In emphasising persistence I took three particular examples of people whose persistence I have respected.

gulfnews-article 6-29092013
(To read the article, click on the link above. It will open in either a new browser tab or window)

 

The Merits of Active vs Passive Leisure Activity

volley ball

For my fifth article for Gulf News 6 years ago I turned to the issue of how young people choose to spend their non working time. Firstly, it’s vitally important that young people (or any of us for that matter) have time away from their work and studies. The brain needs to recharge and needs vital time to rest, recover, absorb learning and be energised to take on board more learning effectively. It goes without saying that they also need enough sleep as this is vital time when the brain organises new learning that’s been acquired to make it permanent and to synthesise it with what’s already known.

In the article i sought to differentiate between active and passive forms of leisure activity, stressing the positive nature of the former and how it is to be encouraged by parents. The latter is really just ‘time waste’.

I also emphasised the value in reading purposefully in pursuit of personal goals.

gulf-news-article 5-22-09-2013
(To read the article, click on the link above – it should then open as either a new browser tab or a new window)

 

Cheats Pay a Heavy Price in the Long Term

cheating boxes

Many of us will have seen these recent images from a college exam room, as students were made to wear cardboard boxes on their heads to prevent cheating and copying (did anyone consider the scope for writing notes on the inside of one’s box?)

Whilst many were shocked at such inhumane and demeaning treatment of students, there were also no shortage of weary shrugs as people reflected that it’s really little surprise if this is what the system has been reduced to.

For my fourth article written for Gulf News 6 years ago, I turned to the issue of cheating and an aspect that doesn’t get enough attention – the long term effect and impact on the cheat themselves. In the article i highlighted three examples that had happened in some of the finest seats of learning in the world. Six years later we have new examples, including the collusion between well-heeled parents and agents to secure seats in top Ivy League universities in the US which have already seen one TV actress sent to prison with more to follow.

gulf-news-article 4-15092013

However, I’m still an optimist on the nature of humans. I do believe that as educators we need to be prepared to have the hard conversations with young people – to help them understand that it’s not consistent to believe in a right to high and lofty goals to be achieved by short cuts and acts of low integrity. High goals are great, if we’re prepared to put in the hard work, accept the tough journey for its own intrinsic value as well as the outcome. Young people need to be reminded that the people they put on pedestals have often been hurt, even scarred in the processes that took them to the top.

For proof that the journey is as important as the destination we need only look at all the lottery winners who declare bankruptcy later, failing to make the critical life changes of their new gains because they didn’t travel the road to their wealth. Their acts weren’t dishonest, but they lacked the learning of the journey that would enable them to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

Setting Goals That Drive Success

Goals

The third of my articles 6 years ago written for Gulf News built on the second article. My argument was simple – if young people want to live exceptional lives, achieve and fulfil their potential then they need to be willing to stand out.

Next, they need to set goals, but to learn from what’s known in the world about the best ways to make goals that work. Not all approaches to setting goals are as effective as others.

gulfnews-article-3-992013
(Click on the link above to open the pdf document in a new tab or page of your browser)

 

See My Peers, See My Future

Peer-Pressure-Pic

This blog post is to share the second of the seven articles I wrote for Gulf News 6 years ago. After I’d already committed to write the first there was a request to slightly modify the brief. So articles 2 to 7 were targeted at older students – of approximately Class 9 and above about issues important for them.

This particular piece was motivated by my concerns about the degree to which large numbers of students were motivated both by ‘the system’ and by peer pressure not to really put their heads above the parapet, to stand out or to be different or to take different actions to get different life outcomes.

As a result, whilst many students expressed wishes and desires to excel, to achieve big dreams too often their actions were driven by a need to fit in, to conform and to make themselves as much the same as their peers, thereby making it almost impossible to achieve outcomes any different from the mass.

article-2-gulf-news
(Click on the link above to open the article in pdf form in either a separate browser tab or page.)

 

 

Children Who Fly Below the School Radar

bell-curve-math-is-fun

Six years ago, when I was based in the UAE,  I was invited to share my thoughts on key educational issues through a series of seven articles that I wrote. I recently read back through those articles and was especially worried to find them still so relevant today, the issues raised still largely unaddressed. When it comes to reforming and changing education there has to be atime when we stop debating what needs to change and get on and make it happen. To do that, we have to sometimes ask some tough and uncomfortable questions about who benefits from maintenance of the status quo and what needs to happen to break down those entrenched positions.

Here, below is the first of those articles that dealt with education’s obsessive interest with the ‘outliers’ and non-conforming students (under and over-achievers) that meant that little was happening to ensure that the children in the middle get a fair and reasonable, personalised learning experience.

page-1

page-2
(Click on the two links above to open the two paged article in pdf form. it should open as a separate tab or page in your browser)

What Are We Teaching?

 

Education has many problems that it needs to address – things that have to change if education is to have any relevance or to be of any great value to children in their preparation for life tomorrow. One of the biggest of those issues concerns the fact that teachers are good learners who obtain their self-identity from their ability to acquire knowledge, facts and information and then to pass that on to learners.

Or, that’s what they think! Even if, in the Google anything age, it still made sense to fill our children’s heads with large quantities of facts we would still have a vast problem. Because, TEACHERS ALL OVER THE WORLD KEEP TEACHING CHILDREN WRONG FACTS!

Now, that’s a pretty bold statement that I’m sure has got lots of teachers hot under the collar. So, I’m here going to share a video. It comes from TED and features Hans Rosling and his son, Ola Rosling in 2014. I hope that some will agree with me that it’s a worry that this video hasn’t been shared more often in learning and education environments. Hans Rosling sadly passed away in 2017. In his lifetime he built a formidable reputation as a phenomenal thinker on world health issues and also sought to use simple data and graphs to show how people’s understanding on many things has been distorted.

Rosling’s delivery is highly amusing and more than a little uncomfortable for many viewers. One of his most telling statements in the video is, “The first thing to think about the future is to know about the present.”

And yet we see from this video that the majority of people (including school teachers) hold false notions about the present. For example, should we be surprised if children are concluding from their lessons that poverty in the world can never be eliminated. And then we wonder why there’s a lack of public energy behind actions to eliminate the poverty that still remains.

I was particularly interested by the data on income distribution, because one of the biggest implications of Mr Rosling’s graph is that what’s happened for most of the last 40-50 years has been right and appropriate in terms of average wealth rising, removal of the lower hump in the camel graph and a shift to a more to be expected standard bell curve. The reality is that wherever the average goes, up or down, there will always be some people richer and some people poorer. it could well be argued that gobalisation has had the effect of creating this shift to the bell curve. Incomes have risen far faster in those places where they were lower, more slowly where they were already high. hence, we shouldn’t be at all surprised at the unhappiness of vast numbers of the people in those previously wealthier places. They feel worse off.

Personal bias + outdated facts + news bias = ignorance

And so, teachers, the bad news is that all over the world, in thousands of little ways, ignorance is being taught and perpetuated. Young people are shaping faulty world views that then influence their political inclinations, job and business decisions and life choices.

This raises interesting thoughts for educators who espouse the virtues of being a ‘lifelong learner’.  Presumably, the very first criteria for bearing such a title must be the openness to challenge our own knowledge, to test its validity and whether it stands up to factual scrutiny. Further, a greater degree of humility on the part of teachers so as to not lead learners to believe that every fact they are given is cast iron certain.

RIP Dr Hans Rosling. The world needs more minds like yours.

Mock United Nations on Environment

The reality that we’re confronted with in the world is that no end of data, science and evidence are wheeled out to convince people that man-made global warming is creating a massive problem that will soon have massive and horrendous consequences for humanity.  And yet, little of substance changes. People are not voting – at least in most countries – on the basis of honest pledges and commitments by politicians on what they are going to do to ensure their country plays its part in these global issues.

So, this video is interesting as it shares an experimental simulation game that has been bringing real, valuable insights for people in to the issues, their complexity and what needs to happen in the world to get meaningful change to prevent the coming environmental disasters.

I think exercises like this need to be taken in to communities all over the world as speedily as possible in order to educate people. Telling them facts, showing them science and lecturing them with evidence isn’t achieving the outcomes we need. Simulations like this one might just be the answer.

Mindful Education

Mindful Education

There’s been growing interest in mindfulness in education in recent years, but all too often educators struggle to know where to start, how to work with the teachers first before considering the potential impacts for students or how to carry all other stakeholders with them.  I’ve also had experiences where senior educators have struggled to figure out all the implications of how mindfulness practices will change so many other facets of their school culture. For example, if a school expresses a commitment to mindfulness then it has to completely rethink its approach to discipline, behaviour policies etc.

I’m always keen to bring free and useful resources to the attention of readers of this blog. So, I wanted to get a quick message out to all to share information on the Mindful Education Summit. This is a free online conference that actually started on Wednesday. Each day they share through the website (link below) a number of video presentations of talks of varying lengths. each day’s videos are available for 48 hours. So, there is still a little time to catch up on the day 1 material, day 2 will be available for another day and day 3 is just launching now.

The videos vary between explanation of theory and research in the area of applying mindfulness in education environments and some that are very geared to providing demonstrations and simple practices of mindful practices.

The Mindful Education Summit Website
(Click on the link above and it will open a new tab or page in your bowser. You will simply be asked to share your name and email address to register, then getting full access to the videos.

%d bloggers like this: