The Science of Hand Washing

 

For parents or educators working with young children can easily rely on a pretty high degree of automatic, unquestioning obedience. So, “wash your hands properly,” is largely accepted at face value and children will pay adequate attention to the instructions on how to do so. After that, it’s largely a matter of constant repetition to get them to build a sound and effective habit.

However, sadly, we all know that a very unhealthy proportion of adults don’t practice good and effective handwashing habits, even after they’ve used the toilet. We’ve all had the experience of not wanting to touch door handles etc. after witnessing the numbers of people moving out from public toilets in restaurants, bars etc either without washing their hands or after the most cursory flick under a tap without soap.

So, we know that the good intentions and the efforts taken with young childrren wear off and the habits get dropped somewhere along the way. Mostly, this seems to be when they reach later childhood, when nobody is telling them or reminding them any more and their distracted minds are on so many things that seem so much more important.

One of the challenges is that, like getting people to wear face masks, the reason or the “why” is probably more about our duty of protection towards others, rather than keeping ourselves safe. The key lies in that “why.” My suspicion is that if you were to ask most adults why they are supposed to wash their hands properly with soap and water, especially during this time of coronavirus pandemic, their answer would be some vague one about killing germs, washing away dirt and safety.

This is where I believe this short video by Ted Ed is so valuable and important (for adults as well as older students). It provides an in depth, but very understandable, science lesson on the process of hand washing, what it achieves and why it’s important. It also fits in as well an explanation of the different process that happens when using hand santizers. After seeing this, all would understand why the quick flash of the hands under a running water tap isn’t enough.

Well worth sharing and I encourage teachers to find a way to slip it in to lessons in the coming days. Especially with older students – “do it because we say so.” is very poor and ineffective. Until now, many teachers might have struggled to give better, more scientific explanation of why it matters. This video does the job.

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.

Monday Positivity

The idea of positive thinking or having a positive mentality gets a bad rep these days. Somehow, people have got in the habit of suggesting that encouragement to think positively is all a bit woowoo, that it doesn’t work (generally because they’ve failed at it at least once!)

Well, here’s living proof of the power of positive thinking – Sam Berns. The views Sam expresses here would be mature and inspiring if coming from any seventeen year-old. However, when the seventeen year-old in question suffers from the kinds of challenges this young man does, it’s worthy of attention.

Whilst watching this, it’s important to know that those suffering from Progeria generally don’t live beyond their teen years. In fact, Sam passed away not very long after this film was made. This makes his positivity even more overwhelming.

Watching this video should be guaranteed to make the coming week that bit better for all of us. If Sam could, we can.

 

EI – Superheroes

As Ahmedabad based Educational Initiatives set out to create a series of videos with insights in to the thoughts of some of India’s most important educators I can’t think of a better start than an interview between two of my favourite educators (and people) in India, educators I respect enormously and have known since about 2004.

Sudhir Ghodke interviews Kiran Bir Sethi, the founder of Riverside School.

Kiran, like many of the founders of the better schools in India took her initial motivation from the needs of her own children and the failures and inadequacies of the existing system. What she’s gone on to create in Riverside is a wonderful, bold and innovative school, with all the right motives. In the interview it quite rightly highlights many of the issues that challenge those who create schools in a climate where inertia forces conventional thinking.

I especially liked her matter of fact response to the issues of not simply delivering what parents ask for, but having the courage to deliver what’s needed, bold and worthwhile and to help the parents to adjust and understand why it’s right.

Both Sudhir and Kiran highlight in the discussion something that’s always been important to me – if you’re school’s doing the right things, the evidence will come through what you see, hear and feel with the children themselves. Kiran acknowledges the values in creating Riverside that she had the freedom of time and space to innovate without being rushed by others’ agendas and also that some of the right things are done intuitively and then you acquire the language to explain those things later.

It will always require courage to innovate, especially in a field like education where so many take so personally the work that you do. In such a scenario the world needs many more with the courage and dedication of Kiran and Sudhir.

Love you, guys.

Two Kinds of Love

A great TED video for the weekend for every teacher or anyone who cares about education, and children's learning.

The two loves a teacher can bring to the classroom every day; their own love for the subject they're teaching and their love for the children.

Joe Ruhl in this great TED talk shows that many of the greatest strengths and skills a teacher can have are really not so very new.

Schools of Possibility and Hope

Moving Learning Forward

Here’s a great new TED talk that will particularly appeal to anyone who’s bought in to the ideas and concepts of growth mindset. Whilst the headline and the promotion of the video may be focused on adults who want to get ‘unstuck’ in making progress in the things that matter to them in their lives, I believe it also carries some important and valuable lessons for education.

When planning for lessons and supporting children’s learning, it’s vitally that educators have clarity in their intent about when an activity is geared to learning and acquiring knowledge or competency and when it’s designed for practice. Too often, there’s a muddy vagueness about which we’re trying to achieve and a belief that if they’re merged together there will be discernible progress.

This process can also be made more overt and transparent with the young learners – so that they understand at any point in time whether they’re engaged in a learning activity or a practice activity.