Category Archives: Education

Are you beginning to get it? The what, why and how of system change.

parisattack20151115There has been an outpouring of love and solidarity because of the tragic and terrific blood-letting in Paris this weekend.  It has been a synchronous focus on thought, feeling and action by millions around the world.  That is good.

The answers proposed have ranged from black to white, from vengeance to forgiveness.  (My preference is at the “healing the wounds” end of the spectrum, rather than at the “ripping more flesh apart” end.)  The personal grief is inevitably traumatic.  The reasons for young people to wreak blood and havoc and kill themselves are difficult to imagine, let alone comprehend.  But there are answers – there must be: we are humans and we can do it all.atomtoworld2

So what will we choose?

Walking around the garden as the light fades and the wind builds to another stormy night, it seems clear that the warnings are coming thick and fast.  It seems as though everyday another report comes in of violence, terror, corruption and injustice, and of storm, drought, flood, habitat destruction and species loss.  You can  see, hear, feel the immorality of human systems and the pain of nature.  Do we look, listen, touch?

There are two kinds of people: People who can see what’s going on and do something about it (i.e. you, people with access to media, educated etc).  The more resources they have, the more they can do something about it.  The other kind of people who are those who are too poor to be able to know what’s going on (most people know corruption when they see it and crazy weather when it passes), or if they do, live subsistence lives so have fewer choices.

It is increasingly evident that of those of us who can act, some act and others don’t.  Some have realised that the system must change and others continue to turn a blind eye.  Those who have realised it start with awareness and gradually start to change their behaviour, from diet to lifestyle to job to investment, commitment and philanthropy.

eatingmoneyOthers who turn a blind eye, should open them.  Elites – the people who influence and control human system (millionaires etc) – seem to be predominantly in the blind eye department.  That’s bad.

It must be that rich people are ignoring the obvious because they are the ones that determine the system, which is not working, and they remain largely ignorant of how to change the system and what to change it to.  Even when the how and what are obvious, admission of the need and course are slow, implementation is sluggish and patchy.

Here’s a quick example:  behaviour change is nurtured with education,  but education systems are well behind the curve. (Many observe that terrorism is inculcated by misinformation which would be hindered if critical thinking, even thinking, was a basic product of universal education.)

And a biosphere dysfunction example: 2015 is the hottest year on record and climate has risen 1 degree already yet fossil fuel companies are still subsidised and the so called “Sustainable Development Goals” are still talking about growth.

That’s the situation in a nutshell.  Things are bad.  We know how to change.  Too few of the people at the top are changing.

That’s a dangerous recipe.  You, like me, can make a difference.  Let’s all take a step in the right direction.  Slow down.  Take a breath.  Say sorry.  Change the system from fear and greed to love and sharing.  Do it now.  May be we’ve still got time.world02

Computers in school do not improve results. Doh! It’s about culture.

OECD research shows that  frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results.   Among 70 countries, heavy  investment in information and communications technology have seen “no noticeable improvement” in Pisa test results for reading, mathematics or science.monkeyoncomputer

This is not surprising.  As with any technology, it can be “good” or “bad” depending on how it is used and all too often ICT is used as a substitute for thinking.  That might be ok if you are a thinker, but if using a computer is just a crutch, used to copy/paste ideas or fill time will 2D pictures and sound, then its use is retarding your development.

Continue reading Computers in school do not improve results. Doh! It’s about culture.

Cyborgs are coming to take your job, especially if you’re young.

The prospect of your job being automated is increasing.  The convergence of neuroscience, computing, biology and engineering has already made robotic prosthetics a reality and everyone carries a small thinking machine so that they can remember phone numbers, birthdays etc (media device/phone).monkeytorobot

We are certainly choosing a future in which we don’t work.  We haven’t addressed the consequences in a thoughtful way evidenced by the unchanged platitudes by politicians, ongoing agglomeration of industry and commerce (get big to survive) with its attendant pyramid of wages (little at the bottom, inconceivable wealth at the top) and public education systems still modelled on the factory.

Continue reading Cyborgs are coming to take your job, especially if you’re young.

Three things parents must teach children: money, food, autos

The following piece by Leah Holstein on Funderstanding is a simple, fun admonition with some helpful links.  Enjoy the read or just note the message:

Teach children about finances, cooking and cars because they are essential skills for life which are not taught at school

Continue reading Three things parents must teach children: money, food, autos

Pedagogy of cooperation … Maltese National Curriculum!

In work on design of curriculum and pedagogy I came across this quote.  It must be shared because it’s good, and it’s Maltese.  (Malta is a tiny little country rich in culture being at the centre of history for thousands of years.  I’m half Maltese but spend too little time there 🙁  )

a pedagogy of co-operation, based on group work, should transform … classrooms in to a hive of synergetic collective endeavour … The vehicles for the development of critical and independent thinking are: questions, systematic investigation and the exchange of ideas with others … Genuine group work implies that the control over the production of knowledge does not remain in the hands of teachers but is shared among students.  An educational context based on holistic principles is essentially a democratic context in which a balance between individual and participatory learning is achieved.

Maltese Ministry of Education: National Curriculum 1999

This is good stuff.  Radical compared to what most readers might have experienced and certainly compared to the approach felt in most state schools, but actually very human, necessary and perhaps even leaning toward the ancient dialectic method of Socrates.

Unnoticed by everyone, education is regressing.

Understanding education is not easy.  We all think we know what it means but when it comes to defining it and suggesting improvements the challenge becomes amorphous.  I’m trying to create a framework to help improve curriculum and pedagogy.

Quotation-Matthew-Arnold-thinking-age-sense-Meetville-Quotes-111033One of the biggest problems I see as an educator, coach and parent is the rapid replacement of thinking by media devices.  We swipe a screen instead of adding a sum …

I’ve come across historical commentary which is as relevant today as it was decades ago.

This extract written in 1867 is sadly relevant today.

The mode of teaching in primary schools has certainly fallen off in intelligence, spirit and inventiveness during the four or five years which have elapsed since my last report.  It could not well be otherwise.  In a country where everyone is prone to rely too much on mechanical processes and too little in intelligence, a change in the Education Department’s regulations, which, by making two-thirds of the Government grant depend on mechanical examination, inevitably gives a mechanical turn to the school teaching … In the game of mechanical contrivances […] as it is now found possible, by ingenious preparation, to get children through the Revised Code examination i reading writing and ciphering, so it will with practice no doubt be found possible to get the three-fourths if the the one-fifth of the children over six through the examination in grammar, geography and history, without their really knowing any one of these three matters.

Arnold added a couple of years later:

The circle of children’s reading has  … been narrowed and impoverished all the year for the sake of a result at the end of it and the result is an illusion.

One example observed personally is that children in local schools are given the answers to their national secondary examinations prior to the exam so that they can memorise answers.  I’ve seen it in English, French and Science and I suppose it occurs in other subjects too.

matthew-arnold-poet-conduct-is-three-fourths-of-our-life-and-itsThis might not be the case in your child’s school, but it is certainly pandemic and dominant in public schools where most of humankind receives an “education”.  This is gross foolishness in a complex, sophisticated world where ingenuity, creativity and initiative are increasingly required to become self-supporting.

Matthew Arnold Quotes

 

 

 

Exercise body and mind to keep them fit; or lose you wits and fade away.

exerciseoldman-thinkstockphotosIn case you still find it a challenge to get off the couch or do mental arithmetic (when shopping for example) this week more evidence was published  showing the dramatic difference between people engaged in life and those waiting to die.

A study showing that elderly people who exercise ‘live five years longer’ was published the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

While earlier in the week, a BBC journalist reported being trounced by a brain-training octogenarian!

brain-lit-up-While at first you might think that walking and thinking are bygone arts of a pre-modern age when we didn’t have cars, phones, computers and media devices, in fact they are core to your happiness and well-being.

Exercising makes you feel good.  It’s a fact.  Endorphins stimulate the happy parts of your brain.  And you don’t need to be a champ, you just need to move, everyday.  Simply standing is nearly twice as good as sitting.  The study publicised today recommends only 3 hours of exercise a week.  C’mon everyone can do that!

And as for thinking, well isn’t it sad that we’d rather slide a finger across a screen than do the thinking that the human brain was built for?  That we can’t add up a few groceries in a bag or even guesstimate the change we expect from a purchase?  No wonder we’re defrauded by bankers, politicians and big business when we can’t be bothered to read a label.  Thinking can be fun too, because, here again, an active mind releases its own happy chemicals.

Vitruvian_MansmallIf the positive encouragement is not sufficient, ask yourself if you want the machines to take over.  It’s happening.  The futuristic scenario of The Terminator is becoming reality as artificial intelligence and android engineering advances.  We already have self driving cars and robochefs.  It won’t be long before rich people can get rid of the rest of us because all production will be automated.  And then the machines might decide to get rid of humankind, after all we’re not looking after the biosphere.

So, getup, think and choose to live.

BBC:  People who exercise ‘live five years longer

BBC: Ttounced by a brain-training octogenarian

The Economist: Robochef gets cooking

BBC: Google purpose-built robot cars tested on public roads

Maths is art. Art is maths. It’s all science. – Govt education report

This morning Eilis, a friend of Pam’s, explained to a councillor that funding for art education should be increased because businesses want creativity and the Renaissance flourished because science and art merged.einsteinart

At the same time a report by The Creative Industries Federation and the Institution of Civil Engineers, saying similar things was being publicised.  Their report argues that creative subjects like the performing arts, design, music and film studies lead to children developing the skills needed in design, engineering and computer gaming.   This is a healthy initiative.

It is clearly important to have a solid grounding in science, maths and literacy..  Without that you don’t understand the world you live in, can’t read, write nor count.   The quantitative aptitude is important.

Art-Science-773522But without the language, art and creative side you have low quality.  Humankind’s successes are born of communication, imagination, stories.  We create culture through song, dance, fashion, art, music, books, …

It’s common sense that life is more fulfilling the more you engage with it  Diversity of experience, sight, sound, taste, touch, aroma lead to a fuller appreciation of life and enhance the ability to engage mental and emotional, even spiritual faculties.

The education system is ripe for emergence.  ICT combined with what we know about humans, curriculum and pedagogy are opening education and enhancing access to art and science.  Both sides of the brain.

BBC: Call to boost status of arts subjects

Good people are dying. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

screenshot-baltimore-riot-001-04272015Tension is rising is the USA.   Two US police officers were shot dead in Mississippi.  Last week.a New York police officer  was shot in the head while questioning a suspect from his police car.  And riots bubbled in Baltimore after a suspect died in police custody.  The mood is confused and angry.

The issue is justice.  Minorities in America (non-whites, females, etc) have been depreciated by law and culture for too long.  The solutions of education, jobs, and infrastructure have been neglected in favour of guns and incarceration.

System change is afoot.  We can choose a soft landing by opening up opportunities, sharing resources, and the “rich giving to the poor”.  Even if we do, cynicism and history means people will be sceptical of change for a while.  But the longer we continue using command and control approaches the worse it will get.

medrefugeesIn Europe, refugees are dying by hundreds as they try to escape feudal regimes, bereft of opportunity.  Many are people like us – farmers, teachers, postal workers, shop keepers, even doctors and engineers.  We can do more to stop them drowning, though, the real solution is again to promote education, infrastructure and jobs while reducing access to guns.

As long as we continue to turn a blind eye to unethical behaviour in the middle east, even to the extent of investing in weapons, the violence will continue.  As long as we allow capital and corporal punishment in our own judicial systems the global moral compass will continue to spin.

nepal-quakeWe can’t stop earthquakes, like the recent one in Nepal.  But we spent fewer, even no, resources on weapons, there would be more for education, infrastructure and jobs and emergency supplies for inevitable tragedies which will become more invasive as climate change and biodiversity loss impacts food supplies and our habitat.

Sadly, the push back against ignorance, immorality and injustice is going to get worse.  The sooner global cultural enlightenment can emerge the sooner humankind’s destruction of our own living systems will be reversed.

On a happier note, dancing helps as Dimitri Reeves showed …. so let’s show a bit of love.dimitrireevesdancing

BBC: Baltimore riots: ‘Without change more cities will burn’

BBC: Nepal Earthquake

www.DimitriReeves.com