Sunday, December 9, 2018

Food for Thought: How gaming links to storytelling in the modern gaming world.

This week's Food for Thought is short and fast, linking gaming to human emotion and modern story telling. Here is a TED by David Gage where he talks about story telling and how his work with gaming is leading to a new form of storytelling for our students through gaming. Whilst watching I also wondered whether this was how in the future we will be encouraged to accept AI as part of our lives.

Thought you might also be interested in this background to another of David Gage's characters Kara and how she is made to be so human.

Finally, Fortnite is a game that has captured the imagination of millions around the world of different ages. It was first recommended to me by Will Richardson last April and i introduced it to my son. Since then it has completely taken off and of course each session creates its own story.  However, it is quite addictive and hence sharing this with you. I shared the whole article from Commonsense Media with parents on my Parent Food for Thought. It is a good resource if a parent talks about their child's addiction to you.

"As parents of Fortnite players know, getting kids to stop playing can turn into a battleground of its own. According to a new Common Sense/SurveyMonkey poll, about one in five parents says it's at least moderately difficult to get kids off the game. About a quarter say they're concerned about how much time their kid is playing, and the same number express worry over their kid's exposure to violence in the game. Here are a few other key findings:
  • Fortnite is super popular -- but still not as popular as Instagram. More than six in 10 teenagers (61 percent) say they have played Fortnite, coming close to the percentages of teens who say they use Snapchat (73 percent) and Instagram (74 percent), found in a previous survey.
  • Girls play, too! (But not as much as boys.) Although teen boys are much more likely to say they've played (75 percent), 47 percent of teen girls say they've played. Of teens who play, about 22 percent of boys play at least once a day, compared to 9 percent of girls.
  • It might be more tempting than geometry. More than one in four teens (27 percent) say they've played Fortnite during class at school.
  • Swearing happens. A third of teens (33 percent) say they've been exposed to inappropriate language or harassment while chatting with other players.
  • Fortnite = friends (especially for boys). Half of teens (50 percent) say playing Fornitehelps them keep up with their friends, 50 percent say it has helped them learn teamwork, 44 percent have made a friend online, 40 percent have improved their communication skills, and 39 percent have bonded with a sibling. But boys are more likely than girls to claim positive benefits from playing Fortnite. Notably, teen girls are more likely than boys to say they have bonded with a sibling by playing Fortnite."

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Food for Thought: Disobedience or Compliance?

This is a deliberately provocative Food for Thought. Simply, if we continue with traditional education systems we will produce students who are not creative, inquisitive, curious, inventive or free because they just end up playing the game of school, feeling successful and becoming compliant. This documentary about what is happening in China will be quite likely be similar to their future. Again, as with so much of AI, it has already started and not just in China as this quote suggests, "More than 200 car manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and US-listed electric vehicle start-up NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed monitoring centres, The Associated Press has found."

This video focuses on China but don't be mislead.

Or perhaps it is time to encourage more and more disobedient thinking ie creativity by changing the systems and hidden curriculum that still dominates education today. This passionate and emotional TED talk again emphasizes how we so often shut creative thinkers down because they are different and reward and support those who don't ask difficult questions. This talk ends with a very powerful Oscar Wilde quote:

"For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” 

Shortly after returning from the Barcelona Heads Conference I woke up one morning feeling the way the dreamer feels in this quote. I felt for us as a school, feeling isolated following a path which to others appears unnatural. There are others who want to hold us back, punish us for being on a different track, this is because it is easier for them to reject those who refuse to follow the norm and keep doing what they have always done. Although I know we are seeing the  dawn, ie truth, earlier than others, it suddenly felt tiring to keep trying to justify our vision. My feelings of discouragement came from looking around and realizing how few people are really seeing the truth in the world of education, and for a moment I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness, and started to question our vision. But having stopped, reflected and researched more I have moved beyond this frustration and come to terms with others not seeing, and being glad that we are able to dream together on our moonlight path.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Food for Thought: Wiring our brains to be positive

The last few Food for Thoughts have asked big questions about our future and relationship with AI. I will certainly return to that topic again. However, this blog is going to focus on positive thinking as we prepare for our PD sessions on 6th January. Many people think that being positive is something that you are either born with or not, you are either an optimist or a pessimist and this can't be changed. Well, neuroscience and psychology today says this is incorrect thinking. You can train your brain because of its plasticity to become more positive. In the past it was natural for our brains to focus on negative events because if we survived it was important that we learned from them. This is why we tend to have more negative thoughts than positive. But as we learned from studying positive emotions, with Barbara Fredrickson, we need to work towards a ratio of at least 4 positive thoughts to every one negative if we are to have a positive outlook on life. It is clear from her work that developing positive emotions transforms us as this short video explains.

This article from Mindshift  How to Get Past Negativity Bias in Order to Hardwire Positive Experiences introduces us to the work of Rick Hanson. His simple TED talk that follows lays down a very simple technique that will enable us to transform our mind to be more positive. It is a technique that is accessible for all of us and one that you can talk to your students about to empower them to be positive in their lives. This transformation will not only develop positive thinking but also help grow resilience in ourselves and our students.

Hanson encourages us to focus on good things that have happened to us for at least 12 seconds this embedding them in our minds. By doing this it can lead a transformation of how your mind thinks. It is based around the way the brain works and as Hanson says, " neurons that fire together wire together and a passing mental state becomes a lasting neural trait." He has developed a simple way of remembering the steps.

Have a positive experience
Enrich it
Absorb it
Link positive and negative material (optional) 
"Hanson calls this process “self-directed neuroplasticity.” To grow inner strength, people have to turn experiences (short-term memories) into activated states that are installed traits (long-term and implicit memories). The idea is to turn fleeting moments of happiness into implicit knowledge of well-being and strength.
Helping children develop self-directed neuroplasticity could be extremely helpful for students with trouble sitting still or who have learning challenges, but it could also be explicitly tied to academic outcomes. Hanson’s strategies could help students develop motivation and a sense of themselves as active learners. It’s a way of helping students to see life as an opportunity and for noting the positive in themselves and others. And, at a fundamental level, it’s a way of taking the time to hardwire and register curricular learning.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Food for Thought: Are our Children AI Slaves?

Image result for russell brand and yuval noah harari

This is a very short Food for Thought narrative because the voice thread is an hour long but certainly worth listening to as it poses excellent thinking about the future and links perfectly with last week's Food for Thought. This is from Russell Brand's blog, Under the Skin where he interviews Yuval Noah Harari to discuss his new book 21 Lessons For The 21st Century. They tackle the idea of the rise useless class, the power of new A.I. technology and what can be done to combat this potential assault on our identity and role as human beings in world.

This conversation again raises the sort of questions that we are ask at ISHCMC.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Food For Thought: Are we teaching our students enough about big data and the internet?

Last week, Sir Ken Robinson, who I follow on Twitter, posted a BBC article  'Children are being datafied from birth.' It opens by saying that; "Today's children are the first to be datafied from birth and little thought has been given to the consequences." This made me think about our recent CIS visit where we were questioned about what we are doing as a school to protect our students from the world of big data, data profiling and teaching an understanding of digital foot prints and the issues they can create. We didn't really have a robust answer. Hence, Sir Ken's post jolted me into writing this post to you based on my thinking that if you understand the challenges better then perhaps we can start to educate our students about this better.

So I started to do some research and I have to admit that what I discovered is most definitely Food for Thought. Again it all comes back to the role of AI. We have always collected data but in the past we did not have the means to be able to collate all this data and use it to analyse human behavior so precisely. In this article, Will big data algorithms soon control our lives? it references the work of Yuval Harari, who wrote Sapiens and his new book Homo Deus in which he argues that the combination of big data and self-improving algorithms will soon outsmart humans entirely and make human decision-making obsolete. 

"Even today, it just takes 150 Facebook likes for psychometrics software such as Cambridge Analytica to know your needs, fears and hopes better than your parents do, and just over 300 likes for such software to know you better than you know yourself.  All based on analyzing your likes against Millions of other likes and profiles. No wonder the Trump campaign made effective use of that software last year to better target their voters. But this is just the beginning: Recently, researchers from Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, were able for the first time to directly link a human brain to the Internet – creating the first ever ‘Brainternet’. Based on increased connectivity, smart algorithms may soon be able to monitor and analyze all our biological functions, thoughts, interactions, and purchases, and know much better what we want and what makes us happy than we do. Harari argues that in the end humans may delegate all important decisions – choices of careers, partners and places to live – to algorithms that exceed our brain capacity manifold. So will big data algorithms eventually control our lives?"

What became increasingly obvious from my reading is that the time when we were in control of the data on our own computers has been replaced with devices containing sensors we cannot control, storing data we cannot access, in operating systems we cannot monitor, in environments where our rights are rendered meaningless. Soon the default will shift from us interacting directly with our devices to interacting with devices we have no control over and no knowledge that we are generating data. This reminded me of a documentary that I shared with you last year or before, Do you Trust this Computer?

Now we have the means, through algorithms to collate and analyse all the data that we are producing consciously or unconsciously. The sinister thing is that this is now being used to manipulate our lives by corporations and governments. The data that they are collecting is very extensive as this article illustrates, I asked an online tracking company for all of my data and here's what I found. Data profiling itself is a widespread practice. Data brokers and online marketers all collect or obtain data about individuals, your browsing history, your location data, who your friends are, or how frequently you charge your battery etc., and then use this data to infer additional, unknown information about you, what you’re going to buy next, your likelihood to be female, the chances of you being conservative, your current emotional state, how reliable you are, or whether you are heterosexual etc.

Whilst exploring this topic I discovered an organization that is trying to protect us all, Privacy International, and I suggest that you spend 30 minutes looking through their website. One resource that links back to Sir Ken's post is this short 3 minute video on Data Exploitation.

You will all have heard of the company Cambridge Analytica and their involvement in political campaigns and use of Facebook information.  Essentially, companies like Cambridge Analytica do two things: profile individuals, and use these profiles to personalize political messaging.

By the looks of things companies like Cambridge Analytica  are really the tip of a huge iceberg that is taking everything we do, recording it and then using this data to predict/ profile our behaviors. So the key question remains are we doing enough to inform our students while they are still young enough to understand what is happening and be able to take some control over their future. Providing the knowledge and skills necessary to remain in control of their lives falls under our mission to EMPOWER our students. Now you know more you can start to protect yourselves and inform your students.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Food for Thought: Stressed Out.

This week's Food for Thought is deliberately short because it includes a short ebook that I think it would be good if we all read. Tim Elmore writes a great deal about working with Generation z and is a leading thinker in this field.

Thought that I should share with all of you as I have suggested that all ISHCMC parents should read regardless of the age of their children. It is a very easy read and makes one think about what is happening as out students grow older.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Food for Thought: Are we preparing our students to be chefs or cooks?

It is great to be back and having time to think and write again. in Barcelona I gave a presentation to the Cognita Heads about how I see the future of Education. not sure how many of the audience related to what I was saying. One person who did was Anton Musgrove , a commentator about the future and the need for sustainable strategic planning, he had proceeded me on the stage and our thinking aligned almost perfectly. He too is concerned that dramatic change to society is coming much sooner than many are predicting and that the majority of the world population and governments are totally unprepared for the future.

When I talk about AI I often refer to the Oxford University research on AI and its timeline for impacting our employment and way of life. In this research they talk about the game of Go and that it would take a machine learning computer over 10 years to defeat a human because of the intuitive complexity and unpredictability of the infinite number of moves available each turn. As you know Google's Deep Mind computer achieved this goal in  just over a year. This could lead us to believe that the predicted timelines are being shortened by the exponential development of machine learning.  As if to bring this home I was sent this article from the BBC this week about an artwork created by an artificially intelligent program that was sold at auction for $432,000 (£337,000). Even at its original listed price of 7-10k, this is still a substantial amount of money for a non human piece of art to attract. I would say that the challenge to society, and us educators is here, and hence it is ever more important to be reflecting upon how we are educating the next generation. Although this alone is Food for Thought, I would like to share A.J. Juliani's questioning about are we preparing Chefs or Cooks in our classrooms? 

I believe this is a fundamental question for the future. Unfortunately, I sense the majority of the education systems world-wide, including most international schools, are producing cooks. Why? Because the majority of governments and evaluation and accreditation organizations are not looking forward and asking the question what should schools look like in the future. They are using old data and metrics to measure schools that do not fit with what the future holds. They are hanging on to old assessment strategies and educational values that were born in the 1890's. Reflecting upon our recent CIS and IB visits, I pose the question to you all, if you were designing a school for the 2020's based on the predicted needs and skills for the future would it fit within the standards of these accrediting institutions? I suspect the answer for the majority of us would be a resounding NO!  But  as A.J.Juliani says in his recent post, "Fear is a funny thing. It often keeps us from doing exactly what we want to do." Hence, if this is the case and it is fear that is holding us back then surely the time is fast approaching when forward facing schools join together and break away from the systems that are holding them back from doing what is right for their students.

You will enjoy the challenge that A.J. Juliani's poses in this video. It would be worth at your next Grade level/ Department meeting to spend a few minutes reflecting upon how far your teaching pedagogy and learning environment is creating Chef's of the future and to what extent the school is encouraging this development throughout our school from EE to Grade 12?

Have a good weekend,