Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Food for Thought: Why you should delete your social media accounts

 As mentioned in our PD day we will be organizing a no devises day in March. As I was unfortunately ill this weekend and could not focus on a Food for Thought, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share this provocative interview, "Why you should delete your social media accounts." It is 10 minutes long and features the author of the book Ten Reasons For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Jaron Lanier. Of course many of these argument are intertwined with the intrusion of AI into our everyday lives and the collection of data about us and our behaviors.

Here is a very good radio programme RTE Radio1 and an interview with Jaron.

It is certainly something to think about.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Food for Thought: 2 interesting provocations for Tet

Food for thought this week contains two provocations. The first is a young Swedish student who organized a sit in outside her parliament buildings instead of going to school. Her demonstration was a call to action regarding Global Warming and how the world is doing nothing to address this issue. Her passionate and articulate TED talk is very moving and could be used as a stimulant for all students who care about issues both local and global. I believe it should be shared with all ISHCMC students Grade 3-12. She asks important questions that cannot be denied. She is asking them of all of us. 

The second provocation is more controversial but I hope makes you think. It is an article, Five Things You Notice When You Quit the News, which questions the logic of our obsession with the news. I remember my father built his time at home around watching the BBC news at 18:00, every evening, and encouraged me to do the same when I was growing up. Even today people ask me have you seen the news? I feel guilty when I say, no. Not sure why I feel guilty, because since my first politics lecture at university where my professor announced that news was only news for as long as news channels thought it is of interest to them.  Although it sounds narrow minded, for years I have focused more on events directly around me that I can contribute to, and impact, rather that what news channels deem important that I should know. Hence, this article resonated with me. 

Five Things You Notice When You Quit the News
"I grew up believing that following the news makes you a better citizen. Eight years after having quit, that idea now seems ridiculous—that consuming a particularly unimaginative information product on a daily basis somehow makes you thoughtful and informed in a way that benefits society.
But I still encounter people who balk at the possibility of a smart, engaged adult quitting the daily news.
To be clear, I’m mostly talking about following TV and internet newscasts here. This post isn’t an indictment of journalism as a whole. There’s a big difference between watching a half hour of CNN’s refugee crisis coverage (not that they cover it anymore) versus spending that time reading a 5,000-word article on the same topic.
If you quit, even for just a month or so, the news-watching habit might start to look quite ugly and unnecessary to you, not unlike how a smoker only notices how bad tobacco makes things smell once he stops lighting up."
I think that the majority of us think that Global Warming or some environmental change is taking place, and it is probably being caused by us humans. But, for the news-makers this is old news and consequently not what they want us to hear or to focus on unless there is a natural catastrophe. Hence the way we are fed news contributes to us knowing and accepting but without feeling the need to take action. I feel this brings us back to the point of Greta Thunberg's TED talk. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Food for Thought: What are you dreaming about in 2019?

Thought that I would post a slightly different topic for this week's Food for Thought that you might find interesting. It does relate to education and in part to what we are encouraging through increased student agency and our Studio programmes. We are providing the opportunity for students to discover passions and to some extent this relates to future aspirations/ goals or even dreams.We all have them, but most of us can never remember them, or live them, DREAMS. There are hundreds of books published about interpreting and living our dreams and almost as many TED talks on the topic, but what are dreams? Some people share their dreams like Martin Luther King and they change the world, others like Thich Nhat Hanh dedicate their lives selflessly to their dreams. (This link is to an article about Thich Nhat Hanh, 92, who is regarded as many as the father of Mindfulness who has returned home to Vietnam to spend his last days in his country of birth)

So what are dreams? Here are a few theories from a TED Ed talk, Why do we dream? As you will learn there are many theories about why we dream and it is clear that capturing some of that dreaming may benefit us and greater society as well.

The problem for so many of us is that we can't remember our dreams. Hence, my interest in this article from AEON which talks about research and how we are beginning to understand more about capturing what we have been dreaming about, a term known as lucidity.

"Aside from the sheer joy of being able to bend an imaginary world to your will, there’s a range of additional psychological benefits to lucid dreaming. For one, it can help with nightmares: simply knowing that you’re dreaming often brings relief during a nasty episode. You might also be able to use dreams to process trauma: confronting what’s haunting you, making peace with an attacker, escaping the situation by flying away, or even just waking up. Other potential applications include practicing sporting skills by night, having more ‘active’ participants for studies about sleep and dreaming, and the pursuit of creative inspiration. With practice, our dream state can feel almost as vivid to us as the world itself – and leaves you wondering, perhaps, where fantasy ends and reality begins."

Do you remember your dreams? When do you dream most? Have you had dreams come true? What are you dreaming about for 2019? Do you encourage your students to pursue their dreams?

Hence to end a brief post, Why Millennials should follow their dreams. This quote in the post I found to be the most interesting:

“Family, friends, society push you away from your dreams because there is a lot of risks associated with pursuing them, and they say it’s unrealistic – but they only say that because they can’t imagine doing it themselves, you should not let that reflect on you.”

Should the quote have started Education, Family, friends and society in general......?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Food for Thought: Mindfulness in the Classroom

On Friday both assemblies started with two excellent sessions of Mindfulness lead by Katie and Susie. Although different in format both sessions transformed the atmosphere in the Primary MPR and Secondary gym, engaging students and ensuring they were focused for the assemblies that followed. We know that Mindfulness works and so do thousands of people worldwide, but there are still skeptics who continue to doubt and ask for proof. This week I was sent this brief : Mindfulness in the Classroom:Learning from a School-basedMindfulness Intervention through theBoston Charter Research Collaborative that provides research that shows the positive impact of Mindfulness on students performance and behavior in the classroom. As you will note, quotes from research like this one below further supports our mission, as it completely aligns and contributes to our definition of empowerment.

“ Self-control refers to the skills involved in planning, controlling, directing, and sustaining one’s attention, emotions, and behavior. These abilities are positively related to reading, math, and linguistic abilities, […] as well as the ability to process social situations more accurately. Consequently, school-based programs which promote self-control may be particularly promising in boosting academic performance and social intelligence." - Bauer, et al., 2018

The brief is only 15 pages long. Eight pages are the brief itself and it is an easy read. However, I would encourage you to read the whole report because the last 6 pages are dedicated to providing suggestions and links to materials supporting the rationale regarding Mindfulness in schools, recommendations for Integrating Mindfulness in the Classroom and links to Mindfulness Resources that include a very comprehensive Mindfulness toolkit. 

The short conclusion of the brief is: 

"In this BCRC study, an eight-week mindfulness program reduced students’ perception of stress and increased students’ capacity for sustained attention (an element of self-control). The benefits of the short-term mindfulness intervention described in this paper should motivate further research to examine whether a longer intervention or the ongoing practice of mindfulness in the classroom would yield larger and sustained benefits for students. Still, these promising findings suggest that students may benefit from mindfulness practices as part of their school day."

Here is the longer Executive Summary:

"Mindfulness-based practices have been promoted as a promising way to reduce stress and anxiety in students and improve their academic and behavioral outcomes. Using surveys administered to middle school students attending schools participating in the Boston Charter Research Collaborative, we learned that greater self-reported mindfulness correlates significantly with better academic achievement and behavioral outcomes. These results encouraged us to further assess if a schoolbased mindfulness intervention could improve students’ sustained attention, and therefore, their self-control. We implemented a randomized controlled trial with 6th grade students at a partner school to study the impact of a school-based mindfulness intervention on students’ sustained attention and perceived levels of stress. Students either participated in the mindfulness intervention or a coding training as part of the study. Students assigned to participate in the mindfulness intervention received eight weeks of mindfulness instruction, while a control group of students received training in computer coding. About half of the study participants also participated in brain imaging before and after the eight-week program. We found that students assigned to the mindfulness intervention condition showed a reduction in perceived stress and modest but significant improvements in sustained attention. These students also showed a reduced response of the amygdala, a brain structure associated with emotion and stress, to negative stimuli. Together, these findings suggest the potential value of mindfulness interventions for alleviating stress and enhancing sustained attention. This paper reviews the findings from this study, in addition to other literature on the role, function, and helpfulness of mindfulness in education. Further research is needed to understand whether regular practice of mindfulness in the classroom could produce sustained improvements in academic and behavioral outcomes. We conclude the report with some recommendations and considerations for bringing mindfulness practices into the classroom."

Mindfulness is going extremely well at school and it is clear from the assemblies that more and more of the students are participating properly however we can always improve by knowing more about this important tool for developing well-being in our students.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Food for Thought: Kindness starts with yourself

A few years ago this quote from Maya Angelou welcomed people to the ISHCMC campus. I thought that as we enter the season of Peace, Harmony and Goodwill that this weeks Food for Thought would focus on Kindness.

"At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

The Maya Angelou quote started me thinking about how the actions we take are then transformed into feelings both for the doer and the recipient. We talk about and encourage random acts of kindness because of the positive impact these can have on people. Whilst I was thinking about this I wondered what does it really mean to be kind? What is left if you separate kindness from an action? What I discovered is that being kind has a major physical impact on yourself and not only makes you feel better at the time but can improve one's own health in the long run. This short TED is a good example of this process.

For the Dalai Lama his whole spirituality is based around kindness. What I discovered reading some of the Dalai Lama's thinking about kindness, and other mindful leaders, is that if kindness is going to play a major role in our lives, and we are going to truly discover what it means to be kind, then we must first feel love for ourselves before we can feel love for others. This is why many of the ancient meditation routines like Love and Kindness start by encouraging us to think about ourselves and then expand out to others, firstly to those who are close to us and then a bigger population.
Here is a a meditation that builds on the love and kindness meditation we learned on the Positive Psychology course (new course starts 15 December)

"When we take positive action and respond creatively to our anger, we are taking good care of ourselves. Taking care of our hearts, minds, and bodies is taking positive action. Learning to be kind and loving toward ourselves is a challenge. It is also part of the lifelong practice of working with our anger.
There is a meditation called the metta bhavana, Metta means loving-kindness, and bhavana means to develop. This meditation teaches us to be kind and gentle by cultivating a positive relationship with ourselves and the rest of the world. Loving-kindness can be the beginning of compassion for ourselves and the way to end anger in our hearts and minds. It is used to begin releasing the toxins of anger, hatred, and fear from my heart. 
Developing Kindness toward Yourself — A Metta Practice
  • Close your eyes, grounding yourself on your seat. Make sure you are fully supported and your feet are placed firmly on the ground.
  • Become aware of the breath permeating your body. Imagine it to be a spray clearing the toxins from your heart.
  • After a minute try to visualize looking back at yourself, or see yourself in a beautiful place that you enjoy. Or just silently call your name. Remember to breathe.
  • After another minute say to yourself, “May I be happy,” then breathe and acknowledge how this feels. Then say, “May I be well,” then breathe and acknowledge how this feels. Then say, “May I be kind toward my suffering,” then breathe.
  • Allow yourself to sit in stillness with whatever arises. After a few minutes say, “May I cultivate more kindness within my heart. May I cultivate more peace within my heart. May I continue to develop and grow.”
  • Continue to recite these phrases, leaving a minute or two between each, staying connected with yourself all the time.
  • After ten minutes bring the practice to an end.
They say that if you practice this weekly it will begin to transform your heart. If you do it daily it will bring about positive change in your life."
Often what we forget to do in our busy lives is to be kind to ourselves. So here are 17 easy ways to be kind to yourself from Daring to Live Fully. See how many of these 17 acts you can build into your lives...perhaps a 17 part New Year's Resolution.

1. Carve Out Some Time For Yourself. Every day carve out some time for yourself and do something that brings you joy. You can draw, journal, write short stories, play a musical instrument, or do anything else that you love to do. Be kind to yourself by giving yourself some “me time” each day.

2. Give Yourself Recognition. Often, we’re quick to acknowledge the achievements of others, but slow to acknowledge our own. That has to stop. Become aware of your own achievements and give yourself recognition.

When you do something you’re proud of, stop for a minute and dwell on it. Praise yourself and relish the achievement. Complement yourself. Pat yourself on the back and say the following: “Kudos to me!”

3. Cultivate Your Inner Advocate. We’re all familiar with the inner critic. It’s that little voice in our heads that’s quick to judge and is always ready with a put down. Well, it’s time for your inner critic to meet your inner advocate.

And who exactly is this inner advocate? It’s another voice in your head: the one that defends you. When your inner critic comes at you with ridicule and scorn, your inner advocate jumps in and presents arguments on your behalf. While your inner critic is against you, your inner advocate is for you.

Be kind to yourself by cultivating your inner advocate (mine wears Armani suits and carries a black leather Gucci brief case).

4. Forgive Yourself. We all mess up. Look at the following:Maybe you did something in the past that you’re not proud of.Perhaps you failed to stand up for yourself and you let someone else get the better of you.You may have missed a great opportunity because you got scared.Maybe you failed to follow through on an important goal.

If you’re angry at yourself, you need to show yourself kindness: stop blaming yourself, resolve to do better from now on, and forgive yourself.

5. Take Good Care of Yourself. One of the best ways to show yourself kindness is to take good care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat fruits and vegetables, and get some form of exercise on a regular basis. In addition, choose a way to release stress, be well groomed, and look after your appearance.

6. Respect Yourself. Self-respect is valuing yourself for who you are, and not allowing others to dictate your value. It’s trusting yourself, thinking for yourself, forming your own opinions, and making your own decisions. In addition, it’s refusing to compare yourself to others.

Finally, self-respect is about keeping your promises to yourself and following through on what you tell yourself that you’re going to do. Be kind to yourself by deeply respecting yourself.

7. Treat Yourself. I’m not advocating shopping therapy, or consumerism. However, if you see something that you really want, treat yourself. If it’s expensive, save up for it. You don’t have to wait for someone else to give it to you as a gift. Give it to yourself. (You get bonus points if you get the shop to wrap it in colorful gift wrap.)

8. Soothe Yourself. Did you have a tough day? Did you get into an argument with a co-worker or a friend? Did you bomb your presentation? Was it one of those days in which everything that could wrong, did go wrong? Be kind to yourself by soothing yourself. Do the following:Soak in a hot tub. Add scented bath oil.Give yourself a scalp massage. Rub your feet.Make yourself some hot cocoa with little marshmallows in it and sit back with a mystery novel.Lock your bedroom door, turn on some music, and dance around in your underwear.

After all, nobody knows how to soothe you better than you.

9. Remind Yourself of Your Good Qualities. Maybe you’re a little heavier than “the ideal body type”, but you have long, lustrous hair. Maybe you’re not great at sports, but you’re an ace at math. Maybe you have a tendency to be melodramatic, but you have a great sense of humor.
Always remind yourself of your good qualities.

10. Lift Yourself Up. When you fail, make a mistake, or do something wrong, you have two choices. You can tear yourself down, or you can lift yourself up. People who are kind to themselves choose the latter.

Tell yourself it’s going to be OK. Give yourself a morale boost by reminding yourself of your past successes. Then, come up with a plan for dealing with what happened, and take action.

11. Tell Yourself, “I Am Enough”. We’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve thought, “I’m not good looking enough, or smart enough, or strong enough to get what I want.” Stop it with the “I’m not enough” self-talk and replace it with the following;“I’m enough, just as I am.”“I’m worthy.”“I deserve to be happy.”“I deserve to have everything I want.”

In addition, tell yourself that nothing has to happen to make you worthy. You are already enough.

12. Honor Your Dreams. People who respect themselves–people who are kind to themselves–honor their dreams. That is, they don’t downplay their dreams by labeling them as silly fantasies. Instead, they take their dreams seriously by turning those dreams into goals, and creating a plan for achieving those goals.

13. Find the Sweet Spot Between Acceptance and Striving. Part of being kind to yourself is acknowledging your potential. As was stated in the previous point, you should know what you want and go after it. However, never being satisfied with where you are, or with what you have achieved so far in life, is being unkind to yourself.

Be kind to yourself by finding the sweet spot between being happy with who you are, while taking action to become even better.

14. Stop Trying to Be Perfect. People who set a standard of perfection for themselves are setting themselves up for failure. After all, perfection is unachievable. Can you think of anything more unkind than making success impossible for yourself?

Instead of setting a standard of “perfection” for yourself, aim to improve, one step at a time.

15. Show Yourself Compassion. In the book, How to Be Your Own Best Friend by Mildred Newman and Bernard Berkowitz, the authors recommend that you befriend yourself by showing yourself compassion. The best way to feel compassion for yourself is to imagine that someone you love is feeling hurt. Look at the following:What would you say to them?How would you treat them?How would you reassure them?How would you make them feel cared for and loved?

Now, do that for yourself — show yourself compassion.

16. Believe In Yourself. Part of being kind to yourself is wanting the best for yourself. And in order to get the best, you have to believe in yourself. Have faith in your own abilities and in your own judgment. Think highly of yourself: believe in yourself.

17. Accept Yourself. Accept yourself as you are. You have strengths, and you have weaknesses. Sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you fail. Sometimes you’re right, and sometimes you’re wrong. Allow yourself to fully be who you are.Conclusion

There’s only one person in the world you’ll always have a relationship with, and that’s yourself. Therefore, you better start making sure that you’re a good companion to yourself. Live your best life by being kind to yourself. You can get started with the 17 tips explained above.

Finally, this short motivational video build on everything above and hopefully embeds the key message about being kind to ourselves and from that being kind to others will flourish. Again this is very much linked to our Positive Education work that we will do in January because if we are flourishing as individuals we are in a better position to make a difference for others.

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.