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.