Børns liv og leg med medier

En anmeldelse og anbefaling af Stine Liv Johansens lille bog om børn og digitale medier. Den kom i maj, men jeg har desværre været lidt en sinke til at få læst den og skrevet om den.

Børns liv og leg med medier

Bogen handler mest om førskole- og indskolingsbørn og deres liv og leg med iPads og en advarsel er på sin plads – det er en akademisk bog rettet mod forskere og interesserede pædagoger og lærere. Men vi andre – fx os der “bare” er forældre – kan også tage noget med hjem, hvis vi kan mande os op til at læse sådan en bog. Det ser ikke ud til, at der nogensinde kommer en bog om dette emne beregnet på almindelige læsere. Det synes jeg er ærgerligt – og ikke kun fordi jeg gerne selv ville have skrevet den.

Stine har observeret en børnehave, der fik udleveret et “sæt” i form af en fin kuffert indeholdende en iPad med et par film-apps og lidt andet materiale, samt en flok børn på et fritidshjem, der alle havde fået en iPad. Hun taler meget med børnene og lidt mindre med de voksne, og der kommer en del interessante observationer ud af det. Jeg vil gå let hen over børnehaveobservationerne, da mindre børn  ikke er min kernekompetence, men den vigtigste lære af eksperimentet med kufferten er, at man kan så meget mere med en iPad og en flok rollinger end de fleste pædagoger nogensinde havde forestillet sig.

Et af bogens helt centrale budskaber formulerer forfatteren selv således:

Jeg mener, det er uhensigtsmæssigt, når brugen af teknologi og digitale medier skal “forsvares” ved at sætte et lærings- og udviklingsperspektiv op i forhold hertil.

Hvad er det for en mærkelig idé vi har fået i forhold til digitale medier, at børn med vold og magt skal “lære noget”, hver gang de tager en iPad i hånden? Hvorfor må de ikke bare lege? Vi forlanger jo heller ikke af en pakke LEGO, at den skal have læringspotentiale? Vi ved, at børn lærer af at lege – men det er som om den viden er glemt, så snart legemediet er digitalt.

En af de markante ting, Stine bemærkede i sit studie af børnene i SFO’en var, at intet barn nogensinde sad alene med sin iPad. Børnene sad ofte i par, ofte flere, men aldrig alene. Det har altså ikke noget på sig, når det påstås, at digitale medier har en isolerende virkning på børn.

Bogen kommer med en del gode argumenter for, hvorfor vi voksne skal sætte os ind i, hvad børnene laver og sætte os ind i, hvad de kunne lave, hvis de vidste det. Hun beskriver en episode med en dreng, der flipper fuldstændig ud, da et andet barn i bygningen smadrer hele hans bygningsværk i Minecraft. En pædagog forsøger at hjælpe ham med at finde ud af, hvem det er, men da det ikke lykkes, hjælper pædagogen ham lidt på vej med at bygge nyt og udviser i det hele taget forståelse for, hvorfor drengen bliver så ulykkelig. Forældre og pædagoger der intet aner om, hvad børnene laver på computeren eller iPad’en, kan ikke udvise samme forståelse og vil afvise drengens ulykkelighed som skaberi.

En anden ting, vi voksne går glip af, når vi afviser at interessere os for, hvad børnene laver, er indsigt i vores børns digitale kompetencer og mangel på samme. Vi får ikke rost dem for det, de er dygtige til, og får ikke hjulpet dem videre, når de støder mod forhindringer. Kan vi ikke selv hjælpe, så kender vi nok nogen, der kan! Et andet argument er, at børnene typisk griber det nærmeste – de orienterer sig næsten udelukkende i Top 50 af gratis apps. Det vil sige, at der kan være fantastiske – fx dansk udviklede – apps, der aldrig kommer til børnenes kendskab, fordi de ikke kan læse eller læser dårligt og ikke ved, hvordan de skal søge efter nye apps. Vi som forældre og pædagoger og lærere må holde os orienterede, så vi kan foreslå nye apps/spil til børnene, som de ikke finder af sig selv.

Stine Liv Johansen slutter af på følgende måde:

Det er nødvendigt, at vi som voksne bliver i stand til at følge med børnene ind i medierne, og at vi lader os inspirere af deres måde at anvende dem på, men også at vi er klar til at gå foran dem og vejlede dem, når det er nødvendigt.

Jeg kunne ikke være mere enig!

 

Du kan følge Stine på Twitter.

 

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Research checkliste

Denne serie om børn og deres færden på nettet startede med et kig i krystalkuglen.

Er du lærer og skal undervise børnene i grundreglerne for research, så kan du fx benytte denne checkliste:

Typografi, opsætning, ordvalg, stavning.

Jo mere officiel en side ønsker at fremstå, jo større krav skal man som læser stille til stavning, grammatik, osv. Hvilket faktisk kræver, at vi selv er nogenlunde gode til stavning og grammatik (det kan man godt tænke lidt over).

Man kan lave sådan lidt anskuelighedsundervisning og tage børnene med ind i en kiosk, og så bede dem udpege de aviser og blade, de ville stole mest og mindst på. Derefter skal de tvinges til at forklare hvorfor. Hvis det er muligt, så køb nogle fra hver kategori, og tag dem med hjem og kig i dem. Eller nøjes med at skrive titlerne ned, og gå så hjem og kig på online-versionerne og fortsæt diskussionen. Giv børnene opgaver, hvor de skal demonstrere, at de kan gennemskue en løgnagtig hjemmeside.

Referencer:

Er kilderne til oplysningerne på siden klart angivet? Kan man besøge dem og sikre sig, at de er ok?

Datering:

Er artikler dateret på en måde, der viser, hvornår de er lagt online og evt. hvornår, der er blevet rettet i dem?

Ophavsperson(er):

Er det tydeligt, hvem der er ophavs-m/k på artiklen? Hvis de ikke er kendte, skal de evt. googles, før man kan gå videre. Sider/artikler/videoer uden kendt ophavsm/k skal omgås med stor varsomhed. Igen – anskuelighedsundervisning holder max! Vis dem fx denne dommedagsvideo (den er på engelsk).

Ophavsret

Mange mennesker, både voksne og børn, støder på problemer med ophavsretten, når de prøver at skabe noget på nettet. Megen tekst, mange billeder, meget musik og masser af film er belagt med (strenge) restriktioner for, hvem der må bruge det og til hvad. Børn ved det ikke – hvis altså ikke nogen fortæller dem det.

Hvis du selv downloader film og software uden at betale for det, så skal du ikke blive alt for forundret, hvis dine børn også gør det – og de er ikke dumme, de kan godt se forskel på indkøbt software og det, du har napset på arbejde. Uanset hvad vores holdning er til de meget restriktive copyrightlove, så er de netop det, love. Og sådan nogen er det meningen, vi skal overholde.

Internettet gør det ikke nemt, for ofte fremgår det slet ikke, at man ikke må bruge et billede, et stykke musik, eller lignende. Dette gør sig især gældende med fotos og tekst. De mere checkede ophavsretshavere sørger for, at man får klar besked, så snart man højreklikker, eller de har lagt “vandmærke” i billederne, men de fleste gør ikke.

Lær dine børn om det her! Og lærere: forklar børnene, at de ikke bare kan bruge et hvilket som helst foto fra nettet til illustration til deres opgaver. Det er muligt at søge efter billeder, der er lagt ud til fri afbenyttelse, fx i Wikimedia – lær dem det (og husk det selv)!

Wikimedia

Og ja, hvis du er *den type*, så kan du sikkert finde et billede eller to her på min blog, som jeg ikke har clearet ordentligt. Lad det blot illustrere, hvor svært det er!

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Internet i skolen – SÅ svært er det heller ikke

Denne serie om børn og deres færden på nettet startede med et kig i krystalkuglen.

Mange skoler og mange lærere har stadigvæk et besynderligt forhold til Internettet, taget i betragtning at både børnene og de selv tilbringer så meget tid der. Det virker, som om skolerne enten bliver forblændet af hardware eller modsat helt lukker øjnene for, hvordan internettet kan integreres uden indkøb af enorme mængder dyrt og forgængeligt hardware.

At skolen må og skal blandes ind i børns digitale uddannelse skyldes ikke mindst, at det også på den digitale front er sådan, at den tunge ende vender nedad. Det er børn fra svage hjem, der ikke får lært at skelne mellem skidt og kanel af deres forældre, ligesom det er dokumenteret, at de piger, som lader sig lokke til at møde mænd, de kun kender fra Internettet, næsten udelukkende kommer fra svage familier.

For at en skole kan være digital frontløber, er store investeringer ikke nødvendigt. En fremsynet ledelse og vidende, engagerede lærere er alt, der skal til.

Det er ikke min holdning, at skolen skal gå foran og have IPads eller laptops til alle elever. Men jeg mener nok, at man kan forvente, at hver lærer har en laptop, som de har med i timerne og hvis skærm kan smides op på væggen eller på et whiteboard, så der spontant kan foretages søgninger, ses videoer, etc. Inddragelse af IT i timerne skal ikke være noget særligt, som man skal hen i et andet lokale for at gøre. At skoler har wi-fi over det hele, må simpelthen være et krav.

Når man nu ved, hvor godt det er for indlæringen, at der indlægges talepauser for læreren, så var det da oplagt at indlægge billeder, videoer, søgesekvenser, etc. i timerne, så børnenes opmærksomhed fastholdes, samtidig med at de lærer noget nyt.

Når børn og unge i “gamle dage” skulle skrive en opgave, måtte det store flertal, hvis forældre ikke havde et fagbogsbibliotek derhjemme, smutte på biblioteket, hvis de ville skrive andet og mere end det, de vidste i forvejen.

Allerede når man træder ind på biblioteket, ved man, at der er truffet nogle bevidste og velbegrundede valg for en. Uanset emne, så er decideret propaganda og reklame samt uvidenskabeligt vrøvl allerede sorteret fra, inden materialet overhovedet er kommet indenfor døren.

Spørger man så tillige en bibliotekar, bliver den information, man ender med, endnu engang sorteret, da bibliotekaren kan se ens alder og typisk spørger, hvilken type opgave det er, man skal til at skrive.

De materialer vi derfor plejede at komme hjem med fra biblioteket, kunne vi have meget stor tillid til. Ikke ubegrænset nej, det er altid godt at være kritisk, men stor tillid. Det samme gælder naturligvis skolebøger.

Men – hånden på hjertet, hvornår har dine unger sidst været på biblioteket for at lave research til en skoleopgave? Nej vel.

De googler. Vi googler. Og selv normalt velinformerede voksne ved forsvindende lidt om, hvordan søgeresultaterne i Google kommer frem, hvordan man søger bedst muligt, og hvordan man evaluerer de resultater, man så får. Hvor skal børnene så vide det fra?

Ja, hvis vi ikke kan lære dem det, er der kun ét sted tilbage – skolen. Derfor skal vi simpelthen kræve af vores børns skole, at “googling” indgår i undervisningen i alle fag. På mange skoler har eleverne stadig bibliotekstimer, men jeg har ikke hørt om, at de bruges til at lære at søge, hvilket ellers er enhver bibliotekars spidskompetence.

Mere om IT i skolen på mandag.

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Hvordan researcher moderne børn?

De spørger Google. Eller Youtube. Men det’ jo nogenlunde det samme.

Hvert år udarbejder Google lister over de mest søgte ord og termer. Selvom det semantiske web* ikke for alvor har set dagens lys endnu, så agerer børn og unge, som om det har. De spørger nemlig: Hvorfor…? og Hvad….? i stedet for bare at google et eller flere søgeord. Som det ses herunder, må Google tydeligvis ofte træde i stedet for forældre og andre voksne, der altså enten ikke er på pletten i spørgeøjeblikket eller ikke ulejliger sig med at svare, så barnet er tilfreds.

Mest Søgte “Hvordan…?”
1      Hvordan kysser man?    
2      Hvordan dividerer man?
5      Hvordan ganger man?    
8      Hvordan pifter man?    
9      Hvordan strikker man?    
10   Hvordan hækler man?
Hurtigst voksende søgninger efter  “Hvordan…?”
2      Hvordan laver man QR koder?     
4      Hvordan pifter man?    
6      Hvordan spiller man minecraft?
Mest søgte “Hvad er…?”
1      Hvad er klokken?    
4      Hvad er kærlighed?
6      Hvad er demokrati?
7      Hvad er ADHD?      
8      Hvad er twitter?      
9      Hvad er pi?       
Hurtigst voksende søgninger efter  “Hvad er…?”
1      Hvad er lydmuren? 
9      Hvad er udsagnsord?       
(Ovenstående fra Googles danske Zeitgeist-undersøgelse)
boyatcomputer

 

Lærere (i USA) er åbenbart ikke så kede af elevernes søgemønstre, som man måske kunne tro. Se her:

PEWresearch

Noget af det mere interessante ved ovennævnte er, at lærerne vurderer, at det er de yngste børn og børnene fra de dårligst stillede familier, der har størst glæde af at kunne researche på nettet. Det overraskede mig noget, hvad med jer? (Klik på billedet for at komme til resten af undersøgelsen.)

Hvem skal lære vores børn at søge ordentligt? Skal vi selv det, eller skal skolen? Hvor jeg er meget uenig med mange forældre, der gerne så, at skolen overtager opdragelsen af deres børn, så synes jeg faktisk, at skolen skal spille en hovedrolle i at lære børn at søge information på nettet. Simpelthen fordi det er en forlængelse af, hvad de allerede lærer børnene – eller i hvert fald burde lære dem.
I de små klasser har læreren sin laptop med og smider Google op på white-boardet. Spørger ungerne: Hvad ville I skrive i søgefeltet, hvis I skulle finde ud af xxxx? Og prøve de forskellige forslag af, kigge på resultaterne, diskutere. Og sluttelig konkludere noget om, hvordan man skal tænke, når man skal søge, og igen hvad man skal kigge efter i de resultater, man så får.
I de større klasser har de unge formentlig hver deres laptop eller tablet og kan selv søge. Blandt de både rigtige og forkerte resultater, spørger læreren, hvordan de er nået frem til det, og bruger dette til at hjælpe de unge til at få bedre resultater næste gang, smider nogle af søgningerne op på white-boardet og viser de unge, hvorfor det ene websted er troværdigt, mens det andet ikke er.
Google har en lang række redskaber til raffineret søgning. Dem skal de unge da lære om på samme måde som de lærer funktionerne i en regnemaskine. Kender du dem? Ellers se her.

 

*Semantisk web. Den “kloge” søgemaskine. Den kloge Trine-Maria Kristensen forklarer her, hvad det betyder.
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Brain waves

In the car today, my youngest son (8) demanded an explanation of the word “depression”. Not sure where he’d picked it up – maybe he was flicking through a magazine at the hairdressers earlier? I tried to explain it to him as best I could and while I was at it, explained to him that his grandmother’s forgetfulness and repetitiveness through Alzheimer’s also has its root in the brain where so many things happen that we don’t yet fully understand. Of course, the connection between something tangible, our brains, and something intangible, our emotions, is very difficult for a child to grasp. But I think it’s important that we try!

Luckily, Alzheimer is now much better recognised in society than it was even a few years ago and people are beginning to grapple with the idea that, beside obesity and all the other consequences of a poor diet, Alzheimer is one of the biggest problems facing our health services today. My lovely Twitter friend Andrea Gillies is doing a great job at spreading this knowledge. She has two articles in the broadsheets today, one about caring for an Alzheimer patient at home (the Times) and one about the (lack of) care of Alzheimer patients when they are admitted into hospital wards (The Guardian). She knows what she’s talking about, having herself cared for her mother-in-law for three years. She’s written a fantastic but heart-wrenching book about that experience. I cried many times while reading it and I’m in complete awe of Andrea who stomached this without completely losing her mind.

I can only recommend it if you’re close to someone with Alzheimer or to someone who is caring for one. Also if you aren’t actually, because this is something we should all know more about!

At the opposite end of the spectre, so to speak, is happiness. As some readers will know, it’s a pet subject of mine. At the moment I’m reading a book called Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches positive psychology at Harvard.

The theory is that we – on average – are in control of 40% of our happiness, if you can put it that way. An average person, living above the poverty limit and in a non-oppressive society, has 40% power over his or her own happiness. Of course, if we’ve just lost a child or been diagnosed with cancer, the 40% shrink rapidly, but I’m sure you get my drift. So when we’re trotting along in our normal, relatively uneventful lives, we have considerable power to heighten our general feeling of happiness. Tal Ben-Shahar tries to give us the tools to do this. For instance, he has a lot of documentation for the fact that once we’ve reached the basic levels of Maslow hierarchy of needs, we all have the same chance of finding happiness. Money has very little to do with it.

I take great comfort in this (not just the money bit…) and try to internalise some of the principles that studies have shown work. For instance, he suggests that we do the “infinitely regressive why” exercise whenever we want something more than a bacon sarnie or a cup of tea. It’s done like this: Why do I want a bigger house? Because so-and-so. Why so-and-so? Because so-and-so. Until the answer is: Because it’ll make me happier. The more “becauses” there are between the original question and the happiness answer, the less meaningful it is for your overall happiness to acquire said object.

If you question that happiness is our ultimate goal in life, then read this quote from Hume:

“The great end of all human industry is the attainment of happiness. For this were arts invented, sciences cultivated, laws ordained, and societies modeled.”

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Happiness again

Today’s TED talk is about happiness. It’s with Nancy Etcoff, an evolutionary psychologist. It’s 20 minutes.

She has some interesting points, e.g. that a successful marriage has a 5:1 rate. Of what, you might ask. For every one harsh and unpleasant thing one spouse says to the other, five niceties are needed to make up for it. So in a successful marriage then, we say five nice things to our spouse for each not-so-nice. Good thing to remember!

She mentions words that describe different kinds of happiness and gives us something to think about. Namely that some languages have happiness-words that other languages totally lack!

  • Fiero – pride in an achievement
  • Schadenfreude – taking pleasure in other people’s misery
  • Naches – pride and joy in one’s children

And she muses over the fact that no language she knows of has a word to describe one’s happiness for another person’s happiness.

Finally, she quotes Epictetus:

First say to yourself what you would be. Then do what you have to do.

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All about being organised & turning the lights out

New glasses this morning. Ah, revelation! My 15″ Mac-baby now looks like it’s 17″. Nice.

Have been constructing a Netvibes site for a paper I’m doing for uni and inspired by that I’ve completely revamped my personal Netvibes (RSS feed organiser and more). So I haven’t read so much today, just organised all my feeds to ease future reading. Therefore, it’ll be short and sweet today. Also, dinner needs to be ready before 8:30 when lights go out in honour of the Earth Hour. We’ll light some extra candles and turn off all electricity (except the heating). Maybe a candlelit game of Monopoly? Young son loves Monopoly.

Tech:

Our bank – and many other banks – has a very annoying system of what they of course refer to as EXTRA SECURITY. Now a security expert shows how it’s practically made for phishing. When you have to go through a really annoying extra procedure to access your web banking service, it’s downright infuriating to be told that the thing makes fraud easier, not harder!

Decision making. Doesn’t it just drive you crazy sometimes? One of the co-founders of Flickr is launching a new web service called Hunch to help us decide. I’ve signed up already, just can’t wait! It’s sort of built on some of the ideas that my favourite happiness guru also promotes, that we don’t always know what’s going to make us happy, but with a detour around other things that’s made us happy in the past (but which we’ve forgotten) will help.

Laura is this cool geeky girl with curly red hair who’s out looking for a “really cool laptop”. In this ad for Microsoft she discovers that Macs are more expensive than PCs! Oh wauw, I’m sure there are lots of people out there who thought differently!

Education:

Get a free one without leaving your home. Lifehacker has it.

Science:

Yes, viruses do jump from animals to humans – and back.

OK – not long till lights out now. Computer must also be shut down, obviously. Don’t read this between 8:30 – 9:30 pm your time! (Can one Twitter during the Earth Hour?)

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Women in tech

Today is Ada Lovelace day. Ada what-day? I hear you say. Well, Ada Lovelace was a pioneer in the technology field, where not many women have been pioneering. Click her name and read all about it. And here you can read how her legacy has been meaningful to her descendants for generations. And here about the idea behind Ada Lovelace day. Today’s Guardian has an article as well.

That it’s Ada Lovelace day means that all women who are interested in tech-stuff and also other women who take an interest in feminism celebrate a brave woman who came before us and had a lot less opportunities than we have. I’ve signed a pledge to write a blogpost about a living woman who’s made her mark in the tech community. At first I had no idea who to write about, but then I heard about Manuela Veloso. I listen to podcasts of a Danish tech programme called Harddisken and they had met her and interviewed her. I took an instant liking to this little busy, busy middle-aged Latin woman, who has made a career for herself in robotics. It’s not rocket science, but it’s d… close!

Here’s her long term research goal as expressed by herself (autonomous agent=robot):

My long-term research goal is the effective construction of autonomous agents where cognition, perception, and action are combined to address planning, execution, and learning tasks. My vision is that multiple intelligent robots with different sets of complementary capabilities will provide a seamless synergy of intelligence. Concretely, my research focuses on the continuous integration of reactive, deliberative planning, and control learning for teams of multiple agents acting in adversarial, dynamic, and uncertain environments. Of particular interest to me is learning, adversarial modeling, reuse, and abstraction in multiagent problems.

Manuela Veloso. Picture from Carnegie-Mellon homepage.
Manuela Veloso. Picture from Carnegie-Mellon homepage.

She’s Portuguese, but works as a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburg. Details about her personal life – like her date of birth – are scarce, but from her picture and career I think it’s safe to say that she’s around 50. Why she left Portugal is anybody’s guess, but it was probably a career-move, judging from her CV.

Because her main interest is the so-called “flocking” (=computers copying the behaviour of birds or fish when travelling together in big flocks or shoals), she has taken a particular interest in robot soccer games. Read about that here. If you just for a moment start thinking about what it entails to embed flocking behaviour into robots, so that they might behave like a flock of starlings is completely mind boggling!

So there, that was my two pence for women in tech.

Oh, and I think that if you’ve made it this far, you could also click here to aid the Breast Cancer Foundation.

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Twitterism & loads of links

I’ve now been twittering for a couple of weeks and am beginning to understand the workings of Twitter. For me it’s a place to harvest (more) interesting info than I’d otherwise find. Sometimes a bit on the much side I’m afraid. Below you’ll find a scattering of info that’s been twittered from my followees throughout the weekend. Particularly the tech-ones have been inanely active, since they are all gathered at SXSW.

Tech stuff:

A review of the app Dropbox, which I’m a very contended user of. For instance, it’s a great way of sharing documents between me and my writing partner at uni (he’s in DK). And thanks to him for recommending Dropbox.

Blogger apps for the Iphone. Sounds veeeery interesting, haven’t looked at all of them yet.

Twitter personalities the Myers-Briggs way. Which one am I, I wonder. Hope I’ll be considered as the Messenger type…

A Youtube add-on that makes it safe for little children. Quite good if you like your kids to browse away but preferably not to stumble over some of the more horrid videos that are in ample supply on Youtube. I think this will work up till the age of 8-9. After that they’ll have learnt to circumvent it and it’ll be up to you to teach them how to navigate not only Youtube, but all of the web.

Now to brain stuff:

We learn more from the unexpected than from the expected. Our brains respond just like the traders on the stock exchange floor. That’s bloody disappointing! From Science Daily.

Want to know what dialectical bootstrapping is? Read this. Also from Science Daily. Hint: It’s about applying the wisdom of crowds to your mind…

Also from Science Daily is this article about brain training as a preventative method against Alzheimers. I like the scientist’s down-to-earth advice:

In her opinion, the best way to keep one’s cerebral functions is to do intellectual activities, eat well, control vascular factors, particularly in the case of diabetes and hypertension, and remain physically active.

Brain activity reveals memories. Science Daily.

Health stuff:

This article (Science Daily again) reveals why I’ve never been able to make serious money. I was not particularly popular as a child. Or what?

My mother is dead, unfortunately, so I can’t share this information with her. I would’ve liked to, because I think she might secretly have blamed herself for my cleft palate/lip. But it’s in the genes! Luckily then, I haven’t passed it on to my sons.

Here’s another story to do with genes. It supports every smoker’s favourite story about the Grandmother who Smoked 20 Cigarettes a Day and Lives Happily to be a 100 Years Old.

I don’t usually quote the Telegraph, since it’s rarely worth quoting, but that’s the point really. To equal a school, which actually does something actively to improve the pupils’ health with Gestapo is just so out of this world!!!! My son tells me that, although his school has strict policies about sweets and crisps NOT belonging in the lunch pack, lots of children still have it every day! It’s just sad, sad, sad that parents understand so little about nutrition that they give their kids a packet of crisps and a white cardboard sandwich with square ham every day! It certainly supports the study about how IQ and education are directly linked to life expectancy, which I wrote about previously.

On feminism (watch out for the flak!):

Why women opt out of certain careers.

Miscellaneous:

The Health and Safety Executive has a myth-buster page, which is a comforting read. Clearly, what we’re seeing at schools and other places are over-zealous interpretations of the health and safety rules. So if we just stuck to the rules themselves, we’d be fine. Here’s a great example.

About coffee. Why the crap coffee in canteens and at railway kiosks gives a much higher boost of caffeine-induced energy than the luxury coffee we brew at home.

That’s all folks.

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High IQ = longer life expectancy?

Well, here’s another subject, besides feminism, that will trigger something in a lot of people. IQ. Just read this cool article, found on Twitter. The findings of the study aren’t really that surprising – the higher IQ, the better education. The better education, the better understanding of health issues. The better understanding of health issues and what to do to improve your own health, the longer the life expectancy. No magic, jut logic.

I would like some input about how to spot children with very high IQs in schools and about what to do, once they are identified. Please document your advice.

From the Wikipedia Commons
The IQs of a large enough population can be modeled with a Normal Distribution. From the Wikipedia Commons

@ my post on random acts of kindness, I got no replies. None. Is it considered as boasting when you claim that you like to perform random acts of kindness? Honestly, it isn’t. I just find it a very easy way to boost my own mood. When you see the smile on the other person’s face, it makes you feel good, instantly. No magic there either and no altruism to speak of! What did I do? A woman, probably in her 50ties, went on the scales in my gym. A sad look crossed her face when she saw the figure and she said to me that she was so disappointed because she had worked out so hard lately and it didn’t show on the scales. I said to her, that I thought she should stop going on the scales and just look at herself and see that she looked really good for a person of her age and stature and then go out and buy herself a spring outfit as a reward for her keeping up with her fitness regime. That was clearly just what she needed to hear. She was literally glowing afterwards. And it made me feel good too!

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Incentives for children & something about books

This discussion is probably eternal and will never be solved. I was deadset against that kind of thing – until I got my own children… I just don’t have the necessary parental skills to motivate my youngest to make an extra effort with his homework without using incentives. I see the point many people make, that once the job is done and the incentive is received, the child might slump into a stupor and the end result will be even worse. But I’m not quite sure that fits all age groups – I believe that incentives when they are young and learning all the basic stuff they’ll need to proceed successfully in the educational system can be good. Then comes the teen years, where the wiring is awry anyway. And – at a certain age, which I believe varies greatly from child to child, they will begin to understand the value of learning without incentives provided by us, the parents. Check out this story about a young Pakistani student.

The inspiration for this came out of this article in the New York Times. Not unusually, the pointer came from Marginal Revolution.

Here in the UK, incentives for children – also the very little ones – are all over the place. Gold stars and stickers are in every learning book for younger children – my young one loved and to a degree still loves it! In his school they get stickers for everything, which are put on their clothes so that everybody else can see. It’s for good behaviour, good spelling, strong effort, etc. etc. And there’s a weekly ceremony where the deserving children get a Certificate in front of the whole of the rest of the school. I don’t know that this works for all children – because the teachers try hard to give an equal number of certificates to all children. So some children, who don’t achieve very highly, will typically get a certificate for an effort or for good behaviour, while the high achievers get certificates for multiplication, reading, writing or whatever. But it most certainly works for mine!

Not exactly related, but I just stumbled over this on the School Gate blog on Times Online. It’s a Top Ten over books people lie about having read. Ha, that’s funny! I highlighted the three I’ve read. Cross my heart & hope to die. I HAVE read them!

If you also think that’s funny why don’t you make it into a meme and do the same thing on your blog and refer back to me. That would be interesting!

1. 1984 by George Orwell (42 percent) <Wonder what it would be like to re-read it now>

2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (31 percent) <so far I’ve downloaded it to my Iphone…>

3. Ulysses by James Joyce (25 percent) <tried several times and gave up>

4. The Bible (it doesn’t say which testament! 24 percent) >read a chapter a day for a couple of years>

5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (16 percent) <it’s good!>

6. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (15 percent) <haven’t even considered reading this>

7. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (14 percent) <it’s on the bookshelf…>

8. In Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust (9 percent) <never got into Proust somehow?>

9. Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama (6 percent) <a neighbour has promised to lend it to me>

10. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (6 percent) <haven’t considered reading this either, don’t like Dawkins>

I wonder why people lie about the Orwell book (more or less understand the rest). It’s so short and so easily read?!? And yes, I actually read it before 1984.

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Decision making – or when we think we're making one…

This article is 4 days old, but I’ve only just gotten around to write about it. I’m sorry if that makes you feel left behind… Bryan Appleyard writes for the Times, blogs and Twitters and I follow him everywhere, not like a stalker, more like an admirer :-)

The article is about how we make decisions – or rather how we think we make decisions, when in reality we aren’t really. Here’s a couple of quotes (the article is in fact a review of this book, which is now (also!!!!) on my Amazon wishlist):

I once bought a pair of shoes that didn’t fit. I blame my brain. I was a victim of a dopamine rush. That pesky neurotransmitter had been primed by previous shopping highs to flood my brain with the desire to take another hit. High as a kite, I made a stupid decision. I knew the shoes didn’t fit as I was buying them and, a few days later, too ashamed to go back to the shop, I chucked them away.

I learnt nothing from this. I still chuck away almost new stuff. This is because dopamine is stronger than my will. It likes the shopping high and there’s no way it’s going to let my pathetic ideas of common sense, rationality or correct shoe size get in the way.

This doesn’t happen to me, I hear you say (I heard myself say that). I make rational decisions while shopping, I never buy things I don’t need (!!!).

The message here is: decisions are never what we think they are. Western civilisation has laboured under a delusion that runs from Plato to Lieutenant Commander Data, the robot in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The delusion is that suppressing our emotions is the best way to make decisions. Data has no emotions and makes perfect decisions. When they give him an “emotion chip”, he breaks down, unable to decide anything.

One of the things that this “infuriatingly young” (Appleyard’s words) scientists points out is that the dopamine is in fact rational, we just don’t have access to its rationale… Consider this:

Well, first, be careful what you say to your children. An experiment by the psychologist Carol Dweck in New York City schools involved giving children tests in which there was only one variable. After the test some were told they were clever; others were congratulated for working hard.

Those told they were clever slumped into a kind of intellectual torpor; those told they had worked hard bounded ahead. In one group the scores of those called clever dropped by 20% and the scores of those called hard-working rose by 30%. There’s a big point here about how they chose: they self-corrected. While the clever group thought all they had to do was turn up, the hard workers considered their own mistakes.

Enough quotes – read the article (it’s not that long) or the book. I will, eventually, when I’ve read the 9 books on my night stand, the three books for my Bachelor paper and the ??? other books on my Amazon wishlish

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Life as a busy bee and a crippling cold

have kept me from blogging. No running away from the busy bee, but must extend working day at other end! On Sunday I read a very thought provoking article in The Sunday Times, which they’ve been kind enough to publish online. It’s by another of the paper’s excellent writers, Bryan Apleyard and it’s about the possibility of actually proving the existence of an afterlife!

I guess that when someone close to you die or is close to dying, and when you yourself feel mortality creeping up on you, these things become important. I don’t particularly want to “go to Heaven”, but am no fan of the idea of just disappearing without a trace. I always wonder what atheists tell their children when someone close dies? “Your best friend got run over by a car and now he’s nothing.” It may be that I’m just a coward, but I could never say that!

Something along these lines is also this TED talk by a neuro scientist. You’ll have to bear with her absolutely horrible accent and just listen to what she actually says and the humour with which she says it. 

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Mission accomplished

Not much time for blogging today I’m afraid – there’s the Christmas thingy at Dane’s school today where I am manning a stand, where the kids can make origami Christmas decorations. My origami is in fact a bit rusty, since I haven’t had time to indulge in folding lately. But I’m sure it’ll all go just fine.

In my latest post (just below this one, if in doubt) I told you that I was aiming at spending two uninterrupted hours on my course work on the following day. This just to tell you that in fact I did that. And it wasn’t as hard as I’d thought. I’m sure it helped that I had publicly stated that I’d do so. One has one’s pride!!!!! Besides, it gave me a great sense of having actually done something. Accomplished something. So it was well worth it and I’ll do it again. Tomorrow :-D

If you have your own website and/or blog, you should check this post by Kevin Kelly. Interesting.

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More on the downsides of multitasking

A while back I cited an article called Is Google Making Us Stupid here and also posted it on Facebook. It elicited quite a few reactions – as it had for me, the article touched a nerve with some of my FB friends.

At the moment when I’m not just normally scatterbrained, but also preoccupied with things in the personal sphere, I find it even harder to focus on one thing at a time. What I should do with all the things I remember that I have to do while doing something else, is of course to write them down, so I can do them later. But all too often I just rush away and do them NOW. Or I do them only half way, because in the middle of doing it i remember something else, which seems even more important. And so goes the day. Things most certainly get done, no doubt about it. But they probably would get done anyway, as long as I write it down! What I don’t get done is study. I need to read this book, some chapters in other books and some articles. The book is not on the world’s most interesting subject, but it’s actually quite well written and I don’t have to read every chapter through and through. So why is it I don’t get around to it?

Today I stumbled over yet another article on the subject. This one’s called Taming the Web 2.0 Mind. The blog on which it’s posted is a mental self-help blog. This may well make the little brittle hairs stand up on the back of your neck, but I’ve decided to admit to reading it and also to reading self help books. For Crying-out-Loud, we can’t – and probably shouldn’t – figure everything out for ourselves? And what’s wrong in wanting to improve your relationship with your children, renew your marriage, take a critical look at your career (in my case it’s “career”) etc. I read an article in the Sunday Times by Alain de Botton about why we shouldn’t scoff at self help books. He has all the right quotes to back his claim so I rest my case (and was reminded that one of his books is on my Amazon wishlist)…

So this is what I’m setting out to do tomorrow: I’ll set one hour aside to reading the book. Though I usually always take notes directly on my laptop (in super-cool little app called Tomboy by the way), I’ll leave the computer closed and leave markers on pages with pencilled notes for later digitization. And I’ll set another hour aside to do real focused research for my paper, where I’ll do as (26-year old) Peter Clemens suggests and say NO to all ideas of veering away from the research path. At least for that ONE hour.

Will let you know to what degree I succeed!

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