Signing off for now

I have decided, after 625 posts over a period of over three years to have an extended break from blogging.

Since I started this blog my life has changed in a number of ways. I have stopped working, I have retired, I have moved to a different part of the country and my time is largely spent supporting my wife and in studying various MOOCs.

I have found myself having less and less time to research and write blog posts.

I have had over 75000 views of my posts, which averages 25000 a year, so not too bad. I have 45 regular followers which I am very grateful for.  To all who have read my work I extend my thanks.

I shall not be closing down my blog as a number of posts have regular views.It also holds open the possibility that I shall write a post in the future. A blog is a great place to express your ideas and there my well come a time that I will feel that I need such a place to shout out or reflect.

So for now, as the title says I am signing off…. with thanks to you all.

What Letter Should We Add to STEM?

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/381238/what-letter-should-we-add-to-stem/

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The video has a number of well known academics stating their support of the arts (and humanities seems to be added as a “tie-on”) to accompany  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) which has got so much attention in the media and has become a big concern of no less a person than President Obama!

They all agree that the arts and humanities leads to a rounded education and supports work in the other disciplines.

I would go further and say that the arts and humanities support the thinking and social skills that help students to learn STEM and without them the effects of concentrating on just these subjects would be undermined.

I think the statement in the video that resonated with me was Professor Howard Gardiner who said that a STEM education without the arts was a “halfbaked education”. Hear, hear.

Politicians and global warming

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I love this sculpture. It is by Issac Cordal in Berlin, Germany and is called “Politicians discussing global warming”.

I don`t need to add anything to what so many of you are no doubt thinking.This sculpture cuts to the heart of the situation. Do we really need to be swamped by an ever-rising and non- shrinkable tide of water whilst our politicians discuss and agree to talk about the subject at some future date?

I would take this photo as a starting point for discussion about Global Warming in schools. Students need to consider the whole debate and to understand the possible ramifications of non-action.

Life as a left-hander

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The poorly written piece above was written by me this morning. If you are finding it hard to deciper the scrawl here is a transcript:

                                         The left hand
Today I will be attempting to write with my left hand. What do I notice? The difficulties of  my pen appearing  to hide what I have just written.
I now know why left-handed people often write with the page slanted.
This has been a really good learning experience. I can begin to remember my difficulties as  child when trying to learn to write.
I haven`t discussed the strangeness of the feel of the pen in my hand. I lack confidence and my lack of grip can clearly be seen. I have the advantage on a child learning to write. I am not hindered by by spelling or vocabulary. I know what I want to write, the physical difficulties got in the way!
Interestingly, I do not find any problems deciphering my writing though someone reading this probably will.

I  attempted this exercise for two reasons. In my last post I discussed brain plasticity and the need to  exercise the mind as we grow older in order to  grow new connections in our brain and not allow our brain to shrink before it dies.

The article I referenced suggested a number of things to try such as learning a foreign language, learning to play a musical instrument or writing with the other hand to the one you have used throughout your life.

I chose the last task because it was comparatively easy to start. All I needed was a notepad and my pen and the courage to start. I also had another reason  I am the child of two left-handed parents and have a left-handed brother.

As I stated in my transcipt, it was a really good learning experience. I have taken the first steps and deliberately chose to use a notepad because I can see my progress from my first effort. Hopefully my skills will imrove as my brain works to make me more efficient in my persuit. I can, at the same time, get to know how the world feels as a left-handed writer. I can also improve my brain`s capacity at the same time or so the findings say.

Watch this space, I will report on my progress

The need to keep learning

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/iage/201304/brain-plasticity-in-older-adults

The above link is to an article that discusses the recent findings of neuroscience that the brain can still grow synaptic links well into old age. This conflicts with the older “wisdom” that brain cells die off as you get older, thus decreasing the potential to think and learn.

If the new findings are correct and there is much evidence to show brain scans of firing neurons and the birth of new connections in our brain, then we can combat the “slow death of the brain” by keeping on learning.

The author suggests we could learn a new language, learn a musical instrument or even write with our “non-writing” hand. I would add that we could extend our learning by taking one of the many MOOCs that are available today. You could get involved with local issues or become a volunteer or join the ever-growing numbers of “Makers” and just build something, anything.

I would of course, highly recommend writing blog posts. I am on post number 623 and counting. I still enjoy the research for each post notwithstanding the actual creative process of writing.

The message is simple, as you age, keep learning. The body may wither, don`t let the brain fade away!

And So There Must Come an End | Charlotte Kitley

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/charlotte-kitley/bowel-cancer-charlotte-kitley_b_5836238.html

This is by a long way the best post I have read this year. It is a life affirming statement by a lady who knew she had just a few days to live.
I am, at present in week 2 of an excellent Mooc from the University of California at Berkeley titled “The Science of Happiness”. I have learnt just how important family, spouses, children and friends are to making our lives as happy as possible.
This post underlines all of these ideas. It shows how fragile our “little life” is ( to quote Shakespeare).
Please read and count your blessings.

Becoming a digital age reader

I have been reading a lot this afternoon about the problems or advantages of reading online as against the conventional book, magazine or newspaper.

I have to admit that I tend to read mostly online these days. My reading material is wide and includes blog posts, articles from various academics that I follow, the numerous posts in Facebook, the occasional Tweets on Twitter and various other material that I might come across on a day-by-day basis as I surf the net.

I have also purchased a number of e-books on Kindle and have found some “free” (or freely available) books that I have downloaded.

I recently did a MOOC on Social Psychology from Wesleyan University on Coursera. This led me to download articles and one book on the subject. I also bought two excellent hardback books due to interest in the subject which I had the pleasure of reading at my leisure and without running down my tablet’s battery!

When reading various articles I often come across references to books or other articles that I look up  and I save my material on “Pocket” so that I can catch up with it at my leisure.

I have become a “Digital Age Reader” not by design but because the world of information has moved on from the “book based society” of my youth. This is the world that many of our younger generation are growing up in. You can debate the pros and cons of the “feel” of a book as against the ephemeral screen that is here one minute and can be lost, possibly forever, the next.

I do though read and I read widely. I have access to an incredible richness of material. I cannot ever hope to read everything that I already have as a collection of “must reads” in Pocket, no mind the numerous material that I will put onto it in the future. But that is not the point. I read and read with interest. Yes, it gets tiring and I do not have the ability to flick back pages and savour a paragraph or page so that the book will fall open on that much read and re-read page.

But the world has changed and so have I. I believe that we should not dig our heads in the sand and pretend that there is value in a return to a totally paper-based society. We need to understand that there are losses in the direction that we have taken but there are numerous advantages too.

Just as in the past, the real question is not whether to read electronically or on paper but what to read. I try and choose quality material and occasionally I fail and move on to something else. We should be training our children to understand how to choose and further their skills in critical reading by whatever medium they choose.

 

 

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