Show, don’t tell: The power of video

Te above video presents the rise and rise of online videos using powerful infographics.

The data of video use is amazing and the influence of YouTube is considerable. The questions that the video raise are in respect to the way that children think in a world where they are surrounded and immersed in videos.

I have written before about the success of the Khan Academy and the way that an audio-visual approach to learning is so powerful, particularly if it allows the student to look again and again at something that they cannot understand.

The most telling information was that text has a very low retention level, video is higher but the highest is audio-visual.

I wonder how long we can continue down the line of a text-based education system that children increasingly find difficult to relate to. I am not saying that text should be neglected but that audio-visual presentations incorporating text are potentially more powerful as a learning tool.

This is an important video about videos and I feel sure it will have many more people watching as word gets around.

Driven to distraction

I think that this is the first time that I have put an ad into my blog. The reason for this though is because I found myself moved and thoughtful about this advertisement.

It features Vic Gundotra, a senior executive and software developer at Google. It is shot in the style of a documentary and shows how he was driving to work earlier this year (2011) and was momentarily distracted by the beauty of the environment that he was driving in. There was a problem ahead and the road was blocked, cars had come to a standstill.

In the moment that Vic had been distracted he had not noticed the problems ahead and would probably have hit into the rear of the car immediately in front of him had his Mercedes safety system not come into play and automatically stopped his car.

When reflecting on the possibility of what may have happened Vic is seen at home with his children and states that he works hard at his job but, like the rest of us, he is concerned about his family and that he works to live.

It made me think about the role that technology can play to better our lives. I wrote in a much earlier post about the way that the iPad has been used to help people who have immense difficulties with communication. But technology is not just aiding those people who have special needs. It is now coming into every aspect of our life.

It may be considered a problem by many but it seems to me that Vic touched upon something very significant in the video. Without that technology he may have died, his family would have lost a very key part of their lives and he may have caused injury or death to someone else. A lot of the most recent technological developments are not shouted from the rooftops but they have real impact on our lives and very often in a positive way that we may never really know the implications of unless we have time to examine the situation as Vic does in the advertisement.

I will finish by saying that,as an advertisement, it is brilliantly filmed, atmospheric, emotional in an understated way and has a powerful impact without having to have over the top selling. It is an example for many in the advertising industry.

Reuters images of 2011

Reuters have come out with a selection of photographs that they have had taken during 2011.

I suppose the one that resonated the most with me was this:

This is a convenience store in Hackney, East London, being ransacked by rioters. It meant a lot to me because I was born and bred in Hackney and still live just thirty miles away.

It was one photograph though in a whole series of photos taking us from the depths of human misery to the occasional remarkable beauty that this planet has for all of us.

The pictures reminded me of just how powerful a still photograph can be…. and the statement that “a picture tells a thousand stories” is so true.

I would recommend anyone to look through this remarkable collection.I wonder what will be the images of 2012? I would guess that they will include the range of agony to ecstasy that we see in the Reuters collection… it is what makes living on this planet such an interesting, painful and thrilling experience.

Grace Lee Boggs: Hope for the future

Grace Lee Boggs

Image by On Being via Flickr

I was fortunate enough the other day to receive a link (on Google + where I get many of my most interesting links these days) to a video about the 96 Year old activist and writer, Grace Lee Boggs.

Firstly I was impressed by the crystal clear intellect of this woman who has been involved in Civil Rights as well as feminist and union issues throughout her long life. She is still writing books into her nineties and appearing on television as well as having a busy round of presentations and speeches.

What most impresses me about Grace Lee Boggs is her vision of the future. Having lived through the many events of the last ninety years in her country she has kept a vision of what might happen next and seen all the events in terms of the development of a post-industrial society.

Her vision is not one of deserted streets and factories being taken back by nature. She does not see the inevitability of wholesale crime and devastation. No, at her advanced age and nearing the inevitability of her own end, she sees only the possibility of a new way of living coming from the broken buildings and lost hopes of industrial decline.

She has lived in Detroit Michigan for the last 58 years. In the video she discusses the decline of this once thriving city. She does not see a 25% decline in the population of the city as being a significant thing. She talks about regeneration based on a different “paradigm”. She also has plenty to say about the way that education needs to change in this new post-industrial world.

She is certainly someone for America to be proud of and someone that the politicians and businessmen should listen to. She has the vision of the future that they so sadly lack and that they most definitely need.

Ghandi’s children: The Occupy Movement

I was watching a really good discussion on PBS between Richard Heffner and Howard Gardner. The subject was Gardner’s book “On Truth, Beauty and Goodness”.

Towards the end of the interview Gardner comes out with a bold statement that Gandhi was the most influential figure of the last millennium.

He justifies this statement by saying that Gandhi’s influence can be seen in so many movements that came after him and in particular the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s led by Dr Martin Luther King Junior.

This morning I woke up to the pictures of UC Davis and the treatment of peaceful protestors by Police. It reminded me so much of the scenes I witnessed in the 1960’s when the world saw student unrest and demonstrations in North America and Europe.

I became involved in a peaceful occupation of the Registry building at my University, Warwick, during my time there as a Politics student. I remember that we all sat huddled together in one of the offices when word got around that the Police were about to evict us following a court order that the University Administration had received.

Our leading light and chief administrator came around and stated that we were not to show any violence and that we would walk out with our heads held high. I remember the feeling of fear that I had that I would come out to a scene of violence against us and some of us may get badly injured.

In the event it was a peaceful eviction. We walked out of the building and past the massed ranks of the police who were armed and ready for conflict. We returned to our student accommodation or the bars in the Union Building.

That was 1975 and seems a world away from the scenes of UC Davis yesterday. But in many ways it is an example of how Gandhi and King’s ideas have spread throughout the years. We were not going to be violent in our small scale occupation of 1975 because we wanted to show the world the reaction and brutality of a status quo in fear of losing their power.

Gandhi defied the British by walking to the sea and gathering salt. At Amritsar the protesters did not fight as their heads were cracked by a vicious attack. Dr King walked with his followers from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama despite the violence of what has become known as “Bloody Sunday“.

Both Gandhi’s non-violent opposition and King’s “Civil Rights Movement” led to change. The “Occupy Movement” is growing and has now spread across the globe.When you look at the students sitting and waiting for the force of authority to possibly attack and maim them remember that they are the latest in a long line of people who have followed the teachings of Gandhi and who know that they may be pepper sprayed like the UC Davis protesters but they will bring about change. They are, in a very real sense, the children of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior.

Leonardo’s Test

Picture this. There has been a decision by the Artist’s Federation of Florence that all new paintings have to be rigidly examined as they are created. This is to fit into rigid new rules from the Florentine Government that specify the precise way that all paintings must look, the colours to be used, the subject matter of the painting. There will be a board of  examiners to overlook the painting process and of course it will be precisely timed!

At the end of the painting examination the examiners will state whether the “creation” has passed or failed the state examination painting standard and in exceptional cases it will be granted an “outstanding” certificate that will allow it be shown in local and maybe international art galleries.

Of course this weird scenario never really happened. Leonardo did not have to appear in front of a group of examiners whilst being given a timed test, to rigid specifications, as he painted the Mona Lisa. If he had faced this situation though what do you think the result would have been?

I have been watching a popular television programme over here in the U.K. called “Masterchef“. At the beginning of the programme we see Monica Galetti, the experienced Sous chef of the famous Michelin Starred chef Michel Roux Junior, cooking a dish in about five minutes. The “contestants” a group of experienced  chefs from various restaurants around the country, then have to do the same thing under the pressure of time and with Monica and Greg Wallace (the co-presenter of the programme) staring at them intently as they go about their work.

Often the result is a disaster. The chefs are made to look like amateurs.They burn the food, they do not cook it properly, it is presented awfully. They will often walk disconsolately from the room where their disaster happened and state afterwards that “I can do better than that. That was not a true reflection of my ability.”

It always reminds me of my own struggles with tests and examinations. I have often wondered what, if anything, a timed test under pressure really proves, except the ability of the person taking the test to work under a lot of pressure and produce work of a substandard to what they are capable of.

If Leonardo had to work under the pressure of examinations throughout his amazing life would the world have ever seen the masterpieces that he produced? What value is it to see good professionals reduced to wrecks trying to cook a masterpiece in a few minutes? What pressure do we put on our children throughout the year and what does it really prove?

The Mona Lisa (or La Joconde, La Gioconda).

Image via Wikipedia



The memoirs of Sandor Teszler

One of the greatest TED Talks that I ever saw was Ben Dunlap‘s brilliant “The Story of a Passionate Life“. I have seen this talk about three times and it never fails to move me.

The main subject of the talk was Sandor Teszler, a  businessman who suffered along with so many others during the holocaust in his native Hungary.

Teszler eventually managed to escape Hungary and came to Britain and later to the U.S.A. His business was textiles and he was one of the first people in the postwar period to develop “double knit”, an innovative manufacturing process that he was keen to develop for the huge U.S. economy.

The best place to open a textile mill was in North Carolina in the South. Teszler would eventually open his mill as the first integrated (blacks and whites working together) in the States. He faced opposition and potential danger (from  the KKK for example) but he steadfastly refused to be browbeaten and managed to pave the way for one of the acts that managed to transform the southern states.

Teszler and his family settled in North Carolina and one of  his sons became a member of the management committee of Wofford College. Later a library would open at the college specifically named after Teszler.

In his eighties and having lost both his sons and his wife Teszler would attend lectures at the college along with the young students. He was, in every sense, a lifelong learner and this is what attracted me to his story as told so wonderfully by Dunlap, the present President of Wofford College.

Today I came across Teszler’s memoirs which he wrote whilst studying at Wofford. They are a great read, telling the life story of this amazing man.

In a section of the memoir, the lifelong learner writes:

” I am blessed with Wofford College; thank God I am able to move and to go five times a week to attend classes; my favorite classes are history, philosophy, and art.  Then I have the great happiness to have wonderful professors who are very nice to me and who appreciate my knowledge of this century, especially in the history classes.  Because I am an 88 year old man I basically represent the whole century.  The whole Wofford campus is for me a savior.  I try to get away every day about 9:30 AM.  I go to school at Wofford College and attend classes.  Lunch I usually spend in the city or with my friends but in the afternoon I am alone and suffer from loneliness.   Every day I go to the library for two or three hours and I see my dear friend, Mr. Coburn, who is head of the library now.  And he does everything to help me to get the books that I need and want to read.  Then when that half day is over I go home.  I am able to get over my loneliness because I am still able to read books but not novels or light reading but biographies and history books.”

What can you say when you read this? It is stories such as Teszler’s that are an inspiration to us all and remind us that we are never too old to learn and that learning is the journey of a lifetime.


The web at 21: quotes and a reflection

Where the WEB was born.

Image via Wikipedia

I came across this post on Facebook from Daniel Pink:

MT @brainpicker: 21 years ago today, @timberners_lee published a proposal to create the World Wide Web
If you hit the hyperlink you will go to the original proposal made by Tim (now Sir Tim) Berners-Lee to CERN, the organisation he was working for at the time.
I found this document fascinating but had to remember that I was looking at it from the point of view of someone standing in the world of 2011 which is immersed in the web in a game-changing manner from the world of 1990 where many of the things we now take for granted like the iPhone and the iPad would have seemed like the science fiction that they were in some way based upon. (Steve Jobs obviously liked Star Trek!)
I have done a bit of research (on the web of course) and have found some really interesting quotes about the web:
A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click.  ~Author Unknown
I have an almost religious zeal – not for technology per se, but for the Internet which is for me, the nervous system of mother Earth, which I see as a living creature, linking up.  ~Dan Millman
The Internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.  ~Andrew Brown
The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control.  By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation.  ~Vinton Cerf
The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.  ~Eric Schmidt
The Internet is the most powerful magnifier of slack ever invented.  ~Author Unknown
The ‘Net is a waste of time, and that’s exactly what’s right about it.  ~William Gibson
First we thought the PC was a calculator.  Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII – and we thought it was a typewriter.  Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television.  With the World Wide Web, we’ve realized it’s a brochure.  ~Douglas Adams
I had a life once… now I have a computer.  ~Author Unknown
These quotes show just how different our views on the power, influence and goodness of the net is. In many ways I agree with them all. It can be a waste of time, it can be dangerous, it can lead to the decline of family interaction. It can also be a means for incredible communication, it can provide a source to have the world of knowledge at your fingertips instantly.
I am retiring soon and will be trying to spend a part of my time helping people who know little about the net to access its wonders, to find online bargains, to communicate with their cousin in Australia, to search into the history of their family. I believe that it does open up many many opportunities.. but as Eric Schmidt said in his quote it is anarchic, we don’t fully understand it and we don’t really know where its going and how it will change us… but I would really love to be around in 21 years time to find out!

Lost potential: The poverty barrier

I have always been interested in potential. The word denotes a state of possibility. It is indefinite, in that it expresses an uncertain outcome.

I recently came across an excellent talk via a link on G+ by  Dr Stephen Krashen. After the talk he gave an interview in which he reflected on his ideas. I found the interview even more interesting than the talk!

Here is the interview:

There were a number of points that Krashen made which resonated with me. He talked about his work with the poor in California where he lives. He stated that it is poverty that is at the root of educational under-performance in his country. He then railed against the obsession with testing that is going on stating, memorably: “we are weighing the children and not feeding them!”

At the moment I am reading “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book he talks about the way that opportunity plays a significant part in the achievement of potential. I have just read the section on Chris Langan, the genius who was born into a harsh, poor environment and who has never been able to achieve the obvious huge potential that he has because he did not have the social skills to use the system to his advantage.

Here is a relevant description from the Wikipedia entry on Langan’s life:

He has recently been profiled in Malcolm Gladwell‘s book Outliers: The Story of Success,[26] where Gladwell looks at the reasons behind why Langan was unable to flourish in a university environment. Gladwell writes that although Langan “read deeply in philosophy, mathematics, and physics” as he worked on the CTMU, “without academic credentials, he despairs of ever getting published in a scholarly journal”.[27] Gladwell’s profile on Langan mainly portrayed him as an example of an individual who failed to realize his potential in part because of poor social skills resulting from, in Gladwell’s speculation, being raised in poverty (my use of bold).

I have just read an interesting interview in The Huffington Post in which C. M. Rubin interviewed Diane Ravitch. In the interview they touch upon the fact that poverty is seen by many as the barrier to academic success. Interestingly, she states in the interview that the injection of “good teachers” into poor area schools will not achieve the desired “rise in standards”.

This all reminds me so much of a quote I read right ast the start of my teaching career in the 1970’s. The quote came from Professor Basil Bernstein and was: “Education cannot compensate for society“.

The more I read and look at the obvious evidence that is in front of us, the more I feel that Bernstein was right. Schools cannot be the means to achieve the changes that politicians desire. The politicians do not tackle the huge problems of trying to be educated coming from a poverty stricken home which is often bereft of books, extended conversation or any idea that education has any value at all.

In the midst of all this concern with poverty I bemoan the loss to the world of the potential of the children. I have often stated to anyone who would care to listen, that the cure to Cancer may lie in the minds and actions of a child in the streets of Rio Di Janeiro  or Calcutta or any of the many many places in the world where children’s daily lives are about survival and where the next meal will come from and not in the understanding of Shakespeare or Calculus!

When oh when will we understand that the fight for education begins with the fight against poverty?

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My Kindle experience

Two months ago I had a technological change in my life. I became an Android user by getting a Samsung Galaxy phone. I found it a joy to download lots of Apps and play around with them. Many of them lasted for just a few days before they lost their usefulness to me and others have had occasional use. One App though has changed the way that I think about a major topic of discussion at the moment, whether e-books will eventually replace the paper variety that we have grown up with and many of us love.

I had of course heard and seen Kindles,the small electronic reader that Amazon came out with a couple of years ago.I had played around with my brother’s Kindle and had agreed that the ability to download books at will, to access the internet and check facts about the author, or look up an unusual word in an online dictionary was a very interesting development. I knew you could highlight text and then be able to return to it at a later date, that you could make notes about the text as you were reading which would prove very useful when you looked back at your own thoughts and indeed would be a very useful tool for a student.

I decided though that I didn’t need to purchase one and was,like so many of my age (I am 58 years of age and born and bred in an age of “real” books), somewhat wary about their use.

Thew Android phone changed all of that. I downloaded a free Kindle App from the App Store and have never really looked back. The fact that I was also able to download a version of Kindle for my netbook was really good. I found that the versions “synced” with each other and therefore if I was at Page 218 on my phone the same starting position would appear on my netbook when I requested it.

I have so far read the following books: “A New Culture of Learning” by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, “Bounce” by Matthew Sayed and yesterday I downloaded (and have already read the first two chapters of..) “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. I have also downloaded for free “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens. There are, in fact a huge number of books that are available for free download on Kindle. Here is an article that explains the range of books available and how to access them.

My Kindle experience so far has been a really good one. I can remember sitting on a bench during an unusually warm October lunchtime and reading two chapters of Oliver Twist on my mobile phone!

There are those who say that reading in such a way is weird or even wrong. I have given this some thought and it has occurred to me that I have spent a lot of my recent life reading off of a computer, be it reports, articles or  blog posts. My transition to reading the Kindle on a mobile phone was seamless.

I can genuinely say that the  “Kindle Experience” has been a good one for me and I am looking forward to extending my personal  library in the future. I can really recommend its use to everyone… if you haven’t already downloaded the App and have access to the iPhone or an Android phone or even if you just try the P.C. download. There is a world of books to access…. enjoy exploring!


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