Fifty-nine Up

I am like many people of my generation. We have grown up with the “Seven Up” children from the original showing of the “World In Action”  documentary in 1964.

I was eleven years of age when the programme appeared on our screens. My family were avid fans of documentaries ( I always had a keen interest as a child in history and current affairs). This was a very interesting experiment. Taking 20 children from all walks of life and parts of the United Kingdom. Letting them meet each other and play with each other. Discussing their lives and their dreams of the future.

It was a fascinating piece of  sociological research and was based on just one premise: “Shoe me the child at seven and I will show you the man”.

We were definitely shown the child.There were the children who were destined to go to expensive public schools and hen Oxbridge and then there were the children from working class homes who, even at seven years of age had little thought for worldly success and merely hoped to have a job and expected to follow their parent’s lead in raising as family and existing on a day to day basis.

To understand this concept see the following Part 1 of the documentary:

The documentary was a success. Seven years after its first showing the programme makers decided to return to look at how the children had developed in the seven years since they had first been seen on our screens. This documentary was called “7  Plus Seven”. We could see here the way that the children’s own lives were developing much the way that they themselves had predicted in the original documentary.

Every seven years thereafter we were treated to a documentary about the growth of these children into adults, parents, drug addicts, accountants, teachers and dropouts. Because it started at a time when I was within sight of their age, I somehow felt as if I were growing up with these children.

It must have been unusual to have had your life documented so publicly. Many of these adults have become something of minor celebrities. Some of them have ducked out of the series because they no longer want to live their lives in a fishbowl.

Yesterday I watched the latest series “56 Up”. It was fascinating to see the way that the children were now (many of them) grandparents. Some of them had retired or had been made redundant and had become victims of our recent economic woes. There were the lost hopes of a political career or becoming a Derby Winning jockey. They had come to terms with their lives but represented the vast social changes that we have all gone through in the past half century or so in the United Kingdom (indeed all across the world).

I was most moved by seeing the way that the East End of London had changed. I was born and bred in Hackney and the demise of the dog track which is now been replaced by the main Olympic Stadium represents the huge changes that have happened within my lifetime (and theirs).

I am fearful and interested in what the next programmes will bring. We all lie in uncertain times with vast changes. There is the threat of the grim reaper appearing in the near distance and the economic uncertainties mean that growing old can be something of a fight for existence. Notwithstanding this is the change that has been brought about by the digital revolution… I wonder how this will be reflected in “63 Up”.

I am “59 Up” now and have just taken voluntary redundancy, retired and moved to a different part of the country. My changes, like theirs, is part of the huge tapestry that is 21st century Britain. Maybe I will still be blogging in 2019 and can do the update to this post!”

Sherry Turkle: a necessary voice of reason in a tech obsessed world

I was really pleased to read Sherry Turkle’s excellent article  “We expect more from technology and less from each other”

She makes a very good point about our tech obsessed society and how the instruments of communication that we use every day are getting in the way of face-to-face communication.

The penultimate paragraph is telling: “We seem lonely but afraid of intimacy. Siri, the social network, digital assistants, all of these give the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. The path we are on seems fraught with paradox and about the most important human matters.

Turkle is an interesting person. She has spent many years s a Psychologist (presently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) looking at the effects of technology on our humanity. In her book “Life On Screen”

she  presents a study of how people’s use of the computer has evolved over time, and the profound effect that this machine has on its users.

There is no doubt that technology has enhanced and changed our lives but has it come at a big cost? The cost of our ability to talk to one another person to person in real time and not as a text, or a video message or during a chat.

Turkle is a necessary voice of reason for us all as we more and more allow technology and in particular communications technology to dominate our lives. This is very important because she is asking us to consider how far down the path od electronic existence we have gone and how much we may lose in continuing down the path.

We must remember the importance of human communication, of the chat with the local butcher or the old friend down the road face-to-face and not electronically.

For Turkle’s own views listen to  her lecture at the LSE:  Lecture about Alone Together London School of Economics, 2 June 2011 or her  2012 Ted Talk:

The intrinsic reward

I blog because I like it. I do not receive any medals, certificates or degrees for what I write. I get a kick out of the process of creating something from nothing.

Today I read a really interesting blog post on the Edutopia site by Judy Willis called “How to Rewire Your Burned-Out Brain: Tips from a Neurologist”

The keys to the article are in the paragraph headings: (1) Know it’s not your fault (2) If you’re burned out your brain has rewired to survival mode and (3) Reset Your Brain’s Default Neural Network from Retreat to IGNITE!

This is brilliant advice based on neurological science on how you can begin to build confidence again after you have been squashed by Government dictates, parental pressure, managerial pressure and your own self-doubt.

The third paragraph is about the need to learn something new and master it step by step.This allows for you to release dopamine in your brain and feel the pleasure of success and real learning and mastery. This then draws you away from the brain’s survival mode and will lead you to regain confidence in yourself.

The release of the dopamine comes from intrinsic success and not extrinsic rewards. Judy Willis makes a very important point that success is based on a feeling that you get from mastery and an ability to do something that you could not do previously.

Which brings me back to this blog post. I have nearly completed it now and will get the usual buzz that I get from having added another post that someone somewhere will read. I do not expect to get a “Blogger of the Year ” Reward for this and indeed ti means nothing to me to have this accolade.. in the end it is about what I get out of it from knowing that I have achieved something of value to me.

I feel that teachers and many others will get a lot from reading Judy Willis’ wise article and would recommend it to you unreservedly.

Why I will continue to blog

I have just moved house and have been through the usual unsettling period of total upheaval and the need to get used to a new environment, new routines and, in my case, a new part of the country to live in.

During the course of this upheaval I have found it near impossible to get to a computer no mind actually try and put my thoughts down in a blog post. I have therefore had a fairly long (for me) period of silence.

As often happens in these periods you get the chance to consider whether it is worth carrying on. I am approaching 500 posts in this blog, some of them have been quite widely read and others have little or no readership. I have thought about quitting on a few occasions but somehow the lure of blogging pulls me back…the question that I ask myself is why?

Blogging for me has been a release of my creative talents, a chance to express my opinions on what I have learnt and what I feel strongly about. There have been times when I have had responses in the way of comments to my posts and this has helped me to see that I have an audience out there. Not only do I have a small but loyal audience but I also have people who have bookmarked my site, who have advised others to read my posts or have mentioned individual posts in their own posts. One of my posts “10 reasons we should allow mobile phones into schools” has been at the top of the Google search for its title for many months now and is by far and away my most successful individual post.

I have a notification at the top of my WordPress Page as I write this blog that “Gerry Cockburn, Margie, and 17 others followed your blog”. THis is encouraging. I would therefore like to publicly thank Gerry, Margie and the other 17 followers for their support and state that it is people like you that encourage bloggers like me to continue to express our ideas and add just a little bit to the world of information out there.

I will be continuing to blog and particularly about education which has been my profession for many years and about technology which is slowly transforming education but has speedily transformed our world. Blogging is a great pastime and one that I can thoroughly recommend. There are never enough bloggers out there because everyone has something to say and there is always someone who wants to read it, can be informed or moved by it or challenged by it to respond. If you have been thinking of starting your own blog then I can definitely say give it a go,  it might  transform your life!