Ground Miles

I received an e-mail today from the wonderful OpenOffice organisation.
They are always seeking great ideas to promote social and community welfare.
I was particularly struck by the Bupa/World Heart Foundation App to promote walking for health.
Please read and download the app, walk and contribute.

Bupa + World Heart Foundation Launch Ground Miles
Our Workplace Wellness Challenge has led to an inspiring new campaign by Bupa and the World Heart Foundation called Ground Miles. The campaign’s goal is to promote the long-term habit of walking and to reduce people’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Also launched today is a free Ground Miles app, part of Bupa’s goal to positively improve the health and wellbeing of millions of people worldwide. Ground Miles is more than an app – it’s a challenge to encourage each of us get more active and join the global goal of walking 5 million miles collectively.
The free Ground Miles app is available now so download it by searching for ‘Ground Miles’ in your Apple or Android app store. Be sure to check out more about how the idea came to life, emerging from the combination of several innovative community concepts – from Vishal Jodhani’s ‘Climbing Mount Everest, one step at a time’ to Ryan Warnock’s ‘Lively London: Step by Step’ and many, many more. You can also tweet to @GroundMilesApp using #lovewalking.

The need for early intervention

I have been sent a link today to an article in "The Stanford News". The article was titled: 
Language gap between rich and poor children begins in infancy, Stanford psychologists find

This article shows how research into language acquisition showed significant variation between children from disadvantaged homes  as against children from  comparatively advantaged homes, even as young as 18 months old!This seems to me to provide even further evidence for the need of countries to invest in early intervention strategies that was put forward by the Nobel Prize-winning economist James J. Heckman which I wrote about in a recent post.

How much data do we need until we can make a case for the economic sense of investment by governments in parental support and early intervention/enrichment?

I am sure that the case is a very strong one and, as Heckman points out far better than I ever could, it is about the preservation of societies not their destruction in some kind of neo-communist plot.


James J. Heckman: an economist who makes sense

I was recently given a link to a really powerful article in The New York Times.

The article was by Nobel Prize-winning economist, James J. Heckman of Chicago University.

The article, “Lifelines for poor children” was one of the clearest and best articles that I have ever read by an economist! It is part of a series in the New York Times called “The Great Divide” which is examining the growing and very worrying gap between the rich and poor in the United States.

This divide can also be seen in many other countries such as my own (The United Kingdom). Heckman looks at what needs to be done in order to combat the inequality which he rightly says is based on where and to whom a child is born.

Interestingly, he uses research from other disciplines such as psychology and neuroscience, to investigate the importance and financial impact of expenditure on early childhood support. He makes a very convincing argument for the financial gains for a society of intervention in the early years.

He states that so much expenditure goes on catching up for children who do not develop as they may have done with the right support in both cognitive and, significantly, non-cognitive skills. (These non-cognitive skills include ability to focus, to persevere and to co-operate). It seems to me that we have here an excellent argument for politicians to actually do something positive (indeed, according to Heckman, profitable).

Heckman cites actual evidence of pioneering  projects undertaken in Michigan and North Carolina. The best evidence can be found in the social and financial leap of faith taken in the province of Quebec in Canada. They invested in large scale early childhood family support and intervention strategies and have seen marked increases in cognitive gains in children from poor and disadvantaged areas. I would strongly recommend that you read the article. There are a number of videos about Heckman and his work on YouTube. A really interesting one can be seen below.

Why I have withdrawn from two MOOCs

I have withdrawn from two Coursera MOOCs in the last week. The reason being that neither of them grabbed my interest.

Being as I am a retired person, I have no real interest in gaining badges, certificates or awards for any particular course I do. I am purely motivated by the desire to learn.

The validity of a course to me is, did it transform my thinking, inform me, make me read and look at brilliant videos or was it full of dull lectures and un-understandable readings? I would also add that the better MOOCs I have done in the past year have widened my Personal Learning Network and allowed me to participate in genuinely uplifting online discussion.

I can therefore say that my feedback to MOOC providers would be that they cannot succeed if they replicate boring lectures, supported by dull and difficult texts. The learner learns best by being motivated. You need to make lectures that include more than one talking head, plenty of visual and verbal material and you need to link lectures to the readings.

I really like the peer support, peer marking and the use of forums. The best forums work in small groups where students can really get to know and interact with each other.

So far I have been impressed by my first Coursers course on global issues, I loved my course from the Media Lab at MIT “Learning Creative Learning”, I felt that Jo Boaler’s course from Stanford on “How to Learn Math” was excellent and my most recent MOOC , a course called “Why Open” from P2PU was very interesting and taught me a lot about the need to promote open access of information.

If a course grabs you in terms of content, interests and good organisation then you will persevere, otherwise you will vote with your finger and hit the “Un-enroll” button, after all it hasn’t cost you anything!

My “Why Open” videos

Having voiced my concerns about my capacities to shoot two short videos as part of my group’s project in my P2PU Course “Why Open”, I was encouraged by many in the group and by Christina, one of the main organisers of the course, to persevere and try to see what I could achieve.

Well I have now done the videos. They are of the “talking head” variety because I did not have the time or the knowledge to animate, edit or introduce any musical accompaniment. But they kind of work and I am pleased that I was able to make some contribution to my group’s effort.

I discussed one particular e-book, namely “Living Libre”  by Chris Sakkas and used (as I was able to do because he allowed his readers to do anything with his work on a full Libre-Licence) his material to explain just what “Libre” was and how it worked. To learn more see his website “Living Libre“.

Here are the videos. I would welcome any feedback or opinions. I hope to do some more videos in the future and have made it my intention to get the resources I need and to learn how to use these resources effectively.