Summer Fruitfulness in Academia?

ook5dkSGreat piece on the joys of academic pressure:

It’s not true, of course, that September is entirely grim. Being back at work means colliding with cheery colleagues in the corridor, each of us ruefully clutching course-packs and exchanging sympathetic smiles; it also means spotting suntanned students with newly stylish “second-year haircuts” sauntering around all the familiar spaces. I’ve missed them all. But there is a certain pang that strikes you like the memory of a lost youth – or, more precisely, the memory of an article you were meant to finish, a book proposal you intended to start, a research proposal you thought you would concoct and never did as July sank into August and then, whoops, suddenly September started impudently banging on your door.

Read full article.

Work less, do more, live better (@timeshighered)

botanical-garden-gazebo-1430498-mI am SO EXCITED to be reading this piece in Times Higher Education – over the last year I’ve been seeking to work in a healthier pattern (although ironically this week has been a 6 day-week & I need to do some more over the weekend so that I can take a week off… to write a book proposal … carefully planned this is though!)

Great Intro:

Some years ago, I heard that a colleague characterised me as “someone who didn’t work weekends”. This description was not meant as a compliment. It’s true that I make a concerted effort to keep something approximating normal working hours of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. But I haven’t always worked like this. As a postgrad, I anxiously counted my hours and consulted with fellow students, worried that I wasn’t spending enough time at my desk. Eventually, I allowed myself one full day off weekly. When I became a lecturer, I stayed in the office until seven or eight in the evening, in part imitating the working patterns of my new colleagues, and continued to work weekends. Yet when I reduced my hours at the desk some years ago, my productivity did not decline. Instead, my mindfulness to follow regular hours means that my productivity is the same as or even greater than it was before, when I worked 50, 60 or whatever hours it was per week.

Further down, there’s a series of historical figures, and their living styles (most were writers)

The common feature in these workday schedules is walking, bipedalism, that form of locomotion that distinguishes us from the other primates. Walking and thinking seem to go together so naturally that perhaps it’s walking that made us thinkers. Aristotle famously taught while walking along the colonnade connecting the temple of Apollo and the shrine of the Muses. That link between philosophy and walking has stuck and was memorably parodied in Monty Python’s sketch about the Philosophers’ Football Match. Rebecca Solnit, author of Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000), concurs that walking is good for thinking: she concludes “a desk is no place to think on a large scale”.

Exercise and sleep are highlighted as of key importance to being creative (and I’ve certainly been working on my sleep), and then  How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (2007) is quoted: 

His suggestions are simple: write and do your research daily in small blocks of time (schedule it in and don’t cheat on that schedule); keep track of what you do in that time; stay attentive to your writing goals and, ideally, get yourself a group that will help you keep to these goals. You might protest, what good are small blocks of time? But small, regular amounts of work build up to significant productivity. A few pages often make a big difference. If you were learning how to tap dance or play the French horn, you wouldn’t set aside one full day a week for practice or cram it into your Saturday afternoons; instead you’d practise for short periods, daily. Why should research and writing be any different?

As academics, we are used to research, so we should research our own habits (oh yes – and being ‘completely detached’ from the good and the bad of a job – is key) –

It is in our best interest to not only be productive but satisfied with our work, because work is vital to our identity and self-definition. We need work not just to put bread on the table but to feel of use, to serve, to contribute, to make and to connect. But the long-hours culture and the cult of busyness saps meaning away, as we tick through never-ending “to do” lists, becoming chronically tired and working less efficiently with each overtime hour.

There’s mention that even in the factory shorter hours have demonstrated increased productivity .. and I remember this from my research in the Second World War – it was SO essential to get arms out, that an extra day was added to the ‘week-cycle’ … productivity went down! And, even in times of crisis, this is key:

Before, Red Cross workers put in as many hours as necessary until the job was finished. Now the Red Cross recognises that workers need breaks in order to be able to respond effectively to the humanitarian crises they face.

Yes, yes, yes… (read full article – and also the opinion piece Know Your Worth).

16 Stories About #DigitalParenting, 26/12/13

Keeping track of a number of stories relating to ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age‘ in the news:

  • mhAILfwSanta in the Digital Age: Will He Survive?: I’m not saying that Santa is a bad thing (clearly I don’t think so), but he is a myth. And when kids are getting connected to the Internet at younger and younger ages, how long until the fabrication is impossible to keep going? How long until a YouTube video ruins the fun for hundreds of thousands of “connected” kids?
  • Introducing the Digital Dad: But other than being a digital enthusiast, I’m also a realist and the digital revolution is here to stay. Two thirds of UK 12- to 15-year-olds now have a smartphone, according to the latest Ofcom report – up 50% from the year before. Parents, if you haven’t already, you might as well join the online party.
  • How the Grinch Steals Christmas: He Follows Your Kid on Instagram: In Dr. Seuss’ timeless tale, the Grinch had to wait until all of Whoville was asleep, tie his dog to a sled and slink down a few too-tight chimneys in order to steal Christmas from the Whos. In 2013, all a savvy criminal needs to do is follow your kids on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Foursquare, Google+ and/or Snapchat to figure out when the coast is clear.
  • What Nonverbal Kids Can Gain From Technology: Many parents and teachers of children with special needs wonder if using technology to communicate is a good idea, or if it will stifle and get in the way of oral speech production. I’m asked this question almost every day in the office — I can feel their worry, I know their concerns. It’s a really good question that needs a full answer.
  • Do You Model Unhealthy Tech Habits?: From generation to generation, we teach our kids healthy habits. Eat right. Exercise. Brush your teeth. But when it comes to your technology habit, you could be setting a bad example — without even knowing it.
  • The Amazing iKid: My generation was the last to have had a childhood without a mobile phone. I got my first cell phone in my early twenties, and it was an archaic experience in comparison to today’s technology — no Internet, camera, Facebook, apps or texting, and it was just small enough to fit in my backpack. But I am grateful not to have been exposed to the seduction of the smartphone as a kid. I am sure I would have been just as tempted by it then as I am now. I am co-dependent with my mini-machine, and feel more lost if I leave the house without my phone than if I had forgotten to put on pants. It makes me wonder what is it like for these iKids growing up with endless access and distraction in the palm of their hands.
  • Holiday to-do list: Unplug with your children: While it’s fun to connect with family via social media, movies, and games — and believe me, there will be plenty of that going on anyway — it’s great to unplug for a while and enjoy some old-fashioned analog time together. You know, make eye contact, listen to each other’s voices, and engage in the physical world.
  • New Report Proves That Young People and Their Gadgets Can Co-Exist in the Great Outdoors: A new National Wildlife Federation report explores the positive benefits of technology and outdoor exploration. Friending Fresh Air: Connecting Kids to Nature in the Digital Age details how kids’ media habits can both positively and negatively impact health, learning and social development.
  • Babes in a Digital Toyland: Even 3-Year-Olds Get Gadgets: A recent survey of 1,000 parents with children between 2 and 10 found that more than half planned to buy a tech item for their children this holiday season. About two-thirds of those planned to give a tablet or smartphone, according to the survey, which was taken for PBS Kids, the brand of the public broadcasting network aimed at young children.

  • New York school all-in on all-digital textbooks: “We went to digital because it makes for better learning,” says Frank Portanova, vice principal at Stepinac. “This is the way kids learn today. And the online content is a lot richer. You’ve got assessments, you’ve got virtual labs, you’ve got blogging.”

  • Am I Crazy to Give My Tween a Cell Phone?: We have finally decided to give my old iPhone to our 11-year-old for Christmas, and I’m already concerned that this may end up being a big mistake. Quite a few of his classmates have a cell phone and he has been begging for one. I want to make him happy but I am worried that it may cause endless arguments. Am I crazy for giving him an iPhone?
  • 4 tips to disconnect from technology, reconnect your family: Rising to the challenge of parenting digital natives – a term commonly used to describe a generation of children who have never known a world without digital technologies – means that we have some important work to do. As a crucial first step, we need to both familiarize ourselves and keep up with technology. After all, the responsibility falls squarely on us to help our children learn good judgment and how to responsibly navigate the rapidly changing digital world.

  • Ella’s Kitchen targets tech savvy parents with digital weaning guide created by Delete: Previously Ella’s Kitchen had sent customers who signed up to be friends of the brand a printed guide to the weaning process. However, with its target audience increasingly demanding information on-the-go Ella’s Kitchen decided to make its guide fully digital and available for use on mobile, tablet and desktop.

  • Breaking the digital habit: Whenever I enter a restaurant, I’m presented with the sight of diners who, having ordered their dishes, are now hunched in the same position – heads bowed as they immerse themselves in their smartphones or pads. While the death of the art of pre-dinner chitchat at the hands of our electronic companions may be a blessing as well as a curse, depending on the dinner company you keep, more worrying is the increasing amount of time our children spend bewitched by these digital devices. (This is a BEHAVIOURAL problem, right?) 
  • Parents buying tablets for children urged to look out for hidden costs: The regulator urged parents to talk to their children about the costs involved in using mobile devices and tablets, and issued tips for consumers to help them avoid nasty surprises. These include looking at the small print when downloading apps and ensuring you know how to unsubscribe from any paid-for service.

and an interesting story about teaching your children to fail, questioning whether time with Dad has to be video time, whilst in the US/Canada children could receive a personalised message from Santa.

11 Stories About #DigitalParenting 17/12/13

Keeping track of a number of stories relating to ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age‘ in the news… and I love this piece about a ‘tech-deprived childhood‘:

News on digital tablet.

  • Link between cyberbullying and teen suicides oversimplified, experts say: One of the threads tying their deaths together is a cause-and-effect link made by the media, politicians and parents between persistent bullying and the victim’s decision to end their life — a phenomenon that generated its own buzzword — “bullycide.” It is something Todd and health experts say oversimplifies teen suicide and cyberbullying at the expense of recognizing the complex set of mental health issues that are usually at play in many cases. (In another article, teens speak out
  • Left to Chance With the iPotty: Snarkiness aside, I think we need to reflect loudly about how we make choices as parents and consumers. Corporate America and big box retailers may not have your back in this regard. As these baby human beings’ brains are rapidly making connections (young children make 700 synapses [connections between brain cells] per second during birth to 2 years), they are simply learning how to think. Do you really want the iPad doing the instructing?
  • I Might Be Mediocre, But at Least I’m Honest: So why is it that we parents feel the need to hide our realities from the world, especially social media? Check any mom’s Instagram or Facebook feed, including my own, and it looks like we are running a regular Montessori. The kids are smiling and sun-kissed. There’s paint and Legos and fresh fruit dripping from their chins.
  • Why You Need to Get Involved in Your Child’s Digital Life: Responsible parental screening of a child’s behavior has always been a good idea. But in today’s age of increasingly advanced technology, parents face unique challenges. While there certainly are advantages to instant access of virtually any kind of information, there are also formidable risks associated with our digital age that can be quite damaging to kids if parents don’t exercise appropriate levels of control. Put another way — damage can be done if parents don’t do their job.
  • Weston man faces child porn charges: Microsoft regularly uses automated scanning tools to monitor photos and other content uploaded to SkyDrive to ensure that users’ accounts do not contain illegal files, according to the company’s website. Suspected child pornography is automatically reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
  • Tarter: Author touts printed page in the digital age: The author also suggests that e-books have their place. “The e-book is here to stay,” he says, pointing to savings in time, space, trees and student spines (replacing heavy textbooks). But Trelease isn’t afraid to point to shortcomings in new technology, as well. “Research clearly shows that we read more slowly (6 to 11 percent) from a screen than from paper,” he said.
  • 7 Practical Tips for Parenting Digital Natives: “What are your recommendations for balancing technology use with socializing face-to-face?” This question was directed to a panel of psychologists at our recent high school PTA meeting. A universal parenting dilemma in our social media landscape, if ever one existed post-1999.
  • Drawp: Imaginations Soar With Inventive Art App For Kids: With this release, Drawp is launching a collaboration with talented artists from around the world who will create coloring pages exclusively for the Drawp app. The objective is to provide children with a constant stream of high quality art and to expose them to different styles in order to stimulate their creativity.
  • Europe Children Between 4 and 12 Spend Almost 3 Hours a Day in Front of TV: Children watch, passively, television, computers, mobile phones or ipads. Given this reality, a team of British pediatricians asserts in a research released in the medical journal “Archives of Disease in Childhood” that children under three should not be in contact with so many digital displays. For kids between 3 and 16, they suggest that a maximum of two hours a day should be set. The experts argue that spending more time in front of screens can cause damage to the physical and cognitive growth of children and overweight, heart problems, attention deficit or lack of empathy.
  • Internet a safe place for those who play safe: “Although the majority of kids are doing good things there is still a small percentage of people doing bad things and those predators are the people we need to protect our children from.”
  • iPad holder seat for babies sparks outcry: An advocacy group has called on toy maker Fisher-Price to stop selling a baby seat designed to hold an iPad at the front, saying the product encourages parents to leave infants alone to watch screens that could be harmful.

and BT offers a parental control filter, a Mum talks about finding another mum of a child with a rare condition, whilst programmes in New Zealand seek to diminish the ‘digital divide’.

#JISCEL12: Why do I need a teacher when I've got Google? @thatiangilbert

Drawing on ideas and themes from Ian’s best-selling book of this title along with his experience of working with young people and educators around the world, this interactive session will explore why world-class is the only standard for education, why the democratisation of knowledge has to be matched with the democratisation of learning and why lunging at the first question that comes into our heads will make us better learners.

Bring out the best in people, by challenging them to think different – see this video on ‘Thunks’

Mental limbering up makes for more effective learning [Is that why I have to springclean before I write?]. James Clay queried this, as he did with the need to avoid the word brainstorming.

What state do students walk into your classroom (online or offline… I kept flinching at the use of real/virtual, but then Ian’s not a technologist :-))

Studied Business School, Durham University: Your attitude counts (aptitude/study also counts)…

The Great Educational Lie: “Do well at school and you’ll get a good job”

Dyson – said – A* = you’ve shown you’ve got a brain – now go away and use it.

Others = ‘it doesn’t matter’ ‘get the best education you can & keep on learning’ – school didn’t work for you, but you still have as much right to success on this planet.

One to watch later

Reference to ‘BRIC“, Goldman Sachs research:

We now have a much flatter world … geography doesn’t count any more for some of us (digital economy). – employers have 5 x as many people to choose from – but our students are going into competition with 5 x as many people who have more experience … need to work more towards being ‘world-class’ rather than good enough.

Thomas L Friedman: World is Flat: fungible jobs; from the chat: the world is spiky

Why do we need creativity – for so many of us in school is waiting to be told what to do – and how to do it well.

Robot Doctors: Medical Robots; Robotic Surgery; Robot Doctor

Nominet: Young People’s Use of Search Engines

Google offers democratisation of knowledge/learning – so our job as educators is to add value to that experience – needed more than ever – unless you’re a bad teacher!

Picasso: Every act of creation requires starting with an act

of destruction.

Gabi Witthaus:

The knowledge management hierarchy goes: data -> information -> knowledge -> wisdom

Sometimes there’s so much teaching going on, there’s no time for students to learn….

Adam Jones (Newcastle University)

difference between information and knowledge: the man with one watch knows the time, the man with two is never sure

YouTube: Ultimate Search Engine.

Think in a way that works for you – Darwin used to have ‘thinking walks’ – a specific route

Sheryl Williams ( Loughborough Uni)

you do need to know what to look for or where to start in google !!!

Sharon Lewandowski

I wonder about the ‘sum of knowledge’ on the net…getting to it depends on the browser you use and how it indexes and its structural hierarchy

Dave Middleton (OU)

This all goes back to this mornings session. We assess learning by assessing how to remember facts. But why remember facts when they are at your fingertips via a smartphon


Elisabetta Lando rsc london

Now brains have freed up more space to use the information/ knowledge rather than expend energy remembering it

Mark Stiles

Whilst personal learning may well be more open and accessible, there is a real danger that we are, espeicially in the west, moving backwards to a world where formal learning is the preserve of the wealthly…

Nathan Cobb (East Riding College)

I do not believe I can “know” everything I need to to do my job now – what is important to me is that I have the ability to find what I need to know when I need to know it – often that is online but it isn’t always – the sheer volume of information available and increasing at an ever faster rate means that to me, while knowledge may be power, it is not everything (and breathe)

Brains don’t work on a straight line – dips & curves, and we need to think about how that affects our concentration, etc.

Chris Thomson (JISC Netskills)

Thinking aloud – at the moment we can rely on the web to be our information store, what about when the semantic web develops? Will we be able to get the web to do our understadning for us as well? What would that mean?

There are probably many problems that we are not able to solve, but which we need our younger generation to do so .. We should not just be training up accountants who are going to be unemployed.

View other teachers teaching = inspiring

Richard Jones

try starting at the end and then work backwards

ckwards with what you are teaching

More links: Using IT to go green; Gapminder; Happy Planet

Are worries that students can tell us what Socrates thought, but can’t think for themselves… what questions does this picture raise for you:

Take right/wrong out of the equation as much as possible… ask questions without a right answer, and then ask why they think that – encourages idea that are lots of different viewpoints, etc…

Big Bang Theory: Shrodinger’s Cat

Think of questions such as “is it wrong to read a newspaper in the store without buying it”… someone then suggested: “is it OK to take a bite from bar of chocolate without planning to buy”

Stimulus (5 minutes) to come up with your own ‘thunks’ – about a journey…these were Ian’s:

8 Ways of Thinking:

As spend longer on thinking – start to push deeper – e.g. start with “how many people live in London?” then get much deeper… Can do f2f, paper notes, Twitter, Skype, etc.. .

Education can’t just be about addressing the ‘known’ things..

Look for more on: 

Digital Creativity Required?

A strategy to link research with media and digital industries is crucial, Elizabeth Gibney hears

Creative, digital and information technology (CDIT) industries must be just as important a policy focus for the government as science and engineering.

That is the view of David Docherty, chief executive of the Council for Industry and Higher Education, who said the digital field alone represented a $3 trillion (£1.9 trillion) marketplace globally.

“What’s needed is for CDIT to stand alongside STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics],” he told Times Higher Education.

Dr Docherty, who is also chairman of the Digital TV Group, was speaking ahead of Bridging the Gap, a conference organised by Teesside University and the skills agency Creative Skillset on how to improve the relationship between universities and media businesses.

He said the UK had been a leader in creative industries but had lost this premier position in the digital era. “How do we position ourselves to be as successful in the digital creative IT era as we are in broadcasting and production?” he asked.

Read full story.

Can we take the creative industries seriously?

Working in the creative industries… where most of us work because “we love it”, but end up with long houses, poor pay, lack of benefits, ‘sacrificial ethos’ … recognising that. Here Professor Rosalind Gill calls for a more sustainable model:

Society needs to look beyond the images of “cool”, “unconventional” creative workers and find better ways for them, and for academics, to lead “liveable lives”, a speaker at the British Academy argued last week.

Rosalind Gill, professor of social and cultural analysis at King’s College London, was taking part in the second of three discussions comprising The Creative Process: A Multidisciplinary Examination. The series was organised in partnership with the Culture Capital Exchange, a network of universities that aims to forge links between higher education and the creative industries.

Beatriz Garcia, head of research at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Cultural Capital, spoke on the “cultural turn” in worldwide policymaking, with creative industries increasingly seen as a replacement for lost manufacturing activity.

Read full story.