Tag Archives: TED talks

An oily problem

It would be difficult to imagine our daily lives without access to oil and oil products. Transportation is one of the most obvious uses of oil, but did you know that many items we use every day are made from oil or its by-products?

Some of these products include:

  • Plastics such as food containers, toys, computers and printers, white goods, CD cases
  • Synthetics used in items such as clothing, curtains, furniture upholstery, carpets
  • Cosmetics such lipsticks, moisturisers, deodorants and antiperspirants
  • Nylons used in stockings, ropes, tents, parachutes
  • Polystyrene used in cups, coolers, packaging
  • Toothpaste, chewing gum, dentures, contact lenses

The list, unlike oil, is almost inexhaustible.

But there is a downside to oil too. Oil spills in the ocean are an enormous issue for marine life. In this Ted talk The Great Penguin Rescue, “the penguin lady” Dyan deNapoli talks about an oil spill that occurred when a ship sank off the coast of South Africa in the year 2000, oiling nearly 20,000 (almost half) of the total population of African penguins, and the efforts made to rescue them.

deNapoli explains that a degreaser used to remove the oil from the pelicans was invented by a 17-year-old boy. How cool is that. She says that more than 1,000 volunteers turned up each day to help with the rescue, and continues

“After half a million hours of grueling volunteer labor, more than 90 percent of those oiled penguins were successfully returned to the wild. And we know from follow-up studies that they have lived just as long as never-oiled penguins, and bred nearly as successfully.”

It is an inspiring story, not only for the penguin rescue, but for the learning deNapoli credits to the rescue. She says,

“Personally, I learned that I am capable of handling so much more than I ever dreamed possible. And I learned that one person can make a huge difference. Just look at that 17-year-old. And when we come together and work as one, we can achieve extraordinary things. And truly, to be a part of something so much larger than yourself is the most rewarding experience you can possibly have.”

deNapoli finishes her talk with the words,

“Humans have always been the greatest threat to penguins, but we are now their only hope.”

I hope you find time to listen to the entire talk. It is what inspired my flash fiction story in response to the prompt set by Charli Mills this week at the Carrot Ranch. Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes oil. It can be an oil refinery, the raw product or used as a commodity. How does oil fit into a plot or a genre? Go where the prompt leads.

Child citizen to scientist

Familiar sounds heralded his arrival: feet scraped stairs, bag thudded deck, screen door crashed.

Shouts of “Mum! Mum!” preceded him as he charged down the hallway, arms flailing, holding something aloft.

His words exploded in a jumble.  She deciphered few. Baby stopped suckling, curious.

“Slow down,” she said, patting the sofa with her free hand.

He thrust the brochure at her.

“I wanna adopt a penguin. Please, Mum. Can I?”

“Penguins can’t live here. It’s too hot,” Mum teased.

“Mu-um!” The words tumbled again. “Scientist… school… oil… penguins dying… ‘dangered… We have to save them from going extinct! Please!”

The title Child citizen to scientist refers to the now welcome involvement of citizens in the collection of scientific data, as described, for example, in this article on Fast Company about the collection of pollution data around the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

About 18 months ago, I published a post about a project led by science teacher Cesar Harada who encouraged his students to innovate and problem solve through science. He explained his project in this Ted Talk.

I particularly appreciated Harada’s conclusion about children and their involvement:

Who knows, if my young penguin adopter is encouraged, he may grow up to be scientist too.

For a picture book that introduces children to the concept of caring for our oceans, One Less Fish by Kim Michelle Toft and Allan Sheather is a great starting point. With its beautiful silk paintings, the book helps to educate children about the oceans, the way we pollute them, and what we need to do to protect them and their inhabitants.

If you are interested, there are a number of organisations through which you can adopt a penguin. These are just a few. I’ll leave it to you to investigate your best option. Just remember: you can’t take it home. 😊

Seabirds. Adopt a penguin

The Penguin Foundation

The World Wildlife Fund

Wildlife Adoption and Gift Centre

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

I found it first!

Launching soon - readilearn2

In my previous post Not lost but found I discussed the notion of adopting the title “Founder” when describing my relationship to readilearn my soon-to-launch website of early childhood teaching resources. The title both bemused and amused me at first but I have now accepted its appropriateness. In fact, I realise that readilearn is not the first thing I have founded.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Create-a-Way was perhaps the first that I founded. It was a home-based business offering educational sessions for children of before school-age and their parents. The impetuses for founding Create-a-Way included:

  • The decision, made before Bec was born, that I would parent and educate her (The alternative to keep teaching the children of others while entrusting her education to another didn’t make sense to me.)
  • A dissatisfaction with playgroups that were simply bitch and coffee mornings for mums and squabble sessions for children left to their own devices
  • A realisation that parents didn’t stimulate or foster their children’s intellectual growth because they didn’t know how, not because they didn’t care

I saw a niche that would honour:

  • My passion for education and need to be doing something in that area
  • My firm belief in the importance of early years learning
  • My appreciation of children’s innate curiosity and need to learn coupled with the joy of sharing their sense of wonder and creativity
  • My certainty in the power of reading and education to improve the lives of individuals and society
  • A conviction that there are better ways of educating than simply accepting the status quo.

And best of all, I could do it with Bec! (Although she is not in this photo.)

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

I express this passion and these basic beliefs repeatedly. They are what make me. They are my driving force; the threads that weave their way through everything I do, holding them and me together. They were the basis for my attempt at founding an alternative school; they guided my classroom pedagogy and now the preparation of resources for readilearn.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

It’s funny looking back now at the documents I wrote, it seems almost a lifetime ago (well almost all of Bec’s lifetime and more than half of mine), on an Apple IIE computer. I’m still proud of what I offered and truly believe in the value of sessions such as these. However, I can see that, while there has been little change to my passion and beliefs over the years, if I were to do the same thing now I may update some statements to more closely match my current understanding of a growth mindset.

The thought of doing the same again now is not far from my imaginings. The format of Create-A-Way sessions forms the model of another project I would love to found The Early Learning Caravan. Maybe Steven’s suggestion of crowdfunding would be appropriate for getting it started, but that’s not a project for the immediate future.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I wonder if my inability to simply accept what is could be considered rebellion? What is a rebellion? I’m thinking of these terms as this week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a rebellion.

rebellion definition

The rebellions of which Charli writes are of a larger scale, more in keeping with the first definition.

In this TED Talk Ken Robinson urges us to Bring on the Learning Revolution making “the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish. I’m proud to be a rebel fighting in the same revolution as Sir Ken.

In addition to these larger scale rebellions and revolutions there are many that take place on an individual and daily basis in our families and classrooms, and on our streets. Some of the battles, such as  teenage rebellion are fought for justice, independence and identity, a natural and necessary part of growing up. But the need to establish one’s individuality, one’s separateness as a person begins years before that, as anyone who has ever had anything to do with a two-year old can testify.

Sometimes the same battles are played out over and over and parents wonder why the children just don’t accept that they need to clean their teeth, wash their hands, put on their shoes or whatever, rather than battle over it each and every time. It is this early childhood rebellion that has inspired my flash fiction response to Charli’s challenge this week. I hope you enjoy it.

crying

You’re not the boss of me!

Eyes blazed defiance, daring a struggle which could end only in tears and frustration, or a standoff with no real winner. She was ready to flee the moment there was a hint of movement. Our eyes met. I contemplated my options. Did we have to do this now?

Again the challenge: “You’re not the boss of me!

I pretended to read.

Another volley, quieter: “You’re not the boss of me.

No response.

Soon she was snuggling beside, pointing to pictures.

I read aloud.

We laughed at the antics.

As I closed the book I said, “Ready? Let’s do this.”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

@cesarharada, Encouraging innovation and problem solving through science

Cesar Harada

I found this TED talk by Cesar Harada totally engaging. Cesar, who describes himself as half Japanese half French, teaches science and invention to students from aged 6 to 15 at the Harbour School in Hong Kong.

Cesar opens his talk by explaining that, when a child, he was allowed to make a mess, but only if he cleaned up after himself. As he grew up he realised that he had been lied to: adults make messes too but they are not very good at cleaning up after themselves.

He closes his talk by suggesting that children should not be lied to. He says,

“We can no longer afford to shield the kids from the ugly truth because we need their imagination to invent the solutions.”

He then adds,

” we must prepare the next generation that cares about the environment and people, and that can actually do something about it.”

In between he describes some scientific thinking and inventions made by his students to solve local problems initially, then problems that affected other kids remotely, and finally problems that have a global impact.

I’m sure that you too can only be impressed by the learning and the positive actions that are being undertaken by these innovative students and their inspirational teacher. When I hear (true) stories like this, it certainly gives me hope for a better future.

I hope you enjoy Cesar’s talk as much as I did.

You can also find Cesar on Twitter.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

A garden where children flourish

The introduction to this TED talk The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen by Takaharu Tezuka states:

At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Meet: the world’s cutest kindergarten, designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In this charming talk, he walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids.

Some things that appeal to me about this kindergarten include:

  • the lack of boundaries between inside and outside, and between classrooms
  • the freedom of a child to choose to be in, or to leave, a space
  • the space and freedom for children to run
  • the sounds of happy children
  • the opportunity for children to help each other
  • and the attempt to use architecture to change the lives of children without controlling every waking moment

There are a few things that concern me, that make me feel uncomfortable, but maybe that’s just my urge to control being challenged.

What do you think?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

Finding meaning

Always look on the bright side of life’ is a philosophy to which I aspire. Many think I have achieved it but they don’t know how hard I struggle. I do try to find the good in people and situations, but it’s not always my first and instinctive reaction. When I realise I’ve reacted negatively I try to change or hide my negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. But it’s not always easy to convince myself, regardless of whether I convince anyone else or not.

It reminds me of a quote on a laundry bag which has stayed with me in eight different homes in three different states and for well more than thirty years. After all this support I have finally thought to seek out the source of the wisdom and found it to be UK poet and playwright Christopher Fry.

bag

I feel the quote represents me quite well; doing what I can to hold it all together and keeping those negative instincts in check by ‘nipping them in the bud’, all the while fearful of one day just losing it and letting it all out in one mighty swoosh. I guess the expectation of fewer years remaining in which I will need to keep myself contained makes me a little optimistic. (Always look on the bright side!)

I like to think I’m more of a hopeful realist than either a Pollyanna or a negative realistic. A discussion about optimism and pessimism followed a previous post in which I asked How much of a meliorist are you?  But meliorism is more a belief that the world can be improved by the actions of humans than an optimistic or pessimistic expectation of the outcome.

I believe that humans have an amazing potential for improving our world (i.e. every aspect of it). That makes me a meliorist. Recognising what is happening in the world now makes me a realist. A belief that human actions will make improvements in the future makes me an optimist, but not one without some pessimistic fears. While stories of terrorism, climate change and violence fuel the fears, stories like this TED talk by Tasso Azevedo show that improvements can be, and are being, made.

I am an education meliorist. I believe that education is a powerful agent for change and has an enormous potential for improving lives. My optimism that education will impact positively upon individual lives as well as the collective human situation outweighs my pessimism about the outcomes I see in current systemic trends and leads me to seek out educators, like Ken Robinson, Chris Lehmann , Michael Rosen, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young and Rita Pierson who share my vision of what could be.

A quest to improve my own life and the lives of others through education has been a long time passion. Ensuring that my own children experienced the benefits of learnacy, though I hadn’t heard of the term at the time, as well as literacy and numeracy was of great importance to me. I encouraged them to question, to create, to think critically, to read, to learn, to wonder . . .  There is so much we teach our children the list goes on. It is very rewarding for me to see that they have a love of learning and are passing that same love on to the next generation.

Having, sharing and fostering a lifelong love of learning perhaps in some ways contributes to giving meaning to my life. But it also leads me to question life and its purpose in ways that many others don’t.  This questioning can lead to a sense of unease, of lacking fulfilment, of needing to do and achieve more. I know others who better accept the way things are, accept each day as it comes, and are content in their existence. Sometimes I envy their complacency.  Other times I want to shake them and make them realise that there is more to life than this.

But am I wrong? Is there actually less to life than this? It is sometimes said that there is no point in accumulating wealth and possessions as you can’t take them with you when you go. But is there any point in accumulating a lot of learning and knowledge? After all, you can’t take it with you when you go either; but like wealth and possessions, you can leave it behind for future generations. If we lived only for what we could take with us, would there be a point?

I guess what matters is what helps each of us reach that level of contentment, of being here and now in the present moment because, after all, it is all we ever have.

I often think about life, existence, why we are here and the purpose of it all, constantly wavering between seeing a point and not. A recent discussion with a friend about her feelings of emptiness and needing to find more purpose and meaning in life disturbed my approaching, but elusive, equilibrium again. Will I ever reach that blissful and enviable state of contentment: knowing and accepting who I am, where I am, where I am going and how I am going to get there? Who knows? But I can have fun figuring it out. I am determined to enjoy the journey. I don’t think there will be much joy at the end!

Which is all very timely with the current flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch who talks about actions that we take to reach our goals and challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that describes a moment of being.

I hope you enjoy my response.

Being, positive

“It’s positive,” he said.

She smiled. She knew. She only needed official confirmation.

He wanted dates. She supplied.

But she knew the very moment an unexpected but welcome spark enlivened her being with its playful announcement, “Surprise! I’m here!”

She’d carried the secret joy within her for weeks, never letting on, keeping it to herself, waiting. No one would have believed her without proof. But with her whole being she knew.

Finally, after nine inseparable months, she held the child, distinct and individual. She marvelled at the tiny creation whose existence breathed purpose and meaning into hers.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post and flash fiction.

Motivation – why we do the things we do

Over at the Carrot Ranch this week Charli Mills is talking about motivation, specifically the motivation of fictional characters to do the things they do. She explains that ‘motivation can be external–a desire to please, to be found attractive, to be accepted’ or ‘internal–a drive to succeed, a passion to experience adventure, a fear of failure’.

Motivation is not a new concept to this blog and I have explored it in a number of previous posts.

stars

In What did you do that for? Rewards and motivation I discussed the use of extrinsic rewards (such as stickers, awards and cash incentives) for school students; and questioned the authenticity of intrinsic motivation, which ‘is usually related to something of one’s own choice through interest, challenge or purpose’, in an institution at which attendance is compulsory.  I suggested some strategies that teachers may employ to stimulate an intrinsic love of learning.

why am I doing thiswhat's the point

Continuing the consideration of the effect of compulsory schooling on a learner’s motivation, the post Why do I have to? explored the use of philosophy as a tool for making the goals of education explicit. All three philosophers: Peter Worley, Michael Hand and Stephen Boulter agreed that if students knew why they were expected to learn certain things, they would be more motivated to do so.

the examined life

A discussion of the impact of praise upon a learners’ motivation and achievement was stimulated by reading The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz, a book recommended by Anne Goodwin.  The Post Seeking praise – Stephen Grosz revisited explored Grosz’s suggestion that praise could cause a loss of competence, especially if children were being praised for being clever. Responses to the post, including a guest post by Anne Goodwin, added greater depth to the discussion.

Other ideas about motivation abound.

Shelley Wilson’s blog Live every day with intention,  which promises to inspire and motivate you (‘A motivational blog about living life to the full, writing, reading and feeling inspired to follow your dreams’) is the basis of her new book ‘How I changed my life’.

In this TED talk The puzzle of motivation, Dan Pink explains that the value of intrinsic motivation is a scientific fact. While the focus of his talk is the business world, the findings are equally relevant to education. He says that external rewards may work in limited situations but that they often impede creativity. He says that ‘the secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive – the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things because they matter.

Which brings me back to my motivation for writing this post and sharing these thoughts: Charli’s post, mentioned at the beginning of this article, was an introduction to her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) show the underlying motivation of a character.

My motivations for engaging with the flash fiction challenges set by Charli are both intrinsic and extrinsic:

I enjoy:

  • the dual challenges of writing to a prompt with a clearly defined word count;
  • the opportunity of writing fiction;
  • exploring the application of Charli’s prompt, however tenuous, to education;
  • the camaraderie of the fellow writers and the opportunity to read and comment on their posts and flash fiction pieces; and

I appreciate the feedback, support and encouragement I receive in response to my writing.

In her prompt, Charli suggested that the character ‘may not even understand the motivation fully, but (that I should) let the reader grasp it.’ I have written two pieces in response to this prompt. I hope you enjoy them, and get an inkling of what motivates the characters.

 

More than numbers

The more he stared at the numbers the less sense they made.

They swirled and blurred. He just didn’t get it.

“Numbers don’t lie,” they’d admonished.

“But they don’t tell either,” he’d thought.

The hollowness left when all he knew had been extracted could not be filled with the smorgasbord of numbers loaded on the page.

The richness of lives reduced to mere squiggles.

“This is what’s important,” they’d said, fingers drumming tables of data.

With heaviness of heart he closed the book and walked away.

“They are not even numbers,” he thought. “If they were numbers, they’d count!”

 

 

More than words

“More!” they implored.

She surveyed their eager faces then glanced at the clock.

“Just one more?”

“Okay. Just one more.”

Before she could choose, a book landed in her lap.

“This one,” he said.

“Yes,” they chorused. “It’s a good one!”

She smiled agreement, then started to read.

They joined in, remembering, anticipating.

She turned the page.

“Wait!” he said. “Go back.”

“Did you see that?” He pointed to the page.

“But look what he’s doing,” someone else chimed in.

They all laughed.

The shared joy of a beloved book. Each time the same. Each time a little more.

Thank_you_pinned_note

Thank you for reading. I do appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or my flash fiction pieces.

What would happen if . . . ?

The message of this video alone provides reason enough to ensure children are provided opportunities to question, be creative and think critically.

Listen to Nikolai Begg convince you!

Enjoy!