Education vs. Technology


These days I look at our education system with a deep sense of sadness and befuddlement.

What are the cornerstones of our educational base now?

At one point they were reading, writing & arithmetic .

Why are they no longer ‘teaching’ children these fundamentals?

They are not teaching children how to write any longer.  They are not teaching them how to spell.  Children have iPads now that they work off of with calculators to assist in the math areas.

A recent article spoke of children coming into school not having developed the muscles to hold a pencil or pen in order to write.  Here are the two schools of thought that currently seem to exist.

“One school believes that learning handwriting is important for children because they think fine motor control and how you organize your thoughts develops with your writing skills. But the other camp believes that we’re moving into a world where [everything] is done on computers, so learning how to write by hand is an outdated skill.”

I believe and know for fact that the first school of thought  is based on proven theory and writing should never be considered an outdated skill.  It should be an absolute necessity.  Now more than ever!

I am absolutely appalled though that schools are moving toward technology at such a rapid pace without any thought as to how this will impact the youth of today years from now.

One person bemoaned on their blog how ‘dangerous’ pens and pencils are and that they should be banned from the classroom!  The reasoning was infantile at best.  The writer of that blog post insisted that pens and pencils can and have been used as weapons.

It is not the pens and pencils that are the issue.  It is the children’s behaviour.  I cannot recall throwing pencils at other students.  That is not to say it didn’t happen.  The children that did partake in this type of behaviour were quickly reprimanded.

And if a child displayed such disruptive behaviour there were usually underlying and more serious issues at play that would require further investigation to help the child.

And as we know, technology has created some major hindrances in child development and brought about things such cyber-bullying.

As a child I loved getting school supplies.  I would get a new pencil case, pencils, erasers, rulers, geometry kits, pens, binders, and packs of loose-leaf paper,  We had the duo-tang folders to put the paper in and I would label each folder with the subject matter that it would contain.  This was based upon the colour of the folder as well.

I loved the smell and newness of everything.  In elementary school we were given ‘scribblers’ by the schools. This was how you practiced your penmanship and spelling.

So the big thing was having a cool lunch kit.  I do believe the last one I may have had was a Partridge Family one.  I also had a book bag made from a cheap vinyl and yet these items gave me a sense of belonging.

We were given projects to do and book reports to prepare.  There were certain things the teacher looked for.  One was indeed penmanship.  And I worked at this.  My mother and oldest sister had beautiful handwriting and I aspired to write as they did.

Writing and reading were the two things I loved most about school.  Arithmetic…well, it scared me a bit back then.  Being that I am someone who learns best by visualization, those early math books weren’t very good at allowing me to do this.

Still the problems presented such as (i.e. a train traveling 45 mph arrives at 10 PM.  Another train travelling 65 mph arrives at the same time…what distance did each cover?) always gave me pause to think.   And while they often confounded me at the beginning, they eventually became the ones I really like.

They were like a mystery to me.

What I liked about them is they assisted with critical thinking and they helped in terms of developing the brain’s cognitive and figurative functions.

Being able to assess and determine a variety of issues is a good thing.  And it is the lessons from my youth that have helped enormously to shape the person I’ve become.

I feel children are being robbed of an education if they are not being taught to read, write and spell.  If they are not being taught to calculate math manually as well and are solely reliant on technology then what happens ? For example what happened to play?

Parks and playgrounds now sit empty. Why?

Here is another excerpt.

“Of course, there are so many other concerns when it comes to kids and devices with regard to social interaction and the development of emotion.

“Whilst there are many positive aspects to the use of technology, there is growing evidence on the impact of more sedentary lifestyles and increasing virtual social interaction as children spend more time indoors online and less time physically participating in active occupations,” Karin Bishop, an assistant director at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, told The Guardian.

Flanders echoes those concerns, and points to emerging literature that indicates that extended screen time may be creating problems for children, including an increased prevalence of ADHD, a lack of good interpersonal skills and an expectation of instant gratification.

But he also doesn’t think that it will result in scaling back on tech in the classroom.

“Right now, schools are still emphasizing learning the alphabet by tracing the letters with their fingers and writing them out with pen and paper,” Flanders says.

“But I think 30 or 40 years from now, that’s going to be a thing of the past.”

I really believe that schools need to have a concise educational plan.

For example:

Grades 1-4:  No computers in the classroom.  (All learning  is based on the tried and true methods of working with paper, pencils and pens along with text books.  The use of reference materials, such as dictionaries, thesaurus’ and encyclopedias should be encouraged. )

Grades 5-7:  Begin to introduce computers into the classroom as a tool, nothing more.

The emphasis should be on developing children’s skills and abilities to become engaged and plugged in adolescents.  The formative years are critical in terms of assisting our children to develop such skills.   To think that writing is going to be an ‘outdated skill’ is damn well frightening to me.

The page has been the one thing in my life that always listened.  I could pour out everything and anything onto that page.  It was now purged from my youthful soul that was shattered at that time.  Had I held all of that in, had I never been able to express the hurt, the angst, the fear that existed…I’m not certain I would even be here.

A counselor told me that they had encouraged a female patient to journal.  She hedged at the idea.  Later it would be discovered that the girl did not know how to write.

Writing gave me a voice.  It enabled me to express the feelings that were locked inside  that verbally I found so difficult to share.  Even if no one else ever saw the words written they were there.

Don’t take these skills away from children.

Read below what is replacing paper and pen.

‘Written communication among kids and teens today has morphed into such a confusing mixture of acronyms and emojis that it can almost make hieroglyphics more easily understood. This is why it’s important for parents to be up on the latest text slang.

“Text lingo practically changes weekly and a lot of the times, parents have no clue what their kids and their friends are saying,” says Titania Jordan, chief parent officer of Bark, a software program that monitors, detects and alerts parents to potentially dangerous conversations on their kids’ cellphones, and email and social media accounts.

“I’m surprised at how many parents still don’t know what ‘Netflix and chill’ means.” (For the record, it refers to hooking up, not actually watching Netflix.)’

And yet we readily hand our children cellphones and tablets that connect them to what, I am no longer certain.

Read Ray Bradbury’s book released in 1953 for ‘Fahrenheit 451’.

Below is a summary of the book as written by The New York Times.

‘Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future.

Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.’

This has a chilling ring of truth to it.  The T.V. has now been replaced by iPads and Tablets.

Will there come a time when books are no longer necessary, when their value is no longer worth the pages they’ve been written upon?

I for one certainly hope not.

 

 

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Good-Bye Stephen…and Thank You!


Stephen Hawking passed away this week.

When I heard the news there was a certain element of sadness…which was more for his family than anything else.

This was a man who lived a remarkable life…to its fullest!!!

And what a life!  He was a remarkable human and man who had a remarkable career.  He was funny, charming and immensely inspiring.  Stephen leaves a legacy where he challenged all of us to think, to really think.  Deeply!

Despite his physical ailments Stephen enjoyed life through 76 years on this planet.

Some of the things I loved about this man was his humility and humour.  He did not swell to the ego of academia.

His writings reached out to all of us and invited regular folk the opportunity to really understand on a level never before offered to ideas never before contemplated nor comprehended or shared before.

That was his brilliance in a nutshell.

Stephen was challenged constantly by his peers and always answered them with quiet honesty and fact.

I loved his curious mind and his desire to explore one of our most baffling and intriguing frontiers…the space time continuum.

At times in my life I have felt an connection on some strange level to Stephen because of my own interest in time and its very concept.

I am certainly no physicist…and so far from the very notion it is just crazy!

You see I had a fear of numbers in my youth.  I am a visual learning.  Text books back in the day did little to impress formulas on my youthful self.  Memorizing things was the way to go for a time, though what practicality of what I was trying to embed into my neurons made little to no sense and consequently slipped into the depths without consequence.

I did come to realize that this world we inhabit is ruled by numbers to a certain degree and in many ways I felt I’d been left behind as I just didn’t get it.  Not at all.

As I got older these interests that I had in time, in space  I began to embrace in my late 30’s.

I began picking up books and those books, such as ‘A Brief History of Time’  I read with a voracious appetite.  Not only were doors opening but ideas were springing forth and thoughts with regard to exploring the ages.

I watched shows, documentaries and I  hungered for knowledge.  Wanting, desiring, needing.

Like billions of people before me and I am certain the billions that will follow, I wanted to know where we came from and what our purpose was.

I was a single mother with a beautiful child.  I can recall, on one of those nights when sleep just would not come, I slipped from the house in my red velour house coat and sat on the curb in front of my rental home with smoke in hand gazing up at the stars above.

And I looked up into the night sky and pondered for a moment if another being was gazing out from their home planet into this great expanse we call space wondering if someone was looking out at them just as I was.

Pink fuzzy slippers peeked out beneath  the house coat as my cigarette burned down and then I ground it out after one last drag.

I wondered if they ever felt the way I did, and in that moment which is about 28 years ago, I felt an energy move through me.  Powerful, quiet and remote.

With the underlining message ‘I was not alone!’

And I felt mesmerized, connected and defined all in one swift moment.
I’ve had these sensations a few times, though they’ve been sparing, in my quest to connect.

Perhaps it is just the human condition.

Yet these moments are, in my mind, defining ones.  They are moments that give me pause and shape and direct or re-direct my life.

And Stephen Hawking is one of those whose energies, just by the words he has written touched me a way I had never known.

Having read his work I realized the things I thought about, the things I was ‘secretly’ exploring were not foolish or stupid notions and they certainly were not secretive.

In fact, Stephen Hawing’s work confirmed that my odd curiosities had merit.  Maybe, just maybe I had the makings of a brain after all.

And this came from a girl whose beginnings were demeaning, from a girl who had not had the privilege to finish high school; this from a girl who had been homeless at 16 years of age….and from a girl who was trying so desperately to  be a woman her young daughter could look up to and respect.

The way I saw myself back then was dismal at best as I lacked self-confidence in the worst way.

Yet I read and those books, articles and everything in between they stamped their collective meanings and interpretations on me.

Some I  held fast to these readings, dissecting and  observing everything, while others I questioned and reviewed before I spit them out.

Even those that I did not agree with helped me to learn and grow.

I look at someone like Stephen Hawking who had this fabulous mind, so well tuned, and it was this muscle that rendered him genius.  Those neurons that fired collectively from abstract thought to cohesive and formative ideas that were then developed into factual principles that challenged all of us.

Stephen has offered this world a deeper, more complex understanding of our own  humanity in many ways.

And here I am on this Friday evening after a long week at work, in a local pub and some four beer in, considering this planet, this thing we call space and the concept of time itself.

What does it mean?  What is it?  And where does it go?

Considering this thing we call life, I ask and challenge myself, here and now, what can I do to give back to this world, this planet to make it better?

Is it even possible?

Still the chance that there is some simplicity to all this  that we must try.  We are increasing in numbers on this planet,

Perhaps if we all try to:

  • Respect each other
  • Respect this planet we inhabit
  • Conserve our usage of her resources
  • And never ever forget to love!

We can make it a difference.

Happy New Year! Welcome 2018!


 

A full moon beams down on this clear and cold winter’s night.  Fog is beginning to roll in and the moon will soon be a silvery shadow if we see it all.

It is New Years Eve and I am staying at home this year.  This will be a quiet night.  A time to reflect on the year that was.

I’ve got cheese and wine as well as beer.  I’ve got a blanket wrapped about me.  I’ve taken in a movie and am watching the televised celebrations in downtown Vancouver.  I like that they have it on T.V. now.

As the countdown began I raised my glass up and shouted Happy New Year!  I made phone calls and texted as many people as possible then watched the fireworks display before going to bed.

Welcome 2018!

2017 had begun with a sense of desperation and an overwhelming exhaustion carried over from years prior.  I began the year by withdrawing from so many activities and organizations I’d been involved with.

Still I recognized that depression had once again settled in.  I was isolating myself.  All the insecurities and yearnings once again tossing me to the curb with all my perceived inadequacies washing over me.

I found it difficult to post any of my writings last year as well.  A notebook is always with me ready to record anything that I need to purge onto the page, however, those ramblings were often sad and coming from a dark place inside me.

I thought of Gloria Vanderbilt talking about how the rainbow comes and goes.  I’d read that particular book in 2016 and there are a few passages that resonated with me and still do.

Mid-year I began to emerge from this bout of depression.  I am focused on the new job I began nine months ago.

I’ve started a new book.  I am hoping to have the first draft completed by Spring 2018.

I need to become more disciplined and dedicated to my writing. I’ve got so many stories  I want to tell. Time to get to it.

I am focused on my health as well.  The vehicle accident back in 2015 mucked me up big time.  Now I need to just try and find a level of fitness that I can maintain.  I need to continue to work on my emotional well-being as well.

Time to get to it.

I hope that 2018 is a stellar year for everyone!

Happy New Year!

Peace.

 

Another Year…


 

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My birthday is fast approaching.  Next Wednesday I’ll celebrate fifty-nine years!

In a conversation with my daughter last night we discussed age.  While some may say that 59 years of age is old…it doesn’t ‘feel’ that way.  What an odd way to describe our age though as how we feel?

I will always feel the wonder of this world that I inhabit.  Despite all the mess currently going on regarding the politics of our time, this planet of ours is so much bigger and wondrous than we’ll every be.

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We are not all that nice to each other or to our Earth at times, are we?

On Wednesday here in BC we will celebrate not only someone’s birthday but also Pink Shirt Day which is an initiative against bullying.

The theme this year “Make Nice”.

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I’d like to take that challenge a bit further and just ask everyone to practice kindness on a daily basis.

It isn’t easy.

Still the benefits so outweigh the difficulty of dealing with our anger and not projecting it elsewhere.   And if someone is hurting ask if they’d like to talk.

Listening is one the best skills any of us can have.  I have been working on this in a big way.

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Since joining a local Toastmasters chapter a year and half ago my listening skills have increased ten fold.  Still, there is always room for improvement and always will be.

We just passed Valentines Day.  At our Toastmasters meeting we were all asked to say one word that describes what love  means to  us.

After the fact I thought about this quite a bit.  How could one word define love?

And this is what struck me just before falling to sleep a few nights back.

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Love = Freedom

 

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Hate = Fear

Freedom is expansive…it encompasses so much!  Embrace freedom and surrender to a loving heart!

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Kindness matters…always!

 

 

 

 

 

Democracy…Tell Me What It Means To You!


I have provided the links to an article that was written by Gwynne Dyer back in July 2016 and also of a recent lecture he gave at the University of Regina.

After one week in office President Trump has moved in a frightening direction.

In Trump’s head its okay to tear up trade agreements and insist that all the jobs that have been lost in the U.S. due to out-sourcing and immigration.

Now President Trump thinks himself quite the business man as well.  If this were true then he would surely know that how we do business worldwide has changed as dramatically as it has due to technology in the last 25 years or so and not the out-sourcing that has gone on and certainly not by people immigrating to North America.

In fact having people move to North America has in fact assisted in the growth of our economy here in Canada and in the U.S. as well.  This is a proven fact and Canada has displayed this time and again.

Canada does indeed have her issues, still there is an awareness to do better and to grow as a collective.

I would encourage anyone who is reading this post to please take the time to watch the lecture which is close to two hours in length and read some of Mr. Dyer’s articles.  It is well worth it.

I have also provided standard definitions for democracy and dictatorship.

One of the things that is truly frightening is Trump’s desire to ‘control’ the internet.

Freedom to information is difficult enough and in these times our best defense is to stay informed of the facts and not the hype that Trump is spewing.

Let’s go about our daily lives informed and united.

Peace!

What does democracy mean?

1.government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

2.a state having such a form of government

3.a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges; common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class; the common people with respect to their political power.

Dictatorship

1.  a country, government, or the form of government in which absolute power is exercised by a dictator.
2.  absolute, imperious, or overbearing power or control.
The above are the dictionary definitions of what democracy and dictatorship mean.

A Truth


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Sunset in Steveston

I sit before this screen thinking about the things I’d like to talk about.  The rush of ideas come fast and furious.  I could surely wax poetic on any number of things; I could rant on any number of issues as well.  There are injustices a plenty that I could champion.

The screen remains empty.

I make my breakfast and pour another cup of coffee.  I gaze out the window at a frozen world.  It’s beautiful.

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The view from my home on Dec 26, 2016

I’m wrapping up a challenging year that was preceded by a few tough years.  I was asked a question at dinner with friends last night ‘What did you take from those experiences, what did you learn?’

Now this was in reference to my bout with cancer and the treatment provided.  It could well apply to the vehicle accident that followed as well.

I responded that we need to ask questions and be kind to ourselves.  And indeed we do. The question remains though.  ‘What did I learn from this?’

And the screen, while I’ve jotted down these thoughts, no answer is readily coming.

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Vancouver from the Ferry in September 2016

I entered 2016 in the metaphorical darkness of depression.  I had felt the all too familiar slide begin.  In truth, I’d been fighting this for quite some time.  2015 had begun with promise.

I was working out with a trainer and running with my group again wanting to take back my health after the cancer thing .  The vehicle accident kibosh-ed my progress.  The pipes in my building flat lined and the building had to be re-piped. For 3 months no hot water. I was attending physiotherapy and the bills began to mount.

My job was stressful yet I kept at it.  Despite the pain, despite the overwhelming cost to fix our building I was beginning to slip.  I’ve never experienced a back injury before and physically my condition was not improving.  I would try to do things, but just walking was an agonizing thing at times.

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A moon to remember

I was living with pain daily.  I wasn’t sleeping.  And I was still recovering from the effects of chemo and radiation.

‘What did I learn from all of this?’

Still an empty screen to this question.

Fear crept in.  Was I going to lose everything I’d worked so hard for?  In many ways I felt completely impotent regarding the direction my life was going.

Did I talk about any of this with anybody?  No.

In my mind, to give it voice would give these feelings validity.  I was in denial.  My financial safety net was gone to the renovations in my building.

I then lost my job.

The quicksand I call depression was pulling me, enveloping me…my strength was gone.

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Sunset December 2016 in Steveston

All of the avenues I’d been exploring…meditation, energy healing, etc. were no longer viable options for me. My head and heart weren’t there.  I was in that all too familiar dark place.

In 2016 I sold my place and recovered some of my costs, though I still have debt, it is now manageable.

I found a condo that is now more of a home than my previous place.  I found another job which I really like.

And a few months back I emerged from the mantle of depression.

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What have I learned from all this?

Perhaps this is an ongoing lesson.  Perhaps the answer has many layers to it.

One thing though, despite the darkness I appreciated and admired every morning that I’ve been graced with.

I still stop and stand in awe of a luminous moon rise and always let those who I’ve been so blessed to have in my life know it.

And I will never give up on myself.  I will never give in to the pain of the past.

There is a balance between the dark and the light that must be found and met.

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I will focus on wellness in 2017.  I will ask for the help that I do in fact need and look to heal and strength my person.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Human Touch


I met a friend for dinner this evening.  We met after work down at Kits Beach at The Boathouse Restaurant.  Jayne and I always have great discussions.

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I mentioned that I’d been downtown shopping a couple of weeks ago and I had seen the ‘Free Hug’ people in front of the London Drugs at Granville & Georgia St.  I told her how I stood waiting for the light to change, my spirit feeling  considerably  lighter at the idea of a stranger willing  to put their arms around me and share a moment.  I told her that I simply opened my arms and was hugged first by the woman and then by the man.  hug 2

I was surprised she’d never heard of this.  It has been in Vancouver for quite some time now.

Just an act of kindness and a moment shared through human touch.

There is something so intrinsically beautiful and simple in this act. As we parted ways and I made my way home through the streets of Vancouver to the North Shore where my daughter lives, I got to thinking about the people that touch our lives on a daily basis.

I thought of the friends I have, the jobs I’ve held and those who have entered my life and left leaving lasting impressions.

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I thought of people from my past that I’d tried to please who seemingly caused me to bleed the energy from my soul and wondered why I had given this so freely?

Truth is I wanted, craved, desired, needed the basic interaction of human touch.  To feel genuine caring and to feel loved.

I think we all do.  And every once in a while getting that ‘Free Hug’ reminds me that I’m not alone and that I do belong to the collective known as the human race.

Namaste.