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I’ve been desperately trying to get back into shape, so have decided to take the lead from this guy!

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Phonics is “in” again?!

When I first heard about the push to reintroduce Phonics into Year 1 teaching programs, I thought I was hearing things!

Could it be possible that a tried and tested method of teaching kids to read was making a ‘come back’?!

You see ….. when I was a kid ….. learning phonics was a major path to unlocking the mysteries of letters on a page.  Warm memories of sitting on the mat staring at letter combinations and cue cards to help me remember the various letter combinations that made the same sound are as fresh in my memory today as they were when I was very little.

The result?  My ability to pronounce words – as distinct from knowing the meaning of words – is quite straightforward.  Even though I have trouble explaining ‘why it is so’ to those who come to English as a second language, I have clearly internalized a wide range of basic rules.

By the time my son started school though, ‘Whole Language’ was the ‘thing’.  After a couple of years observing that this approach didn’t necessarily suit all learners, I quietly dubbed this new approach as learning to read by osmosis!  Structured instructions had been thrown out the door, immersion in ‘whole language’ was the one and only way.

The sad fact though, ensuring that a generation of children struggled with learning to read, was that this approach just didn’t suit all children.

Building foundations by giving young children a scaffolding on which they can build makes so much more sense.

So it was with much pleasure I recently read an informative article by Kirstie Chlopicki: Why we need the phonics screening test  (Education Review, October 17, 2017; access by subscription to Education Review only unfortunately) which notes that a phonics screening test will soon to be introduced into Australian schools for all Year 1 students.  Acknowledging that children will not learn the complex relationships between sounds and letter symbols in English, a language recognized to be more complex than other languages, unless they are taught “early, explicitly, systematically and regularly” says much for the previous teaching methods.

Announcing the impending introduction of the phonics screening test, Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training has clearly signaled a change in the right direction.

Screening students however is only the first step.

Considering the current frightening literacy levels in a county such as Australia – a developed Western nation – taking action to not just develop but to implement a phonics teaching program is urgent!

 

Apple’s latest “baby” –  iPhone X went on sale in Melbourne this morning.

For my Apple addicted family, this is really HUGE!!

Needless to say, one of the family got up early enough to see the long queues snaking their way around Chadstone and was in the Apple store, ready to purchase, just after 9.00.  I’ve just come from seeing a live demo of just how good it is and well ….. the story goes on from there of course!!

A few days ago I had a look at a pre-release review by Engadget which by and large gave it the thumbs up!

 

Pretty impressive!

I’ve just gotten home from a coffee/chat with one of my sons for a real-live-look-see though and can confirm that like other Apple products, the iPhone X is indeed very sexy and beautiful.  The design and look, with its glass front and back and silver trim edge, really is an impressive creation!  Lots of other features, including it’s full screen, add much to the appeal of what is already a very ‘un-put-downable’ product.

I’ve been reading  lots lately about the impact of iPhones on our lives and indeed on our society.  I just look at my own behaviour and can see the incredible shift in how I think and operate – and realize that my iPhone is centre-stage of all my daily activities!!  I literally don’t move around the house without having it near me!  Is this compulsive or obsessive behaviour?!  Ye gads!  I never imagined I’d be like this!

But then – have a look at this incredible statistic about our smartphone use!

People tapped, swiped and clicked a whopping 2,617 times each day, on average.

Dig the last two words: on average! 

If you happen to be in the top 10% of users, that figure doubles to 5,427 touches a day! 

Hard to believe?  Research reported on this dscout article: Putting a finger on our phone obsession paints an incredible picture of our use of phones.  Some of it is outright scary.

Hmmm ….. Definitely food for thought!

Sometimes I sit around trying to think up a good idea that would be of benefit to others and would be a fabulous tool to market.

Rarely – if at all though – do ideas pop into my head!

So when I read about the ideas of others which have been turned into start ups I’m in awe – both of the idea and of the determination of people to get out there and do what I most often procrastinate about!

And ….. so often ….. the ideas that hit the market place are so very, very obvious!

Upright Go is just one of these ideas.  In fact, the idea is so simple, it’s curious that no one thought of it before.  While you can read about the technicalities of this start up on Kickstarter, the product is now fully funded and is being produced and distributed.  It’s accompanying app is also available from the app store.

It’s a tool that is guaranteed to train you to stop being a screen sloucher!!  If you are a keen Aussie looking for an Australian distributor, you can purchase it today here.

Check Upright Go out in this short video:

If you haven’t been following the argument about the benefits vs the dangers of AI, you can get a real feel of the controversy from this summary of a very public stoush between Marc Zuckerberg and Elon Musk just a few months ago.

 

Then out comes this announcement from Google just a few days ago:

Google unveils AI that learns on its own”

It seems like science fiction has come alive!

Within just three days, AlphaGo was able to master thousands of years of human knowledge about the game Go before inventing its own better moves!  Read more details here:  “It’s able to create knowledge itself: Google unveils AI that learns on its own”  (The Guardian, October 19th 2017):

Pretty incredible!

The only difference though is the fact that this is real!

I went to visit my hairdresser last week.  Having just relocated to a new and bigger salon, he is in the market for new staff.

“Not easy” he told me.  “It’s not easy to find good, willing, staff nowadays”.

I guess it is the sixth sense radar I’ve developed from working with teenagers in school settings that made me zero in on his words.  But when I asked “What do you mean?”  I really didn’t expect his lengthy reply in which he  assessed the nature of today’s youth:  their lack of interest in earning an honest day’s pay, their conviction that they ‘know it all’ and their sense of entitlement.

The bottom line was that my hairdresser was finding it very hard to employ someone who was sincerely interested in working in the salon and committed to learning how to not just work with him and other salon employees, but to be interested in working with clients.

It was a tough conversation in which I found myself reflecting on the many young people who have walked through the doors of our schools.  One that found me reflecting on not just this issue, but the larger issue of society and its future.

I can’t help wondering whether or not we  – schools today – are at fault in our preparation of today’s youth.  Is it the schooling these young workers’ are leaving our schools with or is it societal changes at large?

Makes for interesting thoughts – no?

Last week I posted a piece written more than 2000 years ago about Seneca’s words of wisdom: the importance of living each day to its fullest.

Like many of you I imagine, I’d never heard of Seneca.

So when a dear friend, who read my post last week, sent me a link to a recent post about ‘Anxiety’ in which Seneca was also featured, I was kind of startled to think that so much wisdom could be found in pages written so long ago.

Seneca’s words in this piece clearly reflect  the anguish felt when anxiety grips our core and turns our lives upside down.  His advice is wise and timely.

Thank you Anna for sharing this with me.  By re-posting this piece found on Brain Pickings, I hope others will find comfort in Seneca’s words.

There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality……

In his thirteenth letter, titled “On groundless fears,” Seneca writes:

There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.

With an eye to the self-defeating and wearying human habit of bracing ourselves for imaginary disaster, Seneca counsels his young friend:

What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come.

Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow……