Learning, Digital & Education from Oliver Quinlan.
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This week: How to write, social media harms and education analysis

A quick intro this week, as I managed to half write this newsletter in a very organised fashion earlier in the week and then leave finishing it to Sunday morning. I've been doing a bit of reflecting on how I work this week, and trying to chunk up tasks into times in my calendar in an ambitious attempt to 'get things done'. It's actually worked very well, although the newsletter seems to be the one thing that slipped! This was prompted by a colleague recommending reading 'The 7 habits of highly effective people', which I gather is a bit of classic. I've only just got past the introduction which I really didn't like (felt like careerism as a spiritual position), but I'm getting into reading about the actual 'habits' now so will give it another chance. I'll let you know how useful they are...

Jamie Bartlett on writing a book [tweetstream]

Tweetstreams are a funny thing, so ephemeral and yet I've learnt some really interesting things from them recently. Jamie Bartlett is author of the fascinating 'The Dark Net' which I enjoyed, and the new 'Radicals' on our current political climate which looks good but I haven't got to reading yet. In this tweetstream he shares some thoughts and advice for people writing books that really resonated with me. 

In particular:

"The most important element of writing (in my opinion) is in fact solving a series of logic problems about the order of ideas and themes. Spend more time and effort on getting this right. It really helps in the end."

I never crystallised this idea as eloquently as this, but I've certainly felt it when writing anything longer than a blog post. I visualised it as some kind of lego construction, with blocks coming in and out, sometimes in a holding space for when they would actually fit. I write that this is the difference between doing a book and other writing, but I can actually remember times thinking like this for all sorts of writing about complex ideas, event my introductory chapter to 'The Digitally Agile Researcher'.


"7) If you are struggling with inspiration try reading and writing using different fonts, sizes and formats. I often write sections as text messages or emails. For some reason, a new format sometimes stimulates more and different ideas."

This one sounds a bit odd, but it's certainly worked for me. When I was holed up writing 'The Thinking Teacher' I sometimes got into a dead end and went for a walk along the canal nearby. I thought I'd just take notes of any ideas that came to me on my phone, but found myself frantically typing away on that small screen with the writing really flowing. I event started putting chapters onto my phone to continue with when I hit a block.

There's some great thoughts in this, both practical and evocative. It's funny how evocative descriptions of things can get you excited about them, this almost had me sketching out an outline for my next book...

Impact of social media and screen-use on young people's health inquiry launched

No findings yet, this is just a start, but it's interesting that the Commons' select committee into science and technology are looking at this issue. This came to my attention around the same time as an interesting twitter discussion started by Carl Gombrich on smart phones for youngsters. Now I think that children do have special requirements and a special status in many areas, and certainly in this one, as Beeban Kidron powerfully argues.

However, I'm concerned that by looking at this though the lens of 'young people's health' we sidestep the very significant issues that all of us, of all ages are facing around this stuff. I know it's been part of my work in a way, but I've reflected long and hard about my own use of social media and screen use and I'm not sure I've completely figured it out. Adults are still trying to understand the balance with this media, and come up with strategies and approaches to live their best lives using its power and curbing it's downsides. We absolutely should look at young people differently, but a big part of the conversation at this stage is also adults, how they know how to pass on positive approaches to children, and probably more importantly so they are able to be good role models.

Many adults probably need to change their social media and screen use habits to live optimally. Ignoring this and preaching to children isn't going to help them in the medium to long term. Children are different, their development as people means they need to be supported to engage with aspects of society in certain ways, and even not engage until certain stages. However, we should be figuring this out as part of figuring out how to best deal with this media as adults, as guides, and as role models too.

Flexible working sounds lovely, but it would make the teacher shortage worse

There simply isn't enough of this kind of analysis in education, which is partly why it faces so many human resources challenges. Laura McInerney unpicks the current discussions around flexible working for teachers, a popular looking policy, and finds on a system level it just doesn't work. There's plenty of people taking a system level view of education, but you hardly ever read someone who balances that with a strong and compassionate understanding of the actors in that system; the teachers, parents and children.
Thanks for reading.
Until next week,


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