Reimagining Learning Spaces (Images)

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The case for Chess as a tool to develop our children’s minds

Sean Hampton-Cole:

In case you still aren’t convinced about the benefits of chess for young minds:

Originally posted on Moves for Life Blog:

2015-02-10 08.23.59Is chess an art? A science? Some claim it’s both. Yet let’s be honest, it’s really just a game. Fun, challenging, creative: but still a game, not much different from tennis, cricket, football, or golf.

But there is one striking difference to these other popular games. While learning to play almost any game can help build self-esteem and confidence, chess is one of the few that fully exercises our minds.

Many of us could probably use this exercise, although it may be a bit late for some. (At least for those of us old enough to read an article like this voluntarily!) It’s not, however, too late for our children.

Chess is one of the most powerful educational tools available to strengthen a child’s mind. It’s fairly easy to learn how to play. Most six or seven year olds can follow the basic rules. Some kids as young as four…

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Terry Pratchett on Geography


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The Quiet Revolution: Critical Thinking Goes Mainstream (Or, How Google Will Change the World… Again)

This week the world changed for the better. A seemingly small thing happened that will undoubtedly have massive consequences for the way the world works. And so many people missed it: Google is considering ranking pages and sites according to the reliability of their facts rather than how many links they contain.

Just how Google might do this is fascinating in many respects, but their proposed use of Google Knowledge Graph and Knowledge Vault in order to distinguish more reliable sites from the bum-fluff has to be chief among them.

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Things That Can’t Hurt in Education (That Actually Do)

Check your horoscope now and then, why don’t you? It can’t hurt.

Drink three glasses of water before 10am. They say you need eight a day. And it helps you lose weight. It can’t hurt.

Add a multivitamin or three to your daily supplement intake. And why not some herbs and minerals and essential compounds? An antioxidant or two, some wort and some root and you’re set. It can’t hurt.

Try a bit of feng-shui around the house, why don’t you. And check out that lottery you didn’t enter that you just won. It can’t hurt. Surely.

Grab your lucky rabbit’s foot, your four-leaf clover and your misprinted penny. Avoid black cats, open umbrellas and walking under ladders. You need all the luck you can get. And it can’t really hurt. Can it?

Give your kids as much homework as you can. It can’t hurt.

And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of stress. It gets them motivated. Surely that can’t hurt?

The classroom is no place for fun. Keep things strict and disciplined and focussed at all times. A bit of rigor can’t hurt.

Pummel kids with as much content as you can in a lesson. Stand and deliver. It’s their job as students to digest and remember it all. How can that hurt?

Let’s test and examine kids as often as we can using standardized assessments. How else will we know that they know? It can’t hurt. Can it?

Only, it can – and it does.


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Fairy Tales, Irony and the Dismal State of Education


A little rant:

Do you know the one about the teacher who brain-washes his students all day with supernatural fairy tales? At that private school that openly tells the world that they are proudly fairy tale orientated? The guy who says, without a trace of irony, that the state of education in the rest of the country is in a dismal state? The same fairy tale mongerer who, again without the slightest nod to irony, bemoans the fact that kids these days can’t think critically and reason independently?

You must know him. Or her. I know hundreds of them. I wish they would just stay away from the teaching profession instead of filling so many curious young minds with such obvious nonsense – and closing them off to rational thought.

That is all.

Live long and prosper. _\\//




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The role of Chess in modern education

Sean Hampton-Cole:

A thought-provoking read on the value of chess in education…

Originally posted on Moves for Life Blog:

2015-02-17 12.06.58-1According to Murray, Chess originated at the end of sixth century in India. The game was different then, elephants replacing the present day rooks and peasants replacing pawns. The “firzan” now known as the queen could only move diagonally one square at a time. Still, the basic elements of modern chess were present: the game was played on an eight by eight board with pieces and the sole goal being to checkmate the opposing king.

The game of chess has been dominated by Russians for nearly 70 years. With the exception of Bobby Fischer who won the world championship in 1972 and relinquished it in 1975 the past 11 world champions have been of Russian decent. Why are Russians the dominant figures in world chess?

Chess has been part of the curriculum for most Russian schools for over 40 years. Adolescents were encouraged to play chess at a very early…

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16 Ways Chess Makes Kids Smart

These are the key ways in which chess helps to develop young (and not so young) minds:

    1. Chess improves focus and attention by encouraging sustained mental alertness.
    2. Chess develops the skill of tactical and strategic planning.
    3. Because players need to find novel solutions to unpredictable problems, chess improves creativity and problem solving skills.
    4. The great game teaches kids to deal positively with stress and to think on their feet. A large number of tactical problems encountered over a game of chess will be unique and need to be solved under pressure.
    5. Chess nurtures evaluative and critical thinking skills (because kids need to deliberate over, and weigh multiple options carefully).
    6. Chess engenders a positive attitude towards learning. Moreover, because it is a game, and they’re having fun, kids aren’t necessarily aware that they’re learning valuable cognitive skills while they’re playing.
    7. The game builds logical, sequential and analytical thinking while simultaneously bolstering the ability to synthesize information.
    8. Chess players develop an acute sense of spatial awareness by having to be alert to opportunities and threats in multiple locations.
    9. Very importantly, chess hones pattern recognition aptitudes. The solution to particular problems often provides a template for solving later problems.
    10. For those who think they matter, IQ scores have been shown to improve with methodical chess instruction.
    11. Through the careful study of openings, middle and end games, players’ ability to memorise improves.
    12. There is a strong general link between chess and improved academic performance in school kids of all ages.
    13. Chess provides a stimulus and a challenge for gifted students.
    14. Chess teaches patience, determination, perseverance and old fashioned grit. It also brings about a different attitude towards failure as something to be deconstructed, analysed and learnt from. Every failure brings with it an opportunity to improve.
    15. When players analyze their own games in order to diagnose and evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, the essential skills of reflection and metacognition become ingrained.
    16. Most interestingly, I have noticed that kids with ADHD (hyperactivity) and ADD (the inability to focus) have shown significant improvement when exposed to chess. Also, kids with social / emotional problems learn to be more confident.

    Intriguingly, chess is also a great leveler. It teaches us all that what matters is not what you look like or where you come from – nor is it how old you are or how much you have (or don’t have) – what matters most is what you do with what you have.

    Posted in Brains, Chess, EDUCATION | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

    The Benefits of Chess in Education (A Short Reading List)


    Essential Reading:

    Other Interesting Resources:

    A Few Longer Articles and Studies

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    What I Believe About the Fundamental Nature of Reality (An Exercise in Fallacious Thinking)


    Irony is Everything

    I believe, firmly and resolutely, and to a degree that makes it impossible for new evidence to convince me otherwise, that the universe and all things are made up of fundamental, intangible, generative waveform-forces I call ironies.

    There are four sub-types of irony that are at the heart of all things:

    1) The cruel irony

    2) The subtle irony

    3) The normal irony

    4) The ‘is it irony?’ (i3) irony

    These ironies combine with one another in every combination possible (although I cannot fully describe the process yet) and give rise to electro-magnetism, the strong atomic force, the weak atomic force and gravity, as well as the various strings and membranes which physicists today erroneously believe constitute the building blocks of all things.

    The various intricate interactions between the fundamental ironies and the irony compounds which arise also go a long way towards explaining the absurdities of existence, the beauty of art, the strangeness of time, the complexities of the human mind and experience, as well as where missing socks and teaspoons go.

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    What is Critical Thinking & How Do You Improve It?


    What is Critical Thinking?

    In a nutshell, critical thinking is not believing anything… unless the evidence for it is sound. Encoded in this definition are three elements:

      1. A sustained skeptical attitude towards the ideas and information which come your way.
      2. The ability to reason, identify and weigh evidence, as well as the capacity to interrogate arguments effectively.
      3. The formation of a belief, judgement, opinion or course of action.

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      Posted in Advice, Brain, Critical Thinking, EDUCATION, Self-edification, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

      How to Stop Being Stupid (Part 3: Back to Basics)

      Back to Basics

      Part 1 of How to Stop Being Stupid here

      Part 2 here

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      Posted in Activism, Advice, Humour, Self-edification | Tagged , , , , ,

      10 Things to Learn in Life


      So then I came across this on Reddit:


      As faithful readers of this blog know, I have a severe allergy towards 'self-help' and pop psychology of any kind. I believe that people like Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins and Rhonda Byrne are the snake oil peddlers of the twenty-first century. They should be rounded up and forced to sit in a room and listen to their own drivel over and over again until they repent and vow to never again sell people false hope. I don't care who moved my cheese, I will not 'visualize' my way to happiness and contentment and I do not want to activate my inner archetypal quantum chakras.

      I am also most certainly not any kind of model of success and perfection to those seeking advice and enlightenment.

      Nonetheless, I did find the question intriguing and wondered what 10 things I would recommend another person should know. Honestly, I haven't learnt all these skills myself yet (especially numbers 4 And 10), but I still think they're worth doing.

      10 Things to Learn

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      Twenty Questions for Humanity: My Answers


      Recently I came across J. Edward Neill's brain-tickling post titled 10 Questions for Humanity - and the follow up post, 10 More Questions for Humanity. These are my answers.

      (The original questions are in blue, my responses follow.)

      Check out the original questions here:

      10 Questions for Humanity and here:

      10 More Questions for Humanity


      1. A Moment of Omniscience

      If you could ask ONE question of the universe and have it answered utterly and completely, what would it be?

      I wanted to argue about being forced to narrow it down to just one. But I won't. I'll play along.

      My question:

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      Enduring Disappointment: On The Ruling Party & the National Soccer Team in South Africa

      Support for the ruling party in South Africa follows the same trends as support for the national soccer team: despite the fact that they haven't achieved anything really worth shouting about for at least a decade, and despite the fact that they are amongst the lowest ranked in the world, and despite the fact that they're a constant source of disappointment, they still have an incredibly strong following. All this despite the huge amount of natural resources and infrastructure they have at their disposal.

      Both our national players and our politicians seem convinced that they are worth something just because of who they are, and seem reluctant to work hard to make things better. Both are overpaid, self-aggrandizing and lazy – with almost no regard for the hopes and dreams of their supporters.

      The few victories which are achieved are blown out of all proportion, but these are most definitely the exception rather than the rule.

      Individuals come and go (some of them not quickly enough), but the fundamental structures of both football and government are pathologically rotten, and so things never really seem to change.

      Fortunately even the most ardent fans will eventually look for a team more worthy of support. We've given them two decades. Surely we can't shoulder the disappointment for much longer?



      Posted in Uncategorized

      In Which He Expounds on the Differences Between Newbs and N00bs

      Let's begin with this scruffy little thing from :

      Contrary to the belief of many, a noob/n00b and a newbie/newb are not the same thing. Newbs are those who are new to some task and are very beginner at it, possibly a little overconfident about it, but they are willing to learn and fix their errors to move out of that stage. n00bs, on the other hand, know little and have no will to learn any more. They expect people to do the work for them and then expect to get praised about it, and make up a unique species of their own.

      Now, besides the fact that this was very clearly written by a greasy 17 year-old with too much bandwidth and too few friends-that-aren't-hyperlinks, we do need to thank him for pointing out the very real and very important difference between newbs and noobs.

      To summarize:

      • A newb is someone who is a novice in a particular field, and who, although he or she might not know terribly much, and /or often get things wrong, is willing to learn and grow.
      • A noob is also a beginner… but this kind of newcomer has no desire to learn for themselves or from their mistakes.

      Everyone is a beginner at something.

      But until we can upload the required skills and knowledge of the field we want to master directly into our brains, we're stuck with having to go through being a novice. We learn, we grow and we get better, and eventually we master our new chosen skill.

      When embarking on the acquisition of a new skill, though, you have a choice: be a noob or be a newb.

      Those who are masters in their field quite like newbs. It's nice to be given the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience, and so long as newbs learn from their mistakes, are prepared to try for themselves and don't pretend to know what they don't, they will receive tons of support and understanding.

      Noobs, though, are almost universally despised. There's a strange combination of arrogance and neediness that makes noobs especially irritating. They want so much help, and are too afraid / lazy / needy to try and learn for themselves. Noobs sometimes also pretend they know things they don't, and fake being the equals of masters because they don't like to admit their own shortcomings.

      Newbs are enthusiastic, noobs often complain and nag. Newbs see the value of their learning and try to find their own connections, noobs compartmentalize and fail to see the deeper significance of what they're learning. A newb will push ahead, a newb constantly wants to go back. Newbs are prepared to spend a lot of time in trying to master a field, noobs want shortcuts and cheats. Newbs are authentic, noobs are fakers.

      But the major reason people really like newbs and really don't like noobs is that newbism is simply a better way to learn. Collectively we all know this. It shows that the apprentice has a passion for what they're learning and that they're prepared to work hard to attain mastery. Noobishness just smacks of apathy, parasitic neediness and laziness.

      Newbism works, noobishness just annoys.

      That is all.

      Posted in Advice, EDUCATION, Vitriol | Tagged , , , , , , ,

      The Rise of the Mollycoddled Teacher

      Teaching is no gentle spin around the block. It's a grueling, energy-sapping and often heart-breaking odyssey. No doubt, it would be a whole lot easier if we could just teach instead of having to deal with barking parents, unexpected syllabus shifts, administrative obstacles, uphill grading, emotional roadblocks and all the newfangled pedagogical and technological ideas we need to pick up on the way. All of this and somehow we still need to teach to the best of our abilities.

      Yet somehow we make it work. Very often, it feels like we're not going to, but we invariably cross the finish-line.

      Learning is often just as difficult for many of our students. And it isn't supposed to be easy. The adversity and multiple challenges they face on a daily basis teaches them determination – or what some are calling 'grit'*.

      So why is it that lately teachers are becoming so mollycoddled?

      Afraid or unsure about using technology in the classroom? That's ok. You just do what you're comfortable with.

      Refuse to integrate a more personalized, child-centered approach? Not to worry. You do other things well. (Like setting good standardized tests and lecturing well.)

      Not up to speed on the latest in pedagogical or neurological research? No problem. We'll email you a few things from time to time and perhaps send you on a training course once a year. If you feel like it, try to find out a few things online.

      We don't want you to feel upset or overwhelmed or angry. We need your buy-in to make this work.

      What's going on here? Why are we suddenly so soft on teachers? Do we think they won't manage if we raise our expectations – as if one more bundle will topple them off their bicycles altogether?

      I honestly have no idea where this mollycoddling comes from. I do know that it's dangerous to 'protect' teachers from new ideas and techniques in teaching – particularly if they've been road tested and have been found to be sound. It's bad for our students, it's bad for society more generally, and it's bad for teachers themselves.

      What do you think?


      *In a future post I will be exploring the dangers of encouraging grit, but let's leave it as it is for now.


      Posted in EdTech, EDUCATION, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

      How to Sell Education Technology to Even the Most Technophobic Teachers


      Dear Technology Integrator:

      Most modern teachers already use digital technology – yes, even the most technophobic ones:

      • They email
      • They surf the web for resources
      • They use text messenging
      • They create worksheets on a word processor
      • They create spreadsheets for marks
      • They’re probably on FaceBook

      The problem is that they refuse to let their students do the same thing in the classroom. Students in these classrooms use paper copies and produce paper-based work and assessments.

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      Posted in EdTech, EDUCATION | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

      Expand Your Consciousness In Four Steps

      Expand Your Consciousness In Four Two Steps


      STEP ONE:

      Because at some stage of your life you are going to anyway, try any combination of the following New Age 'consciousness-raising' techniques:

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      Posted in Advice, Atheism, Critical Thinking, Philosophy, Science, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

      The Good Employee Guide


      Want to be a good worker drone?

      Want to get that promotion to middle management?

      Want to fly beneath the radar and avoid stirring up controversy?

      Want a dull and uneventful working life?

      Then this guide is for you!

      Follow these easy steps and you too can be a model employee!

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      Posted in Advice, Humour, Leadership