Issue #383: Free Edition
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Hello!

How's things? I'm a little concerned about the amount of conspiracy and fake news going around about the current pandemic. I'm certainly not going to link to any of the stuff going around, which seems to have moved on from 5G masts to focus on Bill Gates and some kind of 'planning' around all of this.

Instead, if you're confronted with someone spouting this kind of lunacy, introduce them to the SIFT approach, which is outlined in the graphic below and also in this post by Mike Caulfield.

SIFT (The Four Moves)
The main problem at the moment, I feel, from a digital/web literacies point of view is that people only read headlines, and are willing to believe spurious screenshots of text without double-checking sources. At the very least, we should all be checking these things before passing them on!

Thanks for reading Thought Shrapnel and please do feel free to forward it on to anyone else who may be interested.

Saturday seductions

Ben Jennings cartoon
Having a Bank Holiday in the UK on a Friday has really thrown me this week. So apologies for this link roundup being a bit later than usual...

I do try to inject a little bit of positivity into these links every week, but the past few days have made me a little concerned about our post-pandemic future. Anyway, here goes...

Radio Garden

This popped up in my Twitter feed this week and brought joy to my life. So simple but so effective: either randomly go to, or browse radio stations around the world. The one featured in the screenshot above is one close to me I forgot existed!

COVID and forced experiments

Every time we get a new kind of tool, we start by making the new thing fit the existing ways that we work, but then, over time, we change the work to fit the new tool. You’re used to making your metrics dashboard in PowerPoint, and then the cloud comes along and you can make it in Google Docs and everyone always has the latest version. But one day, you realise that the dashboard could be generated automatically and be a live webpage, and no-one needs to make those slides at all. Today, sometimes doing the meeting as a video call is a poor substitute for human interaction, but sometimes it’s like putting the slides in the cloud.
I don’t think we can know which is which right now, but we’re going through a vast, forced public experiment to find out which bits of human psychology will align with which kinds of tool, just as we did with SMS, email or indeed phone calls in previous generations.
Benedict Evans

An interesting post that both invokes 'green eggs and ham' as a metaphor, and includes an anecdote from an Ofcom report towards the end about a woman named Polly that no-one who does training or usability testing should ever forget.

Education is over…

What future learning environments need is not more mechanization, but more humanization; not more data, but more wisdom; not more
objectification, but more subjectification; not more Plato, but more Aristotle.
William Rankin (regenerative.global)

I agree, although 'subjectification' is a really awkward word that suggests school subjects, which isn't the author's point. After all of this, I can't see parents, in particular, accepting going back to how school has been. At least, I hope not.

What Happens Next?

This guide... is meant to give you hope and fear. To beat COVID-19 in a way that also protects our mental & financial health, we need optimism to create plans, and pessimism to create backup plans. As Gladys Bronwyn Stern once said, “The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.”
Marcel Salathé & Nicky Case

Modelling what happens next in terms of lockdowns, etc. is not an easy think to understand, and there are many competing opinions. This guide, with 'playable simulations' is the best thing I've seen so far, and I feel I'm much better prepared for the next decade (yes, you read that correctly).

Sheltering in Place with Montaigne

By the time Michel de Montaigne wrote “Of Experience,” the last entry in his third and final book of essays, the French statesman and author had weathered numerous outbreaks of plague (in 1585, while he was mayor of Bordeaux, a third of the population perished), political uprisings, the death of five daughters, and an onslaught of physical ailments, from rotting teeth to debilitating kidney stones.
The ubiquity of suffering heightened Montaigne’s attentiveness to the complexity of human experience. Pleasure, he contends, flows not from free rein but structure. The brevity of existence, he goes on, gives it a certain heft. Exertion, truth be told, is the best form of compensation. Time is slippery, the more reason to grab hold.
Drew Bratcher (The Paris Review)

Montaigne is one of my favourite authors, and having recently read Stefan Zweig's bioraphy of him, he feels even more relevant to our times.

Clarity for Teachers: Day 42

There’s a children’s book that I love, The Greentail Mouse by Leo Lionni. It plays on the old theme of the town mouse and the country mouse. In this telling, the town mouse comes to visit his cousins in their rural idyll, and they ask him about life in the town. It’s horrible, he says, noisy and dangerous, but there is one day a year when it’s amazing, and that’s when carnival comes around. So the country mice decide to hold a carnival of their own: they make costumes and masks, they grunt and shriek and howl and jump around like wild things. But then, at some point, they forget that they are wearing masks; they end up believing that they are the fierce creatures they have been playing at being, and their formerly peaceful community becomes filled with fear, hatred and suspicion.
Dougald Hine

Dougald Hine is taking Charlie Davies' course Clarity for Teachers and is blogging each day about it. This is from the last post in the series. I'm including it partly to point towards Homeward Bound, which I've just signed up for, and which starts next Thursday.

BBC Archive: Empty sets

Give your video calls a makeover, with this selection of over 100 empty sets from the BBC Archive.
Who hasn't wanted to host a pub quiz from the Queen Vic, conduct a job interview from the confines of Fletch's cell, or catch up with friends and family from the bridge of the Liberator in Blake's 7?

I love this idea, to spice up Zoom calls, etc.

People you follow

First I search for my new item of interest, then I filter the results by “People I Follow.” (You can try it out with some of my recent searches: “Roger Angell,” “Captain Beefheart,” and “Rockford Files.”) Depending on the subject, I might have pages and pages of links, all handily selected for me by people I find interesting.
Austin Kleon

In his most recent newsletter, Austin Kleon referenced this post of his from five years ago. I think the idea is a great one and I'll definitely be doing this in future! Twitter move settings around occasionally, but it's still there under 'search filters'.

68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice

Perhaps the most counter-intuitive truth of the universe is that the more you give to others, the more you’ll get. Understanding this is the beginning of wisdom.
Before you are old, attend as many funerals as you can bear, and listen. Nobody talks about the departed’s achievements. The only thing people will remember is what kind of person you were while you were achieving.
Over the long term, the future is decided by optimists. To be an optimist you don’t have to ignore all the many problems we create; you just have to imagine improving our capacity to solve problems.
Kevin Kelly (The Technium)

The venerable KK is now 68 years of age and so has dispensed some wisdom. It's a mixed bag, but I particularly liked these the three bits of advice I've quoted above.

Header image by Ben Jennings.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony

Gandhi
If we're looking for silver linings around the pandemic, then one startlingly big one is the time people have had to reflect on their lives. When we're busy, we're forced to be pragmatic, and unfortunately that pragmatism can conflict with our core values.

This pragmatism has, certainly in my life, led to there being (small) disconnects between what I feel to be my values on the one hand, and my actions on the other. One thing I've been meaning to do for a while is to take the time to write down what I believe, in the style of Buster Benson's Codex Vitae.

He divides his beliefs into the following areas:
  • Aliens
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Cognitive biases
  • Consciousness
  • Critical thinking
  • Dialogue
  • Ecosystems
  • Game theory
  • Government
  • Health
  • Internal mental space
  • Mindfulness
  • Nature of reality
  • Policy
  • Purpose
  • Rules to live by
  • Spirituality
  • Technology
  • Vulnerability
...which may seem a little bit random, and reminds me somewhat of Jorge Luis Borges' Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge ("those that from afar look like flies"). Having said that, starting with one's inner ontology is probably the best place to start.

Why do all this? Well, if you know what you believe then it's easier to draw lines, 'red' or otherwise, and know what you will and will not stand for. It's a guide to life, which of course can change over time, but at least serves as a guide.

The reason I've never managed to get around to writing down my beliefs in a way similar to Buster is, I would say, twofold. First, I'm unwilling to write down my religious beliefs, such as they are. Second, all of this looks like a rather large undertaking.

Instead, I'm going to use the rather helpful time horizon that the pandemic provides to think about what I'd like the 'new normal' to look like, about what I'm going to accept and what I am not. These take the form of aphorisms or reminders to myself.
  1. Life is too short to deal with adults who display little in the way of emotional intelligence.
  2. Organisations are groups of people that can have a positive or negative effect on the world. Do not work with or for the latter.
  3. Technology can free people or it can enslave them, so work to give as many people as much freedom as possible.
  4. Removing ego from the equation gets things done.
  5. Education is not the same as learning, nor are qualifications the same as real-world knowledge, skills and experience.
  6. Happiness is not something that you can find, but rather it is something that you discover once you stop looking for it.
  7. How you say or do something is as important as what you say or what you do.
  8. We all will die and don't know when, so act today in a way whereby people will remember you well.
  9. You cannot control what other people say, do, or think.
  10. Money can only buy choices, not happiness, time, or anything else that constitutes human flourishing.
Yours may be different, and these are just want came tumbling out this time around, but these are the ten that I've printed out and stuck to the back of my home office door.

Quotation-as-title by Mahatma Gandhi. Photo by Ishant Mishra.

Quotation of the week

There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect.


(G.K. Chesterton)
Until next week!

Doug
PS I'll write my weeknote at some point today (Sunday). I would, however, like to direct you towards a post I (mostly) wrote for the Moodle blog entitled 3 tips for first-time remote educators
Dr. Doug Belshaw is an Open Educational Thinkerer, currently working with Moodle and We Are Open Co-op to improve our world.

You can connect with Doug by replying to this email, or via Twitter, LinkedIn, or Mastodon. Use the hashtag #thoughtshrapnel

Some say he's drinking too much beer, others say that's how his thinking is so clear. No-one thinks he's got anything to fear.
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