Monday, 2 December 2013

stimulating discussion: the politics of...

Jay Doubleyou: The Politics of Trees
Jay Doubleyou: the politics of trees: pt2

Jay Doubleyou: immigration
Jay Doubleyou: immigration part 2
Jay Doubleyou: social issues

Jay Doubleyou: secrets

Jay Doubleyou: explaining how your country's education system works
Jay Doubleyou: dumbing us down
Jay Doubleyou: deschooling society

Jay Doubleyou: art questions

the media:
Jay Doubleyou: english-language news media
Jay Doubleyou: english-language news media - part two
Jay Doubleyou: turn off your tv
Jay Doubleyou: advertising

Jay Doubleyou: racial issues
Jay Doubleyou: gun and violence issues

Jay Doubleyou: sport as poetry in motion... ?

Jay Doubleyou: post-autistic...
Jay Doubleyou: money as debt


the politics of trees: pt2

Following on from Jay Doubleyou: The Politics of Trees earlier, things are hotting up a little:

Ripped-off Britons: Tory leak says the prime minister is going round Number 10 saying: 'We have got to get rid of all this green crap!'

Paul Owen: Cut All The Conservative Modernising Crap

Istanbul Taksim Gezi Park is not about trees |
2013 protests in Turkey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Guide Istanbul » Gezi Park: A Big History For a Small Space

Developer kills ancient oaks in West Hill

comments (7)
A developer in West Hill has killed off two ancient oaks in West Hill, prior to submitting a planning application.
Developer kills ancient oaks in West Hill
Hugo Headon of H & H Prestige Homes recently bought Crantock on West Hill Road, near the war memorial.
But there are two ancient oaks inconveniently growing on either side of the access, which may have to be widened if another house/houses were built in the back garden.
Unfortunately, the trees were not subject to a preservation order.
I received a phone call from a resident at around 7.30am on Thursday (4 Oct) morning, worried about chainsaw noises coming from Crantock.
I rang one of EDDC’s tree officers and following a visit that morning, where he met and spoke with Mr Headon on site, it became apparent that the two very old oak trees had been fatally and deliberately damaged.
A large number of trees in the back garden have also been fatally damaged or felled, including several mature native species.
It is really incomprehensible how someone can do this.
Only six months ago, four mature oaks were felled at Cornercroft in Elsdon Lane - see

Claire Wright - Your Independent East Devon District Councillor for Ottery Rural

West Hill Road without the Crantock old oaks

comments (1)
And here’s the view of West Hill Road without those lovely old oaks at Crantock.
West Hill Road without the Crantock old oaks
The developer, Hugo Headon from H & H Prestige Homes, told the Ottery Herald that a tree surgeon’s report stated that one oak was “a serious danger” and the other needed “expensive tests.” He said the tree was not worth the cost.
This was news to EDDC’s tree officer who said that although there was some dead wood the trees would have lived for at least another 100 years.
Here’s the same view with the oaks still in place last month -
Photograph: Ripped out of the fabric of West Hill - two oaks that were at least 150 years old - and would have lived for another 100 years, at least. 

Claire Wright - Your Independent East Devon District Councillor for Ottery Rural

Wangari Maathai is a Kenyan environmentalist and political activist. In the 1970s, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental NGO focused on environmental conservation and women's rights. In 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her contributions to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.

The Green Belt Movement ( organizes rural women in Kenya to plant trees, an effort that combats deforestation while generating income for the community and promoting empowerment for women. Since Maathai founded the Movement, over 40 million trees have been planted and over 30,000 women have been trained in forestry, food processing, beekeeping, and other sustainable, income-generating activities.

Wangari Maathai also recommends: 
• Nature Conservancy (
• United Nations Environmental Programme (

Wangari Maathai & The Green Belt Movement - YouTube

Friday, 29 November 2013

story corps - listening to america

A great website with real stories from real people - in real English!

Sundays at Rocco’s

Nicholas Petron's grandfather, Rocco Galasso, moved to New York City from Italy with the hopes of making a better life. For eighteen years Rocco served as owner and superintendent of an apartment building where much of his family resided--until the day they were given notice that their building faced demolition to make way for new apartments. As Nick remembers, that's when everything changed.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

teaching the teachers: the future of education

On Radio 3 this evening:

Teaching the Teachers: The Future of Education

Professor Sugata Mitra's pioneering experiments gave children in India access to computers to teach themselves and inspired the novel which became the film Slumdog Millionaire. He is now using retired volunteers in the UK to share their knowledge and guide children across the other side of the world. At the Free Thinking Festival he outlines the way he plans to use the $1 million 2013 Ted Prize to further his vision of "schools in the cloud" and how this differs from a UK education system involving league tables and a set curriculum.
Presenter: Philip Dodd

BBC Radio 3 - Free Thinking, 2013 Festival, Teaching the Teachers: The Future of Education

Very inspiring:

Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education | Video on

Sugata Mitra: Kids can teach themselves | Video on

Sugata Mitra is also known for his Hole-in-the-Wall:

HomeSolutionInsightNews & EventsAbout HiWELContact Us
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Meeting of the Minds: Research Collaborations
Every step taken by Hole-in-the-Wall is an endeavor to improve its initiatives and explore new boundaries. One such recent development is the collaboration with internationally renowned organizations, Stichting Child Tuition and Twig, both with their focus on....Read on
Mahila Mandiram
The primary objective of HiWEL is to bridge the digital divide of the underprivileged children in the age range 8-14 years. Recently, the Social Welfare Department, Government of Kerala collaborated with HiWEL to install HiWEL Learning Stations at their Observation Homes known as...Read on
Reaching the Unreached
One of the major projects that HiWEL is in the process of executing is for the Royal Government of Bhutan. The project is part of a large Indo-Bhutan project formally known as the Chiphen Rigpel (broadly meaning 'Enabling a society, Empowering a nation'). Chiphen Rigpel...Read on
Dr. Sugata Mitra wins the TED Prize!
A Hole-in-the-Wall is window to world - The Indian Express
Dr. Mitra's TED Prize Wish -
Dr Sugata Mitra wins $ 1 million TED Prize - The Times of India 
HiWEL wins HASTAC/MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Award
List of 2010 Competition Winners - Digital Media and Learning Competition 
Slumdog Millionaire inspired by Hole-in-the-Wall
Slumdog Inspiration (video).
"Q & A" author Vikas Swarup talk about Hole-in-the-Wall. - 
HiWEL on Facebook

Slumdog Inspiration

Dr. Sugata Mitra on how kids teach themselves
Today’s children need not only basic education, but also the ability to deal with an increasingly complex and connected world. We need to create inclusive educational solutions that address all sections of society and help transform them.

Now, more than ever before, it is critical to look at solutions that complement the framework of traditional schooling. Minimally Invasive Education™ is one such solution – a solution that uses the power of collaboration and the natural curiosity of children to catalyze learning. To find out more about the solution, click here.


A School in the Cloud and the Future of Learning

Sugata Mitra, TED 2013. Photo: James Duncan Davidson
Sugata Mitra is the kind of guy every kid wants to be their teacher. Unbelievably energized, always ready with a smile, and always ready to leave you and your classmates to your own devices.
Mitra calls his approach to education “self-organized learning.” At its core it’s all about sparking curiosity, about asking smart questions and then sitting back and letting kids get to the answers with the help of their peers. Mitra, the winner of this year’s $1 million TED Prize, believes it is nothing less than an entirely new approach to education, one that could dismantle a centuries-old way of teaching.
A professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, Mitra began his professional career as a physicist in New Delhi, India. To hear him tell it, he figured as a 26-year-old physics PhD he needed to find something other than physics to make some money. He knew how to write code, so he began writing software, then teaching others to write software.
Comfortably on his way in the software world, Mitra purchased a PC to use at home. The expensive machine arrived, and while setting it up, his young son sat rapt watching. “Don’t even think about touching it,” Mitra told his son. But when Mitra bumped up against a command-line problem it was his son who quickly offered the fix. “He was picking the stuff up, just by watching,” Mitra says. “Of course, as his father, I figured my son is some genius.”
But as he came home from work one day in 1999, past the slums of New Delhi, it struck Mitra that the kind of spark, the genius he saw in his son, couldn’t be restricted to his middle class demographic. “I looked at the slum children in New Delhi and I thought it can’t be possible that our children are geniuses and they are not.”
Mitra did an odd experiment to prove his theory. He placed a PC inside a wall behind a plastic shield in a New Dehli slum. Connected to the internet, with a mouse to manipulate it, Mitra simply powered it up and left it behind. “I left it to the wolves, knowing that it would be smashed, opened up and and sold,” Mitra says. “I left it, just to see what would happen.”
What happened eight hours later, was that Mitra came back and saw the kids browsing the Internet. In English, a language they didn’t speak.
A colleague suggested that maybe a software coding student of Mitra’s had come by and taught them to browse the Internet. So Mitra decided to conduct the same experiment in a rural village some 200 miles from New Dehli. “Where there was zero chance that a software developer might be passing by,” Mitra says with laugh.
When Mitra came back after two months he found the kids playing games and browsing the Internet. One kid sauntered up to Mitra and said, “We could use a better mouse and a faster processor.” And there was a small complaint. “You’ve given us a machine that only works in English, so we had to teach ourselves English.”
Via what became know as the Hole in the Wall experiment, Mitra recognized for the first time the concept of self-learning. “I had stumbled on something that was universal, it had to be,” Mitra says.
Mitra spread his concept of self-learning to hundreds of elementary schools across India, then to the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong. Southeast Asia and Latin America. Mitra’s teaching wasn’t the traditional three r’s. It was rooted in questions, in learning by collaboration. “It’s not about making learning happen, it about letting it happen,” Mitra says.
In England, Mitra recruited an army of retired teachers, all women, whom he dubbed the “granny cloud.” The grannies connected to Mitra’s schools via Skype, and when the kids were assembled in groups of four to six they asked questions like “Can anything be less than zero?” “Will robots be conscious one day?” and “How do my eyes know to cry when I am sad?”
Then they sat back and let the kids do the learning, injecting themselves only to offer the kind of encouragement that only grannies can. “If there is a child in trouble we beam in a Gran,” Mitra jokes. What Mitra saw was that the Granny cloud kids’ English improved, their science scores soared. By most measures they were learning more and more quickly, and doing it mostly on their own. “It just requires broadband, collaboration and encouragement,” Mitra says.
It’s also a bit scary.
What Mitra proposes is the dismantling of an educational machine created by the British over centuries of Empire building. “The British system is a humongous computing machine – a human computer,” Mitra says. “The purpose was to form a clerk-making machine to support this massive bureaucracy. But it is out of date. The Empire is gone. I am not saying its bad, it’s brilliantly constructed, but it’s not needed.”
What Mitra envisions are “schools in the cloud,” classes of 24 students in actual brick-and-mortar spaces managed in person by his volunteer grannies. The grannies ask the questions, offer the encouragement, everything else happens remotely, the lights, heating, and locks are all manipulated via the cloud. For now Mitra envisions these cloud schools will function as a supplement to the daily education the kids already get – operating on the weekends and before and after school. They’ll offer English language learning initially, he says. “I’ll present it as a safe cyber cafĂ© for children where they can learn good English,” Mitra says. “For now I cannot afford to say that this is a replacement for school.”
But just give him time.
“If it works, then we have an alternative that I can tell you with confidence will level the playing field,” Mitra says. “And leveling the playing is what’s missing in this world.”
Go here for more info, and to download your own tool kit for trying out self-organized learning.
A School in the Cloud and the Future of Learning | Wired Business |

Monday, 14 October 2013

eccentric english

What makes the English so eccentric?
Speaking Japanese to their dogs at their local pub, perhaps?

▶ Three German Shepherds in a British Pub. - YouTube

go with the flow

The techniques of the DOGME school from Scott Thornbury are very attractive, because it's all about the student:

Teaching should be done using only the resources that teachers and students bring to the classroom - i.e. themselves - and whatever happens to be in the classroom.
A Dogma for EFL

Dogme language teaching is considered to be both a methodology and a movement.[1] Dogme is a communicative approach to language teaching that encourages teaching without published textbooks and focuses instead on conversational communication among learners and teacher. It has its roots in an article by the language education author, Scott Thornbury.[2] 
Dogme language teaching - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

But what about listening to the students and see where they'd like the lesson to go?

Example One:
> I suggested to my class that, in order to get to know each other, they should write down any 'not too boring' getting-to-know-you questions (What was the last book you read which you really enjoyed? How long have you been learning English) and put them into a box. Students would then pull out a question and answer it (and it could be one of their own).
> I asked the students if they wanted to do this in pairs (to 'maximize' speaking opportunities) or to do the exercise as a full class (to listen to everyone's answers and to contribute to the to-and-fro of discussion) - and the students all voted for the full class practice - their curiosity proving more powerful. We took 90 minutes to do that - and the conversation flowed.

Example Two:
> I wanted to practice last week's vocabulary - which I had put onto bits of paper (in the form of words or phrases that come up in class) and then put them into a box for 'recycling' later.
> So, I asked the students what they'd like to do with the pieces of paper. One student suggested a different take on what I've done before - which is that students working in pairs or threes each take 2 or 3 pieces from the box and then together as a group construct a story.
> This time, we each (including me the teacher) took one piece of vocab from the box only - then took it in turns to tell a story, each following on from the other and having to keep to the story line of the person before. When it came to each person's turn, we took a new piece from the box. We took 90 minutes to do that - and time flew.

immigration part 2

Following on from
Jay Doubleyou: immigration
Jay Doubleyou: social issues
Jay Doubleyou: Identity

Why does this builder employ Lithuanians rather than Brits?

▶ The Day the Immigrants Left, Part-4/6 - YouTube

How would you feel if a Portuguese guy took your British colleague's job?
Or would you work in an Indian restaurant?

▶ The Day the Immigrants Left, Part-3/6 - YouTube

But what's actually available at the Job Centre?
Should local employers be employing local people?

▶ The Day the Immigrants Left, Part-5/6 - YouTube

And here is Evan Davis in Swindon:

▶ Prof Dustmann on BBC News, interviewed by Evan Davis on the effects of immigration, 6th July 2006 - YouTube

the present perfect with goldilocks and the three bears

What do Daddy and Mummy Bear say when they look at their bowls of porridge/
And why does Baby Bear say something different when he looks at his?

Goldilocks and the Three Bears.mp4 - YouTube

Although perhaps this 'politically-correct' version has more to say...

Goldilocks and the Three Bears
(A Fairy Tale for the Politically Correct)
By Annie Buller

Once upon time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.  She liked to play in the woods.  One day Goldilocks was playing in a part of the forest that she had never been in before and she was getting very hungry.  She noticed a cute little cottage between the trees and decided to go and ask for a snack.

She knocked at the door, but there was no answer.  When she tried the doorknob, however, she discovered that the door was unlocked and pushed it open.  “This is very unsafe,” she said to herself, forgetting that she was glad it was unlocked.  “My house is never unlocked when there’s no one home.”

Goldilocks went inside and saw three bowls of porridge on the table in the kitchen.  They looked delicious.  She tasted the first one, but it was so hot that she burned her mouth.  She tasted the second one, but it was so cold that it sent electric shocks down her cavity fillings.  Then she tasted the third one and it was just right.  So she ate the whole bowl.  “I wonder whose house this is,” she said to herself.  “They make great porridge.”

With her full stomach, Goldilocks began searching for a place to sit down.  She found three chairs in the living room.  She sat in the first one, but it was too hard.  She sat in the second one, but it was too soft.  She sat in the third one, and it was just right until she realized that she was too heavy for it.  By that time, though, it was already too late and she had broken through the chair and landed on the floor.  “This house could use a few renovations,” she thought.

She decided to go upstairs and look for a bed.  All at once, she had a horrible thought.  “What if they’re upstairs?”  She called out, “Is anyone home?”  There was no answer.

Goldilocks found the bedroom, and after trying all of the beds, (too hard, too soft, just right) she fell fast asleep.  An hour later she awoke only to find three brown fuzzy bear faces looking sternly down at her.  “This must be the one,” growled the biggest one.  They looked at each other and nodded, then as if on cue, they roared as loud as they could.  Goldilocks bolted out of bed and raced out of the house.

The next morning, there was a knock at the door.  Papa Bear opened it to find Goldilocks on his step with a strange man in a suit and carrying a briefcase.  “Who are you?” asked Papa Bear.

“The name is S. F. H. Scunque, attorney-at-law.  Here’s my card.  I’m here on behalf of Goldilocks.  She has asked me to represent her in a lawsuit on the grounds of personal injury, harassment, and emotional duress.  Here are your papers.”

The lawyer left with Goldilocks.  The bears went back inside to call their own lawyer.  They filed a counter lawsuit on the grounds of trespassing and destruction of private property. 

After a few months, when the flurry of paperwork flying between the two attorney’s offices had settled, they all met in court.  Goldilocks was wearing a bandage on her tongue where she had burned it on the porridge, a back-brace (she had jarred her back falling through the chair), and she had one ankle wrapped from spraining it while she ran away.  The bears’ charges did not hold up in court, unfortunately, because they had not had a “No Trespassing” sign on their property at the time, and also because a state certified psychologist had stated that Goldilock’s actions were merely responses to traumatic events she had gone through as a child. 

It had the makings of a successful frivolous lawsuit until the bears brought in their own psychologist who declared Goldilocks to be insane on the grounds that she liked porridge.  (What kind of child likes porridge?)  Then the judge found Goldilocks in contempt of court for lying under oath.  (No one with a burned tongue has to wear a bandage after a few months of recovery time.)  He found in favor of the bears, although their lawsuit had been dropped and no one received any compensation.  Goldilocks appealed with a new count of unsafe living premises against the bears.  The county and state building inspectors were sent to the bears’ house where they inspected it and declared it safe by state and county standards.  (Although they did confiscate the broken chair as a health hazard.) 

When the dust had finally settled, the bears were happy (except for baby bear who didn’t have a chair anymore), the lawyers were very happy, and Goldilocks was forced to use her college savings to pay off court expenses.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by whimsicalfaery on deviantART
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thursday, 10 October 2013

my favourite tv

What are you watching at the moment?

The Wrong Mans: Episode 1 Trailer - BBC Two - YouTube

What's the most popular comedy series ever on British TV?

Skyscream2 and Gymm0's Top 20 Fawlty Towers Moments Part 3.wmv - YouTube

In a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted by industry professionals, Fawlty Towers was named the best British television series of all time.[1]
Fawlty Towers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Can simply watching TV help you learn English?

How helpful is watching TV/movies for learning a foreign language?
6 Tips for Learning a New Language - Wanderlust and Lipstick - Wanderlust and Lipstick
Can TV can help you learn another language? | Literacy, Languages and Leadership
techniques - Is it possible to learn foreign languages effectively by watching tv series? - Personal Productivity Stack Exchange

Why You Will Never Learn a Foreign Language from TV

By , 3/22/2011 at 12:59 pm
The prevailing wisdom seems to be that one of the best ways to get started learning a foreign language is to watch TV or movies in that language.  “If you just keep watching,” say many language wonks, then you’ll eventually start to “pick it up.”  This can’t be further from the truth.
Listening to entire conversations or plots in a foreign language, without having some significant language skills as a base, fails to provide an anchor for your learning.  The result is hearing a string of gibberish from which little or no actual learning takes place.  To achieve real learning, according to Krashen’s “Input Hypothesis”, the learner must be incrementally exposed to phrases that are just beyond her level of comprehension.  (Krashen defines this concept as k+ 1.)  This is the equivalent of hearing a sentence in which all words or grammatical concepts are familiar except for just one.
In other words, unless you are watching foreign language cartoons directed at 2 year-olds, chances are that your random TV sessions are not exposing you to the language nearly as incrementally as your brain needs it.
Why You Will Never Learn a Foreign Language from TV | The Brainscape Blog: Learn How to Learn Faster

the british class system

Do you know this TV series?

Upstairs Downstairs-Series 1-Episode 4 (The Path Of Duty) - YouTube

But you must know this one:

Downton Abbey Series 4 trailer, ITV - YouTube

Does a narrow social elite run the country?

Eton pupil
BBC News - Does a narrow social elite run the country?
Eton eternal: How one school came to dominate public life

The Eton irrelevance

“ARROGANT posh boys”.

Politics and class: The Eton irrelevance | The Economist