Month: October 2013

A Swiping Generation

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Toddlers are intuitive when it comes to the touch screen. They seem to learn how to use ipads without much instruction. All they have to do is hold them and experiment. But if they become too addicted to these touch screens, do they go through life thinking that there’s a huge invisible screen in front of everything? Do they end up swiping at everything else outside the screen?

If you’ve dealt with children then you’ll know the answer is (amusingly) yes, but can you blame them? Then there is another question that parents need to ask themselves, are these screens even good for their brain development?

In a Psychology today article titled “Is it okay to let your toddler play with the ipad?” Nancy Darling writes, “Child development is optimized when children engage in activities that are cognitively and sensorily stimulating.”

Her argument is that having babies addicted to ipad-screens is simply not good for brain development because screens call for passive attention and provide a very limited sensory environment.

Besides the fact that it could turn a child’s bouncy lifestyle to a sedentary one right from the start of life, what about all  that we learn when we experience life in 3D? And I’m not talking about watching 3D movies as that is not experiencing life in 3D).

What about children learning the physics of gravity and dimensions of objects? Throwing a ball and catching it may help a child develop his motor and coordination skills, and might open his mind to the basics of trajectory.

What if our children never get to write in cursive using a pen because they’re always typing and swiping? Or they never get to know the smell of grass after it rains because they’re always indoors? Or they never feel the joy of finger painting (and the consequent dirtying of flat surfaces) ?

As they grow older they will probably be attached to technology as it infiltrates every aspect of their school and work life. So do we want them to miss out on life experiences right from the start? When do they look up from their screens and learn to rediscover the wonder? 

Ask yourself that question the moment your child reaches out for the ipad.


Developing Reflective Thinking as a Habit

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To some people reflective thinking comes naturally. It involves thinking deeply about something that has happened in their life, seeing what worked, what didn’t, and what needs improvement. Reflective thinking is a thinking process that is necessary in a lot of fields, including research, but how many of us actually use it on a day-to-day basis?

Whenever I think of reflective thinking, the word “diary” comes to mind. It’s the best way to record what you’re thinking about at any specific moment. Besides being a therapeutic tool, a diary can be used as a reflective thinking tool, where you write about a specific incident that happened to you during the day and reflect on it, asking the questions:

1) How did I deal  the situation?

2) What went wrong with the situation?

3) If such a situation would repeat itself in my life, would I have dealt with it differently?

The whole process might sound too scientific that it borders on boring. So maybe you can be creative about the way you ask yourself things like: if my ‘goody-two-shoes’ twin existed, would he have faced the situation the same way I did? What about an evil twin? Be creative.

Reflective thinking need to include failures, because let’s admit it, we all fail at something. It’s like Rowling said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously- in which case, you fail by default.” And I’ve spoken about a Failure Journal in a previous post in which the author wrote whenever they got a rejection because they understood that the more rejections they got, the closer they were to achieving their goals. Since we understand that failure plays a crucial role in our lives, reflecting on what has failed and why would help us avoid it the next time around. A lack of reflection would just mean that we might stumble into the same pit twice; the first time might be a mistake, but the second might as well have been a choice. Or it would be like Einstein said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Nowadays a lot of people use their smartphones for pretty much everything so your reflective thinking diary need not be paper-and-pen based. So I leave you with this; try to apply reflective thinking on a regular basis and see how it might transform your life.

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A Different Shade of Blue

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So many bloggers are writing about the beautiful orange of autumn and I’m left disappointed by the lack of orange leaves around. Palm trees are as dark colored as ever, and eucalyptus trees are evergreen. So go figure.When summer rolls over to winter – besides the dip in temperature and humidity – I personally feel a subtle change in how the world looks when I stare out the window. I’m not sure if the sky itself is a different shade of blue or it’s all psychological (i.e. I think it looks different because I know it’s winter) but to me the window might as well be like an Instagram filter and the world just looks a bit different.

And another way we know winter is coming up is when we see winter clothes on the mannequins at the store fronts. Especially those mannequins wearing such heavy jackets that they make it seem like we’re going to have Canada-like winter.

Anyhow since it’s the first time my brother is in Kenya for autumn, I asked him about how autumn looks over there and he said, “You should have seen Nairobi…Green trees with purple flowers. I was mesmerized.”

“Where are the pics?” I asked. “I don’t want mesmerized.”

“Didn’t take them when there…As I said, I was mesmerized. Too mesmerized to take a snapshot.”

So of course, curiosity sent me to Instagram, and before long I found out what trees he was talking about; the jacaranda.

So I guess that’s it for today. How does autumn look like in your part of the world?

How Random Is Random?

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Have you ever been stopped in a country like Kenya for a car insurance check ‘randomly’ only for the police officer to ask for TKK since your insurance is 2 days past expiration. Ever wondered if their ‘random’ is a function of the car size since they assume the bigger the car, the more money the driver would be willing to pay? Have you ever wondered how random is random?

One thing I learnt last year in a Sampling course is that human beings tend to be biased (consciously or subconsciously). So for instance, if you want to randomly pick tomatoes for analysis, you need to give each tomato a number, and then have a random generating program spew out a random number, and pick the tomato connected to that number.

But if you look more into it you will discover that even those random-generating algorithms are actually known as pseudo-random-generating algorithms, because the numbers they give out appears random to you but they’re not random per se. Basically, knowing the algorithm will help you predict what the next number would be.

The only way a true random generating algorithm can be produced is if it is connected to a sensor that measures a random event taking place in nature like radioactive decay. Yet the process is too complex that most people settle for pseudo-random-generating algorithms.

Another thing about randomness (image b) is that it shouldn’t be confused with evenness (image a in the previous post) .

So if the traffic police does stop you for a ‘random’ check, you could ask them to show you their random generating program to prove it’s random, though I personally do not advice you. Alternatively, just give them a headache by explaining to them about random numbers and teach them not to use the term ‘random’ unless they’re absolutely sure it’s applicable.