Sunday, 8 November 2009

Living the dream


This article is a continuation of the process I'm going through of achieving my dreams. Some parts of this process I want to share on blogger partly as a record and partly as a way of getting support and advice. The essence is that I'm spending these years learning more about how to live the dream I want in a sustainable way. by recording and sharing this I get to help others and learn from them.

At the end I'll have a load of documents and concepts I can easily repurpose. I'll just have a whole load of high quality content I've built over time that I can then use to pass on the knowledge I've gained.

A simple summary of what I want to do is to combine the disciplines of sports science (human performance) with artificial life to provide models and simulations and eventually games where people can explore and learn what their body has to offer and how to use it well. A playground where you can make all the mistakes you want and figure out a lifestyle that will make you strong

I'm on a personal journey figuring out how to live life in balance. How to eat really tasty enjoyable food that's also good for me. Being really active yet having time for the quieter things in life. I don't think anything I've read or heard answers all the questions that I have about how to do all this. How to live the life I want to live and have the health and fun I really want.

My a levels and degree were the formal part of my search but I've been following this learning curve all my life. Now we have the internet I want to begin recording and sharing what I learn.
I've always held the view that humans are designed to learn. It's in our blood. It's why we're so successful. When designing tools to make learning easier I feel that learning and teaching is about humans first, technology second

There are lots of areas I'll cover but I'll start with an older article I wrote about what factors make us kick the bucket? I'm glad I wrote it because it gives context to my belief that our mind body and soul need activity and that in understanding our bodies better we'll then figure out how to evolve our lives to suit the current ecosystem, environment and climate in which we live. In finding facts from correlations I take this further to suggest that finding the balance in life to all the things we have control over is what will ultimately keep us happy and healthy.
I believe strongly that The way you think defines what you will achieve. Thus the way you think people learn defines the way you will teach. I believe that we are built to learn. I was excited to find Sugata Mitra, has shown that kids can teach themselves. So if we're born to learn surely we just need to find out how to facilitate this with all the new technology and knowledge that's around.

I also subscribe to the idea that pictures paint a thousand words. To take this further, video often paints a thousand pictures. Almost literally if you consider frame rate for a ten minute video. So I was really excited when I came across a site full of medical animations through http://www.osteoporosis.net/osteoporosis-2.html. I think they're all free to view and pass around. If so I definitely want to check out more.

To take this even further we must consider that you can only consume words on a page, view images and watch a video. You can't really interact with these mediums. You can't test theories and ideas and explore boundaries. You can learn about theory but you can't put it into practice. Until now you had to go elsewhere. Recent technology such as computer games use words, images and video throughout but also offer the chance to interact and experience the theories in context instantly. They foster experimentation and exploration of concepts and enable a greater more detailed understanding that can be personalised to each individual.

The book got game by beck and wade. Explores the impact gaming and gamers is having on learning right now. I agree with James Gee that computer games can teach schools some lessons. I'm passionate about Innovation in learning. What I'm pushing for is using new technology to make learning more intuititive and personalised. to get the teacher back to being a mentor that understands how to help the student achieve the learning they need. Working on a computer helpdesk I didn't know all the software I supported very well but I was always able to connect the caller with a solution that helped them achieve what they needed. That's how humans and their tools can work in harmony. Our tools have simply grown in all areas. so our relationship with them should adjust. My preference is for the humans to do what they enjoy most. Mainly see learning and teaching as a conversation. The tools take care of the bureaucracy.

The technology can now deliver richer concepts and experiences with consistently high standards. It can also personalise the experience to each user.

My philosophy is that living a healthy life is about survival of the fittest. My point is that in the 60's we were all a lot fitter. We ate slightly more aswell. That''s what stats from most large studies will tell you and also what is pretty obvious. How many people bike/walk to work any more. Were elevators and lifts so common in the 60's. Did everyone stay inside and watch tv. We;'ve just got a lot more distractions and conveniences that don't require much effort. If we're already eating less than we used to then if we continue to eat even less, which is what's always encouraged, then we'll just not get enough vitamins and minerals. If we're more active then we can eat a bit more and still even manage to lose weight. We just need to have fun ways to be active that compete well with all the other distractions that are out there.

Another missed benefit of being active is that it keeps us prepared for daily challenges and

I also notice that western society really embraces the ideal of pushing yourself to the limit. Live fast, die young. That's why we've achieved so much. In pushing ourselves too far. do we do irreparable harm? I wonder whether this mentality underpins the alarming rise in health problems we seem to face. I can't fail to notice that the lifestyles that don't have such problems with heart disease and cancer such as france (the french paradox) and Mediterranean countries also seem to embrace relaxation and taking your time as a way of life. Achieving what you can achieve. In essence they give themselves time to recover.

Taking this further I've begun to see that evolution is everywhere. We assume that evolution applies only to nature yet I see its principles playing out all around us. So I wonder whether we can learn about natures evolution from the evolution that we're creating.

Another aspect is the idea that all aspects of ageing are inevitable. What we're slowly finding is that we have a lot more control over how we age than we though. One article that caught my eye explains research that implied our dna blueprint doesn't change too much when we get older. Basically if our basic blueprint doesn't change then we should still be able to be fit like we used to. Of course we won't achieve the same heights but there are many examples of seniors people exceeding the fitness of those half their age. This is research to back it up.

I also came across a story about a village fisherman which puts some of this into perspective.

Being a software developer I like to take information and make it useful. So I've been looking into tools to help gather information and make it accessible. And I also believe that If you're going to do good science, release the computer code too. When it comes to health I can't find any basic processes such as the krebs cycle that have been modelled using software and then made public through open source. The basic processes behind our bodies are well understood and documented. Why haven't these patterns and concepts been transformed into computer models that anyone can interact with and explore? This is public knowledge that can help us all understand ourselves in more depth yet it isn't prioritised.

The challenge that's on my mind right now is: How do I grow my own food in a garden used to exercise our dog?
I'm not interested in growing all my own food. Just as much as is practical. I've been thinking for a while about creating a small vegetable patch. Right now we're lucky because we have a plum tree at the end of the garden that produces lots of plums each year. The problem is that most of the plums contain maggots so they're not very appetising. I'd rather find a natural solution to this than use pesticides. I also need something that my dog isn't going to chew or run into. Another problem is that my wife can't stand wasps so I can't use anything that attracts them.

Kind of a tall order but that's the point I like a challenge and I believe in fitting solutions to our lifestyle, not the other way around. The advantage would be that every year I get a bunch of free plums and get to try lots of different plum recipes.

So if anyone has any ideas then please comment. I'm guessing the maggots come from flies so I might look into something that will eat the flies before they lay their eggs. Not sure if that's the right angle though.

You'll notice that a large part of what I'm trying to do is evolve the process of teaching. to make it a experience of personal discovery where you are in control. I found a recent post by Jeff Jarvis explaining that current educational approaches are designed for an age of consumption and factories. New technology is opening up opportunities for greater interaction between teacher and learner. Encouraging more collaboration and communication and ultimately bringing more of the human elemnts back into learning. For example you could begin assessing what students don't know, their biggest weaknesses and helping them work on those to balance their knowledge. rather than just finding out what they do know.

There is so much to learn about our bodies that we need faster, more enjoyable and more personalisable approaches to learning to ensure the messages get through and are understood.

Another question I'd like to address is where is lifelong learning? I see opportunities all the time where this could be implemented at little cost and huge benefit but the need and benefits just don't get appreciated.

Debating and discussing are fundamental aspects of learning and teaching. I don't believe that you should accept everything you are told or read. You should learn who to trust, what theories and concepts hold water. The only way to do this is to understand debating and understand that much of what you learn is part of a wider discussion. Understanding the context it has within the discussion, strengths and weaknesses of any material or concept help you decide whether you consider it a truth. Each person must make their decision what they consider a truth. I heard of a concept named 'Teaching naked' which takes a different spin on technology. The tech is used to help students prepare for each lesson. Giving interactive games, podcasts etc for each student to take advantage of. The lesson is a discussion where the knowledge and concepts each student has learnt are put to the test in debate. The teacher facilitating the discussion. Helping the class through their analysis and debate.

This is why I want to create learning objects that encourage interaction, exploration and experimentation. I want to show that everything has multiple angles at which it can be viewed and I want to encourage reasoned debate. Software is wonderful for bringing principles to life and freeing up your creative potential to exploring these truths.

I've just published my first idea for modelling nutrition. Have so many related to this I don't know why I haven't published them before.
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