When coding and kids collide graphic
October 27th, 2017 by Suze

The further I delve into the world of web design and development, the more I realise that coding really has a lot in common with parenting.

Technological tantrums

  • For starters, the tantrum the console throws up if you miss off a semi-colon is tantamount to the four-year-old’s melt-down over the wrong juice in the wrong-coloured cup.

Coding capitals

  • Who would have thought a simple capital letter could throw hours of work into disarray. It is cannily similar to the mess made by the children in their bedroom in the two minutes you have your back to them as you sort the wardrobe.

Order, order

  • And while we are on the subject of tidying and order, the mere-ist hint of code popped in the wrong place renders your project useless. Not unlike the loss of a favourite toy, that was definitely put on the kitchen table and nowhere else, with an added refusal for the day to remain on hold until it is found.

Issued instructions

  • Then there’s the database that refuses to log the data. You have been through that code with a fine-toothed comb. Even your tutor can’t find a error. But it refuses to listen to you and will not do as it is told. Strikingly similar to the small child who refuses to hear, that’s if he listens at all.

Little Mr Matching

  • Meanwhile, trying to choose the correct shade of blue for a header and match it with the right font, for just the right look, is reminiscent of Mini Cooper 2’s inability to leave the house without his hat matching his shoes.

Art is in the detail

I love coding for its detail. I love how powerful a simple line of code can be. But in the same breath the frustration and relentless refreshing gets repetitive and tiresome pretty quickly. I love every bit of every child. I love the way they each see the world in a different way. But in the same thought I could sometimes do with 10 minutes where I am not answering a question, listening to a whiny complaint and, dare I say, a couple of hours uninterrupted sleep.

Learning as you go along

No one said learning would be easy. No one said parenting would be easy. Joining the two together seems like craziness. Welcome to my mad, Mad world.

A photograph of the Cooper family

 

Read my earlier post about learning to code – Studying Javascript: Well, how did I get here?

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Posted in Studying, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Web Design Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Points Facebook photo
October 20th, 2017 by Suze

What does going to school have in common with Leysdown seafront? The idea that points win prizes it would seem. I say this as the mum of a child with 1130 house points accumulated in just five weeks. No, I am not proud. I am angry.

mum with quote about house points being like seaside tokensLet me take you back to the 80s when I attended primary school. There were four houses; York, Balmoral, Richmond and Gloucester. I was in York. I was proud to be in York. I might get one house point every couple of weeks. Maybe I had opened a door for a teacher without being asked or had really excelled in a piece of work. There were extra opportunities for earning house points on occasions such as sports day or by being a teacher’s helper at lunchtime. Getting a house point felt like owning a piece of gold and I would colour in the square on the sheet in the classroom with pride as I watched my house points accumulate alongside others.

At the end of the term the house with the most points throughout the school was awarded four points, the third, three, the second, two and those in last place, one house point. These were added to the main chart in the hall for all to see. At the end of the year the house with the most points won the house point trophy and the house captain went up to receive it in assembly on behalf of their house. I am hoping this sounds familiar to some of you.

21st Century house points

Scoot back to 2017 and now it’s all about how many house points you need in exchange for a building set, cinema ticket or afternoon tea with the head teacher. And we are talking big numbers. Hundreds and hundreds of house points needed. But that’s ok, because just doing your homework will earn you 20 points. Putting your hand up in class, five points.

It makes me wonder where the time is to teach the children if the teachers are dishing out house points every time a pupil breathes in or out successfully.

Beyond the points, there seem to be countless other motivational incentives. In a world where we can’t have winners or losers at sports day, it is beyond me why we can dish out pupil of the week, top table, stars in their eyes, spelling star and a prize for the kid at the top of maths mountain. Don’t even get me started on 100% attendance (No don’t, I tried to include that here…it has taken on a life of its own for another post!).

Scream time

Then there’s carrots on sticks. And this is where the materialistic nature of these incentives has taken an astounding turn. Currently, my son informs me, if he gets all his spellings right this term, he will be put into a prize draw with other children from local schools to win…. a digital reading device akin to a Kindle. That’s right people. A couple of hundred pounds worth of tech that to be quite honest I would rather my son didn’t own. This is wrong for several reasons…

  1. The odds of Mini Cooper 1 winning are slim considering how many kids will be in the ballot.
  2. He doesn’t understand this.
  3. He believes he will win.
  4. When he doesn’t win – he still wants a tablet.
  5. We aren’t going to buy him one.

Meme asking the question 'what happens if parents decline high-tech prize' from school incentive schemeIf he has a tablet at the tender age of 7, the four year old is going to start on about when does he get one and slowly but surely the screen-free buffer zone becomes less. I may as well buy 10 month old Mini Cooper 3 her own iPhone now.

Pointless

While I am on the subject of screens, these house points have to be banked. Not by picking up the nearest half decent yellow felt tipped pen as in my day, oh no. This is the era of online reward points. There is a website dedicated to storing the house points.

The kids log in, they tap in the 16 digit code on the house point voucher that has been screwed up in their pocket all day and it adds the points to their total. They are supposed to put in the reason why they were given the points. Mini Cooper 1 can never remember (so clearly there’s an incentive working right there yeah?!) They can check how many they have against their classmates. There are class leaderboards, year leaderboards, school leaderboards (no gold medals at sports day remember). It’s a joke.

My son sits for 20 minutes trying to remember his password, then I sit for 20 minutes reading out digits on slips of paper for points he doesn’t even remember why he was given. Meanwhile Mini Cooper 2 could do with some help with his reading book (an actual book) and Mini Cooper 3 has given up learning to clap and gone to sleep

Flawed rewards

I will admit I have been of the parenting camp against reward charts. I did not want the children to do something just because they would get a reward. I will also admit that when it came to trying to get a decent night’s sleep, we relented and created our own sleep charts complete with stickers chosen by the boys. I will also say, they worked… for a while. I say that, because after a few nights of getting stickers for staying in bed Mini Cooper 1 decided he would fill the chart with stickers for just about any reason he could think of. Suffice to say, the reward/response link didn’t really work for him there.

So, who are all these incentives really for? Let’s face it the schools are going to a lot of effort to put these systems in place, build them up and sustain them. When we boil it down it’s all about educational targets. Getting the children to achieve so the school isn’t seen to be failing by the all-seeing eye of Ofsted. The children don’t care about Ofsted. The children care about which little toy they might get if their name is called for top table on Friday. The children care about why they weren’t Star of the Week when they tried so hard with their reading. The children care about what they will be given in return for doing something. Our target-driven educational system is promoting the 21st Century materialistic lifestyle. It isn’t promoting the idea that you might want to learn something purely for the love of learning.

Good enough?

memeAnd while these incentive schemes are building up schools and Ofsted, are they actually building up our little ones? If this is all being done to please The Powers That Be, where are our children learning to please themselves? How do they work out their own threshold for having done well? We live in a world of people who don’t feel ‘good enough’. It’s something to do with expectations and the bar we set for ourselves. Should the system really be motivating children to reach blanket-all targets or would realistic individualised goals be more beneficial? Rewarding achievements that mean something to that one child. Shouldn’t we be focussing on the rewards of self awareness, self motivation, self confidence and self esteem? The effect of any one of which on a young person is certain to last far beyond the plastic stationery set my son can get in exchange for 600 points.

Badge of honour

So, while I am giving these rewards a hard time, I realise there is a place for them in learning. As a student myself I am guilty of chasing the reward (Read more here: “Getting the Bit of Paper“). When I first logged on to the dashboard of the web design course I am currently studying with LearnDirect, I was met with an achievement pie chart and a league table. Further investigation revealed various digital award badges for different achievements; number of days you consecutively log in, number of hours you have studied, number of assignments in on time. Logging in three times in a row before 7am gets you the cutest little early bird icon on your profile, while logging in after 11pm three days on a row wins you the night owl (squeeee!).

Who needs those?

Dashboard screenshotAfter scoffing to DH ‘who do they think they’re kidding, we are adults, I don’t need these silly little games,’ I of course got totally and utterly sucked in and had to earn as many of these digital badges as I possibly could. I currently sit top of the leaderboard (although there’s no explanation as to what I am the leader of; students in the region, country, on my course, the last five people to log in….who knows). That’s not the point, the point is the motivational rewards here have helped me to scoot through the course at the pace I have wanted and, I will admit, have given me little confidence boosts along the way.

So what am I moaning about then? Well, the difference is, I am an adult. I know I am being persuaded and manipulated to get my work done. I understand what incentives are and I already had the self-motivation and the self-confidence needed to learn. My fear is that a child knows none of this and they are being lulled into a short-lived land of bribery and materialism that merely promotes a ‘what are going to give me for that then?’ attitude. It’s education not a seaside sideshow.

Right, I am off to check Mini Cooper 1’s pockets before popping his uniform in the wash. It is no longer the paper hankie that I fear. It is the house point. Those tatty slips of paper turn to reward confetti in the twinkle of an eye. I wonder how many I would need to get a new washing machine or tumble drier?

 

*Thanks to the mums I have quoted along the way here. Read more about what mums think about primary school reward schemes here.

Further reading?

LINKS

Believe me there’s a heap of stuff out there. Here is just a selection of the stuff I have read this week while preparing this blog post…

https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/fryer/files/092011_incentives_fryer_allen_paper2.pdf

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/6833871/School-reward-culture-is-harming-education.html

http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/small-nudges-can-push-students-in-the.html

 

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Posted in Mini Coopers, Studying, Thoughts Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

The wall meme
September 21st, 2017 by Suze

I fear I have hit The Wall.

(Which is a shame as it is trying to be a nice friendly wall, look, it’s even saying hello)

I don’t want to study. I don’t want to do it (cue child-like tantrum). I want it completed and gone. I have to do it. But I don’t want to do it. I am in that love it but hate it space.

Every time I sit at the computer I find 200 other things to do rather than log in to my course. I think I am on study burn out. Half of me wants to log in, plough through and get it done. The other half says it’s sunny outside, the house is a mess, leave it all behind and go and walk through the trees.

This is it. This is the wall.

I have been here before, several times. GCSEs, A-Levels, degree 1 (I actually have no idea how I got through that) and definitely degree 2 (I thought I never wanted to see a book, pen or laptop ever again).

The trouble is I have studied every day since I signed up for this web design course. I have logged on Every.Single.Day. and done something. Reading, assignment question, watch a video. I reaped the benefits in the early days and sped through the course. Now it feels like if  don’t log in every day I won’t get it done. I want to keep uptake momentum but I am running out of steam.

Getting ahead of myself

Learndirect called me the other day. Voicemail: “We can see you are on unit 16. That is due in one the err… on the… 1st of September (pause) 2018…. we would like you to email us to confirm you will make this deadline.”

Well, yes, I am pretty sure that with 345 days to go I am going to make it – thanks.

Or am I. This is the wall.

One of the motivational tools used on the Learndirect dashboard is badge system. For every so many hours of study, you get a badge on your profile. For every early morning study, a badge on your profile. For consecutive day of study… a badge on your profile.

I have the badge for 150 days straight. Here it is…Badge for 150 days consecutive study

 

A (digital) Bit of Paper I had to have. And now I have it. I don’t think there is one for total, loony, crazy lady who is continuing to log on every day and work even though she needs a break. (If there is though – can I have it?)

I want to batter it. I want to code those functions. I want my Javascript form to send data to an email address and I want to create real working things out of numbers and letters and typing and for magic to happen on my screen. But if it’s all so clever why can’t I just download it to my brain?

If only.

This is the wall. I better start climbing it before it crushes me.

 

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