Thursday, 22 January 2015

My Dad

Three days ago my Dad died.

He was a major force in my educational history, so I'm going to share a few things with you concerning how he inspired me.

He believed passionately in lifelong learning. When his eyesight failed him, he read audio books and when his hearing failed him he read audio books AT HIGH VOLUME. He never stopped taking in new knowledge.

When I told him I was considering applying for university at the age of 27 he said, "about bloody time!" He could have said 'play safe and keep your job', but he didn't.

He also believed that nothing's worth doing if it's easy. When I was at uni this phrase drove me nuts. WHY COULDN'T IT BE EASY??? He'd shrug and say, 'because then anyone could do it'.

I hope you have someone who encourages, provokes, inspires or supports you. I'll be back at uni next week so if you want a lend of any of my Dad's words of encouragement you've only to ask.

I know he'd have liked that.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Do you feel like a student yet?

How do you become a student?

Sign up to a course? Well that's the first step but fundamentally that means you've completed some basic admin. I don't think that makes you a student.

How about attend some lectures? Well you can be in a room and learn next to nothing if you're not engaged. Attending lectures could mean you've managed to read your timetable-it doesn't make you a student.

Write assignments? I suppose that's part of it, but you can probably pass things with the minimum effort. I've passed things without learning much of note. It didn't make me a student.

Here's what I think - students are created from a desire to learn new things, to test the parameters of our own understanding and to take pleasure in the slow revealing of new knowledge. That isn't always straightforward, in fact it's often the exact opposite. We don't like uncertainty or feeling out of our depth. Well guess what? That's part of becoming a student too. It shouldn't be easy.

We have all at some point read academic material that we haven't understood but persevered nevertheless. That's how you become a student.

We have all juggled the academic and the personal and somehow managed both areas. That's how you become a student.

We have all regretted starting something but refused to give in. That's how you become a student.

But eventually, slowly, through progress that sometimes feels like root canal treatment, you increase your understanding.

And one day you wake up with a working knowledge of your topic and enough confidence to tell other people about what you know. Guess what? At that point you're a student.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Jobs for Christmas.

Here is my suggested list of academic activities for you to engage in over the holiday...

1) Read some book chapters and journals for upcoming assignments.

2) Engage with some academic texts and make some notes on what you've remembered.

3) Open some of the tomes in the library and look at the words which make up the sentences.
Then record some of these sentences.

4) Find some academic literature from your chosen subject; then look at it.

5) Find publication, peruse publication.

6) Locate text, conduct scrutiny of pages.

Got the message yet?!?! Good!

I wish you all a relaxing and warm break (punctuated by some reading, maybe?) and I'll see you again in January. My last day is tomorrow (Tuesday) and I won't be going near social media over Christmas so hopefully you'll be fine.

Much love and a successful 2015 to you all.


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The What, Why and How of Podcasts

It's easier than it's ever been to make information come to you.
Missed a TV show? Just use catch-up or on demand services.
Missed a gig? Someone will have recorded it and put it online.

Very little media is now gone forever and radio shows can be caught up with via Soundcloud or Podcasts.

This post is just looking at Podcasts and how you can use and reference them effectively.
You can find Podcasts in every corner of the web and if you're unsure of what they actually are then it's simply a digital recording of a radio show which is converted into an MP3 format, so it can easily be downloaded. Podcasting is easy and all you need is a mic and a web-enabled device.

There's a lot of Podcasts out there (both on itunes and elsewhere)  that are certainly broadly relevant to the social sciences so you'll need to explore, but I'm going to suggest five specific Casts that I think are worth a listen.

1) Thinking Allowed is a Podcast covering the Sociology radio show on radio 4.

2) Digital Human is a show debating different psychological/sociological aspects of our relationship with the Web.

3) British Psychological Society (BPS) Podcasts page is a list of psychology-related programmes, some of which cover topics of interest to anyone studying criminology, child-related topics or mental health.

4) More or Less is a good listen for anyone trying to get their head around statistics and research-it's much more interesting than it sounds!

5) Podology is a general resource for sociological-related Podcasts. It's a bit of a mixed bag, but certainly worth an explore.

Finally, remember you can reference Podcasts. If you need help with that bit then use your unit handbook or contact me and I'll show you the format.

Happy listening.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Kate Tempest, subjectivity and truth and the need for more rap on this blog

As part of my critical thinking lecture I like to have a debate with you on what counts as truth or fact.
One of the reasons this is fun is because it's never the same twice. I can never tell which bit is going to rile people and which bit is going to go unchallenged. This week it was about whether countries (specifically Spain!) exist in any 'factual' sense. The idea that countries change borders, languages and populations to me suggests that countries are as transient as individual lives. Borders are often arbitrarily drawn up by third parties, as in the case of India and Pakistan. 

Anyway. In other news, I've been listening to the Kate Tempest LP a lot these past weeks (she should have won the Mercury prize this year...) and it's currently my 5th favourite LP of the year. These things matter. 

There's a track on it called The Truth which features these lines: 

"Whose truth even counts?

Is it the person who doubts

What a person proclaims they're about?

Whose version is perfect?

Is there a truth that exists

Outside of perception?

This is the question".

I love that. Clearly, I need to include more lyrics to illustrate my points. 
Expect a Coldplay song at some point in the future to illustrate how we're all doomed...

One final thing; it's also a bit sweary at one point so don't play if you're likely to be offended.


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Critical Thinking

Tomorrow I'll be seeing some of you for a lecture on critical thinking.
So in addition to the oh-so-lucky ones who are attending, I thought I'd give a general explanation as to what critical thinking is.

Put simply, it's about questioning everything and not assuming facts are unchanging. Because they're not.
Facts are transient, like opinions, countries, people and theories. So that's what tomorrow will partly be about. It'll also touch on how you can pick apart theories and research too. This is a tremendous skill to have in readiness for your dissertation, because the option to be more refined in your selection of materials is key in final year.

We have loads of books (both electronic and paper) which cover the skills required to be a critical thinker. The e-book I'd recommend as a starting point is this one by Aveyard but there's plenty of others on the shelves.

One more thing.
Any of you who've had sessions with me previously will know that I'm interested in engaging with you. Not just talking at you but having a proper two-way conversation. Tomorrow will be no different. However, there are times to speak and times to stay quiet and listen and I've recently been involved in conversations between students and lecturers on the thorny issue of classroom disruption.

In my lectures and training sessions you get one chance. If you continue to talk over me, use your phone or disrupt others I will ask you to leave. My time with students is too precious to be wasted.

That aside, I'm hoping that the lecture will confuse, bemuse and eventually inform you.

See you tomorrow, second years.