Author Archives: DrMahaBroum

Listening to our own voice

These days, we are too busy listening to the world around us that we don’t pay attention to our own voice.  And the world is too noisy!

What do we hear when we listen to the world?

  • Voice of media and commercials: loud music, 24-hr. TV, pop-ups on the net, visuals that encourage us to buy (and feel bad when we don’t), ads that tell us how to look, what to eat, how to dress, violence and wars, terrorism, destruction and fear, etc…
  • Voice of the community (tradition): Things are done in one way “We have always done it this way!” and there is no room for the individual to think wisely for a change for the better.
  • Voice of authority, be it government or religion: “We will tell what is right and what is wrong”. “The others are coming after us to kill us! Be afraid! Here, you take some weapons to defend yourself!”
  • Voice of competition and material success: “To succeed, you must be famous and rich”. It also means paying for media to collect fake awards and recognitions as well as followers on social media.
  • Voice of perfection: The world makes you believe things can be perfect. Not true. Better compete with yourself to improve, and be realistic about getting to be perfect.

Losing yourself is the most painful feeling, while the biggest satisfaction comes from being yourself.

Mindfulness and listening to our own voice is a very courageous act, and for that we need to be ready to be ourselves, a unique person with unique ideas. With the essence of humanity deep in our soul, we can overcome all threats to achieving our own distinction.

We should trust our own voice. We need to believe in ourselves, in the good in ourselves and in others.

We need to slow down and not do too much to the degree that we don’t have time to sit quietly with our own souls.

We need to find a quiet place to listen to our souls to allow for dreaming and creating. Our inner voice leads our way and recharge us every minute of the day to overcome challenges.

Pray, meditate, dream! There are many routes to tap into ourselves and discover what lies within.

Our voice is who we really are.

Listen to others. BUT do not lose your own voice! “Be yourself”. Don’t allow yourself to be judged by the wrong people and their standards. By those I mean the negative people who doubt you and your abilities to achieve your dream.

The height of wisdom is to “Know yourself” (Greek saying).

History of Time

How Time Became a Stressor

Excerpt from ‘Parenting Under Stress’, Trafford Publishing, by Maha Broum, Ph.D.

We complain there is not enough time in the day. We run late, rush to catch up to our schedules, and have long work days. For tens of thousands of years, people did not have clocks and did not keep time the way we do now. So what happened that we became under the stress and pressure of not having enough time?

In earlier societies that relied on hunting and agriculture, times of the day, months and seasons were defined by reference to astronomical factors such as the sun and the moon. Nomads and farmers measured their days from sunrise to sunset and their year from seedtime to harvest, in terms of the falling leaves or the ice thawing. The measure of time was cyclic, not linear. To the ancient Greek, Chinese, Mexican or Arab, time alternated of day and night, and the passage of season to season. Older devices of measuring time were approximate, inaccurate, and unreliable.

Modern time keeping is linear which adds a year to previous years, ‘thus creating a process of looking at the past and aspiring for a better future…’ The clock dictates a person’s movement and actions, and inhibits other movements. Time keeping turns time from a process of nature to a commodity that is ‘measured, bought and sold like soap’. ‘ Charles Einstein sees that ‘A linear measurement of time is a major source of stress, anxiety, and insecurity and has, as a consequence, the abstract future. When nature provides everything in abundance, there is no need to worry and plan for the future. But modern mentality is time-bound, where we always have to do something to increase our future security. We feel that things are never ok the way they are when life is a struggle for survival. We deeply believe that without the abstractions of future and past there would be no progress. However, progress need not be unnatural and destructive.’

Before the industrial revolution the focus was on completing a task at one’s own pace and time. People were in control of their time and worked irregular hours depending on the task. As long as work was done, things were good. The industrial revolution started a strict measure and discipline of time. Time was regulated as a tool to measure productivity and to pay wages. The goal was to achieve high productivity in the shortest time. Benjamin Franklin said: ‘Time is Money.’

Private ownership of clocks became common in the 17th and 18th centuries. The ‘protestant work ethic’ became associated with this new invention of the clock in Protestant areas in Europe, such as Geneva, Bavaria, the Netherland and England, where people focused on the development of this new tool. Nineteenth century religion and morality made all this ‘productive’ value of time acceptable and moral, and proclaimed ‘wasting time’ a sin. Mass production of clocks made people time conscious, and punctuality is held as the greatest virtue in church, schools and at work. Failing to conform to these ‘moral’ rules has been faced with social disapproval and economic ruin by losing job.

With the development of clocks and the accompanying time discipline, modern communities fell under the tyranny of time and people are now forced to work nine to five or go to school and follow a rigid schedule. Individuals become obsessed with tracking time making use of every minute of the day, and relying on multitasking. People treat their bodies as machines. Currently, it is widely acceptable to have hurried breakfast, to rush and catch the train or bus, to work on schedules and deadlines without paying needed consideration to the digestive and nervous disorders that ruin health and shorten life. The criteria now become quantity rather than quality: ‘More is better’, ‘Faster is better’. The joy is taken out of work where we spend most of our time.

Time measurement accelerates human separation from nature. Dividing the day into units, an artificial process made by human, makes time ‘objective’. In nature, time is not divided equally and the relation between day and night is always changing. Clocks turn time into a standardized part of the world machine to facilitate the engineering of the world. The alarm clock is an intrusion of socio-economic time into their natural sleep cycle.

Another intrusion in the natural body cycle is Daylight Saving Time (DST). Humans want to control nature to their ends and interests. Electricity and artificial lighting ended our dependence on the weather and made daylight insignificant to measuring time. The digital clock that replaced circular clocks obliterated the last remaining link between time and nature.

Industrial societies are time-conscious. North Americans have a future orientation. Tomorrow is more important. We plan events, and plan for our future, we have schedules and appointments, classes, work to hand in, even our favourite show on TV becomes a source of dominance and stress. The clock is supposed to help free people by a smooth running of society, coordinating activities, and reducing unnecessary labour to a minimum. Reality is: The clock dominates us. We become slaves to the clock, especially the alarm clock which wakes us up every morning to rush through life. In fact, quite a few people express their anxiety about getting sick, and believe they can not afford to take a day off work.

Time perception is learned: We teach kids the importance of being on time to fit in society. What we are doing is teaching our kids how to be slaves to time. ‘Every child learns a time perspective that is appropriate to the values and needs of his society.’ (Guerrero, DeVito, & Hect, 1999) In his book, ‘The Ascent of Humanity’, Charles Einstein says:

“Not only do we make ourselves slaves to schedules, but also our kids who live life according to others’ plans. In modern society we are too busy to do anything self-fulfilling, to do anything we like or dream of, to spend an hour looking at the cloud, or play with kids, to be human. There is a widespread anxiety in modern societies that there is not enough time. We must do something useful every minute of the day, and be productive. We cannot afford to be sick or to have leisure time. The expectation is that we need to exercise more control over the world to enhance comfort and survival. We schedule leisure with other commitments and thus lost our primal right to our own time.”

Einstein adds: “The pace of modern life continues to accelerate, and we extend this regimen to our kids starting with the hospital visit of the newborn. Children’s days are endless with scheduled school and busy afternoons with programmed activities; children are too busy to play. The reason comes down to survival anxiety. Play is luxury, frivolity left to fill in a gap within productive, educational, and developmental activities. The competitive demands of adulthood dictate that no minute is wasted in play when this time can be used preparing for the future. We think that play is time off, so we train kids to learn good study habits, good work ethics. We raise our voice because of time pressure and when they do not cooperate.”

We do not believe that play is good or important. We think it is only for the lucky few, the artists and geniuses who get to do what they love. The fact is: genius is the result of doing what you love. Discovering what you love is a very important issue, and childhood is just the time to discover it.

We always think we do not have time until it becomes a habit of thought and a way of being. Children resist scheduling, and to conform, parents use force. Children want to do what they like to do as long as it takes, but we are in a hurry, lose our patience and temper and raise our voice. When we slow down, we do not yell at our children any more.

The busy-ness of modern life is one of its defining features. In an effort to deal with the stress of time, people are taking courses in time management. In fact, the history of time management started with the industrial revolution with industrialists managing their workers’ time. Now we manage our time thinking we are in control but it is social perceptions of time that control our lifestyle and push us to manage time without wasting a minute. People also resort to multitasking as another tool to cope with the rush, but it has been proven to be extremely unhealthy. Stanford researchers have found that those who usually engage in multitasking exhibit cognitive deficits, are less productive and have trouble focusing on just one single task, often thinking about the task that they have left.

Being aware of the development of the concept of time leads to better quality of life and more enjoyable journey!

Twelve things parents do that unintentionally hurt kids

  1. Not letting them fail…
  2. Doing everything for them
  3. Giving them everything they ask for
  4. Over-structuring their day … Rushing them through activities and not allowing for reflection time
  5. Telling the kids to do something such as take care of themselves and not being a good model for their kids to follow…
  6. Not allowing for free play
  7. Comparing them to others
  8. Dressing them in label clothes
  9. Telling them what they will be in the future
  10. Giving them no or too many responsibilities
  11. Complaining in front of them
  12. Complaining about them to their friends

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the awareness that comes when we pay attention to ourselves and to our surrounding in the present moment. We are not stuck to the past and have no previous thought on how we perceive a person, a situation or an activity. We are not stuck to the future either and worried about what it might bring of disasters. Contrary to what many may think, it is about NOT LIVING IN OUR THOUGHTS all the time.

Awareness means paying attention to where we are, what we are doing or who we are with. So it does not advocate for multitasking. It is being focused on one thing right here, right now. Mindfulness wakes us up in the moment. If we are not fully present in the moment, we may miss on happiness waiting for it to arrive to our life in the future. NOW is the most valuable moment in our lives.

Research has shown that practicing mindfulness has its great benefits:
1. Mindfulness quiets the mind when we are worried and reduces stress.
2. It boosts our ability to concentrate with clarity and improves listening ability.
3. It allows us to cope with life challenges and fast-paced lifestyle.
4. We are in better control of our emotions, words and actions and thus improves relationships in the family, community and at work.
5. When mindful, we can take criticism and objections positively.
6. Mindfulness improves our chances of success because it enhances creativity, memory and problem solving skills. It gives us the ability to make better decisions with clarity.
7. Mindfulness results in better health and better quality of life.

Mindfulness can be nurtured through attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery, and creation of positive mental habits. Mindfulness training has been embraced by companies and by a number of individuals, including surgeons, musicians, military personnel, lawyers, and financial advisors. Perhaps it is time to take it seriously in our life and profession.
In the fast-paced life of today how can we nurture mindfulness?
1. Practice breathing. All we need is to sit still and observe our breath as it goes in and out of our lungs, without changing our breathing. The breath reminds us to tune into our body for a few moments. This allows us to be more aware of our thoughts and feelings with a greater degree of calmness and a smarter eye.
2. Mentally scan each part of the body as we take deep breath.
3. Slow down and spend time in nature.
4. Establish mindfulness triggers associated with any recurring events during our day.
5. Eliminate needless rush.

 

Conference 2.0

Conference 2.0 

Conference 2.0 is a natural product of the digital revolution and its impact on teaching/learning and on professional development. With the rise of alternative online learning and of personal learning environments within school and university settings, new models continue to emerge in education. 

Similar to professional learning communities (PLCs), where professionals work collaboratively within a particular work environment or field, Conference 2.0 is a professional development and growth community that extends beyond the one work environment and the one school to a larger community to share with and learn from other schools and educational professionals and leaders.

While the traditional Conference 1.0 views the purpose of the conference is to transfer knowledge from the learned elite to the relatively untrained, within a structure of keynote speakers, panels and presentations, Conference 2.0 focuses on the sharing of a vast body of knowledge and wide experience brought to the conference by attendees eager to discuss sweeping changes and pressing issues, and learn from peers. Through interaction, the purpose of the Conference 2.0 is a meaningful experience that provides a trusting environment for the long-term professional development.

 In Conference 2.0, there are a few or no presentations, and no program or schedule of activities ahead of the conference day. Attendees determine the topics to be discussed at the event in small groups where there is no distinction between a speaker and a learner. Everyone actively contributes to the session which may well be a workshop. Sessions are not long in order to provide face-to-face networking opportunities.

 The new model of conferences will prove its advantages. Successful Conference 2.0 will require a shift in the leadership role from leader-centered to shared leadership, a must in the near future for education. Conference 2.0 is gaining a great deal of acceptance and popularity among professionals in all fields, especially in the field of education. 

 As an educational leader, are you ready to lead the shift?

Skills and Attitudes our Children are Missing

I want to share with you skills our kids are missing, and would love to hear back whether you agree, disagree or add to the list.

  •  Social skills: Face-to-face conversation and etiquette
  • Cursive writing
  • Memorization
  • Meditation and alone-time skills
  • Nature and outdoor skills
  • Study skills
  • Crafts and creative art
  • Money management and budgeting
  • Mind math
  • Preparing a family dinner: planning, cooking, cleaning up after the meal
  • Time management
  • Alternative healing from home kitchen
  • How to tidy up their room, clean it, do the laundry and fold it
  • How to wash and clean their body
  • Care for children, pets and garden
  • Iron clothes
  • Fix clothes like fixing a button or hemming
  • Wrap presents
  • Good manners like tone of voice, how to sit, knock a door or ask a question.
  • Building healthy relationships
  • Concentration skills
  • Romancing skills: taking the time to show true emotions

 

Attitudes our kids are missing:

  • Commitment to people: family, friends and neighbours
  • Respect of elders and proper addressing of people
  • Family values
  • Willingness to compromise
  • Good work ethics vs. fake success
  • Nature appreciation
  • Waiting through a process vs. instantaneous (delayed gratification)

 Do you think these skills and attitudes are obsolete and useless or do our children still need it?

Democracy in Education

 

People were born equal, but with the advancement of civilization there has been less and less equality and less and less justice.  When it does not consider individual differences, equality can be violent.

 I am searching for the meaning of democracy in education as it applies to our present times. Classical meaning of the word as equality does not apply anymore, and a new meaning is emerging but seems to be challenged by a very rigid system of schooling.

 The origins of the classic concept of equality and democracy in education stem from three major philosophers whose thought has left its mark on education.

 Plato:

In his ‘Utopia’, Plato presented the first model of state education that stressed obedience and uniformity especially from people who lack wisdom and intelligence. Plato believed that very few people have the intellectual power and moral perseverance to know absolute truths and apply them in life. While the good society is governed by wise people, ordinary people will be busy producing and consuming ordinary goods and services.

Plato did not believe in democracy and was opposed to it because in his view it leads to chaos in society. He saw the individual is best served if subordinated to a just society.

Education in his view is to train citizens on discipline and obedience to rules. This training is governed by the state.

Martin Luther:

Martin Luther advocated for the modern concept of state education when he called for public schools. He argued that if the state can call citizens for military in time of war, then it can compel its people to send their children to school in the war against evil.

This argument may reflect the spirit of teaching everyone to read the Bible, but some may present a counter argument that it was done in the spirit of controlling the minds and hearts of the people. Martin Luther supported rulers and at the same time asked them to be harsh and severe with ‘evil agents’ who were not ‘Luthern’.

 John Dewey:

John Dewey is considered to be the most significant American educational thinker of his time. Dewey criticized and expanded on the democratic educational philosophies of Rousseau who emphasized the individual, and that of Plato who emphasized the society in which the individual lived. For him democracy meant meaningful activity in learning, student participation in classroom, and students’ involvement in what they were learning. He argued that curriculum should be relevant to students’ past experience and saw learning by doing as crucial to students.

Modern school system is failing a growing number of students whose educational needs are not met and are not prepared to compete in today’s job market. The content is not relevant to students’ lives and it can not be applied in actual life.

Fortunately, I see a big change coming out of new innovations in technology.  New school models are presenting themselves in a manner that takes more consideration of students’ abilities, interests, passions, and needs. Real democracy in education! Teachers and their educational leaders need to understand the new revolution in education to perform their new roles that are greatly different from what they are now!

 

Global literacy: Understanding the World and Our Role in It

As a result of emerging technological, economic, political, and environmental trends, and the increasing ease in communication in the world, it is imperative that all students be globally literate.  Global literacy is an understanding of how the world is organized and the possibilities and constraints facing its peoples.

Globally literate students analyze and think critically about the world and their roles in it. They understand and appreciate global systems, circumstances, and relationships that influence peoples’ lives. Globally literate students create positive change in an increasingly interconnected world.

Global literacy is about participating in an interconnected, complex,  and rapidly changing world through the following activities:
· Promoting problem solving skills across all fields, areas and regions in a holistic approach;
· Developing communication technology skills and learning new languages;
· Participation in increasingly globalized system of business, production and exchange;
· Understanding geopolitical realities around the globe;
· Exercising responsible citizenship locally and globally;
· Encouraging respect for cultural diversity;

Global literacy means helping students understand their roles and responsibilities in an interconnected and rapidly changing world, appreciating the connections, networks, systems, and relationships that affect their lives and their roles in the world. The purpose is to save the environment, human rights and fair practice of trade and production.

Balanced Parenthood

From ‘Parenting under Stress’

Imagine this scenario:

You notice that your son is good at basketball, or maybe he is good at drawing, or interested in science. What would you do?

You would be so flattered and happy, ‘google’ courses and tutors to nurture your son’s interest or skill, and in your mind you think of Shaquille O’Neil, Picasso, or Einstein. Your son protests: “I do not need a tutor!  I just want to play to have fun!”  But you insist on giving him the right training.  You plan everything from registration to scheduling to transportation and supervising then rewarding or consequencing. You think that what you are doing is motivating him but he loses interest and stops doing what he was interested in altogether. You have good intentions and sacrifice your time and energy to make sure your child has the best life. You want him to be happy, healthy, and successful, but by planning his free time you hijack your child’s life and decide for him. You pressure him in school and also after school.

Pushing your children has its advantages when done right. It gives the child a sense of achievement and recognition, builds stamina and hard work ethics, trains children to push and discipline themselves, and shows them that you care. All these benefits are nothing if the child is not interested in the activity you want him to do.  It becomes dangerous when children are pushed harder at an early age before they settle in personality and character.

Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  Yes, you love your child, but love is not enough to child rearing. There is a need for a lot more such as patience, energy and understanding. In parenting, there are difficult questions to answer and situations to respond to. So do you have the patience, energy and understanding? You may say ‘yes’ but reality is different. Because you think too much and are under stress, you snap easily, do not have the needed energy to pay attention to what is happening in your child’s life, and you forget all about child development theories.

A very critical question in parenting rises: How much should I push my child to achieve?  Where do parents draw the line?

There is a fine line to balanced parenthood:  If children are pushed too much, they may rebel or withdraw, and not achieve success, satisfaction, and happiness.  If they are not pushed enough they may be unmotivated and underachieve.  You shelter your children from the realities of the world and keep them under your wings, or encourage them to be independent and take risks to get the best life.  When you do the right thing you raise children who are confident and motivated. A mother bird knows the right time to let its baby bird fly on its own. Any earlier, the baby bird is unprepared to fly and will fall to the ground. Any later, the baby bird would resist leaving the nest.

 

Digital Literacy

Digital Literacy

Literacy is not static but changes with the times. The new technological innovations and tools necessitated literacies that are not limited to the traditional 3Rs, but include new ones: the digital, media and global literacies that build and improve application, socio-cultural, and transformational skills which recognize new ways of seeing and thinking about the world.

Digital literacy is one of the new literacies in our modern times. It is not only the access to digital tools but also to use them effectively in our every day life at the social, career and personal levels. Digital literacy is when people are able to read and interpret text, sounds and images, manipulate and apply data in ways that are appropriate to fulfill their needs, and to communicate a message. 

A digital native is one who was born into the digital age while a digital immigrant refers to one who adopts technology later in life. Being a digital native does not make one digitally literate. Most digital natives today have access to and knowledge about technology but do not know how and when to use it appropriately.

An example of this gap between access to digital tools and the necessary skills to use them appropriately is cyber violence where teens do not know their limits and where to stop abusing their digital access for reasons of having fun, jealousy, racism, sexism, etc…In quite a few cases the result of cyber violence was the victim committing suicide to escape harassment. In many other situations, a person looking for a job will not be considered if he shows ignorance of netiquette and appropriateness of internet use.

Digital Literacy means:

  1. Knowing how to use search engines with all its branching skills such as: being able to find, evaluate, understand and summarize online resources;
  2. Knowing how to use emails and texting;
  3. Knowing how to create videos, write blogs, Photoshop pictures, use PowerPoint in presentations, etc.
  4. Knowing which media is most appropriate to communicate a message;
  5. Knowing the ethical rules of interacting with others on different platforms;
  6. Knowing the ethic behind citing materials without plagiarizing when sharing or citing information;
  7. Knowing the quality and credibility of an online message or text by identifying the author, purpose and point of view;
  8. Knowing how different platforms affect the meaning, audience, and readability of text;
  9. Knowing how to apply knowledge by taking social action individually or with the community to solve problems in the family, workplace and community, and participate as a contributing member of the community; knowing how to apply the new skills to new areas such as to secure employment.
  10. A key digital literacy skill is to know how to manage distraction: How to not get walked all over by Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc…

Digital Literacy in School

As a result of digital literacy there is a shift from an emphasis on traditional skills of memorization, recitation, penmanship, and math to creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication and collaboration skills, flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility.

Technology has changed the way today’s students read, perceive, and process information. Educators who are considered digital immigrants may struggle to find effective teaching methods for digital natives. Some digital immigrants might resist teaching digital literacy because they were not taught that way and are not comfortable using it. This is a problem because today’s students speak a new language different than those  who teach them.

Tips for developing the digital literacy of students:

1. Begin by exploring the ways in which the group are already using mobile and web based technologies. Many of them are already engaged with digital tools for personal use like Skyping relatives or keeping in touch on Facebook and Twitter.  A good point to start the conversation on teaching about digital literacy may well be students’ personal use.

2. Recognize that students arrive with their own digital practices:

Instead of trying to pass on literacy to students, expect that students arrive with some well established wrong and unethical digital practices of their own. Identify the values and history behind the appropriate and ethical academic practices.  Establish guiding ethical principles: Developing digital literacy should have an ethical dimension. What does it mean to behave well as digital professionals, researchers or citizens? How do we act ethically in environments where public and private are blurred? Refer to your organization’s rules and regulations.

3. Developing digital literacies in practice requires:
• providing authentic contexts for practice,
• Supporting individuals at different levels of skill and experience,
• Helping learners manage conflict between different platforms in different situations,
• Helping learners integrate their prior conceptions and practices.

4. Acknowledge that there is anxiety about technologies in the classroom and take the lead. Engage students in this debate on anxiety, ethics, and other issues to ensure that they have ownership of the tools used and the approach to use them.

5. Take a holistic approach and integrate multi-disciplines in real life contexts.

Digital literacy in Society

Digital literacy has many uses in society:

  • It helps people communicate and keep up with social trends.
  • It helps people stay in contact with their family, friends and colleagues.  
  • It helps pass timely information.
  • It helps buy and sell goods and services.
  • It gives people a major voice online and helps users establish a digital identity.
  • It provides a global conversation platform that connects readers from all over the world based on a certain interest or cause.
  • The effective use of digital tools leads to the community betterment and empowerment
  • Government officials around the world have emphasized the importance of digital literacy for economic reasons. Centralized governments, such as China, are leading by implementing digital literacy training programs faster than anyone else while industrial nations focus on digital literacy to compete globally. There is a major divide between those who have access to technology and those who don’t, between those who apply critical thinking to technology or do not, those who speak English or do not, and those who create digital content or merely consume it.

Digital Literacy at Work

Digitally literate individuals are more likely to be more secure and ahead of the crowd. Many jobs require a working knowledge of computers and the Internet to perform basic functions. As wireless technology improves, more jobs require proficiency with smart gadgets. In the past, this literacy was required of white collar workers, but blue collar workers are using it much more than before.  This literacy is now used in construction, manufacturing, and retail jobs to collect and analyze data about products and market trends, to stay competitive, and to improve safety. In addition, job recruiters often use websites and social platforms to find potential employees, thus magnifying the importance of digital literacy in securing a job. It also helps in professional learning, as in the case of some groups on LinkedIn.

Digital literacy does not replace traditional literacies but supports them to develop. As long as there are new digital tools, as long as we need to keep adapting to their use thus learning becomes a life-long process. It is not about information but about developing skills gradually over time.  

In conclusion, digital literacy requires a change in consciousness in how we relate to technology with an underlying principle that it should facilitate critical reflection, awareness of the self and social accountability.