about surviving in the Information Age

I wrote to the Gleaner and they published it as an article:


Spark Youth Interest

Published: Tuesday | March 19, 20130 Comments

Kelly McIntosh, Contributor
The evidence of poor problem-solving skills and the lack of ability to think critically is all too evident in the state of Jamaica today. Sure enough, corruption is at the root of many of the issues that beset our nation, but we cannot downplay our collective ability (or lack thereof) to make sound decisions and to tackle complex issues.
We need to start now, as early as possible in the education system, to teach our young how to analyse problems, how to approach solutions, and how to think critically.
When I was younger, the challenge was ferreting out information to do projects and complete assignments for school. Many of us can remember having to go to an actual library and being guided by the index cards housed in the wooden catalogue drawers.
Fast-forward to 2013: the challenge now is to decide what information to discard! Students simply Google the question or the topic. I have had to teach my own children basic research skills like cross-referencing and fact- and source-checking as they wade through the plethora of available information.
I do not think it is possible to critically analyse any issue without a sound grasp of language. Again, we are at the mercy of this new information age. Children write in shorthand, use creative acronyms, and learn to express themselves in 140 characters or less (think Twitter!). And while creativity is good, and the ability to summarise useful, this must be balanced by other opportunities where ideas can be fleshed out and opinions challenged and defended.
Here are my proposals for equipping our young for success in the information age:
1 Encourage reading from early. This is best done by giving children access to information about what interests them. Your son who is interested in animals, for example, will not read that book that you thrust into his hands with the best intentions in the world about toys coming to life after dark.
2 From as early as kindergarten and basic school, emphasise compre-hension. Have the children do more than merely answer questions based on facts contained in the passage. They must be encouraged to criticise and imagine. This can be done individually, by writing, and collectively, in the form of class discussions.
3 Treat maths as a language describing a situation, yet providing the way to a solution through the application of basic steps one after another. Emphasise the understanding of the fundamentals over mechanical replication. The children need to be taught to determine what the particular maths problem is asking them to do and what information is provided. Once they understand the fundamental operations, application in search of a solution becomes intuitive, rooted in common sense, and not necessarily the purview of the ‘math genius’ in the class.
4 Relate everything taught to everyday life, so applicability is always at the forefront.
5 Simply have conversations with your children. When driving, turn off the radio and, most definitely, put down the cell phone. Ask them about their day. Talk about something you read in the papers or saw on the news. Ask them their opinions. Have them defend their point of view.
Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and kkmac218@gmail.com.

my children: A Mother’s Reflections

We’ve been compiling a list of “Interesting People we’d like to have at a Dinner Party”. To qualify, you have to be an original thinker. You have to be articulate.  If you have a personality quirk or two, all the better!  No, I’m not going to release that list here and now, but I’d like to talk about 2 people who have already qualified.  One is Little Master and the other is Miss World.
After a lie-in, I got up refreshed this morning and ready to enjoy Sunday.  Only Little Master and I were up.  Our body clocks are in synch in a kind of “early to bed, early to rise” kinda way.  The other inhabitants are the exact opposite.  So still in our PJs, we jumped into my car.  Destination: Red Hills for the Sunday papers.  En route I had a most fascinating convo with this 9 yr old.  Essentially he lectured me on the importance of brand in gaining market share.  He spoke at length (and oh so eloquently and knowledgeably too!) about Nintendo, Sega, Sony and the like and the fact that Nintendo has managed to remain the preeminent gaming system because of their “lovable mascots”. 
I couldn’t refute him as I am oh so ignorant of all things gaming.  But he cited facts, history, trivia about home consoles, arcade consoles, lawsuits and Atari, 16 bits, 64 bits, target audiences and the like.  Amazing how our children have their own personalities and thoughts.  Who would’ve known that Little Master would become/is becoming an authority on all things gaming.  And Nintendo has an avid fan and admirer right here in Coopers Hill, St. Andrew, Jamaica.
Miss World now does not wear her heart on her sleeve like Little Master.  She is our go-to person for all things tech.  She taught me Blogging 101, Twitter 101, how to rip audio from video, where to get great MP3 files, how to create a playlist, what a meme is and on and on.  She still keeps me clued in to the norms and rules of social media, rolling her eyes and sighing when I’ve violated one of the many in my tweets or when I’ve used a current term inappropriately.  I find out what’s going on in her world through her tweets and blog.  Man!!!  I am laughing here just reflecting on how my almost 17 year old is her own person.  Yes, sometimes her tweets border on PG13.  Yes her blog posts are peppered with choice language.  But if you know me well enough, you know that I have a pretty liberal stance on language: there is no such thing as indecent, only inappropriate, and at the same time I try to challenge her on being articulate in Standard English.  Without apology. 
  But back to Miss World’s mind.  She is her own person.  She is expressive. Funny as all hell in a dry, irreverent, disrespectful kinda way.  I crack up at her running commentary on twitter, while trying to be Serious Responsible Mummy as I admonish her: “remember that what you put into cyberspace remains there forever, Missy!  And be kind!!!”.  She is nearing the stage to decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life.  And not unlike me when I was her age (shhh…nuh tell her, do!) she doesn’t know what she wants to do.  I have to confess, these days my chest tightens when I think about the future where she is concerned.  I worry about if I’ve done enough to prepare her for life “on the outside”.  I worry about mistakes she will make.  I think about what I’ll do to the perpetrator of her first heartbreak.  I want with all my heart for her to be able to use her God-given talents to contribute to the world and to make a living and to be happy all at the same time.  Ah boi….
My two are wonderful people.  I just hope I am doing enough as their steward right now, preparing them and equipping them.