The “Downloading” of Culture – 1

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By: Dr. Orville Leverne Clubb, Head ITS Education Asia BTEC Centre

“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society”Alan w. Watts

 blog-photos

The other day, I heard a good explanation of culture from Danny Harrington, our ITS Founder. As a geographer, he sees that a culture is developed from the geographical area where the members of that culture are living. The culture is based on the climate, soil, flora, fauna of the area. Basically, the culture rises from the dirt of a geographic area. I gave my views on culture acquisition in the discussion.

In a paper I started to write prior to retiring, I used a modified version of Piaget’s Four Stages of Development to give methods of how a culture is learned. I called the methods “Stages of Cultural Acquisition”. I titled the original paper “Downloading of culture” because I used a Computer metaphor. The new born was “hardware” with a “BIOS” and culture was the “software”

According to Piaget, a human baby is born into the “Sensorimotor Stage” of life. That is, the new born is motivated by instinct and rapidly learns about objects in its physical environment. Learning is of their relationship to these objects and key people of the home environment such as the mother, father, other siblings, caretaker, etc. The baby normally learn how to walk, eat solid foods from the home diet, other basic motor skills and very basic spoken language of the key people in the stage. The  skills learned by the baby in this stage, varies from culture to culture but has many basic common skills such as walking, etc.

From about 1.5 years to around 5 to 7 years of age the new child is in, what I call the “Culture Introduction Stage”, which is Piaget’s “Pre-Operational Stage”. If a child is born in Hong Kong to Hong Kong parents, the child continues to learn the family dialect, food, how to interact with other members of their family’s culture and such concepts as family ranking, social expectations, dress codes, etc. of the family’s Chinese culture. Likewise, if we are born in, say, in a region of the UK or US, of local parents, we are “downloaded” with the culture of the region that we are born in and are taught how to interact in that region.

By the time the child is between 5 to 7 years old they have been given the basics of their home key people’s culture. We now move to the “Cultural Fundamentals Stage” which is Piaget’s “Concrete Operational Stage”. Through the home, people key to the new child will have a good basic operational understanding of their culture and language and their uses. The child now starts formal education in the form of schools outside of the home environment to enhance the knowledge of their environmental culture. At this point, the key people in the environment outside of the home are teachers and peer-groups. Schools are outside of the protection of the home and become the primary source of learning. Prior to this stage of development the new born has relied on their home key people as well as family affiliations such as extended family, religion, etc to give them their cultural knowledge and protection. A major conflict can occur if a child has been given a different culture by the home key people to that of the environmental culture of new formal school. As a child that moved from the Deep-South of the US to California while in primary school and had to deal with difference peer-groups, I can tell you that school peer-groups can be very mean and unwelcoming.

In my future blog “ The Downloading of Culture – 2” I will elaborate on the potential consequences of a person in a environment that is foreign to their initial home learned culture.

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Is Psychology the course for me?

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By Ruth Puentespina, Psychology teacher, ITS Education Asia

 

Most high school students, particularly ones in Hong Kong, focus on degrees in Business & Economics, Medicine or Law but given the limited number of slots available in local Universities for these courses, it isn’t very easy to land a place especially if students want to study at a local university. However, if the ultimate goal is to go into business or practice law, or if a student feels like they cannot yet decide – other university courses become viable options.

is-psychology-the-course-for-me

Why Study Psychology?

Studying Psychology at university allows students to explore and enhance important people skills they will need in the work place – whether it is in setting up and running a business, or practicing as a lawyer or medical doctor – all within the context of studying human behaviour. In considering this subject for university, most people worry about the risks involved in terms of employability at the end of their course given that the subject has a very broad field of study. Although no university degree can guarantee a job right after university, one important factor to consider is what marketable skills a student comes out with at the end of their course. Studying Psychology trains students to improve their people skills, enhancing their ability to interact productively with and contribute successfully to a team (in whatever industry). These skills are what make new college graduates ready for employment.

 

IB or A-level?

Two routes by which you could enter into University are through the IB Diploma Programme or the International A-level. Studying Psychology at this secondary level will give you a foretaste of the next three or four years at university. Although covering similar content, each programme has a slightly different focus on the skills being enhanced with the overall result being largely the same.

In the IB, studying Psychology fits within the enhancement of skills necessary to develop a student into an IB Learner by focusing on how psychological knowledge is brought about, enhanced and applied within the context of three core perspectives. A more holistic approach to the study of human behaviour is favoured in order to come to a better understanding of the similarities all peoples share, as well as the differences brought about by social circumstance. At two levels (Standard and Higher) the depth of study varies. Whereas at Standard level, only one application option is available for study (usually, Abnormal Psychology) at Higher level, the option of two areas of application (Abnormal Psychology, Sport Psychology, Health Psychology & the Psychology of Human Relationships) as well as a short course on Qualitative Research Methods is available.

Critical thinking and evaluative skills are practiced and honed throughout the two year course, training students to become open-minded in learning about new concepts, more communicative in their ideas and reflective in their study.

Studying Psychology at A-level allows students to learn content that is a combination of both classic and contemporary studies that form the foundation for higher study particularly for universities in the UK. Mathematical skills, specifically in Qualitative Research, have become a more important focus with the recent specification update to ensure A-level students learn and hone the skills that are integral to becoming competitive researchers and practitioners within their chosen field of study. Split into four units, with two or three topics per unit, the goal of this mode of study is to ensure students gain essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of Psychology and how they relate to each other by applying skills using scientific methods. Most importantly, this allows students to develop their interest in the subject by looking at how psychology, in all its forms, contributes to the shaping and success of a society.

Should high school students find themselves with a budding interest in Psychology, studying it at secondary level is a great way to introduce them to this broad field and see whether pursuing it at University is for them.

 

ITS Education Asia provides IB Psychology supplementary tuition, and part- and full-time A-level Psychology courses through both its online school and schools in Hong Kong.

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So you don’t think Physics is useful?

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By Chau Kwai Sum, Physics teacher, ITS Education Asia

 

Study the pictures below and read the questions that follow. Do you know their answers?

295-x-182-mm-flyers

How are three dimensional images of objects taken?

Do you know the name of the device? What are its uses?

How does electricity reach our homes from power stations?

How wavelengths of light from a street lamp are measured?

Why radiations are emitted from some substances? What are they?

Why aircraft can “float” and fly in the air?

 

If you are curious to know the answers to the above questions and how other old and new stuff works, you could certainly do worse than choose physics as one of the electives during study in high school.

Physics curriculum of IB or IAL provides basic theories and practices to the understanding of how things work. In the course of learning, students are trained to observe phenomena closely, investigate scientifically factors affecting situations, plan cautiously experiments for verification, think about the obtained results critically and draw reasonable conclusions for applications. From the history of the great physicists, they usually followed these procedures to discover new things and find their respective applications to improve our living. An illustration is the discovery of X-rays which were noted by the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen. Just two weeks after the publication of Röntgen’s paper related to X-rays, the discovery was announced to be used in the diagnosis of bone fractures in the medical field.

Physics is a prerequisite to many majors as prescribed in the university entrance requirements, examples like faculties of engineering, natural science, computing and actuarial science. Schools of law, medicine, business, building, surveying and architecture also accept students with a physics background as they consider these students demonstrate keen observational, and high analytical, abilities in matters; learn fast from new situations and derive appropriate solutions to each of them; deduce sensible and applicable conclusions from results in different trials.

Studying physics doesn’t only satisfy ones curiosity about stuff but it also equips you with a scientific mindset knowing that everything has a limitation. This concept is especially essential in the commercial sector, for instance investors shouldn’t put all capital in one business even though it is beneficial at present because numerous stressed factors can change or degenerate the business’s existing profits or cause the business becoming obsolete.

Teens having acquired the knowledge, skills and scientific mindset can definitely adapt themselves to environments in the rapidly changing and globalized world. It is all about transferable skills and physics certainly provides these. So when you next see the promotion of “STEM” education, let it  arouse your interest in science and consider how it may help different job perspectives in future and open up the opportunity for a useful and rewarding life.

 

The author teaches for ITS Education Asia both at our schools in Hong Kong and through our online school. No matter where you live, if you would like to join supplementary tutorials or take a full qualification at IGCSE or IAL, get in touch with us.

 

 

 

 

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Why study Geography (still)?

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By Danny Harrington, Founder, ITS Education Asia

why-study-geography-still

 I just came across an old article I wrote on the ITS blog in 2009 called Why study Geography? It’s always interesting to read back over things that your old self wrote. If you’re a student or indeed under the age of 30 you probably won’t appreciate that so much but as you get older it grows in interest and perhaps importance. The first thing that amazed me was that we have been running this blog for so long. But also that so much of what I wrote I still very firmly believe in today. It is as true in my mind as it was then that

Geography brings about a better and more thorough understanding of the places we live in and why they matter”

and that the knowledge and skills gained and honed by the Geographer will allow us to lead

“better lives as individuals and communities of the present, but that we can set the foundations for the betterment of generations to come”.

But I also read back and felt that there were things left unsaid and things perhaps not so clear, that the language was a bit high-brow. So, given that I still enthusiastically teach Geography to 14-18 year olds (mainly) and that studying the subject brings great value to the individual and thus to the communities they live in, I thought I would quickly revisit the benefits of studying Geography particularly all the way through degree level. This is important because Geography is best started some time in middle-secondary school, roughly age 14, and then followed through 8 years or more of study. So decisions have to be made relatively early on this.

As I hinted at in the original, Geography is about all places at all times. It is about the environments found there, the people that live there and all the processes that take place there. It allows for a truly holistic view of life as we know it (not a full understanding but as good a view as we can get). So beyond the sheer pleasure and fulfilment one may get from such an educational experience and the skills it gives you to continue to learn beyond formal education, it is a fantastic foundation for further study and for the world beyond childhood/academia, whatever that may hold.

Perhaps one of the greatest criticisms and weaknesses of academia, science, research and what-have-you in the last 30 or even 50 years, has been the retreat from inter-disciplinary research and co-operation, with ever more specialist people looking at ever narrower fields. It is the Geographer who represents the best chance to draw our knowledge gains all together and try to make sense of the real world, where nothing ever occurs in isolation. Indeed with the economic issues of globalisation and the key environmental issue of climate change (which are themselves entwined), one can say fairly confidently that the world around us has proven quite clearly that we need co-ordinated and integrated approaches to the issues we face. These are no longer idle issues either but serious species-threatening issues, ourselves included.

So when as a student you face some of those difficult questions such as: What do I want to do in life? What should I study? What jobs will there even be when I am looking for one? by answering Geography you set yourself up for success. Because whatever the jobs are, the really interesting and important ones will require people who can analyse, problem-solve, use modern tech and information systems, & be synoptic in their approach. Whether you study pure Geography or add it to one of the hundreds of other disciplines on offer, you will be positioned to join many others in the search for the solutions to the world’s contemporary issues.

The range of options mean that just about anyone can find their niche – whether you want to be a scientist in the Antarctic or off in the harshest of arid areas, or an anthropologist in urban communities or societies under threat – there is something for anyone. And if you don’t know what you want to do while you are being asked to make this decision, then Geography, as one the most all-encompassing subjects, is one of the few that allows you to defer those life-shaping decisions until you have matured a little more and have a better understanding of where you want to go without any detriment to your chances of being able to do so.

ITS Education Asia offers Geography IGCSE and IAL under the Edexcel specifications, along with many other subjects. Students can learn at our 2 Hong Kong schools or online with flexible timetables to suit different life situations and locations. Get in touch today.

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The Hive Mind (the WWW)

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By Dr. Orville Leverne Clubb, Head ITS Education Asia BTEC Centre

Around ’93, ’94, the conventional wisdom about the Internet was that it was a toy for academics and researchers. So it was very, very underestimated for about two years.  – Marc Andreessen (from the website “BrainyQuotes”)

The Hive Mind (the WWW)

 

Over my last few blogs I have looked at humans and how we are not cool headed analytical primates that deal with decision making logically. I believe we are closer to our closest living primate cousins, the chimps and bonobos, in forming our social behavior. Sometimes, I think our technology has developed much faster than our human social structures.

As a computer science academic, I supervised final year student projects that were based on such tools as “genetic algorithms”. Genetic algorithms were used for solving optimization problems such as pilot scheduling for an airline where you have flights, pilots and planes. The genetic algorithm would build a pilots’ work schedule based on a natural selection process that mimics biological evolution.  In engineering we are copying nature’s solutions more frequently. In this blog I will introduce the WWW as a hive mind.

In my first blog, in this series, I coined the term “Supratelligence” to deal with the internet repository of knowledge. As the WWW grows we are starting to see another mimic of a biological behavior, the hive. In an article titled The Internet as a Hive Mind Orion Jones use the analogy of bee hives to describe our newest use of the WWW. Jones stated that “When we are online, we are essentially linked to a vast hive mind, known in psychology as a transactive memory system, which allows us to access the collective knowledge of anyone and everyone.

In an interesting article titled The Collective Intelligence Genome  The authors point out how Google, Wikipedia and Threadless are exemplars of collective intelligence in action. They state that the three examples  “demonstrate how large, loosely organized groups of people can work together electronically in surprisingly effective ways — sometimes even without knowing that they are working together, as in the case of Google”.

Google takes the judgments of millions of people as they create links to web pages which adds to supratelligence and enables access to intelligent answers to the terms we type into the Google search bar.

In the case of Wikipedia, there are thousands of volunteers who are contributors from around the world and have created, and continue to collectively create, the world’s largest encyclopedia. Most Wikipedia articles are of remarkably high quality. Wikipedia has been developed with almost no centralized control. Anyone who wants to can add an item or change almost anything. Decisions about what changes to keep or what items are added are made by a loose consensus of those “who care”. The people who do all this work are not supposed to be paid but are “interested volunteers”. However, there has been some controversy with the open nature of Wikipedia being used by special interest groups. This is topic that deserves a separate blog.

The above cited article is from the MIT Sloan Management Review so they needed a business application. The application they chose is Threadless, a design company where anyone who wants can design a T-shirt and submit their design to a weekly contest. The weekly entries are then rated online by the Threadless collective group. Threadless chooses the entries receiving the highest internet ratings. Threadless then selects winning designs, puts them into production and gives prizes and royalties to the winning designers. In this way, the company harnesses the collective intelligence of a community of over 500,000 people to design and select T-shirts. We are truly in a technological revolution that is having a profound effect on our daily lives.

However, people forget that the internet was invented by the US department of Defense (DOD) in the form of the Arpanet. The internet was invented as a military tool. In 2019, we will be celebrating the 50th of the Internet. Being a military tool, no wonder today we are being manipulated through social media and the internet with “astroturfing”, “fake news”, “cyberwars”,etc. A great video is “Changing the hive mind by a young Computer Science Assistant Professor, Tim Weninger. It is a little over 10 minutes but well worth watching.

 

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