Am I checking my phone too often?

Checky-ReviewA couple of weeks ago I installed an app called Checky on both my Android tablet and my Android phone.   The reason for installing the app was to try to get a handle on how often I checked my devices during the day.   I had a sense that I was possibly checking my devices too often and that as a result I was less focused than I could be, however I was also conscious of the fact that this might be simply an incorrect perception without grounding in reality.   The only way to determine whether my sense of over checking my devices was true was to gather some quantitative data and this is where Checky comes in.    The app is simple – It just logs the number of times you access your device, reporting this daily.

The results;  Well over the last couple of weeks the combined totals from the apps across both the mobile devices I use, a phone and a tablet, suggest I access my mobile devices on average 34 times a day.    This represents checking my devices almost every 28 minutes if we assume 8 hours of sleep per day and therefore only 16 possible hours each day when I could access my device.

Taken in the context of the piece in the Independent (Barr, S. 2017) in relation to the average Brit who  accesses their devices 28 times per day, my personal access over the last couple of weeks of 34 times seems a little high.    It is certainly nothing compared to some teens who apparently check social media 100 times per day (Wallace, K, CNN, 2015).   That said, I cannot see why I should need to be accessing my devices every 28 minutes.

On reflection I must acknowledge that I have slightly different apps sets across both devices.   This may lead me to check both devices at the same time which could be doubling up my statistics.    This is something I may need to look at, either having the same apps on both devices, or having clears sets of apps on each devices, thereby avoiding the need to check each device separately throughout the day.  This may reduce the time taken when I have the urge to check my various apps, as I would only need to check a single device.   I also note that recently I have taken to exercising in the morning which involves using my phone for music as I run, making changes to my music as I go and also reviewing my distance traveled, etc, which all require me to access my phone.   Another factor is I use a tablet device in meetings and in my general work day which again would show up in my access statistics.

I have also put the data into Excel and looked at my usage by day.   It turns out my greatest usage is on a Sunday, then on a Friday and Saturday respectively.    For me this is a little concerning as shouldn’t I be focusing on enjoying the weekend as opposed to checking my devices on a Saturday or Sunday.   I quite often engage in twitter chats on both Saturday and Sunday which may account for some of the statistics.  The question is: Is this the best use of my weekend?

I think the key thing I draw from the activity of gathering some data on my access habits is one simply of conscious awareness.  All too often people are using their devices but not conscious of the frequency or time spent.   They are not conscious of the impact it may be having within their lives.   They do not see how much of their day is spent on social media consumption.    We easily succumb to social media and our mobile devices stealing away valuable time which could be better spent on other activities.    I at least had a feeling that something was wrong and have now gathered data which I can now use to decide on actions and then measure the success of any actions I may take.

Maybe this is something we should all be doing with students in our classrooms?   Ask them to install Checky for a period of time and record their device usage, followed by reviewing it after a couple of weeks as a class activity.   I am sure this would make for some very interesting discussions.

 

 

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Distracted by Mobile Devices

devicesI have noticed a self-perception over the last week or so that I have tended towards becoming distracted by my need to check my various devices for messages, tweets, updates, etc.   Now it may be that my perception of the issue is tainted.    Due to a busy workload at the moment I have taken to keeping lists of tasks to be undertaken and, as is the way, as soon as I score one task off, I add three more on.   This means that my perception of progress may be that I am not making any headway which may lead me to under appreciate what I have achieved.   This under appreciation may be making me feel that I am wasting time when I am checking my devices, thus leading to over accounting for the amount of time I am using up in this checking.

Another alternative is that in my growing frustration at my inability to reduce the list of tasks in front of me I am seeking solace in checking my updates for that brief moment of pleasure associated with a new message or new update.   In this case my perception of distraction may actually be true.

Yet another possible interpretation is that my perception is correct and I am actually suffering from distraction brought about by my mobile devices.  Maybe I am checking my devices repeatedly during the day and as a result interrupting activities that I might otherwise focus on and complete.

To help answer the question I have downloaded an app, “Checky” to my mobile devices to provide me with some quantitative data to compare with and either confirm or refute my perception.   The app basically keeps a log and reports on my daily device usage.   I will share further in a few weeks’ time once I have sufficient data to at least draw some initial conclusions.

In the meantime, do you give thought to your personal use of Tech, to how long you use it for, to the frequency you check your devices or to what you use it for?     How do you confirm or validate your perceptions?

GDPR and photos around school

photographer-424622_640Recently a member of staff popped in to discuss how she would like to share photos of a school sporting event with the various schools which were involved.   This got me thinking about GDPR and the implications for events and photography at such events.

Firstly, let’s consider the photos themselves.   They might show groups of students involved in a sport or gathered at the start or end.   They might also include spectators who attended the event including parents or visitors to the school.   My first piece of advice here is simply to ensure that it is clear to people that photography will be taking place and that such photos may be used by the school for various purposes including newsletters and other marketing or publicity materials plus that they may be shared with other organisations involved in the event such as other schools.    This notification can either be put on programmes or event marketing materials, or can be made clear at the event itself via posters or other displays.   I believe this should be sufficient as gathering specific consent from all in attendance would be impractical plus where consent is not provided, avoiding including individuals in action event photography would be very difficult indeed.    Taking a risk based view, given that no names are attributed to the photos, and therefore individuals are not clearly identifiable I see the risk of taking photos as events to be low.   As such I see the provision of notices of the intention to take and use photos as sufficient.

Once we start identifying individuals in photos, possibly by naming them, or given that the photo is of a small group of individuals who therefore are more identifiable, then I think we would need to look to have consent or some other basis for processing the data.    Schools usually have such a permission form or other method to gather permission from parents to use photos of children in their materials.  Key here is to ensure that a permission form makes clear the purposes for which photos might be used. E.g. marketing purposes, around school for display purposes, etc.

When the staff member popped in, the issue of event photography highlighted the inaccuracy of the frequently used term “GDPR Compliance”.    The term “compliance” to me conveys a sense of a binary outcome, either we comply or we don’t.    The issues in hand when looking at GDPR are not so clear.   Does compliance mean seeking permission from every individual in a photo, including members of the public?    I would think not.    As such I continue to believe in the need to take a measured risk based view on how we manage data and on our preparations for GDPR.   Where a risk exists, we need to decide whether we accept the risk.   If we do not we must seek to mitigate the risk through permission forms and notices in the case of school photography, to the point that we are then happy to accept, either this or we stop taking photos.

GDPR continues to result in confusion and contradictions of interpretation.   We seek the way, the one way, the best way to achieve compliance yet every school is different plus interpretations and attitude to risk vary.    For me the key is simply to consider your own environment, the risks and your schools appetite for risk, and to act from there.

 

 

Balance…or not?

vintage-2862708_640I have found myself discussing balance on a number of occasions.  Recently I mentioned it in reference to whether education should go through incremental improvement or a process of disruptive innovation.   In each case my reference to balance has been in highlighting some of the binary discussions which seem to arise on the Edu blog sphere and Twittersphere slightly more than they do in real life discussions.    Things are generally not binary in nature as the world is seldom that simple.    Balance therefore allows for an element of two opposing concepts or views with agreement to establish a point of agreement somewhere between the two opposite points.    Balance to me presents a continuum between two points, with the ability to select somewhere in between.    Up until recently I have been happy with this concept of balance.

The other day on the way home though I came to think about balance and I realised that my viewpoint maybe wasn’t as acceptable as I had thought it was.    The issue which came to me as I drove home was the fact that my view of balance puts two concepts at opposite ends.   For example, incremental improvement and disruptive innovation.    The two concepts are not opposites so why would they be at opposite ends of a continuum?    The reason I suspect is that in a discussion between two parties each will adopt a position, or end, and the negotiation that follows will either lead to an agreed disagreement or to a compromise or point in between.  As such from the point of view of a discussion between two people with differing viewpoints the model of a continuum and balance makes sense but maybe it doesn’t make sense as much when looking at the concepts themselves or their implementation.

In the case of incremental improvement and disruptive innovation, does more of one result in less of the other?     Maybe from the point of view of time available to undertake the process of change, it might be a case of more of one and less of the other.    Other than this could we not seek to be both incremental and disruptive?    If we were half way between incremental and disruptive what does this mean?   Does it mean spending half of our time being incremental and half of our time being disruptive and if so, how do we transition from one to the other?    Or if not related to time, what would being half way disruptive look like?     Can I be incremental but also also introduce a disruptive innovation, or could a disruptive innovation by incremental?   Are all increments necessarily equal and in which case is a disruptive innovation possible just a large incremental change?

I realise now that my use of balance hadn’t really advanced me away from the idea of binary concepts.   Having a continuum between two points isn’t that much better than having two points, especially where the concepts or points of view aren’t clearly opposites.    This all stems out of our looking for the “right” answer and as Ken Robinson said in his famous Changing Paradigms speech, “there can only be one and its at the back of the book”.   De Bono makes a similar observation in his book which is aptly titled “I’m right, you’re wrong”.    The reality is that we can actually all be right (or wrong come to think about it).    We could be iterative in our change however also be disruptively innovating as well.   There is no requirement to do one or the other, beyond the requirement which we imply in our discussions of differing viewpoints.   This extends for most binary discussions (or arguments) both online and offline.

I feel we all need to take more care in pitting viewpoints against each other.    Maybe the biggest benefit might come from accepting that differing viewpoints may all be correct, from looking for commonalities as opposed to stressing the differences.

 

 

Reflections on month 1

JanuaryI must admit that January has been a difficult month.   A number of issues at school around key IT systems have put a high degree of focus on part of my team requiring them to seriously step up and take on new challenges.   The last two weeks of January have been particularly difficult as we have struggled to fix the issues which have arose plus where we have found it difficult to identify alternative solutions.   Now, as February begins, however, after many days of struggle, solutions have been found and these solutions not only represent a solution to the problems but also an improvement on the setup as it had been previously.   I must admit to having become stressed during January and also to being annoyed at times as to my inability to resolve the issues in hand.   I also acknowledge having seen things as a “Failure” to find a solution as opposed to a “not yet” moment.   I need to be more conscious of this in future as my behaviours are what people see as opposed to my intentions so if I talk the talk I need to be seen to walk the walk.        I have also noticed myself using an old favourite phrase of mine:  “The problem is…..”.    This is definitely something I need to knock on the head, as stating the problems will most likely sound either negative or obstructive in search for solutions.   Am not sure if “the challenge is…” sounds any better but the main thing will be to take care to avoid labeling inconveniences, difficulties, momentary challenges, minor deviations from the plan, etc. as “problems”.

Professional Development

The above problems have led to me getting more directly involved with some of the schools IT systems.   This has meant dusting off my old SQL skills and learning some new software solutions, etc.   It has been fun to get directly involved although at times frustrating such as when I spend around half a day updating a tables data just to find out that an automated routine deleted the tables data every evening.   This goes to indicate the importance of documenting systems, something that is generally left to last and therefore often missed out altogether.

I must note that the above wasn’t an area I had foreseen as professional development  I would be doing this year however it has certainly challenged me and forced me to learn new things.     Challenge was one of things I had identified in my pledges so I am happy in this area at least for now.   I would also say that this highlights some concepts in the book “Open” which I have been reading recently in that my learning was in a time which suited me plus via online resources and forums as opposed to more traditional training or PD models.

Fitness

On a personal note my efforts to maintain a minimum of 30mins exercise a day in the form of walking , have been successful.    I doubt I will ever manage to do kilometres worth of jogging in the morning before work, as some do, however at least I am making an effort and making some, albeit modest, progress.

Reading

My reading in January has seen me complete two books in Open by David Price and The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely.    I have also done a little additional reading around data science and python programming.   The one thing I am looking forward to is having the garden at my new house done and to being able to sit out when the spring finally arises, to read a book or two.   Am sure I will be sharing a few photos of me sunning myself, with a beer and a good book in the months to come.

Journaling

My journaling started off particularly well this month with me putting aside time to take notes on my experiences of each week.   Sadly as other issues arose as indicated in my opening paragraph, this has dropped by the wayside.    As I reflect on this the urgent/important quadrant diagram jumps to mind.     The things I have focussed on during some of this month have been the urgent items and have also been important however journaling, although not urgent, may be very important in the long run in providing me something to reflect on.    Without a record to reflect on I am at the mercy of my incomplete and often inaccurate recollections of things. Any attempt to derive improvement is negatively impacted upon by the resulting inaccuracies or omissions.  I will need to try and ensure I make a greater effort to secure my journaling time against other needs and tasks which may encroach.

In Conclusion

I cannot believe that the first month of 2018 has already been and gone, that one twelfth of the year is gone.   As I often say, “onwards and upwards”!

Stress: Taking a longer term view

stressed-smallThe last week has seen me move house.   A stressful process filled with problems.   Lets just say it hasn’t gone at all smoothly.   At this point a week after the main part of the move the house is still filled with boxes yet to be unpacked however I suspect the coming weekend will be used to address most of that.   It is with this change of circumstance, a new house, that I have come to reflect.

My original plan having returned to the UK from the UAE had been to rent for a short period of time before then buying a house.    That short period of time turned out to be just over 2 years.   Looking back the two years disappeared in a flash.     Thinking a little harder I can identify some of the difficulties and issues which led to the elongated period of renting.   I can also remember the stress associated with some of these issues.   Sleepless nights have resulted along with arguments and heated discussions within the family and with individuals outside the family.    Taking a helicopter view and looking out over the 2 years, the issues got addressed and maybe therefore some of the stress was unwarranted.  It didn’t help and served only to impact on the health and well being of the family.

This week has also seen me reflecting with my team as part of the annual appraisal process.   On a number of occasions during discussions we have identified projects which we have felt have not progressed at the rate with which we had wanted.   These projects have caused stress and angst.    Looking at them though through a wider perspective we see that progress was made and that some of the factors which slowed or even stopped progress were out with our control.    It is only looking long term and taking all things into account that we see the limited progress as being reasonable given the constraints and other factors which existed.    In the short term, in the here and now, this isn’t appreciated and the progress is just seen as below expectation.   The stress and angst at the issues in the short term serve little purpose when viewed across the longer term, other than to impact on the health and well being of the individuals concerned.

As I reflect I have come to realise that in the short term there is lot we don’t know, don’t perceive or don’t appreciate, that we will come to more aware of when we look back across the longer term.   It is this that we need to be aware of.   That sometimes we over stress, over think and that this impacts on our well being.   We need to keep in mind that we will eventually view these issues over a longer time frame at which point it is likely that we will be able to appreciate things we can’t in the short term.    We should therefore be wary of our stress levels and of stressing out at issues for in the longer term all this is likely to achieve is damage to our health and well being.

For me as I continue the process of moving I will bear this in mind such that the next time I feel stressed I will take a step back and remind myself that in the long term, with the appropriate level of effort, things generally work out.

 

 

Mood music

radio-for-car-2167269_640Popping to Tesco this morning to get some shopping I decided to make use of the wife’s car as it is newer than mine, lighter and easier to drive.    Jumping into the car and starting the engine I was greeted by my wife’s selection of upbeat music, at notably loud volume.    I decided to be kind and not mess with her stereo, instead choosing to listed to her musical selection albeit at a lower volume less likely to be audible from space.

As I drove to Tesco I found myself cheering up as I looked out on the blue sky in between the clouds.   I even found myself rolling down the window.    Something as simple as cheery upbeat music in the car had had the effect of changing my mood.      So how could this simple change impact on well-being if it was part of your daily routine, music in the car or when doing the chores at home, music in the classroom or when marking, etc.

I have decided that before work begins once more on Monday I will create a playlist for my own car purposely selecting up beat music.

I wonder what the implications are for the use of music within the classroom in order to put students in the mood for learning.    I know I have read in various books about the impact of music on mood, emotions and learning.   I also have read various examples of how teachers are make use of this concept however like a lot of approaches which can have an impact they often disappear under the busy activities of the average school day until something brings them back to mind;  For me my drive to Tesco in my wife’s car did just that.