Monday, 25 September 2017

Spy Quest Mission - Part III (JAM Busters)

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I've written two posts that detail the meetings I've had with Spy Quest (@SpyQuest) author David Goutcher (@GoutcherD) as well as my youngest child's experiences with his books.

Spy Quest Mission - Part I
Spy Quest Mission - Part II (This time it's Personal)

As a result of being one of Theresa May's "JAMs" (Or whatever you call people who are a rung - or two! - below this stage) we were not able to make it to our first ever Spy Quest training mission at Falkirk Story Festival (@FalkStoryFest)on Sunday.

As we missed this event I thought I'd spend the time we'd have spent there detailing how and why I feel Spy Quest is not only very well placed to assist the unfortunate "JAM" demographic but also highlight our experience to show why we feel David's work and AR game really is going to be "Ingress for Kids."

As a family we're not doing so great. We were, at one point, one of the "Young Aspirational" families that David Cameron was championing for when he was looking to be elected. Unfortunately, slowly (But very surely!) we've slide back down the socio-economic demographic.

I know that some people have felt that I've been a little critical in my blog any time good opportunities for change fade... It's perhaps worth noting that I can be just a critical of my own efforts.

For example, I'm painfully aware of how I've changed as a parent. We've gone from a household where using words like "Stupid" and "Bored" would see you being sent to thinking time... To, erm... well, let's just leave it at "there's a fair bit of stress!"

As always, we try to make these experiences work for us as best we can. It's by no means ideal but we are fortunate all the same to have examples from people like Stan Lee who highlights in his autobiography how stressed his dad was due to money worries, that "He would look in the paper every day for jobs that didn't exist" talking about his time growing up during the Great Depression.

Here's what I was Tweeting about when I should have been on the way to Falkirk
Stan Lee made this work for him by using his imagination (Oh and his Local Library... A place where Spy Quest clubs are ran!!)

We're obviously by no means unique in this situation. Just this week I read that kids born around 2000/01 are more prone to depression... Well I guess spending half your life under austerity is gonna have an impact, isn't it?!

Scottish Learning Festival
The Scottish Learning Festival was on last week and I switched Twitter onto that channel at the start of the first day. I quickly found that I had one of  two choices when John Swinney came on...

1) Get snarky or
2) Switch the channel off.

I stopped following the feed.

I simply didn't recognise the "Let's close the attainment gap" and "Scotland is a great place to grow up" that he was talking about... I can't say that Scotland was the greatest place for me when I was a kid (But obviously I acknowledge that there are A LOT worse places to live!) but I also can't say that my kids would be jumping out their seats in support and agreement if they were in the audience when this was said.

For example, as hard as we tried (And we went round ALL the Glasgow companies he thought he'd like to work at)... We couldn't find Work Experience for him. Not exactly what I'd call "Developing the Youth Workforce"

I'm sure it is indeed a different Scotland that Mr Swinney and his colleagues at Holyrood, including the #FortheMany-wannabe-Labour-Leaders-who-have-multiple-jobs/business-interests-and-lavish-expense-accounts and send their kids to private schools...But that's not our Scotland. We're in a JAM! And it's not much fun!!

Compare this with Apple where new hires are given an Apple PC to play around with for 3 months. If they were able to demonstrate that they had used it they got to keep it. If they couldn't their trial period was not continued... The argument being how can you work on and improve on a product if you don't use it yourself?

Terman Study - Family Background
As I highlight in my last post, we tell our kids that

"They can do anything they set their mind to" 

And I do believe that (As long as they prepare and do their best). We try to model this and I'll do all that I can to help them find their place in the world.

Even in amongst all our troubles our young Agent who missed the Spy Quest event just received a letter inviting him to join Equity because he's acted with people like Ewan McGregor, 7 years old and he's been in the same film as Obi Wan?!

Being a good Agent. Blending into the background and walking so he doesn't draw attention to himself. Lol
Nevertheless it can be a challenge when you have limited resources. It's painful to see all the extra-curricular activities drop off because of a lack of resources.

As with everything we "Hope for the best... but plan for the worst" In the hope for the best camp, everything will turn out OK. In the "Plan for the worst" category Lewis Terman's work has been playing on my mind.

Terman did a longitudinal study on children with high IQs in the 1920s, check out the results (And reason) between the group A and group C kids:

"What was the difference between the A’s and C’s? Terman ran through every conceivable the end, only one thing mattered: family background. The A’s overwhelmingly came from the middle and upper class. Their homes were filled with books. Half the fathers of the A group had a college degree or beyond, and this at a time when a university education was a rarity. The Cs on the other hand, were from the other side of the tracks. Almost a third of them had a parent who had dropped out of school before the eighth grade. 

 At one point, Terman had field workers go and visit everyone from the A and C groups and rate their personalities and manner. What they found is everything you would expect to find if you were comparing children raised in an atmosphere of concerted cultivation with children raised in an atmosphere of natural growth. The A’s were judged to be much more alert, poised, attractive, and well dressed. In fact, the scores on those four dimensions are so different as to make you think you are looking at two different species of humans. You aren’t of course. You’re simply seeing the difference between those schooled by their families to present their best face to the world, and those denied that experience. 

 The Terman results are deeply distressing. Let’s not forget how highly gifted the C group was. If you had met them at five or six year of age, you would have been overwhelmed by their curiosity and mental agility and sparkle. They were outliers. The plain truth of the Terman study, however, is that in the end almost none of the genius children from the lowest social and economic class ended up making a name for themselves".

This extract is from Malcom's Gladwell's book "Blink" where he argues that it doesn't matter what you try to do for your kids when they are born... it's who you are before they were born that makes the difference. Theodore Dalyrymple tells it like it is regarding the attainment gap if you are unfortunate enough to be "Lost in the Ghetto"

Little has changed since Dickensian times on this front so you'll need to forgive me for not jumping up and down with joy at a politician giving a speech telling me how great his plan is working out.
Tech Cos Vs Policy Makers
Pretty depressing stuff so far, right? Fortunately, we're also optimistic and we also read the writings of people like James Allen:

"Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not long remain so if you but perceive an Ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without. Here is a youth hard pressed by poverty and labor; confined long hours in an unhealthy workshop; unschooled, and lacking all the arts of refinement. But he dreams of better things; he thinks of intelligence, of refinement, of grace and beauty. He conceives of, mentally builds up, an ideal condition of life; the vision of a wider liberty and a larger scope takes possession of him; unrest urges him to action, and he utilizes all his spare time and means, small though they are, to the development of his latent powers and resources. Very soon so altered has his mind become that the workshop can no longer hold him. It has become so out of harmony with his mentality that it falls out of his life as a garment is cast aside, and, with the growth of opportunities, which fit the scope of his expanding powers, he passes out of it forever. Years later we see this youth as a full-grown man. We find him a master of certain forces of the mind, which he wields with worldwide influence and almost unequaled power. In his hands he holds the cords of gigantic responsibilities; he speaks, and lo, lives are changed; men and women hang upon his words and remold their characters, and, sun-like, he becomes the fixed and luminous center round which innumerable destinies revolve. He has realized the Vision of his youth. He has become one with his Ideal"

Regarding this more positive outlook it's both interesting and surprising the people I am in contact with discussing my ideas.

For a rather long time I've felt that the biggest change is not going to come from policy makers but from the change agents at tech companies collaborating with innovative educators... before it'll come from politicians.

This is something that I highlighted in my "Pokemon Go... Tech Vs Policy Maker Results" post last July

Need an example of this from a real life JAM? The rest of this post details how and why Spy Quest turned a mundane trip with a stressed out dad into a a Pokemon Go/Ingress-type, memorable, #attainmentgap busting (And fun!) mission.

Spy Quest - JAM Busters

It's Saturday, time for one of the few extra curricular activities that we can afford.

The Government has screwed up some of the money that we get... so it's an EVEN MORE challenging time than usual!!

Mum usually takes our child to the event on the bus. There's not enough electricity to put the tumble drier on and the train is cheaper with kids to free... so there's a break from the norm, Dad makes the trip on the train. It's an uneventful trip on the way into town, but this all changes on the way back.

We've read both Spy Quest books and we've had a Skype call with Agent Jones who has given us one mission that's under our belt. The young Agent's imagination is running wild at the idea that kids make the best spy guys.

I'm a little pre-occupied on the way back and go through the train barrier to the wrong platform (DOH!). The train guard calls our young Spy Quest fan over and gets him to punch in a code to over the gate.

On the train there is an advert for the TV channel DAVE. It's a word search and you've to find the word "Dave" I say "Maybe that's a code for you to start a mission? he presses the letters on the poster.

"Yeah says" he super animated "Maybe DAVE is for David Goutcher?"

Almost on cue two big burly military types get on the train, as does a kid with a black T-shit and white writing, we can't read the writing because his hoodie is zipped up.

With an active imagination facilitated by Goutcher, the train carriage has become a dangerous place... a mundane journey into an adventure.

Is the kid another agent? What does the writing on his T-shirt say?

Was the train guard an Agent? Was he supposed to give us something?

Is the penny on the floor, just a coin someone has dropped? Or is it a listening device or high tech gadget?
(I suppress a laugh when I look over and see him talking into the penny to see if anything happens)

I suggest that he walks up the carriage and use his observation skills and see what he can see.

One of the burly guys, a perfectly innocent passenger just enjoying his weekend, has been turned into a villain of the peace (Sorry about that dude!).

We never get to see the writing on the other kids T-shirt as we don't want to blow our cover. I would say that we'll never know if it was a fellow agent...Except that when the kid got off the train, for some reason, he had taken his T-shirt off and was swinging it above his head (Yeah I've no idea either! It wasn't even a sunny day)

Image result for aspy quest agent t shirt

Anyway, I say "He must have been an agent! but took his T-Shirt off when the mission was abandoned"

The villain in our story and adventure gets off at the same stop as us. We notice that he's got a fancy earpiece in his ear, clearly he's talking to Boris or Torrez.

With the other agent off the train and this guy getting off at the same stop as us... clearly we're in danger! We hurry off the train, get around the corner... and run! We take an alternative route home in case we're being followed.

A stressful, mundane journey turned into one of those all to rare core memories (For us JAMs) that Joy from Inside Out cherishes.

It's days like these that give you hope that Terman, Gladwell and Dalrymple are wrong... that our young people can do anything they set their mind to... Even if they don't come from the right family background and/or one that's in a bit of a JAM.

Agent Jones, THANK YOU for facilitating this JAM Buster of a mission!

People may have seen that I've started sharing a few Spy Quest resources online... and why I'll be doing what I can to help out as I go about exploring ideas that I had following the 2015 Scottish Learning Festival about Digital Citizenship before going on to finish my exploration of Pokemon Go a year on.

I hope both projects help with your inspiring work in some way.

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