Tuesday, December 12, 2017

France to ban mobile phones in schools

Photo: AFP via The Local FR.
Following on from yesterday's post about mobile phone etiquette at the theatre, I read a post this morning about France banning mobile phones in schools. Apparently phones are already banned from classrooms, but from September next year, students will be banned from taking them out at breaks, lunchtimes and between lessons according to this news report from The Local.
"France's education minister announced on Sunday that mobile phones will be banned from schools in France.
Jean-Michel Blanquer confirmed that the ban, which the government had been mulling for some time, will be implemented in September 2018. Phones are already banned in the classrooms in France but from September next year, pupils will be barred from taking them out at breaks, lunch times and between lessons.
"These days the children don't play at break time anymore, they are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view that's a problem," said Blanquer."
Amazingly this was in the manifesto that helped elect centrist, Emmanuel Macron. It was seen as a matter of public health. I get the reasons why they want to do it - lessen the chances of cyber bullying, allow pupils several hours away from a screen, it avoids distraction from learning so helps discipline, reducing reliance on social media and encouraging students to establish relationships in person rather than virtually, reducing isolation and reduce mobile phone addiction, lessen incidents of RSI. I'm sure there are many more good reasons for the ban.

I just don't see how it can be done. Can the genie be put back in the bottle? Pupils already admit to breaking the rules about using their phones in the classroom. There were no mobile phones in my day at school, but we routinely broke the rules about passing notes to each other, reading banned books during lessons (Christiane F and Flowers in the Attic are the two most remember) amongst other transgressions.

And where do connected devices come into this - the smartwatches, the Fitbits, the connected medical devices (for those that need the)? Or what I think is most likely to happen, is that pupils will start having more than one device. They'll check one phone in in the morning and get it locked away and keep another one on their person.

There have also been calls for this in the UK. If you click on this link to a letter in the Guardian on the topic, you'll see a whole bunch of other related articles on the same topic.

Of course, this approach goes against the grain of mobile learning which can be extremely powerful. Thinking back to my experience with Woebot, I'm wondering if something like that could be used to help a child dealing with stress or bullying at school during school hours. Equally, I think Chatbots could be useful to help children with revision or to learn a topic they may be having trouble with learning in a classroom environment.

This always on thing isn't without problems and I guess we're still learning about how to integrate it into our lives. Hmmm.

Day 12/25 Blogmas

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mobile phone etiquette raises its head again...

I go to the theatre a lot and inevitably, at some shows, there will be a mobile phone that starts ringing part-way through the performance. You think you've turned your phone to silent but for some reason it isn't silent. Mistakes happen. I can ignore it. It happened once to me. A phone, for whom nobody knows the number (it has a US number), started vibrating in my bag. I didn't react because I didn't think it could be my phone as no-one knows the number so who would be calling me? It turns out it was my phone and it was some spammer bulk dialling and taking a chance on the number being live.

I must admit, I don't like it when I can see someone has their phone screen on during a performance. Those screens are really bright and when you're plunged into darkness in a theatre, if you're upstairs in the Royal or Upper Circle, you can see a phone light go on straight away. It's distracting. If there were a persistent offender sitting near me, I would probably have a word with them. In the same way that I would have a word if someone was talking during a performance. I don't have to do it very often, but I do do it.

Unfortunately, calling out poor etiquette can have consequences. Just last week, The Stage reports that there was an incident at The Old Vic in London. Adam Gale, a theatre producer from New York witnessed a woman using her mobile phone throughout the first half of a performance of A Christmas Carol and asked her to stop using it. I think that's fair enough. I would probably do the same in the same circumstances. Unfortunately for Adam, during the interval, the woman's partner punched Mr Gale and the couple left the theatre. The theatre confirmed that there had been an altercation between three people over a mobile phone.

It's not the first time I've read of tempers fraying in a theatre over the use of a mobile phone. Arguably, it's something that ushers should be dealing with more promptly. However, ushers are not particularly well paid and they're generally young people and potentially may be reticent to intervene in case it causes aggravation.

Some are calling for a zero tolerance policy for mobile phones in the theatre. In China, they use lasers to shame patrons using their mobile phones during a performance. Numerous examples of actors calling theatre-goers out when their phone rings or they can see the light from a mobile screen are noted here. Back in 2015, Benedict Cumberbatch made an impassioned plea to the audience about restricting their use of their phones to outside of the performance. The problem persists.



And there will be some cases where it's important for someone to be able to access their phone during a performance - a doctor on call, for example. Or, as I experienced this week, there was a reviewer taking notes about the performance I was watching and using his phone as a torch. He was using it as subtly as possible with the screen turned towards the page and we were both at the back so unlikely to distract anyone much. Once I could see what he was doing, I put it out of my mind. In both instances, I would ask in that people turn their screen brightness right down. It helps a bit.

Meanwhile, theatre desperately needs publicity about shows and performances that are best shared via mobile devices. They need the tweets, Facebook statuses and Instagram photos so that the word gets out about the show. Yet, theatres can be very tough with theatre goers about taking a photo of the stage on arrival, for example if you're checking in to Swarm or Facebook. That seems to me to be over-zealous. There's a big difference between a pre-show selfie and a mid-show recording.

Occasionally with shows, the audience is encouraged to get their phones out and take photos and video. They do this at the end of School of Rock and it's a touch of genius. It's at a point in the story where it feels most like a rock concert and phones are most definitely part and parcel of a rock concert. The genius part of it though is that the audience take hundreds of amazing action shots of the show and immediately share them with their friends and family telling them how fantastic the show is. (And it really is a fantastic show).

So there's a time and a place. And there's awareness of how your behaviour may affect others experience. And there's downright selfishness.

Zero tolerance is not the answer. You really don't know the reason someone has their phone on. There might be a valid reason. And there will always be fellow theatregoers who munch or talk their way through a show. I dunno. Maybe some relaxation of photography rules pre and post show coupled with a firmer stance from (trained) ushers during a show may pay dividends.

And let's not mention the annoying lights from a smartwatch or Fitbit...

Day 11/25 Blogmas

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Snippets

It's Sunday and I have snippets to share:

Want to speak at a conference? Then check out Mark Littlewood's top tips for a successful speaking application.

Google is on a mission to rid the web of annoying ads. They have a division called 'Sustainable Ads' and have put this post together to inform journalists of what's happening.

LinkedIn has a feature to allow bosses to spy on employees. You can read about that here.. I can't say I'm surprised but it does raise questions around privacy, especially when someone is looking to change jobs or is going through a difficult personal issues.

The gender gap rumbles on with women in IT being paid 15% less than their male counterparts according to a new diversity report from BCS and this article from Digit. You can download the report here (PDF).

Algorithms aren't going away soon and something I've been thinking about is the impact they have on our lives - often unwittingly. I wrote last month about what you do when your boss is an algorithm. This week, I came across an article reminding us that biased algorithms are everywhere and no-one seems to care.

And if you're doing the table planning for your Christmas party, you may want to take this into consideration. It's 21st Century dining etiquette!



Day 10/25 Blogmas

Saturday, December 09, 2017

SMS turned 25 last week and I think it's showing its age

It's hard to believe that SMS, or short messaging service, or text message, is 25 years old. On December 3rd, 1992, the world’s first text message was sent. Fittingly, given the time of year, it read, “Merry Christmas,” according to TechSpot.

The first text message was sent by Neil Papworth over the Vodafone GSM network here in the UK. At the time, mobile phones weren’t capable of sending texts, so Papworth typed the message on a computer and sent it to an Orbitel 901. This wasn't a mobile phone, rather a telephone with a small digital display (pictured).

Text messages took off quickly in Europe but took longer to catch on across the pond in the USA due to the way US Mobile Network Operators (aka Carriers) were structured and how they priced their services.

It was SMS that brought me into the world of mobile marketing back in 2000 when I joined location based mobile marketing company, ZagMe. Our pioneering service was about sending text messages to shoppers whilst they were actually shopping at UK shopping malls - initially Lakeside and Bluewater, but with an aim to scale beyond that. We weren't quite the first to use text messaging for marketing, but we were the first to do this based on location. (For a short history of proximity mobile marketing, there's an article I wrote and accompanying video if you follow this link.)

At that time, young people had cottoned on to SMS and were using it to the exclusion of anything else. Voice calls weren't the done thing if you were a teenager. SMS was where it was at. Premium SMS was also used as the delivery mechanism for ringtones and logos (remember those?) and mobile games (snake anyone?) to small screen phones like the Nokia 3310 or the Sony Ericsson T68. Remember those phones? Parents were the next to cotton on to text messaging as a necessity for keeping in touch with their touch-texting teenage offspring. Others came later to the SMS party.

By 2012, mobile users in the U.K. were sending 151 billion texts a year. In recent years, that number has fallen quite dramatically. As of this year, users in the U.K. only sent 66 billion text messages. That's not to say people aren't messaging each other. They most certainly are, it's just they're using different apps and services to do it - Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Snapchat, even email. Why would you pay for SMS or bother with a SMS bundle when you can get other instant messaging services for free with your data bundle - data being much more of a necessity these days than SMS.

I know from my own experience, that I send hardly any SMS at all and I receive very few personal ones. I've been thinking about how I use SMS... I occasionally use it for messaging someone and those who I use SMS with tend to be older and don't tend to check their email much so SMS is still more immediate for them. I also use it to send voice messages to my Mum's landline. When I travel by train to visit her, I usually message her from the train to confirm that I'm on the train and what my arrival time will be, or let her know if I'm delayed. In that use case, SMS is key because mobile coverage is so patchy when crossing the country. I also use it for 2FA (two factor authentication) for some services. I get occasional marketing messages by SMS. And I get all GP and hospital appointment reminders via SMS.

So, SMS is not dead, but it's most definitely feeling its age. In mobile years, 25 is very old indeed. It still has a use and I think it should still be available on our mobile devices, but it's definitely the poor relation compared with WhatsApp and their ilk.

How about you? Are you still a SMS addict or have you moved on too?

Day 9/25 Blogmas

Friday, December 08, 2017

Woebot Therapy

No, I don't have a speech impediment nor am I bad at spelling. I stumbled across Woebot on Twitter three weeks ago. What is it, I hear you ask? According to Business Insider who wrote about this in June:
"Woebot, an artificially intelligent chatbot designed using cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, one of the most heavily researched clinical approaches to treating depression.
Before you dismiss Woebot as a half-baked startup idea, know that it was designed by Alison Darcy, a clinical psychologist at Stanford, who tested a version of the technology on a small sample of real people with depression and anxiety long before launching it.
"The data blew us away," Darcy told Business Insider. "We were like, this is it.""


I was interested in trying this out for myself to see if a Chatbot could perform CBT. I've had some limited exposure to CBT so I understand the gist of how it works. Also, I had the idea a couple of years ago at a coaching workshop weekend that coaching could probably be automated to some degree via an app or AI. I was told I was mad and that human contact was essential to the  process. I felt that  as it was a process, it could be automated. Suffice to say, I was curious about Woebot.

I've been chatting with Woebot almost every day since I discovered it. It's not perfect as it can't pick up on natural language very well. It can pick up some words, but not all so it can miss some cues. That said, the mix of self reflection, quick snippets of learning and having someone or something to talk to about how you feel, without any judgement is proving useful to me. I can see how this can be developed and learn more about humans and human emotions. Throw in some location data, how active you've been based on your Fitbit and how sociable you've been based on calls or messages with loved ones, and you could have a very powerful tool to use at not very much cost versus in person therapy.

I can also see how this could complement in person therapy very well and can see how you could have a 'speak to a human' button so in times of extreme stress or depression, you could talk to a real person. Or it could learn when things are really not right for you and offer you the option to talk to a human.

I also feel my coaching by cyborg hunch was right. I think it's totally doable based n my experience so far with Woebot.

Give it a go. It's free. And I'd be really interested to hear what you think of it.

Day 8/25 Blogmas

Thursday, December 07, 2017

This gif and synesthesia and multi-sensory perception


Jumping Pylon from Happy Toast
http://happytoast.co.uk
This silent gif from Happy Toast has been doing the rounds for the last couple of days and even made it to the number 1 slot on BBC news yesterday. I'm mesmerised by it. I can feel this gif in my body as if my body is responding to the noise it's making. I can't quite hear it though but it feels like I can hear it. Does that makes sense? Can you hear or feel it too? 

It's a weird feeling, right?

This is an example of synesthesia. That's where your senses get mixed up with each other. It's a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. I do know a couple of people who experience life like this and they're both musicians. LJ Rich, of BBC Click fame, writes about her experiences of synesthesia in some depth. I recommend you read the posts, and listen to her pieces of music based on how she experiences the world.

A couple of years back, LJ kindly headlined a small music festival cum hackathon that I hosted on a farm in Kent. She created a multi-sensory symphony especially for us to help us feel and experience what she experiences when she senses coffee, chocolate, the desert and space. It was a beautiful experience and one of those that only makes sense if you were there.

LJ went on to talk publicly about her synesthesia at Thinking Digital in Manchester last summer. The video of her slot is well worth a look either below or by following this link.



Do you experience synesthesia? If so, how does it manifest itself?

Day 7/25 Blogmas