Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness – The New York Times

 

BLACKPOOL, England — The woman on the other end of the phone spoke lightheartedly of spring and of her 81st birthday the previous week. “Who did you celebrate with, Beryl?” asked Alison, whose job was to offer a kind ear. “No one, I…” And with that, Beryl’s cheer turned to despair. Her voice began to quaver as she acknowledged that she had been alone at home not just on her birthday, but for days and days. The telephone conversation was the first time she had spoken in more than a week. About 10,000 similar calls come in weekly to an unassuming office building in this seaside town at the northwest reaches of England, which houses The Silver Line Helpline, a 24-hour call center for older adults seeking to fill a basic need: contact with other people.

Read the full story here

Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness – The New York Times

 

BLACKPOOL, England — The woman on the other end of the phone spoke lightheartedly of spring and of her 81st birthday the previous week. “Who did you celebrate with, Beryl?” asked Alison, whose job was to offer a kind ear. “No one, I…” And with that, Beryl’s cheer turned to despair. Her voice began to quaver as she acknowledged that she had been alone at home not just on her birthday, but for days and days. The telephone conversation was the first time she had spoken in more than a week. About 10,000 similar calls come in weekly to an unassuming office building in this seaside town at the northwest reaches of England, which houses The Silver Line Helpline, a 24-hour call center for older adults seeking to fill a basic need: contact with other people.

Read the full story here

Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness – The New York Times

 

BLACKPOOL, England — The woman on the other end of the phone spoke lightheartedly of spring and of her 81st birthday the previous week. “Who did you celebrate with, Beryl?” asked Alison, whose job was to offer a kind ear. “No one, I…” And with that, Beryl’s cheer turned to despair. Her voice began to quaver as she acknowledged that she had been alone at home not just on her birthday, but for days and days. The telephone conversation was the first time she had spoken in more than a week. About 10,000 similar calls come in weekly to an unassuming office building in this seaside town at the northwest reaches of England, which houses The Silver Line Helpline, a 24-hour call center for older adults seeking to fill a basic need: contact with other people.

Read the full story here

Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness

BLACKPOOL, England — The woman on the other end of the phone spoke lightheartedly of spring and of her 81st birthday the previous week. “Who did you celebrate with, Beryl?” asked Alison, whose job was to offer a kind ear. “No one, I…” And with that, Beryl’s cheer turned to despair. Her voice began to quaver as she acknowledged that she had been alone at home not just on her birthday, but for days and days. The telephone conversation was the first time she had spoken in more than a week. About 10,000 similar calls come in weekly to an unassuming office building in this seaside town at the northwest reaches of England, which houses The Silver Line Helpline, a 24-hour call center for older adults seeking to fill a basic need: contact with other people.

Read the full story here

Students aren’t customers

Students aren't customers

The latest in the Guardian’s “Anonymous Academic” series covers familiar territory:

Last week I sent out the first round of grades for a module and had 12 emails of complaint within an hour. One in particular stood out for its misunderstanding of what it means to be a scholar. The student said the grade must be incorrect because he had turned up to all the lectures – as if simply regurgitating what I had taught him deserved a 70+ grade.

As I attempted to formulate a diplomatic, polite and supportive response, I pondered a few things. When did it become an expectation that turning up to lectures is worthy of reward in itself? Moreover, when I was studying would I have ever had the balls to contact my lecturers and not only question their ability to grade my work appropriately but imply that my low grade was their fault?

For what it’s worth, this isn’t a recent phenomenon – I experienced it back in 2000. Admittedly that was from an American student who was paying (high) fees, but later that year I also had to field a telephone call from a parent (a parent!) annoyed that her son had only got a 2.2. Annoyed with me! That was my first year of teaching. I should have spotted the signs.

There are a few points to make here, and even they will only scratch the surface of how I feel about this.

While I do believe in student-centred learning, and ensuring that we understand the purpose of education is to advance the student, not the discipline, the idea that the student is a “customer” is simply wrong. The article condemns the idea that education is a service but I’m not so quick. To me the term “service” covers a whole range of things from the sort of service you get at a supermarket to the sort of service you get when you’re a central part of a complex process. One is passive, the other involved.

So it’s better to think of a student as a “member” of the university rather than a passive recipient of a service. Of course that’s how it used to be, and still is in some universities (students at Cambridge are “members” of their college, for example). The moment you think like this you can compare university with other membership-based organisations. Gym members don’t complain to management when they fail to lose weight – they understand they have a role in their own achievements. Don’t show up, don’t get the benefit. (I realise to some colleagues, likening study at university to membership of a gym is as bad as comparing it to a supermarket but bear with me – I’m on your side. To a point.)

Students should be treated with respect, as fellow scholars. Not as idiots.

The term “tuition fee” is so badly chosen it’s unbelievable. There are students out there who have taken their £9,000 and divided it by the number of hours of lectures they receive and used that to calculate, as in the example in the Guardian article, how much they’re owed in refunds if a lecturer doesn’t show up or how much each session is costing them. (I have no truck with anyone who just cancels lectures because they can’t be bothered, by the way, but genuine reasons do exist as to why a session may be postponed). Tuition fees don’t just cover tuition, in the same way that your gym fees don’t only pay for the bit of equipment you use. Perhaps we should start calling them something else? Oh yes – membership fees, perhaps?

Time does not equal money. Or rather, money does not equal tutors’ time. It measures students’ time. The measure of effectiveness is not the input (the teaching) but the output (the learning). A degree is calculated in terms of credits, and they relate to notional student effort, not notional tutor effort. A degree equates to 3,600 hours of learning, not teaching, and the best teachers facilitate learning, they don’t stand at the front and pontificate. So in terms of “tuition” my students might have got less than with some other colleagues but I would hope that in terms of “learning” they got more than their money’s worth.

The problem really becomes overwhelming when the university itself – or significant parts of it – start treating students like customers as well. The first educational establishment I worked in, an FE college, had changed its student support department to “customer services” and we were all told to stop referring to students as students, and call them customers instead. Fortunately the loudest critics of this policy were the students themselves, who rather liked the title.

So let’s reclaim the word “student” and use it wth pride.

Blood donors in Sweden get a text message whenever their blood saves someone’s life

With blood donation rates in decline all over the developed world, Sweden’s blood service is enlisting new technology to help push back against shortages.

One new initiative, where donors are sent automatic text messages telling them when their blood has actually been used, has caught the public eye.

People who donate initially receive a ‘thank you’ text when they give blood, but they get another message when their blood makes it into somebody else’s veins.

“We are constantly trying to develop ways to express [donors’] importance,” Karolina Blom Wiberg, a communications manager at the Stockholm blood service told The Independent.

“We want to give them feed back on their effort, and we find this is a good way to do that.”

The service says the messages give donors more positive feedback about how they’ve helped their fellow citizens – which encourages them to donate again.

Read the full story here

Next Government urged to put design at the heart-of decision-making

A cross-party group of leading parliamentarians is calling on the next government to put design at the heart of the UK’s political, economic and education systems to ensure “the opportunities of the future are fully realised”.

The call comes in new publication Thinking, Making, Testing: A Manifesto for design, which is being released by the All-Party Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group. It has been written by architect Lord Richard Rogers, Baroness Whitaker and MPs Carline Dinage and Barry Sheerman.

The report – released in advance of the 7 May General Election – makes the case for bringing design thinking into key main policy areas: industrial strategy, public services and government infrastructure, housing and the built environment and education.

Among the recommendations made are that the government should appoint a chief advisor for design and innovation; that “design thinking” should become an integral part of design teaching in the education system; and that design should be given the same consideration as sustainability – no longer a “nice to have” but instead a central pillar of government policy.

Other recommendations include that civil servants should be trained in basic service design methods and that there should be an improved understanding of design and innovation spend in the public sector.

Read the full story here