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"Parents in Newark are wondering whether their children have been exposed to dangerous amounts of lead. Since early March, more than half of the 67 district schools have tested positive for high lead levels in the drinking water, and documents shows that the school administration knew about the problem for more than a year.
Last month, Ivelisse Mincey received an automated phone call announcing that lead had been found in the drinking water at Abington Avenue School in Newark, where her 12-year-old son Adam attends. “I put down the phone in an absolute panic,” Mincey said. “My son drinks water from the fountain all day long and now I have no idea whether he is going to have health problems.” Like other Newark parents, Mincey wants to know why the problem wasn’t fixed sooner. “I feel betrayed that the school district didn’t come to me to let me know about this,” she said. “They should have protected my son.”...
"Microsoft's new AI chatbot went off the rails Wednesday, posting a deluge of incredibly racist messages in response to questions.
The tech company introduced "Tay" this week — a bot that responds to users' queries and emulates the casual, jokey speech patterns of a stereotypical millennial.
The aim was to "experiment with and conduct research on conversational understanding," with Tay able to learn from "her" conversations and get progressively "smarter."
But Tay proved a smash hit with racists, trolls, and online troublemakers, who persuaded Tay to blithely use racial slurs, defend white-supremacist propaganda, and even outright call for genocide.
Microsoft has now taken Tay offline for "upgrades," and it is deleting some of the worst tweets — though many still remain. It's important to note that Tay's racism is not a product of Microsoft or of Tay itself. Tay is simply a piece of software that is trying to learn how humans talk in a conversation. Tay doesn't even know it exists, or what racism is. The reason it spouted garbage is that racist humans on Twitter quickly spotted a vulnerability — that Tay didn't understand what it was talking about — and exploited it.
Nonetheless, it is hugely embarrassing for the company."...
Go to just about any elementary school in this country and you will see teachers with stopwatches assessing “nonsense word fluency.” When I first heard the term, I though someone was pulling my leg. Fluency in reading, I had always thought, was about meaning, about understanding. It had nothing to do with nonsense.
But children are tested regularly in 60-second bursts on meaningless letter combinations — often pushed to go faster than one per second. Fluency equates to speed. I understand the importance of decoding skill, and I’m sure that some kids — the sprinters — might like this form of racing. But I wonder what image of reading we are passing on, and how the stragglers feel.
This obsession with speed has not always been dominant. The McGuffey readers encouraged patience and repeated readings that would lead to oral performance. But in the 1920s, reading educators argued that oral reading was too slow and inefficient—in fact, students needed to cut themselves off from any connection to sound and oral performance.
One popular guide at the time advised teachers to have students — literally — hold their tongue while reading, thus preventing sounding out words. Another technique was to bring a piece of wood to class and bite down on it while reading. Another was to allow them to chew gum while reading. If sound was turned off in these ways, students could process bigger visual chunks.
I myself am a slow reader. Always have been. I enter a book or essay carefully, trying to get a feel for this writer/narrator/teller that I will spend time with. I hear the language, feel the movement of sentences, pay attention to punctuation, sense pauses, feel the writer’s energy (or lack of it), construct the voice and temperament of the writer.
If I am going to spend time with an author, I want to hear his or her voice — I want some human connection.
I have therefore joined the slow reading movement. Like the slow food movement, it is about more than just slowing down, though that is part of it. It is about an intimacy with authors; it is about paying attention, about caring, about rereading and savoring what we read. It is about finding the right pace. About pleasure more than efficiency."...
"Scientific imaging shows how children absorb radiation from Smartphones in Virtual reality cardboard positions. Environmental Health Trust (EHT) scientists are calling on Google to stop the spread into schools of wireless virtual reality system Global Expeditions Pioneer Program where middle-school children hold a cell phone encased in a cardboard box in front of their eyes to take virtual expeditions to Mars, the moon, and other special places.
“Two-way microwave radiation transceivers, in the form of Smartphones, should not be used directly in front of children’s eyes and brains,” cautions University of Utah Distinguished Prof. Om Gandhi, who is one of the original developers of testing to evaluate wireless radiation from cellphones and is a Senior Advisor to EHT.
Prof. Gandhi added, “We have never tested microwave radiating devices directly in front of the young developing eye. The absence of proof of harm at this point does not mean that we have evidence of safety.”
“We want to know why is Google encouraging young children to employ a technology that has never been tested for their use when Samsung has a similar system that explicitly advises that no child under the age of 13 should be using it,” asks Devra Davis, President of EHT, and Visiting Professor of Ondokuz Mayis University Medical School and The Hebrew University Hadassah Medical Center.
EHT collaborating scientist, Professor Claudio Fernandez from the federal university of Canoas, Brazil, used cutting-edge modeling and found that radiation from the virtual reality applied wireless phones could easily exceed levels tested on adults.
“When we began to model cellphone exposures in the brains of toddlers and young children, I never imagined we would see these sorts of uses with devices placed directly in front of the eye and close to the brain,” noted Professor Claudio Fernandez, whose research employs anatomically-based models of children to modeling cellphone absorption."...
"Will the U.S. Department of Education take action on recommendations made by scientists and medical doctors who document the need for safety precautions regarding the use of wireless devices in schools? The answer remains to be seen. On Tuesday, January 19th, the U.S. Department of Education held a Public Hearing at UCLA to gather comments for transition to the new ESSA Every Student Succeeds Act. Approximately eighty speakers from a variety of educational institutions and organizations made statements and recommendations related to the new law. Each speaker had five minutes to comment. I spoke during the afternoon session and am posting here an adapted version of the written statement submitted to the regulations page."...
"This was/is a “catalyst” KINDERGARTEN classroom in Mentor, Ohio (pic from 2014). This picture truly gives me the chills. It is void of anything vibrant, enticing, or living. It is so deathly dismal grey. It is so opposite of how my 4-5s classroom looks— gratefully! The above appears to me like children have been implanted into some unnatural, doldrum business office setting. It looks like kinders sitting in on some corporate board (bored) meeting.
This is Tom Vander Ark’s ‘branchild.’ He ultimately sees classrooms just like this, with minimal amounts of teachers who would be translated into “facilitators.” Their jobs would be to guide the children towards online programs which would suit children’s individualized learning plans. The teachers are to become robotic sales clerks essentially for all of the products Vander Ark has for sale related to online learning. Information in turn would be documented at each and every keystroke, into the students’ “digital portfolio backpacks.”
"As laptops become smaller and more ubiquitous, and with the advent of tablets, the idea of taking notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today. Typing your notes is faster — which comes in handy when there's a lot of information to take down. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way.
For one thing, research shows that laptops and tablets have a tendency to be distracting — it's so easy to click over to Facebook in that dull lecture. And a study has shown that the fact that you have to be slower when you take notes by hand is what makes it more useful in the long run.
In the study published in Psychological Science, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles sought to test how notetaking by hand or by computer affects learning.
"When people type their notes they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can," Mueller tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can't write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them."
Mueller and Oppenheimer cited that notetaking can be categorized two ways: generative and nongenerative. Generative notetaking pertains to "summarizing, paraphrasing, concept mapping," while nongenerative notetaking involves copying something verbatim.
And there are two hypotheses to why notetaking is beneficial in the first place. The first idea is called the encoding hypothesis, which says that when a person is taking notes, "the processing that occurs" will improve "learning and retention." The second, called the external-storage hypothesis, is that you learn by being able to look back at your notes, or even the notes of other people.
Because people can type faster than they write, using a laptop will make people more likely to try to transcribe everything they're hearing. So on the one hand, Mueller and Oppenheimer were faced with the question of whether the benefits of being able to look at your more complete, transcribed notes on a laptop outweighs the drawbacks of not processing that information. On the other hand, when writing longhand, you process the information better but have less to look back at.
For their first study, they took university students (the standard guinea pig of psychology) and showed them TED talks about various topics. Afterward, they found that the students who used laptops wrote significantly more words than those who took notes by hand. When testing how well the students remembered information, the researchers found a key point of divergence in the type of question. For questions that asked students to simply remember facts, like dates, both groups did equally well. But for "conceptual-application" questions, such as, "How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?" the laptop users did "significantly worse."
The same thing happened in the second study, even when they specifically told students using laptops to try to avoid writing things down verbatim. "Even when we told people they shouldn't be taking these verbatim notes, they were not able to overcome that instinct," Mueller says. The more words the students copied verbatim, the worse they performed on recall tests.
And to test the external-storage hypothesis, for the third study they gave students the opportunity to review their notes in between the lecture and test. The thinking is, if students have time to study their notes from their laptops, the fact that they wrote down more extensive notes than their longhand-writing peers could possibly help them perform better.
But the students taking notes by hand still performed better. "This is suggestive evidence that longhand notes may have superior external storage as well as superior encoding functions," Mueller and Oppenheimer write.
Do studies like these mean wise college students will start migrating back to notebooks?
"I think it is a hard sell to get people to go back to pen and paper," Mueller says. "But they are developing lots of technologies now like Livescribe and various stylus and tablet technologies that are getting better and better. And I think that will be sort of an easier sell to college students and people of that generation."...
"The way we understand our intelligence and abilities deeply impacts our success. Based on social science research and real life examples, Eduardo Briceño articulates how mindset, or the understanding of intelligence and abilities, is key. When students or adults see their abilities as fixed, whether they think they're naturals or just not built for a certain domain, they avoid challenge and lose interest when things get hard. Conversely, when they understand that abilities are developed, they more readily adopt learning-oriented behaviors such as deliberate practice and grit that enable them to achieve their goals. But this belief is itself malleable, and there are clear actions we can all take to establish a growth mindset and enable success for our children, our peers and ourselves.
Eduardo Briceño is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mindset Works (http://www.mindsetworks.com), an organization that helps schools and other organizations cultivate a growth mindset culture. The growth mindset was discovered by Stanford professor and Mindset Works co-founder Carol Dweck, Ph.D., and is described in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (http://www.mindsetonline.com). Mindset Works offers Brainology, an innovative blended learning program to teach a growth mindset to students, teachers and schools, as well as teacher professional development and tools (http://www.mindsetworks.com/brainology/)."
"Americans were left reeling in recent days at the sight of grown men who aspire to George Washington’s job mired in what can only be described as potty talk. “Mr. Rubio suggested Mr. Trump had urinated in his trousers,” The New York Timesarchly noted. The insults went downhill from there, as Trump defended the size of his genitals during a subsequent live presidential debate.
The obvious conclusion is that grownups are acting like preschoolers. But this characterization of young children is actually quite misleading. When given the opportunity, preschoolers are capable of far greater generosity and respect for their peers and sophistication of thought than people have seen on display this election season.
Moreover, in today’s “no excuses” educational climate, they are held to higher performance standards, too. In fact, there’s a troubling kind of role reversal going on in American society today: As adults race to the bottom with childish antics that would have imperiled careers and marriages in previous eras, young children are the ones being forced to act like the adults."
"Erika Christakis' new book, The Importance of Being Little, is an impassioned plea for educators and parents to put down the worksheets and flash cards, ditch the tired craft projects (yes, you, Thanksgiving Handprint Turkey) and exotic vocabulary lessons, and double-down on one, simple word:
That's because, she writes, "the distinction between early education and official school seems to be disappearing." If kindergarten is the new first grade, Christakis argues, preschool is quickly becoming the new kindergarten. And that is "a real threat to our society's future."
If the name sounds familiar, that's likely because Christakis made headlines last October, writing an email that stirred angry protests at Yale, where she is a lecturer at the Yale Child Study Center.
When a campus committee sent students a memo urging restraint in choosing Halloween costumes and asking them to avoid anything that "disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression," Christakis wrote a memo of her own. She lauded the committee's goals of trying to encourage tolerance and foster community but wondered if the responsibility of deciding what is offensive should fall to students, not their administrators.
"Have we lost faith in young people's capacity — in your capacity — to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you?" Christakis wrote.
Many Yale students accused Christakis of being racially insensitive and called for her ouster. In December, she stepped down from her teaching duties, telling The Washington Post, "I worry that the current climate at Yale is not, in my view, conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems."
What does Christakis' role in the heated debate over racial insensitivity and free speech on campus have to do with her views on preschool? Surprisingly, a lot. I spoke with Christakis about her new book and the turmoil at Yale. Here's an edited version of our conversation.
What is this phenomenon that you call "the preschool paradox"?
It is the reality that science is confirming on a daily basis: that children are hardwired to learn in many settings and are really very capable, very strong, very intelligent on the one hand. On the other hand, the paradox is that many young children are doing poorly in our early education settings.
We've got a growing problem of preschool expulsions, a growing problem of children being medicated off-label for attention problems. We have a lot of anecdotal evidence that parents are frustrated and feeling overburdened. So that's what interests me:
What is going on?
We have very crammed [preschool] schedules with rapid transitions. We have tons of clutter on classroom walls. We have kids moving quickly from one activity to another. We ask them to sit in long and often boring meetings. Logistically and practically, lives are quite taxing for little kids because they're actually living in an adult-sized world."...
"Proficiency on the keyboard, according to the Common Core, adopted in most states, is more important than teaching legible handwriting, reports Maria Kinnikova for The New York Times.
Psychologists and neuroscientists are not so sure. There is evidence of a connection between handwriting and a wide range of educational development processes. One example is that reading is learned more quickly when young students begin to write by hand, and they are better at generating ideas and information retention at this point.
“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain. And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize. Learning is made easier.”
Researchers have found that three areas of the brain are activated in adults when they read and write. Children who typed or traced a letter had a weaker activation. Dr. Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University, used a scanner to come to the conclusion that the “messiness” or variability of handwriting might be a learning tool in itself. The same thing, she found, was true when one child physically formed the letters and another child simply watched. Her discovery was that the actual effort of writing provides the benefits.
Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at the University of Washington, went even further. She observed that when a child composed by handwriting he composed more quickly and and expressed more ideas. In older children, the better their handwriting, the greater neural activation in working memory, and in the reading and writing networks.
As cursive writing seems to be nearing its demise, experts have found that for brain-injured individuals, writing can take on an interesting form. In some, cursive writing is unimpaired; in others, printing is still able to be executed. It suggests that the two types of handwriting activate different parts of the brain. Some believe cursive writing could be a path to treating dyslexia.
Pam A Mueller of Princeton, and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, both psychologists, have observed that students take better notes by hand, which allows the processing of the information heard, and the re-framing of it. This, in turn, produces a reflection and manipulation process that can lead to improved understanding and memory encoding.'
As a result of their studies, it became apparent that taking notes on a computer may not be the best way to learn the material, reports Cindi May, writing for Scientific American. In tests, although computer based note-takers had notes that were often verbatim, those who took notes by hand did better on conceptual understanding, and in applying and integrating the material.
One idea brought forth by the studies was a suggestion that laptop note-takers should be advised to write summations of the lecture rather than typing the lecture word-by-word. This might cause students to think about the information rather than just about transcribing it, the psychologists posited.
The students to whom this was suggested seemed not to be able to stop the exact note-taking, possibly because there is a mindless component to typing. Even if the test on the notes is taken days later, when, theoretically students could have time to study their computer notes, the hand-writers still had higher test scores.
Graeme Paton writes in The Daily Telegraph that in the UK, the decline in traditional handwriting has been linked to the overuse of technology in the classroom. The government has pledged to improve standards and give handwriting more attention in the national curriculum.
Commenting on the latest study, Tony Sewell, an education writer and former teacher, said: “Clarity of handwriting isn’t just important in ensuring exam questions are answered in a clear manner, but is a critical part of the learning process. The fluid motion of writing and rewriting notes helps to instill the data in the mind more efficiently than the process of typing, making it an effective revision tool which aides information recall.”
Many UK teachers admit that scores on tests and projects have had to be reduced in some cases when students’ handwriting is illegible. A whopping 82% of teachers believe the deterioration of good handwriting skills is due to the overuse of technological instruments.
"Would you like paper or plasma? That's the question book lovers face now that e-reading has gone mainstream. And, as it turns out, our brains process digital reading very differently.
Manoush Zomorodi, managing editor and host of WNYC's New Tech City, recalls a conversation with the Washington Post's Mike Rosenwald, who's researched the effects of reading on a screen. “He found, like I did, that when he sat down to read a book his brain was jumping around on the page. He was skimming and he couldn’t just settle down. He was treating a book like he was treating his Twitter feed," she says.
Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards "non-linear" reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.
“They call it a ‘bi-literate’ brain,” Zoromodi says. “The problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online just too well. And if you don’t use the deep reading part of your brain, you lose the deep reading part of your brain.”
So what's deep reading? It's the concentrated kind we do when we want to "immerse ourselves in a novel or read a mortgage document,” Zoromodi says. And that uses the kind of long-established linear reading you don't typically do on a computer. “Dense text that we really want to understand requires deep reading, and on the internet we don’t do that.”
Linear reading and digital distractions have caught the attention of academics like Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University.
“I don’t worry that we’ll become dumb because of the Internet,” Wolf says, "but I worry we will not use our most preciously acquired deep reading processes because we’re just given too much stimulation. That’s, I think, the nub of the problem.”
To keep the deep reading part of the brain alive and kicking, Zomorodi says that researchers like Wolf recommend setting aside some time each day to deep read on paper.
And now that children are seemingly growing up with a digital screen in each hand, Wolf says it’s also important that teachers and parents make sure kids are taking some time away from scattered reading. Adults need to ensure that children also practice the deeper, slow reading that we associate with books on paper.
“I think the evidence someday will be able to show us that what we’re after is a discerning ‘bi-literate’ brain,” Wolf says. “That’s going to take some wisdom on our part.”
"When I worked with student teachers on developing effective lesson plans, one thing I always asked them to revise was the phrase “We will discuss.”
We will discuss the video.
We will discuss the story.
We will discuss our results.
Every time I saw it in a lesson plan, I would add a note: “What format will you use? What questions will you ask? How will you ensure that all students participate?” I was pretty sure that We will discuss actually meant the teacher would do most of the talking; He would throw out a couple of questions like “So what did you think about the video?” or “What was the theme of the story?” and a few students would respond, resulting in something that looked like a discussion, but was ultimately just a conversation between the teacher and a handful of extroverted students; a classic case of Fisheye Teaching.
The problem wasn’t them; in most of the classrooms where they’d sat as students, that’s exactly what a class discussion looked like. They didn’t know any other “formats.” I have only ever been familiar with a few myself. But when teachers began contacting me recently asking for a more comprehensive list, I knew it was time to do some serious research.
So here they are: 15 formats for structuring a class discussion to make it more engaging, more organized, more equitable, and more academically challenging."...
"Did you wake up feeling relieved this morning? Your child’s data will be in the trusted hands of Microsoft and Dell and others in the edtech world, and you should trust them with it, because they said so. They built a website, they paid for participating school districts to fly out and create a logo and trusty seal of approval that is supposed to make you feel better about them collecting, leveraging, and sharing your child’s data. Meet TLE, soon to be plastered on schools everywhere (once districts prove themselves and pay the required fee "....
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