"How does a sunset work? We love to look at them, but Jolanda Blackwell wanted her 8th graders to really think about them, to wonder and question. So Blackwell, who teaches science at Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior High in Davis, Calif., had her students watch a video of a sunset on YouTube as part of a physics lesson on motion.
“I asked them: ‘So what’s moving? And why?’” Blackwell says. The students had a lot of ideas. Some thought the sun was moving, others, of course, knew that a sunset is the result of the earth spinning around on its axis.
Once she got the discussion going, the questions came rapid-fire. “My biggest challenge usually is trying to keep them patient,” she says. “They just have so many burning questions.” ‘Curiosity really is one of the very intense and very basic impulses in humans. We should base education on this behavior.’
Students asking questions and then exploring the answers. That’s something any good teacher lives for. And at the heart of it all is curiosity. Blackwell, like many others teachers, understands that when kids are curious, they’re much more likely to stay engaged.
But why? What, exactly, is curiosity and how does it work? A study published in the October issue of the journal Neuron, suggests that the brain’s chemistry changes when we become curious, helping us better learn and retain information."...
Rhythm is a key factor in communication. Speech rhythm provides important cues for meaning. Babies pick up rhythms, and we all use it to help identify syllables and words. An inability to properly process speech and sound—and rhythm—appears to be associated with reading problems.
In the study, scientists tested 35 children between three and four years old. An adult drummer beat a tempo meant to mimic the speed of speech. Twenty-two children could beat along; 13 could not. The children who kept the beat were faster at naming objects and colors, had superior short-term auditory memory, and were better at rhythm and melody discrimination. These skills all are related to language and reading.
The researchers suggest that such a drumming test could identify children with early language and literacy challenges. And training could help the kids overcome those challenges—in part by learning to keep a beat."...
—Cynthia Graber [The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
Image credit: Doug Neil "If you think your inability to concentrate is a hopeless condition, think again –– and breathe, and focus. According to a study by researchers at the UC Santa Barbara, as little as two weeks of mindfulness training can significantly improve one's reading comprehension, working memory capacity, and ability to focus.
Their findings were recently published online in the empirical psychology journal Psychological Science.
"What surprised me the most was actually the clarity of the results," said Michael Mrazek, graduate student researcher in psychology and the lead and corresponding author of the paper, "Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering." "Even with a rigorous design and effective training program, it wouldn't be unusual to find mixed results. But we found reduced mind-wandering in every way we measured it."...
What motivates us to work? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn't just money. But it's not exactly joy either. It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work. (Filmed at TEDxRiodelaPlata.)
"When Henry Molaison (now widely known as H.M.) cracked his skull in an accident, he began blacking out and having seizures. In an attempt to cure him, daredevil surgeon Dr. William Skoville removed H.M.'s hippocampus. Luckily, the seizures did go away — but so did his long-term memory! Sam Kean walks us through this astonishing medical case, detailing everything H.M. taught us about the brain and memory."...
I remember hearing this phrase when I was handed a towering stack of fluency probes that represented about 3-4 hours of “in addition to” work per week. I wasn’t against the idea behind it all (supporting the literacy of struggling adolescent readers), but rather the execution. All those probes, and all that data, and almost no room for adjustment of teaching and learning based on that data."...
"As children learn basic arithmetic, they gradually switch from solving problems by counting on their fingers to pulling facts from memory. The shift comes more easily for some kids than for others, but no one knows why.
Now, new brain-imaging research gives the first evidence drawn from a longitudinal study to explain how the brain reorganizes itself as children learn math facts. A precisely orchestrated group of brain changes, many involving the memory center known as the hippocampus, are essential to the transformation, according to a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The results, published online Aug. 17 in Nature Neuroscience, explain brain reorganization during normal development of cognitive skills and will serve as a point of comparison for future studies of what goes awry in the brains of children with learning disabilities.
“We wanted to understand how children acquire new knowledge, and determine why some children learn to retrieve facts from memory better than others,” said Vinod Menon, PhD, the Rachael L. and Walter F. Nichols, MD, Professor and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and the senior author of the study. “This work provides insight into the dynamic changes that occur over the course of cognitive development in each child."
The study also adds to prior research into the differences between how children’s and adults’ brains solve math problems. Children use certain brain regions, including the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, very differently from adults when the two groups are solving the same types of math problems, the study showed."...
"Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners summarizes the research on five categories of non-cognitive factors that are related to academic performance: academic behaviors, academic perseverance, academic mindsets, learning strategies and social skills, and proposes a framework for thinking about how these factors interact to affect academic performance, and what the relationship is between non-cognitive factors and classroom/school context, as well as the larger socio-cultural context.
It examines whether there is substantial evidence that non-cognitive factors matter for students' long‐term success, clarifying how and why these factors matter, determining if these factors are malleable and responsive to context, determining if they play a role in persistent racial/ethnic or gender gaps in academic achievement, and illuminating how educators might best support the development of important non-cognitive factors within their schools and classrooms.
The review suggests some promising levers for change at the classroom level, and challenges the notion that hard work and effort are character traits of individual students, instead suggesting that the amount of effort a student puts in to academic work can depend, in large part, on instructional and contextual factors in the classroom."...
"Researchers have long been searching for better ways to learn. In recent decades, experts working in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience have opened new windows into how the brain works, and how we can learn to learn better.
In this program, we look at some of the big ideas coming out of brain science. We meet the researchers who are unlocking the secrets of how the brain acquires and holds on to knowledge. And we introduce listeners to the teachers and students who are trying to apply that knowledge in the real world."...
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A new educational guide is available that helps California schools, districts and teachers target the best ways to implement California's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), so that it narrows the achievement gaps between the state’s English Learners (ELs) and all other students. The guidance recommends research-based practices that innovate and reshape ways for addressing the educational needs of ELs.
Photo credit; Jeff Luci "AUSTIN, Texas — A new study, which may have implications for approaches to education, finds that brain mechanisms engaged when people allow their minds to rest and reflect on things they've learned before may boost later learning.
Scientists have already established that resting the mind, as in daydreaming, helps strengthen memories of events and retention of information. In a new twist, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have shown that the right kind of mental rest, which strengthens and consolidates memories from recent learning tasks, helps boost future learning.
The results appear online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Margaret Schlichting, a graduate student researcher, and Alison Preston, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, gave participants in the study two learning tasks in which participants were asked to memorize different series of associated photo pairs. Between the tasks, participants rested and could think about anything they chose, but brain scans found that the ones who used that time to reflect on what they had learned earlier in the day fared better on tests pertaining to what they learned later, especially where small threads of information between the two tasks overlapped. Participants seemed to be making connections that helped them absorb information later on, even if it was only loosely related to something they learned before.
"We've shown for the first time that how the brain processes information during rest can improve future learning," says Preston. "We think replaying memories during rest makes those earlier memories stronger, not just impacting the original content, but impacting the memories to come."...
This activity empowers all stakeholders. It gives everyone an opportunity to share pain points and observations and to brainstorm solutions. By building a card deck of context-specific pain points and observations, there’s buy-in from the start. All participants have a vested interest in the cards they create. Likewise, the activity has enough structure built in to drive toward solutions."....
By Heidi Stevens [image by Heleen Sitter/Getty-Lifesize] "Forty-five minutes of daily recreational screen time is the maximum a child can handle before his or her educational, emotional and social development are affected, according to a new "super study" that polled 50,000 parents from 4,600 American cities over a three-year period.
Spelled out in the new book, "The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting That Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life" (Perigree), the study aims to guide parents through an academic landscape that barely resembles the one we knew as kids — starting, of course, with the number and ubiquity of screens populating it.
"What we observe," they write, "are children who can relate to screens with ease, but have few social or communication skills; kids who can play video games for hours, but can't read a book for longer than 10 minutes; kids who can text and tweet, but can't focus on a challenging math problem or make sense of a few paragraphs in a history book."
Sure, but they're going to college in record numbers!
"We are graduating children who lack the skills to survive, much less thrive, in college," write the authors. "Once first in the world in college-graduated students, the United States is now 10th. Almost half of our students who enter college do not graduate."
We've got a mess on our hands, Jackson told me by phone. And we're not, in many cases, eager to tackle it.
"Parents aren't looking to make lifestyle or habit changes unless something isn't working," said Jackson, a neuropsychological educator. "Many families are struggling with something they're not connecting with screen time: moodiness at bedtime, fighting to get out of the house in the morning, anxiety — which (are hallmarks) of too much screen time."...
..."The Learning Habit study found that students who spend 45 total minutes per day consuming media — computer, phone, tablet or television — can maintain an A average.
"After 45 minutes of use, however, grades slowly but steadily declined," write the authors. "After three hours of use, grades rapidly declined. … After four hours, children had virtually zero likelihood of academic success."
Parents who took part in the study reported their children used media for an average of 90 to 120 minutes per day. "Yet when asked specific questions about the devices, the total was commonly between six and eight hours per day," write the authors."...
"A vital and productive society with a prosperous and sustainable future is built on a foundation of healthy child development. Health in the earliest years—beginning with the future mother’s well-being before she becomes pregnant—lays the groundwork for a lifetime of vitality. When developing biological systems are strengthened by positive early experiences, children are more likely to thrive and grow up to be healthy adults. Sound health also provides a foundation for the construction of sturdy brain architecture and the achievement of a broad range of skills and learning capacities. This publication was co-authored by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs."...
For main webpage of Harvard's Center on the Developing Child with downloadable reports, videos, and resources, click on title above or here:
"The unleveling impact of technology also has to do with a phenomenon known as the “Matthew Effect”: the tendency for early advantages to multiply over time. Sociologist Robert Merton coined the term in 1968, making reference to a line in the gospel of Matthew (“for whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath”).
In a paperpublished in 1986, psychologist Keith Stanovich applied the Matthew Effect to reading. He showed that children who get off to a strong early start with reading acquire more vocabulary words and more background knowledge, which in turn makes reading easier and more enjoyable, leading them to read still more: a virtuous cycle of achievement. Children who struggle early on with reading fail to acquire vocabulary and knowledge, find reading even more difficult as a result, and consequently do it less: a dispiriting downward spiral.
Now researchers are beginning to document a digital Matthew Effect, in which the already advantaged gain more from technology than do the less fortunate. As with books and reading, the most-knowledgeable, most-experienced, and most-supported students are those in the best position to use computers to leap further ahead. For example: In the Technology Immersion Pilot, a $20 million project carried out in Texas public schools beginning in 2003, laptops were randomly assigned to middle school students. The benefit of owning one of these computers, researchers later determined, was significantly greater for those students whose test scores were high to begin with.
Some studies of the introduction of technology have found an overall negative effect on academic achievement—and in these cases, poor students’ performance suffers more than that of their richer peers. In an article to be published next month in the journal Economic Inquiry, for example, Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor and co-authors Helen Ladd and Erika Martinez report their analysis of what happened when high-speed Internet service was rolled out across North Carolina: Math and reading test scores of the state’s public school students went down in each region as broadband was introduced, and this negative impact was greatest among economically disadvantaged students. Dousing the hope that spreading technology will engender growing equality, the authors write: “Reliable evidence points to the conclusion that broadening student access to home computers or home Internet service would widen, not narrow, achievement gaps.”...
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"The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic. New research publishing online October 2 in the Cell Press journal Neuron provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions.
"Our findings potentially have far-reaching implications for the public because they reveal insights into how a form of intrinsic motivation—curiosity—affects memory. These findings suggest ways to enhance learning in the classroom and other settings," says lead author Dr. Matthias Gruber, of University of California at Davis."...
"This is a guest post, written by John R. Walkup, Ph.D., President, The Standards Company & Ben S. Jones, MS, President, Learnerati. You can follow them on Twitter: @jwalkup and @learnerati
In 2009, we coauthored with Karin Hess and Dennis Carlock an article that introduced the concept of Cognitive Rigor, which interlaces Webb’s Depth of Knowledge and the Cognitive Processes Domain of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. However, many still confuse the two with regard to rigor.
To briefly clarify the distinction, Depth of Knowledge categorizes the cognitive complexity of an activity, as evidenced by the amount of planning, discussing, fact-checking, and researching employed to accumulate the knowledge needed to complete the activity. In essence, it looks at the structure and complexity required to work with the activity.
Bloom’s Taxonomy, on the other hand, is more neurological; it describes the types of thinking needed to interact with information during an activity. Therefore, it looks more closely at the cognitive demand at the moment for a particular type of information processing.
In short, Bloom’s Taxonomy describes a neurological event; Depth of Knowledge describes a broader cognitive process."...
What would it take to weave social and emotional learning (SEL) into the daily fabric of our nation’s high schools? This new WKCD collection includes five case studies of a diverse collection of American high schools where SEL is core, research and commentary, student voices, and educator resources.
"The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research which provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.
The Toolkit currently covers 34 topics, each summarised in terms of their average impact on attainment, the strength of the evidence supporting them, and their cost.
The Toolkit is a live resource that will be updated on a regular basis as findings from EEF-funded projects and other high-quality research become available. In addition, we would welcome suggestions for topics to be included in future editions."...
"We have all had to work on tasks we detest: Calculus homework, for example, is boring and hard. As soon as we start, we feel mentally exhausted, and the quality of our work suffers.
Now imagine you are an aspiring architect. Learning how calculus can help you design more creative and ambitious structures could be fascinating. Instead of feeling exhausted by your homework, you might feel energized and could work on it all night. The same work, but with a very different psychological effect.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist at the Claremont Graduate University, has been studying this latter phenomenon for decades. He calls it flow: the experience we have when we’re “in the zone.” During a flow state, people are fully absorbed and highly focused; they lose themselves in the activity.
But while we know intuitively that tasks we find interesting can feel effortless, what does it actually do to our mental gas tank? Can interest help us perform our best without feeling fatigued? My research with the psychologist Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia of Michigan State University, which we published recently in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, suggests that it can.
In our research, we asked a group of undergraduates to work on word puzzles. Before they began, we had them tell us how exciting and enjoyable they thought the task would be."...
The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that sixth-graders who went five days without exposure to technology were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who had regular access to phones, televisions and computers.
The UCLA researchers studied two groups of sixth-graders from a Southern California public school. One group was sent to the Pali Institute, an outdoor education camp in Running Springs, Calif., where the kids had no access to electronic devices. For the other group, it was life as usual.
At the beginning and end of the five-day study period, both groups of kids were shown images of nearly 50 faces and asked to identify the feelings being modeled. Researchers found that the students who went to camp scored significantly higher when it came to reading facial emotions or other nonverbal cues than the students who continued to have access to their media devices."...
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..."Dissatisfaction with the frameworks currently available to evaluate whether technology is transforming learning prompted Graber and her colleagues, including Scott McLeod, to try and develop a new set of questions to help move past obvious qualities like student engagement to a deeper investigation of the pedagogy behind the activity.
Three of the most important traits they look at when evaluating a lesson are whether it is discipline specific, promotes critical thinking and whether technology is used in transformative ways."...