Methinks I'll need to get this book. It fits with current thinking—the same thinking that got me called a luddite and digital immigrant—by my colleagues!—several years ago when I first mentioned the issue.
Numerous studies have indicated the many physiological benefits of meditation, and the latest one comes from Harvard University.
Peter Skillen's insight:
I particularly like this piece of evidence from this Harvard study: "An eight week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brains grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey matter. (1)"
I also like this clarification: "Another common misconception about meditation is that you have to “try” to empty your mind."
Once again, Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter are asking, and investigating, deep questions about how we learn. Most famous for their work in recent years on 'knowledge-building', they have built systems to support learning - Knowledge Forum being the most well-known.
They have quite a history and have always kept on top and attempted to accommodate–and drive–the theories of the day.
In this challenging article, they bring the following concepts to bear on learning: Centralized mindset; Knowledge building; Self-organization; Complexity theory; Design thinking.
Mo Costandi: The discovery of mirror neurons has been touted as one of the most important of modern neuroscience, but what exactly are these cells, and should you believe the hype?
Peter Skillen's insight:
Once when I was having my yearly check up, I jokingly told my doctor that my 'empathy valve was stuck wide open' and asked did he have anything to help? That was before I'd heard of 'mirror neurons'. :-)
One interesting part of this article, for me, relates to the thought that autism might be related to defects in the mirror neuron system.
Of course, the whole theory of mirror neurons impacts my thinking as an educator because of their impact on learning in general - if, indeed, they exist in humans.
“We live in a world awash of information, but we seem to face a growing scarcity of wisdom,” states Maria Popova, Founder of the website Brain Pickings. Popova believes it’s the storyteller’s role to interpret information and shape it into wisdom for the rest of the culture to share.
An absolutely clever story about the 'ladder of understanding' in which Maria Popova describes 'information as cheap and wisdom as expensive'. Share this with your students/colleagues if you are discussing 'digital citizenship' or even if you're not. :-)
This is a wonderful Media Lab presentation by Linda Stone—who coined the term Continuous Partial Attention back in the 90s. She's done a lot of research on the relationship between mind and body particularly as it applies to technology use. She also speaks of using technologies to help guide us in supporting our mind and body 'becoming friends'.
Very nice piece that is consonant with much other mindfulness research related to the breath, attention and states of flow.
Love this distinction that Carl and Marlene make between 'knowledge building' and 'constructivism'. (Interesting that it has taken 30 years for the construct of knowledge building to become relatively mainstream in education.)
“Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter… define the construct of Knowledge Building as having several characteristics that distinguish it from constructivist learning in general. Two key characteristics of Knowledge Building are intentionality and community knowledge.
Intentionality captures that people engaged in knowledge building know they are doing it and that advances in knowledge are purposeful.
Community knowledge captures that while learning is a personal matter, knowledge building is done for the benefit of the community. Scardamalia and Bereiter emphasize that in contrast to being spontaneous, a knowledge building culture requires a supportive learning environment and teacher effort and artistry to create and maintain a community devoted to ideas and to idea improvement.”
"By catering to diminished attention, we are making a colossal and unconscionable mistake. The world is a complex and subtle place, and efforts to understand it and improve it must match its complexity and subtlety. We are treating as unalterable a characteristic that can be changed. Yes, there is no point in publishing a long article if no one will read it to the end. The question is, what does it take to get people to read things to the end?
The key point for teachers and principals and parents to realize is that maintaining attention is a skill. It has to be trained, and it has to be practiced. If we cater to short attention spans by offering materials that can be managed with short attention spans, the skill will not develop. The “attention muscle” will not be exercised and strengthened. It is as if you complain to a personal trainer about your weak biceps and the trainer tells you not to lift heavy things. Just as we don’t expect people to develop their biceps by lifting two-pound weights, we can’t expect them to develop their attention by reading 140-character tweets, 200-word blog posts, or 300-word newspaper articles."
I like Howard Rheingold's comment about this article.
"I have one very small but very important difference with the thesis of this article. Where the author says "we can't expect them to develop their attention by reading 140-character tweets..." I would insert the word "just," as in "we can't expect them to develop their attention just by reading 140-character tweets..." Attention and attentional skills are vulnerable and trainable along a spectrum of infotentional situations. And 18 minute videos about big ideas are a legitimate form of cultural expression, with a legitimate place on that spectrum. Where I do agree with the author is with his main prescription -- yes, I require my students to blog and tweet. I also expect them to spend hours each week reading longer and often considerably complex texts."
I agree that we need to focus on developing these attention skills - not just in school - but also in positive 'out of school' circumstances. I think of some of the individual sports in which I have been involved - either directly or through family members. As an avid rock climber in earlier days, I used to reflect on how in the 'zone' I could be - just how I could enter that 'state of flow' that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi espouses. I needed to very much 'attend' to the task at hand - not just for obvious reasons of safety! In fact, the more I attended to the rockwall problem in front of me, the more successful I was in achieving the climb. If I let my attention wander, then success often eluded me. (Mihaly would likely agree with me on this one - as he was also a climber in his younger days!)
Rigorous work or play exercises the attention muscle. Go for it.
Physically fit children absorb and retain new information more effectively than children who are out of shape, a new study finds, raising timely questions about the wisdom of slashing schools’ physical education programs.
Peter Skillen's insight:
Although I am less concerned with 'school scores' than I am with 'deep learning', I do believe we need to focus on this issue of fitness and exercise related to learning. If we truly want kids to 'take charge of their own learning', then they need to understand the biological effects of exercise on cognition and other aspects of self.
Give them technology that they may have never seen before, and students' brains will work wonders
Peter Skillen's insight:
Superb article - terrible title!
There is an excellent focus on kids 'tinkering' with the big ideas of reading in the same ways that kids mare able to learn about physics by playing with blocs and sand.
The main focus of the article is the MIT Media Lab development of the TinkRbook.
Cynthia Breazeal, who directs MIT’s personal robots group, built the app.
This tablet scaffolds kids with prompts in the flavour of “What if you tried that?” “Try something out and see what happens.”
Breazeal says, “and through the contrast of trying different things and seeing different outcomes, you start to understand the key principle or key concept underneath it. That’s directly mapped to how children learn.”
One of the big debates these days relates to the effects of media that encourage 'rapid-fire processing and partial attention'.
Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain suggests, “I think our 21st-century brain is going to need both kinds of cognitive processes: a biliterate brain with faster processing, but that knows when to think and read and focus deeply”.
Wolf was also involved in the development of TinkRbook.
"At age 84, Mr. Mischel is about to publish his first nonacademic book, “The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control.” He says we anxious parents timing our kids in front of treats are missing a key finding of willpower research: Whether you eat the marshmallow at age 5 isn’t your destiny. Self-control can be taught. Grown-ups can use it to tackle the burning issues of modern middle-class life: how to go to bed earlier, not check email obsessively, stop yelling at our children and spouses, and eat less bread. Poor kids need self-control skills if they’re going to catch up at school.
Self-regulation, once again, comes to the fore in educational circles. :-) Perhaps it is even more difficult in this era–replete with multiple distractions, a culture of immediate gratification & reckless materialism, and the challenges in schools with meaningful student engagement.
e are some Hey teacher. Think you don’t have impact? Think again. I had lunch yesterday with a former student of mine. It was my first year teaching. I was 21. She was 10. It was the early seventies. It was s...
Peter Skillen's insight:
You know, when I wrote this yesterday, I realized that—once again—mindfulness plays a powerful role. We must practice it regularly. No, actually, it simply must become a 'way of being' lest it be merely a contrived exercise. Having said that, I think that there are techniques or exercises worth practising to cement that more mindful way of being.
Certainly, one thing I have worked hard at is 'taking the pause' before I react. When a student, or other, causes an emotion that might quickly draw an action, I'll do my best to take a few seconds to observe it, to set my ego aside, and to look deeper at the stimulus causing the emotional reaction. Then, I am better prepared to behave with a reasoned response.
Which do you choose when these two positive processes collide?
Peter Skillen's insight:
Once again, this article points out that nothing is simple. Here we have two great theories and practices -- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's 'flow' and 'mindfulness'. It seems that we need to be 'mindful' of our 'flow' states. :-) Read the article for more thoughts.
Love these emerging views of learning and mind...and the role of the brain. Geoff Cain works a lot with concept mapping and likes to think about concept maps as a possible metaphor for how learning may work in networks - including neural networks. He also relates this to the Connectivism learning theory of George Siemens & Stephen Downes. Great read.
"Professor Robert Sapolsky's baboon studies offer insight into the negative effects of hierarchy in society: "So what do baboons teach the average person, don't bite somebody because your having a b...
"Starner replied that he multiplexes rather than multitasks. Multiplexing means doing tasks that reinforce each other. For him, taking notes and having conversations are tasks that parallel and enrich each other. They are multiplexed. On the other hand, he doesn't try to manage email during a conversation or while walking down the street. That would be multitasking. "If the wearable task is directly related to the conversation, the the user's attention is not 'split' and multiplexing can be pretty effective."
As Thad Starner explained to me, distraction can be avoided by multiplexing rather than multitasking.... We have no difficulty absorbing all at once the music of a parade, the sight of uniformed marchers, bright sunlight, an autumn breeze, a pain in one's knee, the smell and taste of hot dogs, and the clasp of a loved ones's hand."
I love this distinction. NCTE's notion of ''managing multiple streams of information' makes sense when viewed as multiplexing. People have been interpreting this as multitasking - and this has been grossly incorrect in my opinion
Mindfulness is entering the lives of many new young people as it’s added to school curriculums around the world. This victory is even more relevant as studies show that mindfulness helps reduce teen depression.
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