Friday, September 28, 2012

To all my ADHD friends .....

                       The story of my life .............................................................

Monday, September 24, 2012

Infographic for Special Education

I guess it is Special Education month, although I had trouble finding any organization or proof that "National Special Education Month" exists. What I did find was this great infographic that takes a really nice look at special education and its numbers over the years.  If anyone knows why September is Special Education Month, let me know.

Special Education 101 Infographic


Friday, September 21, 2012

Afternoon links

  • Great article in New York times   suggest that When children learn to play a musical instrument, they strengthen a range of auditory skills... these skills persist years after lessons stop.

  • That article led me to this place at Northwestern University that has a lot interesting research and such.

  • US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) upholds seculsion rooms in a Norh Carolina school district. LINK .... I guess they are not against the law... but they are unethical and not used properly in the majority of cases (IMO).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mindful Documentary and more links

  • Great documentary about the work Mindful Schools is doing in the Bay Area.... love the way the girl looks at the bell the first time she hears it.

Room to Breathe Official Trailer from Russell Long on Vimeo.

  • Interesting article about the effects of pot usage on the developing adolescent brain.

  • Here is a great video showing how to incorporate mindful awareness and it links to memory using rocks (This again is apart of the awesome MIND UP curriculum)

  • Are toddlers susceptible to peer pressure ?????

  • Interesting research regarding the different neural pathways activated during pleasure reading vs. critical reading

  • A great quick intervention that I like to use for Anxiety

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

6 Ways of Increasing Comprehension using Social Media

I'm sitting in my office looking over email and trying to get ready for the day when the door bursts open. In comes a frustrated High School special education teacher 3-5 year away from retirement. Cue cliche:"Kids these days, they just don't care. Whatever I say they could care less", he stammers. Seeing that it clearly does not matter to him that I may be in the middle of doing work, I put on my consultant cap and try to see what it is I may be able to help him with. "Can you clarify?",  I ask. He proceeds to tell me that he has tried everything, but his class just does not get it. "They don't understand the Roman empire or Juliues Cesear, even after watching a movie", he moaned. "I asked them to tell me one thing about the movie, one thing... and you know what they said Ben ?? You know what they said? They said it was about Rome." Success!!! You asked for one detail and they gave it to you, I thought.  He grumbled further, "Its like all they care about is their cell phones and the Internet."

Seeing that this was turning into a negative Nancy soliloquy I tried to think of some positive ways to engage the students with what I knew: they love cell phones and social media. So I told the teacher "Why don't you have them tweet about the movie while they are watching it?" His response ... "What is tweet?" At this point I find it fascinating that you can be a High School teacher and not know what Twitter is. However, being that this teacher is still learning to respond to emails I wasn't necessarily surprised. After explaining that they could formulate short thoughts about the movie, which may help with overall comprehension, he became enthusiastic. We started brainstorming other ideas to facilitate knowledge and understanding through social media.

It can often be tiresome for teachers to find ways to help our low ability/ low achieving students understand abstract or complicated academic material. The key to this is modifying instructional delivery to fit their interest and ability level. Although these strategies may not be specifically appropriate for children that do not have disabilities or learn at an average developmental rate, the possibilities are endless when one begins to look towards social media as a means of promoting comprehension and understanding of instruction.  Here are 6 easy ways to use social media to increasing comprehension.

1.) TWEET: Have students compose a tweet (they don't have to send it) after each paragraph they read or scene of a movie they watch. Encourage the student to use a minimum amount of characters to describe the main idea of what they just read. This will not only help them to take notes, it will also help them organize the information in the concise manner that they are used to when tweeting. Another option is to compose a Twitter handle of a person or concept (e.g. WWII), then compose tweets that would be consistent with that user. For example @JuliusCesear: Just finished conquering France #sotired

2.) #Hashtag: A Hashtag in its broadest sense is a way to order discussions on particular topics. For example: #WWII after any post on a social media site will group all of the comments on the topic of World War II together. Interestingly Generation Y has run with this concept and started using Hashtags as ways to express concepts. A teacher could have students compose 10 different Hashtags around a learning objective. For example the students are learning about Shakespear they could compose #playright, #Romeo&Juliet, #London, #GoldenAge, #QueenElizabeth, ect.

3.) Create a Facebook Profile and Timeline: This is a great way to organize and visually represent a concept or person that a student is learning about. Create a Facebook page for that concept or person. Lets say the student is learning about Winston Churchill. What important events would be on his timeline? Google pictures that you could add that would to reinforce the important aspects of his life or that time of history. What would his status updates read? This idea is similar to tweets in that the student what have to summarize important ideas about the topic in short sentences, reinforcing main ideas in a practical manner. One could even do a Facebook page for abstract ideas like Physics, or Photosynthesis.

4.) Compose a Rap or Viral Video on YouTube- Teenagers love You Tube and viral videos. Have student break into pairs and create a short rap or song about the chapter they a learning about. This can be done over a current song (which is has been done to death with that summer of 2012 song). They can film each other then decide which video is the best. Research even suggest music can help with memory     

5.)Create a playlist on Spotify- I love music and it often helps me focus and understand feelings in a deeper manner. Along with helping us remember things music can serve as a great mnemonic device. A student can name the playlist a certain topic e.g. American Revolution. Then each song in the list can serve as a different device to help them remember a key fact from the lesson. For example They could add Beastie Boys Paul Reverie to the list to help them remember Mr. Reverie's his role in the revolution. Helping the child relate the song to the lesson will increase their ability to retain what they have learned. They can then listen to the playlist while they study.

6.) Create a Meme- Ahh the Meme. If there was anything that so exemplified our teenagers today it is the Meme. Typically a Meme says so much with just so little and their are endless examples of how this can be achieved. By using a Meme generator students can use the main idea of a lesson and turn it into a Meme. For example a recent Meme was created for a US Gymnast that was not impressed with her dismal silver medal in the 2012 London Olympic games. Students could try to re-create this Meme with a current event or literary character in order to encourage understanding of a theme or concept. For example the "I'm not impressed Meme" could be used in the context of Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird." Or maybe create a meme for Philosoraptor  to help explain Plato. The possibilities are endless.

So next time a frustrated teacher comes barging into your office complaining about how all the Special Education kids want to do is play on their phones, tell him "Great, I have just the trick for that."

*It should be noted that these ideas are heavily modified and may only be applicable for children who do not learn at the same rate or style as their peers.  However, I'm sure that you could get creative and use the same strategies for your AP European history class, the integration just may be more complicated. If your a frustrated Special Education teacher let me know how these work.

Quote of the Day

"The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature."

Joseph Campbell

I really enjoy Joseph Campbell, and base my Mindful Heros curriculum off his " The Hero With a Thousand Faces" collected works. This quote exemplifies the need to fulfill our inner goals and desires. Each of us are born with potentiality. By paying attention to the universe and staying in the realm of what is happening now, we are able to find synchronicty in the world around us. Once this happens we function within "our lane" or inherent nature. I believe the younger we find our lanes and follow our nature, the more successful we will become as adults. One of my favorite interview questions to ask children during evaluations is "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This seed, when planted in organic soil, can be the key for a healthy development and fulfilling life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

5 minute Loving Kindness Meditation for children and other Links

  • Here is a series of Blog Posts about the Mind Up Curriculum, which I use and love...

  • More evidence suggesting that are brains are pre-wired for language

  • Great advice on how to start a loving kindness meditation with your children... loving kindness meditations have shown to increase people's ability to experience positive emotions and we all know the benefits of Positive Psychology

  • Here is an interesting research study involving implicit and explicit theory of mind... it purports that implicit theory of mind is observed in children as young as 7 months old but is partly impacted by executive processing...

  • Brain scans appear to suggest separable parts of the brain are impacted by puberty (hormones) and age with regards to activity within the social network of the brain.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TTYL ... or not

With the rise of technology as a purveyor of social interactions and information, society has to rely on messaging as a means of communication. Whether it is email, text messaging, video chatting or any number of numerous applications used on smart phones (Whats Ap, Hey Tell, BBM, i message, ect....) technology seems to be the middle man that sells our social exchanges. Within the context of efficiency this has made out lives a lot easier. We can respond to others on the go, return messages with ease and even automate responses to others- effectively making ourselves available 24/7. However, as fully functioning adults most of us have had practice developing our interpersonal skills prior to relying on technology. We have had meetings with teachers, talks with coaches and middle school social gatherings, all of which have helped to shape our social etiquette and ability to self-reflect on our role in face-to-face interactions. Fast forward to Generation Y , or the Mellenials (those born between 1981 and 2000 ), and suddenly there is a great number of individuals that have grown up not knowing what it is like to have to call someone on the phone or, heaven for bid, write a letter. Although some of the early Generation Y babies grew up during the transition to the digital age (1981- 1991), many children in this generation (and the one coming after it) will grow up in an era where communication will no longer require another human being to be physically present. What are the social ramifications of this? How will this impact our future generations ability to problem solve and communicate effectively? The short answer is IDK (I don't know). Unfortunately this is a question that will have to be discussed within our nations school system, where children first learn the ability to work with others and develop face-to face communication skill.

A recent consumer report indicates that of the 20 million minors who use Facebook, 1/3 are under the age of 13 (which is the minimum age necessary for an account as well as the age of protection for the Children's Online Privacy Act). Among these users 5 million are under the age of 10 and are unsupervised by their parents. Along with minors using social media to communicate, daily text messaging has increased from 50 messages per day in 2009 to 60 messages per day in 2011. Texting has become the number one preferred manner of communication for teenagers (talking face to face is a dismal third according to a 2010 pew research report.) Data suggests that even with the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversations over phones and computers, only 1 in 5 Americans have even tried it. Not having to face someone else is the easy way out and eliminates the emotional baggage that comes with face-to-face conversations. This is the logical progression of a society that is obsessed with efficiency.  The data is overwhelmingly obvious of the transition away from face-to-face communication as the preferred method for our nations youth; however, interpersonal communication is a skill that must be developed in future generations.

As children grow and navigate through the world, they must use language and communication to develop schemas in order to understand reality. These schemas are created through active construction with the world around them. A child must assimilate new information into a schema in order to create an understanding between what they know and what they perceive. If there is a discrepancy between what is know and what is experienced, then preconceived notions must be accommodated in order to support this new experience. This is especially important in during communication with others. According to communication researcher Albert Mehrabian, when we are forming an attitude (or in this case a schema) during a social exchange 55% of our information comes from nonverbal cues, 38% comes from tone of voice and 7% comes from word meaning. These numbers form the basis of the infamous 7:38:55 % rule. Now it should be noted that these numbers are applicable within the context of creating a judgement (like or dislike) regarding what is being said  or how it is being said. For example, an eighth grade student telling another 8 grade student "That bag is soooo swag (cool)." If one is confused whether they are being serious or sarcastic, most will heavily rely on tone and nonverbal cues such as body language to decipher such.

 Hopefully we can see where this is all going. As children mature and have to read ambiguous social communication cues it is imperative that they hone their nonverbal communication abilities. Cyber-bullying as well as child predators thrive on the inability to perceive nonverbal cues during exchanges on Facebook or other social media. Further, as online learning websites grow in popularity,  children will begin to miss out on the group work and teacher scaffolding that builds social skills and communication. Most important is the emotional context which is lost through "e communication". When using social media and texting, we don't build the empathy, shared enjoyment and theory of mind necessary to not only sustain relationships but also learn about the world.

 As technology grew, schools made it a point to educate our children on how to use technology, from media classes to integrating technology into curriculum. However, when this technology takes over as a dominant form of communication style it will also be our responsibility as educators to teach effective communication styles. This will most likely need to be directly taught as it is with children with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Just as there is now a class period to learn how to use a computer, it may be necessary to have a class period in the future to learn how to read others in face-to-face conversations.

Reviewing some of the current interventions in this area leads mostly to social skill interventions with regards to children with Asperger's Disorder, Autism and Emotional/ Behavioral difficulties. However, as this issue continues to grow these programs may also be appropriate for kids who are more intent on texting than talking:

Empirically based Social Skills programs:

"Stop and Think" Social Skills Program (Knoff): Part of Project ACHIEVE (Knoff and Batsche). Has demonstrated success in reducing student discipline referrals to the principal's office, school suspensions, and expulsions; fostering positive school climates and prosocial interactions; increasing students' on-task behavior; and improving academic performance.

  • Primary Mental Health Project (Cowen et al.) Targets children K-3 and addresses social and emotional problems that interfere with effective learning. It has been shown to improve learning and social skills, reduce acting, shyness and anxious behaviors, and increase frustration tolerances.

  • The EQUIP Program (Gibbs, Potter, & Goldstein) Offers a three-part intervention method for working with antisocial or behavior disordered adolescents. The approach includes training in moral judgment, anger management/correction of thinking errors, and prosocial skills.

  • The PREPARE Curriculum (Goldstein) Presents a series of 10 course-length interventions grouped into three areas: reducing aggression, reducing stress, and reducing prejudice. It is designed for use with middle school and high school students but can be adapted for use with younger students.

  • The ACCEPTS Program (Walker et al) Offers a complete curriculum for teaching effective social skills to students at middle and high school levels. The program teaches peer-to-peer skills, skills for relating to adults, and self-management skills.

  • Monday, September 10, 2012

    Yoga may help children with Autism and other links

    • In honor of Yoga awareness month this post helps to nicely summarize some of the recent research that exhibit positive effects of Yoga with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorders. I for one enjoy the Occupational Therapist taking the lead with this as Yoga delivered through Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals may be a very practical manner of service delivery in schools.

    • Great Op-ED in the New York times discussing how advancements in epigenetics have started to link father's health to the development of their unborn children. It appears that a child's development is not solely linked to mother's prenatal health care.

    • The second annual Mindfulness Day is this Wednesday September 12th.  I would suggest taking the advice Iyanla Vanzant: "Pause Boo... Take a Breath"

    • Not sure how I feel about this one. It looks like companies are starting to use Mindfulness practices in order to decrease multi-tasking and increase productivity/revenue. This seems a bit counter intuitive to the movement. What would Buddha say??

    • Hooray !!! Scientists have used Artificial Intelligence to shorten the Autism Diagnostic Interview- Revised (ADI-R)... maybe I will start giving it now.