The Conversation – What Makes Haunted Houses Creepy and What Motivates Students?

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Yes, those are two very different questions in the title of this post. I put them together here because they are both thoughtful, scholarly yet accessible recent articles at the remarkable site The Conversation.

I’ve written about The Conversation previously and the more I read it the more I’m impressed by the quality and especially the timeliness of the articles published by it. According to the home page, the mission of the site is for “academics and researchers [to] work with journalists to provide evidence-based, ethical and responsible information.”

The article entitled “Evolutionary Psychology Explains Why Haunted Houses Creep Us Out” answers the question: If I’m a reasonable, mature adult, why do I get the tar scared out of me if I visit a place like Ohio’s Haunted Hootchie? According to Frank T. McAndrew, Psychology professor at Knox College:

From a psychological point of view, the standard features of haunted houses trigger feelings of dread because they push buttons in our brains that evolved long before houses even existed. These alarm buttons warn us of potential danger and motivate us to proceed with caution.

McAndrew then describes the human “agent detection” mechanisms which provoke the creeping sense of anxiety and dread we feel when we are in haunted houses – real or made-up.

Another anxiety-producing question for teachers is: How do I motivate my students? Turns out, according to another excellent article at The Conversation, it isn’t money. You can read the details of the study the author conducted. Basically, his team wanted to see what would get a sample of 300 fifth to eighth graders in an urban district to attend free, after-school tutoring sessions. The study discovered:

 We found that the students who were offered up to $100 for regular attendance were no more likely to attend sessions than if they were offered nothing at all.

In other words, money made no difference.

Alternatively, when students received a certificate of recognition for attending tutoring sessions regularly, the differences were dramatic. The students in the certificate group attended 42.5% more of their allotted tutoring hours than those assigned to the control group.

Take a look at the article itself to discover the full conclusions and the suggested actions for teachers and policy-makers to implement. After reading this, I think I’ll go and find those Google Doc certificate templates…

6-Month-Old Babies are Now Using Tablets & Smartphones

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Wow! According to this recent study, by two years of age, most children have used a mobile device.

Perhaps even more significant is the amount of time quite young children are using these devices:

The amount of time the children spent using devices rose as they got older, with 26% of 2 year olds and 38% of 4 year olds using devices for at least an hour.

Imagine how tech savvy and tech demanding these children will be when the hit the middle and high school classrooms in a decade or so.

 

“Make Way for Generation Z”

I’ll admit it – I’m inordinately interested in generational generalizations and how they play out in society.  I can remember exactly when this curiosity started.  It was early 1998 and The Fourth Turning had just been released in hardcover. This turned me on to William Strauss and Neil Howe and their research on and theories about the interplay between generations. 

They’ve focused quite a bit recently on the generation which has been rising behind my (X’er) generation.  Dubbed Millennials or Gen Y, this is the generation which was born after the early 1980’s. It’s hard to believe that the oldest Y’ers are now close to 35 years old!

Since a generation typically spans about 20 years, it’s about time for the next generation to be rising.  But what to call them?

I smiled today when I found, in the NY Times, the first article I’ve seen which both names and attempts to describe this generation – born in the late 1990’s into the 2000’s. The name given to these present eighteen year-olds and younger is the logical, but not creative, Generation Z.

According to The Times, these high-schoolers down to grade-schoolers, can be characterized as such:

Gen Z is already out in the world, curious and driven, investigating how to obtain relevant professional experience before college. Despite their obvious technology proficiency, Gen Zers seem to prefer in­person to online interaction and are being schooled in emotional intelligence from a young age. Thanks to social media, they are accustomed to engaging with friends all over the world, so they are well prepared for a global business environment…

Good thoughts to ponder as both my son (born 2001) and daughter (b. 2003) are firmly Z’ers.  And of course so are the high school students that I teach (12th graders – b.1997; 9th graders – b.2000!).

 

 

A Learning Typology – 7 Ways We Come to Understand

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I’ve been thinking about how my students best learn and thus this post from Te@chThought caught my attention.

A question I can ask daily: Which of these methods of understanding am I activating in my teaching today?

Mindful Meditation is a 21st Century Skill

It’s another Snow Day here in Central Ohio.  The measly 3 to 5 inches we received overnight pales in comparison to the “historic” storm they are about to get in NYC, Boston & Philly.  One reason I like living where I do is that we get Snow Days without paralyzing snow.  And we’ve already had three of them in January!

It’s been a while since Tera, Rachel or I have been able to post.  It goes without saying that a teacher’s life is a full life! My to-do list, which always includes posting here, always seems to get longer and not shorter.  I’ve been collecting links and ideas though.  Hopefully I can post a few today when I’m not catching up on evaluating student work.

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21st Century Skills have been getting much attention the past view years.  Myriad well-funded websites exist and there are no shortage of posters and graphics such as the one above or this one:

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This poster is one of many resources found here.  I like the dozen and a half skills listed, but I think a critical one is omitted here and in most lists of 21st Century Skills – Attention or Mindfulness.

A fact of modern life is the temptation to becoming distracted from the task at hand – be it participating in class, doing homework, or even driving.  The dangers of “distracted driving” were driven home to our school recently when speakers from Impact Teen Driving shared their tragic story of a loved one’s death from an auto accident by a distracted driver.

Focusing attention is a skill that can be taught and developed. An M.D. from the esteemed Mayo Clinic featured in this Atlantic article writes: “We have multiple set exercises throughout the day where you basically bring intentionality to your attention…they involve no newfangled brain-training software, or really anything at all new to neuroscience or philosophy.”  His website, stressfree.org offers useful techniques illustrated by engaging videos to teach the five core principles of “gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning, and forgiveness.” He’s created this fact-filled, cute, whiteboard video entitled “A Very Happy Brain” that could be enjoyed even by younger students.

Cultivating gratitude, being in the present moment, and mindful meditation have been shown to have many psychological, academic, and inter-personal benefits.  There are no shortage of succinct articles which both describe the benefits of mindfulness and offer ways to practice meditation.

So how does this relate to educational technology?  There are a growing number of apps which can facilitate meditative practice.  Aside from using technology to teach meditation, I think we also need to educate our students in ways to be attentive to assigned learning tasks rather than succumbing to the massive temptation to distraction living within their iPads or Chromebooks.

This attentiveness is a vital 21st Century Skill on par with any of the other essential skills listed on the posters above.  So, how do we teach it?

In the next post, I’ll share how I am doing it in my classroom. How have you done it in yours?

MOOCs for CEU’s

It’s been a busy week with the “paperwork” which comes with the end of the first semester.  So, it’s been a while since any of us have been able to post here.  A teacher’s life is so busy!

And yet, we need to gain those essential Continuing Education Units for our professional development and renewal of our teaching licences.  Fortunately on-line learning options continue to expand as more and more learning institutions make excellent course content available through MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses.

I recently found this listing of courses geared specifically for those who want to develop their knowledge and skills related to educational technology.  I’ve registered for this interesting sounding course on Digital Literacies which begins next week.  If you like to see a listing of all of the upcoming MOOCs published by Open Culture click HERE.  A well organized list of MOOCs offered through the Coursera portal is available as well.

Finally, if you’re interested in learning about the impact that MOOCs are having on Higher Education visit this article which asks: “Are Massive Open Online Courses Enabling a New Pedagogy?”  It offers a thoughtful, well researched look at this evolving vehicle for adult and increasingly adolescent focused learning.

 

Edutopia’s Top 10 Articles for 2014

It’s time for another year-end list – this one from Edutopia.  It provides an interesting snapshot into the topics that educators found most pertinent this year.

Edutopia’s Top 10 for 2014

  1. 6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use With Your Students
  2. 7 Apps for Teaching Children Coding Skills
  3. Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding
  4. 30 Techniques to Quiet a Noisy Class
  5. 8 Myths that Undermine Educational Effectiveness
  6. Doing it Differently: Tips for Teaching Vocabulary
  7. 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout
  8. 8 Tips and Tricks to Redesign Your Classroom
  9. What I Wish I’d Known as a New Teacher
  10. Classroom Management: The Intervention Two-Step

Bikes Instead of Desks?

I’ve been thinking about the L.A. Times article I posted last week about the teacher who shadowed a couple of her students for a day.  My biggest take-away from her reflection is how little movement the students did during the day (aside from going from class to class) and how exhausting it was to sit and sit some more.

The text of this article and especially the photos, led me to wonder how this would work in my classroom – especially the last period, freshmen one where I know they have energy to burn.

Bikes Instead of Desks?

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In my classroom, perhaps the bikes could power the cords to charge the iPads of the students who raise their hand in class and say: “My iPad is at 2% charge.  What should I do?”  With the bikes, the answer becomes: “Pedal faster!”

 

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A Teacher Follows a Student’s Schedule and is Shocked

While not specifically about educational technology, this is really worth a read.  I was surprised by her observation – especially about how little actual movement students do during the school day.

What are your thought about this?
What do you think we’d discover if we followed a couple of our students for two days?