The next time you start to text or check your email during a meeting, think again. David Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan whoâ€™s studied the effects of divided attention on learning, takes a firm line on the brainâ€™s ability to multitask: â€śFolding laundry and listening to the weather report is fine. But listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebookâ€”each of these tasks is very demanding, and thereâ€™s no getting around the fact that itâ€™s far better to focus on one task from start to finishâ€ť Meyer declares.
Thereâ€™s nothing magical about the brains of “digital natives” that keeps them from suffering the inefficiencies of multitasking.
5 key points to consider if youâ€™re multitasking during schoolwork
Assignments take longer to complete because of the time spent on distracting activities, and returning to the assignment, the student has to re-familiarize himself with the material.
Mental fatigue is especially high when students alternate between tasks that call for different sets of Â â€śrules,â€ť like writing a formal essay and texting a friend at the same time.
Memory will be impaired if attention is divided. Studies have demonstrated that when our attention is divided during encoding, we remember that piece of information less wellâ€”or not at all. (A recent study showed that students who multitask on laptops in class distract not just themselves but also their peers who see what theyâ€™re doing.)
When weâ€™re distracted, our brains actually process and store information in different, less useful ways.
Media multitasking while learning is negatively associated with studentsâ€™ grades. In Rosenâ€™s study, students who used Facebook during the 15-minute observation period had lower grade-point averages than those who didnâ€™t go on the site. And two recent studies by Reynol Junco, a faculty associate at Harvardâ€™s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, found that texting and using Facebook, in class and while doing homework, were negatively correlated with college studentsâ€™ GPAs. (Of course, itâ€™s also plausible that the texting and Facebooking students are those with less willpower or motivation, and thus likely to have lower GPAs even aside from their use of technology.)
Trust Dr. Meyerâ€”heâ€™s a doctor.
Our thoughts are with those impacted by the devastating tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma. According to reports, at least 24 people lost their lives, including 9 children, as two elementary schools were directly hit.
If you wish to help the victims of this tragedy, there are many avenues you can take. This article gives a nice rundown of options, including the American Red Cross, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, the Salvation Army, the United Way of Central Oklahoma, Feeding America, and Operation USA.
While we can never replace what was lost in Moore yesterday, we can help with the healing process. The organizations above at least give us a place to start.
For many parents and educators, praising kids is a hot topic, and thereâ€™s a lot of buzz generated from studies byÂ Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford who has been researching this for years. Her research paper has shown praise for intelligence or ability can backfire and undermine motivation and performance.
For instance, when a parent or teacher praises a child by saying, â€śYouâ€™re smart at this,â€ť the next time the child struggles, he/she may think theyâ€™re not smart. Apparently, this type of thinking can become a habit of mind within the first 6 -7 years of life.
But what some might not know is that this paradox is strongest for girls.
Dweck states that many girls believe: 1) their abilities are fixed, 2) individuals are born with gifts; you either have it or you donâ€™t, and that itâ€™s most indicative of your intelligence. When girls think this way, they often give up. Nowhere is the phenomenon stronger than in mathâ€¦(sighâ€¦ Iâ€™m having a flashback momentâ€¦). Her research also indicated many girls shy away from subjects where they might fail in their efforts to achieve perfection.
It isnâ€™t always easy to emphasize the fun in challenging situations, but to Dweck, providing only achievement-based praise is like feeding them junk food â€“ itâ€™s simply bad for them. Struggling in small doses is a good thing, but the current education system leaves little room for failure, and many anxious parents (like my own mother, aka: â€śTiger Momâ€ť) often donâ€™t tolerate small setbacks either.
No one can be perfect.
Think about how conversations and paradigms would change if we were discussing the dayâ€™s challenges and new strategies for attacking the problem around the dinner table. Think about what our conversations with colleagues would be like if people were willing to be more transparent with their needs and reflect upon collaborative strategies and suggestions for improvement. Learning to view setbacks as opportunities to growÂ are valuable lessons to learn. As Jane Buckner would say:
â€śThis isnâ€™t about perfectionâ€”itâ€™s about perfectly evolving in your own way.â€ť
When I was a classroom teacher, there was a boy in my classroom that spent most of his day with his head on his desk. Â Every day he seemed lethargic, sad, and unmotivated.Â I was so concerned I called his mother to ask what time he went to bed at night.
â€ś8:30,â€ť she replied.
I thought that was a reasonable time, but it didnâ€™t explain his behavior, so I pressed, â€śWhat time does he go to sleep?â€ť
Well, that disproved my theory that he wasnâ€™t getting enough sleep. Since he spent some time with our resource teacher who assisted him with some of his classwork, I asked her what she observed. She remarked that he behaved similarly in her class. I remained puzzled, yet committed to discovering a way to get him to be more engaged in class.
Several days later, my students were acting out a parody of â€śLittle Red Riding Hoodâ€ť in my classroom. As I was assigning parts, this young man blurted out, â€śI want to be the grandmother!â€ť I told him I had limited roles for the boys and girls, and that this was a girlâ€™s part. He persisted. Â I repeated that that role was going to be assigned to one of the girls in the class. He then DEMANDED to be the grandmother. I decided not to fight the battle further and said, â€śOK! Â You can be the grandmother!â€ť
When he took to the small stage we had in the classroom, he proceeded to assume the posture of the elderly grandmother, and when he spoke, his crackly, high-pitched voice and his facial expressions amazed all of us who were watching. As the skit proceeded, he demonstrated exceptional comedic timing and clear, clever delivery of his lines. A star was born in room 201! Who would have known? Was this the same kid who day after day couldnâ€™t seem to lift his head off of his desk? Had I not given into his demand, I might never have solved the mystery of how to get him to be more involved in class.
From that day forward, he was actively involved in everything we did in class. He also began to demonstrate an exceptional talent for creative writing. It was wonderful to see him come to life in my classroom! Later that year, he was even one of the lead performers in our play that was performed for the entire community.
The following year, this young man lost his life in a car accident. This tragic event caused me to reflect on the time I spent with him in my classroom. What if I had continued to press him daily to complete his work, much of which was admittedly pretty mundane, in order to be ready for a test, ready for next year, etc.?
What if I hadnâ€™t allowed him act out the role of the grandmother in our classroom skit?
He might never have experienced the joy he had finally experienced in school. This had forever changed my thinking about education. When I reflect on that year and the positive transformation this young man experienced, I am reminded of the words of John Dewey:
â€śEducation is not preparation for life. Education IS life itself.â€ť
When I was first introduced to Thinking Maps 14 years ago, I was attracted to them as I saw the use of this powerful visual language as a way to make learning a more engaging, purposeful, and joyful process. I would love for you to share stories about how Thinking Maps have not only prepared your students for life, but helped them to derive great joy from the process of learning.
As is often the case with educational reforms, ASCS has been very proactive and supportive in the transition to the Common Core Standards. After reading their April 2013 Education Update article â€śMaking Mathematicians,â€ť I spent some time on their Common Core Website. I highly recommend this website if you are just beginning your journey of understanding the vision of the Common Core standards implementation. One of the sections I read was an example lesson on formative assessment of algebra content related to a standard on the structure of algebra.
After years of focus in the classroom on standardized multiple-choice tests, one of the greatest challenges for teachers, particularly those with no other experience, will be developing methods of formative assessment of how much their students â€śunderstandâ€ť the concepts of mathematics. This goal is very different than testing if students can â€śdoâ€ť mathematics using multiple- choice questions. I have often discussed in my trainings how helpful Thinking Maps can be as tools for formative assessment. As I studied the example lesson on the website I was visualizing brace maps, tree maps, and bridge maps.
I also remembered an experience from a long-ago conference I attended. I cannot remember who the speaker was but I distinctly remember two very important points that I adopted in my classroom. Â First, provide feedback on formative assessments, rather than grades. Provide some form of feedback (indications of problems containing mistakes, leading questions, reminders of applicable rules, etc.) in pencil on student work, then hand the work back to students for corrections. Certainly we want to hold students accountable for making progress, but that is not the same thing as assigning a â€śgradeâ€ť to a summative assessment.
The second point which was an epiphany for me and many others, numbers can be flexible. Most of my career was in a district where grades were assigned as numbers, with 70 being a passing grade. Â Often when I was giving my students a quick â€ścheck-upâ€ť on relatively new material, or very difficult material, I might only give 3 to 5 problems to solve. If there are only 3 problems, missing one would normally produce a failing grade! Was that really the point I wanted to make with my students? I can remember my own daughterâ€™s Algebra I teacher who gave a 4 question quiz on solving systems of equations, counted them 25 points each and gave NO PARTIAL CREDIT for correctly applying the processes learned if there was one arithmetic error which resulted in an incorrect solution. Itâ€™s no wonder we have killed the joy in learning mathematics in many students through practices like these.
The point the speaker made was you can assign any value you want to the problems, even when grading on a 100 point scale! For example, I began giving 4 question quizzes where each question might count 15 points or I might give 5 problems and ask them to work any three. I can assure you my students were in a rigorous environment and as a group scored very well on state tests. I believe one of the reasons was my flexibility and my efforts to support their progress in learning rather than providing punitive assessments.
As we implement the Common Core Standards and mathematics practices and push students to display deep conceptual understandings, we will need to continue to explore ways to support their learning through meaningful formative assessments which move them forward with confidence. Â What are some ideas you can share for using Thinking Maps for formative assessment?
I imagine that most of us remember a particular teacher and how he or she impacted our lives. I can remember many, from elementary school on up, who not only stoked my interest in learning, but made me want to be a better person.
There was Mrs. Poss in 2nd grade, who allowed me to give a sports report to the class after Carolina basketball games (My mother always had the newspaper out for me in the morning so I could follow the scores.); there was Mrs. Gray, who read aloud to us in 4th grade and got me hooked on books; and I canâ€™t forget Mr. Bigham in 8th grade, who taught centrifugal force by whirling a full trash can around (Nothing fell out! Centrifugal force!). Even outside of the classroom, the impact was felt. I recall Mr. Cooper from high school â€“ I never had a class from him â€“ dropping by my house one summer day to deliver an athletic award I had won. He didnâ€™t have to spend his summer day going around making sure kids got their awards, but he did. And I remember it.
Of course, there are many other examples I could cite, but Iâ€™m sure you get the point. As an adult, Iâ€™ve also had the opportunity to notice the teachers at my childrenâ€™s school. Along with their classroom duties, I see these teachers at countless school events held outside of normal school hours (talent show, science fair, school play, etc.). The time and energy required of these individuals is immense, but they always seem to have time for a word of encouragement or a smiling â€śhelloâ€ť when they see my kids. Itâ€™s amazing to watch, and makes me feel good about to whom I am entrusting my kids for the majority of their waking hours during the week.
At Thinking Maps, we understand the important role a teacher plays for developing minds. On this Â National Teacher Day, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those who work tirelessly in the pursuit of educating and enriching our childrenâ€™s lives. You are difference makers and we salute you.
And for the teachers in my life, I simply say as a student, a father, a person: Thank you.
Weâ€™re sure you have your own stories of how a teacher has made a difference in your life. Weâ€™d love to hear them. Please share them with us on Facebook!
My one-year-old grandson is reading â€“ sort of. Actually, he has been reading since the day he came home from the hospital. One of the first gifts I got for him was a copy of his motherâ€™s favorite book, I Am a Bunny. Benjaminâ€™s parents read to him every night. His father loves to â€śdo the voices.â€ť He is growing up surrounded by books, and you can already see the impact that is having.Â He loves books.Â I just couldnâ€™t help sharing these two pictures as proof. He is sooo cute, isnâ€™t he?
We all know the benefits of early literacy, but I think we have to continue to emphasize the importance of reading to children every single day.Â Some of Benjamin’s favorite books are:
The Little Blue Truck
The Bear Snores On
Oh the Places You’ll Go
The Going to Bed Book
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
Llama Llama Red Pajama!
What were your favorite books as a child? What books are you reading to little people?