Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

true mobility…

In Education on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 16:07

If We Are Truly Mobile, Then Where’s School?

By: Jason Ohler

I don’t think we understand the mobile revolution yet. Most of the examples I see of mobile computing in K12 use mobility within school. The point is, that when we are truly mobile, as many of us are, where is school?

Could we not expect students to go places outside of school, and conduct research that feeds back into a unit of inquiry? Students become reporters and analysts, presenting their findings to their peers, if not the world. Alas, there is the issue of insuring students to leave school grounds, and parents’ concern about where their kids are. Surely there are creative solutions to these issues.

But the point here is that we have a habit in education of ignoring big technologically-driven social changes until they are on our doorstep. We basically ignored personal computing and the Internet until we simply couldn’t anymore, because the world outside school began offering a better education than the world within it. We currently are ignoring the semantic web, immersive reality, and transmedia storytelling—to name a few. The real shame here is that most of these are inexpensive extensions of the technology we already have, and offer real teaching and learning possibilities that are engaging to students and that are also academically sound, depending on what we do with them.

Russell Quinn‘s work is a case in point. He is on the forefront of transmedia storytelling by actually using the GPS component of our personal digital devices. The narrative goes forward, but then takes enlightening detours here and there that require readers to be present somewhere in order for the GPS part of his story to do its job.

So, back to the real revolution in mobility, and the fact that school can be anywhere. Stop and think for just a moment—how could Russell’s GPS component of a unit of inquiry enliven and deepen a unit on, say, ecosystem study? Local history? Language?

You can read more about Russell’s adventures at his World’s Most Wired blog entry on Wired magazine.

Retrieved from: http://www.21stcenturyfluency.com/blogpost.cfm?blogID=2990



learning in the 21st century…

In Education on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 15:59

Totally Addictive Education: The Future of Learning

By: Steven Kotler

Today, most educational systems are designed to work from the microscopic to the macroscopic. Students learn facts and figures and tiny fractions of knowledge long before anyone really puts things into a larger context. We assume kids should learn long division before gravitational physics, but this presents a problem for macroscopic learners. If we don’t first tell these students about gravitational physics—about what they could do with that long division and why they’re learning it—they literally cannot learn.

Macroscopic learners need context. They need to know the big why before learning the little what. It’s a scaffolding problem. Macroscopic learners need to see the whole X-Mas tree before they start to hang the ornaments. Without this scaffolding, without understanding why they’re learning what they’re learning—aka context—then little makes sense and nothing is retained.

In Abundance, we spend a chapter on how exponentially-growing technologies are impacting education, pointing out that the era of batch-processing (to borrow Sir Ken Robinson’s great phrase) is over. Let me explain.

Today’s educational system is all about standardization. We treat every kid the same. But not every kid learns the same. Some need the microscopic first, others the macroscopic. Some people are tangential learners, some prefer their facts in a linear fashion. Some are quick, others slow. Thankfully, this is changing.

We are entering an era of customization. With digitally-delivered education, every student can learn however they want, whenever they want. Or, at least, that’s the promise.

The reality is still too one-sided.  If you’re a microscopic learner, well the Khan Academy has a bevy of videos for you. So do plenty of other outfits. We’ve got lots of ways to get you knowledge. But if you’re a macroscopic learner?

Hmmm. On a certain level, the internet is your general playground. It’s got context all over the place. But what I haven’t yet seen is a specific online macroscopic-to-microscopic learning platform.  There’s a huge gap in the market waiting to be exploited.

Personally, I’m dying to see what happens after we really crack this nut. The great thing about macroscopic-to-microscopic learning is that it doesn’t veil the mystery. It says we are learning how to do this thing with numbers so we can figure out why the Earth doesn’t fly around the solar system like a pinball—isn’t that freaking cool!

Context leads to curiosity. When I was taught long division in school the examples were all about how to share a pack of gum…..if you have three pieces of gum and four friends how much does each person get? Well, fine, sure, practical too, but not very sexy. Doesn’t really fire up the imagination and make me want to know more. Plus, what kid doesn’t know how to divide a piece of gum up evenly?

Plus, the most critical point, macroscopic learning hijacks the brain’s pleasure system. This happens because the human brain contains a giant pattern recognition system. “Without this ability,” writes NYU neuroscientist Elkhonon Goldberg  in TheWisdom Paradox, “every object and ever problem would be a totally de novo encounter and we would be unable to bring any of our prior experience to bear on how we deal with these objects or problems.”

So important is pattern recognition to our survival, when we correctly recognize a pattern, the brain gives us a squirt of the neurochemical dopamine. This is the brain’s main reward drug and it is plenty rewarding. When we snort cocaine—widely considered the most addictive drug on Earth—all that really happens is the cocaine causes the brain to release a ton of dopamine and then blocks its reuptake.

Microscopic learning doesn’t really harness this system. It builds the patterns up slowly, one block at a time, but rarely does it require the kind of intuitive BIG PATTERN RECOGNITION that macroscopic learning demands. By keeping things microscopic, we’re keeping things boring. Sure, kids learn this way, but not all kids and, anyway, it’s not much fun.

If we can solve this macroscopic-to-microscopic puzzle and invert the current paradigm (especially for those kids who can’t learn any other way), learning becomes all about pattern recognition and dopamine release and thus becomes totally addictive. But that’s not all…

A shorthand rule of thumb for understanding how memory works is the larger the neurochemical response an event produces,  the better chance we have of remembering it later. Dopamine is a big response. Ever fall in love? That high was also dopamine. Now how well do you remember those events?

Imagine how different the world would be if we could not only use smart phone and tablet computers and the like to deliver every kid the education they deserve and if that education was built around this kind of pattern recognition. Learning would both be truly addictive and significantly more efficient.

As I said, it’s a huge gap in the market.

For similar content, sign up for Steven’s email newsletter here. 

Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenkotler/2012/08/27/want-to-make-millions-and-change-the-world-theres-a-huge-gap-in-the-education-market/


inclusion for all?

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, School Psychology, Special Education on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 15:36

Study Questions Benefits of Inlcusion for Autism

By: Lee Wilkinson, Ph.D.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) (P.L. 108-446) (idea.ed.gov/) guarantees a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for every student with a disability. The LRE provision mandates that “to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” In general,inclusion (or inclusive education) with typical peers is often considered to be the best placement option for students with disabilities. However, a study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, calls into question whether or not inclusive education actually leads to better outcomes in the long term for children with autism.

The Study

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University sought to determine whether the proportion of time spent in an inclusive educational setting, a process indicator of the quality of schooling for children with autism, improves key outcomes. The participants were 484 children and youth educated in special education with a primary diagnosis of autism in the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). The NLTS2 is a 10-year study of youth with disabilities who were receiving special education services in public or state-supported special schools. The NLTS2 uses a nationally representative sample of youth in special education who were between the ages of 13 and 16 on December 1, 2000.

The primary exposure of interest in this analysis was the proportion of time the youth spent in a general education classroom. A school program questionnaire was used to collect data on the courses that each student took during the 2003 school year and whether each course was taken in a general education or special education classroom. The proportion of time spent in an inclusive setting was categorized as 0%, 1% to 74%, or 75% to 100% of courses taken in a general education classroom.

Key Outcomes

Three outcomes were assessed in the study’s analysis: (1) not dropping out of high school, (2) any college attendance, and (3) a cognitive functional scale. Youth were coded as not dropping out if the parent reported that they graduated, received a certificate or General Educational Development certificate, or were still in high school at the time of data collection. Any college attendance was based on parent report of whether the youth attended any type of postsecondary school in the previous 2 years, including postsecondary classes to earn a high school degree, a 2-year or 4-year college, or postsecondary vocational school. The functional cognitive scale measured a combination of parent-reported cognitive, sensory, and motor skills used in performing daily activities (such as counting change). Parents rated their child on a scale of 1 (“not at all well”) to 4 (“very well”) for each of these skills. The rating for each skill was added to create the functional cognitive scale, which ranged from 4 (not at all well for any of the skills) to 16 (very well for all of the skills).


Compared with children with autism who were not educated in an inclusive setting, children with autism who spent 75% to 100% of their time in a general education classroom were no more likely to attend college, not drop out of high school, or have an improved functional cognitive score after controlling for key confounders. The researchers state that “In general, our analyses suggest that inclusivity does not improve educational or functional outcomes for children with autism.” They also note that although the link between inclusivity and outcome remains weak, “inclusive education” that is well implemented and supported might have substantial benefits. Recommendations for further research include investigation of educational and functional outcomes from data on large samples of children in real-world settings. There is also a need for developing future indicators to measure the “quality” of special education for children with autism. This includes a careful description of the learning environment and experiences within and between communities as well as key measures specific to the characteristics and education of children with autism. The authors conclude that the study illustrates the challenges of understanding the effect of real-world services and treatments and that a “A fuller understanding of inclusively and other potential measures of educational quality may have to wait for better data and methods.”

Foster, E. M., & Pearson, E. (2012). Inclusivity an Indicator of Quality of Care for Children With Autism in Special Education? Pediatrics, 130, S179-S184.

Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD is the author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Dr. Wilkinson can be reached at bestpracticeautism.com.

Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/study-questions-benefits-of-inclusion-for-autism

Court Decision on Independent Educational Evaluations

In Education, School Psychology, Special Education on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 15:29

Court Upholds IDEA Rule on Independent Evaluations

By Mark Walsh

A federal appeals court has upheld a longtime U.S. Department of Education regulation requiring school districts, under certain circumstances, to reimburse parents for independent educational evaluations of their children with disabilities.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled unanimously to uphold the regulation promulgated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the main federal special education law. The rule requires districts or other public agencies to pay for independent evaluations when parents disagree with the public agency’s initial assessment of their child.

The regulation has been in place in various forms since 1977, two years after the passage of the precursor to the IDEA.

The challenge to the rule comes in the case of Alabama parents who squabbled with the Jefferson County school district over the education of their son, identified as A.C., who has a disability not specified in court papers. In 2005, the parents disagreed with the district’s evaluation of their son and obtained an independent evaluation. The district refused to reimburse the parents, who then pursued relief through administrative channels and then the federal courts.

In court, the Jefferson County district challenged the authority of the U.S. secretary of education to promulgate the regulation requiring that parents be reimbursed for independent evaluations. The board argued that the regulation exceeded the scope of the IDEA because the statute itself did not authorize such reimbursements. The U.S. Department of Justice, in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the 11th Circuit on the parents’ side, argued that the regulation was valid and was entitled to deference.

A federal district court rejected the board’s arguments, and in its Nov. 21 decision in Phillip C.v. Jefferson County Board of Education, the 11th Circuit appeals panel affirmed.

The appeals court noted that Congress, in effect, endorsed the earliest version of the independent evaluation regulation in a 1983 reauthorization of the special education law, and that lawmakers have further renewed the IDEA in 1990, 1997, and 2004 “without altering a parent’s right to a publicly funded [independent educational evaluation].”

“Under the re-enactment doctrine, Congress is presumed to be aware of an administrative or judicial interpretation of a statute and to adopt that interpretation when it re-enacts a statute without change,” the 11th Circuit court said. “Accordingly, Congress has clearly evinced its intent that parents have the right to obtain an IEE at public expense.”

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/school_law/2012/11/court_upholds_idea_rule_on_ind.html?intc=bs&cmp=SOC-SHR-GEN

give a hoot, don’t pollute!

In Autism Spectrum Disorders on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 15:26

High Levels of Pollution May Boost Autism Risk

By: Pam Harrison

Exposure to the highest levels of traffic-related air pollution during pregnancy and the first year of life increases the risk for autism, a case-control study shows.

Heather Volk, PhD, MPH, and colleagues from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, found that children exposed to the highest levels of both particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide during pregnancy and the first year of life were 3 times more likely to have autism than children with the lowest levels of exposure.

“Previously, we looked at how far an individual lived away from a freeway or a busy road as a proxy for pollution exposure,” Dr. Volk told Medscape Medical News.

“In this study, we looked at modeled traffic-related pollution exposure and data from a regional air quality monitoring system so we could look at the actual amount of pollution to which the mother was exposed.

“Based on our data, it does seem to be the estimated level of exposure that increases the risk of autism, as there wasn’t any effect on autism risk from any of the other risk factors we analyzed.”

The study was published online November 26 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Hazardous to the Brain

In 2010, Dr. Volk and colleagues published an article reporting an association between the risk for autism in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study cohort and living within 1000 feet of a freeway.

In this study, 279 children with autism and 245 control children with typical development from the same CHARGE study were analyzed.

Eight-four percent of the children in the study were boys.

Investigators used regional air quality data for exposure to particulate matter less than 2.5 μm (PM 2.5) and less than 10 μm (PM 10) in diameter as well as exposure to ozone and nitrogen dioxide.

The data were derived from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System data.

Unlike exposure to the highest levels of traffic-related air pollutants, exposure to the second and third quartiles of traffic pollutants was not associated with an increased risk for autism.

On the other hand, exposure to the highest quartiles of traffic-related air pollutants during pregnancy increased the risk for autism almost 2-fold compared with exposure to the lowest quartiles of air pollutants.

The authors also found that during all 3 trimesters of pregnancy, there were associations with the highest quartile of exposure to air pollutants and autism risk compared with the lowest quartile of air pollutants.

High levels of exposure to PM 2.5, PM 10, and nitrogen dioxide were also associated with an increased risk for autism.

In contrast, investigators did not find any association between exposure to regional ozone and autism.

Table: Risk for Autism for 524 Children, by Quartile of Traffic-Related Air Pollution

  4th Quartile 3rd Quartile 2nd Quartile
1st year of life (adjusted odds ratio) 3.10 1.00 0.91
All pregnancy (adjusted odds ratio) 1.98 1.09 1.26


“From studies conducted in the lab, we know that we can breathe in tiny particles, and they can produce inflammation,” said Dr. Volk. “Particles have varied composition, and there are many chemicals that can bind to them. The components of these particles could be hazardous to the brain.”

Highly Prevalent Disorder

In an accompanying editorial, Geraldine Dawson, PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, points out that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased by 78% in the past 6 years alone.

“The alarming rise in prevalence has led to more scrutiny of environmental risk factors, such as the study on air pollution as a risk factor for autism,” she added.

Although the study by Dr. Volk and colleagues was not the first to report an association between air pollution and autism risk, “the study is notable for its regional measurement of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter,” Dr. Dawson states.

Moreover, results from the current study could not be attributed to ethnicity, parental education, smoking during pregnancy, or living in a densely populated region, she also notes.

According to Dr. Dawson, more research on risk factors and ASD is needed to develop strategies for preventing or reducing the disabling symptoms associated with this “highly prevalent and costly neurodevelopmental disorder.”

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and by the MIND Institute. Dr. Volk reports receiving support from Autism Speaks to present research findings at the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology Meeting in 2012. Dr. Dawson has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. Published online November 26, 2012. AbstractEditorial

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/775077?src=nl_topic

HAL 9000 redux?

In Uncategorized on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 05:45

Scientists See Promise in Deep Learning Programs

By: John Markoff

Using an artificial intelligence technique inspired by theories about how the brain recognizes patterns, technology companies are reporting startling gains in fields as diverse as computer vision, speech recognition and the identification of promising new molecules for designing drugs.

The advances have led to widespread enthusiasm among researchers who design software to perform human activities like seeing, listening and thinking. They offer the promise of machines that converse with humans and perform tasks like driving cars and working in factories, raising the specter of automated robots that could replace human workers.

The technology, called deep learning, has already been put to use in services like Apple’s Siri virtual personal assistant, which is based on Nuance Communications’ speech recognition service, and in Google’s Street View, which uses machine vision to identify specific addresses.

But what is new in recent months is the growing speed and accuracy of deep-learning programs, often called artificial neural networks or just “neural nets” for their resemblance to the neural connections in the brain.

“There has been a number of stunning new results with deep-learning methods,” said Yann LeCun, a computer scientist at New York University who did pioneering research in handwriting recognition at Bell Laboratories. “The kind of jump we are seeing in the accuracy of these systems is very rare indeed.”

Artificial intelligence researchers are acutely aware of the dangers of being overly optimistic. Their field has long been plagued by outbursts of misplaced enthusiasm followed by equally striking declines.

In the 1960s, some computer scientists believed that a workable artificial intelligence system was just 10 years away. In the 1980s, a wave of commercial start-ups collapsed, leading to what some people called the “A.I. winter.”

But recent achievements have impressed a wide spectrum of computer experts. In October, for example, a team of graduate students studying with the University of Toronto computer scientist Geoffrey E. Hinton won the top prize in a contest sponsored by Merck to design software to help find molecules that might lead to new drugs.

From a data set describing the chemical structure of thousands of different molecules, they used deep-learning software to determine which molecule was most likely to be an effective drug agent.

The achievement was particularly impressive because the team decided to enter the contest at the last minute and designed its software with no specific knowledge about how the molecules bind to their targets. The students were also working with a relatively small set of data; neural nets typically perform well only with very large ones.

“This is a really breathtaking result because it is the first time that deep learning won, and more significantly it won on a data set that it wouldn’t have been expected to win at,” said Anthony Goldbloom, chief executive and founder of Kaggle, a company that organizes data science competitions, including the Merck contest.

Advances in pattern recognition hold implications not just for drug development but for an array of applications, including marketing and law enforcement. With greater accuracy, for example, marketers can comb large databases of consumer behavior to get more precise information on buying habits. And improvements in facial recognition are likely to make surveillance technology cheaper and more commonplace.

Artificial neural networks, an idea going back to the 1950s, seek to mimic the way the brain absorbs information and learns from it. In recent decades, Dr. Hinton, 64 (a great-great-grandson of the 19th-century mathematician George Boole, whose work in logic is the foundation for modern digital computers), has pioneered powerful new techniques for helping the artificial networks recognize patterns.

Modern artificial neural networks are composed of an array of software components, divided into inputs, hidden layers and outputs. The arrays can be “trained” by repeated exposures to recognize patterns like images or sounds.

These techniques, aided by the growing speed and power of modern computers, have led to rapid improvements in speech recognition, drug discovery and computer vision.

Deep-learning systems have recently outperformed humans in certain limited recognition tests.

Last year, for example, a program created by scientists at the Swiss A. I. Lab at the University of Lugano won a pattern recognition contest by outperforming both competing software systems and a human expert in identifying images in a database of German traffic signs.

The winning program accurately identified 99.46 percent of the images in a set of 50,000; the top score in a group of 32 human participants was 99.22 percent, and the average for the humans was 98.84 percent.

This summer, Jeff Dean, a Google technical fellow, and Andrew Y. Ng, a Stanford computer scientist, programmed a cluster of 16,000 computers to train itself to automatically recognize images in a library of 14 million pictures of 20,000 different objects. Although the accuracy rate was low — 15.8 percent — the system did 70 percent better than the most advanced previous one.

Deep learning was given a particularly audacious display at a conference last month in Tianjin, China, when Richard F. Rashid, Microsoft’s top scientist, gave a lecture in a cavernous auditorium while a computer program recognized his words and simultaneously displayed them in English on a large screen above his head.

Then, in a demonstration that led to stunned applause, he paused after each sentence and the words were translated into Mandarin Chinese characters, accompanied by a simulation of his own voice in that language, which Dr. Rashid has never spoken.

The feat was made possible, in part, by deep-learning techniques that have spurred improvements in the accuracy of speech recognition.

Dr. Rashid, who oversees Microsoft’s worldwide research organization, acknowledged that while his company’s new speech recognition software made 30 percent fewer errors than previous models, it was “still far from perfect.”

“Rather than having one word in four or five incorrect, now the error rate is one word in seven or eight,” he wrote on Microsoft’s Web site. Still, he added that this was “the most dramatic change in accuracy” since 1979, “and as we add more data to the training we believe that we will get even better results.”

One of the most striking aspects of the research led by Dr. Hinton is that it has taken place largely without the patent restrictions and bitter infighting over intellectual property that characterize high-technology fields.

“We decided early on not to make money out of this, but just to sort of spread it to infect everybody,” he said. “These companies are terribly pleased with this.”

Referring to the rapid deep-learning advances made possible by greater computing power, and especially the rise of graphics processors, he added:

“The point about this approach is that it scales beautifully. Basically you just need to keep making it bigger and faster, and it will get better. There’s no looking back now.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 26, 2012

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of molecules analyzed in a contest sponsored by Merck and won by students using deep-learning software. Contestants analyzed thousands of potential molecules, not 15. (There were 15 data files, each containing thousands of molecules.)

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/24/science/scientists-see-advances-in-deep-learning-a-part-of-artificial-intelligence.html?smid=li-share&_r=0&pagewanted=all

take your vitamins!

In Brain studies on Monday, 26 November 2012 at 16:37


Bilingualism in Young Children: Separating Fact from Fiction

In Korean/Hangul on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 12:33

i have always been interested in language acquisition.  that said, as an american, there was not a great deal of emphasis placed on learning other languages to fluency (the high school two-year language requirement just doesn’t cut it).  i am in the process of learning korean…not easy to do at my age!  had i learned two or more languages simultaneously, i would have created more neural pathways that would allow me to more easily pick up korean.  being a late-onset language learner, it’s more difficult but i am sticking to it!  

Bilingualism in Young Children: Separating Fact from Fiction.

Emotional Intelligence and Autism Spectrum Disorders

In Autism Spectrum Disorders on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 07:29

Emotional Intelligence (EI) and ASD

By: Lee Wilkinson, Ph.D.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is broadly defined as the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. The interest and research relating to EI has grown dramatically over the past decade. Currently, there are two emotional intelligence constructs: ability EI (or cognitive-emotional ability) and trait EI (or trait emotional self-efficacy). They are differentiated by the type of measurement used in the operationalization process. For example, the ability perspective conceives EI as a form of intelligence best assessed via performance tests and has stronger relationships with cognitive ability hierarchies. Thus, ability EI refers to individual differences in the ability to process and use emotional information to promote effective functioning in everyday life. Trait EI concerns behavioral dispositions and self-perceived abilities and is measured through self-report. Trait EI has stronger relationships with personality and concerns people’s perceptions of their emotional abilities (how good we believe we are in understanding and managing our own and other people’s emotions, rather than how good we actually are). These perceptions are generally stable over time and have a direct influence on mood, behavior, achievement, and action. In other words, trait EI is defined, not as a cognitive ability, but as a collection of personality traits concerning people’s perceptions of their emotional abilities.

Trait EI and ASD 

The defining feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is impairment in interpersonal relating and communication. This includes difficulty communicating with others, processing and integrating information from the environment, establishing and maintaining reciprocal social relationships, taking another person’s perspective, inferring the interests of others, and transitioning to new learning environments. While all individuals with ASD experience core social-communication deficits, we now recognize that autism-related traits are quantitatively distributed in the general population and that autism is best conceptualized as a spectrum disorder, rather than a categorical diagnosis. Even mild degrees of what might be called autistic social impairment can significantly interfere with adaptive behavior. Likewise, a combination of mild autistic symptomatology and other psychological liabilities (e.g., attention problems, mood problems, aggression) can have an adverse effect on social and emotional adjustment. Unfortunately, the core features of ASD may not diminish with development. Typically, individuals do not ‘‘outgrow’’ their deficits. Distress may actually increase as the social milieu becomes more complex and challenging. These difficulties may then persist well into adulthood and lead to comorbid emotional symptoms. Indeed, high stress, anxiety and depression are regularly present in persons with ASD.

ASD involves deficits that are directly relevant to the constellation of emotional self-perceptions encompassed by trait EI. Trait emotional intelligence (trait EI) encompasses many of the aspects of social-emotional functioning that have been shown to be impaired in ASD in the form of self-perceptions. Research has begun to examine the link between higher functioning ASD (e.g., Asperger syndrome) and trait EI. A recent study compared the trait EI profiles of men and women diagnosed with AS with those of a normative sample, group-matched on age and gender. Participants were thirty adults diagnosed with AS (16 women and 14 men) who volunteered for the study and were subsequently group-matched with 43 typically developing adults (22 women and 21 men). There were no significant differences in the mean age of the participants with and without AS and no significant between-group differences in the distribution of gender. All participants completed the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue), a self-report inventory specifically designed to comprehensively measure the trait EI construct. The TEIQue consists of 153 items rated on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) and includes 15 subscales (facets) organized under four factors (Well-Being, Self-Control, Emotionality, and Sociability) and global trait EI. It has been shown to have satisfactory psychometric properties in various studies. Below is a list of the 15 trait EI facets, along with a brief description of each.  These facets comprise the current sampling domain of trait emotional intelligence in adults and adolescents.   

Facets                                                     High scorers perceive themselves as…

Adaptability                                              flexible and willing to adapt to new conditions.
Assertiveness                                           forthright, frank, & willing to stand up for rights. 
Emotion perception (selfothers)  clear about their own & other people’s feelings. 
Emotion expression                              capable of communicating their feelings to others.
Emotion management (others)        capable of influencing other people’s feelings. 
Emotion regulation                               capable of controlling their emotions.
Impulsiveness (low)                              reflective & less likely to give in to their urges.
Relationships                                           capable of having fulfilling personal relationships.
Self-esteem                                               successful & self-confident.
Self-motivation                                       driven & unlikely to give up in the face of adversity. 
Social awareness                                     accomplished networkers with excellent social skills.
Stress management                               capable of withstanding pressure & regulating stress.
Trait empathy                                         capable of taking someone else’s perspective.
Trait happiness                                       cheerful & satisfied with their lives.
Trait optimism                                        confident & likely to “look on the bright side” of life.

Findings and Implications 

The researchers hypothesized if individuals with Asperger syndrome have limited understanding their social-communication deficits, then they would score similarly to typical adults on the TEIQue. However, if they have an accurate understanding of these deficits, then they would score significantly lower. The researchers also sought to shed light on the gender discrepancy routinely observed in ASD, particularly in those more able individuals diagnosed with ASD.

The results showed that individuals with AS had significantly lower scores on most TEIQue variables, including the global trait EI score. The Asperger group scored significantly lower on 12 out of the 15 facets of the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue). They rated themselves particularly low on questions relating to social awareness, emotion management, adaptability, empathy, and emotion perception. The finding appears to be consistent with the clinical presentation of this ASD. Differences were much smaller, or non-existent, on questions relating to self-control (especially, impulse control and emotion control). With respect to gender, males scored higher than females, albeit with small effect sizes. Overall, the findings suggest that individuals with Asperger syndrome have insight into the nature of their condition and are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their personality. These data also suggest that the female phenotype of AS may be associated with greater impairment than the male phenotype.

This research contributes to the evidence documenting the effect of trait EI self-perceptions and dispositions on socio-emotional development and overall psychological well-being. The well-being component of trait EI may be especially relevant in the adjustment process, since positive emotions contribute to the development of those physical, intellectual and social resources necessary to cope successfully with the demands of the social world. There are extensive individual differences in people’s perceptions of their emotional abilities. Because trait EI affects behavior, self-referent cognitions and mental health, it is an important variable to consider in the evaluation and treatment of higher functioning individuals with ASD. Although individuals with ASD appear to be aware of their social-communication deficits, further study is needed into the capacity for insight and how it may be utilized in treatment/intervention. Likewise, further study is also needed to examine the relationship of trait EI variables to symptom severity and determine to what extent individual self-perceptions predict outcomes (e.g., life satisfaction, coping strategies, and job performance).  Perceived emotional self-efficacy also plays an important role in emotion management and regulation in education. Consequently, further research on trait EI should include children with ASD. A child version of the TEIQue (TEIQue-Child Form) is available for children aged between 8 and 12 years of age and measures nine distinct facets. An examination of trait EI profiles of children with ASD may assist with identification, intervention, and progress monitoring.

Petrides, K. V., Hudry, C., Michalaria, G., Swami, V., & Sevdalis, N. (2011). Comparison of the trait emotional intelligence profiles of individuals with and without Asperger syndrome. Autism, 15, 671–682. doi 10.1177/1362361310397217

Detailed information about trait EI and the various facets of the TEIQue can be found athttp://www.psychometriclab.com

The online version of this article can be found at http://aut.sagepub.com/content/15/6.toc

Retrieved from: http://bestpracticeautism.blogspot.com/2012/11/emotional-intelligence-ei-and-asd.html

Make Room for Negative Emotions

In Inspiration, Mindfulness on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 07:23

Make Room for Negative Emotions (Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them)

It is generally agreed upon and taught to everyone since we are little that we should develop the “good” feelings in us and work on minimizing the “bad” ones. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. We are so used to this that we go through life taking it for granted. We genuinely try to be “better” people, to overcome fear and pain and be braver, to overcome irritation and be non-judgmental, to disregard tiredness and occasional apathy and push on, never quit, to overcome feeling depressed or disappointed and to always think positively. Nonetheless, we still experience the “bad” emotions and feel guilty for it.

But I believe that negative emotions are a natural part of us, and in moderation, they are necessary.

However nice it is to be positive and think positive, we will not be able to exist without negative emotions, because they signal something is wrong, make us aware of the surroundings and thusprotect us.

For example, fear is a form of our survival instinct. To have no healthy fear is not wise and can bring our demise. Pain lets us know when we are in a dangerous situation. People who have a very high pain threshold (for example, with severe Diabetes) can step on glass without noticing and end up with infected wounds, or have a heart attack without feeling the chest pain and not seek medical help. Tiredness signals we need to rest and replenish our energy so that we don’t drop, and so on.

Negative emotions spur us on. When we do not like the present circumstances, it makes us work toward something better, something more acceptable, something more comfortable.  If we are not satisfied, it may help us become better and more successful. Oftentimes, growth and progress occur not in spite of unpleasant experiences but because of them.

Negative emotions are evidence of our sound mental health. We may dream about the perfect life, but in the real world the good and the bad mixed in together. And we have to react adequately. That means to accentuate the positive and to notice the negative, and adjust our behavior accordingly.

The trick is to be balanced, to match the negative reaction to the scale of the adverse event. We should distinguish between real tragedies and nuisances in our lives.

When we go through a life altering experience such as a divorce, onset of a serious disease, loss of loved ones, etc., it is normal to go through the stages of grieve[1] that include denial, anger, rage, envy, sadness, depression, regret, fear, detachment, and more.

If we get a traffic ticket or a bad grade in school, a lot of the above emotional responses would be an exaggeration that can throw us out of balance.

In his book How to Lose Control and Gain Emotional Freedom, Jerry D. Duvinsky, PhD writes that we are conditioned to think that emotions such as grief, anger, despair, helplessness, or loneliness are inherently bad, evil, dangerous, or wrong, so we feel the need to control them, suppress them, or disregard them. Granted, they are uncomfortable, powerful, and at times rather inconvenient. But our attempts to avoid them may produce deeper problems and lead to more suffering.

Negative emotions are intrinsic and indivisible part of us that helps us adjust, survive and improve ourselves. Instead of spending much effort to suppress them, we should recognize that unpleasant emotions are just symptoms of something else happening. Otherwise, we may give into them and behave in a destructive way. For example, quitting a job because of giving into feeling not appreciated by colleagues who did not invite you to an office party, or cheating on spouse because of giving into feeling angry with him for not putting the toilet seat up.

Instead, we should accept that life is not supposed to be perfect or easy. We will waste a lot of our vital energy wishing to never get hurt, scared, or disappointed. Rather, we should be glad that we have the ability to distinguish the good from the bad in our lives. We should acknowledge full range of our emotions as our faithful messengers of our environment, without labeling them “bad” or otherwise, and learn to recognize and deal with their cause, instead of focusing on the emotion itself.  For example, it is not the pain that is our problem, but the nail we stepped on. We can suppress the pain by taking pills, but we would be much better off removing the nail. Instead of being overwhelmed by an emotion, we should resolve its cause.  So if we get a bad grade in school, we should not mope around and feel stupid, but study to get a better one on the next test.

Negative emotions are a necessary part of us. So if we try to ignore them and smile despite anything, then firstly, our life can be endangered, secondly, we cannot react to circumstances adequately and wisely, and thirdly, we can develop personality disorders. If we ever will reach the mental state when we think only positive thoughts and smile all the time, it is possible we’ve gone crazy. So make room for some negative emotions in your head. And as always, remember that everything is good in moderation.

[1]The Kübler-Ross model (a.k.a., “the five stages of grief“), which hypothesizes that when a person is faced with a life altering or a life threatening event, he/she will experience a series of emotional “stages”: denial; anger; bargaining; depression; and, acceptance.

Retrieved from: http://olgarythm.blogspot.com/2012/11/make-room-for-negative-emotions-cant_23.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Olgarythm+%28OLGArythm%29

things that dumb you down…

In Brain studies, Neuroscience on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 06:21


and another one:


autism in korea…

In Autism Spectrum Disorders on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 17:24

this is an older article, but worth posting.  interesting.

Study in Korea Puts Autism’s Prevalence at 2.6%, Surprising Experts


An ambitious six-year effort to gauge the rate of childhood autism in a middle-class South Korean city has yielded a figure that stunned experts and is likely to influence the way the disorder’s prevalence is measured around the world, scientists reported on Monday.

The figure, 2.6 percent of all children aged 7 to 12 in the Ilsan district of the city of Goyang, is more than twice the rate usually reported in the developed world. Even that rate, about 1 percent, has been climbing rapidly in recent years — from 0.6 percent in the United States in 2007, for example.

But experts said the findings did not mean that the actual numbers of children with autism were rising, simply that the study was more comprehensive than previous ones.

“This is a very impressive study,” said Lisa Croen, director of the autism research program at Kaiser-Permanente Northern California, who was not connected with the new report. “They did a careful job and in a part of the world where autism has not been well documented in the past.”

For the study, which is being published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers from the Yale Child Study CenterGeorge Washington University and other leading institutions sought to screen every child aged 7 to 12 in Ilsan, a community of 488,590, about the size of Staten Island.

By contrast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and most other research groups measure autism prevalence by examining and verifying records of existing cases kept by health care and special education agencies. That approach may leave out many children whose parents and schools have never sought a diagnosis.

In recent years scientists have come to see autism as a spectrum of disorders that can include profound social disconnection and mental retardation, but also milder forms, likeAsperger’s syndrome, that are pervasive and potentially disabling but that often go undiagnosed.

“From the get-go we had the feeling that we would find a higher prevalence than other studies because we were looking at an understudied population: children in regular schools,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Young-Shin Kim, a child psychiatrist and epidemiologist at the Yale Child Study Center.

South Korea was chosen not only because autism prevalence had not been measured there, but also because its national health care system, universal education and homogeneous population made it a promising region for a planned series of studies that will also look at genetic and environmental factors in autism.

The study, which was largely financed by the research and advocacy group Autism Speaks, raises the question of whether a similarly high prevalence would be found in the United States if all children were screened.

Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, chief of developmental disabilities at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities of the C.D.C., acknowledged that her agency’s records-based approach probably missed some autistic children — especially among the poor, among racial minorities and “potentially among girls” — and said the agency was interested in taking part in a population-based approach like the Korean study.

“We believe this will be a way to get as complete an estimate of A.S.D. prevalence as possible,” she said in an e-mail, using the abbreviation for autism spectrum disorder.

Most cases of autism spectrum disorder in the Korean study, the researchers said, turned up among children in regular schools who had no record of receiving special education ormental health services. A third were found among a “high-probability group” of 294 children who were attending special-education schools or were listed on a registry of disabled children.

The children in that high-probability group were similar in many ways to children with autism in the United States and elsewhere. Fifty-nine percent were intellectually disabled, or mentally retarded; more than two-thirds had full-blown autism, as opposed to milder forms like Asperger’s; and boys outnumbered girls five to one.

Among the children with autism spectrum disorder in regular schools, only 16 percent were intellectually disabled, more than two-thirds had a milder form of autism, and the ratio of boys to girls was unusually low: 2.5 to 1.

In addition, 12 percent of these children had a superior I.Q. — a higher proportion than found in the general population.

Researchers used a two-step process to identify autism among ordinary schoolchildren: parents and teachers completed a 27-item questionnaire on each child, and children who scored in the autistic range on that questionnaire were individually evaluated.

“If we had only looked at the high-probability group, we would have come up with about 0.7 percent, which is in line with C.D.C. statistics for the U.S.,” said the study’s senior author, Roy Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology and international affairs atGeorge Washington University.

The surprisingly large proportion of cases uncovered in ordinary schools, he noted, may in part reflect the low level of awareness and high degree of stigma attached to autism in South Korea. In addition, children with autism spectrum disorders may stand out less in South Korean schools, which follow highly structured and predictable routines and emphasize rote learning.

Other experts said that more “population based” studies, though costly, could help determine how broadly the Korean findings could be generalized to other societies.

Craig J. Newschaffer, chairman of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Drexel School of Public Health in Philadelphia, praised the new report, calling it “quite a strong study,” but he added that the results were based on information about 63 percent of the schoolchildren, a good response rate but not ideal.

“It is just one area of Korea,” he said, “and we know that there’s random variation in how diseases are distributed.”

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/09/health/research/09autism.html


autism grows up…

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, School Psychology on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 17:19

Experts Brace for a Wave of Autistic Adults

by: Erin Allday

Guido Abenes appreciates their concern, but he’d really like his parents to stop worrying about him.

He’s 25, he says, and he’s doing fine. But he’s also autistic, part of the generation of young adults who were born during the first big wave of autism cases in the United States two decades ago and are now struggling to strike out on their own.

“I tell them sometimes, ‘Stop it, I’m doing things, I’m resourceful,’ ” said Abenes, who is a student at Cal State East Bay. “They’re getting the message, I think. But they still worry.”

Abenes, who wants to be a therapist someday and travel the world, is fortunate. He joined the College Internship Program in Berkeley, which provides him with a two-bedroom apartment he shares with a roommate, along with intensive, daily academic and developmental support to help him continue to thrive into adulthood.

But Abenes’ situation is unusual, say autism advocates and experts, who are bracing for a flood of adults with autism who lack the support they had as children, and are entering a world that isn’t ready for them.

Skyrocketing rates

It was in the late 1980s and early ’90s that rates of autism started skyrocketing in the United States. A condition that once was considered rare, with fewer than 2 cases per 1,000 births in the United States, is now thought to afflict 1 in 88 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s unclear exactly what has caused the increase, but factors could include greater awareness and better diagnosing of the condition, as well as an actual rise in cases, perhaps related to environmental factors.

For those born in that first wave and now entering adulthood, it’s a tough, uncertain future. Some, like Abenes, will go to college or find jobs and eventually move out on their own.

But most will not, studies show. Most will continue to live at home and will, at best, find part-time, minimum-wage work – or no work at all. Many will suffer setbacks in their condition. Two recent studies found that only about a third of autistic young adults had jobs or went to school.

“A majority of our adults are underserved or not served at all. They can’t access the same services as adults that they had as children,” said Jim Ball, board chairman of the Autism Society, a national advocacy group. “We are doing a lot for our kids, but these kids are going to live to 80 or 90 years old – they’re going to live the majority of their lives as adults. What are we doing for them in that realm?”

Twenty-two years old is an important turning point for many young people with autism. That’s when they officially age out of the public school system that offered them educational and other supportive services.

Kids in the middle

Kids with intellectual disabilities – most notably, an IQ under 70 – often have post-high school opportunities for continued improvement and some measure of independent living. Most of them will continue to get supportive care daily for the rest of their adult lives from state and federal programs.

And the young people at the opposite end of the spectrum – the ones identified as having Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, who may have above-average IQs or skills that will aid them in college and careers – often manage adult life just fine.

It’s the ones in the middle who suffer the most, autism experts said. They don’t have enough of a disability to get major supportive care, but they’re clearly disabled enough that they have a hard time finding, and keeping, jobs or attending college classes.

“These are kids who seem like they could do things and be successful, and they just end up staying at home because there are very few resources for them,” said Dr. Carl Feinstein, director of the Stanford Autism Center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

“Their parents are frustrated because they don’t know how to help and they aren’t so happy with their kids living in their home,” he said. “Meanwhile, these kids grew up thinking they would have a driver’s license and an apartment of their own, and they’d get married and have all these things that aren’t happening.”

That’s where something like Berkeley’s College Internship Program comes in. The program was started in the 1980s on the East Coast by a man who was diagnosed with Asperger’s in his 50s. It serves young adults ages 18 to 26 who have autism or other types of learning disabilities, many of whom fall in that middle range of needing support.

Preparation for life

The goal of the program is to provide the support services these young people may need to be successful in school and start a career, as well as teaching life skills to help them become independent adults.

The students live in housing provided by the program in downtown Berkeley, and they usually attend classes at nearby community colleges. At the program center, students get lessons in cooking and banking and other basic living skills. They learn how to budget their time, how to apply for jobs and how to get along with co-workers and bosses.

But it’s expensive: The program costs $30,000 to $70,000 a year, not including housing or tuition at other academic institutions. Scholarships are available and insurance may cover some or all of the expenses.

For those who can afford it, or whose parents have the time and energy to seek the help, there are other, similar programs. Many college campuses, including Cal State East Bay, offer extra services for autistic students.

Some businesses are starting special programs for hiring autistic employees, especially if those employees possess skills like focus and an attention to detail that can come hand-in-hand with autism. One company, Palo Alto-based Semperical, is based entirely around a model of hiring high-functioning autistic employees as test engineers.

But those jobs and support programs aren’t large and there aren’t many of them. Meanwhile, the group of autistic adults needing these services is only going to grow. The first generation is entering its 20s – but they’ll be hitting middle age soon enough, and there are even larger generations on their heels.

Worried parents

It’s not just a problem for the autistic children and adults, but for their families – especially for the parents, many of whom worry they won’t be able to care for their adult children much longer.

“I hear from parents in the Baby Boomer generation who have kids in their 30s now,” said Kurt Ohifs, executive director of Pacific Autism Center for Education in Santa Clara. “They come to me and say, ‘I’m afraid to die, because who’s going to care for my son or daughter?’

Retrieved from: http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Experts-brace-for-wave-of-autistic-adults-3921071.php#ixzz2D58PzgN2

computerized neuropsychological assessment…

In Brain imaging, Brain studies, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 16:45

this has to be coming soon.  and i will be thrilled.  can you imagine how many opportunities for further research there will be???  yay!



Managing Holiday Anxieties | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA

In Anxiety, Mood Disorders on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 11:03

Managing Holiday Anxieties | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.

How education could plunge off the ‘fiscal cliff’

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics, School reform on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 07:10

How education could plunge off the ‘fiscal cliff’

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Sequestration: The word strikes fear in the hearts of school boards and administrators nationwide, and with good reason.

What does it mean? The term refers to the across-the-board budget cuts that will automatically occur in federal programs in January 2013, unless Congress reaches an agreement by the end of this year on reducing the deficit.

What kind of cuts will this mean for education?

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) estimates the reductions would amount to over $4 billion. That would plunge education funding into pre-2003 levels, according to the National Education Association.

Why is that so scary? Part of the reason is that America’s schools have added 5.4 million new students to their rolls since 2003, and costs have risen about 25%. Budget cuts triggered by the fiscal cliff could potentially affect millions of students and teachers by reducing programs and services and increasing class sizes.

According to Deborah Rigsby, director of federal legislation for the National School Boards Association, if sequestration happens, each school district could lose more than $300,000 for every 5,000 children enrolled.

“Sequestration would hurt our school districts and ultimately, our students,” said Rigsby on a conference call Wednesday.

Not all of the effects would be immediate, although some federal programs, such as Title I, Head Start, and state special education funding would feel the impact of the cuts right away. Schools that receive Impact Aid funding would also experience immediate cuts.

Schools would really feel the hit next academic year. According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), sequestration won’t automatically impact most schools’ 2012-2013 budgets, but for the 2013-2014 school year, the impact could be “profound.”

U.S. Senate subcommittee warns that cuts would spell out layoffs for more than 46,000 employees nationwide, unless states or communities covered their salaries.

But many states and school districts may not be able to help. In an AASA surveypublished in July, state and local districts were asked if they’d have ability to soften the impact of sequestration. Some 90% of them said they didn’t – that their state would be unable to help absorb or offset the cuts.

“We love our public education here, but we feel like we’re under attack,” said Juandiego Wade of Virginia’s Charlottesville City Schools on the NSBA conference call. “We don’t have the resources to supplant those federal funds.”

Already out of reserves drained during recession years, states would have to respond by reducing teachers’ professional development, programs such as after-school and enrichment, and personnel, according to the survey. Also on the table: Deferring textbook and technology purchases and reducing extracurricular activities.

Some schools are bracing for impact.

A little more than half of the school districts that responded to the survey say that they have built some cuts into their 2013-2014 budgets to offset sequestration. A little less than half say they have not and plan to address the cuts when they happen.

Board member Jill Wynns of the San Francisco Unified School District says that California would lose $387 million in education funds in the first year alone of sequestration. And that’s on top of 20-24% cuts the state has already made to its education budget since the 2007-2008 school year.

“This is not saving money. It’s disinvesting in our future,” said Wynns.

Education advocates and organizations have launched massive efforts to put pressure on the president and Congress to prevent sequestration.

The National School Boards Association has reached out to Congress and raised awareness among its members, giving them steps they can take to help stop the cuts from happening.

The National PTA has a sequestration toolkit to provide its state and local units with information as well as templates for letters to Congress and media outlets to turn the pressure up on elected officials.

On the NSBA call, the Virginia school board member reflected on the recent elections and spending priorities.

“Our state saw a lot of campaign money spent here last month. I wish some of it could be spent now on education,” said Wade.

Retrieved from: http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/15/how-education-could-plunge-off-the-fiscal-cliff/

ADHD medication could help cut crime rates, Swedish study finds

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 08:32

ADHD medication could help cut crime rates, Swedish study finds

Many ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) sufferers are less likely to commit a crime while on appropriate medication, a Swedish study found.

Freya Petersen

November 22, 2012

Many ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) sufferers are less likely to commit a crime while on appropriate medication, a Swedish study found.

The study, by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, found that while people with ADHD were far more likely to break the law, the use of Ritalin, Adderall and other drugs to curb hyperactivity and boost attention markedly reduced rates of reoffending, the Associated Press reported.

The researchers focused on older teens and adults with ADHD, studying a Swedish registry of more than 25,650 people with ADHD and comparing their medication history with criminal records from 2006 to 2009, WebMD reported.

The number of crimes committed was about a third or more lower in those taking medication, the study found.

Lead author Paul Lichtenstein said in a statement quoted by Reuters:

“It’s said that roughly 30 to 40 percent of long-serving criminals have ADHD. If their chances of recidivism can be reduced by 30 percent, it would clearly affect total crime numbers in many societies.”

Support groups and preventative medicine experts seized on the study results, saying better access to medication could reduce crime.

They also said it demonstrated the efficacy of medications in older patients.

About 5 percent of children in the US and other Western countries reportedly have ADHD, characterized by impulsiveness, hyperactivity and difficulty paying attention.

While children are routinely given medication to help them focus in school, many sufferers retain symptoms into adulthood.

The AP quoted Dr. William Cooper, a pediatrics and preventive medicine professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, as saying:

“There definitely is a perception that it’s a disease of childhood and you outgrow your need for medicines. We’re beginning to understand that ADHD is a condition for many people that really lasts throughout their life.”

The findings were published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Retrieved from: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/121122/adhd-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-crime-sweden-swedish-study?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

math and chocolate…

In Education, Pedagogy on Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 06:43


Sensory Integration Therapy ineffective for Treatment of Autism, Study Finds

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, General Psychology, School Psychology on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 14:35

Sensory Integration Therapy ineffective for Treatment of Autism, Study Finds

By: Pasha Bahsoun

Parents of children with autism are faced with many options when it comes to therapy and education for their children, from applied behavior analysis (ABA) to floortime. A new study out of the University of Texas at Austin has found that one form of therapy, sensory integration therapy, is ineffective for the treatment of autism.

Many children on the autism spectrum experience sensitivities towards sensory stimuli such as sounds, light and touch. Those who practice sensory integration therapy seek to offer children small amounts of sensory input with the goal of improving how their nervous system reacts to certain stimuli. This is accomplished through objects such as weighted blankets, weighted vests and swings.

The researchers evaluated 25 studies on sensory integration therapy and found that there was no scientific evidence that symptoms of autism were improved. Three of the studies suggested that the treatment was effective and 14 studies reported no benefits. They went further to indicate that several of the studies, including the three studies reporting positive results, had serious methodological flaws. Therefore, based on this evaluation, they were not able to support sensory integration therapy for the treatment of children with autism.

The researchers noted that sensory integration therapy may even exacerbate the symptoms of autism because it provides reinforcement for unwanted behaviors by providing access to desirable activities, like bouncing on balls, and being allowed to escape tasks like homework. In addition, children who receive this form of therapy are oftentimes also receiving other behavioral interventions simultaneously, which would undermine their effectiveness.

Agencies providing services for children with autism, as well as insurance companies, are now mandating that only evidence and research-based practices be used in interventions, which at the moment is only applied behavior analysis.

If you enjoy my articles, you can follow me on Twitter:@ThePashaB.

Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/sensory-integration-therapy-ineffective-for-treatment-of-autism-study-finds


Sensory Integration Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review


Intervention studies involving the use of sensory integration therapy (SIT) were systematically identified and analyzed. Twenty-five studies were described in terms of: (a) participant characteristics, (b) assessments used to identify sensory deficits or behavioral functions, (c) dependent variables, (d) intervention procedures, (e) intervention outcomes, and (f) certainty of evidence. Overall, 3 of the reviewed studies suggested that SIT was effective, 8 studies found mixed results, and 14 studies reported no benefits related to SIT. Many of the reviewed studies, including the 3 studies reporting positive results, had serious methodological flaws. Therefore, the current evidence-base does not support the use of SIT in the education and treatment of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Practitioners and agencies serving children with ASD that endeavor, or are mandated, to use research-based, or scientifically-based, interventions should not use SIT outside of carefully controlled research.


► Research involving sensory integration therapy to autism was reviewed. ► Out of 25 studies, three studies had positive results. ► Serious methodological flaws were found across studies. ► The evidence-base does not support the use of SIT in the treatment of autism.

Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1750946712000074

Brain Scans Predict Reading Skills

In Brain imaging, Brain studies, Education on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 13:42

Brain Scans Predict Reading Skills

New research shows that the growth of long-range connections between brain regions predicts how well a child will learn to read.

By Dan Cossins | October 9, 2012

Our ability to read depends on the communication between distant areas of the brain, such as those involved in vision, hearing, and language. Research published this week (October 8) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that the growth pattern of connections between these areas can predict how a child’s reading skills will develop—a finding that could lead to teaching strategies most appropriate for kids at different stages of development.

Neuroscientists at Stanford University in California studied the reading skills of 55 children, aged 7 to 15, over a 3-year period. They also took MRI scans of the children’s brains at least 3 times during that period to visualize the growth of two major white-matter tracts—bundles of nerve fibers that connect brain regions. They found that differences in the growth of these tracts predicted variations in reading ability.

White-matter growth is governed by two processes: pruning, in which extraneous nerve fibers and neuronal connections are eliminated, and myelination, in which nerve fibers in the tracts are surrounded by fatty tissue that increases the speed with which they transmit electrical signals. Both are in part determined by experience, so they happen at different times in different people.

“We think the relative timing of pruning and myelination differs between strong and weak readers,” Stanford’s Jason Yeatman, one of the study authors, told Nature. “In good readers, both processes are unfolding together at an even rate. In poor readers, the two processes are out of sync. You have rapid, early growth, and the tracts develop before [the children] even start learning to read.”

Yeatman added that in future it might be possible to see when pruning is taking place, a period in which children may find it easier to learn to read, and tailor lessons accordingly.

Retrieved from: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/32776/title/Brain-Scans-Predict-Reading-Skills/

Development of White Matter and Reading Skills

Jason D. YeatmanRobert F. DoughertyMichal Ben-Shacharand Brian A. Wandell

White matter tissue properties are highly correlated with reading proficiency; we would like to have a model that relates the dynamics of an individual’s white matter development to their acquisition of skilled reading. The development of cerebral white matter involves multiple biological processes, and the balance between these processes differs between individuals. Cross-sectional measures of white matter mask the interplay between these processes and their connection to an individual’s cognitive development. Hence, we performed a longitudinal study to measure white-matter development (diffusion-weighted imaging) and reading development (behavioral testing) in individual children (age 7–15 y). The pattern of white-matter development differed significantly among children. In the left arcuate and left inferior longitudinal fasciculus, children with above-average reading skills initially had low fractional anisotropy (FA) that increased over the 3-y period, whereas children with below-average reading skills had higher initial FA that declined over time. We describe a dual-process model of white matter development comprising biological processes with opposing effects on FA, such as axonal myelination and pruning, to explain the pattern of results.

This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1206792109/-/DCSupplemental.

Retrieved from: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/10/04/1206792109.abstract


the cost of ADHD…

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 13:17

ADHD Takes Heavy Economic Toll

By: Megan Brooks

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has a “substantial” economic impact in the United States, with overall incremental costs ranging from $143 to $266 billion annually, a new study suggests.

Surprisingly, researchers note, the cost burden is 3-fold higher in adults ($105 to $194 billion) than in children and adolescents ($38 to $73 billion).

For adults, the largest cost drivers are workplace productivity and income losses ($87 to $138 billion). For children, the largest cost categories are healthcare costs ($21 to $44 billion) and education costs ($15 to $25 billion).

“ADHD is often perceived as a childhood disease, but this analysis demonstrates that at a national level, the economic impact of ADHD on adults may be larger than that on children,” study investigator Peter Neumann, ScD, director, Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, said in a statement.

“ADHD is not only a pediatric disorder,” coinvestigator Paul Hodgkins, PhD, senior director, Global Health Economics and Outcomes Research at Shire Specialty Pharmaceuticals, added in an email to Medscape Medical News. “Adult ADHD has serious implications — for the adult patient, his family, and the workplace. More emphasis has to be given to identifying and appropriately treating adult ADHD,” he said.

“Striking” Finding

The study, which was funded by Shire, is published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“Particularly striking is the finding that the lion’s share of overall costs (almost 75%) is attributable to adults with ADHD and adult family members of individuals with ADHD rather than to children,” A. Reese Abright, MD, director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine–Elmhurst Hospital Center, in New York City, writes in an editorial in the journal.

The findings stem from a review of the literature from 1990 to 2011 on the economic impact of ADHD. The study team identified and included in their analysis 19 US-based studies that reported annual incremental (excess) costs per ADHD individual above non-ADHD control participants or from which these costs could be calculated.

They calculated per-person incremental costs adjusted to 2010 US dollars and converted to annual national incremental costs of ADHD based on 2010 US census population estimates, ADHD prevalence rates, number of household members, and employment rates by age group.

Dr. Abright says that this “timely article” is notable for its findings and the clarity with which the authors describe their methodology and how they calculated ADHD-related costs in children and adults, as well as spillover costs borne by the family members of individuals with ADHD. These spillover costs range from $33 to $43 billion.

The analysis, she notes, “consolidates and extends” previous findings and “adds to the growing literature on the burden associated with psychiatric disorders that begin in childhood.”

Impact of Treatment Unclear

Estimates of cost naturally lead to questions about the effectiveness of prevention and treatments in lowering costs. The current analysis did not evaluate the impact of treatment interventions on excess costs due to the lack of available data.

On this front, Dr. Abright noted that the incorporation of assessments of the comparative cost-effectiveness of treatment arms in large multisite studies such as the National Institute of Mental Health’s Multimodal Study of Treatment of Children with ADHD (MTA) and the Treatment of Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS) has been a “promising development.”

Dr. Neumann and colleagues note that the “substantial and multifaceted societal costs of ADHD” call for the development of public policies to address the burden of the condition.

This analysis was funded by Shire Development LLC. Several of the authors have financial relationships with the company. The original article has a complete list of the authors’ disclosures. Dr. Abright has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012;51:987-988,990-1002. Abstract

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/774298?src=rsshttp://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/774298?src=rss


Economic Impact of Childhood and Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in the United States

Jalpa A. Doshi, Ph.D.,  Paul Hodgkins, Ph.D., Jennifer Kahle, Ph.D., Vanja Sikirica, Pharm.D., Michael J. Cangelosi, M.P.H., Juliana Setyawan, Pharm.D., M. Haim Erder, Ph.D., & Peter J. Neumann, Sc.D.\

Accepted 17 July 2012. published online 23 July 2012.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most prevalent mental disorders in children in the United States and often persists into adulthood with associated symptomatology and impairments. This article comprehensively reviews studies reporting ADHD-related incremental (excess) costs for children/adolescents and adults and presents estimates of annual national incremental costs of ADHD.


A systematic search for primary United States-based studies published from January 1, 1990 through June 30, 2011 on costs of children/adolescents and adults with ADHD and their family members was conducted. Only studies in which mean annual incremental costs per individual with ADHD above non-ADHD controls were reported or could be derived were included. Per-person incremental costs were adjusted to 2010 U.S. dollars and converted to annual national incremental costs of ADHD based on 2010 U.S. Census population estimates, ADHD prevalence rates, number of household members, and employment rates by age group.


Nineteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Overall national annual incremental costs of ADHD ranged from $143 to $266 billion (B). Most of these costs were incurred by adults ($105B−$194B) compared with children/adolescents ($38B−$72B). For adults, the largest cost category was productivity and income losses ($87B−$138B). For children, the largest cost categories were health care ($21B−$44B) and education ($15B−$25B). Spillover costs borne by the family members of individuals with ADHD were also substantial ($33B−$43B).


Despite a wide range in the magnitude of the cost estimates, this study indicates that ADHD has a substantial economic impact in the United States. Implications of these findings and future directions for research are discussed.

placebos and personality…

In Medication, Medicine on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 13:04

Personality Predicts Placebo Effect

People with certain personality traits are more likely to get pain relief from a placebo, a finding that could help improve clinical trials.

By Dan Cossins | November 16, 2012

Individuals who are altruistic, resilient, and straightforward show greater activity in brain regions associated with reward and are more likely to enjoy pain relief when a placebo is administered during a painful experience, according to a study reported this week (November 15) in Neuropsychopharmacology. The findings suggest that simple personality tests could be used to improve the accuracy of clinical trials by identifying people likely to skew results with high placebo responses.

“This is interesting because it’s one of the first studies to look at how personality traits are associated with placebo analgesia not only in terms of subjective reports of pain relief, but also with quite solid objective measures in key parts of the brain,” said Tor Wager, a neuroscientist at the University of Boulder, Colorado, who was not involved in the study.

Placebos are known to have strong analgesic effects. In 2007, neuroscientist Jon-Kar Zubieta of the University of Michigan showed that such effects were associated with activity in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region involved in reward and pleasure. That suggested that placebo analgesia might occur in part because positive expectations of reward (pain relief) spike dopamine levels in the brain and stimulate the release of endogenous painkillers called mu-opioids.

But individuals vary considerably in their responses, and some studies have suggested that personality traits such as optimism and anxiety may predict response levels. Others have found that a composite of personality traits—including novelty seeking, harm avoidance, fun seeking, and reward responsiveness, which are thought to be related to dopamine reward circuits—can predict a substantial portion of placebo analgesic effects. Still, “there was nothing terribly conclusive,” said Zubieta.

To better understand how personality is associated with placebo analgesia, Zubieta and his colleagues assessed the personality traits of 47 healthy volunteers. Then they asked each volunteer to lie in a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner for the duration of a standard pain challenge. First, painless isotonic saline was injected into the jaw muscle and, 20 minutes later, a pain-inducing hypotonic injection. Volunteers were told about these two conditions but not the order in which they would occur, allowing for expectation of pain in both conditions. The conditions were then repeated for another scan session but this time the volunteers were given a placebo consisting of intravenous infusions of isotonic saline every 4 minutes, which they were told would reduce pain.

The PET scan recorded the activation of endogenous opioid receptors in the brain, and blood samples were taken every 10 minutes to measure placebo-induced changes in the stress hormone cortisol. Meanwhile, the volunteers were also asked to rate the intensity of the pain they felt every 15 seconds.

The researchers observed significant reductions in pain intensity ratings in response to placebo, but found that expectation of analgesia—measured by asking the volunteers during the pain challenge—was not significantly correlated with response, suggesting that positive expectations alone are not enough for a placebo-induced pain response.

But they also found that people with certain personality traits—specifically, those who scored high on resiliency, altruism, and straightforwardness, and low on measures of “angry hostility”—were more likely to experience a placebo-induced painkilling response. Importantly, such individuals also had decreased cortisol levels and greater activation of endogenous opioid receptors in brain regions associated with reward.

“We were able to link some personality traits with analgesia response at the level of brain chemistry,” said Zubieta, as well as subjective feelings. In fact, statistical analyses showed that a composite of these four traits accounted for 25 percent of the variance in subjectively reported placebo analgesic responses, and for 27 percent of the variance observed in objective measures like the activation of endogenous opioid receptors.

“Studies like this are giving us a new set of candidate personality measures that can predict for placebo analgesia, and they’re mostly positive traits,” said Wager. “So placebo responders are being cast in a much more positive light, personality-wise, than they were a few decades ago, when they were thought to be hysterical and neurotic. ”

If replicated with larger sample sizes, the results suggest that these new measures could also help to improve the accuracy of clinical trials, Zubieta added. “One big difficulty is trying to control for people with very high placebo response,” he said. “Many trials fail not because the compound doesn’t work, but because placebos are also effective, which creates noise.” By using personality measures to stratify those more likely to exhibit a placebo effect and incorporate the likelihood of a placebo response into the data analyses, researchers may be able to more effectively identify a drug’s true effect, Zubieta said.

M. Pecina et al., “Personality Trait Predictors of Placebo Analgesia and Neurobiological Correlates,” Neuropsychopharmacology, doi: 10.1038/NPP.2012.227, 2012

Clarification (November 16, 2012): The introduction was changed to more clearly reflect that both the greater activity in brain regions associated with reward and the reported pain relief resulted from the placebo administered to volunteers during a painful a experience.

Retrieved from: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/33300/title/Personality-Predicts-Placebo-Effect/

stability balls…not just for fitness!

In ADHD, ADHD child/adolescent, Attention, Education, Special Education on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 12:59


age really might be “just a number”

In Fitness/Health, Happiness, Well-being on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 09:30

You’re Only As Old As You Feel

By: Jennifer Warren

Nov. 20, 2012 — The old saying “You’re only as old as you feel” has new life, backed up by a new study.

Researchers found older people with positive views on aging were 44% more likely to recover fully after severe disability than those with negative views on aging.

People with positive attitudes about aging also had a slower decline in their ability to do daily tasks such as dressing and bathing.

“It may be something worth considering that might help people’s recovery,” says researcher Becca Levy, PhD, associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health.

Upside to a Positive Attitude

Until now, experts say, most of the research on attitudes about aging and health has looked at the health risks and losses linked to a negative outlook.

But this study suggests there may be tangible health benefits to having a more positive view about aging.

“It’s not just about reducing the losses associated with aging, but also about making gains in one’s health or disability status and regaining what might have been lost,” says Tara L. Stewart, PhD, assistant professor ofpsychology at Idaho State University.

“These people with positive stereotypes about aging experienced health gains and better recovery, not just a reduction of health losses,” Stewart says.

Views on Aging Affect Recovery

In the study, researchers periodically surveyed 598 people aged 70 or older about their views on aging over a period of about 11 years.

None were disabled when the study started, but later on, all of them had at least one month when they needed help with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, or walking. In some cases, their disability was severe; other cases were mild.

They were asked for the first five words or phrases that come to mind when they think of old people. The researchers rated their responses on a five-point scale as most positive, like “spry,” or most negative, like “decrepit.”

The results appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The findings were strongest for older people with the most severe types of disability.

They were 44% more likely to fully recover from severe disability than those with negative age stereotypes.

Also, older people with positive views on aging were more likely to progress from severe disability to mild disability or mild disability to no disability.

Older people with positive age stereotypes also had a slower rate of decline in their ability to perform daily activities as they got older.

Of course, many factors affect whether or to what extent a person recovers from disability. This study does not prove that a positive attitude about aging made a difference. But it showed the strongest relationship between age stereotypes and recovery was among those people with positive age stereotypes and the most severe type of disability.

Attitude and Aging

Positive views on aging may help people bounce back from disability and promote independent living in a variety of ways, the researchers say.

One of the biggest ways may be psychological. Stewart says a person’s attitudes about aging say a lot about how much they believe their health is under their own control.

For example, people who view seniors as spry rather than decrepit may be more likely to live a healthy lifestyle, keep up on their doctor appointments, and take their medicines as prescribed.

“Holding a negative stereotype about aging, like believing illness is caused by aging, would cause them to feel less in control and responsible for their health and lead to different sorts of strategies,” Stewart says.

Levy also says there may be a physiological side to it.

“People who have more positive age stereotypes tend to have the advantage in experiencing stress,” says Levy. “They tend to suffer from less cardiovascular stress.”

Researchers say the next step is to look at how people can upgrade their attitudes about aging.

“We need to emphasize some of the positive as we get older instead of focusing on the developmental losses that may happen with aging,” Stewart says.

Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20121120/old-as-you-feel?ecd_tw_112112-am_new_nofeelold

help a wonderful cause and maybe win an ipad!

In Animal Rescue, Animal Welfare, Humane Education on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 08:32


Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit volunteer-based organization dedicated to rescuing dogs and cats from high-kill shelters in north Georgia. We operate through a network of foster homes in the north metro Atlanta area. Our efforts are funded by tax-deductible contributions from compassionate people and organizations who care and want to help make a difference… one pet at a time.


can you hear me now?

In Attention on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 08:26

The Science and Art of Listening

Published: November 9, 2012

HERE’S a trick question. What do you hear right now?

If your home is like mine, you hear the humming sound of a printer, the low throbbing of traffic from the nearby highway and the clatter of plastic followed by the muffled impact of paws landing on linoleum — meaning that the cat has once again tried to open the catnip container atop the fridge and succeeded only in knocking it to the kitchen floor.

The slight trick in the question is that, by asking you what you were hearing, I prompted your brain to take control of the sensory experience — and made you listen rather than just hear. That, in effect, is what happens when an event jumps out of the background enough to be perceived consciously rather than just being part of your auditory surroundings. The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is attention.

Hearing is a vastly underrated sense. We tend to think of the world as a place that we see, interacting with things and people based on how they look. Studies have shown that conscious thought takes place at about the same rate as visual recognition, requiring a significant fraction of a second per event. But hearing is a quantitatively faster sense. While it might take you a full second to notice something out of the corner of your eye, turn your head toward it, recognize it and respond to it, the same reaction to a new or sudden sound happens at least 10 times as fast.

This is because hearing has evolved as our alarm system — it operates out of line of sight and works even while you are asleep. And because there is no place in the universe that is totally silent, your auditory system has evolved a complex and automatic “volume control,” fine-tuned by development and experience, to keep most sounds off your cognitive radar unless they might be of use as a signal that something dangerous or wonderful is somewhere within the kilometer or so that your ears can detect.

This is where attention kicks in.

Attention is not some monolithic brain process. There are different types of attention, and they use different parts of the brain. The sudden loud noise that makes you jump activates the simplest type: the startle. A chain of five neurons from your ears to your spine takes that noise and converts it into a defensive response in a mere tenth of a second — elevating your heart rate, hunching your shoulders and making you cast around to see if whatever you heard is going to pounce and eat you. This simplest form of attention requires almost no brains at all and has been observed in every studied vertebrate.

More complex attention kicks in when you hear your name called from across a room or hear an unexpected birdcall from inside a subway station. This stimulus-directed attention is controlled by pathways through the temporoparietal and inferior frontal cortex regions, mostly in the right hemisphere — areas that process the raw, sensory input, but don’t concern themselves with what you should make of that sound. (Neuroscientists call this a “bottom-up” response.)

But when you actually pay attention to something you’re listening to, whether it is your favorite song or the cat meowing at dinnertime, a separate “top-down” pathway comes into play. Here, the signals are conveyed through a dorsal pathway in your cortex, part of the brain that does more computation, which lets you actively focus on what you’re hearing and tune out sights and sounds that aren’t as immediately important.

In this case, your brain works like a set of noise-suppressing headphones, with the bottom-up pathways acting as a switch to interrupt if something more urgent — say, an airplane engine dropping through your bathroom ceiling — grabs your attention.

Hearing, in short, is easy. You and every other vertebrate that hasn’t suffered some genetic, developmental or environmental accident have been doing it for hundreds of millions of years. It’s your life line, your alarm system, your way to escape danger and pass on your genes. But listening, really listening, is hard when potential distractions are leaping into your ears every fifty-thousandth of a second — and pathways in your brain are just waiting to interrupt your focus to warn you of any potential dangers.

Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload.

And yet we dare not lose it. Because listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense, and paying attention to the nonvisual parts of our world feeds into everything from our intellectual sharpness to our dance skills.

Luckily, we can train our listening just as with any other skill. Listen to new music when jogging rather than familiar tunes. Listen to your dog’s whines and barks: he is trying to tell you something isn’t right. Listen to your significant other’s voice — not only to the words, which after a few years may repeat, but to the sounds under them, the emotions carried in the harmonics. You may save yourself a couple of fights.

“You never listen” is not just the complaint of a problematic relationship, it has also become an epidemic in a world that is exchanging convenience for content, speed for meaning. The richness of life doesn’t lie in the loudness and the beat, but in the timbres and the variations that you can discern if you simply pay attention.

Seth S. Horowitz is an auditory neuroscientist at Brown University and the author of “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind.”

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on November 11, 2012, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: The Science and Art of Listening.

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/opinion/sunday/why-listening-is-so-much-more-than-hearing.html?_r=1&

extend your life!

In Happiness, Mindfulness, Well-being on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 12:34


Why Do So Many Teachers Quit Their Jobs? Because They Hate Their Bosses – The Atlantic

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 07:34

is it the principals specifically or the fact that the principals are also pawns to the “higher ups” (i.e. the system, those that don’t work in the schools but make the rules, the boards, etc.) and are also in the firing line (by this, i mean can be easily replaced should they not comply with the education reformists and those that rule from their offices).  in my district, the principals are also being evaluated based on scores, data, and subjective measures.  i really believe they, too, feel the pressure of those of us in the trenches and most of them are in the trenches as well.  while there are definitely some nefarious characters that are principals, there are some who try to fight the good fight and just want what’s best for their kids.  they, too, have not had raises in the last 6 (yes, i said 6) years and are under some of the same pressures as teachers and support staff.  

as for salaries, we have not had any kind of raise in 6 years and were told there were none on the horizon.  i signed my first contract with my county 10 years ago.  i was quite happy with my salary and degree credit.  fast forward 10 years later.  because of furloughs and the fact that i went from a 205 days a year employee to 190, as well as a 50% cut of my degree credit because i don’t work in a classroom and am directly related to “student achievement” (i am a psychologist at FOUR schools, and i DO believe i have MUCH to do with achievement but, in our new data-driven school system, i guess you can’t see what i do on standardized tests), i am now making LESS than i did 10 years ago when i signed my first contract.  i believe my net loss is around $14,000.  how many people would put up with that?  but, we are told time and time again, “at least you have a job.” 

well, my county is now looking to outsource some very important programs.  i guess that “at least you have a job” may not apply to everyone by next year.

yes, bad bosses are one reason, but i have to believe they are just pawns or figureheads in this education reformist scheme and are forced to “follow the party line.”  

then again, i have had some REALLY bad principals, too.  let me assure you, those that LOVE power and micromanagement…they could definitely make you leave a job!!!  i get it.

Why Do So Many Teachers Quit Their Jobs? Because They Hate Their Bosses – The Atlantic.

The Mind of Oliver Sacks

In Brain studies, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience on Monday, 19 November 2012 at 12:41

The Mind of Oliver Sacks.

Optogenetics illuminates pathways of motivation through brain

In Brain imaging, Brain studies, Neuroscience on Monday, 19 November 2012 at 12:40

Optogenetics illuminates pathways of motivation through brain.

m for monogamy…

In Random Interesting Thoughts on Saturday, 17 November 2012 at 18:00

Monogamy Unnatural for Our Sexy Species

By: Christopher Ryan


Editor’s note: Christopher Ryan is a psychologist, teacher and the co-author, along with Cacilda Jethá, of “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality,” published by Harper Collins.

(CNN) — Seismic cultural shifts about 10,000 years ago rendered the true story of human sexuality so subversive and threatening that for centuries, it has been silenced by religious authorities, pathologized by physicians, studiously ignored by scientists and covered up by moralizing therapists.

In recent decades, the debate over human sexual evolution has entertained only two options: Humans evolved to be either monogamists or polygamists. This tired debate generally devolves into an antagonistic stalemate where women are said to have evolved to seek male-provisioned domesticity while every man secretly yearns for his own harem. The battle between the sexes, we’re told, is bred into our blood and bones.

Couples who turn to a therapist for guidance through the inevitable minefields of marriage are likely to receive the confusing message that long-term pair bonding comes naturally to our species, but marriage is still a lot of work.

Few mainstream therapists would contemplate trying to persuade a gay man or lesbian to “grow up, get real, and stop being gay.” But most insist that long-term sexual monogamy is “normal,” while the curiosity and novelty-seeking inherent in human sexuality are signs of pathology. Thus, couples are led to believe that waning sexual passion in enduring marriages or sexual interest in anyone but their partner portend a failed relationship, when in reality these things often signify nothing more than that we are Homo sapiens.

This is a problem because there is no reason to believe monogamy comes naturally to human beings. In fact, for millions of years, evolutionary forces have cultivated human libido to the point where ours is arguably the most sexual species on Earth.

Our ancestors evolved in small-scale, highly egalitarian foraging groups that shared almost everything. Anthropologists have demonstrated time and again that immediate-return hunter-gatherer societies are nearly universal in their so-called “fierce egalitarianism.” Sharing is not just encouraged; it’s mandatory.

Most foragers divide and distribute meat equitably, breast-feed one another’s babies, have little or no privacy from one another, and depend upon each other every day for survival. Although our social world revolves around private property and individual responsibility, theirs spins toward interrelation and mutual dependence. This might sound like New Age idealism, but it’s no more noble a system than any other insurance pool. Compulsory sharing is simply the best way to distribute risk to everyone’s benefit in a foraging context. Pragmatic? Yes. Noble? Hardly.

For nomadic foragers who might walk hundreds of kilometers each month, personal property — anything needed to be carried — is kept to a minimum. Little thought is given to who owns the land, or the fish in the river, the clouds in the sky, or the kids underfoot. An individual male’s “parental investment,” in other words, tends to be diffuse in societies like those in which we evolved, not directed toward one particular woman — or harem of women — and her children, as conventional views of our sexual evolution insist.

But when people began living in settled agricultural communities, social reality shifted deeply and irrevocably. It became crucially important to know where your property ended and your neighbor’s began. Remember the 10th Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that [is] thy neighbor’s.” With agriculture, the human female went from occupying a central, respected role to being just another possession for men to accumulate and defend, along with his house, slaves and asses.

The standard narrative posits that paternity certainty has always been of utmost importance to our species, whether expressed as monogamy or harem-based polygyny. Students are taught that our “selfish genes” lead us to organize our sexual lives around assuring paternity, but it wasn’t until the shift to agriculture that land, livestock and other forms of wealth could be kept in the family. For the first time in the history of our species, biological paternity became a concern.

Our ancestors evolved in highly egalitarian foraging groups that shared almost everything.

Our bodies, minds and sexual habits all reflect a highly sexual primate. Research from primatology, anthropology, anatomy and psychology points to the same conclusion: A nonpossessive, gregarious sexuality was the human norm until the rise of agriculture and private property just 10,000 years ago, about 5 percent of anatomically modern humans’ existence on Earth.

The two primate species closest to us lend strong — if blush-inducing — support to this vision. Ovulating female chimps have intercourse dozens of times per day, with most or all of the willing males, and bonobos famously enjoy frequent group sex that leaves everyone relaxed and conflict-free.

The human body tells the same story. Men’s testicles are far larger than those of any monogamous or polygynous primate, hanging vulnerably outside the body where cooler temperatures help preserve standby sperm cells for multiple ejaculations. Men sport the longest, thickest primate penis, as well as an embarrassing tendency to reach orgasm when the woman is just getting warmed up. These are all strong indications of so-called sperm competition in our species’ past.

Women’s pendulous breasts, impossible-to-ignore cries of sexual delight, or “female copulatory vocalization” to the clipboard-carrying crowd, and capacity for multiple orgasms also validate this story of prehistoric promiscuity.

“But we’re not apes!” some might insist. But we are, in fact. Homo sapiens is one of four African great apes, along with chimps, bonobos and gorillas.

“OK, but we have the power to choose how to live,” comes the reply. This is true. Just as we can choose to be vegans, we can decide to lead sexually monogamous lives. But newlyweds would be wise to remember that just because you’ve chosen to be vegan, it’s utterly natural to yearn for an occasional bacon cheeseburger.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Christopher Ryan.

Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/07/27/ryan.promiscuity.normal/index.html

is monogamy/marriage a status symbol?

In Uncategorized on Saturday, 17 November 2012 at 17:53

very interesting commentary on marriage.  i think so many marriages fail because of the romanticized idea/ideal as to what that is.  at any rate, i bet this is a piece that will make you think, at the very least.

To Be or Not to Be Monogamous?.

a beautiful story of love and acceptance

In Gay rights, LGBTQI on Saturday, 17 November 2012 at 10:56


the bible and homosexuality…one author’s opinion.

In Gay rights, LGBTQI on Saturday, 17 November 2012 at 10:51

The Bible Hates Homosexuality.  So What?

By: Kate Blanchard

A student recently asked me for some advice about how to defend same-sex marriage biblically to people who insist that the Bible is against it. My basic response to such questions is, “Don’t.”

First of all, there is no “the Bible.” It is a collection of texts spanning millennia, recounted orally for centuries in multiple languages, finally written down in Greek and Hebrew by countless anonymous authors over the span of several more centuries, then further collected and translated into hundreds more languages in hundreds of stylistic versions. What we think of as the Christian Bible thus encompasses different things for Catholics, the Orthodox and Protestants. And second, there was no such thing as a “homosexual” identity or same-sex marriage when the various parts of the Bible were written (despite what some English translations say), so they can offer no explicit direction about it.

But putting such details aside, the Bible does, in fact, present a consistently disapproving picture of men having sex with men, or women having sex with women. Hebrew Scripture makes it clear that the job of human beings is to “be fruitful and multiply,” which necessitates genital contact between males and females. The Christian testament is much more ambivalent about the usefulness of genetic multiplication, but Paul’s letters nevertheless make it crystal clear that he saw male-male or female-female sex as something for pagan idolaters, not for Christian Jews or Christian Greeks. There are some fairly complicated and sophisticated theologians who make the case that Paul’s arguments about God working “against nature” might allow for same-sex marriage, but these interpretations surely fail to persuade thinkers who prioritize the plainest meaning of scripture.

This begs the question as to why we care what Paul thought, or would think, about same-sex marriage. Yes, Christians consider the Bible (whichever version they prefer) to be the inspired word of God, useful for teaching and training in righteousness. But Paul lived 2,000 — TWO THOUSAND — years ago (Moses another 2,000 before that), in what might as well have been a galaxy far, far away. Why, then, is it so important that biblical writers agree with us?

Most Christians today disagree with and openly disobey the Bible every single day: We see slavery as a crime against humanity, lend and borrow money at interest, don’t force our raped daughters to marry their rapists, wear mixed fibers, don’t cover our heads, eat bacon and sometimes even mix it with cheese, and — perhaps most shockingly, given its high priority in the Big Ten — trample the holiness of the Sabbath with reckless abandon. (Fans of “The West Wing” will remember similar observations beautifully immortalized by Jed Bartlett.) A few authors have recently conducted high-profile experiments in living biblically and found it to be much more difficult than many “Bible-believing Christians” would have us believe.

Christians with a more nuanced understanding of biblical authority may find a different type of biblical support for the dignity of same-sex marriage, such as in Genesis chapter 1, when God creates human beings “in our own image”; or from Paul’s argument that, while celibacy is the ideal for Christians, “it is better to marry than to burn.” And then there are always the overly generalized love-not-hate kinds of arguments. But all of these approaches take for granted that biblical rules can no longer be taken at face value. It is utterly futile to imagine that the biblical writers would be pleased with the concept of men marrying men or women marrying women — akin to arguing that the founding fathers of these United States would be excited to see women and African Americans voting and serving in congress. They probably wouldn’t. But so what?

Those folks, those human beings, were ahead of their time in many ways, and we can be deeply grateful that they pooled the best of their wisdom together for the benefit of posterity. But like it or not, even the most inspired human authors are still only human; not only did our intellectual and spiritual ancestors get some stuff dead wrong, but they also never thought of many of the questions that we have to deal with. When such questions arise, we must courageously stand in our own time, trusting that inspiration and wisdom are renewable resources (that “God is still speaking,” as one church puts it, even if some of us do have longstanding tradition on our side).

We must also accept that others in the future will surely decide that we, too, were wrong.

Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-blanchard/the-bible-hates-homosexuality-so-what_b_2118043.html?ir=

ralph nader’s 17 solutions

In Politics on Friday, 16 November 2012 at 11:00


find your grit…

In Fitness/Health, Happiness, Inspiration, Mindfulness, Well-being on Thursday, 15 November 2012 at 16:55


education reform. this too shall pass…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Monday, 12 November 2012 at 10:45

Red herrings in education reform

Clarke L. Ruebel

In the rhetoric of education reform, both sides are guilty of proposing solutions that generally ignore the consequences of isolated changes within an elaborate and inbred system.

Education reformers level their sights on issues such as tenure, unions, salaries, and benefits. These are effective rallying points, but they are red herrings diverting attention from the more pernicious philosophical issues driving education and they should not be confused with improving education. No monetary issue, no adjustment in spending, no manipulation of data can redress the myopic philosophies that fuel our problems.

Currently, for example, educators are stuck between mandates to increase API scores while preparing for looming contradictions implied in Common Core Standards slated for 2014. API is an arbitrary, senseless goal and a sorry financial investment if we aim to continue associating schools with education. Common Core Standards might be a step up, but the mystery shrouding them rivals the unveiling of a new Apple product and educators are currently developing curriculum to address the theoretical, conjectural demands of this mystery. So we divide our time between racing to futility and barreling toward ambiguity.

While some rumors linked to Common Core seem more relevant than the current foolishness, the bigger point is that this institutionalized confusion routinely consumes too much staff time, wastes money, and perpetuates the image of fiscal irresponsibility. I won’t guess at how much money has been spent over my career on programs, binders, snacks, and training for systems and saviors that lose favor before the ink is dry on expenditure checks.

The learned mentality among my peers is not to take it too seriously; it’s generally out of vogue before we’re back in our classrooms to apply what we learned.

This absurdity is the product of the same flawed thinking that lowers standards and celebrates mediocrity as success. In response, “advocates” politicize the welfare of young people and label it reform. Worse, they vehemently attack issues that will not result in a more effective system.

Eliminating tenure, for example, renders vocal anti-establishment teachers most vulnerable to punitive firings. Incompetent teachers too often milk the system until they retire, but incompetence blends in much better than activism. In education, the managerial world is data-driven, a world wherein success is measured by allusive, arbitrary benchmarks. From this perspective, incompetence, vocal activism, and conscientious objection all look the same. As comedian Steven Wright pointed out, “the squeaky wheel gets replaced.” We have more to fear from impotence than incompetence.

The natural inclination of leadership is to function in an either-or world.

It is understandable in the face of school mission statements that include numerical goals, where the intent is clearly more about perfecting a system of measurement than facilitating discovery or enlightenment.

This is not to vilify administrators. Many philosophically disagree with the status quo, but do not enjoy the same level of protection as teachers and remain mute for the sake of their own professional survival. It is a divisive, absurd, maybe more accurately disingenuous system that protects teachers while backing administrators into corners where conformity is the benchmark of efficacy.

Our system stifles independent thinking among leadership the same way teachers are tasked with subverting critical thought in our students. Those of us who resist become agitators, drawing the ire of a frustrated public who consider us problems rather than potential solutions, which leads to increasingly adamant demands to rein us in.

Charter and private schools are not immune to this cycle. They are products of it, and vouchers, like merit pay, will only serve to legitimize the fundamental flaws in the current system. Ironically, demanding structural changes without philosophical adjustment contributes to the structural problems.

I have yet to hear a valid argument against improved funding of education. As an addendum, however, any such headway must be accompanied by a critical look, not just at spending or contracts, but at ideologies that set the stage for perpetual distress. We need to find a balance between the front line and the bottom line, and remember who the casualties are.

Clarke L. Rubel has taught English at Alta Loma High School for 14 years. He lives in Rancho Cucamonga.

Retrieved from: http://www.sbsun.com/pointofview/ci_21971294/red-herrings-education-reform

early cancer detection coming soon…

In Medicine on Sunday, 11 November 2012 at 11:22

Scientists develop new method for ‘extremely’ early cancer detection

November 2, 2012

It may soon be possible to test a person for cancer with just a drop of their blood and a small machine. As part of a European research project, scientists have developed a device for detecting the HSP70 protein, which is over-expressed in patients with many types of cancer.

The objective: to make a diagnosis extremely early in the disease process, thereby improving outcomes for patients.

HSP70, a protein indicating stress in the human body, is a biomarker for prostate, colon, esophagus, lung, and brain cancer. Being able to track this protein in patients, making early diagnoses of these types of cancer much more likely, would therefore be very useful for doctors. As part of the “Spedoc” European Research Project, an EPFL team is developing an extremely sensitive, easy-to-use HSP70 detection platform. The device, which will be no bigger than a small suitcase, is expected to be on the market in 2014.

How does it work?

The Spedoc platform requires only a drop of the patient’s blood. The blood is inserted in a chip that contains many microchannels. Inside each of the channels are tiny and circular structures made out of gold, with a particular “anti-body” surface chemistry that is designed to “trap” HSP70. As the blood flows through the channels, the HSP70 proteins are trapped by the structures, of which there are thousands in the pathway that the blood follows through the chip.

The next step in the process involves advanced plasmonics, which the team uses to determine the number of HSP70 proteins trapped on the circular nanostructures. If HSP70 is in fact over-expressed in the blood sample, it would mean that the patient would require further tests to detect cancer cells developing somewhere in the body.

Light detection Two EPFL professors have joined forces on the HSP70 project. Sébastian Maerkl is head of the Laboratory of Biological Network Characterization (LBNC), which is developing the chip measuring 1 cm2. The chip contains layers of microfluidic channels that are no wider than a human hair. It is designed to break down the blood sample into its various components.

Olivier Martin’s Nanophotonics and Metrology Lab (NAM) is in charge of the detection side of the device-design process: the NAM team is developing gold nanostructures, as well as optimizing a process to identify the HSP70 protein. “Our technique involves shining white light on the microfluidic channels,” says Olivier Martin. “If a protein is caught on a nanostructure, we will observe small changes in wavelength as the light is refracted, compared with the initial light. In other words, there will be a change in color that can be observed with a spectrometer.”

This is due to what is known as a surface plasmon resonance, which occurs when the electrons of a metallic nanoparticle oscillate together when they are stimulated by light. Depending upon whether the nanostructure has an HSP70 protein on it, the oscillations will be measurably different, making it possible to determine whether a given nanostructure has trapped a protein or not. The physical phenomenon of resonance oscillation upon which all of this depends only occurs at very small scales. “The resonance is so sensitive that we can detect tiny quantities of a given molecule.”

Available soon at your doctor’s office? The Spedoc early detection method has many advantages: fast and non-invasive, it could replace costly cancer biomarker detection methods. “Cosingo, a Spanish company that’s involved in the project, has already built a prototype, but quite a few improvements still need to be made,” says Olivier Martin, who nonetheless can imagine a long-term scenario where such a test is widely used. “Doctors would use our platform as a cancer screening test during their patients’ regular checkups, which could lead to extremely early diagnoses.”Could this be the beginning of revolution in cancer treatment? The Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) oncologist and Professor of Medicine Olivier Michielin takes a cautious stance, commenting, “The HSP70 test seems quite interesting. However, it will be a long time before it becomes a routine test, although this protein is in fact high in patients with many types of cancer. In particular, it still needs to be proven that early HSP70 detection can actually change the way patients are treated and lead to real improvements in outcomes for specific types of cancer.”Whatever the case may be for HSP70, however, the Spedoc platform will certainly prove to be useful.”Once we have worked out the general principle, the test itself can always be adapted for use on other biomarkers,” notes Sebastian Maerkl.

Provided by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

Retrieved from: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-11-scientists-method-extremely-early-cancer.html#jCp

Girls with ADHD often diagnosed later than boys

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Child/Adolescent Psychology, Psychiatry, School Psychology on Saturday, 10 November 2012 at 11:06

Girls with ADHD often diagnosed later than boys.

agree to disagree

In Education, Pedagogy on Saturday, 10 November 2012 at 11:03

i bet it’s not only kids who can learn from this article…

Post-Election: Teaching Kids How to Respectfully Disagree

By Anthony Jackson on November 10, 2012 3:53 AM

There are many lessons to be learned from the election. Homa Sabet Tavangar, author of Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World, shares one way to make it a teachable moment.

By Homa S. Tavangar

The elementary school children standing in line at our neighborhood bus stop kicked around one topic of banter among them: politics.

It started when one very vocal boy said “I’m so mad Romney lost. I hate Obama.” Then a girl chimed in, “He’s the only person in the world named ‘Barack.'” Timidly, a younger boy added, “I’m glad about Obama.” Then the opinions really started flying between the children, as the yellow school bus pulled up to our corner.

The spirited, but not unique, conversation got me thinking about how to teach children to talk about what matters to them, but without the rancor (and maybe with some fact-checking). How can we raise our children to see various sides of contentious situations as the Founding Fathers and Mothers would have wanted them to, and to effectively, accurately express their views?

Civil dialogue and respect helps strengthen the democracy. That is something all of these children’s families value. As issues in our country and world become more complex, children need the tools to think about multiple, sometimes contrasting, perspectives; so that as adults they can work with diverse people from far-flung places to solve seemingly intractable problems—from finance and poverty to climate change, natural resource use and public health.

This nuanced way of looking at issues is an empathy skill—seeing multiple perspectives or sides of an issue—not political appeasement. To get to this point, we need to take age-appropriate steps with kids so they build up their ability to consider various perspectives. Weighing perspectives also happens to be an important component of global competence for 21st Century learners; so while it’s the right thing to do, it’s also smart.

My friend Catherine shared this story which is deceptively simple yet so instructive. She offered a metaphor that her kids could relate to, in order for them to picture a principle of profound significance:

“During President Obama’s inauguration four years ago, there were many people in the crowd who ‘boo’-ed when President Bush came out [to make his farewell]. Our young children were with us at that historic inauguration. They were surprised by the booing. We asked them to consider how our family would work if once we made a decision together, those of us who weren’t happy were bitter and undermining, and those who were happy gloated and put down the ‘loser.’ … What could our family really accomplish?”

Starting from a micro-level, Catherine’s example showed how paralyzing such contention can be for a family. If you see your fellow citizens (of your country and the world) as one human family, you might treat them differently, even if you disagree with them, and start to build the empathy that allows you to put yourself in their shoes.

This idea was articulated succinctly exactly one hundred years ago, in 1912. On an historic trip to North America, upon his release from a lifetime sentence as a prisoner of conscience when the Ottoman Empire fell, Abdul-Baha shared this thought:

Compare the nations of the world to the members of a family. A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations and you have all humanity.

That’s a simple idea that most kids can get. Families can explore it in their dinner table conversations, and classrooms can consider what it means for them. Hopefully, politicians can start to work together like members of a family, too, even if they disagree over who gets the first slice of cake.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/global_learning/2012/11/post-election_teaching_kids_how_to_respectfully_disagree.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Gargling Sugar Water Can Boost Your Self-Control

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Alternative Health, Psychiatry on Saturday, 10 November 2012 at 10:54

Gargling Sugar Water Can Boost Your Self-Control.

the illustrious “IQ”

In Education, Neuropsychology, School Psychology on Saturday, 10 November 2012 at 10:52

the debate as to what is iq as well as whether or not it can be accurately measured has been around long before i got into this field and i do think it will be around long after i retire.  here is one side…

urther Evidence That IQ Does Not Measure Intelligence

By: Analee Newitz

Every ten years, the average IQ goes up by about 3 points. Psychologist James Flynn has spent decades documenting this odd fact, which was eventually dubbed the Flynn Effect. The question is, does the Flynn Effect mean we’re getting smarter? Not according to Flynn, who argues that the effect simply reveals that IQ measures teachable skills rather than innate ones. As education changed over time, kids got better at standardized tests like the IQ test. And so their scores went up.

But some thinkers cling to the idea that IQ measures an inborn intelligence that transcends culture and schooling. If that’s true, one would expect that the most abstract, “culture free” elements of IQ testing wouldn’t be subject to the Flynn Effect. But they are. And now two psychology researchers have shown why that is.

What Changed Our Minds?

I talked to Florida State psychology researcher Ainsley Mitchum, who has just published a studyin Journal of Experimental Psychology with his colleague Mark Fox. They looked at changes in how people scored the Raven’s Matrices parts of IQ tests, which measure people’s ability to think abstractly. Often these tests involve charts and pattern recognition, and are widely believed to be free of all cultural biases.

Mitchum and Fox were lucky enough to find a report detailing the scores of a group of young people who took the Raven’s Progressive Matrices test in the 1960s, and compared it to scores of young people taking the test now. The results were consistent with the Flynn Effect. “People who got average scores 50 years ago would be below average now,” Mitchum said. But how could this be?

In modern cultures, more emphasis is being placed on abstraction. Students learn algebra at an earlier age than they used to, for instance, but in addition our everyday lives are full of abstractions. Mitchum noted that simply using “folders” on your computer desktop requires a level of abstract thinking that people would rarely encounter in daily life fifty years ago. “This pattern makes you more comfortable breaking away from the surface level features of objects,” Mitchum explained. So a more high-tech culture, combined with differences in education, enhance people’s ability to engage in abstract reasoning.

Test your abstract thinking with a test very similar to Raven’s Progressive Matrices.

Abstraction Is Cultural

Over time, our ability to deal with abstract information is changing. What this means is that abstraction itself is cultural, and it changes over time just as many other aspects of our culture do. It’s very likely that previous generations were more literal-minded in their thinking. They dealt more often with objects in the real world, and had no need to understand things like avatars — icons that represent a real-world object — or how to translate a tiny flick of the wrist into movement on a screen.

Said Mitchum:

Psychologists want to tell you that intelligence measures an essential ability that’s native to people – a real quantity, not something that’s cultural. So they constructed these tests that were designed to not be sensitive to culture [like the Raven’s Progressive Matrices]. But intelligence can’t be looked at as something separate from culture. We argue that the changes in test scores don’t translate into changes in ability. It doesn’t mean we’re evolving into more intelligent people. The data suggest that what’s changing is knowledge. There’s a type of abstract knowledge that people have now in greater numbers. People on average didn’t have that 50 years ago.

Mitchum noted that you can see this transformation far beyond the boundaries of technology. Even the meta-humor you see on television, such as the referential humor on Community, is far more abstract than what people enjoyed in The Three Stooges half a century ago.

If there’s a substantial change in technology in the future, Mitchum believes we’ll see another shift in the way people learn and deal with information “It shouldn’t be surprising to people that when our environment changes rapidly, the way that people deal with information changes with it,” Mitchum said. “We map onto our environment. So what we’re seeing on IQ tests is the footprint of that.”

You Are Probably Not Much Smarter or Dumber Than Anybody Else

If your IQ is largely the result of your environment, what does that say about intelligence itself? Aren’t some of us born with more mental gifts than others? Probably not, said Mitchum. “Neurotypical adults probably don’t differ as much as it seems,” he said. Certainly some people have cognitive deficiencies from head injuries, neurochemical syndromes, and developmental disabilities. But people whose brains are in the typical range probably don’t differ very much in terms of innate mental abilities. What we measure as “intelligence” on IQ tests is mostly environment and experience.

That doesn’t mean IQ tests are useless. In fact, they are very helpful for tracking the way our cultures are shifting over time. These tests are helping us track the way modes of thought are passed on from one generation to the next, mutating as they go.


You can read a PDF of Mitchum and Fox’s paper on IQ scores here.

James Flynn, Are We Getting Smarter? Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Retrieved from: http://io9.com/5959058/further-evidence-that-iq-does-not-measure-intelligence

Helping Your Child Study

In Education, Pedagogy, School Psychology on Saturday, 10 November 2012 at 08:56


By Claire Marketos

‘Tell me, I forget. Teach me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.’- Chinese proverb

Imagine you’re nine years old. Your first test is on Friday, and you have your book in front of you. Your mom tells you to revise your study material. Feeling helpless and ill-equipped, you stare at the pages, hoping that somehow you will remember something.  Soon, you lose interest and begin playing with the dog. It is not surprising that studying turns into a lonely, repetitive chore you dread – one that stifles your natural curiosity. In the words of a fifth grader, ‘Studying is not fun.’

While most schools teach learners how to study, they do so in isolated classes, instead of integrating studying skills in daily lessons and notes, so that it becomes a part of learning. It is extremely frustrating and difficult for a fourth grader to try to apply what he has learned about studying in general to specific subjects. Your child therefore depends on you for help.

Between a rock and a hard place

Instead of treating it as yet another chore, unleash your creativity and approach study time as a fun, inspiring opportunity to bond with your children. By adopting an innovative way of thinking, your child will feel more connected to you and you will empower him with an enquiring mind for life.

Children are curious and instinctively explore their environment to find out more about the world around them. By appealing to your child’s innate inquisitiveness, you can turn studying into an incidental part of his daily activities. Show him how studying can be an enjoyable way to find answers to questions. For example, use Zulu words while preparing the salad. And while driving, throw out a question “Why is it important for people to pay taxes?” This will stimulate critical thinking and lively discussion. By collaborating with your child, you will demonstrate positive ways of interacting with others to find solutions to problems. That’s a useful attribute for almost any career your child may choose later on in life.

Learning how to study effectively is a process that has to be modified according to your child’s needs. There are so many factors influencing the way children study and how well they recall the material later. Whether your child is tired after a long day at school or just battling to concentrate on the task at hand, physical and emotional well-being plays a big role as does personality.

Stumbling blocks

  • If you are going through a divorce and your child worries about this, he will struggle to apply himself.
  • If your child is physically unwell, he may need medical intervention before he is able to concentrate.
  • If your child has learning difficulties, he may require remedial assistance before he can study effectively.
  • If your child has experienced trauma or grief, his ability to retain and recall knowledge will be impaired. Play therapy, among other treatments, may be necessary to provide him with the support he needs.

How children learn

If you are going to be of any help, you need to understand how children learn and how their brains function.

Passively reading through notes, is not the most effective way to study. Research shows that children learn most efficiently by being actively involved in the learning experience. By involving your child personally through writing, speaking, or experiencing the material, you will enable him to recollect it better. Walking around while acting out their assignment helps some students retain information. Others require bright colourful pictures and concrete objects to stimulate their minds. Try different methods, until you find the best way for your child to study- the more memorable and pleasurable the experience, the better the recall.

Learning in a group also greatly improves children’s comprehension, Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky discovered in his early twentieth century research. He also found that children who worked together were able to explain what they had learned in the context of their daily lives.

Studying with, you, his peers, or teacher, helps your child clarify ideas, ask questions, and understand the subject. Vygotsky calls this ‘reciprocal teaching’ and initially used it to teach reading. So, leaving your child to study alone in his bedroom is not the greatest way to help him retain knowledge. He will recall so much more if he can visualize the material while talking about it to you.

Sensory stimulation theorist Dugan Laird found that children can remember seventy-five percent of material presented in visual form such as pictures and diagrams, thirteen percent that is auditory and twelve percent through the other senses.

Have some fun

·        Help your child turn his study notes into colourful diagrams, mind maps, and cartoons.

·        Involve the whole family by using different voices to speak into a tape recorder, saying important facts. Let your child listen to the tape in the car or while taking a bath.

·        Use visual and auditory stimulus from the computer, to help your child remember more of his notes. A great idea is to use your child’s notes to  put together a PowerPoint presentation on the computer. It is time consuming, but as a visual aid it can be invaluable.

 Feeding and stimulating the brain  

The brain is the source not only of our intellect, but also of our emotions. It is who we are, and our moods influence our ability to concentrate. If your child is feeling pressured or frustrated, he will find it harder to retain information. We have all heard how we only use a small part of our brains and that we rarely reach our full potential. So how can you help stimulate your child’s brain to enhance learning and memory?

The brain comprise mainly fat, so it requires ‘good fats’ and protein to function efficiently. Eating a healthy meal of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids before studying will help fuel the brain.  A favourite memory booster recommended by American Mensa supervisory psychologist Dr. Frank Lawliss is banana and chocolate, preferably eaten together. Other brain foods are water, raw or steamed fruits and vegetables, avocado, whole grains, eggs, nuts, and vitamin D.

Tips to kick start the brain

  • Play marching music and have your child chew gum containing the sugar substitute, xylitol, suggests Lawliss – but avoid gum containing aspartame and sugar.
  • Physical exercise not only relieves stress, it also helps your child breathe more deeply, resulting in more oxygen reaching the brain. Doing a moderate amount of exercise before study will stimulate your child’s brain into action. Too much exercise, on the other hand, will make him feel tired with little energy left to concentrate.
  • Games like chess, charades and building puzzles fires up the mind.
  • Devise games to help your child remember his notes.  Design a quiz show or modify 30 seconds as a revision aid. .
  • Sleep is essential to recharge the mind and help process information- eight to ten hours’ sleep a night is ideal.

Create the right environment

As a child how many times were you told to go and sit at your desk and study? We tend to believe that to study properly we should be seated at a table in a quiet room with good lighting. Good lighting is crucial to avoid eye strain, but children learn in different ways and can study in all sorts of environments. Your child may be able to concentrate better when he walks around or sits on a gym ball with music playing in the background.

Be sensitive and flexible in the way you approach your child’s method of studying. Almost any environment can provide an opportunity to learn, so experiment with different places in the home, until you find those best suited to study. Being able to relax and being comfortable will make the experience more beneficial and pleasant. Nevertheless, trying to study in a room with the television on and other children playing is probably too distracting for most children.


Children with learning difficulties learn more effectively in an environment that is free of clutter, well organised and structured. Have all the necessary stationery available, especially brightly coloured highlighters, dictionaries, and keep a file for notes and pictures. Don’t forget to use the computer as a visual and auditory study aid.

Recent research by Robert A. Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles found that learning different content in different environments helps to remember the study material better. So learning maths while looking out on to the oak tree in the garden, or history while glancing at the lava lamp, gives the brain many associations with the subject which helps to retain it. “When the outside context is varied, the information is enriched, and this slows down forgetting,” said Dr. Bjork, author of ‘The two-room experiment.’

Instead of focusing on only one aspect of a subject when studying such as vocabulary, Bjork suggests combining various aspects of the subject in one study session as athletes or musicians would. For example: while learning a language alternate between “speaking, vocabulary, and reading.”

Nate Kornell states: “What seems to be happening is that the brain is picking up deeper patterns. It’s picking up what’s similar and what’s different.”

Establish a routine

Routine makes children feel safe and secure. Children like to know with absolute certainty what is expected of them. Having a study routine will do away with questions like, ‘Do I have to study now?’ Remember to also chat about the subject in an informal way outside of study time while grocery shopping, watching the news, or when an interesting fact occurs to you. .

Most children become irritable when they are tired, so it is best not to schedule study time just before bed. Negotiate a time for studying with your child that you know is best suited to your child’s temperament. Some children study well in the afternoon after lunch and free play, while others study better after supper. Try to schedule it for the same time every day, but accommodate extra-murals and playtime. Your child needs a balanced lifestyle- time to pursue other interests and to relax in order to be successful.

Studying for hours on end is not productive. Your child will become tired and de-motivated. Memory and concentration also decrease after a while. Stick to the allotted time, and stop when that time is up. Focus instead on managing the set times efficiently. Allow short breaks to maintain concentration and to let the brain process the information. Tomorrow will provide another opportunity to study. If your child continues to spend hours doing homework and learning, it may be necessary to evaluate your expectations of him, or chat to the teacher to find out whether the workload is too heavy. If he is experiencing difficulties with some of the material, provide him with additional help.

Managing stress

Aspire to stimulating curiosity in your child along with the desire to know more about himself and the world around him, instead of merely aiming for higher grades. Children who leave school with passion and energy are motivated to seize the challenges faced in adulthood, whereas overachievers who tried to please their parents throughout their childhood may feel burned out, stressed and disinclined to pursue their ambitions.

Stressing over homework and studying is counterproductive. A stressed child can’t concentrate or remember what he is studying. Choose to stop stressing about studying and your child will most likely develop a more positive attitude towards it. Waking up early to study on the day of a test is likely to create additional stress- and it will probably be ineffective, since the brain will not have sufficient time to process the crammed information. Sleep is more important at this age than studying at the last minute.

Pressuring your child to obtain higher marks, criticising him, and making him redo work over and over again, is discouraging. Not only is your child less likely to do well, he may also develop feelings of resentment, and rebel by underachieving. Avoid comparing your children, especially across the sexes, since boys and girls learn in different ways. Research shows that children who have controlling, strict parents, tend to have lower self esteem, as they learn that they cannot be trusted to manage themselves. Avoid living vicariously through your children, and make sure your intentions are to help him find his true purpose in life.

Show your child how to relax. Deep breathing, visualizations, yoga, swaying and meditation, are all ways to deal with stress, and so focus better. Explain to your child how to concentrate in class, call on the teacher for help, and get guidelines for tests- this way much of the knowledge needed can be gained in the classroom.

What to avoid

  • putting pressure on your child to get higher marks
  • being overly critical
  • making your child redo work over and over again
  • comparing him to others, particularly a girl to a boy, or a boy to a girl
  • being too controlling
  • living vicariously through a child

What to do

  • Teach your child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualizations, yoga, swaying and meditation
  • encourage your child to concentrate in class
  • teach your child to ask teachers for help
  • make sure your child gets guidelines for tests and exams
  • approach your child’s school notes with a positive attitude and cultivate this attitude in him
  • allow your child to take control of his schedule, helping where necessary
  • give praise where it is due ,without allowing the praise to turn into added pressure

Keeping your child motivated

‘Aw! Why do I have to study?’ moans a sixth grader. Few children are motivated to study. How do you turn this around? What can you do to inspire your child to enjoy studying? Children watch their parents all the time and your child will copy what you do. If you’re positive and enthusiastic and have a probing mind, your child is likely to be more curious and interested in studying. Watching you read or study will encourage them to do the same.

Research shows that the children of loving parents whose expectations are reasonable have higher self- esteem, and are more motivated when it comes to studying. In contrast, the children of parents who pay attention only when they do well tend to have lower self-esteem and less confidence in their own abilities.

We all enjoy being affirmed and praised for our achievements, and you should be generous in your praise. However, research by theorist William Damon from Stanford University shows that constant praise, especially when nothing has really been achieved, actually limits a child’s abilities. Instead, he says, we should ‘guide them towards worthwhile activities and goals that result in credible self esteem.’

Create opportunities for your child to learn from his mistakes, be persistent in the face of adversity, and accomplish things on his own. Imagine the sense of satisfaction he will feel when he takes control of his notes, and rearranges them to be easier to remember. Setting realistic goals and taking steps to achieve them will help motivate your child.

Children have vivid imaginations and can come up with fabulous ideas to help them remember study material. Inspire your child to think laterally as he tackles his notes. Your curiosity and interest in his subjects will stimulate intellectual thought and conversation- a much more enjoyable proposition than merely studying for tests.

We all know how infectious it can be to be around someone who is upbeat and who has a high self esteem. Teach your child the power of positive thinking. Believing in himself, defining who he is and what his abilities are will give him the confidence to overcome stress, especially when studying.

Get creative 

Think outside the box. Engage your child in thinking of novel ways to remember his study notes.

  • When talking with your child about his study notes, add in tidbits of interesting information from your readings and travels. Children love to hear stories, and if you can tell stories relevant to their study material, it will provide a hook to help jog his memory, for example, ‘Mom saw Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus in the British Museum…..’
  • Explain how their notes are relevant to their daily lives, and how as we develop as a society we build on knowledge from the past. Ask ‘what if’ questions to stimulate thinking- for example, ‘What if Thomas Edison hadn’t been curious, and hadn’t kept experimenting to find answers? We may never have discovered electricity. Then there would be so many things we wouldn’t be able to do like……”Challenge your child to come up with uses for electricity.
  • Teach your child to organise his study material, and tackle difficult information first. He doesn’t need to learn work he already knows.
  • Children learn best from notes and diagrams transcribed in their own words and in age-appropriate language. If your child finds his study notes difficult to understand, encourage him to summarise it in his own words. Help him draw mind maps and spider diagrams.
  • Take time to teach your child to read his notes critically. Scan the material to find the most important points. Pose questions and find the answers in the study notes. Write down important points. Being able to read and take notes effectively will be of immense help once your child goes to high school.
  • One picture paints a thousand words, the saying goes. This is especially true when it comes to studying. Always look for a way to represent notes visually. Help your child turn his study notes into colourful pictures and diagrams. For example, if you are studying surface and subsurface water sources, let him draw a diagram showing where the water sources are. These diagrams or pictures can be simple stick figures which don’t take a long time to draw. Use colour to make it more memorable.
  • Use different coloured cards on which to write important information, such as dates. Post the cards behind the toilet door, the car seat, or on the fridge, so that your child can see the information often. Make associations like, ‘Red is 1361BC when people began to settle along the Nile River.’
  • Ask your child to teach you, a teddy, a pet, or other members of the family. To teach, he will need to understand the subject material. Let him use his notes initially, but as the week goes by, let them try without notes. Or as one mother found to her delight, her daughter had rediscovered the karaoke function on the family’s music system. ‘She’s been lecturing to a phantom audience all week,” the mother said.
  • Invent silly rhymes, acronyms and mnemonics with your child to help him remember difficult dates and facts.
  • If your child is musically inclined, he may even make up a rap song from his notes.
  • If your child has good ball skills, let him pin the answers to questions to a wall, and throw tennis balls at the correct answer.
  • Putting on a puppet show for the family can help your child commit information to memory.
  • Film them as they make a documentary on their assignment. They can watch it later for further reinforcement.
  • Drumming is often used these days to help children with learning difficulties. Beating out facts on a drum can make them easier to recall – drumming is relaxing and helps to stimulate the brain.
  • If you can actually visit the place they are learning about, do the experiment, or see the artifact in a museum, your children will easily recall it later.
  • Give your child strategies and tips on how to do well on tests: “Read the questions carefully, underlining key words. Look at the mark allocation. Always answer the question even if you have to make an educated guess.”
  • Guide your child to watch programmes on TV or DVD, and read newspaper articles which show how their study notes are relevant to everyday life, and to reinforce the material they have studied.

For many of us parents studying evokes unpleasant memories, which we wouldn’t want our children to experience. Throw out those old methods that didn’t work for you, and strive to replace them with inspirational ideas that make the learning experience enjoyable and memorable for your children. It is possible to show them that the world provides so many amazing opportunities that they can be part of.

Note to parents: I specifically didn’t use the word ‘work’ when referring to the child’s school notes or study notes as studying should not be viewed as ‘work’ but rather as a means of finding answers to questions.


The IQ Answer  by Dr. Frank Lawliss

Child Development 5th Edition by Laura Berk

This article was first published in the book “Happy Years: A guide for paqrents’ by Abraham Kriel Childcare. The copyright remains with the author Claire Marketos.

This page is sponsored by BLUEKEY– – small & medium business accounting software. Specialists in SAP Business One. info@bluekey.co.za. Toll free 0800 258 3539.

Retrieved from: http://www.inspiredparenting.co.za/NewsCast.aspx?NID=76

Mending the Brain Through Music

In Brain imaging, Brain studies, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience on Wednesday, 7 November 2012 at 07:45

Mending the Brain Through Music

Bret S. Stetka, MD, Concetta M. Tomaino, MA, DA, LCAT

Editor’s Note: 
From a Darwinian perspective, music is a mystery. It’s unclearwhether the human ability to appreciate a catchy melody conferred some specific evolutionary advantage or was a by-product of more general adaptations involving sound and pattern processing. But what is known is that evidence of music has been found in every documented human culture[1,2] — and that nearly all of us have at least some innate capacity to recognize and process song. The human brain houses a staggeringly complex neuronal network that can integrate rhythm, pitch, and melody into something far greater with, it turns out, significant therapeutic potential.

Research and clinical experience increasingly support music as medicine. Accessing and manipulating our musical minds can benefit numerous psychiatric, developmental, and neurologic conditions, often more effectively than traditional therapies. Dr. Concetta M. Tomaino, along with noted neurologist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks, cofounded the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function to study the effects of music on the brain and neurologic illness in particular. In light of increasing interest in music therapy and accumulating data supporting the approach, Medscape spoke with Dr. Tomaino about how the brain perceives music and the role of the Beatles in treating neurologic disease.


Medscape: Thanks for speaking with us today, Dr. Tomaino. The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function has been integral to our understanding of how the brain processes music, and how music can be used as therapy in certain neurologic conditions. Can you give us some background on the Institute and discuss your role and work there?

Dr. Tomaino: The Institute was incorporated in 1995 to bridge the worlds of neuroscience and clinical music therapy. It grew out of the work of both myself and Dr. Oliver Sacks, with support from CenterLight Health System (formerly Beth Abraham Family of Health Services).

I’m a music therapist by training, with a master’s degree and doctorate in music therapy but also with a strong neuroscience background. Back in the 1970s, I was working in a nursing home and was amazed at how people with end-stage dementia, with little to no cognitive ability or awareness of their surroundings, could still process familiar music. I started wondering whether music could be used as a specific therapy to arouse cognition in patients with severe dementia.

When I came to Beth Abraham in 1980, Oliver Sacks was the attending neurologist and had been asking similar questions about the postencephalitic patients he wrote about in Awakenings, wondering how music and arts affected people who’d lost brain function through disease or trauma. And so we sought each other out and became good friends.

We worked together, him using music to test patients and me clinically applying music to help people recover or improve function. Both of us realized that there was something important going on here, and in the mid-1980s, we began seeking out scientists who could help us study the effects of music on brain function. In 1985, Oliver’s book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat became popular, and I was president of the American Association for Music Therapy. Our administration took notice of the attention both Oliver and I were receiving from the media and asked whether there was something they could help us do to expand upon our ideas. And so the Institute was formed as a center dedicated to studying music and brain and bridging the clinical and neuroscience communities.

Medscape: Can you speak about the origins of music therapy and how it’s been used over the years?

Dr. Tomaino: The therapeutic aspects of music have been noted in societies for thousands of years; however, interest really grew around the time of World War II, in part because the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program started bringing musicians into veterans hospitals. Doctors and nurses observed that people who seemed to be totally unresponsive would come to life when music was played. The hospital staff wanted to bring more musicians in, but training was needed to prepare them to better understand the conditions and needs of the patients. The approach gained attention, and eventually music therapy came together as a profession in the late 1940s. We now have a certification board, and the American Association for Music Therapy oversees academic and clinical training approaches.

The scope of music therapy has become very broad. It’s been studied and shown effective in psychiatric illness; developmental issues; and medical conditions, including pre- and postoperative settings. However, Dr. Sacks’ and my interests and contributions to the field have been in the area of neurologic function.

Medscape: In which neurologic conditions has music therapy shown the greatest effectiveness?

Dr. Tomaino: There are so many, but one of the most recognized areas is motor initiation in patients with neuromuscular and movement disorders, such as Parkinson disease (PD). Patients with PD often have a slowness of movement and a shuffling gait. Music, specifically highly rhythmic music, has been shown — and there’s quite a bit of supporting data here — to help them in training and coordinating their movements and gait. Music also enhances the length of their stride and improves balance.

Later in the course of PD, cognitive and short-term memory decline are common; in this case, music has been shown to be an effective mnemonic tool, a memory enhancer for remembering basic information — phone numbers, people, addresses, things like that (I’ll get to other forms of dementia in a second). My work and that of some colleagues has also shown that singing and using music to enhance voice and communication is also beneficial for people with PD.

Medscape: Is music therapy used preventatively or symptomatically to address the cognitive component of PD?

Dr. Tomaino: Ideally, it’s started early to help prevent memory decline and create new associative memories early in the disease — linking acquaintances, places, and events, for example, in order to prevent or slow future memory problems and enhance recall. Recent research is really enhancing our knowledge of neuroplasticity. Forming these associations — these new neuronal connections — appears to be neuroprotective.

Recalling Words and Memories

Medscape: Another area researched at the Institute is using music therapy to help patients with nonfluent aphasias recover speech — patients who comprehend language and know what they want to say, but just can’t find the words. How successful has this approach been?

Dr. Tomaino: These are patients who have had damage, such as a stroke, to the Broca region of the brain, in the left frontal lobe. Some do have mild cognitive impairment, but mostly they fully understand what’s being said to them — at least, that’s the case in the patients we work with.

We apply several techniques depending on the patient’s residual skills: for example, can they sing a simple song and tap their finger along with the rhythm. We cue them to sing along with familiar lyrics from memory and help prompt word retrieval by leaving pauses within the lyrics — you leave out a few lyrics in a familiar Beatles song and have the patient try to find the words without losing the beat. This helps a great deal. As the person improves, we move toward a more traditional form of melodic intonation therapy (MIT), focusing on the tone and rhythm or normal speech phrases rather than singing lyrics to songs.

Traditional MIT, developed by a team at the Boston Veterans Affairs Hospital in 1973, is being studying by such neuroscientists as Gottfried Schlaug at Harvard Medical School. A simple, 2-tone sequence — a high and a low pitch — is used to pattern the inflection of speech. It has 4 levels, beginning with humming and tapping short phrases and gradually moving toward a Sprechstimme, or a more normal rhythmic speech with little melodic change.

Patients are asked to repeat single words with the beat and tones, gradually increasing to more complex phrases, such as “Good morning, how are you today?” [Editor’s Note: Imagine each syllable alternating between 2 tones.] The repetition overlaid on the music helps reinforce the patterns of normal speech and helps patients recover words and fluency. Neuroimaging studies indicate compensatory changes in the right frontal lobe areas.

Music therapy is also used to as a psychotherapeutic application in mental illness and can help alleviate stress and anxiety. This has an impact on neurologic function as well; for example, multiple sclerosis symptoms can be exacerbated by stress. Preliminary research shows that music can be an excellent tool for self-relaxation and stress management in these patients. And one of the most fascinating areas in which music is used is dementia and amnesia.

Medscape: Dr. Sacks has written about a number of patients who, despite exhibiting severe amnesia, can remember song lyrics perfectly. What does this say about the neuronal pathways involved in musical memory vs say, declarative memory, our ability to consciously recall information? And what is the therapeutic potential here?

Dr. Tomaino: They are most likely primarily processed by separate brain systems. So a person with dementia or amnesia may not consciously recognize a familiar song, but something in their subconscious knows it’s familiar. There are feelings, emotions, or moments of history in there somewhere. And if they listen to those songs, we’re realizing that sometimes these feelings or the emotions are so strong that they trigger fleeting glimpses of pieces of memory. If we can work with those fleeting moments and build upon them, maybe stronger connections can be made and more memories experienced.

Medscape: Do the memories and recollections last once the music has stopped?

Dr. Tomaino: It depends on the patient. I’ve had a few patients with short-term memory problems in whom using music, and progressing from older memories forward, have then been able to recall recent events. In people with Alzheimer-type dementia, who have seemingly lost the ability to recall past events, music with strong emotional ties and meaning can lead to enduring remembrances and recall.

Medscape: Several case reports — including a recent documentary clip that went viral on YouTube — have demonstrated how effective music can be in helping patients with dementia open up and engage with their environment. How much of this is an actual heightened sense of awareness vs reflexive neurologic activity in response to the music?

Dr. Tomaino: It’s both, depending on the individual. Initially, it’s more reflexive and reactive. But if the musical interventions are provided on a regular basis and for longer periods — 15 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour — we find that their short-term memory and attention improve over time.

We did some studies years ago that were funded by the New York State Department of Health and engaged people with mid- to late-stage Alzheimer disease in music therapy sessions for 1 hour, 3 times a week for 10 months. We found that over time, their awareness of other people improved significantly. Some even recognized those people by name, increased their group interactions, and demonstrated improvement in memory and awareness — they once again knew when it was lunch time.

So yes, in patients with dementia, things that you think are lost forever are retrievable over time with this kind of stimulation. I believe there is now scientific evidence showing this — that when somebody’s engaged in an activity that’s meaningful, it involves regions of their frontal cortex that stimulate short term memory and attention. Then if you can hold somebody’s attention with something that’s meaningful for a long period, the very mechanisms that are breaking down in somebody with dementia are actually being enhanced and activated.

Medscape: Interesting. So, music-based therapies work via a variety of musical qualities, with aspects like rhythm, melody, and emotional familiarity having much different effects, respectively?

Dr. Tomaino: Right. There are totally different mechanisms at work here. The emotional and personal connection is important in dementia, whereas in PD, we’re looking at the person’s ability to perceive and feel the beat. In patients with PD, rhythm is so important and unique to the patient. Instead of just picking a beat and using a metronome, we experiment with different rhythms and rhythmic styles to see what the person responds best to. They have to feel the pulse in order for that pulse to drive their motor function. So when we talk about “music therapy,” we’re talking about components of music, such as rhythm, tone, melody, harmony, song — all of these qualities can be used together or individually to affect the patients with certain conditions.

Who Benefits Most?

Medscape: I’m curious about how an individual’s degree of engagement with music before therapy affects the outcome. Does a person’s musical skill or appreciation come into play? Does a classical violinist benefit most from music therapy? A music critic? A Deadhead?

Dr. Tomaino: Anybody can benefit from music therapy, but their background in music can help or hurt them. Most humans have an affinity for sound and can process it in highly complex ways. However, in certain diseases people may lose this ability, and in fact sound may get so distorted that they have a negative response to it, even if they’d loved music before their injury. This is especially evident in people with damage to the right temporal lobe: These patients often lose their perception of pitch. In fact, I think in Musicophilia, Dr. Sacks writes about a classically trained, professional musician who, after localized brain damage, is a quarter tone off in his perception of pitch.

Medscape: That’s right. And he ended up just tuning his piano up a quarter step!

Dr. Tomaino: Yes! So that’s where the music therapist really has to look at what a person is able to perceive. This patient’s perceptive problem probably wouldn’t have bothered someone who couldn’t tell the difference. With a professional musician, you can imagine that their neural connections to sound and perception are greatly enhanced.

For example, we treated a percussionist who’d had a stroke. The traditional therapy would be to work with the nonaffected side to encourage the intact side of the brain to take over function. For example, a right-handed person would be taught to perform tasks with the left hand. But because percussionists and musicians, by nature of their craft, presumably have stronger bilateral neural representation, we convinced the physical therapist to try working with the affected side of the brain and body. The person was able to regain function. By encouraging the patient to use the affected limb, we try to restore as much function as possible to this limb rather than compensate with the other side.

Medscape: We know that certain areas of the brain are highly dedicated to certain aspects of perception and information processing. The left frontal and temporal lobes are highly involved in speech recognition and production. The occipital cortex processes visual information. But music and sound perception and processing seems to involve numerous regions all over the brain. Can you speak about how the brain perceives and processes music, and how this lends itself to therapeutic applications?

Dr. Tomaino: There are some areas of the brain that are known to be involved in specific aspects of sound processing, mainly through looking at people who have lost certain abilities through certain brain lesions. As I mentioned earlier, patients with a lesion in the right temporal lobe often experience loss of pitch perception. We know that singing is dominant in the right temporal lobe; however, syntax of both speech and music is left dominant. And there are areas on both sides of the brain that inform and coordinate with each other when it comes to music, because music isn’t just one specific skill. That said, music processing is incredibly complex, and as far as I know, a complete map of the areas responsible for music and sound processing doesn’t yet exist.

This complexity is probably why music is so beneficial as a therapeutic tool. It’s processed bilaterally: in the cortex and subcortically, where it stimulates evolutionarily primitive areas of brain function, such as the cerebellum and the basal ganglia. So when a person does have a deficit, there is still some part of the brain functioning properly that is involved in music processing and can be stimulated through sound.

Another interesting aspect here is that in patients with damage to higher cortical regions — those with frontal temporal dementia (FTD) — their appreciation for music may change. Oliver wrote about a classically trained musician who didn’t care for any other types of music; after developing FTD, he starting liking rock and roll.

Functional imaging studies, such as those by Dr. Schlaug that I mentioned earlier, are really helping us understand neural plasticity as well as which areas of the brain are involved in what. You can first isolate the components of music, studying where pitch is processed, and beat, and melody. Then you can put them all together, and it becomes very complex. With functional imaging, it became possible to literally watch the brain work in real time while it listens to music.

Acting, Painting, Listening

Medscape: In reading Musicophilia, one of the things that really fascinated me was the idea that our memory for music is far more high-fidelity than it is for nonmusical creative sensory stimuli. Our recollections of visual art and narrative are often distorted or approximated; however, musical memories and dreams have been proven highly accurate in pitch, melody, mood, and rhythm. How does this distinguish music therapy from other forms of creative arts-based interventions, such as art and drama therapy?

Dr. Tomaino: I should admit that I used to be biased when I sat on the board for the creative arts therapy coalition, because I knew that music — especially the components of music, such as rhythm — could directly affect brain function rather than requiring the interpretation by the arts therapist. I think the big difference is the other arts therapies tend to work psychotherapeutically. And in fact, many music therapists work psychotherapeutically, which can be very effective.

But myself, Dr. Sacks, and a few of our colleagues became interested in the neurologic underpinnings of music and how sound itself could arouse and stimulate basic brain functioning. Whereas art and drama tend toward the emotions and personal associations — a sense of self and ego, and all those areas of psychotherapy — the specific components of music can actually affect brain function in a very measurable, functional way.

Because of this, music therapy is one of the therapies still available to people with devastating diseases, such as Alzheimer disease and neuromuscular conditions, in whom the other creative arts therapies would no longer have a therapeutic benefit. Music can bypass upper-brain processes and higher cognition, as well as stimulate some of the fundamental lower and midbrain areas.

I should say that although we don’t treat psychiatric patients at our facility, so often neurologic and psychiatric illnesses — as well as medical illnesses — are intertwined. So the psychotherapeutic component of our music-based interventions are very important to our patients too.

Medscape: How widely accessible is music therapy, and how many therapists are there in the United States?

Dr. Tomaino: There are close to 6000 music therapists in the United States. It’s not that many, when you think about how many people could benefit from it.

Medscape: Short of having access to a music therapy resource for referral, how can clinicians incorporate music therapy techniques into their practice?

Dr. Tomaino: It’s really great that something so effective is available to everyone. Although it is always important to seek out a professional music therapist first, there are therapeutic applications of music that others can make use of: for example, using personalized music to help someone with Alzheimer disease feel connected, or using rhythmic cues to help increase stride and gait in someone with PD.

And we haven’t even touched on children. Professionals who are working with children with autism-spectrum disorders should really seek out music therapy because it’s been very, very successful with this population. It can be so important in developing early language and motor skills, as well as self-identity and social skills.

I could also see a psychiatrist or social worker who’s having a hard time having a patient open up asking them to bring their favorite piece of music in; it could be an effective entry point into forming a relationship. Speech therapists who have a patient with aphasia can ask the persons to sing.

Likewise, a physical or occupational therapist can use rhythmic cues to help with motor problems. It’s amazing how little rhythm is used in rehabilitation especially in helping people with PD move more effectively. Just remember that each patient responds to different musical cues and rhythms, which requires time to navigate. I’ve talked to a few neurologists who will put on a Sousa march and expect a patient to immediately get up and walk!

Editor’s Note: The American Music Therapy Association’s Website maintains a list of music therapists in the United States, many of whom provide Skype services for remote patients.

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/773401?src=mp

Things Never To Say To A Teacher

In Uncategorized on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 at 17:11

Things Never To Say To A Teacher.

The disastrous behaviour of the memory

In Fitness/Health, Mindfulness, Well-being on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 at 16:32

The disastrous behaviour of the memory (Click the photo to enlarge).

and i bet you thought this was another neuro article…

Children With Autism Developmentally Normal at 6 Months

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, Neuropsychology, School Psychology, Special Education on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 at 15:24

Children With Autism Developmentally Normal at 6 Months

Pam Harrison

Infants who go on to develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are developmentally normal by the age of 6 months, and the earliest signs of developmental disruption are subtle and not specific to autism, prospective, longitudinal data show.

In the largest prospective, longitudinal study to date comparing children with early and later diagnosis of ASD with children without ASD, Rebecca Landa, PhD, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues found that the earliest signs of developmental disruption in children with ASD are likely to be nonspecific to ASD, such as communication or motor delay.

At 6 months, development within both the early-onset ASD children and those with later-onset ASD was comparable both to each other and to non-ASD control children.

“The standard clinical tools that we use to assess early development are not identifying abnormalities in babies midinfancy that go on and have autism,” Dr. Landa told Medscape Medical News.

“So the assumption that any infant who is going to have autism would be obviously autistic in midinfancy is a myth because this just isn’t happening.”

The study was published online October 30 in Child Development.

Developmental Trajectory

Studying the developmental trajectory of multiple systems — motor, cognitive, social, and language — in the first 3 years of life in children with and without ASD could shed light on the susceptibility of the developing brain to the impact of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors in children with ASD.

Therefore, the investigators examined language and motor development in children aged 6 to 36 months and social development from 14 to 24 months, the time during which ASD regression usually occurs.

Participants included 204 infant siblings of children with autism as well as 31 infants with no family history of autism.

The Mullen Scales of Early Learning provided measures of motor and language functioning, and the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile provided measures of 2 social functions related to the diagnostic criteria for ASD.

By 14 months, the early-onset group exhibited significantly lower expressive language and shared positive affect scores than the later ASD group (P < .001 for both endpoints).

By 18 months, the early ASD group also had greater delays in receptive (P < .001) and expressive language development (P = .001) compared with the later-onset group.

Gap Closes

At 24 months, however, “the gap between the Early- and Later-ASD groups had closed, and no differences from the Later-ASD group were detected at subsequent ages,” the investigators write.

These findings indicate that the early-ASD group manifested earlier development disruption, especially as it affected language and social functioning, than children with later-onset ASD but that they were no more severely affected than later-onset ASD children at either 30 or 36 months.

“There are different developmental pathways to ASD,” said Dr. Landa.

Children who manifest symptoms by their first birthday are more globally impaired at 14 months than children who have later manifestations of ASD.

On the other hand, children with later-onset ASD do have some signs of developmental delay at 14 months, but these signs are not specific to ASD and include motor and communications delays.

However, by 36 months, both groups are comparable in their social and developmental characteristics, she added.

“Many pediatricians screen for autism at around 18 months, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, but they don’t continue screening after that,” Dr. Landa said.

“But screening should be repeated through early childhood, and if concerning signs of delay associated with ASD are observed in a child who scores normally on standardized tests, further assessment is warranted.”

Need for Early Intervention

Deborah Fein, PhD, University of Connecticut, in Storrs, told Medscape Medical News that it is important to appreciate that the ASD children included in this study were infant siblings of children with ASD.

As such, “this is not the population at large, so these findings might not be generalizable,” Dr. Fein said

On the other hand, infant siblings of children with ASD are a small enough population that they could be followed very closely throughout their preschool years, and subtle delays in motor or social communication development could be identified.

Other children at risk for ASD, including premature infants or infants who have had obstetric complications, are also at risk for ASD and could be similarly followed, she added.

“There are preclinical signs of ASD, but in a sense, it doesn’t matter because if you know a child has some mild delay in cognitive or motor or social communication function, you still want to deliver early interventions,” she said.

“Then if full-blown autism does emerge, you’ll be on top of it.”

The authors and Dr. Fein have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Child Dev. Published online October 30, 2012. Abstract

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/773990?src=nl_topic

The Coming Storm for Common Standards: Public Knowledge? – Curriculum Matters – Education Week

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 at 13:37

The Coming Storm for Common Standards: Public Knowledge? – Curriculum Matters – Education Week.

After 30 Years of Special Ed. Law, How Far Have We Really Come? – On Special Education – Education Week

In Education, Education advocacy, Special Education on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 at 13:33

After 30 Years of Special Ed. Law, How Far Have We Really Come? – On Special Education – Education Week.

the starter dog…

In Humane Education, Life with dogs on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 at 12:56

There’s No Such Thing As a Starter Dog

By: Ruthie Bently

I become disheartened when I hear about someone giving up a dog. Why did they get the dog in the first place if they were only going to give it up? Too many dogs (and cats, birds, reptiles, etc.) are ending up in shelters these days because people give them up. I can understand someone’s financial situation changing, or someone passing away and leaving their beloved dog behind. I applaud adoption and stand firmly behind it, but taking a dog that has known only family and loved ones to a shelter is an upheaval of major proportions. There is no such thing as a “starter” dog.

Recently my mother-in-law adopted a Miniature Boxer from someone who works with my sister-in-law’s husband. Why did they give him up you ask? They were moving out of state and could not take him with them. He was very lucky, my extended family never turns away an animal in need. At least not in the 31 years I’ve known them.

In my personal opinion, moving is not an excuse for giving up a dog and saying you couldn’t find anywhere that would let you move in because you have a dog means you didn’t try hard enough. I have moved four times since I left my mom’s house and I have found somewhere to go every time. The first time I moved with one dog and two cats; the second time same thing; the third time I moved with two dogs and seven cats; and the last time I moved with two dogs, seven cats, six geese and a flock of about thirty chickens.

Before getting a dog (whether adopting or from a reputable breeder) do your homework. Get all the members of the family involved. Ask yourself some questions and be honestabout the answers.

What kind of dog do you want? Do your research, that cute puppy will grow up. Even a small dog can be a bundle of energy if you aren’t prepared for it. It can be like adopting another child. Different dogs (mixed or purebred) have different traits, energy levels and care needs.There are many breeds that have congenital health issues, do yourhomework. Don’t get a dog just because you like the way it looks or because your friend has one, it may not be the right fit for you. Properly done this dog will grow old with your family and the fit needs to be right at the beginning.

Can you live where you are with the dog you want? There are many cities, towns and states now that have dog specific laws and do not allow certain breeds to live within their confines. Many insurance companies will not insure you for liability or will restrict your liability on your homeowners policy because of the dog breed you own. Some places even require dog owners of specific breeds to muzzle their dogs when walking them in public. I have owned American Staffordshire Terriers since 1981 and have watched the laws change. People look at them and cringe in fear, not because of the dog itself but because of the stories of all the bad owners that have not trained their dogs properly or used them for something illegal. They have automatically become a “bad breed”.

What size dog do you want? Too small and the dog can be stepped on or tripped over if it gets underfoot, too large and it can step on you or your children, clean off tables with the swipe of a tail or clean off kitchen counters or the stove with its mouth because it is tall enough to reach them. Your family could sustain injuries by a well-meaning dog that only wants to play. That Great Dane will want to be on the couch with you, is your couch big enough?

Is anyone in the family allergic to dogs? Do you know? You need to find out before you bring home that bundle of joy. Find a friend or family member with a dog and go for a visit with the whole family. Check with the local vet or shelter and see if you can visit one day and explain the situation. Have them introduce you to several different breeds, get up close and personal. Rub your hands through their fur, and rub your nose; do you start to sneeze? All animals create dander and it is the reaction of your body to this dander that causes an allergic reaction. There are wipes and washes that claim to help the situation, and allergy shots, though I think this is only a temporary solution.

Who is the dog for? Who really wants the dog and why do they want them? Do you want a babysitter for the kids? From personal experience growing up with dogs, we got into plenty of scrapes that the dog didn’t keep us from and one that involved a “Cressite” rubber ball, a game of “Keep Away” and a thermopane window that got us all grounded, except for Duchess (our Boxer). Do you want a dog for protection? You don’t need a big dog or one that you think looks fierce. I had a client who had to have a Rottweiler because she thought they were cool. Max ended up being more than she could handle and she had to give him up when she found he was too much for her to handle. It is a statistical fact that many burglars won’t go into a home if they know there is a dog there, but the dog does not have to be large enough to look him in the eye through the window. Don’t get a dog because you want it to have a litter of puppies and teach the kids the facts of life. Most breeders do not get back the time, energy and expense they put into raising a litter; they do it for the love of the breed. Puppies need to be fed, they need to be wormed, they need shots, teething toys, etc., and every puppy in the litter is adding another financial mouth to your budget.

Who will care for the dog? Don’t give in to promises from the kids that they will take care of the dog when it gets home, in my experience it doesn’t usually work this way. Explain everything the dog is going to need on a daily basis: feeding, grooming, exercise, quiet time; and lay down ground rules. You are bringing home a new family member and need to consider them in this light. The new dog should not become another chore or burden to any one family member. You shouldn’t be getting a dog if this is the case.

Where will the dog be housed? Will you use a crate or leave them loose in the house to chew who knows what? Puppies have been known to eat whatever they can lay their mouths on. I have personal experience with clients’ dogs eating wall paper, sheetrock or plaster board, cell phones, batteries, power cords, rugs, TV remotes, blankets, toilet paper, glasses and plastic. Puppies chew because they are teething or bored. Older dogs chew out of boredom, separation anxiety and anger. Yes, dogs get angry. Dogs should not spend 24 hours a day outside, in my opinion that is a recipe for disaster.

Is your yard fenced? If you get a dog, you should consider at least partially fencing an area for the dog large enough to exercise and relieve themselves in. It should be safe from stray dogs, cats and predators and should have a shaded area to protect them from the sun and somewhere for them to go on a rainy or snowy day. The fence should be high enough to keep your dog in; a six foot height is a good start. Too high you think? No so, any dog worth their salt can even go over a six foot fence if they have enough motivation. Case in point: My AmStaff Katie. Katie was only about 18 inches at the withers and I watched her take a six foot wooden stockade fence from a standing start, balance on the top and then go over an adjacent six foot chain link fence in quest of a squirrel. If you are interested in an Arctic breed, be advised they dig and can dig their way out, so burying the fence at least a foot underground is a good idea.

Do the zoning laws in your town allow fencing? Some communities don’t. A tie out stake with a chain or tie out line can kill a dog. They can get tangled and break a leg. If the stake is too close to a fence they can leap over after something they see and strangle. While invisible fence systems are very popular, not every dog will stay inside the perimeter. I had clients that used one with two dog that were constantly running through the barrier, no matter how much they increased the electric shock the dogs received. Once through they wouldn’t come back and ran through the neighborhood terrorizing other dogs, neighbors and tradespeople. They finally got a fence, problem solved.

Is the dog trained? Every dog needs to know basic obedience commands: sit, stay, down, come, drop it, out. Knowing basic commands can save your dog’s life. I know a man who hunts with his Labs and he taught them to sit at a curb. They are always on a leash when they leave the yard, why would they need it? One day a service person left the back gate open and his female shot out the gate after seeing a rabbit. The rabbit bounded across a busy street and got hit. The dog true to her training, promptly sat when she got to the curb and survived.

If not, who will train the dog? The whole family should be involved in this (unless the kids are very small) and learn the proper way to correct the dog. Don’t just buy a book and try to do it yourself, get a reputable breeder or enroll in a class. There are many places you can get a dog obedience training these days and there is NO excuse not to. The archaic methods that were accepted 50 years ago are no longer any good. Swatting with a newspaper only makes them afraid of the newspaper. Rubbing their nose in their accident only gives them a dirty nose. Yelling at them will only make them afraid of you. I know a wonderful dog that would rather die than come when called. His previous owners would yell at him to “Come” and when he did they would hit him. Would you come if you thought every time you did you’d get cuffed?

Who is going to exercise the dog? They need exercise too you know. A dog the size of a Labrador or Golden Retriever need the equivalent of a six mile walk daily. The person walking the dog needs to be able to control them. You should not send a six year old child out with a dog that is not obedience trained and even then you should supervise the walk. If the dog shoots across the street with child in tow, you could end up losing not only the dog but your child.

What dog will fit your lifestyle? What is your energy level? Are you a jogger or a couch potato? Some breeds would love to go jogging with you, and others would love hanging out on the couch. Make sure you pick a dog that will match your stamina level. If you like jogging, then you don’t want to go running with an English Bulldog, they wouldn’t be able to go the distance. If you are laid back and just want to hang out then a Dalmatian is probably not the dog for you.

Can you afford to take on a financial responsibility that will last the life of the dog? Dogs can live up to and over 20 years. My American Staffordshire Terrier Smokey Bear lived to the ripe old age of 19 years and 7 months. There are yearly checkups at the vet, which include an exam, inoculations / boosters, parasite tests, medication to prevent parasites. They should eat at least 2 meals a day and as well as dog food there are treats, toys, bedding, outdoor clothing and boots for inclement weather.

If something happens to you, where will the dog go? You should have provisions in your will for your family dog. If you don’t have a will, you should have written instructions for the dog’s welfare and keep them up to date. It should be kept in a safe place like a home safe or your safety deposit box at the bank. Is there an extended family member or very good friend that knows the dog and would be willing to take them? The chances of a dog in a shelter getting adopted lessen as they age.

Can you set up a fund to take care of the dog if something happens to you? Many people leave monies to their family pets for their care and upkeep for the remainder of their lives if they predecease them. You should figure out how long your dog might live and the upkeep needed for their care and feeding, then factor in inflation.

Can you afford the financial burden if the dog becomes ill? Dogs can get cancer, autoimmune diseases, renal failure, cataracts, glaucoma and other diseases as they age. My first dog died of cancer after an illness of eight months. I could have put him down when the cancer was diagnosed, but neither Nimber or I was ready for him to leave me. The cancer could not be removed from where it was (around the artery at the base of his heart). Chemotherapy for dogs was in its infancy and I couldn’t put him through that. I chose not to put Nimber down and we had another glorious eight months together. But it was an expensive eight months: Nimber took two medications daily and every day I dropped Nimber off at the vet’s on my way to work and he had to have the fluid drained from his chest cavity, to keep it from building up more and either stopping his lungs or heart from working. Renal (kidney) failure was what killed him in the end. It was a side effect of the medications he had to take daily.

This brings up another question: will you be ready to say goodbye when the time comes? Saying goodbye to Nimber was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I alone had to make the decision to euthanize my beloved four-legged child. I made the appointment and that day Nimber rallied so much that I made the vet do another blood test to make sure he was as ill as I was being told. The test results came out the same and I knew I was grabbing at false hope. I absolutely hate needles with all the being of my soul, but I had to be there to support Nimber as he made the transition from earthly being to four-legged spirit angel. I am happy to say that I have never had to make that decision since, all of my animals since have died peacefully in their sleep.

Maybe the most important question is: Do you have the emotional stamina to own a dog? You will run the gamut of every human emotion known to man. It takes not only financial ability but patience, fortitude, laughter, tears, anger (sometimes), joy, fear, sorrow, loss and most of all an unabiding love to allow a dog into your life. They will put you through the emotional wringer, but they give back so much more than they take  and don’t ask for anything in return. I can’t make that decision for you, you need to make it, and you should not make it lightly.

I have been a dog owner for 31 years of my adult life and lived through raising two puppies, two life threatening accidents, a severe case of dog aggression, wild animal attacks, two bouts of cancer, one case of renal failure, loss three times and an ongoing case of idiopathic juvenile seizures with the four dogs I have been privileged to live with. Knowing what I know now would I go back and do it again? You betcha.

I am not being a gloom and doomer because I don’t want your family to have a dog. I am being practical and trying to open your eyes to all the ramifications getting a dog (or any pet for that matter) that should be considered before you make that decision. So the next time you see a dog and your child, children or spouse suggests you get a dog, please, pleaseplease think long and hard about the decision you are considering, because there’s no such thing as a starter dog.

Retrieved from: http://laceysbarkery.com/blog/2012/11/05/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-starter-dog/

mental weight lifting…

In Brain imaging, Brain studies, Fitness/Health on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 13:45

Mental strain helps maintain a healthy brain

Posted By Daniel Pendick On November 5, 2012

When it comes to keeping healthy and fit, living a mentally active life is as important as regular physical exercise. Just as your muscles grow stronger with use, mental exercise keeps your mental skills and memory in tone.

Are certain kinds of “brain work” more effective than others? I put that question to Dr. Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at Cambridge Health Alliance and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Any brain exercise is better than being a total mental couch potato. But the activities with the most impact are those that require you to work beyond what is easy and comfortable. Playing endless rounds of solitaire and watching the latest documentary marathon on the History Channel may not be enough. “If it’s too easy,” Dr. Fabiny says, “it’s not helping you.”

Four brain-health strategies

As I write in the November 2012 Harvard Men’s Health WatchDr. Fabiny recommends four complementary strategies for keeping your brain healthy.

Be a lifelong learner: You spend the first half of your life building dense networks of connections between brain cells. Scientists call that “cognitive reserve.” Continuing to learn new things builds and maintains these connections.

Strain your brain: Think of all mental activities as a continuum. Watching a TV documentary would be on the passive, mildly challenging end of the spectrum, while learning how to converse in a new language would be on the active, very challenging end. When it comes to cognitive reserve, mentally challenging tasks have the biggest impact. “Be open to new experiences that cause you to see the world and do things differently,” Dr. Fabiny says.

Get uncomfortable: One stereotype of aging is that young people are bold explorers but older people are timid homebodies who “know what they like.” Stereotype though it may be, it is easy to get in a rut. Getting out of your comfort zone from time to time challenges your mental skills. An example of this would be traveling to a city that you haven’t been to before, which forces you to navigate unfamiliar surroundings.

Be social: Social isolation, aging researchers have discovered, puts people at risk of losing some of the brain reserves they have built up over a lifetime. There are many ways to be social. One good way is working as a volunteer in a social setting, which allows you to have contact with a variety of people and puts you in new situations.

Don’t forget your body

Healthy brain aging should involve the rest of the body, too. There is abundant evidence that physical activity that gets your pulse thumping helps the mind as well as the heart.

And if that exercise involves mental skill and balance, like racquet sports or a walking round of golf, it’s even better. As you vanquish your opponents on the court or green, you might also notice an improved ability to keep score in your head.

Related Information: Improving Memory: Understanding age-related memory loss

Retrieved from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mental-strain-helps-maintain-a-healthy-brain-201211055495?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialmedia&utm_campaign=110512-pjs1_tw


value-added, pay for performance, a rose is a rose…

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 13:43

Is Seniority for Teachers Bad for Students?

By Anthony Cody on November 3, 2012 11:23 AM

Yesterday’s post challenging the ability of some education reform “liberals” to shed core values such as support for unions, desegregation and the institution of public education apparently hit some sensitive nerves. In particular, Chris Arnold, whom we recently saw praising the “parent trigger” movie “Won’t Back Down,” took me on via Twitter. You may recall that Mr. Arnold caught some flak for initially failing to disclose his affiliation with The New Teacher Project, a Gates-funded non-profit that has pushed hard for “reforms” in teacher evaluation.

In an exchange that took place over the past 24 hours, he asked me:

How do students (or teachers) benefit from seniority-based, quality-blind layoffs and rigid, factory era pay systems?

It is tough to answer such a question in 140 characters or less, so I am going to offer an extended answer here.

To answer this question, we have to look at the alternatives to seniority and due process, and the reason these systems were developed in the first place. Seniority provides a degree of security to people based on when they were hired. Since pay rises with experience, there is an incentive to lay off more senior teachers. Administrators might also be motivated to play favorites when making these decisions, if given the opportunity.

What are the benefits seniority provides?

Seniority combined with due process gives teachers a degree of freedom to speak their minds, and exercise some autonomy over their classrooms. This helps students because it allows teachers to be more creative. It allows the school to be a more democratic place, where teachers can speak out about issues the school faces. This also has the effect of encouraging people to invest in teaching as a career. Once they have established themselves at a school or in a district, they have some security. In the school where I taught for 18 years, there used to be teachers who had been there for twenty or thirty years. They had a different set of gifts from those of the youthful novices, but they were of great value nonetheless. They carried the school’s culture, the history of the place. We had a sense of family, and they were our elders. They served as mentors, and helped us through some tough times. They brought a sense of stability, and taught generations of children from the families of our community. As research has shown, stability is very important for our students, and instability undermines student performance. Many of our students face instability in their home lives. It is crucial that our schools serve as stable oases for them, rather than echoing the chaos that sometimes reigns in their neighborhoods.

What does “quality-blind lay-offs” mean?

To discuss this, we need to be clear about the alternative that Mr. Arnold has in mind. The New Teacher Project has been actively promoting the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. He can correct me if I am wrong, but the alternative to “quality-blind lay-offs” is the creation of a ranking system to lay people off based on their “effectiveness” at raising test scores, usually using some form of Value-Added Method (VAM). This is most certainly bad for students in a number of ways. To understand why, take a look at the research done by Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond – once a supporter of the use of VAM. Her investigations reveal the following:
First, test-score gains–even using very fancy value-added models–reflect much more than an individual teacher’s effort, including students’ health, home life, and school attendance, and schools’ class sizes, curriculum materials, and administrative supports, as well as the influence of other teachers, tutors, and specialists. These factors differ widely in rich and poor schools.


Second, teachers’ ratings are highly unstable: They differ substantially across classes, tests, and years. Teachers who rank at the bottom one year are more likely to rank above average the following year than to rate poorly again. The same holds true for teachers at the top. If the scores truly measured a teacher’s ability, these wild swings would not occur.


Third, teachers who rate highest on the low-level multiple-choice tests currently in use are often not those who raise scores on assessments of more-challenging learning. Pressure to teach to these fill-in-the-bubble tests will further reduce the focus on research, writing, and complex problem-solving, areas where students will need to compete with their peers in high-achieving countries.


But, most importantly, these test scores largely reflect whom a teacher teaches, not how well they teach. In particular, teachers show lower gains when they have large numbers of new English-learners and students with disabilities than when they teach other students. This is true even when statistical methods are used to “control” for student characteristics.

This is all clearly bad for students. What teacher will choose to work these difficult populations when it could mean a disastrous end to their career? The result will be teachers will seek to avoid the neediest students, and these students will not be well-served.

And our students are being very poorly served by a system that revolves entirely around test scores. They are getting the message that learning equals answering a series of multiple choice or short answer questions, and their instruction is ever-more finely focused on these all-important tests.

I also think there is room for improvement in teacher evaluations. I worked with others to prepare the Accomplished California Teachers report “A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom,” which provided detailed examples and recommendations. Teachers should receive feedback from administrators and peers — but the process should not be dominated by test score data.

How about “rigid, factory-era pay systems”?

Once again, we need to remember why these systems were created, and also consider carefully the alternatives that are on the table. In the past, elementary teachers were almost all women, and they received significantly less than high school teachers. The pay systems were developed to provide a fairer system, that honored both education level and experience. There is certainly some room for improvement, recognizing the different roles teachers now play in a school. However, once again, we have to look critically at the systems The New Teacher Project has been promoting, many of which include connecting pay to student test scores. This approach yields most of the negative consequences we see from using test scores for evaluative purposes, and thus is likewise bad for students.

There is a reason that states (and nations like Finland) with strong teacher unions tend to have better education systems. When we invest in schools, and give teachers a sense that their experience and expertise is honored, that they will have academic freedom and autonomy in the classroom, they are happier with their work. They stick with it, and are driven, not by a fear that their students’ scores will be low resulting in the loss of pay or job security. They are driven by their passion to inspire their students with new challenges, to create outstanding work, to investigate the world around them in new ways. This sort of teaching is not the product of some perfectly aligned testing and evaluation system. It is the product of the passion for teaching and learning that drew so many of us to work with children in the first place.

What do you think? Is seniority good or bad for students? How about using test scores or VAM ratings to determine who is laid off?

Dialogue with me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/11/is_seniority_for_teachers_bad_.html

education week’s voters guide…

In Education, Politics on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 13:35


social media and freedom of speech…

In Education on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 13:18


Social Networking and Freedom of Speech: A Good Combination?

By Peter DeWitt on November 4, 2012 6:38 AM

Those people posting negative comments on Facebook were negative before Facebook ever started. Facebook just allowed them the venue to spew negativity.

What has happened to common sense? Has Facebook and Twitter created a negative tone in society? Or was there a portion of society that was already negative and social networking gave them the venue to share their thoughts? Too many educators cite negative comments as the reason they do not dive into social networking and the following story is an example of using social networking for the wrong reasons.

Recently Teach.com posted a blog entitled Teacher Suspended for Inappropriate Facebook Posts. The teacher from the Memphis City School District allegedly posted the following comments after two of her kindergarten students had a fight in her class. Yes, you read that correctly. Two of her kindergarten students had a fight. “How bout I blasted both of them. The girl in my class hair is nappy almost every day and the boy wears dirty clothes, face nasty and can’t even read. They didn’t bother nobody else when I got through with them.”

Clearly, this is an extreme example of a teacher who made unprofessional and abusive comments about her students even though she was friends with parents on Facebook. This is, hopefully, the exception and not the rule. However, it does lead to the bigger discussion that involves social media and freedom of speech.

One of the reasons educators do not get involved with social media is that they are afraid of what would happened when they put their thoughts in writing. They are afraid that their words will be misconstrued. They worry what will happen when their words are out there. It’s painfully obvious to see that the teacher that posted the above comments didn’t have that same concern.

Freedom of Speech
Most times when people get in trouble for saying something unprofessional or uncivil they go directly to their Freedom of Speech as a way to defend themselves. Everyone in America has it and they should. It provides us the freedom to speak up and speak out. It gives me the right to write this blog. However, freedom of speech doesn’t mean people won’t have consequences.

The Teach.com blog stated, “While parents are urging for the district to fire Gatewood, the district does not have a social media policy in place.” It shouldn’t take a social media policy to come to the conclusion that the teacher’s comments about children who are five years-old were unprofessional and abusive. Millions of teachers do an amazing job in the classroom and would never write those comments on their Facebook page or on Twitter.

Having freedom of speech doesn’t, or shouldn’t, give people the right to say abusive things about children. Sure, they can put it out there but they should have consequences for doing so. Perhaps I’m sensitive to the issue because I believe that as educators we should take the high road when it comes to our students. It’s not that I have not seen abusive comments. I have been on the receiving end of hateful comments from anonymous blogs where people believe they have the freedom of speech but didn’t have the courage to sign their name.

How This Affects Social Networking
For most educators, social networking isn’t about saying hurtful things about students; it’s about connecting with other educators. They take the time to chat through Twitter and share ideas. They share blogs and researched based articles. They have debates and get a better understanding of the view from the other side.

Twitter has become a very powerful venue for educators to share. It has brought millions of teachers and administrators from all around the world together. It is helping educators send a unifying message about the harmful effects of high stakes testing, and it has helped millions find their voice to combat policymakers and politicians who know very little about public education.

With other social networking sites like Facebook, people like to share funny stories and connect with friends and family they do not see often enough. Those who have not gone on Facebook are scared that it’s about posting negative comments. Facebook hasn’t allowed people to become negative. Those people posting negative comments on Facebook were negative before Facebook ever started. Facebook just allowed them the venue to spew negativity. If you don’t want to read their comments, just don’t become friends with them in the first place.

In the End
Adults have a habit of stating that our students do not know how to use social networking. They use it to bully other students or play pranks. Although this is true in some cases, some adults are not doing a bang-up job in that department either. Social networking is about sharing ideas, creating PLN’s and connecting with family and friends.

If we truly want students to understand the power of freedom of speech, we should be role models for why it is good, not poster children for why it is bad. Whether educators think it’s fair or not, they are under a spotlight and are held to a higher standard. They should be because they are educators and it is a noble profession. If we want others to believe that, we should act accordingly.

Connect with Peter on Twitter

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2012/11/social_networking_and_freedom_of_speech_a_good_combination.html?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed



Do Schools Begin Too Early? : Education Next

In Education on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 13:13

Do Schools Begin Too Early? : Education Next.

more on exercise…

In Fitness/Health on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 13:01

Declining Fitness Over a Decade Doubles Risks of AMI, Death

By: Shelley Wood

LOS ANGELES — Finnish men who lost more than 15% of their cardiorespiratory fitness over a 10-year period faced a near doubling of their risk of acute MI over the subsequent decade and more than twice the risk of dying of any cause, a new study shows.

Dr Jari A Laukkanen (University of Eastern Finland, Rovaniemi, Finland) presented 10-year results from the ongoing Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Studyhere at the American Heart Association 2012 Scientific Sessions.

In clinical practice, physicians “usually measure the risk factors that are easy to treat,” Laukkanen told heartwire . “But even after taking into account the usual risk factors–lipids, BMI, smoking, BP, diabetes, and alcohol consumption–still there was a risk related only to fitness, and it should be [given] more importance.”

The Kuopio study enrolled an unselected population of 2682 men between the ages of 42 and 60 that Laukkanen described as a mix reflective of the broader population–most of the men had no CVD at baseline, but some had preexisting CAD.

All men participated in a baseline exam in the late 1980s that included a respiratory gas analyses and electrocardiogram during exercise testing. Of the original cohort, 585 men underwent repeat testing 11 years later. During this initial study period, fitness levels declined, on average, by 5.2 mL per kg/minute of VO2max (equal to 1.9 METs change). Previous studies have suggested that levels of cardiorespiratory fitness typically decline at a rate of 5% to 15% per decade between the ages of 20 and 80 years, Laukkanen noted.

Staying Fit, Staying Alive

In the Kuopio study, the average follow-up time beyond the second exercise test was 10.9 years. During this follow-up period, study subjects had a total of 81 acute MIs, and 92 subjects died. When analyzed according to change in fitness levels, a loss of more than 15% of baseline cardiorespiratory fitness over 10 years was associated with an 88% increased risk of AMI and a 122% increased risk of total mortality, after adjustment for age and other risk factors. The results remained statistically significant after taking baseline VO2max into account.

The investigators also showed a dose-response with declining exercise: for every 1-MET decrease in VO2max, the risk of all-cause death increased “by a constant proportion,” Laukkanen said.

“VO2max can be used as a very powerful predictor of AMI and all-cause death beyond that predicted by many conventional risk factors.” Laukkanen and colleagues concluded. “The main public-health message is that it is very important to maintain the level of cardiorespiratory fitness to prevent a premature death from all-causes.”

What’s Good for the Gym . . . 

To heartwire , Laukkanen said that he does not routinely measure VO2max in clinical practice unless there is a reason for performing exercise testing, and current guidelines do not support routine measurement of cardiorespiratory fitness in healthy patients. But his study provides some rationale for performing more exercise tests in the future: it is inexpensive, noninvasive, and easy to perform in the clinic, he said.

“I think many of us are interested in measuring our fitness level–for example, you can go to a gym and take the test, and it’s quite easy to measure. But for some reason, it is a different topic to talk about measuring your fitness level in the gym than [measuring it] at the doctor’s office.”

Other studies have suggested that people–even doctors–tend to overestimate their fitness level.

His study also provides an oft-repeated reminder to physicians that urging their patients to become fit or maintain their fitness does have measurable benefits on cardiovascular health and longevity. And taking the time to measure fitness in practice, even just to establish a benchmark, may prove helpful in preventing future disease, he added.

Heartwire © 2012  Medscape, LLC

Citation: Declining Fitness Over a Decade Doubles Risks of AMI, Death. Medscape. Nov 04, 2012.

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/773882

What to Watch for on Election Night: Education Edition

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 12:55


By Rick Hess on November 5, 2012 6:17 AM

What does tomorrow hold? For all those educators, scholars, and advocates who don’t have a lot of time to track national politics or wonder about what the results might mean for education, let’s take a quick spin around the block:

First, the conventional wisdom is that President Obama has better than a 70% chance of being reelected. Most scenarios have him winning around 280 or 290 electoral votes (270 are needed for victory.) Obama would win 290 if Romney claims Indiana (a foregone conclusion) and Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia–but plucks nothing else from Obama’s 2008 column. If Obama’s electoral vote total creeps much above 300, you could hear talk of a surprisingly strong victory; alternatively, the narrative could emphasize that Obama would almost assuredly be the first president to fare worse in his reelection bid than in winning his first term. While nobody imagines that education has played much of a role in this fall’s election, the results will have important consequences for K-12 and higher ed: An Obama win would minimize potential cuts for education and ensure that efforts to resuscitate “gainful employment” and to promote NCLB waivers continue to roll forward. At the same time, since both candidates (but especially Obama) have run vague, agenda-less campaigns, it’ll be hard for the winner to claim much of a mandate to do anything particular come January–especially given a sharply divided electorate.

Second, Romney could certainly win. To do so, he’d likely need to claim North Carolina (probable), Florida (he’s the slight favorite), Virginia (a toss-up), Ohio (where Obama seems to be about three points ahead), and one other small state (probably New Hampshire or Colorado). If Romney were to somehow claim Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, or a couple small swing states like Iowa and Nevada, his path would be easier. For some of the implications of a Romney win, see here.

Third, there’s a fair chance that the successful candidate will lose the popular vote while winning the electoral college. If there is such a split (which is probably close to a 50-50 bet in the case of an Obama victory), it’s unlikely that the outcome would have much practical effect. Normally, we might imagine such a split to cause a ruckus or give the winner extra impetus to extend the olive branch to the other side. That might, for instance, be expected to offer an opening for NCLB reauthorization (just as Bush’s efforts to romance key Democrats in 2001 were part of the aggressive push on No Child Left Behind). But, given that the Republicans benefited from this scenario just a decade ago, reaction is likely to be modulated due to the sense that turnabout is fair play. Meanwhile, if it’s Obama facing off against House Republicans (as seems likely), well…

Fourth, we may not know the official winner for days or weeks. The result could easily hinge on a couple swing states where the race currently looks to be razor close. Between recount procedures, provisional ballots, legal challenges, and the rest, some of those states might take days or weeks to sort things out. Depending on who wins, this could impact public attitudes about government, negotiations over sequestration, or even (if Romney wins) the assembly of the next cabinet and Department.

Fifth, surprisingly, it looks like Democrats will keep control of the Senate. As recently as August, it was pretty much assumed that Republicans would capture the Senate–because the Dems are defending a massive number of open and vulnerable seats. Yet, Republicans seem to be blowing their chances in Missouri, Ohio, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Dems appear poised to gain seats in, at least, Massachusetts and Indiana. It now seems likely that Dems (and Dem-allied independents) will hold between 52 and 55 seats in the Senate, giving them powerful sway over a potential Romney agenda. At the same time, the GOP will have at least 45 seats and remain well-positioned to frustrate an Obama agenda. One intriguing twist: If the Democrats hold the Senate, Lamar Alexander will take over for Mike Enzi as the ranking Republican on the Senate education committee. Alexander, the former U.S. Secretary of Education who gave up his high-ranking position in the Senate Republican hierarchy so that he’d be freer to speak his mind, is the most thoughtful and sophisticated Republican in the Senate when it comes to education issues. Having made it clear that he thinks the feds have overreached on education, Alexander’s ascendancy could stir the pot in unexpected ways.

Sixth, it’s almost certain that Republicans will hold the House, while losing perhaps a half-dozen seats. This means that a Speaker Boehner would be positioned to check a second Obama administration just as he has in 2011 and 2012. Now, one thing to keep an eye on is that several Tea Party celebrities from 2010–Daniel Webster, Allen West, and Michele Bachmann among them–are in tight races. If some of these folks lose, combined with an Obama victory and a good night for Dems in the Senate, it could add luster to the Democrats’ night and chasten House Republicans. Such an outcome would fuel talk that Obama has beaten back the Tea Party and regained momentum, and could strengthen his hand in the coming face-off with House Republicans over budget cuts, taxes, and his second term agenda.

Seventh, there are several key education or education-related referenda in the states that are worth keeping an eye on. In Washington state, voters will decide on Initiative 1240 to allow 40 charter schools to open in the next five years. Washington voters previously rejected charter initiatives in 1996, 2000, and 2004. The measure is backed by donors including Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Jeff Bezos, and opposed by the Washington Education Association. In Idaho, three initiatives ask voters to approve of dramatic legislation to phase out tenure, limit collective bargaining, and institute merit pay. In Michigan, the union-backed Proposal 2 would make collective bargaining for public employees a constitutional right. In California, Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 would boost sales and income taxes to close the state’s massive deficit; he’s promised that schools will suffer if Prop 30 goes down. Meanwhile, Proposition 32 would limit the ability of unions to use member contributions to fund political activities. If unions triumph on most of these (especially if California votes to raise taxes), it’ll suggest that the teachers unions are on a roll after their victory in Chicago. If Washington passes charters; the unions lose in Idaho, Michigan, and California; and California voters don’t boost taxes, we could be in for turbulent times ahead. If the verdict is mixed, well, we’ll have to sort through the results to see what it all means.

Bottom line: Given that Dems are likely to hold the Senate (with a modest majority), Republicans are likely to hold the House, and the President is likely to win narrowly, it’s doubtful that the results are going to yield much change in Washington from what we’ve seen during the past two years. For one thing, especially with Congress already eyeing a very full plate and the NCLB waiver process well underway, I’d put the odds of NCLB reauthorization actually happening before 2015 at less than ten percent. Meanwhile, the likelihood that new ideological, uncompromising icons, like Democrat Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts and Republican Ted Cruz from Texas, will be replacing more pragmatic Republicans like Scott Brown and Kay Bailey Hutchison, means that partisan polarization will continue apace. (If you’re trying to souse all this out, you may want to attend or watch the livestream of AEI’s Thursday morning panel “What will the 2012 election mean for education?“)

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rick_hess_straight_up/2012/11/what_to_watch_for_on_election_night_education_edition.html


NIMH · In-sync Brain Waves Hold Memory of Objects Just Seen

In Brain imaging, Brain studies, Neuroscience, Uncategorized on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 12:47

NIMH · In-sync Brain Waves Hold Memory of Objects Just Seen.

education reform or privatization? an interesting viewpoint.

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 12:44

Are Education “Reformers” Becoming Privatizers?

By Anthony Cody on November 2, 2012 2:34 PM

Quite a few “liberal” education reformers ought to be doing a bit of soul searching these days, as their movement seems to be veering into territory previously occupied by segregationists and anti-union business and political leaders. Diane Ravitch has begun calling people whom we used to know as “education reformers” by the more loaded term “privatizers.”

In California, we are seeing where this path is leading some of our state’s most prominent “liberal” politicians, and it is not pretty. The former state senate Democratic majority leader, Gloria Romero, has become the “face” of Proposition 32, an initiative funded by the Koch brothers, which will disallow unions from making political contributions. The initiative has language that makes it appear even-handed, but due to court decisions such as Citizens United, corporations will continue to have few limits on their ability to make contributions.

Education reform has long been an easy ticket to political credibility for liberals. But in the past, this meant people actually fought for public investments in our schools. Ever since NCLB came along, however, there has been a new game in town. Some of those who supported NCLB did so because they thought higher standards combined with pressure from tests would “force” public schools to succeed. Others, however, wanted to “blow the system up.” It took a few years, but as the hedge fund managers and investment capitalists have figured out the billions to be made, they have been climbing on board the train. They have also seen the clear connection between the NCLB hammers – tests and school closures – and the creation of greater opportunities for “innovative” alternatives to public schools. And of course the new Common Core assessments will reveal new “performance gaps,” yet another set of opportunities for the “innovators.”

But the “liberals” who were gung ho supporters of NCLB have always insisted that their goal was the salvation of public education, not its destruction. People like Ted Kennedy and California Congressman George Miller staked their position firmly in the solid ground of civil rights. But now people like Romero are now using this same rhetoric to attack unions. Romero is all over TV this week, appearing in TV ads paid for by the Koch Brothers, to promote legislation that will force unions out of the political arena.

As Romero explained to reporter Matthew Fleischer, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics. It’s flowing to both sides. Government isn’t about drawing lines. It’s not about saying you’re on that side and you can’t come over.”

Romero “came over” via a group called Democrats For Education Reform. This organization has been influential with the Obama administration, and is funded by hedge fund billionaires who are seeking to expand investment opportunities in education.

Michelle Rhee is another “reformer” who has draped herself in the garb of a liberal. She claims to be a Democrat, and her husband is the Kevin Johnson, a former basketball player who is now the mayor of California’s capital, Sacramento. She told a reporter in September, “I’m not just a Democrat — I feel like I’m a pretty lefty Democrat, and it is somewhat disappointing when I hear some people saying, ‘She’s not a real Democrat.'” In May, she shifted $2 million into a California StudentsFirst PAC, and has made contributions to influence legislative races in the state. This is how influence is purchased.

Rhee spoke out in support of Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and more recently, Rhee’s StudentsFirst PAC has funneled half a million dollars to DEFEAT a proposition in Michigan that would protect the right of workers (including teachers) to collective bargaining. The more influence “Democrats” like Romero and Rhee wield within the Democratic Party, the more we will see that party promote charter schools and the privatization of education.

Wendy Kopp, another supposed liberal, has morphed Teach For America into a program devoted to building “leadership.” A few years ago, TFA created the organization Leadership for Educational Equity, as a sort of launchpad for TFA alums interested in advancing their political careers. The candidates they support share some familiar political goals – advancing merit pay for teachers, the “parent trigger,” and the expansion of standardized testing. As this article in The American Prospect concludes, “what began–and is still viewed by many–as an apolitical service corps could be the Trojan horse of the privatization of public education.”

At some point, genuine liberals need to start to question this path. 
Do they really want to be associated with people who are literally turning our public education system over to profit-making corporations? Is the fig leaf of “civil rights” going to continue to mask the re-segregation of our schools? Do the virtues of “innovation” justify turning public dollars over to parochial schools that teach students the Earth is 6,000 years old? Or to virtual charter schools that claim to “personalize” education by assigning poorly paid teachers hundreds of students, while their CEO rakes in $5 million a year?

I grew up in a liberal family. Certain values were upheld as sacred. You did not cross a picket line. Ever. You stood with the underdog, and supported worker’s rights to organize and strike. When our city moved to desegregate schools in 1968, we supported and participated not because it would improve test scores, but because we believed in Martin Luther King, Jr’s vision for the future, that our children would learn together, and build for their common future as they played together. I was one of those children, and these are values that still guide my support for public education and for teachers’ rights to collective bargaining.

It is remarkable to me that supposed liberals can abandon these values. But when enough “mothers milk” is made available, I guess it becomes hard to resist.

We do not have much difficulty identifying Michelle Rhee as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Will other “liberals” such as George Miller continue to provide steam for the engines that threaten our public schools? Will they continue to support special exemptions that allow Teach For America novices to be considered “highly qualified teachers”? Will they support the expansion of charter schools and the use of the deceptive “parent trigger” even as they increase segregation and leave the toughest to teach students behind? Will they support the expansion of sham virtual schools like K12 Inc even as they divert public funds to clearly inferior alternatives?

Tuesday’s election will tell us how successful they will be this time. Educators and underdogs know who our friends are, and they show this not by what they call themselves, or their party affiliation, but by their actions.

What do you think? Are “liberals” like Kopp, Rhee and Romero actually advancing the privatization of our public schools?

Dialogue with me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/11/are_education_reformers_becomi.html

Tablets and Transforming Education–Much is Needed Before it Should Happen

In Education on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 12:25

one of the main points of our system-wide strategic plan is the implementation and use of technology in the schools.  this is a good read before jumping right in.

Tablets and Transforming Education–Much is Needed Before it Should Happen.

don’t blame teachers…an opinion from across the pond.

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, Politics, School reform on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 08:21

Yes, teachers ought to inspire, but they can’t work in isolation

It’s the lack of opportunities, not teachers’ expectations, which prevents disadvantaged children from escaping their background

Will Huton

The Observer, Saturday 27 October 2012

David Laws, newly restored to the front rank of British politics as Lib Dem education minister, is a disgrace to his party and political tradition. He was one of the principal architects of the coalition agreement, one of whose consequences was to undermine Britain’s threadbare social contract. Now, compounding the felony, he has joined the choir of elite figures who attack teachers as undermining working-class aspirations.

Last week, he told the Daily Telegraph, voicing what he imagined is the emerging consensus, that teachers’ “depressingly low expectations” fail to encourage too many children “to reach for the stars”. Too few teachers, career advisers and colleges encouraged pupils to believe they could reach the top. Improved social mobilitydemanded change.

There is no easier constituency to attack than teachers, especially as, at first glance, Laws has a point. In too many schoolsteaching is little more than getting through the day without incident, shepherding the barely controllable class to modest qualifications. Of course it should be better and teachers and teaching unions would do their cause a great deal of good if they committed themselves fully to excellence and aspiration. There are enough barriers to disadvantaged children breaking out of their situation without teachers offering another.

But to focus merely on the shortcomings of teachers is to dodge huge questions, not just about the nature of contemporary society but about what it means to live a life well. Stagnant social mobility characterises the entire industrialised west. And, uncomfortable as it may be for those who believe that social class is so very yesterday, the brutal truth is that the higher the inequality and the weaker a country’s social contract, the lower its mobility and aspiration. Inequality matters. Blaming hapless teachers for deep trends that have an impact on all western societies is little better than scapegoating.

Too much discussion of inequality takes as axiomatic why we should be concerned about the extent to which the top 1%’s incomes are outstripping the rest, driven by technology, skills and not a little old-fashioned exploitation. Yet what makes inequality toxic is not so much the differential buying power but that it creates social groups in which the members of society have no idea or stake in how others live and which work as self-fulfilling traps.

The more hermetically sealed the world of the rich, the less a sense of obligation or shared destiny they feel they have with the rest of society. Conversely, for the average and disadvantaged, the chance of escaping their position becomes ever more remote as expectations and aspirations, collapse along with their relative incomes.

Laws says it is deplorable that even young people in his own constituency of Yeovil, not a social black spot, feel that a career in investment banking is so much another world that they and their teachers would not aim to join it. But such a response is completely rational.

Investment banking is another world. Nor are its denizens interested in creating wealth on the ground in Britain. To declare yourself a candidate means doing something of dubious value, where the objective odds of selection are tiny.

I doubt Laws would criticise, say, Lord O’Donnell for not being aspirational enough to be candidate for the governorship of the Bank of England: why set yourself up for a highly probable failure? Precisely the same logic applies to a bright student from a state school in Yeovil, pondering a career in investment banking. In any case, even if Yeovil’s half-a-dozen brightest end up working at Goldman Sachs, in what way would anything substantive be solved for the rest of Yeovil’s school-leavers?

Of course school-leavers want to make the best of themselves, live a life they have reason to value and find jobs where employers allow them to do just that. Most social mobility is not driven by making spectacular leaps across ever widening social gaps, even though we should never discourage the attempt. Rather, it is done by joining an organisation and working one’s way up. The problem is that so few of today’s employers provide such ladders and those that do are being driven by economic exigency to remove them.

Promotion in the public sector has been close to eliminated by the over-the-top austerity for which Mr Laws is such an enthusiast. By next year, for example, it will be four years since the Metropolitan Police stopped promoting constables to sergeants. Meanwhile, in the private sector, large organisations are removing layers of management and very few offer starter job apprenticeships on any scale. Barclays, creating 1,000 apprentices, was oversubscribed more than 10-fold.

To promote social mobility, we need to create a more dynamic capitalism so that more firms can grow together with their people. Alongside it, we need a social contract that equips people, especially our young, to make the most of their capabilities. Only then might the gap between the social groups be narrowed to allow more people to move up, and also create a society in which we live more fulfilled lives, surely a broader conception of social wellbeing than just mobility alone.

Some of the foundations of a 21st-century social contract were laid by New Labour. The child trust fund was a means by which working-class parents could create a pool of saving for their children, their contributions matched by the state, so that as adults they would have some wherewithal to buy training or, at the very least, the means to buy or rent a home. It was carelessly scrapped by the coalition. Same story with the education maintenance allowance. Housing allowance for the young is soon to go as well. Yeovil’s young men and women are trapped both geographically and socially, while the firms that might employ them are no less stymied.

Doubtless, some teacher in a Yeovil school might have dissuaded a bright student not “to reach for the stars”, but most are only too anxious to spot and coach young talent. It is what makes the job worthwhile. But Britain’s teachers operate in the most socially polarised schools in the world, according to the OECD. The great liberal thinkers – Green, Hobhouse, Keynes and Beveridge – who wrestled with how to create a social liberalism that offered opportunity alongside capitalism would never have singled out uninspirational teachers as the cause of falling social mobility. Neither should their successors today.

Retrieved from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/28/will-hutton-education-aspiration-david-laws/print

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.


both sides now…charter school amendment

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, Politics, School reform on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 07:46

on election day tuesday (or before for those that voted early) egeorgia will be voting yes or no on amendment 1 which regards charter schools and states: 

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

All persons desiring to vote in favor of ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote “Yes.”

All persons desiring to vote against ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote “No.”

If such amendment shall be ratified as provided in said Paragraph of the Constitution, it shall become a part of the Constitution of this state. 

you can read the specifics of the amendment here: http://www.sos.ga.gov/elections/ConstitutionalAmendmentsForNovember2012.pdf

since i am a strong believer in RESEARCHING everything and getting the facts (quantoid), i am posting two sides to the charter school amendment.  please be cautioned not to just read what i post if you are going to vote on this amendment and are looking for information, but do your due diligence in finding your own research in making an educated opinion based on your own feelings and information.


Charter School Amendment Supporter Speaks Out

A Letter to the Editor in favor of the Nov. 6 ballot issue claims the education establishment “is not fighting for your children.”

Editor’s Note: Last weekend East Cobb Patch published a blog post from a parent who supports charter schools but opposes HR 1162, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The following commentary is written by Kelly Cadman, Vice President of School Services at theGeorgia Charter Schools Association. She is a former founder of a charter school, and a charter school mother and public education supporter.

By Kelly Cadman

There has been an awful lot of energy expended by opponents of the Charter School Amendment. The opposition to the Amendment claim that the state can “already” act as an appeals body for charter schools. Those supporting the Amendment wonder, if the state can already approve charters, why is the Education Establishment fighting THIS hard against affirming that on the ballot on November 6?

Most of the arguments posed against the Amendment are related to the enabling legislation, which establishes a Commission. The ballot question, however, ONLY reaffirms the state’s role in K-12 general education, so why the nasty battle against the Amendment?

At the heart of the argument employed by the school districts and affiliate associations who earn their bread and butter from dues and fees from the Education Establishment are two primary arguments: CONTROL and MONEY. And the Establishment doesn’t even deny it.

For those on the fence about voting on the Amendment, here are some facts to consider as you make your decision about how to vote:

LOCAL CONTROL is currently vested in elected board members in each of 180 school districts. The public is led to believe that it can, through its vote for one individual on the district board, every 4 years, only 3 times in the course of a child’s educational career, actually influence what happens in their school district. That’s nonsense.

The set-up, although through an election process, does not allow for a community to easily overhaul a district board that is failing its children and not meeting its fiduciary obligations. Moreover, you have unelected superintendents that actually run the show – aided by the Georgia School Boards Association and Georgia School Superintendents Association, both who train up weak and passive board members to follow the superintendents’ bidding. It’s a recipe for disaster without recourse.

Just look at the number of districts who have lost SACS accreditation or who are on probation. Even in these very serious situations, the local boards cannot easily be voted out by its community, and those living in APS, DeKalb, Clayton, and Sumter Counties can attest to this. They are trapped and so are their children. But goodness knows, let’s protect “local control.” Interestingly enough, we have recently had a charter go before Clayton County that was denied. Denied.

What absolute arrogance to deny the rights of parents and community members trying to get out from under failure to give their kids something better and to be denied by the very district who failed the whole community. But it is this district Establishment the opposition to the amendment wants you to “protect” by voting no. Forget what’s better for kids.

FOLLOW THE MONEY is the mantra of the opposition, but to be fair, let’s turn it around and follow the money on the other side to see how protecting the money (which isn’t in danger to begin with) ties with protecting the fiefdoms of the districts. Without doubt, the districts have had austerity reductions over the last 3 years due to the state of our economy.

There is another side to the equation to consider, and that is with spending. Without getting too deeply engaged in the rampant waste on travel and unnecessary expenses not tied to instruction, let’s look at spending just at the heart of “local control” – the boards and central offices – to see why they are fighting so hard to protect it.

  • Every single one of our school boards are paid for their “public service.” This accounts for $4.1 MILLION dollars in salary. With the austerity cuts, are board members donating their salaries back to put into classrooms? Nope. Just as an aside, charter board members receive $0 in compensation. Ever.
  • Nearly one third of the superintendents in this state make in excess of $150,000 yearly. Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks, of Gwinnett County, makes $410,000 annually, followed closely by superintendents from Clayton, Atlanta Public Schools, Savannah-Chatham, Fulton, and Cobb (3 of which are in danger of loss of accreditation, by the way). Forty-seven superintendents took a raise last year while furloughing educators.
  • Our state spent $686 MILLION dollars on central office. Seventy-seven out of our 180 districts serve less than 3000 students and have FULL central offices and account for $67 MILLION dollars of the total spent. In these tough economic times, are districts in rural areas combining central offices to reduce duplicative costs? Are large districts cutting central offices to keep money in classrooms? No, and in fact, according to a recent study by Dr. Benjamin Scafidi of Georgia College and State University, central office growth has nearly doubled the growth of students.

This is all very important in the context of this fight for money and control against the Charter Amendment. The Education Establishment is not fighting for your children. They aren’t fighting for quality education. They aren’t fighting to protect the voice of parents or teachers. They aren’t fighting for kids to become work or college ready.

Don’t be fooled by the Education Establishment. This amendment is about giving public school students a chance and parents a choice for a quality public education.

Sources of data:

Open Georgia:  www.doe.k12.ga.us

Ga DOE: http://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fin_pack_revenue.display_proc

Retrieved from: http://eastcobb.patch.com/articles/charter-school-amendment-supporter-speaks-out


Charter Advocate Will Vote No

By  Dana Teegardin

Georgia is in the midst of an intense debate over a proposed charter school amendment that will be on the ballot in November. Whatever your position, you need to read my story.

The polls predict this amendment will pass with flying colors, thanks to a misleading ballot question and a majority of funding from outside the state. If this amendment passes, politics and corporations will shape our schools. Charter groups with multi-faceted objectives are lining up to grab their market share. If a state-controlled charter school comes to your town, you will have little recourse if there is a problem.

Why Local Control is Critical
Proponents of the amendment declare that if a charter school is performing, it will remain open and if it is not performing, it will close. It’s not that simple when a charter group is willing to break the rules.

The problems I encountered at Fulton Science Academy Charter School in Alpharetta could not have been anticipated by our local and state board of education or by educators across the country.

The proper charter school board protocol did not work because the group running the school was not transparent. I asked for help from the local school board and from my legislator, Jan Jones, who also crafted the charter school amendment. It was the local school board that took action.

It is irresponsible of Gov. Nathan Deal, Jan Jones and our legislators to lobby for a constitutional amendment that does not stop the known problematic consequences of charter schools.

Problem? My son attended the Fulton Science Academy Charter School for three years when I found out about problems that also led to my learning that the school was being operated by followers of the influential Turkish imam, Fethullah Gulen.

Fulton Science Academy’s problems were serious and later validated, by an external audit, commissioned by the local school board. Details can be found in this article in The New York Times,Audits for 3 Georgia Charter Schools Tied to Gulen Movement.

Turns out the Gulen movement was the least of my worries.

The real problem? Legislators with tunnel vision, hoping to open the Georgia education frontier to more charter groups at any cost. My legislators demonstrated that they will look the other way as long as a school has high test scores. The legislators were willing to ignore financial mismanagement and reported federal investigations.

Local School Board Takes Action
It was the local school board that held Fulton Science Academy accountable and did not renew its charter. The local school board did the right thing even after politicians pressed for the board to reverse their decision. My experience is a critical example of why local control is necessary. The local school board took action and politicians would not help.

Vote No
Amending the constitution is serious business. Don’t vote for an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that contains weak legislation and does not address current problems we face in our state.

Details about Fulton Science Academy, including the letter I sent to the governor and legislators asking for help, can be found at Georgia Charter School Fiasco.

Retrieved from: http://eastcobb.patch.com/blog_posts/charter-advocate-will-vote-no-64de4605



What to knit your life with?

In Happiness, Mindfulness, Well-being on Monday, 5 November 2012 at 07:22

What to knit your life with?.

studies show adolescents need more sleep.

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 13:15

and THAT would be how you increase academic achievement!  everyone is so concerned about raising academic achievement and ways in which to do it, obviously focusing on teachers and schools.  there are SO many other factors that have a stronger correlation with academic achievement…and sleep is definitely one of them.  i have had kids fall asleep while i’m testing them!

More Sleep for Teens?  Montgomery Petition Signed By Thousands.

By Donna St. George, Published: November 2

The sky is pitch-black at a school-bus stop in Olney, and it might as well be midnight for 15-year-old Joe Palmer. His eyes are open, but his brain feels stalled. He wishes he were still in bed. It is 6:30 a.m., with sunrise still an hour away.

“I’m pretty much a zombie,” he says as his bus pulls up. He drags himself aboard, bound for Sherwood High School.

The teen’s lament is familiar across Montgomery County, where the opening bell of high school rings at 7:25. But such pre-dawn travails have taken on more urgency in recent weeks, propelling a burgeoning effort to change the hours of the high school day.

The goal: a start time of 8:15 or later.

The idea’s at the heart of an online petition, started by a Garrett Park parent, that has garnered thousands of signatures since Oct. 15 and is firing up debate on community and school e-mail discussion groups. Students have signed on, too.

“Either this or less homework. Please,” wrote a North Potomac teen. “I’m barely even alive right now.”

The effort comes six months after Fairfax County school leaders voted to establish a goal of later start times for high schools. The county is now hiring a consultant to come up with a “blueprint for change” by early next year.

Supporters say a growing body of sleep research shows that teens are biologically wired for later bedtimes and later wake-ups. And studies show that lack of sleep is linked to lower academic performance, absenteeism, and an increased risk of depression and car crashes.

Another danger was at issue this week, too: A student was fatally struck by a car at 7:03 a.m. as she crossed busy Route 118 in the dark on her way to Seneca Valley High School. Some parents wonder if the early school-opening hour was a contributing factor.

“It’s dark out — and it’s not safe,” said parent Shelly McGill of Bethesda.

Critics say that pushing back start times would be complex, cost too much, and affect after-school activities and sports. School buses in Montgomery do double or triple duty, shuttling the oldest students first, then middle-schoolers and finally the youngest.

For many parents, a change cannot come soon enough.

Beth Newman, who has 14-year-old twins at Magruder High School in Rockville, said her husband, who is in charge of morning wake-ups, uses an array of tactics to rouse their slumbering sons: flipping on the lights, turning up the radio, threatening to keep them from activities. “It’s just torture. It’s a constant struggle,” said Newman, who works as a substitute teacher in Montgomery and has seen teens fall asleep in class, especially during first period.

Other students nap after school. They ask parents for rides, rather than take the bus, so they can sleep in as long as possible. One Kensington teen says being tired is one of the most discussed topics of every school day.

Mike Kramer, 16, a junior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, started a Facebook page on the issue last year on a night when he had “seven to eight hours of homework and I was up to 2 a.m. and I had to get up at 6.”

Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/montgomery-petition-to-let-high-schoolers-sleep-longer-signed-by-thousands/2012/11/02/805ccfb8-20fa-11e2-ac85-e669876c6a24_story.html?hpid=z7

teach happy!

In Education, Fitness/Health, Mindfulness, Pedagogy, Well-being on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 11:57

Why We Need to Add Happiness to the School Curriculum

By: OLGArythm


Young people graduate from school equipped to solve mathematical equations, arrange chemical experiments, and write essays. But often they graduate to the adult life not equipped with skills that will help them deal with everyday struggles, emotions, and difficulties. They are not equipped to be happy individuals.

Happiness is arguably the ultimate meaning of our life. Is there anything we want more for our kids than to be happy? If given a choice, would a parent prefer that her child knows capital cities of all countries or knows how to be a happy person? The ultimate purpose of the traditional academic education is to instill children with knowledge needed for for their future careers. But it does not teach kids the good attitude to deal with the many future personal experiences that make up our life. Inner well-being and peace are as crucial and necessary as the academic skills. It does not make sense to pay no attention to the development of happiness skills.

In 2011, United Kingdom published a report that confirms that lots of kids face serious emotional problems by the time they graduate school. Based on UK statistics, which probably does not differ too much from the situation in the USA, by the time an average class of 30 young people reach their 16th birthdays:

  • 10 of them will have witnessed their parents separate
  • 3 will have suffered from mental health problems
  • 8 will have experienced severe physical violence, sexual abuse or neglect
  • 3 will be living in a step family
  • 1 will have experienced the death of a parent
  • 7 will report having been bullied.

Relate (a leading provider of counseling, therapy, and education in UK)  cites research evidence which shows that emotional and mental health problems developed in childhood and adolescence go on to affect adults later in life. The resulting problems with poor emotional adjustment and general feelings of unhappiness are bad enough. But that is not all the consequences our kids are facing. Unhappiness and emotional imbalance can cause young people to do badly in exams or drop out of education altogether, with consequent damage to their long-term employment prospects and health. For more on the report, see http://www.optimus-education.com/can-schools-promote-happiness.

I agree with Relate’s specialist that schools are the best places to reach young people, and early intervention is effective. But I believe that the most effective solution is prevention. Adding the subject of happiness to school curriculum can help children better deal with their issues, and develop coping mechanisms for the future.

Usually, the kids get emotional guidance and character building from interacting with families and friends. As parents, we always try our hardest to raise good people: continuously pass our wisdom to our kids, indoctrinate our values to them, tell them what is good and what is bad, teach them manners, help them with the choice of profession and life partner (if they let us). But do we teach them how to be happy, joyful, grateful, peaceful? Do we live our lives with contentment and moderation, leading our children by example? Parents are people too, and not all of us are happy ourselves. Unfortunately, we do not always have the time, the vision or the skills to instill the basics of happiness into our children. So both the adults and the kids go about the pursuit of happiness by the trial and error method.

There are more and more politicians, organizations and individuals who believe that happiness skills can be learned and should be included in traditional educations. On his Facebook page, the Dalai Lama says that education is the proper way to promote compassion, piece of mind and tolerance in society, which bring a sense of confidence and reduce stress and anxiety (https://www.facebook.com/DalaiLama) . England requested that schools and colleges promote wellbeing to students (http://www.optimus-education.com/can-schools-promote-happiness). The US army uses classes developed by the “Authentic Happiness” program at the University of Pennsylvania to increase resilience levels of the troops (http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/newsletter.aspx?id=1552).

School is the place where our kids grow up, and where they are formed as individuals as much as they are at home. The school system has the infrastructure for influencing entire generations, letting out better adjusted and happier people. Unfortunately, schools spend most of their efforts on achieving high test results and good rankings. There is little emphasis on personal or emotional development. I believe happiness skills are among some of the most important skills a person possesses. To me it is obvious that the school system must help develop happiness skills as much as literacy skills in all children. I would like to see USA schools and schools all over the world to add happiness lessons to their curricula and deliver it to every kid. It will make for better adults and for better societies, and ultimately, for better world.

To see this happen, I plan to open an organization to raise public support, develop happiness curriculum and promote it to schools and departments of education in the US and possibly, worldwide.

If you think this idea is important and worthwhile, and you would like to help, please contact me. I am looking for anyone who can contribute their skills, knowledge, and advice in the fields of not-for-profit organizations, school curricula, marketing, public relations, legal aspects and more!

Retrieved from: http://olgarythm.blogspot.com/2012/10/why-we-need-to-add-happiness-to-school.html

Teacher Quality

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:29

Teacher Quality: Who’s On Which Side and Why

By Marc Tucker

We were gathered around a table in the office of a key state official.  In the middle of the table was a chart.  On the vertical axis was a scale showing the scores of entering students in the state’s teacher education institutions on a statewide college entrance examination.  On the field of the chart were colored circles representing each of the teacher education institutions. Each was placed vertically with its center at the average score of their students on the state college entrance exam.  The size of the circles represented the number of students at each of the institutions.  Many of the circles were above the median performance on the statewide college entrance test.  But the biggest circles were well below the median. Without question, the state is recruiting most of its new teachers from its less capable high school graduates.
The state’s leaders are determined to bring the state into the top ranks of states and countries measured by the OECD PISA surveys of student performance.  And they are well aware that the research shows that the countries in those top ranks are typically recruiting their teachers from the upper ranks of their high school graduates.

This state is not in the United States. Unlike most American state boards of elementary and secondary education, it was in a position to set minimum scores for entrance into its teachers colleges.  So you would think that they would institute a policy that would stipulate a high minimum score, so that they could be sure that they would get higher quality students entering their teacher colleges and therefore higher quality teachers.

But that is not happening.  It turns out that the principals, classroom teachers and their unions—and they are very strong unions—are all for raising entrance requirements.  They see it as in their interest to have as many high quality teachers as possible.  But the teachers colleges are dead set against it.  They are afraid that, if the standards of entry go up, they will lose students and have to let faculty go.

On the face of it, that makes no sense.  The schools, you might say, need X many new teachers this year and are likely to need a comparable number next year, so why should the schools of education take in fewer candidates if the requirements for entry go up?

Well, it turns out that the combined output of the teachers colleges every year is enough to produce many more teachers than the state actually needs to hire each year.  That produces a surplus of candidates for jobs in teaching and a surplus of candidates keeps the wages of teachers down.  Young people who are making career decisions who did not do so well in high school may be attracted to teaching because it is easier to get into a teachers college than a law school or engineering school.  If the state raised the requirements to get into education schools, then it would have to attract into its education schools students who would otherwise be choosing a path leading to law school, medical school or engineering school.  But those occupations pay more than teaching and generally offer more professional autonomy and better working conditions.

So we asked whether the state is willing to pay for more teachers if it raises the entrance requirements for its teacher colleges.  Oh no, was the response.  The state is in a budget bind and higher wages for teachers are not on the table.

Well, we said, in the United States, the typical teachers college graduate has left the teaching profession after five years.  The international evidence shows that, if you raise wages, raise standards for entry and improve working conditions, new teachers will stay a lot longer in the profession and the state will save a fortune on teacher training, because of the reduction in teacher turnover.  Maybe you could pay for a big raise for teachers with the savings from reduced turnover.

But it turns out that, in this state, in this country, the current rate of turnover is half of what it is on average in the United States, so the possible savings would be much less than it would be in our country.  No wonder, we thought, that the teachers colleges are dead set against raising standards.  Their fear that the result would be to lower admissions and enrollments is very well founded.  That looks like the makings of a stalemate on the teacher quality agenda.

We had a conversation the other day with the leaders of the higher education system in an American state.  They are very much aware of these issues and very interested in dealing with them.  But the higher education institutions in that state will not even share their data on the test scores of the students they admit to their teacher education institutions.  This is not a conversation they want to have, because they are afraid of where it might lead.

But it is time to have that conversation.  No one believes that high SAT scores or ACT scores, or high high school grade point averages by themselves guarantee that a candidate will be a good teacher. Everyone I know believes that a passion for teaching and an ability to relate well to young people are very important characteristics of good teachers.  But these are not mutually exclusive qualities.  The record shows that countries that recruit their teachers from a pool of people who score high on their college entrance exams, had high grade point averages and also show a passion for teaching and an ability to relate well to students produce higher student achievement across the board than countries that leave out one or more of these qualities when they are recruiting their students.

The fact that we have very high rates of attrition for new teachers gives the United States more room for maneuver.  We can afford to raise teacher salaries in anticipation of substantial savings in the churn of teachers in our teacher labor market.  Unfortunately, though, the costs here come out of one pocket and the savings will be realized in another.  We have to find a politically sensible way to deal with that reality.  When we do, we will be able to turn the corner on teacher quality.  And, if there is anything at all to be learned from the experience of the top-performing nations, it is that this is the key to improving student performance.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2012/11/teacher_quality_whos_on_which_side_and_why.html?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

a description of education in massachusetts under romney…a teacher’s story.

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics, School reform on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:25

Romney’s home state teachers ask, ‘Where’s the love, Mitt?’

by Paul Toner

In the third presidential debate Mitt Romney twice proclaimed, “I love teachers!” As a middle school teacher in Massachusetts while he was governor and now president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, I can assure you that we never felt Romney’s “love.” Our former governor never once met with the MTA to find out our views on education issues. He listened to business leaders and ideologues, not to classroom teachers, support staff or public higher education faculty and staff.

We roll our eyes when Romney tries to take credit for our high-performing students. Massachusetts is a relatively affluent state that has always had good schools. Those schools were made even better as a result of a major education overhaul and increased funding for low-income districts adopted in 1993, 10 years before Romney took office. No major education initiatives were enacted while he was governor. In fact, Massachusetts cut funding for public schools by a higher percentage than any other state during his tenure.

Romney’s boast that top-scoring students can attend any public college or university in Massachusetts “tuition-free” as a result of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship he sponsored also elicits groans from educators, parents and students alike. In Massachusetts, our public higher education campuses charge very low tuition and very high fees, so the break these students get is way less than meets the eye. For example, tuition, fees, room and board this year at the University of Massachusetts comes to $23,436. Of that, only $1,714 is tuition, so the Adams Scholarship winner still has to pay $21,722 to attend. In addition, fees rose by $3,000 under Romney, more than swallowing up any small benefit from the scholarship.

Romney was a frequent critic of those of us who call for smaller class sizes. He claimed that there is no correlation between class size and student performance even while he sent his own sons to the Belmont Hill School – an exclusive prep school that costs $37,000 a year and that touts “class size averaging 12 students per section” as one of its selling points. Truly, Mitt Romney is out of touch with the needs of low- and middle-income students.

Mitt Romney has never liked unions. He especially dislikes teacher unions. While governor, he once told The Boston Globe, “We should put together all the stakeholders at the table, but not the unions. Individual teachers, yes, but not the unions.” It’s no surprise that today he believes that teacher unions should be barred from making political contributions. Not oil companies. Not tobacco companies. Just teachers and other educators.

As with so much in this election, it’s important to get information from people close to the source to cut through the spin. This much we know. Until Mitt Romney got Potomac fever mid-way through his only term as governor and started roaming the countryside bad-mouthing our state and bad-mouthing teachers’ unions, he never gave so much as a passing glance to the teachers he now proclaims to “love.”

Toner is a middle school social studies teacher in Cambridge, Mass., and president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Retrieved from: http://educationvotes.nea.org/2012/11/01/romneys-home-state-teachers-ask-wheres-the-love-mitt/

common core…another educational phase or here to stay?

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School Psychology, School reform, Special Education on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:23

Scores Drop on Ky.’s Common Core-Aligned Tests

By Andrew Ujifusa

Results from new state tests in Kentucky—the first in the nation explicitly tied to the Common Core State Standards—show that the share of students scoring “proficient” or better in reading and math dropped by roughly a third or more in both elementary and middle school the first year the tests were given.

Kentucky in 2010 was the first state to adopt the common core in English/language arts and mathematics, and the assessment results released last week for the 2011-12 school year are being closely watched by school officials and policymakers nationwide for what they may reveal about how the common standards may affect student achievement in coming years. So far, 46 states have adopted the English/language arts common standards; 45 states have done so in math.

Two federally funded consortia are working on assessments based on the common standards, and those tests are not slated to be fully ready for schools until 2014-15. But Kentucky’s tests are generally understood to be linked to the common core.

“What you’re seeing in Kentucky is a predictor of what you’re going to see in the other states, as the assessments roll out next year and the year after,” said Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers, which spearheaded the common-core initiative along with the National Governors Association. Mr. Wilhoit was also previously Kentucky’s education commissioner.

Falling Scores

The drop in Kentucky’s scores conform to what state education officials had expected: that students in grades 3-8 taking the new, more-rigorous Kentucky Performance Rating of Education Progress, or K-PREP, would not be able to reach their achievement levels of prior years. Kentucky began implementing the common standards in the 2011-12 school year.

The biggest drop came at the elementary level. On the previous Kentucky Core Content Tests, 76 percent of elementary students scored proficient or higher in reading in the 2010-11 school year. That percentage plunged to 48 percent for the K-PREP results in the 2011-12 school year, a drop-off in proficiency of more than a third.

In 2010-11, 73 percent of elementary students were proficient or better in math, but that fell to 40.4 percent. That drop represents a 45 percent decline in the share of proficient students.

Middle schoolers’ decline was a little less steep. In reading, they dropped from a 70 percent proficiency level in 2010-11 to 46.8 percent in 2011-12, a decline of a third. In math, proficiency-or-better levels declined slightly more than that, from 65 percent in 2010-11 to 40.6 percent in 2011-12.

Overall, students in grades 3-8 demonstrated somewhat higher proficiency levels in reading than in math.

When new tests are introduced, states can expect scores to fall in most cases, said Douglas McRae, a retired assessment designer who helped build California’s testing system. “When you change the measure, change the tests, then you interrupt the continuity of trend data over time. That’s the fundamental thing that happens,” he said.

Kentucky developed its tests in conjunction with Pearson, the New York City-based education and testing company, which is also crafting curricula for the common core.

K-PREP does not represent the final, polished version of common-core assessments. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and theSmarter Balanced Assessment Consortium are designing the tests that most states have signed on to for gauging students’ mastery of the common standards nationwide beginning in the 2014-15 school year. (Kentucky belongs to the PARCC consortium.)

But Mr. Wilhoit said K-PREP represents the state’s best effort, along with Pearson’s, “to develop an assessment that was representative of the common core.”

Proficiency drops also occurred in the end-of-course tests in reading and math Kentucky administered to high school students. But those declines were smaller than those in the earlier grades, and a state study shows that while the K-PREP tests are completely aligned with the common standards, the high school end-of-course tests (from the ACT QualityCore program) are only about 80 percent to 85 percent aligned to the standards.

The proficiency level in high school reading dropped from 65 percent to 52.2 percent (a figure 6 percentage points higher than the state’s prediction), based on the end-of-course tests, while proficiency in math fell from 46 percent to 40 percent on the Algebra 2 test, beating the state’s prediction by 4 percentage points.

Commissioner’s Take

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said that students beat the state’s predictions for both the K-PREP and end-of-course exams. Using a statistical model that predicted ACT performance based on academic results in reading and math in 2011, for example, the state estimated a 36 percentage-point drop in elementary reading scores in 2011-12, instead of the actual 28-point drop.

“We’re just a little bit above our prediction, which I think is a pretty good testament to our teaching,” Mr. Holliday said.

Earlier exposure to the common standards, he suggested, would help younger students at first.

“It’s going to take a little longer to see middle and high school growth on these tests,” Mr. Holliday said. “It’ll take about five years to see an overall growth of significance at all levels.”

But based on national benchmarks, the new K-PREP tests may not have been rigorous enough, said Richard Innes, an education policy analyst at the Bluegrass Institute, a conservative-leaning Lexington, Ky.-based think tank.

In a report released the week of Oct. 29 for the institute, Mr. Innes compared the K-PREP math scores for 8th graders this year (41.5 percent proficient or better) with the results on the ACT Explore test this year (30.5 percent) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress proficiency levels in 2011 (31 percent).

“There are questions in my mind as to whether they are rigorous enough in several areas,” he said. Different subject tests appeared to have been more rigorous in different grade levels, Mr. Innes said. The math in middle schools appears to be the subject where K-PREP is less rigorous than NAEP or Explore tests, he noted. He drew the same conclusion about K-PREP reading results at the elementary school level.

One number that went up: the proportion of students qualifying as college and/or career ready, which rose to 47 percent in 2011-12, from 38 percent the previous year. Mr. Holliday attributed that rise to the state creating more career pathways and bringing more introductory college courses to high school seniors to prevent the need for postsecondary remediation.

“To get that much improvement in the first year is extraordinary, I think,” said Bob King, the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, based in Frankfort, Ky.

Preparing the Public

To combat a potential public backlash from the lower scores, Mr. Holliday noted that he had enlisted the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce as part of a yearlong public relations campaign.

Florida schools earlier this year endured a significant backlash when proficiency rates on its state writing tests dropped by two-thirds after a tougher grading system was introduced, forcing the state school board to change the test’s cutoff score retroactively.

“We knew the scores were going to drop, but this is the right thing for our kids, our schools,” he said. “You’re going to see quite a different reaction in Kentucky because we watched what happened everywhere else,” Mr. Holliday said.

But the transition for schools can be disappointing for some, especially in the short term. Carmen Coleman, the superintendent of the Danville Independent district, said she was proud of how the school system had progressed over the past three years from a ranking of 110th to 24th among the state’s 174 districts, only to tumble back to the middle of the pack in the newest rankings of school districts.

“It’s a tough blow for teachers and students,” she said.

The Kentucky PTA has received grant money from the National PTA to educate parents and others about the new standards, but the state group’s president, Teri Gale, said it doesn’t mean people won’t be caught off guard by the lower-than-usual results.

“They’ve heard us talk about it. They’ve seen the newscasts and everything,” Ms. Gale said. “But until they actually see the scores, I don’t think it’s going to hit home that this is what we were talking about.

Coverage of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the common assessments is supported in part by a grant from the GE Foundation, atwww.ge.com/foundation.

Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/11/02/11standards.h32.html?tkn=MUUFgXKG6BeBJ5plrgNFi1pr%2BpWNe%2BzfFckH&cmp=clp-edweek&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EducationWeekWidgetFeed+%28Education+Week%3A+Free+Widget+Feed%29


darwinian theory of education…adapt or die?

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:19

Education system must adapt or face extinction, say experts

KARACHI: In nature, when species face a changing environment, they must adapt or face extinction. Education systems, however, may remain static even when they are no longer relevant – a fact not lost on the participants of the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development’s (AKU-IED) international conference.

The three-day event, which has been organised with the support of the Higher Education Commission and United Nations Children’s Fund, aims to foster debate among experts about the state of Pakistan’s education system and how it can be changed.

“Education needs to move with the times, to be responsive to the emerging needs of present day societies,” said AKU-IED’s director, Dr Muhammad Memon, at the inaugural session on Thursday. In his welcome address, he also called for policy that would formally recognise teachers’ professional status and integrity.

Renowned physicist, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, the chief guest, said, “The 18th Amendment has empowered provinces to lead the change in Pakistan’s education system, but they have failed to take any substantial initiatives so far.” He called for “dramatic and sustainable changes” in the education system. “Pakistan presents a particularly challenging environment, but there are some grounds for optimism,” he added. “A clearer understanding of how the education environment can be better managed – both inside and outside the classroom – will certainly be important.”

The conference chair, Dr Kulsoom Jaffer, told The Express Tribune that researchers, academics and practitioners will present around a 100 papers during the conference. They will cover themes such as innovations in methods of teaching, conventional and alternative assessment methods, the relevance of curriculum in changing times and educational policies.

Two foreign experts had also been invited to speak at the inaugural session. Prof. Andy Hargreaves, who is associated with Boston College’s Lynch School of Education in the United States, said the importance of good teachers for sustainable change cannot be ignored. “If you teach the same thing for over ten years, you would ultimately lose the sense of challenge,” he told the audience via video link. “We need to challenge and stretch our pupils so that we could know if we are doing the job all right,” he said, urging greater collaboration among teachers to develop a mentoring system.

He also emphasised the need to support teachers, regardless of the stage in their careers. “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children and their teachers,” he said, quoting Nelson Mandela.

Prof. Chandra Gunawardena, UNESCO-COL Chair in Distance Education at Open University of Sri Lanka presented a brief history of educational reforms in her country which have raised the adult literacy rate up to 90.6 per cent.  “The right of all children to education was recognised in Sri Lanka in the 1940s, years before international conventions were even introduced and universal goals were set.” The society, however, still finds a gap between education and economy. “More than academic qualifications, the private sector demands for the employees to be well-equipped with general transferrable skills and communication skills in English.”

Dr Memon hopes that the conference will reinforce the discourse on educational changes through sustainable reforms. AKU-IED also intends to compile a book on the conference proceedings.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2012.

Retrieved from: http://tribune.com.pk/story/459484/education-system-must-adapt-or-face-extinction-say-experts/

special education in los angeles…

In Education, Education advocacy, Special Education on Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 08:16

Los Angeles Still Struggles to Serve Students With Disabilities

By Nirvi Shah

The latest progress report on Los Angeles’ ability to serve its students with disabilities shows the district is making headway in some areas, but it is still falling short of a 6-year-old target for providing services as frequently and for as long as special education students need them.

In the report, issued last week, the district’s independent monitor noted that the district was to have provided—by 2006—93 percent of the services for students with disabilities. That target was the result of a federal court case resolved in 2003. The district has largely reached that target, though intermittently.

But another goal set in the court case was that the district would provide 85 percent of those services for the duration and frequency specified by students’ education plans. For example, a student might require three one-hour sessions of speech therapy each week.

While the district has come a long way, it still falls short of this second goal, said the monitor, special education expert Frederick J. Weintraub. About 83.5 percent of students received the correct number of service sessions, but only 70 percent got those services for the amount of time their educational plans say they should, the report said.

While some of the shortfall might be attributed to inaccurate record-keeping, therapists and other service providers said that making up missed sessions is sometimes a challenge because of paperwork, meetings, the district’s electronic monitoring system for tracking services, and scheduled school events, such as testing or school assemblies, the report said. Some providers simply aim to provide a certain amount of services each month or year for their own flexibility (does this serve the students though? Advocates, experts, please weigh in.).

Mr. Weintraub was appointed as a monitor because of a federal court settlement, and must stay on until Los Angeles meets all the goals it set out to achieve. Next school year, the district will study its own capacity to monitor whether students with disabilities are getting the services they need, he said in the report.

“The [independent monitor] has repeatedly stated that service provision is the cornerstone of [a free, appropriate public education] and substantial compliance. As this consent decree nears completion, the District must demonstrate the ability to deliver services and comply with the service requirements of the IEP,” he said in the report.

Mr. Weintraub did find that while about 94 percent of kids with disabilities receive services—at least one session of any of the services they may be entitled to in a given eight-week period—but he also found 400 cases in which there was no evidence students were served at all in eight-week period. Some of this was because of the district’s tracking system.

One high point: the monitor found that Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, now has enough well-qualified special education teachers to meet its needs. A decade ago, it had enough to meet only 70 percent of its needs, and now that figure has risen to 96 percent. The district has also made progress in reducing the disproportionate identification of black students as having an emotional disturbances, and in remodeling and upgrading facilities to make them accessible to students with disabilities.

There’s been some progress on yet another lingering issue: whether charter schools are screening students for disabilities. (Los Angeles isn’t unique in having some version of this issue.) The monitor found that in June, 28 charter schools continued to ask parents to provide information related to special education. “While this is a substantial decrease from the past two years, this finding is evidence of the district’s inability to provide rigorous oversight of its independent charter schools,” the report said.

The district must review charter school applications again in December.

Still, overall enrollment of students with disabilities at charter schools continues to climb, the monitor found.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2012/10/los_angeles_still_struggles_to_serve.html

and they call it…nomophobia…

In Psychiatry, Uncategorized on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 18:05

Are you Afraid to Be Without Your Phone?

ATLANTA -Do you feel like you can’t live without your phone? You may suffer from nomophobia.

Nomophobia is the fear of being without your cell phone. And before you laugh, there are  support groups for people who say they suffer from it. Doctors say that some people’s anxiety over their mobile devices is starting to cross the line.
If you want to study the importance of our mobile devices in our lives, just spend an afternoon in Centennial Olympic Park and people watch. You’ll see people texting, taking pictures, checking a map, some talking – mostly you will see smartphones in action no matter what you’re doing.

One study by the group SecureEnvoy found that Nomophobia has increased since 2008, from 55 percent of the population to 66 percent in 2012.

“For some people, they might worry that they are going to miss a phone call, an important meeting, miss a contact. For some people, it’s simply their connection to the outside world. It’s a way they read what’s going on with politics. It’s a way to keep up with news. With some people, it’s their security blanket.  It’s just something that makes them feel right at times,” said Dr. Josh Spitalnick.

What about kids? Psychotherapist Suzanne Maiden specializes in treating children. She says a mobile phone for a child is their connection to loved ones and their friends.

“Here we are setting our kids up almost that they have immediate access.  What happens when that stops? What happens if they lose their phone, they drop it in water, it gets broken etc.  Kids can panic,” said Maiden.

Maiden says there are times when you might consider getting treatment for nomophobia.

“If it starts causing problems in your relationships, at work, in your own life — it’s dictating your routines, then maybe talking with someone who treats anxiety disorders is a good thing,” said Spitalnick.

If it has to be treated, it’s is handled like any other phobia.  If it is starting to affect your relationships, starting to affect your daily routine, talk to your doctor about it.

Retrieved from: http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/story/19958517/people-beginning-to-fear-being-without-mobile-devices?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=7902465

Treat social media as a shop window for employers, but be careful

In Social Media on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 17:57

Treat social media as a shop window for employers, but be careful

By Raj Samani

Chief technology officer, Europe, Middle East and Africa, McAfee

This tactic may be used to uncover potential indiscretions, or an attempt to assess the true ‘value’ of the candidate.

This very public shop window for candidates is a relatively new concept and extends the initial definition of the term “Social Network” that was originally presented in a 1954 research paper, Class and Committees in a Norwegian Parish.

The paper draws a map of the relationships between individuals, indicating the ways in which they are connected through various social familiarities ranging from casual acquaintance to close familial bonds.

The social network, as we know it today, is mapped through technology and the advent of social media websites, affording us the luxury to maintain our social ties that go beyond our ability to simply remember our personal links.

Subsequently, the theory known as “six degrees of separation” that was a popular term to describe the work of Stanley Milgram, examining the average path length for social networks, needs to be dramatically reduced to account for the advances in technology.

However, the fundamental differences in our social ties today, as opposed to just over a decade ago, are the very nature of these links themselves.

A good friend of mine once said to me, that you attract those people with whom you have common interests, otherwise known as interpersonal attraction.

“Very rarely do we see individuals revoke a recommendation of a former colleague”

Previously, communities and relationships were largely based on the fact that you lived close to someone, effectively in physical proximity.

Technology now allows us to build interpersonal relationships with people around the world, beyond our immediate physical proximity, thus naturally attracting those with similar interests.

Subsequently, our own social networks are now closer to us in terms of age, interests, and background, than they are likely to be in terms of physical proximity. Obviously exceptions will exist, but consider how many of us have built close relationships with people we have physically never met?

Although we may know our immediate next-door neighbour, how well we know them? And do we know the person that lives three or even two doors from us? It’s unlikely.

Undoubtedly, this point can be debated – but the area that has fundamentally changed is this concept of reputation, whether that is personal or corporate.

Returning the favour

In today’s modern social network, the concept of reputation does provide a degree of quantification, for example Twitter followers, Facebook “likes”, LinkedIn endorsements, and so on.

However, such reputational “indices” are merely reflective of a combination of point-in-time endorsements. Very rarely do we see individuals revoke a recommendation of a former colleague – and indeed, even the motivation for endorsements or Twitter following does vary.

In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr Robert Caildini identifies reciprocity as a key influencing technique, and this desire to return the favour has found its way onto social networks. For example, the implicit expectation to return a LinkedIn recommendation and even in some cases to follow people back on Twitter.

With greater emphasis during job applications to review social media profiles, and peoples’ online personas, one has to ask the question whether this merely provides a false sense of the true value an individual can provide to a prospective employer.

Especially considering that any such shop window offered by prospective employees may well have been manipulated using known psychological influencing techniques to garner the exact response they are seeking.

Undoubtedly, this approach to building a digital representation of our social ties does represent significant value.

However, each of us should place a degree of caution in simply making assumptions based on the numbers represented.

Does someone with more Twitter followers, or LinkedIn recommendations represent a better hire or more knowledgeable in their field than someone that does not use these tools, or worse still has a smaller following/number of endorsements?

Of course not, but unfortunately with a greater emphasis placed on automated screening of prospective employees, it does appear to be a growing trend.

This, of course, does not mean that such indicators do not have any merit; indeed as an indicator they are remarkable tools.

But, as with most third-hand information, an integrity check should always be undertaken.

Raj Samani is chief technical officer – for Europe, Middle East and Africa – at IT security specialists McAfee. He previously worked in security for a large public sector organisation in the UK. He is on the advisory council for Infosecurity Europe.

Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20155192

Seven Practices to Prevent Unethical Behavior

In Education, Education advocacy on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 07:14

Seven Practices to Prevent Unethical Behavior

By: Emily Douglas

In recent weeks, I have had several conversations with school personnel directors about the importance of building ethical cultures and practices. Leaders in all industries face issues concerning unethical behavior and can learn from each other about how best to tackle these situations. Here are seven practices to help prevent unethical actions in any organization:

• Create Policies and Practices: Organizations must research, develop, and document policies and processes around defining, identifying, and reporting ethics violations. These policies should be articulated in the employee handbook and protections should be put in place for those who raise ethical issues. However, having a policy is not enough. You must practice what you preach. Case in point: Years ago, the Enron Corporation was known to have one of the most intricate ethics policies in the country. The 64-page document was given to new employees with a letter from Ken Lay, the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. But, in 2001, it was revealed that Enron had engaged in major accounting fraud to disguise its poor financial health. After Enron declared bankruptcy, copies of their ethics policy went up on eBay. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History also secured a copy that now lives in the museum’s exemplary business practices exhibit. How appropriate. I encourage you to read more about the Enron scandal in the article “Management Controls: The Organizational Fraud Triangle of Leadership, Culture, and Control in Enron” published in the July/August 2007 issue of Ivey Business Journal.
• Hire Right: Selecting quality people from day one can make a huge difference in the ethics of your organization. Some organizations scour background checks, purchase screening tools, or use behavior-based interview questions, which may ask candidates to describe a situation when they acted ethically even when it was against social or cultural norms.
• Develop People’s Understanding: Most HR professionals will tell you that training people to act “ethically” will not have much of an impact, but developing a process for reporting ethics violations and building staff understanding about ethics expectations is important.
• Incent the Right Thing: Some in the education community are asking, “Do states and school districts incent people to cheat or act unethically by giving more weight to certain measures over others?” Before introducing a new measure in schools–or any other industry–leaders must consider if it encourages the type of actions that are valued by the organization. If there is a risk of impropriety, it is important to have a conversation around what checks and balances will be put in place to make sure unwanted behaviors are handled appropriately.
• Put Controls in Place: Risk management professionals will tell you that even with all the proper policies and processes in place and a staff that understands them, it is also wise to perform regular audits to help reduce opportunities to act unethically, incent individuals who may act unethically to reconsider, help catch issues that have occurred by accident, and mitigate risk all around.
• Build a Culture of Transparency, Openness, and Communication: Cultural management work is difficult. To ensure true success when it comes to organization ethics, people must see and hear what is going on as well as feel comfortable to stand up and speak out if they see something occur that is not right.
• Leadership Must Walk the Talk: Leaders can talk about the importance of policies and processes, incentives, communication, and openness all day, but if they turn around and act unethically, it can be like throwing a large stone into the pond of ethics tranquility. The same goes for promoting staff who have behaved unethically. It doesn’t take long for staff at all levels of an organization to recognize a leader who talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk when it comes to ethics. This can breed suspicion and destroy trust.

What has your organization done to not only ensure that it has strong policies and processes in place to build understanding around ethical expectations, but also to ensure that these policies translate to everyday action among staff and leadership?

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/topschooljobs/k-12_talent_manager/2012/10/7_practices_to_prevent_unethical_behavior.html

recipe for a younger brain…

In Brain imaging, Brain studies, Fitness/Health on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 07:11

Two Things Needed for a Younger Brain

Henry S. Lodge, M.D.

When I was in medical school, we were taught that you got all your brain cells by the time you were two years old. And by age 30, you start to lose them. Cognitive aging was simply the slow, steady loss of brain cells that occurred as you age. Well, it turns out this was wrong! Scientists around the world have demonstrated that your brain can continue to grow throughout your life — growing new cells, forming new connections, and rewiring existing ones. But this only happens if you use it. An idle brain will wither and decay, which leads to the decline in cognitive function that we once accepted as being part of the normal aging process.

There are two great roads to rejuvenating your brain, and they might surprise you:
 Exercise. MRI studies show marked growth in new brain tissue after three months of regular exercise. This growth is not just in the parts of the brain that control movement. It’s also evident in the areas responsible for memory, decision-making, and judgment.

 Social Connectedness. Your brain grows and thrives in direct proportion with the meaningful social connections you have — meaning your engagement with friends, family, and your community. People who are lonely and depressed actually lose brain tissue overtime and show marked reductions in cognitive function. But people who stay connected with others and give back to their communities improve their chances of staying vibrant and sharp well into their later years.

There’s a wonderful scientific study going on that’s a great example of the power of staying connected. A program called Experience Corps is putting older people in schools as reading tutors for young kids. The kids are doing better, of course. But the tutors are doing better too — a lot better! All markers of health are improving — blood pressure and weight are going down, and mood and energy are going up. What’s also interesting is that a wide range of blood tests that measure inflammation (linked to long-term risks of heart attack, stroke, and common cancers) also show improvement with social connection and emotional involvement!

Are you surprised at the control we can have over our brain health? Could this prompt you to make different lifestyle choices?

Retrieved from: http://forums.webmd.com/3/mens-health-community/forum/818?ecd=soc_tw_110112_am_community_youngerbrain

test scores in tennessee…

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 07:06

Early Test Scores Low in Tennessee’s Achievement District

By Jackie Zubrzycki

Students in the six schools that make up Tennessee’s Achievement School District, or ASD, scored at the 16th percentile in the nation, on average, on the Measured Academic Progress, or MAP, test, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

The ASD, currently in its first school year, was created to oversee the state’s lowest-performing schools—or, as its website declares, to “catapult the bottom 5 percent of schools into the top 25 percent in the state.” These MAP scores indicate that this may be an uphill battle.

The Commercial Appeal reported that the ASD’s superintendent, Chris Barbic—who founded charter network YES Prep—was “stunned” by the low results, though, he said, “We intuitively knew kids were coming in that far behind.” But Barbic was optimistic: “We are using data to adjust. That is what good leaders and good teachers do. That’s a good best practice you see in lots of schools.”

The MAP is not a high-stakes, state-administered standardized test, but is rather a computerized formative assessment, intended to help gauge student progress. The students in the Achievement School District will take the test twice more this year, and teachers said they hope to see dramatic growth, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The ASD is one of a number of state-created districts modeled after the Recovery School District in New Orleans. Tennessee’s plan was to add schools slowly but steadily. The district announced this summer that seven charter networks will open nine new schools in the state in the 2013-14 school year as part of the ASD.

Its performance and outcomes will likely be closely watched, especially in Memphis, which is home to five of the six current ASD schools, and where the ASD’s growth is one of a number of factors complicating the future of the school district, as my colleague Christina Samuels reported earlier this year.

Want to keep up with school district and leadership news? Follow @district_doss on Twitter.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/District_Dossier/2012/11/guest_blog_post_by_jaclyn.html

genes and friendships…

In Genes on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 07:00

Balancing Social, Genetic Factors In How Friendships Form


A new study suggests that social environments are the driving force behind human friendship rather than genetic factors.

University of Colorado – Boulder researchers said that genetic similarities may help to explain why human birds of a feather flock together, but the full story of why people become friends “is contingent upon the social environment in which individuals interact with one another.”

Nevertheless, people are more likely to befriend genetically similar people when their environment is stratified, when disparate groups are discouraged from interacting, the study found. However, when environments were more classless, friends were less likely to share certain genes.

Scientists debate the extent to which genetics or environmental factors —”nature” or “nurture” —predict certain behaviors, said Dr. Jason Boardman, associate professor of sociology.

“For all the social demographic outcomes we care about, whether it’s fertility, marriage, migration, health, it’s never nature or nurture. It’s always nature and nurture,” he said. “And most of the time it has a lot more to do with nurture.”

Study findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Early last year, PNAS published a study reporting evidence that certain shared genes might determine peoples’ choice of friends. Time magazine dubbed this “friends with (genetic) benefits.”

Boardman is a sociologist with significant genetic expertise. ”You can’t understand the spread of health behaviors — why people smoke, why they drink, why they may or may not be obese — unless you understand their genetic liability and also place them in the right social context,” he said.

The research team used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Boardman’s team focused on 1,503 pairs of friends in seventh through 12th grade in 41 schools. As with the earlier study, Boardman’s group found that some pairs of friends shared certain genetic characteristics.

The team tested the evidence, arguing that if genes were the driving friendship factor, genetically based friendship should emerge most often and easily in schools with the least amount of social friction. “But we found the exact opposite,” he said.

In the most socially equal environments, genetic homophily (or love of the same) was “pretty weak,” meaning that friends were less likely to share genetic traits. He added, “It was in the most unequal social environments that we saw the highest level of genetic homophily.”

In a socially stratified school, “Students from different populations within the school may be effectively ‘off limits’ for friendships,” the team wrote.

Boardman believes an understanding of social behavior is necessary to characterize the multidimensional and multilevel nature of the social environment.

Scientists cannot fully understand heritable changes in gene expression unless they understand “what kind of schools people go to, what neighborhoods they live in” and other social factors, Boardman said.

“To me, to say whether genes predict friendships without understanding the context within which these friendships may or may not occur just doesn’t tell the whole story.”

Source: University of Colorado at Boulder

Retrieved From: http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/11/01/balancing-social-genetic-factors-in-how-friendships-form/47008.html

sensory defensiveness can be a gift!

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Sensory defensiveness on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 06:57

Five Gifts of Being Highly Sensitive


Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Douglas Eby, M.A./Psychology, who is a writer and researcher on the psychology of creative expression, high ability and personal growth. He is creator of the Talent
Development Resources series of sites (includingHighlySensitive.org) at http://talentdevelop.com. I know many of you are “highly sensitive” and enjoy articles on that topic, so I am excited to pique his highly-sensitive brain today!

Question: If you had to name the top five gifts of being highly sensitive, what would they be?


1. Sensory detail

One of the prominent “virtues” of high sensitivity is the richness of sensory detail that life provides. The subtle shades of texture in clothing, and foods when cooking, the sounds of music or even traffic or people talking, fragrances and colors of nature. All of these may be more intense for highly sensitive people.

Of course, people are not simply “sensitive” or “not sensitive” — like other qualities and traits, it’s a matter of degree.

Years ago, I took a color discrimination test to work as a photographic technician, making color prints. The manager said I’d scored better, with more subtle distinctions between hues in the test charts, than anyone he had evaluated.

That kind of response to color makes visual experience rich and exciting, and can help visual artists and designers be even more excellent.

2. Nuances in meaning

The trait of high sensitivity also includes a strong tendency to be aware of nuances in meaning, and to be more cautious about taking action, and to more carefully consider options and possible outcomes.

3. Emotional awareness

We also tend to be more aware of our inner emotional states, which can make for richer and more profound creative work as writers, musicians, actors or other artists.

A greater response to pain, discomfort, and physical experience can mean sensitive people have the potential, at least, to take better care of their health.

4. Creativity

Psychologist Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person,estimates about twenty percent of people are highly sensitive, and seventy percent of those are introverted, which is a trait that can also encourage creativity.

As examples, there are many actors who say they are shy, and director Kathryn Bigelow, who recently won an Academy Award, has said, “I’m kind of very shy by nature.” The star of her movie The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner (who was reportedly shy as a child), has commented that “in social situations she can be painfully shy.”

5. Greater empathy

High sensitivity to other people’s emotions can be a powerful asset for teachers, managers, therapists and others.

Question: And, if you had to name five curses, what would they be? And how best do we overcome them or co-exist with them?


1. Easily overwhelmed, overstimulated

The biggest challenge in high sensitivity is probably being vulnerable to sensory or emotional overwhelm. Taking in and processing so much information from both inner and outer worlds can be “too much” at times and result in more pain, fatigue, stress, anxiety and other reactions.

An intriguing neuroscience research study I came across that may explain some of this said people with nervous systems having decreased latent inhibition are more open to incoming stimuli. Which can be a good thing, or not so good.

Actor Amy Brenneman once commented, “I’m too sensitive to watch most of the reality shows. It’s so painful for me.”

That kind of pain or discomfort can mean we don’t choose to experience some things that might actually be fun or enriching. Though I don’t mean reality shows.

2. Affected by emotions of others

Another aspect of sensitivity can be reacting to the emotions — and perhaps thoughts — of others. Being in the vicinity of angry people, for example, can be more distressing.

As actor Scarlett Johansson once put it, “Sometimes that awareness is good, and sometimes I wish I wasn’t so sensitive.”

3. Need lots of space and time to ourselves

We may need to “retreat” and emotionally “refresh” ourselves at times that are not always best for our goals or personal growth. For example, being at a professional development conference, it may not be the most helpful thing to leave a long presentation or workshop in order to recuperate from the emotional intensity of the crowd.

4. Unhealthy perfectionism

There can also be qualities of thinking or analyzing that lead to unhealthy perfectionism, or stressful responses to objects, people or situations that are “too much” or “wrong” for our sensitivities.

5. Living out of sync with our culture

Living in a culture that devalues sensitivity and introversion as much as the U.S. means there are many pressures to be “normal” — meaning extroverted, sociable and outgoing.

Dr. Ted Zeff, author of The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide, points out that other cultures, such as Thailand, have different attitudes, with a strong appreciation of sensitive or introverted people.

Jenna Avery, a “life coach for sensitive souls,” counsels people to accept or even pursue being “out of sync” with mainstream society, and be aware of other’s judgments of people as too sensitive, too emotional, or too dramatic.

And if we are sensitive, we may use those kinds of judgments against ourselves, and think, as Winona Ryder said she did at one time, “Maybe I’m too sensitive for this world.”

Certainly, there are extremes of emotions that are considered mood disorders, for example, and should be dealt with as a health challenge.

But “too emotional” or “too sensitive” are usually criticisms based on majority behavior and standards.

Overall, I think being highly sensitive is a trait we can embrace and use to be more creative and aware. But it demands taking care to live strategically, even outside popular values, to avoid overwhelm so we can better nurture our abilities and creative talents.

Retrieved from: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/03/28/5-gifts-of-being-highly-sensitive/

adhd and exercise…more positive evidence of benefits

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Education, Fitness/Health, School Psychology on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 06:49

A Little Exercise May Help Kids With ADHD to Focus

Published November 01, 2012


Twenty minutes of exercise may help kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) settle in to read or solve a math problem, new research suggests.

The small study, of 40 eight- to 10-year-olds, looked only at the short-term effects of a single bout of exercise. And researchers caution that they are not saying exercise is the answer to ADHD.

But it seems that exercise may at least do no harm to kids’ ability to focus, they say. And further studies should look into whether it’s a good option for managing some children’s ADHD.

“This is only a first study,” said lead researcher Matthew B. Pontifex, of Michigan State University in East Lansing.

“We need to learn how long the effects last, and how exercise might combine with or compare to traditional ADHD treatments” like stimulant medications, Pontifex explained.

He noted that there’s been a lot of research into the relationship between habitual exercise and adults’ thinking and memory, particularly older adults’. But little is known about kids, even though some parents, teachers and doctors have advocated exercise for helping children with ADHD.

So for their study, Pontifex and his colleagues recruited 20 children with diagnosed or suspected ADHD, and 20 ADHD-free kids of the same age and family-income level.

All of the children took a standard test of their ability to ignore distractions and stay focused on a simple task at hand – the main “aspect of cognition” that troubles kids with ADHD, Pontifex noted. The kids also took standard tests of reading, spelling and math skills.

Each child took the tests after either 20 minutes of treadmill exercise or 20 minutes of quiet reading (on separate days).

Overall, the study found, both groups of children performed better after exercise than after reading.

On the test of focusing ability, the ADHD group was correct on about 80 percent of responses after reading, versus about 84 percent after exercise. Kids without ADHD performed better – reaching about a 90 percent correct rate after exercise.

Similarly, both groups of kids scored higher on their reading and math tests after exercise, versus post-reading.

It’s hard to say what those higher one-time scores could mean in real life, according to Pontifex, who published his results in The Journal of Pediatrics.

One of the big questions is whether regular exercise would have lasting effects on kids’ ability to focus or their school performance, he said.

And why would exercise help children, with or without ADHD, focus? “We really don’t know the mechanisms right now,” Pontifex said.

But there is a theory that the attention problems of ADHD are related to an “underarousal” of the central nervous system. It’s possible that a bout of exercise helps kids zero in on a specific task, at least in the short term.

Parents and experts alike are becoming more and more interested in alternatives to drugs for ADHD, Pontifex noted. It’s estimated that 44 percent of U.S. children with the disorder are not on any medication for it.

And even when kids are using medication, additional treatments may help them cut down their doses. Pontifex said future studies should look at whether exercise fits that bill.

“We’re not suggesting that exercise is a replacement, or that parents should pull their kids off of their medication,” Pontifex said.

But, he added, they could encourage their child to be active for the overall health benefits, and talk with their doctor about whether exercise could help manage ADHD specifically.

“Exercise is beneficial for all children,” Pontifex noted. “We’re providing some evidence that there’s an additional benefit on cognition.”

Retrieved from: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/11/01/little-exercise-may-help-kids-with-adhd-focus/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#ixzz2B3qU8bOp

place-based learning…an example

In Education, Education advocacy on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 06:44

Documentary Explores ‘Place-Based’ Learning

By Liana Heitin

With the storm keeping us out of the office for a few days, I finally had a chance to watch a documentary I’ve been meaning to get to for several months now called“Schools That Change Communities.”

The 60-minute film, directed by Bob Gliner, looks at five schools that are seeing positive results through the use of place-based learning (similar to project-based learning, but with a focus on serving local communities). Among other impressive educators, the film features Tom Horn, the former principal of Al Kennedy Alternative School in Cottage Grove, Ore., whom I profiled in an article last April. (Horn is now the principal of a K-5 school in Eugene, where he assured me by email he plans to continue to “hit project and place-based ed. hard” with a “serious continued focus on ecology and sustainability.”)

The film puts a lens on some very different tacks for incorporating place-based learning into schools. In the tiny town of Crellin, Md., students help design a new playground, bake and deliver bread to neighbors, and pick up trash around their community. In the economically downtrodden neighborhood of Mattapan, in Boston, students take oral histories of their families and create radio programs to offer information needed by locals—on the causes of asthma, for instance. In Watsonville, S.C., students produce documentaries about migrant workers and gang violence in the town, and in Howard, S.D., students hold community meetings and reach out to politicians in an effort find ways to improve the local economy.

As for the Kennedy School, the movie details the partnerships Horn created with local organizations in Cottage Grove, including Aprovecho, a nonprofit focused on sustainability that worked with high schoolers to build a house with green materials. (I got to see the final project while visiting—the straw bale and mud mix made for thick, well-insulated walls. Like nothing I’d ever seen before.) It also goes into the Kennedy School students’ work on a wetlands mitigation project that is helping improve water quality.

Gliner’s film avoids investigating the obstacles that can make place-based learning hard to implement (curriculum and testing demands, scheduling, buy-in, etc.). And it does not include a look at programs that failed to get off the ground or did not show positive outcomes. But failures are not really the point. Gliner’s goal instead is to show that instead of asking what communities can do for schools, some people are asking what schools can do for communities. And it turns out, they can do a lot. The payoff for kids, meanwhile, is engagement and deeper understanding. Very simply, as Gregory Smith, co-author of Place- and Community-based Education in Schools, explains in the film: “These kids don’t have to ask their teacher, ‘Why am I learning this?’ They know why they’re learning it.”

The film is slated to air on some public broadcasting stations in January. In the meantime, it is available for purchase now on Gliner’s website.

Here’s the trailer:


Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2012/10/documentary_explores_place-based_learning.html


what are you grateful for? practice gratitude.

In Alternative Health, Fitness/Health, Mindfulness on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 06:25

The Year In Gratitude: Introducing the virtual Gratitude Visit


“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” — Paulo Coelho

Each year is a transition.  We let go of relationships, connections to places, jobs and ways of being.  But this opens us to new people, new associations and different ways of relating.  Through death or circumstance or choice we move away from those we loved, or cared for, or knew: The unknown, the surprise, the unexpected takes their place.  This is life.

Too often the losses weigh us down with a centrifugal sadness that keeps us pinned to the passing.  Our energy is invested in the mourning, often for longer than what may be healthy or helpful.

But the loss we experience is directly proportional to the joy and love and engagement we’ve had.  We feel the pain because we knew the joy.  So the grieving must honor the connection as well.

The research on gratitude keeps demonstrating how powerful a positive intervention of having gratitude in our lives can be.  To acknowledge someone for being in your life is one of the most dynamic ways to increase your well-being and the well-being of others.  This exercise works best if you write it down, and even better if you can deliver a letter of gratitude to the person involved.  Here’s how it works.

Think of a person who has been a positive person in your life, but with whom you are no longer involved.  Write out a letter of gratitude for the positive features of your relationship.

If it is possible and appropriate, meaning that it would not cause harm, embarrassment or upset to the other person, find them.  Track them down and read them the letter.  This is the famous gratitude visit exercise researched by Martin Seligman, the positive psychology researcher.

If they are unavailable or have died, read the letter out loud to an empty chair.  Let them know how much you appreciate who they are (were) and the joy and gratitude you have for them being (or have been) in your life.

Now for the interesting part: Reverse roles. Sit in the empty chair and become them for the role play. As them, respond to the letter that was just read to you.

Finally, come back into your own chair and say the final things you wish to say.  Notice how you feel.  Yes, they may no longer be in your life, but honoring the joys they brought you can help them if they are available, and you feel better if it is done through an empty chair.  I call this second method the Virtual Gratitude Visit (VGV).

There may be others you would like to share your gratitude with.  New research has show that gratitude toward God is perhaps one of the most powerful ways to evoke feelings of well-being.  With a VGV you may want to express your gratitude toward God.  Yes, it is okay to reverse roles and become him, but don’t forget to come back to your own chair.  Otherwise you are going to find a lot of prayer requests in your email inbox.

Last but not least, as we transition into the New Year, perform a VGV toward the people we haven’t met.  When I think back to last January and the people I said goodbye to over the year, literally several dozen new people came into my life who have filled me with unexpected joy and hope and wonderment.  Gratitude can be used to open us up to the future.  Try a VGV with a person you haven’t met yet but know you are scheduled to meet, or to the unknown, unexpected encounters you are bound to have. You may even want to express your gratitude toward a future self, the person you are becoming over the next year.

Finally, when the dust from the VGVs settles down, take a moment and review the year. Notice your breath.  Just like people and events in our life, our breath is drawn in and released.  We don’t hold on or just breathe out: we take in and let go.  What we are left with is the stuff of life.

We began with the words of the brilliant Brazilian lyricist and novelist, Paulo Coelho.  I don’t think anyone could say it more clearly than him, so it seems fitting to end with his thoughts as well. “When someone leaves, it’s because someone else is about to arrive.” 


Rosmarin, D.H., Pirutinsky, S., Cohen. A., Galler, Y., & Krumrei, E.J. (2011). Grateful to God or just plain grateful? A study of religious and non-religious gratitude. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(5), 389-396.

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410.

Tomasulo, D. (2011). Can God and Gratitude Help Your Mental Health?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 27, 2011, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives /2011/12/11/can-god-and-gratitude-help-your-mental-health/

Retrieved from: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/01/03/the-year-in-gratitude-introducing-the-virtual-gratitude-visit/

Gratitude Research Delivered: Diagnosis, Part Two


Jen Cunningham Butler uses a highly proactive and inspiring approach in dealing with the anniversary of her cancer diagnosis. At once it was corrective and intuitive; courageous and simple; heartfelt and effective.  Jen prepares for the day by honoring her health and recovery. She actively demonstrates her gratitude toward the physicians, nurses  and support staff involved in her treatment. Her story is detailed in Part One.

Part One chronicles Butler’s ongoing effort to demonstrate gratitude to all those who helped during her treatment.  These are simple acts of gratitude such as writing notes, bringing a tray of goodies into the treatment center, and even lollipops to the parking attendants.

Although these offerings of gratitude are modest, these actions undid the anxiety of recalling the day, while activating a positive sense of self and affecting others.  Instead of anxiety and depression, she was able to instill joy, feelings of well-being, and hope — because some of the goodies were delivered personally to women currently undergoing radiation.

We could leave this as a beautiful example of a human interest story, knowing that the tale alone will inspire others to approach their diagnosis day, divorce day, or whatever their “D” Day is in a different manner.  But there is something more to this story that intrigued me.

What Jen had done intuitively was to follow some foundational research in gratitude.  In fact, the cornerstone of what she did is an exact representation of one of the original positive interventions offered by Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association and the man introduced at conferences now as the “Father of Positive Psychology.”

In a seminal 2005 article, Seligman and his colleagues (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005) reported on studies with five positive interventions.  One of these they simply called the gratitude visit.  The Internet-based study engaged participants to write a letter of gratitude to someone who had been particularly kind to them in the past, but who had never been properly thanked.  Then the participants had to deliver the letter personally.

Sound familiar?

What made this study so unique in the field of positive psychology was that it was a randomized control study. The gold standard of research designs, it randomly assigns participants to the condition(s) being studied, one of which is a placebo.  The placebo condition for this experiment was to ask participants to write about their early memories every night for a week. These folks were then compared to people delivering the gratitude visit.  Those participants were given a week to write and deliver a letter of gratitude as described above.

The researchers used results from 411 participants and measured them on two scales, the Center for Epidemiological Studies–Depression Scale (CES-D), and the Steen Happiness Index (SHI).

The results?  One week after the study, people taking part in the gratitude visit were happier and less depressed, and this lasted for one month after they had completed the visit.  Of the five interventions studied, those taking part in the gratitude visit demonstrated the greatest positive change.

There are two interesting features of this study.  First, it demonstrates that a gratitude visit isn’t merely an act of kindness, it is a proven method of improving well-being by increasing happiness and reducing symptoms of depression.  Second, a six-month followup of all participants found that those who continued their particular exercise on their own continued to experience long-term benefits.

Jen thinks about her gratitude visits all year long.  Her benefits are ongoing.

Thank you, Jen, for giving us inspiration and encouragement with your ongoing examples of turning lemons into lemon trees.  For the rest of us there is only one question left: Who are we going to write our gratitude letter to?

For more information and another gratitude intervention check here.


Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410.

Tomasulo, D. (2012). The Year in Gratitude: Introducing the Virtual Gratitude VisitPsych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2012, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/01/03/the-year-in-gratitude-introducing-the-virtual-gratitude-visit/

Retrieved from: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/11/01/gratitude-research-delivered-diagnosis-day-part-two/


asd…intervene early, see positive changes.

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, Psychiatry, School Psychology, Special Education on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 06:04

Early Autism Intervention Normalizes Brain Activity

Pam Harrison

Early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized patterns of brain activity along with improvements in social behavior in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a new nationwide study shows.

The multicentre study conducted by investigators at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, showed that 73% of children who received the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) intervention showed greater brain activation when viewing faces than when viewing objects.

This was very similar to typically developing children, 71% of whom showed the same brain activation pattern when viewing faces rather than objects.

In contrast, 64% of ASD children who received the control community intervention showed a greater response to objects than to faces, the opposite response from that seen in ESDM recipients.

Previous research has shown that ASD children typically respond more to nonsocial than to social stimuli.

“Those of us in the intervention field always assumed that improving children’s learning had to change brain function — that is how we learn,” Sally Rogers, PhD, University of California, Davis, MIND Institute, told Medscape Medical News.

“This evidence confirms how we understand learning — it’s not a surface change [but rather] a change in brain activation and patterns of brain connection.

“So I think behavioral intervention can be seen as a biological intervention because it changes the biology of brain activity.”

The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Intensive Therapy

A previous report from a randomized trial indicated that ESDM, a developmental behavioral intervention, resulted in gains in IQ, language, and adaptive behavior in children with ASD (Pediatrics 2010;125:e17-e23).

The current report describes electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, a secondary outcome measurement from the same study.

A total of 48 children aged 18 to 30 months who had been diagnosed with ASD were randomly assigned to receive ESDM or referral to community intervention for 2 years.

Children randomly assigned to ESDM received the intervention for 2 hours, twice a day, 5 days a week for 2 years.

The community intervention group received comprehensive diagnostic evaluations, interventional recommendations, and community referrals.

The children enrolled in the study represented the full range of severity of ASD in early childhood, and as Dr. Rogers emphasized, they were not picked because they had mild symptoms.

Two types of brain activity measurements were collected in response to social (faces) and nonsocial (toys) stimuli.

“The first reflected early-stage perceptual processing of faces versus objects,” the authors state, “[and] the second set of measurements reflected the degree of attention engagement…and active cognitive processing of the stimulus.”

Children randomly assigned to either intervention arm did not differ from typical children in early-stage perceptual face processing, the researchers point out.

In contrast, EEG measurements reflecting patterns of attention engagement and active cognitive processing of social stimuli showed that children who received the ESDM intervention exhibited brain activity that was comparable to age-matched typical children in that both allotted greater attentional and cognitive resources during viewing of social stimuli than to nonsocial stimuli.

These patterns were different from patterns observed in children who received the community intervention, who allotted greater attentional and cognitive resources to viewing of nonsocial stimuli than to social stimuli.

Powerful Intervention

“This is a very powerful intervention,” Dr. Rogers emphasized. For example, almost none of the children had speech prior to the ESDM intervention.

The average IQ prior to the intervention was only 65, she added.

Following the intervention, the average IQ was in the 80s.

“This means that these children no longer had intellectual disability as a group, so it was a huge change, and almost all of the children were able to use language effectively and functionally as well,” Dr. Rogers said.

Children with good EEG data who received the ESDM intervention also differed significantly on behavioral outcomes in autism symptoms, IQ, language, and adaptive and social behavior.

“Many public services provide interventions for young ASD children, but too many children are getting a hodgepodge of interventions,” Dr. Rogers observed.

“But national standards require we use evidence-based intervention, and what this study demonstrated is the importance of using evidence-based interventions and delivering them with enough intensity so they can have maximal effect.”

New Target, Potential Biomarker

Thomas Insel, MD, National Institute of Mental Health, noted in a press release on the study that this may be the first demonstration that a behavioral intervention for autism is associated with changes in brain function as well as positive changes in behavior.

“By studying changes in the neural response to faces, Dawson and her colleagues have identified a new target and a potential biomarker that can guide treatment development,” Dr. Insel added.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Dawson and Dr. Rogers are authors of the book Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism, from which they receive royalties. Dr. Insel has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012:51:1150-1160. Abstract

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/773641

Early Behavioral Intervention Is Associated With Normalized Brain Activity in Young Children With Autism 






A previously published randomized clinical trial indicated that a developmental behavioral intervention, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), resulted in gains in IQ, language, and adaptive behavior of children with autism spectrum disorder. This report describes a secondary outcome measurement from this trial, EEG activity.


Forty-eight 18- to 30-month-old children with autism spectrum disorder were randomized to receive the ESDM or referral to community intervention for 2 years. After the intervention (age 48 to 77 months), EEG activity (event-related potentials and spectral power) was measured during the presentation of faces versus objects. Age-matched typical children were also assessed.

ResultsThe ESDM group exhibited greater improvements in autism symptoms, IQ, language, and adaptive and social behaviors than the community intervention group. The ESDM group and typical children showed a shorter Nc latency and increased cortical activation (decreased α power and increased θ power) when viewing faces, whereas the community intervention group showed the opposite pattern (shorter latency event-related potential [ERP] and greater cortical activation when viewing objects). Greater cortical activation while viewing faces was associated with improved social behavior.


This was the first trial to demonstrate that early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized patterns of brain activity, which is associated with improvements in social behavior, in young children with autism spectrum disorder.

Retrieved from: http://www.jaacap.com/article/S0890-8567(12)00643-0/abstract

Homework Help, Timing is Vital: Setting Yourself and Your Child Up for Success

In ADHD, ADHD child/adolescent, Education, School Psychology, Special Education on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 05:59

Homework Help, Timing is Vital: Setting Yourself and Your Child Up for Success

Every household and every student is different so we ask that when you are reviewing these guidelines think about what might need to be adjusted in your household to be sure that we are setting up for success! First off, if you are reading this you are already on your way because step 1 is being committed to improving. Whether this is the first year of homework or a teen or college student, creating new habits takes consistency and commitment; if this sounds like too much work or not the easy answer you were hoping keep reading, it is still a start!

Timing is key:  Most people with ADHD are pros at putting off things that are more difficult or take longer to complete. You will hear and may have heard almost every excuse, this isn’t about excuses, this is about accomplishment.We work on upfront contracting and positive reinforcement and reward systems. Work with the student to set the intention in advance and then stick to it. Discuss with the student the expectations of homework such as how and when you  will review daily assignments before and after they are completed. Then set a time frame for which they need to be completed by. It has to be specific and it has to fit your household. Try to use events that occur daily rather than a specific time on the clock to ensure the child has a clear understanding of what that timeframe means.

Here is one example: Child arrives home from school and they show you their work from the day and what assignments they have as soon as they walk in the door. They then have 20 minutes for snack and free time. Once the 20 minutes is up all work  must be completed before any extra activities or electronics are used including cell phone, TV and video games.

Dinner is typically not a priority for most children and even teens/adults, it is a necessity, so avoid using the “finish your homework before dinner” because that affects you and the family time not the students needs, wants or desires. Most often this upsets the person making dinner and turns into an argument and dinner time a negotiation rather than much-needed family time.

During the childs snack/free time try to estimate in your mind what they will need help with more than other things and prepare yourself to be an active observer and helper as needed so that they feel both supported and monitored. Let them  know that you are there if they need help with a certain area and if you have something to accomplish discuss that with the student before their snack.

Example: Student has some geography work that you know they typically struggle with and some reading and math that looks like they should handle with minimal guidance and you have dinner to make. “It looks like the countries you have to identify and the geography assignment is something that might be new to you. I have to make dinner, but am happy to work with you on it or be here for questions if you need, would this help? Could we work on that assignment first so then I can get dinner going while you finish up the rest of your work?”

If a child has something going on that you are aware of in the evening, remind them in the morning that because of the event they will have to skip free time and have their snack while they do their homework so that they can still make the special event.Giving them a heads up helps them to prepare rather than meltdown or feel unexpectedly rushed.

We talked about removing electronics before homework is completed, YOU HAVE TO STICK TO THIS! Set up the students space or their launch pad is vital. We will talk more about how to accomplish this in future posts but the key is to stick with it!

If your child is completing homework at after school or a relatives house be sure and still have guidelines set up for when they walk in the door at home. Is there remediation of a particular subject that they should do a few times a week? Be sure you are at least reviewing the work first thing and then coming up with your strategies from there. The more consistent your expectations and behavior the less likely you will have blow ups and missed work. Your child wants to please you and be successful even if they don’t let you know that!

Retrieved from: http://focusmdblog.com/2012/10/18/homework-help-timing-is-vital-setting-yourself-and-your-child-up-for-success/


Career-Ladder Program Centers on Teaching Rubric, Targeted Support

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 05:52


Career-Ladder Program Centers on Teaching Rubric, Targeted Support

By Liana Heiten

It’s a program that combines some of the most controversial policy issues facing teachers: value-added scores, rubric-based teacher-evaluations, professional development reform, peer review, and merit pay. In other words, it’s potentially a school’s perfect storm. And yet at one Louisiana school where the intricate career-ladder and compensation system known as TAP has been in place for four years, the climate is quite temperate. Teachers appear to be thriving and happy. And rather than using the often-inflammatory ed-policy jargon when discussing TAP, teachers there generally emphasize two simple benefits of the system: support and growth.

The school’s adoption of the TAP program was prompted, as most reforms these days are, by student-achievement concerns. In 2007, Keith Simmons, the principal at 490-student North DeSoto Middle School in the small, rural community of Stonewall, La., saw that test scores, while meeting performance goals, had hit a plateau. “We were working as hard as we could, but we felt we could do better,” the 12-year veteran principal recalls. “We needed a way to work smarter that wasn’t cliché, that wasn’t just the newest PD [fad].”

The next year, he turned to the TAP System for Student and Teacher Advancement (as its officially known), a program developed by businessman Lowell Milken in 1999 as a means of overhauling a school’s staffing model to help improve teacher quality. It didn’t take long to see results. The school exceeded its growth target that year. Since then, the North DeSoto’s performance score—a measure determined by the state based on attendance, dropouts, and student test scores—has continued to climb.

Perhaps not surprisingly, TAP is now in place in all of the DeSoto Parish school district’s 13 schools.

Moving On Up

The TAP System, operated by the nonprofit National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, is currently in place in nearly 350 schools across the country, most of which are categorized as high poverty. It relies heavily on the premise that teachers will be more invested in their work if they are able to grow, including financially, in their careers.

In a TAP school, that growth is facilitated in two ways. First, TAP teachers can move up a set career ladder, from “career teacher” to “mentor teacher” to “master teacher.” Second, on a year-by-year basis, they can earn bonuses for receiving high evaluation marks, which are a combined measure of classroom-observation scores, value-added scores, and completion of other school responsibilities.

At the heart of this advancement process system is a complex, multi-page rubric with descriptors of good teaching practices. The 19 elements on which educators are evaluated fall into three categories—lesson planning, the learning environment, and classroom instruction—and have up to a dozen sub-elements.

The rubric can be overwhelming to new TAP teachers, according to Vicki Cabra, one of two master teachers at North DeSoto, but becomes clearer and more manageable with time. “At first, you see them all [i.e., rubric elements] as separate things. Then you start to see connections,” she said. “They’re all interdependent. It becomes a part of who you are and what you do naturally.”

At North DeSoto, the rubric is the central dogma of instruction. Teachers are all but religiously devoted to understanding the elements and incorporating them into their teaching. As Nicole Bolen, a TAP executive master teacher who supports teachers in several Louisiana schools, explained, “The rubric terminology becomes the common language of the school.” Often, even students can recite it.

All teachers at TAP schools receive four evaluations per year, some at agreed-on times and others unannounced. Master teachers, who evaluate career and mentor teachers (and are themselves evaluated by executive master teachers), emphasize that the goal is not to get a perfect score on an evaluation. Instead, teachers should aim for at least a proficient score, or a 3 on the 1 to 5 scale. “It’s important to communicate to teachers what proficient means—it’s rock solid,” Bolen explained.

“I’ve never scored perfect on a lesson,” said Cabra. “It’s all about constantly improving.”

New teachers also need to understand that TAP is not meant to be “a ‘gotcha’ system,” said Bolen. “Master teachers play the role of ‘servant-leaders,'” she explained. Their aim is to help improve instruction, not catch teachers doing something wrong. Cabra said that master teachers try to develop trust with mentor and career teachers by staying visible in classrooms—and not just as evaluators. “You throw the clipboard down and go in there and start helping them,” she said. “I’m coaching you—how am I trying to ‘getcha’?”

A Model Lesson

One day last spring at North DeSoto, Bolen and Cabra evaluated a lesson by Brandi Rivers, a 7th and 8th grade English teacher who had been teaching in Louisiana schools for eight years but was new to the TAP system.

During a pre-evaluation conference, Cabra asked Rivers a series of scripted questions about what the lesson would look like. Rivers, who comes across as gentle and a bit shy, laid out a thorough lesson, replete with interactive-whiteboard visuals, reading material differentiated by paper color, and multiple grouping techniques. She answered Cabra’s questions with assurance, pointing to examples in her plan. When Cabra asked what she would model for students, Rivers stumbled for a moment. “I don’t really know what I would model,” she said.

Cabra recounted an instance in which she herself had forgotten to model during a lesson, and how that had caused confusion. She offered Rivers some suggestions—perhaps she should model the jigsaw grouping or student conversations. “Make a note and think about what you might need to model,” she told Rivers.

Upon taking her place at the front of the classroom, Rivers’ reticent manner disappeared. She taught a fast-paced and organized lesson with all the elements she’d explained in the conference—and the addition of modeling how to annotate. The transitions from whole-group instruction to group and individual activities were seamless. Her students remained focused throughout.

At the end of the period, Bolen and Cabra shared some private reflections on the multi-faceted lesson. “I’ve never seen a teacher embrace and understand the rubric the way she did,” said Cabra.

Even so, in scoring the lesson, the two spent an hour and a half pouring over each of the TAP rubric descriptors, flipping through piles of student work and their own notes to back up each score with evidence. They dove into the minutiae of individual students’ learning: Had Rivers accommodated one student’s specific learning needs? Had she pushed another student to show the higher level thinking he was capable of? “When you move from proficient to exemplary [on the rubric], you’re looking to move each student,” explained Bolen. A score sheet of 4s and 5s illustrated that Rivers had done just that.

After much discussion, Bolen and Cabra teased out a weakness in the lesson that would become Rivers’ area of “refinement”: Students had not asked questions about the content. The evaluators then came up with several simple, concrete solutions: Rivers could build in time for questions—”Wow and Wonder” sharing, for example—or she could have students write questions on their exit slips. “It’s an easy fix,” said Cabra. “We’re all about being real. We’ll set up a follow-up time, too.”

Targeted PD

In addition to receiving this sort of precise feedback after an evaluation, TAP teachers attend regular in-house professional development sessions. At North DeSoto, those take the form of twice-a-week “cluster,” or team, meetings led by master teachers. Cluster meetings are held during common prep time and run, in essence, like a school within a school. The master teachers have a dedicated classroom—Cabra and her partner’s is decorated with a luau theme and has a constant supply of snacks—where they teach lessons on research-based instructional strategies.

The masters select the strategies meticulously based on the clusters’ needs, as determined by classroom observations and data collection. They even “field test” the strategies with students before teaching them to the PD group. The intended result is a sort of trickle-down, real-time instructional effect: Master teachers target and fill in instructional gaps for teachers, who then head back to class and fill in knowledge gaps for students.

According to Laura Goe, a research scientist at Educational Testing Service and a principal investigator for research and dissemination for The National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, this direct link between teacher evaluation and professional growth is often more important to TAP teachers and administrators than the prospects for merit pay. “It’s all about professional-growth opportunities and not about the money for them,” she said.

A 2009 review of teacher evaluation systems commissioned by the National Education Association echoed that sentiment, finding that TAP teachers were generally positive about the system and the support they receive. Performance pay, it turned out, was the least popular element of the TAP system.

Simmons, the North DeSoto principal, echoed that it is the “support piece,” not the accountability or performance pay, that excites him about TAP. “Accountability without support is counterproductive,” he said.

The alignment between professional support and evaluation is also the part of the system that non-TAP schools and districts can learn the most from, according to Goe, who has written extensively on teacher evaluation. Schools should hire “trained observers who are required to have conversations with teachers about practice,” she said. From there, schools should be “tying that to PD goals and opportunities for teachers, and ensuring teachers get access to those opportunities.

Goe is adamant that that kind of alignment “can happen anywhere. You don’t need TAP to do that.” Any school can point teachers to online resources and outside PD that correlate to their instructional weaknesses.

What schools do need before they can align PD to targeted teacher needs, however, is a research-based instructional rubric, said Goe. For instance, Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, which the TAP rubric is based on in part, or the Classroom Assessment Scoring System from the University of Virginia are both good options, she said. The key is that schools are “using evaluation results to improve professional growth. … That’s the sort of thing TAP is very good about and [other schools] can learn about,” she said.

Promises and Pitfalls

Learning from TAP’s successes may be the best that some schools can do, because like with any overhaul, TAP will not work everywhere. First and foremost, the system requires buy-in from staff. NIET recommends that schools take a vote before adopting TAP, and only do so if 75 percent of teachers are in favor of the move. Teachers also need to accept the rubric as doctrine for good teaching and devote themselves to understanding and implementing it.

TAP, particularly because of the built-in bonus pay and extra staffers, is also quite expensive. Kathy Noel, director of curriculum and instruction for Desoto Parish schools, said that the average cost there is about $445,000 per school. The district has been able to fund the initiative through a combination of money from federal Title 1, Teacher Incentive Funds, School Improvement Funds 1003G, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, Title II, and local funds. But in many places, drumming up that kind of cash is simply not feasible.

TAP is not always as successful as it has been at North DeSoto, either. In 2007, just two years after implementing TAP in 26 schools, Louisiana’s Calcasieu Parish gave up on the program. Performance scores had improved at 58 percent of schools, according to Kristan Van Hook, senior vice president for public policy and development at NIET, but “it wasn’t the kind of success we normally hoped to see.” Van Hook said Hurricane Rita, which closed schools for six weeks in 2005, made the first year with TAP a challenging one.

But Jean Johnson, president of the Calcasieu Federation of Teachers, said that teachers were “very unhappy” with the system, which the district “jumped into full force.” The system “wound up costing millions for the parish,” she said, and “we didn’t feel like the results were any better than what we were already doing.”

But for Rivers, the English teacher at North DeSoto, the promise of professional growth and improved practice have rung true. “One of the reasons I left my other schools is because I felt like I wasn’t growing anymore,” she said. Previous principals had simply labeled her teaching “satisfactory,” leaving her at a loss for how or where to improve. But because the TAP mentor teachers offer specific feedback at the debriefing sessions, she said, she now knows her students better and can address their needs.

“We’re constantly going over data, I know their abilities and weaknesses more, I know what modifications I need to make,” Rivers said. “I feel like I’ve grown more this year than all my other years of teaching.”

Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2012/10/17/tl_tap.html

abandonment in teaching…

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 05:37

What Do We Selectively Abandon?

Peter Dewitt

“The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.” Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Mission Statement

Teach.com recently posted a story entitled Cursive Writing Being Phased Out in Some Schools. They said, “that this change is partially due to the implementation of the common core standards, which does not require teaching cursive handwriting but instead emphasizes more technology-oriented learning. It will be ultimately up to individual districts to decide whether they will continue teaching cursive writing or ditch what may become an obsolete skill.”

Just like with any subject, handwriting is met with mixed feelings with many teachers. Some love to teach it because it is one of those areas schools have always been known for and it is an important part of who we are. People comment on one another’s handwriting and there are experts who can tell a lot about someone based on their handwriting. For those of us who are left handed, we often hear that we write upside down.

However, this story leads to a discussion that is much larger than handwriting, although handwriting is extremely important to some people. This story leads to a discussion about what we need to selectively abandon as we move forward in education. What are the most important subjects and topics we can teach to students? What are the ones that should be left behind?

Education is changing. In some cases it is changing for the better when we look at engaging students with technology and cooperative learning. In other cases it is changing for the worse because of absurd accountability and high stakes testing. Those things teachers, students and administrators control will lead to more prepared students and more innovative teaching practices. With all of these changes teachers simply do not have the time to continue teaching everything they have always taught.

To Abandon or Not Abandon…That is the Question
Over the past couple of years since the CCSS came our way educators have had discussions about what they can teach and what they have to give up. The biggest shifts came in Math and ELA and those teachers who long had a passion for certain topics found that they had to stop teaching them because they were no longer a grade level expectation.

What made all of this a little more complicated is that the CCSS are a base of what teachers need to teach and what students need to learn. They do not dictate, although some believe they do, exactly how subjects and topics need to be taught each year and if teachers have time they can still teach topics beyond what the CCSS ask. CCSS state, “The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.”

For schools that have been in the curriculum mapping process for the past five or six years the question of selectively abandoning certain topics have come up over and over again. This happens because every teacher is known for specializing in something. Teachers have things that they have loved to teach and have built upon it year after year. Former students return remembering those topics and how the teachers taught them.

Those same teachers are finding that the topics they are known for might not fit into their present teaching situations and they find that a little sad. That level of control over what they chose to teach is somewhat gone. As much as those teachers have the reputation for being great teachers, they are finding those topics they love the most are no longer relevant to their grade level expectations, which can leave educators feeling a little empty.

In the End
To some teachers cursive writing is as important as learning a foreign language. To those of us left handers who actually have good handwriting it is a way to prove that we do not all write upside down. To other educators the idea of not teaching cursive writing is a welcomed idea that will provide them more freedom to teach other subjects they love more. Ultimately, this is about so much more than cursive writing. This is about teachers giving up topics that they have long valued.

The optimist in me feels as though some of these shifts will lead to new topics to explore and love. As much as we feel angst now where the CCSS are concerned we may find more passion for them in the future as we become more familiar and think of new ways to teach outside the framework box provided to us. Whatever comes to us also provides us with a new opportunity to learn and we should never selectively abandon our own learning.

Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2012/11/what_do_we_selectively_abandon.html

the workplace blahs…

In Fitness/Health on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 05:31

What to Do When You Feel Blah About Your Job


You open your eyes, and a feeling of dread washes over you. It’s a weekday, which means it’s a

workday, which makes work one of the last places you’d like to be.

Or maybe you don’t feel dread, exactly. Instead, it’s a vague feeling. Something between despair and

delight – perhaps indifference. You’re not particularly excited about your job. But you’re also not running

for the hills.

Either way, your job isn’t doing it for you: You’re feeling blah.

And you’re not alone. According to a 2011 survey by consulting company Accenture, 57 percent of

women and 59 percent of men were dissatisfied with their jobs.

Blah feelings can mean many things. The key is to dig deeper, and see how you can improve your work

situation — and ultimately your life. Below, two seasoned coaches share their wisdom on what to do.

Excavating Your Blah Feelings

For starters, consider if the blahs follow you after work. “Check in and see if you feel blah when on vacation, over the weekend, and when

doing things outside of work that are restorative or fun,” said Rachel W. Cole, a life coach and retreat leader.

Let’s say they don’t. Let’s say your blah feelings are isolated to your work. But is it your profession as a whole or something about your

particular job that’s the problem?

“Is it the people, the tasks, the subject matter, the hours, the pressure of a tight deadline, the too-much-time-glued-to-a-computerscreen?” said Michelle Ward, the When I Grow Up Coach, who’s helped hundreds of people create the career they think they can’t have —

or discover in the first place.

For instance, Ward worked with a teacher who wanted her help in finding a new career path. After six sessions, however, she realized that

she didn’t need to switch careers; she needed to switch jobs. Today, Ward’s client is working at “another school where the staff [is] kind

and open to new ideas,” Ward said.

If you’re not sure which parts of your job are problematic, for several days, keep a notebook close by as you work, she said. Any time

you’re feeling blah, jot down precisely what you’re doing. “Get as specific as you can,” Ward said.

Identifying Your Hungers and Values

Determining your true values and desires is an important step toward realizing a fulfilling career and life. Does your current job align with

your deepest values or desires?

Cole works with clients to identify their hungers so they can lead well-fed lives. “Practice noticing what doesn’t feel good [or] right,

[which] usually points to a hunger,” she said. She also suggested answering these journal prompts:

“I’m afraid I can’t/won’t get it, but what I really desire is…”

“No one in my life knows I secretly hunger for…”

“If I’m honest with myself, I’m deeply and truly hungry for…”

Ward asks her clients to complete a “Values Game” at this site. “[It] helps you hone in — and then prioritize — what your values are,” she


She also suggested readers reflect on meaningful moments in their lives. “If they get clear on why those moments felt that way to them,

then their values aren’t far behind,” she said.

Switching Careers or Pursuing Passions on the Side

Should you stay with your current career – or should you switch professions altogether? “It boils down to what’s meaningful to [you],

what feels enough,” Ward said.

Some people are perfectly happy doing work they’re good at – and then volunteering, sewing or styling on the side, she said.

However, others yearn to do things they’re passionate about as their profession, she said. For these individuals a side gig simply isn’t


But, of course, switching careers isn’t simple. So “don’t do it unless you really just have to,” Ward said. “You need that ache, that sense

of regret if you don’t go for it.”

Again, self-reflection can help you in making this difficult decision. Cole suggested asking yourself these questions:

  • “How does work make me feel?”
  • “Is it my specific workplace that doesn’t work for me or is it the career itself?”
  • “Does the job leave me enough time and energy to pursue my passion after work?”
  • “Are there ways to change my current job to meet some or all of my needs [such as] delegating to others, asking to telecommute, etc.?”
  • “If I had a year to live, and I still needed to employed, would I stay here or leave?”

If you’re still stumped, hiring a coach can be incredibly helpful. (Also, check out Ward’s series with inspiring stories of people who’ve found new jobs or started their own businesses since 2008.)

Remember that “It’s never ever too late in life to change your mind, switch paths, try something new, change our mind again, do a U-turn or take a sharp left,” Cole said. Linear career paths are rare, she said.

“Switch up your life to match who you are now and what you know about yourself,” she said.

Retrieved from: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/11/01/what-to-do-when-you-feel-blah-about-your-job/

more on staying informed…

In Politics on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 05:28

no matter who you cast your vote for, (imo) it is your obligation to not do so blindly.  you are NOT voting for a person, but for the platform and ideals for which they stand.  to me, just going out to vote does not truly exercise your freedom and right to vote.  you must do so with knowledge of the platform and plans the person you are voting for proposes.


tribute to a friend…jonathan kozol quotes.

In Education, Education advocacy, School reform on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 05:13

jonathan kozol…a tireless supporter of equality in education. and my friend.

“If you could lead through testing, the U.S. would lead the world in all education categories. When are people going to understand you don’t fatten your lambs by weighing them?”

“A dream does not die on its own. A dream is vanquished by the choices ordinary people make about real things in their own lives…”

“I have been criticized throughout the course of my career for placing too much faith in the reliability of children’s narratives; but I have almost always found that children are a great deal more reliable in telling us what actually goes on in public school than many of the adult experts who develop policies that shape their destinies.”

“You have to remember. . .that for this little boy whom you have met, his life is just as important to him, as your life is to you. No matter how insufficient or how shabby it may seem to some, it is the only one he has.”

“Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.”

“The future teachers I try to recruit are those show have refused to let themselves be neutered in this way, either in their private lives or in the lives that they intend to lead in school. When they begin to teach, they come into their classrooms with a sense of affirmation of the goodness and the fullness of existence, with a sense of satisfaction in discovering the unexpected in their students, and with a longing to surprise the world, their kids, even themselves, with their capacity to leave each place they’ve been … a better and more joyful place than it was when they entered it.”

“Good teachers don’t approach a child of this age with overzealousness or with destructive conscientiousness. They’re not drill-masters in the military or floor managers in a production system. They are specialists in opening small packages. They give the string a tug but do it carefully. They don’t yet know what’s in the box. They don’t know if it’s breakable. ”

“I always want to tell these young idealists that the world is not as dangerous as many in the older generation want them to believe…The [people] for whom I feel the greatest sadness are the ones who choke on their beliefs, who never act on their ideals, who never know the state of struggle in a decent cause, and never know the thrill of even partial victories.”

“There is something deeply hypocritical in a society that holds an inner-city child only eight years old “accountable” for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids six or seven years before.”

“We should invest in kids like these,” we’re told, “because it will be more expensive not to.” Why do our natural compassion and religious inclinations need to find a surrogate in dollar savings to be voiced or acted on? Why not give these kids the best we have because we are a wealthy nation and they are children and deserve to have some fun while they are still less than four feet high?”

“Young children give us glimpses of some things that are eternal.”

“Evil exists,” he says, not flinching at the word. “I believe that what the rich have done to the poor people in this city is something that a preacher would call evil. Somebody has power. Pretending that they don’t so they don’t need to use it to help people-that is my idea of evil.”

“A dream does not die on it’s own. A dream is vanquished by the choices ordinary people make about real things in their own lives.The motive may be different, and I’m sure it often is; the consequence is not.”

“The rich…should beg the poor to forgive us for the bread we bring them. Healthy people sometimes feel they need to beg forgiveness too, although there is no reason why. Maybe we simply ask forgiveness for not being born where these poor women have been born, knowing that if we lived here too, our fate might well have been the same.”

“Shorn of unattractive language about “robots” who will be producing taxes and not burglarizing homes, the general idea that schools in ghettoized communities must settle for a different set of goals than schools that serve the children of the middle class and upper middle class has been accepted widely. And much of the rhetoric of “rigor” and “high standards” that we hear so frequently, no matter how egalitarian in spirit it may sound to some, is fatally belied by practices that vulgarize the intellects of children and take from their education far too many of the opportunities for cultural and critical reflectiveness without which citizens become receptacles for other people’s ideologies and ways of looking at the world but lack the independent spirits to create their own.”

“Still, the facts are always there. Every teacher, every parent, every priest who serves this kind of neighborhood knows what these inequalities imply. So the sweetness of the moment loses something of its sweetness later on when you’re reminded of the odds these children face and of the ways injustice slowly soils innocence. You wish you could eternalize these times of early glory. You wish that Elio and Ariel and Pineapple could stay here in this garden of their juvenile timidity forever. You know they can’t. You have a sense of what’s ahead. You do your best to shut it out. You want to know them as they are. You do not want to think too much of what may someday be.”

“Research experts want to know what can be done about the values of poor segregated children; and this is a question that needs asking. But they do not ask what can be done about the values of the people who have segregated these communities. There is no academic study of the pathological detachment of the very rich…”

“If high salaries for school teachers and small class size and attractive spacious buildings equipped with beautiful libraries and computers are good for the son or daughter of a president or a member of the Senate or a CEO, then they’re also good for the poorest child in the Bronx.”

“In a sense, those of us – and I’ve had a privileged education, too – those of us who have those benefits have to live with the uncomfortable knowledge that all our victories in life will be contaminated by the fact that we were winners in a game that was never played on a level playing field.”

“The ones I pity are the ones who never stick out their neck for something they believe, never know the taste of moral struggle, and never have the thrill of victory.”

“Even if you never do anything about this, you’ve benefited from an unjust system. You’re already the winner in a game that was rigged to your advantage from the start.”

“So long as these kinds of inequalities persist, all of us who are given expensive educations have to live with the knowledge that our victories are contaminated because the game has been rigged to our advantage.”

“If you grow up in the South Bronx today or in south-central Los Angeles or Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, you quickly come to understand that you have been set apart and that there’s no will in this society to bring you back into the mainstream.”

“I think a lot of people don’t have any idea of how deeply segregated our schools have become all over again. Most textbooks are not honest in what they teach our high school students.”

“At that time, I had recently finished a book called Amazing Grace, which many people tell me is a very painful book to read. Well, if it was painful to read, it was also painful to write. I had pains in my chest for two years while I was writing that book.”

“What I tell these young people is, the world is not as dangerous as the older generation would like you to believe. Anyone I know who has ever taken a risk and lost a job has ended up getting a better one two years later.”

“But for the children of the poorest people we’re stripping the curriculum, removing the arts and music, and drilling the children into useful labor. We’re not valuing a child for the time in which she actually is a child.”

“Instead of seeing these children for the blessings that they are, we are measuring them only by the standard of whether they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs.”

“An awful lot of people come to college with this strange idea that there’s no longer segregation in America’s schools, that our schools are basically equal; neither of these things is true.”

“Children are not simply commodities to be herded into line and trained for the jobs that white people who live in segregated neighborhoods have available.”

“During the decades after Brown v. Board of Education there was terrific progress. Tens of thousands of public schools were integrated racially. During that time the gap between black and white achievement narrowed.”

jonathan’s playful side…what makes him so special.

sex and the smartphone…

In Fitness/Health on Thursday, 1 November 2012 at 08:23

Teens Who Use Smartphones May Engage in More Sex

By Rachael Rettner

Teens who own a smartphone may be at increased risk for engaging in risky sex behavior, a new study suggests.

In the study, teens who had access to the Internet on their cellphones were more than twice as likely to engage in sex with a person they met online compared with those without access to the Internet on their phones. Teens with smartphones were also more likely to be sexually active in general, and more likely to say they had been approached for sex online.

The results held even after the researchers accounted for factors that could affect sexual behavior and cellphone use, such as age, gender, race and sexual orientation.

The study was presented here today (Oct. 30) at the annual meeting of the America PublicHealth Association.

Smartphones likely aren’t directly causing risky teen sex, said study researcher Eric Rice, of the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work in Los Angeles. Rather, smartphones may make it easier for teens to arrange sexual encounters, Rice said.

“It’s a tool through which this sort of behavior can happen,” Rice said.

While parents have come up with strategies to monitor the online behavior of their kids on computers, “I don’t know that we’ve thought through quite as clearly what it means for teens to have the Internet on their phones 24 hours a day,” Rice said.

Rice said sex education programs should start to include discussions regarding the risks of seeking sex online. In addition, parents should use this as an opportunity to begin a discussion with their teen about sexual health and use of technology, he said.

“I don’t want parents to freak out,” Rice said.

The study involved about 1,840 high-school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District who were surveyed in the 2010 to 2011 school year. The majority (71 percent) identified as Hispanic or Latino.

About one-third said they had a smartphone, 5 percent said they used the Internet to seek sex partners, and 17 percent said they had been approached for sex online. For comparison, a Nielson survey released in September found about 58 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds now own a smartphone. Differences in demographic factors may have also played a role in smartphone ownership.

Forty-seven percent of teens who owned a smartphone said they were sexually active, compared with 35 percent of those who did not own a smartphone.

The researchers plan to submit their study for publication in a scientific journal.

Follow Rachael Rettner on Twitter @RachaelRettner, or MyHealthNewsDaily @MyHealth_MHND.We’re also on Facebook & Google+.

Retrieved from: http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/30/14810390-teens-who-use-smartphones-may-engage-in-more-sex?lite

How Your Eyes Deceive You

In Brain studies, Neuroscience on Thursday, 1 November 2012 at 07:09

How Your Eyes Deceive You

Neuroscience News

Researchers at the University of Sydney have thrown new light on the tricks the brain plays as it struggles to make sense of the visual and other sensory signals it constantly receives.

The research has implications for understanding how the brain interprets the world visually and how the brain itself works.

People rely on their eyes for most tasks – yet the information provided by our visual sensing system is often distorted, unreliable and subject to illusion.

In a just published article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Dr Isabelle Mareschal and Professor Colin Clifford, from the University’s School of Psychology and The Vision Centre, report a series of groundbreaking experiments tracing the origins of the tilt illusion to the cells of the primary visual cortex. This is where the first stage of vision processing takes place before the conscious mind takes over.

“We tend to regard what we see as the real world,” said Dr Mareschal.

“In fact a lot of it is distortion, and it is occurring in the early processing of the brain, before consciousness takes over. Our work shows that the cells of the primary visual cortex create small distortions, which then pass on to the higher levels of the brain, to interpret as best it can.”

A common example of this that is often exploited by artists and designers is known as the tilt illusion where perfectly vertical lines appear tilted because they are placed on an oriented background.

“We wanted to test at what level the illusion occurs in the brain, unconscious or conscious – and also to see if the higher brain is aware of the illusions it is receiving and how it tries to correct for them,” she explains.

“The answer is that the brain seeks more contextual information from the background to try to work out the alignment of the object it is seeing.”

The team subjected volunteers to a complex test in which they indicated the orientation of a vertical line, perceived as constantly tilting from side to side, against a fuzzy background that was also changing.

“These illusions happen very fast, perhaps in milliseconds,” Dr Mareschal says. “And we found that even the higher brain cannot always correct for them, as it doesn’t in fact know they are illusions.”

This is one reason why people’s eyes sometimes mislead them when looking at objects in their visual landscape.

Normally, Dr Mareschal explains, it doesn’t matter all that much – but in the case of a person driving a car fast in traffic, an athlete performing complex acrobatic feats, a pilot landing an aircraft or other high-speed uses of sight, the illusion may be of vital importance by causing them to misinterpret the objects they ‘see’.

The brain uses context, or background, to interpret a host of other visual signals besides the orientation of objects. For example, it uses context to tell colour, motion, texture and contrast. The research will help study how the brain understands these visual cues adding to our overall understanding of brain function.

In this tilt illusion, the lines in the centre of the image appear tilted counterclockwise, but they are actually vertical. Image adapted from University of Sydney image.

The Vision Centre is funded by the Australian Research Council as the ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science.

Contact: Verity Leatherdale – The University of Sydney

Source: The University of Sydney press release

Image Source: Neuroscience News image adapted from press release image

Original Research: Abstract for “Dynamics of unconscious contextual effects in orientation processing” by Isabelle Mareschal and Colin W. G. Clifford in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Published online before print April 23, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1200952109

Retrieved from: http://neurosciencenews.com/how-your-eyes-deceive-you-neuroscience-optical-illusion/

this won’t hurt a bit…and it’s the truth!

In Fitness/Health on Thursday, 1 November 2012 at 06:48

article regarding children, pain, anxiety, and a good doctor.


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