The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, by Catherine Steiner-Adair and Teresa Barker

The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, by Catherine Steiner-Adair and Teresa Barker, provides insights about managing family life and rearing healthy children from infancy through teenage years amidst the omnipresence of technology.  Steiner-Adair recognizes that technology can be a constructive learning and socializing tool—it allows us to see and speak to faraway family and enables us to learn at any time and from anywhere.  However, she urges parents to be measured about their own use of technology and about the influence they let technology assert in their children’s lives. Steiner-Adair draws on her experience as a clinical psychologist, school consultant, and clinical instructor at the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School to sprinkle The Big Disconnect with illuminative personal stories from her clients.

Steiner-Adair labels technology and media as addictive, ubiquitous, laden with damaging content, fast-paced, permanent, and invasive. We are all hyperconnected all the time, and yet we are also less present in the moment and less comfortable with face-to-face interactions. Intimacy gives way to superficial social connections, which (among other problems) facilitates more vicious bullying.  Children may perceive parents who are distracted by technology as emotionally unavailable.  Children who get less practice with in-person interactions get less training in interpreting conversational nuances, and those with an iPad always in-hand get less practice in learning to play creatively on their own.  Further, technology makes cynical, stereotype-ridden, violent, and sexual adult content intrusively present to even the most innocent children. Finally, technology assumes quick decision-making.  These decisions, however, can have serious and permanent consequences (e.g., kids making expensive purchases online without their parents’ knowledge or posting cruel content about a peer that can go viral and damage that person’s reputation).  The incessant blinking and buzzing in modern technology may contribute to the increased prevalence of ADHD as technology cultivates children who are more distracted.

Steiner Adair outlines the risks and challenges associated with technology usage for five age groups of childhood. She believes that there is absolutely no productive role technology can play in the life of a baby under two years old, and she goes so far as to suggest that electronics should come with warning labels stating that they may be hazardous to a baby’s development.  For preschoolers, Steiner-Adair says that some technology can contribute positively to development (e.g., Sesame Street), but most shows, even those targeted to this age group, contain harmful messages.  Technology use among children five and under can make them less persistent learners, less creative in their free play, less facile and empathic communicators. It can have an addictive quality to it.  Steiner-Adair says that media consumption among non-white and female children ages six to ten negatively impacts their self-esteem and introduces gender-stereotypical, homophobic, and violent messages.  For children under ten a vital message a parent can impart is that her child should always tell her what she has seen online, even if the child feels embarrassed.

Tweens and teens are consumed by their social media personas during a time when their real-life identity is developing. The Internet has emerged as the primary, albeit deficient, source of sex education for tweens. The average American child sees pornography by age 11. The media teach tweens and teens about a problematic “friends with benefits” model of romantic relationships that separates physical intimacy and interpersonal social interactions. Teens send sexually explicit texts (“sext”) as a way of courting one another. In response, Steiner-Adair offers a script that parents can use with male and female tweens and teens to discuss how to form healthy romantic and sexual connections and how to avoid being “friends with benefits.” Given the pervasiveness of technology in tweens and teens’ lives, Steiner-Adair argues that more important than limiting adolescents’ use of technology, is teaching them about appropriate use. The same questions that parents might ask a teen before he is allowed to use the car (who, what, where, and when) should be asked of a teen about his technology usage.

Steiner-Adair offers recommendations about how to be an approachable parent  (i.e., how not to be a parent a child would describe as “scary, crazy, or clueless”).  She recommends creating an “amnesty policy”: parents will not get mad if the child admits to having gotten in trouble online. Parents should model for their children the tech rules that their children should follow. Steiner-Adair ends by saying strong families are those that are deeply connected.  These families play together across generations, have conversations about feelings and values, learn how to disagree constructively, appreciate each family member for his or her unique qualities, and spend time with one another with and without technology.

The Big Disconnect is an insightful guide for parents that offers advice about using technology to our advantage and knowing when to unplug.

 

Steiner-Adair, C., & Barker, T. H. (2013). The big disconnect: Protecting childhood and family relationships in the digital age. Harper Business.

The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand The Unconscious In Art, Mind, and Brain From Vienna 1900 to The Present by Eric Kandel

Artists and neuroscientists alike will be drawn to The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand The Unconscious In Art, Mind, and Brain From Vienna 1900 to The Present.  Author Dr. Eric Kandel, a Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University and Nobel Laureate in Medicine, argues that the time is ripe to pursue questions in a new, interdisciplinary field of neuroaesthetics.  This field would address neuroscientific questions about how the brain processes perceptual information, especially when that information carries emotional salience. Also, neuroaesthetics would help artists understand more deeply the critical aspects of emotion and the perceptual information that captivate the mind and brain.  The field could ultimately lead to new and creative art forms.

Kandel uses turn-of-the-20th century Vienna as an exemplar of the productivity of a cultural and intellectual milieu that facilitates cross-pollination among painters, writers, psychologists, doctors, and other intellectuals.  Using the tools of their respective disciplines, Vienna’s elites began exploring unconscious human mental states.  They turned inward to grapple with their own internal emotional and thought processes. Social gatherings at salons, like those hosted by Berta Zuckerkandl, were fertile ground for the exchange of ideas. Among the Viennese intellectuals Kandel examines are:  Carl Von Rokitansky, a doctor who espoused the view that medicine should be rooted in sciences (rather than philosophy) and pioneered the practice of literally looking inside a person to understand disease;  Arthur Schnitzler, a Viennese writer whose works focused on themes of eroticism and relied on stream-of-conscience and inner monologues; and Sigmund Freud, who is well-known for delving into deeply rooted human motivations and desires.

Kandel focuses in particular on three Viennese modernist painters:  Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoscka, and Egon Schiele. Through their portraits they showed what an emotion feels like and how it is experienced.  They depicted faces, often with emotionally ambiguous expressions. The brain’s processing of faces is well researched. Nancy Kanwisher’s research from about a decade ago suggested that there is a particular region in the inferior temporal cortex of the brain, known as the fusiform face area, that responds strongly and specifically to viewing faces. Kandel draws on the fact that both art and neuroscience have a deep understanding of the importance of faces in order to help illustrate the ways in which art and psychological and brain sciences can learn from one another. Portraiture may serve an evolutionary purpose by offering practice in reading faces, a skill that psychologists suggest is important for using clues about avoiding threats and finding rewards.

Alois Riegl, an art historian in Vienna, introduced an idea now known as the “beholder’s share”.  Riegl believed that there is a collaboration between an artist and the viewer of his art; without both parties, the artwork is incomplete.  This idea is compatible also with the German Gestalt psychology movement, which created abstruse images in which it is possible to see two different objects (e.g., the Rubin Vase that depicts either a vase or the profile of two men facing one another). In this way, the viewer’s mind fashions the image that he sees as much as the image’s creator chooses the subject of the image.  Kandel states that what we perceive about the outside world is as much inferred as it is observed.

Kandel details the brain and neuronal bases for our perceptual abilities.  Vision begins in the eye and the optic nerve and involves several brain areas (including the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus and the primary visual cortex in the occipital lobe). He describes the function of photoreceptor cells called rods and cones; rods detect light and the three different types of cones facilitate color discrimination. Kandel describes the cues we instinctively use to understand depth, like comparing the relative size of objects or comparing the size of an unfamiliar object to a familiar one. Artists draw on these visual habits and use lines and contours to help viewers perceive three-dimensional shapes on a two-dimensional surface.

Just as the modernist artists explored how people experience emotions, so too have biologists, psychologists, and neuroscientists examined how the brain and body process emotions. Klimt, Kokoschka, and Shiele were able to reveal their subjects’ internal feelings.  Neuoroscience suggests that mirror neurons help us imitate another person’s behavior, which is a first step in developing a theory of mind—the ability to understand another’s internal thoughts and goals.

Kandel argues that through various means artists and scientists try to reduce the world to its component parts in order to make it more comprehensible. This newly proposed field of neuroaesthetics might shed light on the nature of conscious and unconscious thought, the nature of creativity, and the relation between consciousness and creativity. Kandel calls for the recreation of environments like the Zuckerkandl salon with the fluid exchange of ideas across disciplines.  Neuroscientists, artists, and beholders of art alike will benefit from attempting to bridge the chasm between science and art.

Smart Thinking: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate, and Get Things Done by Art Markman

In Smart Thinking: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate, and Get Things Done, Art Markman draws on psychological and cognitive scientific principles to provide a general audience with techniques for changing mental habits, improving memory formation, and refining decision-making skills. Smart thinking, he argues, is based upon the wise use of the information one possesses to pursue a goal. Smart thinking is not raw intelligence or test taking ability.

Effective habits are key to smart thinking. Repetition, environmental cues, and distinctive actions facilitate habit formation. Eliminating bad habits by relying on willpower is extremely taxing; rather, one should replace bad habits with good behaviors through changes in the environment. A “habit diary” can help a person track her progress toward habit change.

A person cannot process—let alone remember—all the information to which he is exposed, but he can use a few techniques to be strategic about what he will remember. For example, whether preparing oneself to remember written or oral information or preparing others to remember the information one will present, we can aid memory by providing a preview, sticking to three main points, and reviewing key information. Also, being mentally present and resisting the cultural habit of multi-tasking are important for remembering. Markman asserts that we are more likely to remember information if it is meaningful and related to already known concepts. It can be recalled most easily when we are in a state similar to the state we were in when we learned it originally. If upon initially learning new information we experience some “desirable difficulty,” we are more likely to retain that information since we had to work to understand it.

We can bolster our ability to learn, remember, and innovate by asking the question “why” and answering this question when teaching others. It is important to ask oneself “why” questions given that people overestimate the extent to which they understand a concept. In the spirit of learning and with a friendly and non-accusatory disposition, people should ask others “why” when that speaker explains a new concept or uses new, unique terminology.

Effective decision-making is the third key component of smart thinking. Markman suggests his readers familiarize themselves with their decision-making style or their “need for closure” in deciding among options. Swift decision makers may need to take time to fully consider potential creative solutions and cool-off before committing to a course of action; painstakingly deliberate decision makers should learn to commit to a solution and recognize the futility of generating endless options. Decision makers should ensure that they clearly understand the situation about which they need to make a decision, which may require recasting the problem in different terms. People should elicit help from others in identifying issues they may have overlooked. Analogies are a powerful way to structure people’s beliefs and projections about situations. Proverbs (and stories and jokes) are a pithy and effective way of drawing an analogy. Markman even suggests his readers study lists of proverbs to improve their understanding of the key relations in a situation. Diagrams and gestures can be a more effective way of expressing a problem or the steps to a solution than words alone.

Finally, in the interdependent culture in which most people will find themselves (including in the corporate world), an organization’s “smart thinking” is critical. People tend to adopt the goals and actions exhibited by those around them. Accordingly, organizations should help their members reflect on how they think, stretch them to learn, be encouraging of new ideas and questions, probe for deep explanations, discourage multitasking, and encourage an attitude of “we” not “I.”

In addition to improving habits, memory, and decision making, Markman scatters throughout the book “instantly smarter” tips that one can implement immediately to improve thinking. Among his suggestions are: get a good night’s sleep; listen to your emotional reactions when making decisions; if you do not know something important, then identify the people who would possess that information; and if you struggle to remember something, stop thinking about it and the solution may come to you.

With a clear structure and relatable examples, Markman provides easily digestible tips to improve our habits of mind and to execute Smart Thinking.

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman

Scott Barry Kaufman, the author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, is a cognitive psychologist and was a student in special education classes. As a student enormously impacted by intelligence testing and labels, he presents the enduring emotional impact that a learning disability diagnosis and IQ testing had on him; as an Intelligence researcher, Kaufman traces the history of defining and testing intelligence, delineates other personal qualities key to success, and ultimately proposes a new definition of intelligence that aims to help each individual thrive.

Kaufman presents the continuing disagreement about what constitutes intelligence. Some intelligence scholars, such as Charles Spearman, conceived of intelligence as a single entity, a general intelligence. Others, like Howard Gardner, believe that there are in fact multiple (seven or more) independent “intelligences” that a person might posses.

Since Alfred Binet’s first modern IQ test there have been numerous iterations of IQ tests, but all are imperfect measures of intelligence. There is substantial variability in an individual’s IQ score both between two administrations of the same IQ test and among various different IQ tests. Kaufman challenges the practice of summarizing a person’s intelligence based on a test that lasts only a few hours, that asks decontextualized questions that may be dissimilar to an individual’s everyday experiences, and that offers little opportunity for practice. In addition, a test-taker’s score can be affected by her anxiety or by stereotype threat (the phenomenon in which a person’s fear of confirming a culturally relevant stereotype can make him perform in a stereotype consistent manner).

There is variation in conceptualizations and determinations of giftedness. While our federal definition includes 6 distinct abilities (intellect, academic aptitude, creativity, leadership, artistic skill, and psychomotor ability) states vary considerably in how they operationalize giftedness. Most states rely on IQ tests to determine giftedness, and no state includes measures of motivation in giftedness determinations. This perpetuates a view that intelligence is fixed and that giftedness is a trait one does or does not possess rather than that a student can act gifted. The Matthew Effect sets in; those labelled as gifted become genuinely more gifted. Conversely, students with a learning disability may become less interested in school and perform less well than they would otherwise.

Kaufman’s examples of people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), dyslexia, ADHD, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia/schizotypal traits, prodigies, and savants speak to the problem of relying on IQ measurements to determine a person’s strengths or potential. For example, a boy known as NP, was an extraordinary musical savant, and yet he had an IQ in the 60s. The deficits in social skills that people with ASD typically display can virtually disappear if the person discusses a topic of special interest. People on the schizophrenia spectrum are more creative than people without these diagnoses. All students, Kaufman argues, should be given resources and opportunities to demonstrate their strengths, even if they are atypical gifts.

Study after study finds that various personal characteristics and beliefs are better predictors of success than intelligence alone. Kaufman embraces Adele Diamond’s argument that a student will reach his highest academic potential when schools invest in his full development as a social, emotional, and physical being. A person’s motivation to succeed and persistence in working towards a goal even in the face of set-backs (grit) best distinguishes and predicts the highest achievers. Those with a growth mindset, a belief that their skills and intelligence can be improved, are indeed more likely than those that believe intelligence is fixed to seek out challenging tasks and to process deeply feedback from these tasks. Kaufman sites research suggesting that more so than IQ, hope was related to academic success. Self-regulation skills are critical for success as early as preschool and are predictive of important later life outcomes like substance abuse, financial prudence, and criminal convictions.

Kaufman believes that intelligence must be redefined. He offers the Theory of Personal Intelligence, that is, “Intelligence is the dynamic interplay of engagement and abilities in pursuit of personal goals.”

Intelligence, he argues, should be measured relative to one’s self and one’s aims, not relative to other people. We can recognize each student’s gifts without diminishing the greatness of any other student’s talents. Any behavior that helps a person achieve her goals is an intelligent behavior; as such, personal characteristics like grit are included in Kaufman’s Theory of Personal Intelligence. All students should be encouraged to set lofty goals. Fostering the skills (i.e., perseverance, communication, emotional intuition, self-regulation, creative thinking) required to achieve these ambitious goals will benefit all learners more than enforcing strict test score thresholds. When all students are provided with the academic and social skills necessary for success, when students are no longer deemed gifted or not, and when our educational structure is “ungifted,” we will help the most students reach their fullest potential.

TOP RESEARCHERS EXPLORE THE SCIENCE OF SMARTER MINDS at the LEARNING & the BRAIN® CONFERENCE

MEDIA ADVISORY
April 11, 2014
Contact: Kristin Dunay(781)-449-4010 x 102kristin.dunay@learningandthebrain.com

 

THE SCIENCE OF SMARTER MINDS:
TEACHING TO THINK, CREATE AND INNOVATE FOR SCHOOL AND CAREERS

WHAT: Encouraging the development of critical and creative thinking in students is now recognized as central to education. Both new Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards stress these thinking skills and a recent study by the Center on Education and the Workforce found that these skills will be crucial in getting future jobs. Next month’s Learning & the Brain® Conference in New York, NY, will bring a renowned group of neuroscientists, psychologists and educators to present new research findings on critical and creative thinking, problem solving, innovation, intelligence and thinking processing in reading, math and sciences before 1,200 educators.  The conference will explore ways to use the science of “smarter minds” to teach the skills students need to meet today’s new standards, curriculum and future careers.
WHO: The program is co-sponsored by several organizations including the Neuroscience and Education Program, Teachers College, Columbia University, Mind, Brain & Education Program, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Comer School Development Program, Yale University School of Medicine, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, and both the national associations of elementary and secondary school principals, and is produced by Public Information Resources, Inc.Eric Kandel, MD, a Nobel Laureate in Medicine and University and Fred Kavli Professor at Columbia University, will give the opening keynote at the conference on the topic of “The Age of Insight: Art, Brain and the Creative Beholder.”  He will use the work of Rokitansky, Freud, Riegl, Klimt, Kokoschka and Schiele as examples of how Vienna in 1900 was able to forge a bridge between art and science in an effort to better understand creativity.  Dr. Kandel is also the Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University and the Founding Director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons;.  He is also the author of several books including Age of Insight (2012) and In Search of Memory (2007).In addition to Dr. Kandel, some of the featured speakers will be:▪    Sandra B. Chapman, PhD, Founder/Chief Director, Center for BrainHealth; Dee Wyly Distinguished Chair; Professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas; Co-Author, Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Brain’s Creativity, Energy, and Focus (2013)

▪    Arthur L. Costa, EdD, Emeritus Professor of Education, California State University, Sacramento; Co-Director of the Institute for Intelligent Behavior; Former President of ASCD; Former Director of Educational Programs, NASA; Co-Author, Cognitive Capital (2013) and Thinking-Based Learning (2010)

▪    Arthur B. Markman, PhD, Annabel Iron Worsham Centennial Professor, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin; Executive Editor, Cognitive Science; Author, Smart Thinking: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate and Get Things Done (2012)

▪    Camilla P. Benbow, EdD, Dean of Education and Human Development, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University; Co-Director of the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth; Co-Author, “Creativity and Technical Innovation: Spatial Ability’s Unique Role” (2013, Psychological Science)

▪    Tony Wagner, MAT, EdD, Expert in Residence, Innovation Laboratory, Harvard University; Founder/Co-Director, Change Leadership Group, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Author, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World (2012)

 

WHEN: Thursday, May 8-Saturday, May 10. Conference begins 1:00 PM. General Registration is $579 through April 25 and $599 after April 25.  Contact Kristin Dunay at 781-449-4010 x 102 for media passes.
WHERE: Sheraton Times Square Hotel, New York, NY
Learning & the Brain® is a series of educational conferences that brings the latest research in neuroscience and psychology and their potential applications to education to the wider educational community. Since its inception in 1999, more than 40,000 people in Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago have attended this series.

For more information about the conference, visit www.learningandthebrain.com.

TOP RESEARCHERS EXPLORE WAYS TO IMPROVE SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL SKILLS IN STUDENTS at the LEARNING & the BRAIN® CONFERENCE

 

MEDIA ADVISORY


January 28, 2014

Contact:

Kristin Dunay

(781)-449-4010 x 102

kristin.dunay@learningandthebrain.com

 

TEACHING SELF-AWARE MINDS: USING BRAIN SCIENCE TO BOOST SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL SKILLS

WHAT: Cognitive and Social Neuroscience research has found that social-emotional skills, such as self-awareness, self-regulation and resilience, are often more important than IQ for academic and later life success. Yet, many students today lack these necessary skills. A national group of neuroscientists, psychologists and educators will be presenting new brain research findings on self-awareness, self-control, relationships and resilience before 1,500 educators at next month’s Learning & the Brain® Conference in San Francisco, CA. They will also provide new strategies and new cognitive technologies for improving these skills in the brain to help students succeed in today’s standards-based, distracted, disconnected, digital age.
WHO: The program is co-sponsored by several organizations including the Stanford University School of Education, the Greater Goods Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, the Laboratory of Educational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, and both the national associations of elementary and secondary school principals, and is produced by Public Information Resources, Inc.

Antonio R. Damasio, MD, PhD, the David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, will be a featured speaker at the conference.  He is also a Professor of Psychology and Neurology and the Director of the Brain and Creativity Institute there as well as an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Dr. Damasio’ research has focused on the neural basis of emotions and the role emotions play in decision-making, memory, language and consciousness.  He is the author of many academic articles and several books including Self Comes to Mind (2010), Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (2005) and Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain (2003).

In addition to Dr. Damasio, some of the featured speakers will be:

▪    Patricia S. Churchland, BPhil, LLD, President’s Professor of Philosophy Emerita, Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego; Adjunct Professor, Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Author, Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain (2013), Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality (2011), Brain-Wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy (2002) and The Computational Brain (1992)

▪    Edward M. Hallowell, MD, Child and Adult Psychiatrist; Founder, The Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health (Boston, New York, San Francisco); Former Faculty, Harvard Medical School; Author, Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People (2011), Overloaded Circuits (2009), CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! (2006), Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness (2003) and Connect (2001)

▪    Michael S. Gazzaniga, PhD, Professor of Psychology; Director, SAGE Center for the Study of Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara; President, Cognitive Neuroscience Institute; Author; Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain (2012), Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique (2008), The Ethical Brain: The Science of Our Moral Dilemmas (2006) and The Mind’s Past (2000)

▪    Adam H. Gazzaley, MD, PhD, Director, Gazzaley Cognitive Neuroscience Research Lab; Associate Professor of Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco; Assistant Adjunct Professor, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley; Host of the PBS-Special “The Distracted Mind”; Co-Author, “Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults” (2013, Nature)

▪    Denise C. Pope, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Stanford University School of Education; Co-Founder, Challenge Success; Author, “Beyond ‘Doing School’: From ‘Stressed-Out’ to ‘Engaged in Learning” (2010, Education Canada) and Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Mis-educated Students (2001); Co-Author, “Success with Less Stress” (2009, Educational Leadership); Winner of the 2012 Education Professor of the Year “Educators’ Voice Award” from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences

 

WHEN: Thursday, February 13-Saturday, February 15. Conference begins 1:00 PM. General Registration is $579 through January 31 and $599 after January 31.  Contact Kristin Dunay at 781-449-4010 x 102 for media passes.
WHERE: Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA
Learning & the Brain® is a series of educational conferences that brings the latest research in neuroscience and psychology and their potential applications to education to the wider educational community. Since its inception in 1999, this series has been attended by more than 40,000 people in Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.

 

For more information about the conference, visit www.learningandthebrain.com.

2013 Transforming Education Through Neuroscience Award will be presented at the Learning & the Brain® Educational Conference in Boston this week

At the upcoming Learning & the Brain® educational conference in Boston, MA, the 2013 Transforming Education Through Neuroscience Award will be presented to Dr. David B. Daniel from James Madison University for his contributions to the field of Mind, Brain and Education.

November 12, 2013 – A pioneering educator and researcher who studies classroom pedagogy, cognitive development and the translation of Mind, Brain and Education to teaching practice will be awarded the sixth annual prize for “Transforming Education through Neuroscience.” The award was established by the Learning & the Brain Foundation and The International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES) to honor an individual who represents excellence in bridging neuroscience and education. The $5,000 award will be used to “support translational efforts bridging scientific findings and classroom practice.”

David B. Daniel, PhD, a James Madison University professor, is being honored for his tireless and creative efforts to develop the infrastructure of the field of Mind, Brain and Education, which tries to focus research in neuroscience, cognitive science and other fields onto classrooms and learning. Along with his efforts to create better teaching and learning in K-12 schools and at the university level, Dr. Daniel has been facilitating the building of sound organizational structures and effective communication processes in the field of Mind, Brain and Education for many years. He is a founding IMBES board member and former executive director of the Society. He has also been the managing editor of Mind, Brain and Education, the first journal focusing on the intersection between education, neuroscience, cognitive science and other fields, since it began. The journal was recognized in 2008 as the “Best New Journal in the Humanities and Social Sciences” by the Association of American Publishers Academic Division.

According to Kurt Fischer, Charles Warland Bigelow Professor and director of the Harvard Mind, Brain and Education Program, “David Daniel has been the most important force behind the creation of the journal Mind, Brain, and Education and its success in connecting the work of teachers and researchers around the world. Quietly behind the scenes he has made things happen productively and thoughtfully. We appreciate his broad and deep contributions to the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society, the journal, and so many activities that are bringing together researchers and practitioners everywhere.”

Dr. Daniel has been a strong advocate for the careful translation of appropriate scientific findings to practice, and has wisely urged caution for doing so prematurely. “In a field where it’s easy to get carried away by theory, David Daniel stands out as a voice for keeping the eye of the scientist on the classroom–as well as encouraging teachers to keep an eye on the laboratory. He is the most sensible scientist I know in this regard,” wrote Daniel Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.

Especially important is his framing of an ecological approach to pedagogical research, which works to specify how controlled cognitive laboratory environments alter and simplify learning situations, often rendering the findings difficult or impossible to realistically implement in real-world contexts. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, assistant professor at the University of Southern California stated that, “Dr. Daniel exemplifies the rare scholar who recognizes the complexity of the dynamic interaction between teaching and learning, and understands how to responsibly translate scientific findings into educational initiatives.”

While his high quality teaching brings him the most accolades, Dr. Daniel provides continual, but often low-profile, mentoring and advising of teachers and young interdisciplinary scholars.  He helps them make optimal contributions to the field and simultaneously furthers their own thinking and career goals. You will find Dr. Daniel’s name in the acknowledgements of many articles and books in the field. He has also played a critical role in facilitating high-quality dialogue between researchers and educational practitioners in a variety of settings. As with his efforts to develop the field, Dr. Daniel generally works quietly behind the scenes, looking for strategic, genuine and sound ways to move the field forward by supporting others in meaningfully connecting their research with practice.

Daniel Ansari, a neuroscientist and associate professor at the University of Western Ontario, wrote, “Dr. Daniel is one of the few people who really sits in the middle between science and practice and is committed to establishing ways of crossing between the two. This is a rare and difficult balancing act, but essential for the field to grow.”

The prize will be presented to Dr. Daniel by Professor Fischer at the upcoming Learning & the Brain® educational conference in Boston, MA on Saturday, November, 16, held at the Westin Copley Hotel.  The Learning & the Brain Foundation and the International Mind Brain and Education Society wish Dr. Daniel our heartiest congratulations.

TOP RESEARCHERS TO SHOW WAYS TO ENGAGE STUDENTS’ BRAINS TO LEARN at the LEARNING & the BRAIN® CONFERENCE

 
MEDIA ADVISORY
    

November 1, 2013

Contact: Kristin Dunay
(781) 449-4010 x102
kristin.dunay@learningandthebrain.com

ENGAGING 21ST CENTURY MINDS: USING TECHNOLOGY, NATURE, COGNITION & COLLABORATION FOR DEEPER LEARNING

WHAT: Neuroscience and education researchers will present findings that show active, outdoor and online self-directed activities engage the brain in deeper, faster learning than sitting passively in class.  These findings support new teaching methods using online, iPad and outdoor learning projects and collaborations and provide ideas for meeting 21st Century and Common Core requirements for deeper learning. A national group of neuroscientists, psychologists and educators will be presenting this new research before 1,300 educators at this month’s Learning & the Brain® Conference in Boston, MA, to show how cognitive science, outdoor and online (or blended) technology are changing teaching, increasing student engagement and providing deeper learning experiences.During the conference, David B. Daniel, PhD, Professor in the Department of Psychology at James Madison University, will be presented with the 2013 “Transforming Education Through Neuroscience” Award. The $5,000 award was established by the Learning & the Brain Foundation and the International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES) to honor an individual who represents excellence in bridging neuroscience and education.Dr. Daniel will also address the conference on the Sunday morning with the talk “Neat, But How Do We Use It: Translating Mind, Brain and Education to the Classroom.” He will discuss the tremendous pressure on educators to develop evidence-based practices that dynamically impact student learning and performance and an ever-growing list of recommendations that claim to be evidence based. Dr. Daniel will address critical issues in translating scientific findings for classroom use, focusing on the role of educators within the field of Mind, Brain and Education.
WHO: The program is co-sponsored by several organizations including the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Athinoula A. Martinos Imaging Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, and both the national associations of elementary and secondary school principals, and is produced by Public Information Resources, Inc. In addition to Dr. Daniel, some of the featured speakers will be:    Yong Zhao, PhD, Presidential Chair; Associate Dean for Global Education, Weinman Professor of Technology, College of Education, University of Oregon; Author, World-Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students (2012) and Catching Up or Leading the Way (2009) Martha Lovett, PhD, Cognitive Scientist; Professor, Psychology Department, Carnegie Mellon University; Director, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence; Developer of innovative, educational technologies to promote student learning and metacognition; Co-Author, How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (2010) and “In search of the ‘perfect’ blend between an instructor and an online course for teaching introductory statistics” (2010, Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on the Teaching of Statistics)

▪ Richad Louv, Founder/Chairman Emeritus, Children & Nature Network; Visiting Professor, Clemson University; Author, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in the Virtual Age (2012) and Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (2008)

▪ Sam Wang, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University; Co-Author, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College (2012) and Welcome to Your Brain (2008)

▪ Jonathan Bergmann, MAEd, Lead Technology Facilitator, Joseph Sears School, IL; Pioneer in the Flipped Class Movement; Winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence for Math and Science Teaching (2002); Co-Founder of the Flipped Learning Network, Advisory Board Member of TED Education; Co-Author, Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day (2012)

▪ Will A. Richardson, MA, Member of the National Advisory Council, George Lucas Education Foundation; Author, Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information are Everywhere (2012) and Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010); Co-Author, Personal Learning Networks (2011)

WHEN: Friday, November 15-Sunday, November 17. Conference begins 1:30 PM. General Registration is $599.  Contact Kristin Dunay at 781-449-4010 x 102 for media passes.
WHERE: Westin Copley Place, Boston, MA
Learning & the Brain® is a series of educational conferences that brings the latest research in neuroscience and psychology and their potential applications to education to the wider educational community and provides professional development for educators. Since its inception in 1999, this series has been attended by more than 40,000 people in Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.

For more information about the conference, visit www.learningandthebrain.com.

World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students by Yong Zhao

In World Class Learners, Dr. Yong Zhao stresses the dire need of today’s schools to branch out from the required curriculum of core standards to introduce the entrepreneurial skills needed to succeed in the modern world. He explains that the school system originated as a way to train a community of people to work in a local setting, usually requiring the same skill set for each person. In contrast, today’s students need diverse skills to succeed in a global and technologically-connected community, particularly the skills of creativity and innovation. Yet schools are doing the opposite and are focusing on international benchmarks such as the PISA test. Countries worldwide are enforcing assessments that are becoming the new gold standard. In doing so, content is homogenized and teachers are confronted with curriculum narrowing, or fewer opportunities to expose students to diverse content as they are forced to “teach to the test”. As a result, instructional quality declines and teachers as well as students become disengaged in school.

Zhao provides significant evidence displaying the decline in creativity in the United States. The abilities of producing unique and unusual ideas, elaborating, reflecting, as well as intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness have all decreased over the past twenty years. Recently the focus has been on creating common core standards in order to raise the quality of education, but Zhao believes that diverse opportunities for individual learning and innovation create a true, worthwhile education. This focus on innovation will scaffold students to become future entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs or Suhas Gopinath. Zhao clarifies that entrepreneurs are not just necessary for capital gain but can benefit society as social or policy entrepreneurs. Additionally, there are intrapreneurs working within a company or infrastructure to make radical changes through innovation and cogent risk-taking.

Enter the rise of entrepreneurship education. Harvard offers an entrepreneurial manager course as part of its MBA program. Fortunately. our students need not attend Harvard nor get their MBA, though both would be commendable. Classroom teachers of any age range can offer students the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills, but, as the author warns, without making it a forced part of the curriculum and crushing the entrepreneurial spirit. Zhao recommends student-centered learning in which the student is a “purposeful agent” of learning. Education should then pertain to what each student is interested in, capable of and curious about.

Zhao recognizes the difficulty for teachers to move away from the prescribed, easily controlled curriculum to which they are accustomed. And, in the age of accountability, teachers who give students freedom in learning or allow children to do what they want are seen as irresponsible or lazy. But when students become responsible for their own learning and study what they are truly interested in, they become engaged in their own education. They learn to create “work that matters”.

Zhao focuses on project or problem-based learning (PBL) to allow students the autonomy to manage their own learning. He categorizes PBL into three models: the traditional academic model – focused on standards; a mixed model – focused on content and skills via different media; and the entrepreneurial model – focused on a high quality end-product or service to meet an actual need of the class or community. The significance of the entrepreneurial model is to celebrate students’ creativity and individual talents as well as to prepare students for real world situations and becoming global entrepreneurs.

In World Class Learners, Dr. Zhao unfolds all aspects of entrepreneurship, ranging from crowd-sourcing to genetics. He provides a worldwide look at the current educational climate, the entrepreneurial skills needed to be successful in life, as well as the “how” of making it happen in your classroom.

Boosting Executive Skills in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators by Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Margaret Foster

All teachers must deal with students who are unable to get organized, meet due dates, and plan ahead.  Boosting Executive Skills in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators is a concise, explicable guide that provides the necessary background and strategies for teachers to help these students. The root of these issues lies in the brain’s Executive Functions (EF), also known as executive skills.  These skills are the controlling processes we use to organize, plan, and make decisions, all to achieve a specific goal. Cooper-Kahn and Foster explain the complex concept of EF in terms applicable to the classroom environment, and provide countless approaches to strengthen these skills in students with executive weaknesses.

In Part I of the book, the authors break down EF and its components. Though neuroscientists would describe these terms differently, Cooper-Kahn and Foster organize the categories of EF in observable, classroom terms which include: planning and organizing, emotional control, self-monitoring, (task) initiation and shifting, task monitoring, inhibition and working memory. Someday these categories may be included on report cards under study skills or behavior. In typical children, their EF skills generally grow over time at the same rate as their level of academic challenge. In lower elementary school, younger children are building basic skills to manage themselves. With maturation, older students learn to absorb and process what is going on around them and, with practice, respond appropriately and independently to their environment.

Even with maturation, paying attention to the world around them can be difficult for some students. Effortful, selective attention is a resource that can be depleted. As a student uses his or her energy to pay attention to accomplishing a goal, the energy stores decrease. With unforeseen challenges, the energy may be used up faster than anticipated and it may be harder to regulate some executive functions. This effect is especially salient for children with certain conditions. The authors discuss common executive weaknesses observed in children with ADHD, ASD, specific learning disabilities, chronic stress, depression and anxiety. The given descriptions are key characteristics that teachers will encounter from year to year.

Regardless of existing conditions, Cooper-Kahn and Foster stress the importance of healthy habits to support proper EF development. They clarify that healthy habits will not miraculously alleviate all EF troubles, but poor health choices can worsen certain problems. Daily exercise, sound sleep, and good nutrition can create an optimal environment for the brain to carry out executive skills.  Other healthy behaviors allow for “brain breaks” to de-stress. One example is ART (attention restoration therapy) which can include taking a walk in nature or meditating to decompress.

The essence of Part II is the How, i.e. how to successfully implement practices that support EF growth. The authors first target general classroom practices to help about 80% of students improve in EF.  With consistent use of a purposeful combination of techniques, each student will make vast improvements. The foci of implementation are on classroom culture, mindful planning, dependable routines and classroom design. Though these may sound familiar to teachers, Cooper-Kahn and Foster offer fresh evidence from current studies to support the practices they advocate. For example, the authors discuss the essential use of planners throughout the book. Providing the planner for students is important but explicitly telling them how to use the planner is the true key to developing strong EF. Discussing the difference between a DUE date and a “DO” date prepares students to plan in advance and organize what needs to be done. This technique applies to projects, tests, and papers as well.  Utilizing the planner lowers cognitive load by freeing up working memory capacity and simultaneously reducing anxiety. Therefore more brain energy can be used for higher-level thinking of concepts.

In later chapters, more targeted techniques are discussed for students who need extra support. These activities can be conducted in small groups or one-on-one by the teacher or a specialist. Suggested school-wide changes for administrators are given in the section titled “The EF-Smart School”.  While the authors claim to be “old school” in school organization and practice, they offer modern strategies involving useful websites, software, and Apps for students and teachers alike!  Moreover, Cooper-Kahn and Foster thoughtfully provide planning pages and graphic organizers for teachers and administrators to get started on their own plans to implement EF strategies.  Finally, every scientific article is available in the endnotes for those educators desiring more involved reading.

Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Margaret Foster provide the perfect balance of neuroscience and pragmatic classroom application in Boosting Executive Skills in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators to effectively improve students’ executive skills.