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Via ProfHacker

Dr. JoAnn Deak talks about memory and how it works

I spent some more time today listening to Dr. Deak talk about memory and how it works.

Main takeaways:

  • Memory should be used sparingly because it is exhausting to the brain and an artificial practice
  • Memory can be useful, but teachers should always check themselves when asking students to memorize

Here are my notes from the session:

  • on gameplay

    • Gameplay depends on the type of game and the purpose of playing it
    •  can get confusing if you are playing games because it is more fun, not because it is better
    • Nintendo DS brain games are well designed by a neurologist
  • Sleep interference means the brain will not grow as well as if it was not interfered with

    • text messages at night are literally decreasing IQ's
  • there are 5-7 things universities/companies are looking for, and we must be looking at

  • Parent education is an essential part of this

    • if you don't train parents they will be scared off and head to other schools
  • Teachers who use too much negative emotion or anger in their voice diminishes the learning of girls


  • the brain tries to forget everything as soon as it is done using it unless:

    • it is meaningful
    • or the brain thinks it needs it to survive
    • or you use extraordinary technique
  • we teach the brain to memorize
  • 1. working (prefrontal cortex) 2. short term 3. long term (hippocampus)
  • to convert from working to short term memory, something has to happen

    • when using someone's strength (big rubberband) they move it to short term memory easily
    • hard part: when do you use a big rubberband and when do you make it use a shorter one?
    • if you enter into visual, auditory, and motoric memory, it will have a better chance of retrieval
    • when using a small rubberband, increase repetitions
    • when stored in long term, the hippocampus knows exactly where to pull it from - orchestrates the answer (might be in many places in the brain)
    • how you put something in the brain is the same way it is going to come out - constraining variable
  • Keys to memory

    • attach emotion to it - make it meaningful
    • repetition - depends on the size of rubberband used - inversely proportional
    • which rubber bands you use
    • mnemonic devices

image by: Jens Langner

Separating Fact and Fiction in Brain-Based Learning from Edutopia

This is a nice summary of current research on brains and learning. I found the part about girls and boys brains important. There are so many books on this topic right now that it is difficult to distinguish between opinion and scientific theory.

At my school we are doing a lot of work this year on the question, "How do girls learn?" (we are a girls school)

Alternatives to food as a reward

Alternatives to Food as a Reward                   

Food is commonly used to reward students for good behavior and academic performance.  It’s an easy, inexpensive and powerful tool to bring about immediate short-term behavior change.  Yet, using food as reward has many negative consequences that go far beyond the short-term benefits of good behavior or performance.

Research clearly demonstrates that healthy kids learn better.  To provide the best possible learning environment for children, schools must provide an environment that supports healthy behaviors.  Students need to receive consistent, reliable health information and ample opportunity to use it.  Finding alternatives to food rewards is an important part of providing a healthy school environment.

The number of birthdays and holidays celebrated by an average elementary school class means that sweets can become regular snacks, rather than occasional, special treats.  In addition, it has become increasingly common for teachers to use candy to reward and motivate students.  If food must be used as a reward, healthy choices are encouraged and it should be part of a learning experience.  This flyer offers alternatives to help promote consistent messages about food and health.

Our lower school division head shared this resource from Kansas State's Johnson County branch of the Research and Extension services about alternatives to food as a reward. It is well written, easy to understand, and has great tips. Read the full post here.

Learning About Keeping Your Child Safe Online

Today a colleague of mine and I gave a talk to middle school parents at our school on ways to teach your child about appropriate boundaries and behaviors online. We shared a number of links and I thought my readers (if there are any!) might find them useful for use in your own schools and with your own families. There are a lot, but they are great! We watched the video, "Do You Know 4.0"

The Pew Internet and American Life Project did a study called Generational differences in online activities which summarizes the different things that different age groups do online - from e-mail to social networking, and everything in between.

David Pogue has a well-written article in the New York Times titled, How Dangerous Is The Internet For Children where he breaks down the myths and truths regarding children online. In that article is a link to the PBS Frontline documentary Growing Up Online, which is well worth your time to watch. You can watch it online for free.

We discussed a New York Times article titled, Sorry, Boys, This Is Our Domain, which discusses how women and girls actually produce the majority of image/video driven content on the web, breaking some of the myths of boys/girls and technology.

We discussed how the biggest threat to our children is bullying and sexual harassment and looked at an article about students and parents resorting to "Facebook sabotage" and sending colleges "dirt" on prospective students.

If you and/or your daughter are using Facebook, do read the article 5 Easy Steps to Stay Safe (and Private!) on Facebook.

We looked at a tremendous parent online safety guide created by Wes Fryer that includes resources/articles/lessons on: filtering, limits, social networking, instant messaging, parent resources and more.

From your questions

A number of you asked wonderful questions, and we told you that we'd include links to resources on regarding those questions. Here they are:

Creating family guidelines

We discussed creating guidelines for your family that are clear for your child and you. NetSmartz has a great age-based list of guidelines that you may want to consider.

Multitasking and brain development

The Dana Foundation has a good primer called Brain Development in a Hyper-Tech World which tells us that little is yet known about the effects of all the technology in our children's lives. We do know however that "multitasking," or fast attention switching makes learning much less productive than focused work. The article also discusses social development in the age of Facebook.

Questions about spelling

Research shows that text message speak does not harm spelling skills. Article from the Telegraph.

The Curriculum, Technology, and Education Reform master's program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a good summary of some of the research regarding using computers for writing, including critiques of and benefits of using spell check software.

Filtering your home computer

We don't recommend any particular brand of filters for home. That being said, many families find it helpful to block out objectionable content or block certain websites/applications at certain times. GetNetWise has a section that highlights popular filtering tools.

PC Magazine has an article on Child-Safe Browers.

Misinterpreting e-mail

50% of all e-mail is misinterpreted, even that written by the best writers. Know that when you are sending and reading e-mail, and discuss this with your children.