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Showing posts in February 2010  Show all posts >

Educational Video Games

educational video games

Video games in the classroom? Yes, indeed according to Jim Brazell who recently gave the keynote speech at the Florida Education Technology Conference. Video games can be effective learning and teaching tools, not just entertainment.

We all know that mammals learn best through play. Video games have learning embedded in playing. They are very motivating with their interesting graphics, sounds and strategies. They have built in reward systems where players move up a level after achieving certain results.

Students in a new class called "Videogames & Learning," offered at the University of Michigan, are exploring how video games can be used in the classroom and are looking at the connection between video game technology and social science research in education. Traditional educational video games have been used to teach hand-eye coordination and drill skills such as spelling or math. One student, a junior in the class, points out that video games that are typically used solely for entertainment can be used to teach many different skills and concepts from time management to forward thinking and planning.

The military is at the forefront of using technology for teaching, using simulators and virtual experiences to present situations that cannot be recreated live. In the classroom, video games can incorporate tremendous amounts of data giving the students an opportunity to make decisions and apply knowledge in very complex environments that integrate virtual, physical and imaginary realities. This level of complexity cannot be achieved with other classroom teaching tools. Brazell has used video games and gaming technology for career simulation with K-12 students.

He has noted a tremendous amount of interest by teachers in using gaming in the classroom. His recommendation? Start by determining what it is you want the students to learn. "Never start with the idea that you're going to use a video game (as a teaching tool). Decide what you want to teach and then find the right application."

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Categories: Education Trends, Reading & Learning

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Learn How to Improve Reading Skills for Secondary Students at the 2010 NASSP Convention

improving reading skillsAre you attending the 2010 NASSP Convention March 11-13 in Phoenix?  

Be sure to catch the presentation "Building Brain Fitness to Help Struggling Students Succeed" and learn how students using the Fast ForWord reading intervention program gained an average of 1.1 years in reading skill levels in just 30 days.

Presentation Details

Topic:  Building Brain Fitness to Help Struggling Students Succeed

Speakers:  Dr. Debbie Kolonay, Superintendent, Penn-Trafford School District, PA and Karen Garner, Principal, Trafford Middle School, PA

Date:  Friday, March 12

Time:  2:30 PM – 4:00 PM Location: Room 127 B-C

Don't forget to stop by and see us at Booth #900.  Learn more about improving reading skills for your struggling readers, and pick up one of our famous squishy brains for your take-home enjoyment.

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Categories: Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning, Scientific Learning Research

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Food and the Brain

food and the brain

While practically every child above age seven may understand the phrase "you are what you eat," we rarely think about this phrase in terms of the brain. When it comes to what we eat, we need to talk about the brain as well, for what goes into the system affects everything from our cognitive functions to our emotions.

At the Utah State University Center for Advanced Nutrition (CAN), researchers are looking into the workings of how diet affects brain function. Their research has demonstrated a number of interesting facts as well as points of debate:

Food cravings: Food cravings are more common in women than men and appear to decrease with age. Cravings often correspond to negative moods such as depression, anxiety or mood swings. Cravings for sweets can be intense and irresistible. As to whether such cravings for carbohydrates can be classified as "addictions," CAN states that they do not meet the definition laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Food and mood: While it has long been believed that intake of carbohydrates can independently affect mood and appetite, other variables such as the initial psychological/emotional state of the person as well as the meal setting can also play important roles in the mood/appetite equation. Interestingly, depression has been shown to be related to a low intake of certain essential vitamins and minerals, and increasing the intake of omega 3 fatty acids and folic acid has been shown to reduce such symptoms.

The good vs. evil caffeine debate: Some studies show that caffeine consumption does not boost performance above normal levels, although as it wears off, one does feel less alert and awake—which stimulates the intake of more caffeine to get back to normal levels. But other studies have shown that drinking coffee is associated with lower age-related cognitive decline and a lessened risk of Parkinson’s disease in older people. (The way I see it, the jury is still out on caffeine.)

Brain-boosting diets: The jury is out on these, too. Many supplements and diets are purported to boost mood, increase energy and improve memory. The problem is that these claims have yet to be demonstrated through solid research and testing. From a purely scientific perspective, the proof will be in the pudding of double-blind, placebo-controlled trials.

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Categories: Brain Fitness

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Building a Fit Brain: The Serious Work of Play

Brain Fitness

In the world of education, especially in the early grades, we have great debates about the skills that we wish to impart to students. What do kids need to learn to do early on so they can be successful as they move forward? When it comes down to it, one of the biggies is self-control.

"Executive function"—the ability to order and control our thoughts—refers to those mental processes that allow us to process information coherently, hold and refer to items in our short term memories, avoid distractions and stay on task. Executive function takes self control. It depends upon the individual’s ability to control and filter emotions and cognitive impulses in order to get a job done.

As it turns out, research indicates that higher executive functions demonstrated early on are indicators of short as well as long-term success, both in academics and in life. According to Paul Tough in his September 27, 2009 New York Times article, "In some studies, self-regulation skills have been shown to predict academic achievement more reliably than I.Q. tests."

One program called Tools of the Mind is working to improve self-regulation abilities in young children. Now being used to teach 18,000 preK and kindergarten children in twelve states, the Tools of the Mind curriculum, created by child development scholars Deborah Leon and Elena Bodrova, is purported to teach self-regulation skills to essentially any child, regardless of socioeconomic status. At the core of their methodology is the idea that the key to developing self regulation is dramatic play, with complex, long-lasting make-believe scenarios.

While the research continues into the effectiveness of these techniques, there is no question that self-regulation is a central skill that kids need to develop early on. More information about Tools of the Mind is available at www.mscd.edu/extendedcampus/toolsofthemind/

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Categories: Education Trends, Reading & Learning

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Learn about Scientific Learning Reading Intervention Products at the 2010 ASCD Conference

Reading Intervention Programs for Students

Are you a Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Director, or District-level Administrator attending the 2010 ASCD conference in San Antonio?  

Visit us March 6 - 8 at Booth #213 to learn about our research-validated Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ reading interventions.  Schools around the United States have increased state assessment scores after implementing Scientific Learning products.  

And when you stop by, don't forget to pick up one of our ever-popular "squishy brains"—a reminder of the importance of brain fitness in learning, and a great conversation piece.

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Categories: Brain Fitness, Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning, Reading Assistant

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Are "Smart" Kids Born Smart?

born smartDid you ever know someone that others referred to as a “brain”? It is a term most commonly used in a school environment referring to a top student. Often the “brain” did not seem to have to work hard at school; he or she was viewed as naturally intelligent, knowledgeable in many subjects, liked by teachers and admired by fellow students. Did you ever wonder how that person got that way? Most likely you thought, as did most experts in psychology, the field that assesses intelligence, that he or she was just “born” smart. 

Until very recently, intelligence was viewed as a fixed innate capacity, a genetic gift from mom and dad that more or less propelled a child on their way to success in school then ultimately success in life. But it turns out, that intelligence is not as fixed as was previously thought nor is it preset by a person’s genetic inheritance.  There are many variables that affect intelligence as it is measured by tests, measured in school, and measured in life.  

Current neuroscience research suggests that most newborn infants are born with the potential to achieve in many cognitive areas. There will be some genetic predispositions, but the child’s brain is extraordinarily malleable and “teachable”. One could say that the job of the infant brain is to figure out, from what is going on around him or her, what skills and sensory abilities it will be important to master. Once the basics are established the child’s brain will set out on a path to become an expert in those areas. 

By stimulating their child in certain ways, parents set the stage for the infant brain to begin a developmental trajectory that will influence what the child becomes “smart” at – science, math, music, art, athletics, reading, writing, cooking, care-taking, this list is almost endless – and guide preferences the child will demonstrate throughout life.

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Categories: Brain Fitness, Brain Research, Reading & Learning

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Educating Kids about Nutrition and the Brain

brain foods

Whether you’re a parent or an educator, you know that getting kids to eat well is a challenge. Getting them to truly understand enough to care about what they eat can be even harder. But did you know that the subject of "health literacy" is an important element of the national education conversation? While the debate continues as to the extent of the role of education in teaching nutrition, there is little argument that we as educators truly do have a responsibility in helping our nation’s young people understand and take charge of their well-being.

Focusing the story on nutrition and the brain, here is a fun way to talk about "brain foods" with your young folks—that may give you a little insight, too.

What if students were challenged to formulate meals to affect specific systems of the body? Here’s an example: The "Brainiac Blue Plate Combo"—the ultimate brain-health meal.

Start with two slices of whole-grain bread for carbohydrates; these will get converted into glucose to power the brain’s electrical activity. (Did you know that the brain uses about 20% of our total energy every day?) To that, we might add some lean turkey, roast beef and tuna fish (mmmm!) to supply the proteins and fats that make up the basic building blocks of our neural tissues. Then, we could top it all off with a light smattering of cheese and serve it with a side of roasted potatoes and a banana to give it the perfect zinging balance of neurotransmitters, from aspartic acid to tyrosine.

Now, whether this meal might not appeal to a youngster’s gastric sensibilities, the activity of creating such a menu would be an engaging application of knowledge to a practical task, as well as a way to have some fun in the process. Let them offer their ideas in a "cooking class" setting with all the supporting scientific explanations, and you’ve introduced presentation skills into the lesson. (It goes without saying that kids would not be able to resist the "gross-out" potential of such an activity—especially if you allow them to actually make and serve such a meal.)

For more great facts and information on neuroscience and nutrition for kids, check out Dr. Eric H. Chudler’s site, Nutrition and the Brain.

 

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Categories: Brain Fitness, Education Trends, Reading & Learning

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