With final exams right around the corner, now is the perfect time for students to think about how effective their studying habits really are.
Let’s face it: ‘studying’ often means lounging on a couch or bed with earbuds in, Facebook and Twitter running, and a cell phone within reach. Is it that students aren’t aware of how multitasking affects their information retention, or is that they literally cannot keep themselves from checking email and instant messages while working?
Slate.com reports that investigators from the lab of Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University–Dominguez Hills, watched students (263 students total in middle school, high school, and college) completing schoolwork/studying and recorded what they were actually doing once a minute for 15 minutes. The researchers checklists including expected studying behaviour such as writing on paper, reading a book, and typing notes, but also included activities such as looking at Facebook, texting, using email, talking on the phone, and watching television.
Even though the students were aware they were being watched, and were told to “study something important” researchers found that it “wasn’t long before their attention drifted: Students’ “on-task behavior” started declining around the two-minute mark as they began responding to arriving texts or checking their Facebook feeds. By the time the 15 minutes were up, they had spent only about 65 percent of the observation period actually doing their schoolwork.”
It seemed that the students were literally unable to work continuously for 15 minutes without “media multitasking,” a habit that has become all too familiar to students growing up in an ever-increasingly technological world.
It’s important to note that the evidence is clear: when students multitask while studying or completing homework, they do not learn as well as when the work receives their full attention. As Slate reports, they “understand and remember less, and they have greater difficulty transferring their learning to new contexts.”
According to Slate, some researchers are proposing that the ability to resist an incoming message notification or a buzzing cell phone is the new Marshmallow Test of self-discipline, and could determine students’ potential academic success levels. If students are unable to stop themselves from multitasking while in class, completing schoolwork, or studying, it could seriously affect their academic careers.
The important point for students to note is that “the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time.” Most students believe that they are able to multitask effectively, when the truth is that the brain simply cannot keep up. One task (usually the information retention) will therefore not be completed successfully, leaving students unable to recall what they ‘learned’ even 10 minutes prior. As well, the brain becomes fatigued when constantly switching from task to task, and although texting and tweeting don’t seem like complex tasks, they use the same area of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) that listening to and deriving meaning from a lecture does. While humans are able to do two tasks effectively if they use different areas of the brain (for example, folding laundry and listening to the radio), it is simply not true that students can learn as well while multitasking as they would if giving learning their undivided attention.
While students likely don’t want to acknowledge that “media multitasking” is a problem, studies undeniably show that being distracted by technology while learning leads to poor grades. In Rosen’s study, “students who used Facebook during the 15-minute observation period had lower grade-point averages than those who didn’t go on the site.”
So given that technology isn’t going away any time soon, what is the solution? Rosen suggests students take “tech breaks”: 2-3 minutes of texting/messaging/emailing after every 15 minutes of uninterrupted work time. Knowing that a “reward” is coming for working continuously for 15 minutes can help students stay focused and learn better.
To read Rosen’s study on “Media-induced task-switching while studying,” click here.
To read some of Oxford Learning’s tips and tricks for effective studying, click here.
Read More »
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that including more tests and quizzes during lectures (online or in the classroom) may prevent students from losing focus.
We all know what it’s like to be sitting in class and have our mind drift off. Even when the lecture is about something we’re interested in, it seems inevitable that at some point we will lose focus and as a consequence, not retain the information being taught.
The Boston Globe reports that cognitive psychologists are searching for ways to stop student’s minds from wandering, improve their comprehension, and memory, and improve their learning of material. Reporting on the study led by Karl Szpunar, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Harvard University, the Globe states that “[i]n two experiments, 80 students were asked to watch a 21-minute long video lecture on basic statistics with brief breaks about every five minutes. The group that was tested at the end of each break on the lecture material did the best on a final cumulative test, took more notes, and stayed more focused, reporting their minds strayed less often.”
Quizzing students on material as they learn it could be a great way for them to be aware of their attention and comprehension levels and help them retain information better. However, teachers may also be concerned that the constant testing will add extra stress that would instead have a negative effect on student learning.
What do you think? Do you quiz yourself on material during or after class? Would in-class quizzes stress you out or help you learn? Leave us a comment!
Read More »
Does your child spend countless hours in front of the television screen, controller in hand, playing his/her favourite video game? Do you have to call two, three, four times before s/he finally shuts the system down and comes to the table for dinner or goes to bed? Why can children sit still and concentrate for long periods of time on video games but not in the classroom?
For these reasons alone, many are inclined to discredit video games as creating a generation of mindless tech-zombies.
But can video games actually help children learn?
Turns out that some teachers are beginning to think so, and have used the game Minecraft in their classrooms with success.
A Gamespot article reports that teachers are using Minecraft to teach subjects such as physics, geography, and English, and are seeing positive results, including increased attention spans, collaboration between students, and better grades.
Do you think video games can be a valid learning tool? Is media use in the classroom the way of the future for education, or should children be learning better skills for focusing on things beyond television and computer screens? Send us your comments!
Read More »
You’ve heard it over and over again: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So why do so many of us skip it?
It’s no secret mornings can be hectic. Between cries for “just 5 more minutes!”, battles for bathroom time, and last minute scrambles to sign permission forms or get book bags packed and ready for the school day, there’s little time to sit down together and have a healthy breakfast.
Exercising and eating healthy can benefit the body AND the brain, and breakfast is an important way to get both ready for a full day of learning and activity. Without it, students are lethargic, unfocused, and of course, hungry!
Food is fuel and these numbers prove making a healthy breakfast part of your family’s morning routine is very important!
Click here to check out our newsletter on how exercise, sleep, and nutrition can help you get better grades!
Read More »
Studying for (and succeeding in) math is different than other subjects. Math is cumulative, meaning it builds upon earlier concepts/skills. This fact alone is not necessarily a problem, but the pace at which teachers must move through the curriculum certainly is. Students needing more time or extra help to grasp a math concept quickly fall behind and are rarely able to catch back up.
So how can you keep yourself from falling behind?
Check out these ten tips for succeeding in math class:
1. Do Your Homework: Obvious, right? Even if you believe you understand a concept/skill clearly, do all assigned homework to really cement it in your brain. Imagine the questions as practice test questions; complete them correctly as homework and you’re more likely to complete them correctly come test time.
2. Know Your Textbook: Since math is cumulative, your textbook is a chronological guide to what is coming up next. Review chapters BEFORE entering class to prep your brain for the new lesson, and to get a head start on seeing how new material connects to previous material.
3. Ask in Class: If you get a sense that a new concept is harder to wrap your head around, ask for clarification in class. Not speaking up, then finding out you can’t complete the homework because something is confusing, puts you a day behind. While in class, listen to other students’ questions as well, as they may help you understand your own, or offer to complete questions on the board even if you’re unsure what you’re doing. Practice makes perfect.
4. Understand the Method & the Process: Knowing formulas is important, but if you don’t know how or when to use them, you can’t be successful. Take the time to understand the principles behind the formulas to truly understand math concepts.
5. Prime Your Brain: Math is easier if your brain is ready for it. Do a few fun brain teasers before sitting down to complete homework or study for a test to get your brain in the math mood.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice: If a concept is still a bit fuzzy even after you have completed your homework, find some additional practice questions online. It is important to not only complete questions until you get the right answer, but until you understand HOW you got the right answer.
7. Don’t Stress: If you’re struggling with a question or concept, set it aside, take a break, and return to it later. If still having difficulties, call up a classmate or ask a family member for help. If no one can help you out, make a note of the problem and wait to ask your teacher the next day. Struggling with a problem that you can’t answer will only increase frustration and cause unnecessary stress.
8. Slow Down: Completing work in class or finishing a test is not a race. Take time to understand, complete, and double check your work. Taking your time also lessens your chances of making silly mistakes or scribbling answers that are not legible.
9. Analyze Your Errors: When homework and tests are returned to you, take the time to go over wrong answers. Figure out where you went wrong and do a few practice questions to get the correct method locked in your brain. Ask the teacher if you need help figuring out your missteps.
10. Insert A Tip/Trick Here: Have a trick or tip for succeeding in math class? Leave a comment and share it with us!
Read More »
Spring may be taking its sweet time to get here in some places, but each day that passes means summer is one step closer! What are your family’s plans for filling the long days of July and August? While family vacations, days at the beach, and lounging by the pool are all likely on your list, summer learning should be as well.
FACT: Summer learning loss affects ALL students
Brains don’t have an off switch. School may shut down for two months, but brains need continuous stimulation in order to remain sharp. Without keeping the brain active over the summer holiday, students can need up to six weeks to return to the learning level they were at the year before. It is a misconception that summer school is only for students who have failed the previous year: summer learning is essential for all students to be prepared in September to learn new material from day one.
FACT: Summer learning loss is cumulative
The curriculum doesn’t stop because a student falls behind. After the summer, students who need several weeks to get back into their school routine and catch up to where they left off in June can fall behind and stay behind for the entire year. If the problem is not fixed, they can start every school year behind and never properly be at the level needed to be successful. The summer is the perfect time to catch up and get ahead.
FACT: Math skills take the hardest hit
It is no secret that many students struggle with math. Grade nine math is the most failed subject, and studies suggest that 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency can be lost over the summer if students do not partake in some form of learning program.
FACT: All summer learning loss is avoidable
Though studies document the negative effect summer can have on students, there’s good news: learning losses are avoidable. Summer learning programs allow students to focus on trouble areas and keep skills sharp in as little as 2-3 hours a week, which helps them maintain momentum, and head back to class prepared for the new school year. Knowing how to avoid summer learning loss is the first step to making this holiday the most productive yet! Students can head back to class confident and prepared to achieve any academic goals they have in mind!
Now is the time to start researching summer camps and programs that will help maintain learning momentum and get students ready to hit the ground running next school year. Contact your local Oxford Learning Centre to ask about our summer programming, and remember, learning doesn’t stop just because school does!
Read More »
Just as athletes need periods of rest when they are training, our brains need breaks as well. We all know the feeling when we just can’t read another page of notes or write another sentence. But how does the brain determine when it needs a mental break?
Time magazine reports that according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, we receive a signal when we have reached our peak – think of the way our bodies screams out when we just can’t do another sit-up – and we are prompted by our brains to take a break. Once we have rested and are refreshed, we are able to resume the task at hand because the signal has quieted down.
But why are there days we seem to be able to work hard all day, and others when we seem to need a break every 20 minutes? Apparently the signal is not pre-set, and instead hinges on how much EFFORT is spent and what the reward for the work is. The brain is constantly re-calibrating the point at which it has had enough in relation to the work/gain ratio.
To read the full Time article on the study, click here.
To read more about how the brain influences us, click here.
Read More »
With spring just around the corner, students (and adults) are getting excited to get outside and get active.
So what does physical fitness have to do with students’ test scores?
A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reports that middle school students in the best physical shape scored the highest on standardized tests and received better overall grades on their report cards than their less-fit classmates.
Global News reports that the study’s lead researcher Dawn Coe says the study is one of the first to examine all aspects of physical fitness, including body fat, flexibility, endurance, and muscular strength in relation to academic performance.
This could be just the wake up call Canadian children need, as the annual Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card states that only 7% of Canadian youth are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day, and that the average child spends 63% of their free time idle.
Want to read more on the link between physical fitness and academic performance? Click here.
And don’t forget that exercise is only one way to improve academic performance. Getting a good night’s sleep is important too. To read more, click here.
Read More »
With school out for a week, it can be easy to let good routines and habits slide and put learning on the back-burner. But what if the holiday could be spent learning and being productive as well as having fun?
Good news: it can!
Check out our Top Ten Ways to Keep Learning on School Breaks!
Read More »
Learning French? Need some extra tips to get ahead?
These fun and helpful tips help French language learners of all ages and grades turn “je ne sais pas” into O-la-la!”
1. Watch your favourite shows and movies—in French! Listening to French will helps students acquire better pronunciation and improves the ability to distinguish words, sentences, etc. Add on French subtitles if you would like to see what the actors are saying.
2. Listen to French music. Whether it’s pop, jazz, rock, or hip-hop, there’s French music for you! Listening to French music allows you to hear the natural intonation of the language, which you’ll subsequently start to use when speaking in French.
3. Word-A-Day. Grab the French dictionary and pick one word a day to focus on. Learn how to spell it, say it, and when and how to use it. Try writing some sentences that use the word, and make sure to show your French teacher so that you know you’re using it correctly!
4. Vocabulary Flash Cards. Choose 10 new French words per week. Write each word on a flash card, with the translation on the other side. Test yourself a couple of times each day—you’ll be surprised at how quickly you learn the words. Keep the flash cards and at the end of the month, review all of the words for the entire month—it’s a great challenge!
5. Stay connected–en français! Change the default language of your email account, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles—even your computer—to French. You already know where the buttons are and what they do—now you’re staying connected and learning French!
6. Check out some French books! Your favourite books: Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Hunger Games, are all available in French! Try reading them—you’ll be amazed at how much you understand, especially if you’ve already read the English version! Your local library will have a non-English section: check it out! Pick a book that matches your language level—it’s okay if it seems a little simple: if the book is too challenging, you’ll simply end up frustrated and not understanding the story.
7. Pen (or email, or Skype) pals! Your teacher can probably connect you with someone who is a French first language speaker who you can practice your writing skills with. Don’t feel like writing on paper? Use email! Or, if you’re looking to improve your oral French, pick up the phone or use Skype to get some one-on-one practice with a native speaker!
8. Start a French club. Get together with your friends, with a French-only rule. Have dictionaries on hand to make it easier to express yourself. To make it more interesting: the first person to speak English has to buy/make the others a treat!
9. Keep a French journal or diary. It doesn’t have to be long, or complex. Just write down a few short sentences every day, and you’ll see your skills improving as you go! After a couple of months, you’ll be able to look back and see how far your writing skills have come!
10.Flash Cards Two. Use the vocabulary flash cards from #4, try to give a rhyming or opposite word for each card.
Read More »