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!
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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!
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Be honest: how often are you focused on only one thing?
Is it more likely that you could be found texting and chatting online while trying to complete a more important task? Do you reply to emails that can wait or clean out your desk drawers rather than tackle the work you should be completing?
If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Many of us find it difficult to focus on one thing at a time or complete tasks on our to-do list without getting distracted. But what if there was a way to ignore the urge to check our email or watch a Youtube video while working, and cross off things on our to-do list without procrastinating? Time management is an extremely important part of ‘doing more’: eliminating distractions, defeating procrastination, and completing tasks efficiently can lead to an incredibly productive and successful life (not to mention less stressful).
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Our brain often works against us when we’re trying to complete a big task that requires a lot of concentration and attention. Our brain seeks rewards, which completing small, insignificant tasks like responding to an email or sending a text, can give it.
So what can we do to stop ourselves from being so easily distracted and make the most of our time?
A How-To article by CNET suggests the following three steps for being more productive:
1. Use to-do lists the right way – Have one book/app that serves as your to-do list rather than a bunch of post-it notes that are easily lost/ignored. Break larger tasks down into smaller sub-tasks to keep to-do items specific.
2. Time yourself – Track how long it takes to complete a task. You are less likely to spend 2 hours on Facebook while working if the clock is ticking. This will also allow you to judge how efficiently you are using your time and get better at doing so.
3. Tune out – Having specific music (preferably classical or something without lyrics) or white noise (think those cd’s with rainforest or storm sounds) that you listen to while completing tasks can trigger your brain into recognizing when it’s time to work. It can also tune out noises that may be distracting.
What are your tricks for staying focused, eliminating distractions, being productive and managing your time effectively? Leave us a comment!
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It’s no secret that boys typically have a harder time sitting still, staying focused, and not disrupting their classmates than girls do. But when it comes to their grades, do boys receive lower marks due to their fidgeting and classroom antics?
NBC News reports that a study published in the Journal of Human Resources suggests that gender differences emerge early and stereotypes could work against boys, as teachers consciously or unconsciously take their classroom behaviour into consideration when grading.
Classroom behaviour affects grades
An expert on gender and education suggests that it is possible—and likely—that teachers enter schools and classrooms with expectations and stereotypes already in place and that these may effect how teachers evaluate student work, as well as how they interact with students.
Behaviour does not equal potential
Some teachers, however, note that many classrooms show an even split down gender lines when considering ‘disruptive’ students, and that teachers must do their best to separate grades and behaviour, as the latter does not indicate aptitude.
Does your son (or daughter) seem to receive lower grades as a result of their classroom behaviour? Let us know!
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If you could look at yourself as you sit in a classroom, what would you see? Would you be sitting up with eyes on the teacher, pen in hand, scribbling notes? Would you be raising your hand, actively discussing material with classmates during group work, and writing important dates down in your school agenda? Or would you be in the back of the class, head down on your desk or slumped in your chair, daydreaming, doodling, or even worse, texting? If you could catch a glimpse of yourself while you are learning would you see someone who is engaged and participating, or someone who is visibly bored and unattentive?
Education Week Teacher reports that according to the Gallup Student Poll, student engagement drops as students age. Measuring levels of engagement, hope, and well-being, Gallup surveyed over 500,000 students across 37 states and found that numbers of engaged students drop significantly between elementary and secondary school.
According to their findings, the “majority of elementary school students—almost eight in 10—qualify as engaged. By middle school, however, that number drops to six in 10 students. And when students enter high school, it drops to four in 10.”
But what is causing this drop in interest and engagement in school? Some say it is our focus on standardized testing rather than interest-based and experiential learning, while others would suggest the fault lies in the students themselves, as school and learning require determination, will, and focus and cannot always be tailored to student interests.
Read the article/poll by clicking the links above, and let us know what you think in a comment! We’d love to hear your tips and tricks for staying focused and motivated in the classroom!
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What is the answer for students who struggle with attention and comprehension in the classroom? In an age where children turn to the Internet for answers, is incorporating state-of-the-art technology into classrooms the answer to get students to pay attention and learn best?
Studies in Alberta suggest the answer is no. While many students might love to see their favourite technological gadgets and sites used in the classroom, the majority of students say that technology is not how they learn best, and is not the only answer to making classrooms better learning environments.
An Alberta initiative called Speak Out asked students to share their thoughts on education, and the results may be surprising:
- Students report that having teachers who provide more time to help them, smaller class sizes, more learning outside the classroom, hands-on experiments, and working at their own pace all rank higher than technology as ways to increase and improve their learning
- Only 3% of students ranked up-to-date technology as the primary way they learn at their best
- Only 4% of students said classroom upgrades, better computers, textbooks and equipment, would be the best way to improve their education.
Studies throughout the province of Alberta suggest that although students are technologically savvy when it comes to communication, they often don’t know how to use technology effectively to learn. Also, in over 50% of the classrooms researchers visited that were using technology to learn (Smart Boards, computers, Skype, for example), students exhibited the same levels of disengagement as in classrooms using no technology.
So what’s the solution? It seems that technology alone is not the answer to creating more engaged and successful students. To read what other solutions there may be to keep your child engaged and learning in the classroom, click here.
To read the entire article on technology in the classroom from the Calgary Herald, click here.
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Looking for a way to spend quality time with the family this holiday season? Want to unplug and have some fun? Books and board games are great ways to get your child to put down the cell phone or video game controller and have some family fun while developing skills that can be transferred to the classroom when back-to-school time comes around.
Books can be a great stocking stuffer and give kids the chance to read material that interests them. Even if your child isn’t an avid recreational reader, comic books or magazines can spark their interest and encourage them to spend some quiet time reading. Reading together as a family is a great way to bond and can inspire discussion on different topics that arise as you read. Take turns reading paragraphs, act out scenes, guess what will happen next, and (if the book is also a movie) watch the film version together once you have finished the book. Encouraging your child to read for pleasure will increase their focus and concentration, expand their vocabulary and literacy skills, and is a hobby the whole family can enjoy.
Board games are also a great way to have fun as a family over the holidays. Although online and video games are often preferred by for our tech-savvy kids, board games are a great way to increase learning skills while having fun. Board games enhance skills such as:
- Problem solving
- Quick thinking
- Vocabulary skills
- Identifying patterns
- Decision making
Have some holiday fun with the family this break by dusting off your favourite board game or curling up on the couch with a good book. Who knows, it may even be the start of a great family tradition for the New Year!
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