Growing Tired, Anxious & Distracted - Be Balanced, Be Mindful, Be Present
Preliminary 2015 Research Findings
Full Infographic Available on the ATA Website
As co-principal investigator on this longitudinal research project it is my great fortune to be working with world-renowned colleagues from Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health (Dr. Michael Rich), the University of Alberta (Dr. Stanley Varhagen and Dr. Jason Daniels), and Boston Children’s Hospital (Dr. David Bickham). This collaborative initiative has been named Growing Up Digital (GUD) Alberta, and is attempting to to better understand the scope of physical, mental and social consequences of digital technologies in areas such as exercise, homework, identity formation, distraction, cognition, learning, nutrition, and sleep quality and quantity.
“Play is the highest form of research” ~ Albert Einstein
As editor of The Learning Team (a publication that goes out to 25 000 Alberta parents), I have focused the next edition exclusively on the importance and benefits of “play”.
The articles in this new collection have been drawn together to explore the relationship between play (both free and guided) and learning, and indeed how we can encourage more outdoor play or create welcoming indoor play spaces for children.
Other articles in this November 2015 edition represent unique contributions on play from world renowned Harvard scholars that have just completed a major research study for Hasbro on the topic of play.
To frame this entire collection, below are some of my own perspectives on how “free play” can powerfully (re)shape our considerations of human learning and development.
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic."
Blended learning, where students’ face-to-face education is blended with Internet resources or online courses, has been gaining considerable attention in education reform circles. It has become entangled with the ambiguous notion of personalized learning and is being positioned as the new way to individualize learning in competency-based education systems.
Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, and a key proponent of blended learning, claims that it is the “new model that is student-centric, highly personalized for each learner, and more productive, as it delivers dramatically better results at the same or lower cost” (Horn and Staker 2011, 13).
To what extent is this a new model of learning in a digital age? How are private corporations employing old rhetoric to advance new avenues into public education? Most importantly, is blended learning becoming yet another overhyped myth on the crowded road of technology-as-education-reform panacea?
"The oak fought the wind and was broken,
At one time or another we all come face-to-face with real hardships in life, whether they be social, emotional, financial and/or physical. It is an inevitability of being human, and something that life’s wisdom gets around to teaching us all.
How we cope with this adversity is dependent on our ability to manage change and reshape our lives. To adapt, and be able to bounce back from adversity, which is a central part of the human condition, we must build resilience in children and youth.
As Editor of The Learning Team publication, which reaches over 25 000 parents across our province, I have dedicated the April 2015 edition to exploring the notion of resilience at a time in our history when it is desperately needed, perhaps not just for children but society writ large.
Notions of mechanized teaching machines captured the imagination of many in the late 19th and 20th century. Today, yet again, a new generation of technology platforms promise to deliver “personalized learning” for each and every student. This rebirth of the teaching machine centers on digital software tutors (known as adaptive learning systems) and their grand claims to individualize learning by controlling the pace, place and content for each and every student. This time around, however, it is personal.
Within a 21st-century tsunami of change to K-12 education, innovative teaching and learning practices that employ emerging technologies are sweeping into our collective imaginations with the broader goal to transform education. Too often, however, the space for dialogue about the truly innovative practices that learning and technology can enable is non-existent, superficial or uninformed, and thus more thoughtful considerations and questions remain unasked or answered. This blog post is meant to share some of the perspectives and provocations around innovation, emerging technologies and educational practice.
The world’s education systems are in the midst of change (aka informed transformation) unlike any other time over the past century. It’s a historical moment where governments, teachers, parents and school communities are exploring visions of an education system that would embody increased flexibility (curricular and otherwise), innovation (technologies and pedagogy) and more individualized and self-directed approaches to student learning. Within this 21st-century parade of change, the notion of personalization in education is moving to the forefront. It’s an ambiguous and often broadly defined notion that has been hotly contested in the United Kingdom over the past several years. It’s a movement that could be as influential to how public education is conceived as privatization was in the 1980s.
The intent of this article is to provide a brief introduction to the discourse on personalization and encourage a space where Alberta teachers can raise their voices to (re)define and (re)shape this fragile idea as it gets positioned as the next big educational reform.
Making predictions about the future is an inherently risky activity. Rarely is the imagined future of education accurate; more often than not it tilts heavily in either an overly optimistic or a deeply pessimistic direction. For example, in the early 1920s Thomas Edison predicted that “the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and ... in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks” (Oppenheimer 1997). This prediction was followed 40 years later with psychologist B. F. Skinner’s assertion that the dawn of the machine age of education had finally arrived and that “with the help of teaching machines and programmed instruction, students could learn twice as much in the same time and with the same effort as in a standard classroom” (Oppenheimer). Well, the proliferation of motion pictures has not fully withdrawn the desire for educational print, and the teaching machines (whatever you imagine those to be) have not yet displaced the will for teachers and students to gather together to learn in classrooms.
For many years, I have found my research, teaching and scholarship with one foot in curriculum studies and one in emerging technologies. I am most intrigued by the way technology is taken up in the field of education and society, and prefer to explore the sociological implications of technologies to enhance learning rather than the physical technologies themselves. Even more important to me is how technology is (re)presented, or should I say marketed, as an object of desire and an item of necessity for educational progress. Let me attempt to forecast some of the effects of technologies on education within three horizons of change.
The first is the short-term horizon of one to two years, with the trends well along the way to becoming a reality. The second horizon is a midterm forecast of three to five years, which is likely to be accurate, but remember that funny things can happen on the way to the future (think biomedical innovations, global economic crisis, climate change chaos and pandemics). The last is the long-term horizon, which pushes 10 years into the future – a much hazier view that allows for a far-reaching prediction of a world where people and things are always digitally connected (think Marshall McLuhan’s Global Village). In discussing these predictions, I hope not to overestimate what will emerge in two years while underestimating the state of affairs in a decade’s time. I am certain, however, that we live in a time of exponential change, and what we imagine might take 50 years will likely happen within the decade. The path ahead will be riddled with dynamic changes to educational practice defined by speed, complexity, risk and unanticipated events (funny things happening on the way to the future). What follows may be just a glimpse of Canadians’ multidimensional future.