Friday, November 28, 2014

Increasing Selective Attention at School and in Life

We are bombarded by so much information in the course of our daily lives that it is easy to get distracted from what we should or would like to accomplish. One of the most valuable “cognitive assets,” in our Thinking for Results approach (Wilson & Conyers, 2011) is what we call Selective Attention.

Selective Attention is defined as "the skill of identifying what is important to any situation and attending to what is necessary with appropriate focus." Effective teachers guide their students to  identify what is most important in learning situations so that they can attend to necessary tasks with appropriate focus.

While attending the Cognitive Neuroscience of Learning symposium a few years ago, Marcus and I had the opportunity to see Professor Amishi Jha from the University of Miami report on her research with "mindfulness practice" as a way to improve attentional control.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Education for Students' Futures: Innovating Minds—What Students Need for the Future

Marcus Conyers
Center for Innovative Education and Prevention
“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” (Steve Jobs; inventor; 1955–2011.)
“We are convinced the world will increasingly be divided between high imagination-enabled countries, which encourage and enable the imagination and extras of their people, and low imagination-enabling countries, which suppress or simply fail to develop their people’s creative capacities and abilities to spark new ideas, start up new industries and their own ‘extra.’” Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum; That Used to Be Us (2011).
The present and future envisioned in these two quotes sound both a challenge and an opportunity. The words of Steve Jobs in particular capture the essence of the mindsets students will need for the future as they take their place in a world where automation and outsourcing of routine work are transforming the landscape and their career prospects. I have had the enormous privilege of teaching cognitive strategies that support creative thinking to students from kindergarten through college age and have been inspired by their incredible potential to learn, to innovate, and to solve problems.

Click the link to read the entire newsletter on the Information Age Education website.

When Stress and Depression Affect Learning

We often write about the importance of maintaining an optimal state for learning in classrooms as well as in the home. However, there is no denying that there are challenges facing teachers and parents today that make setting the stage for learning a difficult task at times. Two of the key factors are stress and depression.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified depression and anxiety as two major causes of illness and death in the United States as well as contributing to lower quality of life and reduced social functioning. According to 2009 statistics, more than 15% of Americans (including about 4% of children and adolescents) have  been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.

In some cases, children are coming into the classroom with inadequate sleep or malnourishment. In the most adverse cases, there are children who are suffering from child abuse and neglect or violence in their homes or neighborhoods. These extreme circumstances can lead to toxic stress, which impairs development of neural connections.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Put Time Management on Your Side in the Classroom

Learning to manage time and meet deadlines are valuable skills for workers of the future—and the students in your classroom right now!

Through explicit instruction on time management, you can guide students to understand the importance of scheduling tasks to finish school assignments and to complete big projects on time without cramming at the end and turning in half-finished, subpar work.

Time management is one of 25 cognitive assets covered in the Thinking for Results approach (Wilson & Conyers, 2011). Guiding students to learn to “think about their thinking”—to become more metacognitive—and develop their thinking and problem-solving skills is a central tenet of the graduate degree programs with a major in Brain-Based Teaching that we co-developed and are being offered through Nova Southeastern University’s Fischler School of Education.