Monday, December 1, 2014

My favorite poem...I think.

The Joyful Reality of Fatherhood

An old friend introduced me to this poem, and it reminded me that (nearly) every son has his struggles with his father.  And every father worth his salt makes the sacrifices he must for his children.

THOSE WINTER SUNDAYS
Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?



A haiku in response...

Furnace blows heat now
Wages earned in warm darkness--
Lonesome bright future

Junior Achievement Poetry

Today, we played something called the Savvy Shopper game as part of our preparation for doing the personal finance simulation at Junior Achievement.  I handed out word magnets (for making refrigerator poetry) as game pieces.  Each group's words make up one line of the poem.  Word order within the line, and line order is up to me, the "poet."  Herewith, Savvy Shopper Poetry!


Version 1 
Purple Winter Evening, Erase Blossom
Water Spring Garden
Mushroom, Then Skin

Whisper, “Investigate Smile?!”


Version 2
Skin, then mushroom
Evening Blossom Erase Purple Winter
Garden Spring Water
Investigate Whisper Smile


Leave yellow happy side
Cloud soon beneath,
Birch dawn autumn song--
“Rise, cold grass!”

Friday, November 7, 2014

Your Brain trying to Pay Attention while on Electronics

Here is a quick write-up of the Brains on Electronics Attention Test I did with my 8th graders.  I structure this like a science experiment write-up that my colleagues do....This type of report is not my strong suit, but I try to do a little support of the science folks' work.  (Go here to see all the work we did.)

Spoiler Alert:  Electronics may not be the problem, but lack of intentionality about paying attention may be!


As personal entertainment and information technologies proliferate, educators must consider the complicated mix of benefits and drawbacks of student use of electronic devices, both in school and out.  While the school cannot govern student conduct outside of school hours, the school day is still subject to the control of teachers and administrators.  But even here, education professionals disagree and educational institutions’ policies diverge.  This study is designed to give educators insights into the effects of electronics usage during academic task performance.

Research
Current research on brains and technology tends fairly strongly in one direction--the acknowledgment that electronics have a significant effect on the human brain, especially ones undergoing the intensive development that teenagers’ are.  For instance, some researchers are concerned that we can become addicted--both psychologically and physically--to our technologies.  In the former case, the growing prevalence of technology users who report attitudes such as “things don’t seem quite real until I’ve posted them on social media” reflects a kind of emotional over-attachment to the technologies of digital social life. In the latter case, specifically medical evidence shows that some electronics users may be physiologically addicted to their electronics, as seen in the fact that the mere ring or message chime of the cell phone stimulates a kind of Pavlovian release of dopamine--the pleasure hormone--in the brain.   Other studies find that prolonged use of electronics can stimulate mood change, or cause a decrease in the ability to recognize emotions in live humans.  Some have gone so far as to say we can develop so-called popcorn brains--the need for the “pop” of constant novel sensory stimulation.  In response to all this, many analysts suggest that we be sure to get adequate downtime--away from electronics--for our brains, and that we try to cut back on our screen time usage.

Schools, of course, are particularly concerned about electronics’ effects on academic performance, and with good reason.  Our own (small) survey indicates that students own--or have relatively unlimited access to--prodigious quantities of personal electronic devices.  Indeed, students surveyed for this study owned nearly 6 devices (cell/smart phones, to laptops, to game units) each, and acknowledged using them quite extensively while doing their homework, though not for the purpose of homework.

Given this, we set out to try to discover what we could about the relationship between brains and electronics.   While we could not test broad questions about this, we were able to do an experiment designed to address this question:  What effect, if any, will electronic usage during academic tasks have on performance of that task?

Hypothesis
While preparing this experiment, our review of other research, the consideration of historically comparable cases (the telephone) and the analysis of current electronic technology usage patterns in a sample teenage population led us to hypothesize that undertaking academic tasks requiring focused attention while allowing electronic device usage will cause a decrease in the performance of the attention task.  If testers use electronic distractions during attention tests, then test performance will decrease.


Plan of Experiment
The attention task--designed to simulate something that requires close attention--involved the tester being prompted to watch for either a LETTER or NUMBER.  This would be followed by a letter-number pair. For LETTERs, testers were to identify if the letter was a vowel or consonant; for NUMBERs, odd or even.  Then testers were to click the box indicating the correct designation.  One round of the test includes 20 prompts and answers.  Scores are based on both speed and accuracy.
Take the test!

The test was administered on computers in school.  Two baseline scores, without electronic distraction, were done first (Baseline--Best of the 2 reported below).  For later rounds of the test, students were allowed to play their personal music devices (iPods, MP3, etc.)  This portion included tests with just music devices (with iPods--both scores below), music devices plus “encouraging” text pop-ups in the test (iPods plus--best of the 2), music devices plus “discouraging” text pop-ups in the test (iPods extra--best of the 2), and music devices with a video playing on a screen in the room, with text pop-ups connected to the video (iPods plus video).  When the music devices rounds were completed, all students listened to and performed a mindfulness breathing exercise for 4 minutes, then repeated the test without any device distractions (After Breathing).


Collect and Record Data
2nd Period Collect and Record Data


Best
Baseline
With iPods
With iPods 2
Ipods plus (best of 2)
iPods extra (best of 2)
iPods plus video (best of 2)
After Breathing 
Correct 
DATA 
17
18
17
18
17
18
Time
DELETED
40
40
46
40
37
33
Score
Apprx 65*
61
66
60
68
65
74



3rd Period Collect and Record Data 


Best
Baseline
With iPods
With iPods 2
Ipods plus (best of 2)
iPods extra (best of 2)
iPods plus video (best of 2)
After Breathing 
Correct 
18
17
18
17
18
17
18
Time
45
52
55
47
48
43
35
Score
65
62
64
59
66
64
71



5th Period Collect and Record Data


Best
Baseline
With iPods
With iPods 2
Ipods plus (best of 2)
iPods extra (best of 2)
iPods plus video (best of 2)
After Breathing 
Correct 
18
17
17
17
18
18
19
Time
44
47
47
47
48
43
38
Score
66
59
58
59
65
65
73



6th Period Collect and Record Data


Best
Baseline
With iPods
With iPods 2
Ipods plus (best of 2)
iPods extra (best of 2)
iPods plus video (best of 2)
After Breathing 
Correct 
18
17
17
17
18
DATA
18
Time
42
40
38
42
38
DELETED
32
Score
65
63
64
59
69

73


Conclusions

The hypothesis that scores would decrease because of increased electronic distraction does not appear to be confirmed by this set of tests.  While some “distracted” scores drop below the initial baseline scores, others rise above that line.  Further, the later “distracted” (i.e., more distractions) scores sometimes rise above both the baseline and the less “distracted” scores.

The one clear and consistent outcome, however, is the significant improvement in scores after completing the breathing exercise.  A t-test comparison of the highest pre-breathing test scores with the post-breathing test scores (i.e., the test outcome comparison least likely to be statistically significant) returns a two-tailed P value equal to 0.0003. By conventional criteria, this difference is considered to be extremely statistically significant.  

The difference between the pre- and post-breathing exercise scores reflects a change in the focus level of the testers.  At this point, it remains unclear how much the breathing exercise itself, rather than simply the taking of a break, for instance, caused increased performance.  Either way, specific and intentional efforts to relax and focus clearly led to improved test performance.  

This generates questions for further consideration and, possibly, study.  The most relevant to educators is related  to determining the ways that such intentional work on focusing--perhaps by way of breathing exercises--might lead to improved academic engagement and performance.  

Student responses to electronics usage survey




Student Survey Responses….

Please check all that apply. You may choose more than one answer in each row and column.



I own all of the following:
I use the following to do my homework:
I use the following while doing my homework, though not necessarily for my homework:
iPod/MP3
100.00%
30
26.67%
8
50.00%
15
Desktop Computer
86.67%
26
66.67%
20
16.67%
5
Laptop Computer
87.18%
34
82.05%
32
25.64%
10
iPad/Tablet
90.91%
30
45.45%
15
42.42%
14
Electronic Reader (Kindle, etc.)
100.00%
21
23.81%
5
23.81%
5
Smart Phone
97.56%
40
73.17%
30
63.41%
26
Cell Phone (without internet)
100.00%
11
18.18%
2
27.27%
3
Smart Watch
100.00%
2
0.00%
0
0.00%
0
Exercise Tracker (FitBit, Nike Fuelband, etc.)
100.00%
6
0.00%
0
0.00%
0
Smart TV
100.00%
15
0.00%
0
33.33%
5
Game Unit (xBox, Nintendo, Playstation)
100.00%
39
0.00%
0
5.13%
2
Hand held game unit (DS)
100.00%
29
0.00%
0
0.00%
0



Which of the following activities have you ever done on your mobile or cell phone while also doing school work? (Check all that apply)


Answer Choices
Responses
General internet use (other than using social networking websites)
78.85%
41
Make or receive phone calls
51.92%
27
Play games
48.08%
25
Play music
80.77%
42
Play podcasts
7.69%
4
Play videos (other than video games)
57.69%
30
Purchase products or services
9.62%
5
Record videos
21.15%
11
Send or receive emails
28.85%
15
Send or receive instant messages
38.46%
20
Send or receive photos
42.31%
22
Send or receive texts
71.15%
37
Send or receive videos
30.77%
16
Take photos
48.08%
25
Use social networking websites
46.15%
24
Total Respondents: 52







How frequently do you engage in any of the activities that you checked in the previous question while also doing school work?



Answer Choices
Responses
Always
1.82%
1
Usually
32.73%
18
Sometimes
41.82%
23
Rarely
18.18%
10
Not applicable, I don't do any
5.45%
3
Total
55





Do you think your electronic device usage negatively affects how you do your schoolwork?


Answer Choices
Responses


Definitely
12.73%
7
Probably
16.36%
9
Maybe
27.27%
15
Probably not
27.27%
15
Definitely not
16.36%
9
Total
55
II guess it is sort of a distraction but not to everyone
11/5/2014 3:20 PM View respondent's answers
It makes sense
11/4/2014 9:12 PM View respondent's answers
I have really good grades and I rarely you them while doing homework.
11/4/2014 6:06 PM View respondent's answers
Yes, at times electronics can be distracting to me but I don't think it really effects my work.
11/4/2014 5:52 PM View respondent's answers
You don't focus on your work as much because you are getting distracted
11/4/2014 4:24 PM View respondent's answers
Keeps from focusing on work
11/4/2014 4:21 PM View respondent's answers
Sometimes I would forget what I was working on!
11/4/2014 3:42 PM View respondent's answers
It can cause a distraction
11/4/2014 8:48 AM View respondent's answers
It helps me because I can look up stuff and it motivates me to finish
11/4/2014 7:28 AM View respondent's answers
I get easily distracted
11/3/2014 10:10 PM View respondent's answers
Im not really sure.
11/3/2014 9:40 PM View respondent's answers
sometimes it can distract me
11/3/2014 9:36 PM View respondent's answers
It could affect how you do your schoolwork by you multi tasking, and you spending more time on electronic device then doing schoolwork
11/3/2014 8:32 PM View respondent's answers
Doesnt help me stay completly focused when i am working
11/3/2014 8:16 PM View respondent's answers
Because I don't use any.
11/3/2014 8:11 PM View respondent's answers
Becasue It wont make you zone out at home
11/3/2014 8:10 PM View respondent's answers
It can be a distraction
11/3/2014 8:00 PM View respondent's answers
I say this because when I use it during homework, I use it for homework such as calculating something.
11/3/2014 7:32 PM View respondent's answers
It helps in some ways too
11/3/2014 7:17 PM View respondent's answers
I usually just read or do research on them.
11/3/2014 6:46 PM View respondent's answers
It definitely stops doing your homework when talking to someone else(text or instant message)
11/3/2014 6:36 PM View respondent's answers
Sometimes I don't want to stop playing video games to do homework.
11/3/2014 6:33 PM View respondent's answers
when i need the internet, i use my smart phone. i use my graphing calculator on my smart phone. i play games at least 1 hour a day.
11/3/2014 6:32 PM View respondent's answers
I use it for math HW only
11/3/2014 6:11 PM View respondent's answers
Sometimes I can tell it is but other times I don't think it is
11/3/2014 6:10 PM View respondent's answers
There was time when I didn't use electronics while doing my and my grades didn't become worse.
11/3/2014 5:46 PM View respondent's answers
I rarely use electronics during shoolwork, but when I do, it's usually for a second to check something like a text
11/3/2014 5:14 PM View respondent's answers
I mainly focus on the work not the text.
11/3/2014 5:09 PM View respondent's answers
Sometimes I do things I'm not supposed to, but other times I need electronics to do my homework.
11/3/2014 5:02 PM View respondent's answers
I think it does effect us because our minds get used to the electronics.
11/3/2014 4:55 PM View respondent's answers
Most of the time it helps me.
11/3/2014 4:38 PM View respondent's answers
An iPhone could help you by using the internet to search things and use educational apps.
11/3/2014 4:36 PM View respondent's answers
I don't play music often. I usually use my phone to look up words I don't understand.
11/3/2014 4:20 PM View respondent's answers
I almost never use electronics while doing schoolwork, and if I do, I use it for maybe 10 minutes and then put it away. Sometimes, I only text my friends so the can help me with my work and not just for pleasure.
11/3/2014 4:19 PM View respondent's answers
I know when i need to cut back. I'm not that addicted
11/3/2014 3:30 PM View respondent's answers
i dont use it to the point that i cant function without it
11/3/2014 3:30 PM View respondent's answers
It distractes me so I don't have a 100% focus on my work.
11/3/2014 3:24 PM View respondent's answers
I already do my best and using electronics doesn't change how well i do.
11/3/2014 3:22 PM View respondent's answers
I do use electronics while doing homework, but not every time I do homework. I think I have okay balance.
11/3/2014 3:14 PM View respondent's answers
because i think of animating when i get home
11/3/2014 3:04 PM View respondent's answers






If you went one school week without using any electronics, what impact do you think that would have on your school work?

Answer Choices
Responses
My work would improve a lot
14.55%
8
My work would improve some
30.91%
17
No impact
47.27%
26
My work would be somewhat worse
7.27%
4
My work would be a lot worse
0.00%
0
Total
55

because listening to music some what focuses me
11/5/2014 3:20 PM View respondent's answers
my phone is taken away while doing homework, then I get it back when i'm done.
11/5/2014 7:31 AM View respondent's answers
I usually refer to the internet for help or reference when required
11/4/2014 9:12 PM View respondent's answers
If I did not use electronics for a week my work would be somewhat better because of the less distractions and more focus on my actual work.
11/4/2014 5:52 PM View respondent's answers
More focused, but I use internet for homework
11/4/2014 4:21 PM View respondent's answers
I would be more focused on my work than on other things.
11/4/2014 3:42 PM View respondent's answers
Your not distracted
11/4/2014 8:48 AM View respondent's answers
I only have a mechanical pencil
11/4/2014 7:28 AM View respondent's answers
I would probably be more focused
11/3/2014 10:10 PM View respondent's answers
I don't think it would be impacted.
11/3/2014 9:40 PM View respondent's answers
i always do my homework just as well, just takes longer
11/3/2014 9:36 PM View respondent's answers
The only impact I think it would have is you finishing your schoolwork faster
11/3/2014 8:32 PM View respondent's answers
i would focus more on my homework
11/3/2014 8:16 PM View respondent's answers
Becasue tech helps me out on things i dont understand, then i look it up and i would know how to do it
11/3/2014 8:10 PM View respondent's answers
I think this eliminates any distractions from school work, but my school work doesntt really suffer from technology use.
11/3/2014 7:32 PM View respondent's answers
It could help a little but not much
11/3/2014 7:17 PM View respondent's answers
I don't use electronics for schoolwork unless it is my textbook, but I could bring that home.
11/3/2014 6:46 PM View respondent's answers
There would be no stop in homework and that would help a lot.
11/3/2014 6:36 PM View respondent's answers
i was fine before i had a iPhone so it doesn't matter to me.
11/3/2014 6:32 PM View respondent's answers
I usually do that
11/3/2014 6:11 PM View respondent's answers
My electronics don't affect my grades
11/3/2014 5:14 PM View respondent's answers
It would take away some minor destractions
11/3/2014 5:09 PM View respondent's answers
I always have distractions while I'm doing my homework whether I like it or not.
11/3/2014 5:02 PM View respondent's answers
It would improve some because we don't have all these distractions going on.
11/3/2014 4:55 PM View respondent's answers
i'd be fine with out my electronics, but they make work easier.
11/3/2014 4:38 PM View respondent's answers
By searching the internet I can get easy answers but if I didn't use the internet I would have to find the answer the old fashion way witch may help me remember it
11/3/2014 4:36 PM View respondent's answers
I barely use my electronics now, taking it away is no different.
11/3/2014 4:19 PM View respondent's answers
I was grounded for 2 months once. I think i can manage.
11/3/2014 3:30 PM View respondent's answers
it dosent affect my homework
11/3/2014 3:30 PM View respondent's answers
I would spend more effort on my work
11/3/2014 3:24 PM View respondent's answers
Even though I have good grades, electronics might be a distraction somwhat.
11/3/2014 3:22 PM View respondent's answers
Because then you can't use the internet for helpful resources, if you don't understand something.
11/3/2014 3:18 PM View respondent's answers
I think that if I went a week without using electronics, I would be able to focus more on schoolwork, thus making better grades.
11/3/2014 3:14 PM View respondent's answers
Im always on the computer
11/3/2014 3:04 PM View respondent's answers\




If you were allowed to use electronic devices during school time, how you do think that would affect your work during school?

Answer Choices
Responses
My work would improve a lot
1.85%
1
My work would improve some
25.93%
14
No impact
37.04%
20
My work would be somewhat worse
31.48%
17
My work would be a lot worse
3.70%
2
Total
54







Often
Sometimes
Rarely
Never
Total
felt the urge to pull out a cell phone even when you're in the midst of a face to face conversation with someone.
7.27%
4
20.00%
11
25.45%
14
47.27%
26

55
texted even while someone is telling you something, and realized later that you can't remember the details of what the person (speaking to you) said.
9.09%
5
12.73%
7
30.91%
17
47.27%
26

55
gotten the vague feeling that something hasn't really happened until you post it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other social media.
10.91%
6
7.27%
4
7.27%
4
74.55%
41

55
felt isolated and anxious if you are offline for an extended period of time.
9.26%
5
14.81%
8
20.37%
11
55.56%
30

54
noticed that even when your family is all together in one room at home, each person is gazing at his or her own screen and tapping at a miniature keyboard.
20.00%
11
30.91%
17
27.27%
15
21.82%
12

55




Overall, I keep my technology usage at a reasonable and healthy level.


Answer Choices
Responses
Strongly Agree
20.00%
11
Agree
45.45%
25
Not Sure
16.36%
9
Disagree
16.36%
9
Strongly Disagree
1.82%
1
Total
55



I think I should cut back my technology usage…

Answer Choices
Responses
Quite a bit
12.73%
7
Some
21.82%
12
A little
40.00%
22
Not at all
25.45%
14
Total
55