Saturday, February 22, 2014
"With spring fast approaching, many American high school seniors are now waiting anxiously to hear whether they got into the college or university of their choice. For many students, their scores on the SAT or the ACT will play a big role in where they get in.
That’s because those standardized tests remain a central part in determining which students get accepted at many schools. But a first-of-its-kind study obtained by NPR raises questions about whether those tests are becoming obsolete.
On a drizzly Saturday in Belmont, Calif., high school students are walking out of the Belmont Library looking a little frazzled. They’ve just spent four hours communing with paper, chair and pencil.
Mara Meijer, a junior who wants to be a veterinarian, is among them.
“A lot of my teachers have said that if you don’t have these scores, [colleges] won’t even look at your applications,” Meijer says. “I have tons of books at home that I practice over the weekend and after school, so I can work on upping my score.”
“Upping my score” is a mantra for teens across the country. But Meijer questions — as do a growing number of students and parents — why America remains addicted to these standardized tests in the first place.
“They’re not exactly a fair way to show our skills,” she says. “I wish they could find some way to really show what we can do.”
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Poughkeepsie Day School via Compfight cc
"All 870 students at Hillview Middle School in Menlo Park, Calif. will soon have school-issued iPads that they can use both at school and at home. The school has slowly rolled out the program over the past three years, trying to work out the kinks before issuing the expensive devices to every student. Before students can take the devices home, they’ll have to take a course to get their “digital driver license,” which includes digital citizenship and learning their way around the device.
Eighth grade students at Hillview have had their iPads since the beginning of the school year. Read more on how teachers are using the devices in class so far and their hopes for the future. Here, they weigh in on how the devices change what happens in class, how they think about learning and how they organize their school work."
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Photo Credit: jmtimages via Compfight cc
The beginning of a new year always prompts list-making — resolutions, what went right last year, what can be done better in the next. How will 2013′s trends shape the year ahead? Looking into a crystal ball (and with input from experts), these are just two of many)movements we hope will take shape in classrooms across the country in 2014.
Self-Directed Learning Using Digital Tools Will Take Center StageIn 2013, we observed the logistical and ideological mistakes of Los Angeles Unified iPad roll-out, as well as the confusion and difficulty with which schools grappled with computer-based testing created to align with the Common Core. But as many educators know, there’s much more to technology use than those stories tell.
Many hope that 2014 will be the time to find that holy grail — using technology to go beyond providing efficiency and management to truly transforming student learning. The schools that will stand out in the year ahead are the ones creating space for multi-modal learning environments, “where open-ended project design rooted in real-world problem solving are capturing the imagination and interest of students,” said Matt Levinson, Head of the Upper School at Marin Country Day School and author of From Fear to Facebook: One School’s Journey.
Levinson said the trend he sees taking shape is a kind of old-meets-new story in which the constructivist dreams of 100 years ago come to fruition using personalized digital technology. Teachers will play a prominent role, but in a newly defined and conceived role, along the lines of constructivist learning, popularized by John Dewey over a hundred years ago, Levinson said. “Ironically, the technology is enabling learning to take steps back in time, almost to the 15th and 16th century tutorial learning environment that only the royal households were able to employ for the exclusive few,” he said.
Does that mean more schools across the nation will embrace inquiry learning even as they implement Common Core State Standards in 2014? Will that even be possible? In the following year, we hope to chronicle case studies and classrooms where this is happening.
“Opting In” to Authentic AssessmentIn 2013, a scrappy group of parents and teachers voiced their concern for high-stakes standardized testing by opting kids out of testing altogether, gaining ground through opt-out evangelists and growing media coverage. Education professor Tim Slekar, a founder of United Opt-Out National, said that he believes 2014 will be a banner year for the movement. “Since March [when the first round of Common Core-aligned tests were issued], we’re adding 100 members a day,” he said. According to Slekar, New York is the state to watch for the biggest push against their latest “test and punish” standards that have put parents, teachers and students on edge. “I feel comfortable making a prediction for 50-60 percent opt-out participation in New York State,” in the spring of 2014, he said, adding that the state’s new standards and testing culture are “the opt-out movement’s best recruiters.”
But even though he has no official numbers of how many students opted out of testing in 2013 (he estimates a roughly 5 percent opt-out rate in his former home state of Pennsylvania), Slekar guesses that Common Core tests administered in the spring of 2014 will add even more members to opt-out’s rolls.
Slekar said that for parents and teachers, opting out of state tests is only the first step to changing the culture. United Opt-Out National plans on unleashing a spring campaign asking parents and teachers to “Opt-In” to authentic assessment. “This [movement] is not a rejection of assessment, or testing. This is a rejection of corporate-imposed test-and-punish accountability,” he said. “We want authentic, valid, personal meaningful assessment to rule the day.”
"It might feel overwhelming to keep track of the latest education trends, jargon, and ed-tech products. But for many educators — and most MindShift readers — the topic of focus that stays top-of-mind above the chatter is learning. A look through the most popular MindShift posts this year reveals that, despite all the news about iPad rollouts and Common Core, the strongest thread of interest for our readers remains the topic of learning: student-directed learning, inquiry-based approaches to teaching, and the desire to help students learn how to learn in a changing world.
POSITIVE CONDITIONS FOR LEARNING
Adults can make a big impact on how students view their own learning process and capabilities, as described in the article Giving Good Praise to Girls: What Messages Stick. Research by Stanford professor Carol Dweck has shown that students who demonstrate a “growth mindset” about their abilities fare much better than those who believe their abilities in any given area are fixed — that either they’re smart or they’re not. Educators and parents can help encourage a growth mindset by praising the effort children put into their work, not the byproduct.
“What we’ve shown is that when you praise someone, say, ‘You’re smart at this,’ the next time they struggle, they think they’re not,” Dweck said. “It’s really about praising the process they engage in, not how smart they are or how good they are at it, but taking on difficulty, trying many different strategies, sticking to it and achieving over time.” Her research also shows that girls are more susceptible to the fixed mindset than boys, especially when it comes to math. Dweck’s research asks educators and parents to think carefully about the messages they’re sending to children, even at a young age. The praise a parent gives her child between the ages of one and three affects that child’s ability to overcome challenges five years later."
Saturday, February 8, 2014
TIME's "Mindful Revolution" cover in January stirred up debate among the online mindfulness community, in part for featuring a beautiful, white blonde woman meditating on the cover. As some commentators pointed out, this wasn't the first time that the magazine has portrayed mindfulness this way: Its last cover on the "science of meditation" also featured an image of a beautiful white model.
"It's one thing to feature a young, fertile white girl on the cover of TIME and promote it as 'mindfulness,'" wrote Joanna Piacenza, web manager of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, in a HuffPost Religion blog post. "It's another to do it twice over the course of a decade."
It's undeniable that there is a mindful revolution going on, and that more people than ever before are embracing the well-documented physical and mental health benefits of meditation. But unfortunately, a homogenous representation of mindfulness practices isn't uncommon in the media -- especially in the case of yoga, which is often depicted by a thin white woman with a "Gwyneth Paltrow body." But the image of the serene, young white woman closing her eyes and breathing deeply doesn't come close to telling the whole story of how mindfulness is beginning to transform lives.
Despite the often-exclusionary media representation of mindfulness, the "mindful revolution" is spreading everywhere.
"Everyone benefits from meditation," Russell Simmons, who is on the board of the David Lynch Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to bring Transcendental Meditation to in-need populations, told CNN. "This idea of letting your mind settle is in every religion, but is also in every spiritual teaching. But also everyone needs to look inside for reflection in order to work outside. Operating from a calm space has gotten to be the greatest gift that anyone can be given... all happiness comes from inside."
Here's proof that mindfulness is for everyone, and that it's transforming both individuals and communities across lines of gender, race, socioeconomic status and cultural background.
Meditation is helping students, especially in low-income areas.
Meditation has been proven to have a number of benefits for students: It can boost focus, attention and memory, lower stress levels and improve sleep quality, and some studies have even found mindfulness training to improve test scores. An increasing number of schools, both private and public, from elementary to high school, are beginning to integrate mindfulness into their curriculums.
At Patterson High School in Baltimore -- a school with a number of at-risk students and has a four-year graduation rate of only 86 percent -- the Holistic Life Foundation's "Mindful Moments" program is working yoga, meditation and breathing into the students' daily schedules. As part of the program, faculty and students take part in a 15-minute yoga and mindfulness practice at the beginning and end of each day.
"It's our hope that by bringing Mindful Moments to our school, students will improve their self-esteem and self-awareness, and develop a better way of making decisions," said Patterson principal Vance Benton.
Veterans and soldiers using meditation to cope with PTSD.
Meditation is becoming increasingly common among a population that's at high risk for stress and stress-related health problems: Soldiers and veterans. Through Operation Warrior Wellness program, the David Lynch Foundation is bringing Transcendental Meditation to over 10,000 veterans with PTSD and their families. The program is helping to promote resiliency and well-being among soldiers, empower the families of veterans, and relieve symptoms of PTSD, which as many as one in eight returning soldiers may suffer from.
"The research... found about a 50 percent reduction in symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The research shows a reduction in heart disease, which is a byproduct of PTSD, as well as anxiety and sleep disorders," Bob Roth, executive director of the David Lynch Foundation, told CNN on Veteran's Day in 2012. "It's medically sound and scientifically-tested."
Mindfulness is transforming end-of-life care.
Meditation has been shown to have significant health and well-being benefits for the elderly. Mindfulness meditation can combat loneliness among adults and Transcendental Meditation has been shown to boost longevity in elderly practitioners.
More generally, mindfulness can help all of us to better cope with aging and death. Two Zen Buddhist monks, Koshin Paley Ellison and Robert Chodo Campbell, are starting a movement to transform end-of-life care through mindfulness and other Buddhist principles. They founded the New York Zen Center For Contemplative Care to help both the terminal ill and their families and friends come to a more peaceful acceptance of death.
Our culture has a tendency to fear and push away death, says Ellison. Oftentimes when a person is dying, the people around them become so uncomfortable with what's happening that they try to avoid facing the reality. But the more accepting and intimate we become with death -- an attitude that mindfulness can help us to cultivate -- the more we're able to accept it.
"We need to move into the fear," Ellison told the Huffington Post. "We need to say, 'I can be here, I'm scared out of my mind, but I can breathe and be with it.'"
Mindfulness has become part of a revolution in mental health care.
The potential for mindfulness practices to revolutionize mental health and psychiatric care is enormous, and it's already well underway. With his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, meditation expert and MIT medical professor Jon Kabat-Zinn helped to bring mindfulness into the world of psychiatry. So far, the research has proven meditation to be an effective, low-cost, side effect-free intervention that can reduce anxiety and depression, as well as lowering stress levels and boosting emotional well-being. Mindfulness has even been used in addiction treatment and has been shown to help smokers kick the habit.
“Get out of our heads and learn to experience the world directly, experientially, without the relentless commentary of our thoughts," Mark G. Williams, John D. Teasdale, Zindel V. Segal and Kabat-Zinn wrote in The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness. "We might just open ourselves up to the limitless possibilities for happiness that life has to offer us.”
Mindfulness is slowly beginning to transform the medical profession.
Burnout may affect up to 60 percent of doctors, according to Association of American Medical Colleges estimates. But recent studies have found that mindfulness prevents burnout and boosts compassion among physicians, which may improve the doctor-patient relationship. And some hospitals have actually started bringing mindfulness into their facilities.
At the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a new emergency alert, "Code Lavender," has been introduced to address cases of emotional or spiritual stress and burnout. The Code Lavender program aims to support nurses and physicians during emotionally troubling or exhausting times, often after experiencing the death of a patient. The Healing Services Team utilizes holistic methods including spiritual support, counseling and therapeutic massage, while the Clinic also offers yoga classes and mindfulness training for its staff in an effort to promote "compassion-based care."
"[Compassion-based care] does go against an old style of medicine where it was just, 'Go go go, stay tough, don't be impacted by it, keep moving,'" Amy Greene, director of spiritual care at Cleveland Clinic, told the Huffington Post. "We're seeing that this is long-term not sustainable. Doctors and nurses are human beings."
Athletes -- from at-risk youth to NBA stars -- are improving their game through meditation. The Mind + Sport Institute (MSI), a San Francisco-based organization dedicated to helping athletes (including at-risk youth) reach their highest potential, wrote that the TIME Magazine mindfulness cover "said one thing to the male athlete (possibly of color) that we work with in the Bay Area: Mindfulness is not for you."
woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc