Saturday, September 27, 2014

What's wrong with school lunches in most schools

Thank you the PTO Canteen Committee and Global Cafe for the work you have achieved in our cafeteria at ISHCMC

Friday, September 26, 2014

The six paths of the typical US college graduate—and why they’re all wrong

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"There are currently six prominent paths for achievement-minded recent college graduates: financial services, management consulting, law school (still), med school, and grad school/academia.  The sixth is Teach for America, which continues to draw approximately 5,000 graduates (and 50,000 applicants) a year from universities across the country.

Here are the stats from national universities over the last several years:

If you add up the numbers, you’ll see that these six paths account for between 50-70% of top university graduates in the US. Relatedly, the top destinations for graduates from these schools are New York City, San Francisco, D.C., Boston, Chicago and L.A., all of which are hubs for professional services. At my organization, we sometimes joke that smart people are doing six things in six places.  If the strength of our economy and society was determined by the academic excellence of our coastal professional service providers, we’d be in great shape.

Why is our talent so concentrated? Former Yale professor Bill Deresiewicz recently published a book, Excellent Sheep, which argues that elite college students are being trained to advance and compete with little regard for higher concerns. In my mind, it’s in large part a question of access and resources.  The banks and consulting firms have massive recruitment budgets and spend millions a year seeding and building talent pipelines (as does Teach for America). Law school, med school, and graduate school are very easy and obvious to access and apply to. How much would the brand “Harvard Law School” be worth if it belonged a private company? Plus, the government will provide you tens of thousands of dollars in education loans to attend professional school if you get in. (I know this from personal experience—I attended law school and borrowed over $100k no questions asked, signing various forms when I was 21.) Meanwhile, Businessweek projects 176,000 unemployed or underemployed law school graduates by 2020 and the unemployment rate among PhDs is as high as 40%."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why students should take the lead in parent teacher conferences.

A particularly vivid example of putting students in the driver’s seat of their own education is the way they handle what traditional schools refer to as parent-teacher conferences. At these time-honored encounters, it’s not uncommon for students to stay home while the adults discuss their progress or lack thereof. But at schools built on Deeper Learning principles, the meetings are often turned into student-led conferences, with students presenting their schoolwork, while their teachers, having helped them prepare, sit across the table, or even off to the side. The triad then sits together to review and discuss the work and the student’s progress. The message, once again, is that the students are responsible for their own success.
The specific dynamics of these conferences vary widely. At California’s Impact Academy, three or four different sets of students and their families meet simultaneously, as teachers circulate through the room, making sure parents are getting their questions answered, and only intervening if the student is struggling. Yet in all cases, the basic spirit is the same: this is the student’s moment to share his or her reflections on achievements and challenges.
At King Middle School, the twice-yearly student-led conferences are “one of the most important things we do to have students own their own learning,” says Peter Hill, who helps prepare kids in his advisory class, or crew, for their meetings. “And yet, the students’ first impulse is to tear through their folders to find every best thing that they have done to show their parents.”
Instead, Hill encourages students to reflect on the connection between the effort they have made and the quality of their work. To this end, he asks them to choose three examples that help them tell their parents a deeper story: one that shows they have recognized both a personal strength and an area in which they are struggling. Most students, he says, have never thought about their learning in this way. Nor have most of their parents.
Indeed, many parents need some time to adjust to the new format, Hill acknowledges. Often, he says, a mother or father “just wants to ask me about how their child is doing, or how they are behaving. Sometimes I have to nudge the conversation back to let the child lead. We also have to teach the parents how to be reflective about their kids’ work and how best to help.”
Eventually, however, most if not all parents appreciate the new process, teachers told us. “They come to realize that report cards don’t tell them anything very useful,” says Gus Goodwin, Hill’s colleague. “And over time, the parents begin to set a higher bar for their students at these conferences.”
As crew leader, Hill has his students practice how they’ll discuss their work products with their parents. We watched as he spoke with one eighth-grade boy who initially shyly lowered his head as he confessed that he felt uncomfortable showing his work to anyone, including his mother and father. Hill told the boy he understood how he felt, and then offered some strategies for discussing his work in math, which both of them knew was a problem area. “You have done some good work of which you should be proud,” he told him. Together, they then picked out a paper that demonstrated the boy’s effort, after which Hill suggested: “When we have the conference, why don’t you use this assignment and begin by saying, ‘I have done a good job in math when I . . . .’ ” The boy wrote the phrase in his notebook, and visibly began to relax, after which Hill used the rest of the advisory period to find more examples of work that showed his effort.
As kids learn to advocate for themselves in this way, they discover how to let their parents know more specifically how to support them. Hill tells the story of one student who was clearly intelligent, but struggling with his independent reading. Rambunctious in class, the boy surprised Hill by sitting straight and quietly in his chair when his father, a seemingly stern man, walked into the room. But what surprised him even more was when the boy spoke up for himself during the conference, telling his father: “I realize now that I need to spend more time reading on my own and I need your help with that. I need my three brothers out of the room at night so I can read in silence.”
Such exchanges empower both students and their parents, Hill noted, adding: “When I checked in on the student a few weeks later, he was very pleased that his dad was keeping his brothers out of his room so he could do his silent reading.”
At Science Leadership Academy, health educator Pia Martin coaches her students in how to communicate with parents about difficult topics, such as why they might have received a C in a class. “How will your parents respond?” she asks. “What are the things that will trigger your parents and how will that play out? Will this lead to lost privileges or other forms of punishment? How do we minimize this?”
“In conference, I’m your advocate,” she always reminds them. Like Hill and several other teachers we spoke with, Martin said she usually helps begin conferences by encouraging students to talk about what they are good at, to prevent meetings from turning into blame-fests. She tells the students to start the meeting with two questions: “What do I do well?” and “How can I build on this?”
“I always tell them, ‘Own what you got,’ ” Martin says. Only after students spend a moment to recognize what they’re doing right does she encourage them to tackle the challenges, with the following questions: “What have I not done well?” and “How can I improve this?”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Difference between Praise and Feedback

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"Parenting these days is patrolled by the language police. Sometimes it seems like the worst thing you could ever say to a kid is “Good job!” or the dreaded, “Good girl!”  Widely popularized psychological research warns about the “inverse power of praise” and the importance of “unconditional parenting.” The incorrectly phrased, indiscriminately doled out pat on the back can, we learn, undermine a child’s inner motivation to learn and achieve, promote a “fixed mindset” that will cause her to shrink from taking on any kind of challenge or effort, and maybe even destroy her sense of self worth.
The anxiety is such that parenting blogs circulate actual word-for-word scripts for parents to use in such difficult situations as the sidelines of a swim meet, or after a music recital. There are long lists of forbidden words and phrases, too.
What are these researchers really getting at? Are the particular words we use to talk to our kids so important? And how do we convey positive feelings without negative consequences?

Process Praise

Some of the most prominent psychologists behind all of this talk about talking are Stanford University’s Carol Dweck, author of the book Mindset, and Edward Deci and Richard Ryan at the University of Rochester, whose research the education author Alfie Kohn relies heavily on in his books including Unconditional Parenting. Both Dweck and Deci are theorists of human motivation, but they emphasize very different perspectives on praise.
Dweck’s studies have focused on the effects of “process praise,” which means praising effort or strategy: “You must have worked very hard on this painting!” This is opposed to “person praise,” which labels people with phrases like, “You are really good at painting!” “You must be a genius!”
The idea is that reinforcing effort contributes to children’s beliefs that they can get better at things if they try, the vaunted “growth mindset.” But praising traits feeds the belief that talent is fixed, which makes kids less willing to take on new challenges that might expose them as less naturally able.
Most of Dweck’s research has focused on process praise given by strange adults interacting with children in a research study environment. But in a recent study, her team coded videotapes of parents praising their one to three-year-old children. They found that the greater use of process praise with these very young children predicted their later desire to take on new challenges, which in turn influenced these children’s math achievement seven years later, in fourth grade.
“Kids are thrilled by the idea that they can grow their brains through their effort and strategy,” Dweck says. “Praising strategy and focus and improvement gives them actionable information and a reason to try hard.”

Praise and Personhood

Simple, right? Not so fast. Writers such as Kohn have condemned all praise, including Dweck’s “process praise,” as little more than “sugarcoated control.”
The idea is that parental praise is manipulative, intrusive, and undermines both children’s intrinsic enjoyment of what they’re doing and their own internal sense of whether they are, in fact, doing a good job or trying hard.
Kohn cites Deci and Richard Ryan, and their colleagues including Guy Roth and Avi Assor at the University of the Negev in Israel. All of them have found in a series of studies that when parents express any kind of “conditional regard,” it harms young people’s developing autonomy, causing them to feel pressured to achieve, to feel shame if they don’t, and to suppress negative emotions and experiences. Conditional regard includes positive reinforcement, the practice of offering praise in exchange for desired behavior.
“If you tell your kids, ‘You’re a good boy for taking out the trash,’” they may feel that if they don’t take out the trash, they’re not worthy of your love,” says Deci. “You need to express that you love them and approve of them no matter what they do.”
Verbal rewards are a pretty central weapon in the parenting arsenal, especially when it comes to academic achievement. Deci and his colleagues found that offering your warmth and approval in exchange for academic achievement does work, in the sense that it causes young people to be more invested in trying to do well in school. But it’s a devil’s bargain that backfires emotionally in the form of “maladaptive self feelings.”
The controversial recent book The Triple Package, coauthored by “tiger mom” Amy Chua, purported to explain why certain ethnic groups tend to outperform others in education, occupational status and earnings. Two of the three traits the authors describe are a superiority complex accompanied by insecurity—a pretty good description of what researchers say can be the outcome of too much conditional parental positive regard.

Praise vs. Feedback

Parents are not perfectly controlled Siri-like bots but human beings with positive and negative emotions that are going to arise in response to specific actions by children. So is there any way to channel and communicate your sincere feelings to your kids without doing lasting harm? Surprisingly, despite their differing views on praise, Dweck and Deci tend to agree on the right course of action.
When I ask Dweck about the “sugarcoated control” idea, she says, “I basically agree that we overpraise.” Her intention in talking about process praise is to redirect this impulse more constructively. Instead of mindlessly kvelling over every fingerpainting or math test — or even just telling kids to “try hard!” — her recommendation is to get more involved with what a kid is doing. “Appreciate it. Ask questions. If we see that a child is using interesting strategies we can ask about them. Talk to them about their thought processes, how they can learn from mistakes.” Encourage your child to actively seek both positive and negative feedback in order to grow and improve.
Deci says something similar. In addition to assuring children of your continuous love and regard, “You want to understand what your child is thinking and feeling, to be respectful toward them. Asking questions is a far better idea than giving praise”—or criticism for that matter.  The idea is to support the development of a child’s autonomy by taking his perspective.
If you’re on the sidelines at a soccer game, it’s easy to pull out some pre-scripted phrase like “I love to watch you play!” or “You’re a natural!” It’s harder to watch your kid so you can tell her, “When you made that pass in the second quarter, I could see that you’ve been practicing your footwork a lot,” or to take the time to ask, “What was your favorite part of the game?” and really listen to the answer.
Providing helpful, detailed, encouraging feedback and appreciation requires paying attention to what kids are doing, and listening to what they are saying. This takes time and energy. Dweck says what she sees all too often are time-pressured parents who reach for a quick sugar fix instead. “We are a praise-addicted culture. I don’t think parents are going to stop praising.” "

Friday, September 19, 2014

Three Tips to Focus Parent-Teacher Conferences On Creating a Partnership

" So you finally get the chance to meet one on one with your child’s teacher — now what?
Like a good Boy Scout, be prepared: Educators agree that doing your homework before a parent-teacher conference can make a big difference.
The Harvard Family Research Project’s Tip Sheet for Parents suggests reviewing your child’s work, grades and past teacher feedback. Ask your child about his experience at school and make a list of questions ahead of time to ask during the conference. — a website that matches up parents and child caregivers — created a list of questions to print out and take with you.
A good parent-teacher conference, experts say, should cover three major topics: the child, the classroom and the future.
The Child
Most experts suggest telling the teacher about your child: Describe what they’re like at home, what interests and excites them, and explain any issues at home that may be affecting your child at school.
“Often times we don’t have any understanding of what happens when a child leaves school,” says Amanda Wirene, a reading specialist at the Montessori School of Englewood in Chicago. “Often parents are our only way to know what’s going on at home.”
Be thorough, but do be aware of the time.
“You always get that one parent who wants to stay forever and tells you in great detail all about their child,” says Colleen Holmes, assistant principal at Lincoln Elementary School in Erie, Pa. Share information, she says, and if you need to talk more, schedule another time.
The Classroom
Ask about what’s happening in the classroom — both academically and socially.
“Parents have more access to student information than ever before,” says Scot Graden, superintendent of Saline Area Schools in Saline, Mich. “Chances are, anything that’s going to come up at parent-teacher conferences, the student will already know about it.”
By talking to your child in advance, you can ask more specific questions about grades or behaviors, says Graden.
Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher to clarify what assessment or grades actually mean.
“Teachers can sometimes use educational jargon that may seem alien to you,” Karen Mira writes inThe Asian Parent, a parenting magazine in Singapore. “Don’t be shy to ask your child’s teacher to explain what a certain educational word means.”
If teachers bring up areas for improvement, don’t get defensive, says Holmes, the elementary school assistant principal.
And don’t let the meetings be a dumping ground for pent-up concerns or frustrations.
“We don’t want parents to load up on things they’ve wanted to discuss and are looking to have a sort of ‘gotcha’ moment,” says Graden.
The same holds true for teachers: Lindsay Rollin, a second-grade teacher at Teachers College Community School in New York, says conferences should never be the first time parents are hearing about problems their child is having.
“I am not dropping bombs on anybody,” she says.
Before the meeting is over, you should be sure you’re clear on the teacher’s expectations for your child.
“It’s important for everyone to understand what the goal is at the end of the year,” says Graden, the school superintendent. “That way you all have a stake in that success.”
The Future
Spin the conversation forward and ask what you can do to help.
Parent-teacher conferences are no longer a once-a-year check-in; they can provide useful insight for immediate and clear next steps.
“Conferences are now a progress report timed so parents can actually do something about what they learn from teachers,” says Heather Bastow Weiss, founder and director of the Harvard Family Research Project.
To get the most out of the conversation, she says, both the teacher and the parent should know what comes next. Brainstorm with the teacher to come up with ways to solve challenges your child faces. Ask for concrete examples of things you can do at home to help.
“Go in looking for an opportunity to get involved with supporting your child,” advises Holmes, who taught for 16 years before becoming an administrator. Parents should leave knowing the resources that are available to them, says Holmes, such as teacher or school websites and assignment calendars.
Ask if the teachers can recommend resources outside of school.
“There are many out-of-school programs that can help kids improve their success in school,” says Weiss. “The nonschool learning experience should be part of the conversation at conferences.”
Concrete next steps are essential, says Graden. If parents feel as though they didn’t get answers to all of their questions, he recommends trying to connect with the teacher again within a week.
“We want both the teacher and the parent to have a positive experience,” he says. “When parents and teachers work together, the results are always better.” " 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Meditation Benefits: 10 Ways It Helps Your Mind

Post image for Meditation Benefits: 10 Ways It Helps Your Mind
Studies find meditation provides lasting emotional control, cultivates compassion, reduces pain sensitivity, boosts multitasking and more…
1. Lasting emotional control
2. Cultivate compassion
3. Change brain structures
4. Reduce pain
5. Accelerate cognition
6. Meditate to create
7. Sharpen concentration 
8. Fight depression
9. Reduce anxiety
10 Improve multitasking at work

Meditation is about way more than just relaxing
But all these flow from a simple activity which is completely free, involves no expensive equipment, chemicals, apps, books or other products.In fact, if I listed the following mental benefits from a new pill or potion, you’d be rightly sceptical.
I’ve also included my own very brief meditation instructions below to get you started.
But first, what are all these remarkable benefits?
Meditation may make us feel calmer while we’re doing it, but do these benefits spill over into everyday life?
Desborders et al. (2012) scanned the brains of people taking part in an 8-week meditation program, before and after the course.
While they were scanned, participants looked at pictures designed to elicit positive, negative and neutral emotional responses.
After the meditation course, activation in the amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain, was reduced to all pictures.
This suggests that meditation can help provide lasting emotional control, even when you are not meditating.
Meditation has long been thought to help people be more virtuous and compassionate. Now this has been put to scientific test.
In one study participants who had been meditating were given an undercover test of their compassion (Condon et al., 2013).
They were sat in a staged waiting area with two actors when another actor entered on crutches, pretending to be in great pain. The two actors sat next to the participants both ignored the person who was in pain, sending the unconscious signal not to intervene.
Those who had been meditating, though, were 50% more likely to help the person in pain.
One of the study’s authors, David DeSteno, said:
“The truly surprising aspect of this finding is that meditation made people willing to act virtuous–to help another who was suffering–even in the face of a norm not to do so.”
Meditation is such a powerful technique that, after only 8 weeks, the brain’s structure changes.
To show these effects, images of 16 people’s brains were taken before and after they took a meditation course (Hölzel et al., 2011).
Compared with a control group, grey-matter density in the hippocampus–an area associated with learning and memory–was increased.
The study’s lead author, Britta Hölzel, said:
“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.”
One of the benefits of changes to the brain’s structure is that regular meditators experience less pain.
Grant et al. (2010) applied a heated plate to the calves of meditators and non-meditators. The meditators had lower pain sensitivity.
Joshua Grant explained:
“Through training, Zen meditators appear to thicken certain areas of their cortex and this appears to be underlie their lower sensitivity to pain.”
How would you like your brain to work faster?
Zeidan et al. (2010) found significant benefits for novice meditators from only 80 minutes of meditation over 4 days.
Despite their very brief period of practice—and compared with a control group who listened to an audiobook of Tolkein’s The Hobbit—meditators improved on measures of working memory, executive functioning and visuo-spatial processing.
The authors conclude:
“…that four days of meditation training can enhance the ability to sustain attention; benefits that have previously been reported with long-term meditators.”
Improvements seen on the measures ranged from 15% to over 50%.
The right type of meditation can help solve some creative problems.
A study by Colzato et al. (2012) had participants take a classic creativity task: think up as many uses as you can for a brick.
Those using an ‘open monitoring’ method of meditation came up with the most ideas.
This method uses focusing on the breath to set the mind free.
At its heart, meditation is all about learning to concentrate, to have greater control over the spotlight of attention.
An increasing body of studies now underline the benefits of meditation for attention.
For example, Jha et al. 2007 sent 17 people who had not practised meditation before on an 8-week training course in mindfulness-based stress reduction, a type of meditation.
These 17 participants were then compared with a further 17 from a control group on a series of attentional measures. The results showed that those who had received training were better at focusing their attention than the control group.
Since meditation benefits different aspects of cognition, it should also improve work performance.
That’s what Levy et al. (2012) tested by giving groups of human resource managers tests of their multitasking abilities.
Those who practised meditation performed better on standard office tasks–like answering phones, writing email and so on–than those who had not been meditating.
Meditating managers were better able to stay on task and also experienced less stress as a result.
Meditation is an exercise often recommended for those experiencing anxiety.
To pick just one of many recent studies, Zeidan et al. (2013) found that four 20-minute meditation classes were enough to reduce anxiety by up to 39%.
More about anxiety: 8 Fascinating Facts About Anxiety
A central symptom of depression is rumination: when depressing thoughts roll around and around in the mind.
Unfortunately you can’t just tell a depressed person to stop thinking depressing thoughts; it’s pointless. That’s because treating the symptoms of depression is partly about taking control of the person’s attention.
One method that can help with this is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is all about living in the moment, rather than focusing on past regrets or future worries.
A recent review of 39 studies on mindfulness has found that it can be beneficial in treating depression (Hofmann et al., 2010).
Since it is so beneficial, here is a quick primer on how to meditate.
The names and techniques of meditation are many and varied, but the fundamentals are much the same:
1. Relax the body and the mind
This can be done through body posture, mental imagery, mantras, music, progressive muscle relaxation, any old trick that works. Take your pick.
This step is relatively easy as most of us have some experience of relaxing, even if we don’t get much opportunity.
2. Be mindful
It’s a bit cryptic this one but it means something like this: don’t pass judgement on your thoughts, let them come and go as they will (and boy will they come and go!). When your mind wanders, try to nudge your attention back to its primary aim.
It turns out this is quite difficult because we’re used to mentally travelling backwards and forwards while making judgements on everything (e.g. worrying, dreading, anticipating, regretting etc.).
The key is to notice, in a detached way, what’s happening, but not to get involved with it. This way of thinking often doesn’t come that naturally.
3. Concentrate on something
Often meditators concentrate on their breath, the feel of it going in and out, but it could be anything: your feet, a potato, a stone.
The breath is handy because we carry it around with us. Whatever it is, though, try to focus all your attention onto it.
When your attention wavers, and it will almost immediately, gently bring it back. Don’t chide yourself, be compassionate to yourself.
The act of concentrating on one thing is surprisingly difficult: you will feel the mental burn almost immediately. Experienced practitioners say this eases with practice.
4. Concentrate on nothing
Most say this can’t be achieved without a lot of practice, so I’ll say no more about it here. Master the basics first.
This is just a quick introduction but does give you enough to get started. It’s important not to get too caught up in techniques but to remember the main goal: exercising attention by relaxing and focusing on something.
Try these things out first, see what happens, then explore further

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Do girls learn differently?

3535959654_0f4062d0b8Photo Credit: hoyasmeg via Compfight cc

"To hear some ed tech enthusiasts tell it, online learning is sweeping aside the barriers that have in the past prevented access to education. But such pronouncements are premature. As it turns out, students often carry these barriers right along with them, from the real world into the virtual one.
Female students, for example, are poorly represented in science, technology, engineering, and math courses offered online, just as they are scarce in STEM classes conducted in physical classrooms. Demographic analyses of the students enrolled in much-hyped “massive open online courses” show the depth of the gender gap. “Circuits and Electronics,” the first MOOC developed by the online consortium of universities known as edX, had a student body that was 12 percent female, according to a study published in 2013. Another analysis, posted on the Coursera blog earlier this year, found that female enrollment in the company’s courses was lowest—around 20 percent—in subjects like computer science, engineering, and mathematics.

These dismally low numbers provide a reminder that “access” to education is more complicated than simply throwing open the digital doors to whoever wants to sign up. So how can we turn the mere availability of online instruction in STEM into true access for female students?

One potential solution to this information-age problem comes from an old-fashioned source: single-sex education. The Online School for Girls, founded in 2009, provides an all-female e-learning experience. (A companion institution, the Online School for Boys, is opening this fall.) It appears to be doing an especially good job of educating girls in STEM: Last year, 21 of its approximately 1,000 students were recognized by the National Center for Women in Technology “for their aspirations and achievements in computing and technology.” And over the course of the 2013-2014 academic year, the Online School for Girls prepared 30 female students to take the Advanced Placement exam in computer science. To put that number in perspective: 25 American states each prepared fewer than 30 girls to take the AP computer science exam.
It’s hard to argue with these results. But it is possible to quibble with the way the school frames its mission. “Guided by current research on girls’ learning,” the school’s website declares, the school emphasizes “connection among participants” and incorporates “collaboration into the learning experience.” But evidence is weak that there is such a thing as “girls’ learning,” online or offline, if what is meant by that is that each gender has cognitive differences that should be accommodated by different instructional methods. Neuroscientist Lise Eliot has argued persuasively that, while small inherent differences in aptitude between males and females do exist (even as infants, for example, boys seem to have an edge in spatial cognition), society takes these small differences and makes them much bigger—by supporting boys in math and science, and by discouraging girls who study these subjects.

Such overt biases should have no place in online education—but we should also strive to avoid importing subtler misconceptions about “girls’ learning” being different from “boys’ learning.” We need, instead, to address the psychological sense of belonging that female students so often lack when they enter STEM environments.

Studies carried out in physical classrooms demonstrate that these environments are enormously influential. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, for example, University of Washington assistant professor Sapna Cheryan and her coauthors exposed a group of female college students to a computer science classroom appointed in stereotypically male-geek fashion: video games and junk food strewn about, Star Trek poster on the wall. Another group of female undergraduates was invited into a computer science classroom that looked quite different: bowls of healthy snacks, a nature poster, an open phone book. Altering these environmental cues, Cheryan notes, “was sufficient to boost female undergraduates’ interest in computer science to the level of their male peers.”

These same dynamics play out online, as Cheryan demonstrated in a subsequent study. Changing the design of a virtual classroom—from one that conveyed computer science stereotypes to one that did not —“significantly increased women’s interest and anticipated success in computer science,” Cheryan and her colleagues reported.
All these approaches have in common a focus, not on teaching girls and women differently, but on helping them to feel differently about their place in the fields of math and science. Just as in the physical world, in the virtual sphere the barriers to girls’ and women’s advancement in STEM fields remain very much in place. With informed intervention and clever design, however, the digital walls may prove easier to scale."

In an experiment now underway at Stanford University, researchers Brian Perone and Michelle Friend are using a virtual reality classroom, complete with virtual “classmates,” to investigate the effect of student gender ratio on young women’s ability to absorb and remember computer science course material, as well as their interest in taking more classes in the subject. Preliminary results suggest that female students learn better when they are surrounded by female classmates —even virtual ones—and the more women in the room, the better. Perone’s and Friend’s findings suggest that the reason behind the success of the Online School for Girls may not be its stated emphasis on teaching girls differently, but simply the fact that its students know that their classmates are girls like them.

Another way to promote female students’ sense of belonging in online math and science courses would be putting more women at the head of virtual classrooms. (As professors Lisa L. Martin and Barbara F. Walter noted in a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, MOOCs are overwhelmingly taught by men.) Female students could also be offered online mentoring by accomplished women working in STEM fields, a tack taken by Women in Technology Sharing Online (WitsOn). The brainchild of Maria Klawe, a computer scientist and the president of Harvey Mudd College, WitsOn was a one-time, six-week-long program that Klawe hopes to organize again in the future.

Annie Murphy Paul <> 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Why has ISHCMC introduced Mindfulness?

Tree, head shape, neurones mindfulness = brain training, re-

Dear Parents,

I have been told that many parents do not understand what Mindfulness is and why we have introduced it at ISHCMC. I hope that this post helps to explain.

Firstly, our new mission focuses on three key words; Energize, Engage and Empower. Once there is a clear understanding of Mindfulness then it becomes obvious how it helps to build these three aspects of our mission. Mindfulness encourages students to clear their minds and focus on the present which helps them to be more engaged with their learning. A clear and positive mind gives the student more energy for all the activities in school. Finally, Mindfulness practices will give ISHCMC students skills that will empower them to take control of their lives both at school and later at university and in the work place.

This video is a simple yet clear explanation about Mindfulness.

Even if we hadn't created the mission and vision for ISHCMC the benefits of Mindfulness are undisputed. As with so many things in life, the earlier one teaches and ingrains good habits the more useful they will be. We believe that to develop the habits and skills of meditation and yoga at an early age will have substantial benefits for our students in their lives. ISHCMC is not alone in this belief and today many leading businesses and academic institutions are encouraging their employees and stakeholders to be more Mindful because of the undoubted benefits. Research says that the time given over to the practice of Mindfulness is more than compensated for by improved focus and attention by the participants in their daily routines.

The article below outlines a few of these benefits.

Benefits of Mindfulness

Practices for Improving Emotional and Physical Well-Being

Understanding mindfulness

Key Points

  • Practicing mindfulness improves both mental and physical health.
  • Mindfulness involves both concentration (a form of meditation) and acceptance. Deliberately pay attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment.
  • It takes practice to become comfortable with mindfulness techniques. If one method doesn’t work for you, try another.
It’s a busy world. You fold the laundry while keeping one eye on the kids and another on the television. You plan your day while listening to the radio and commuting to work, and then plan your weekend. But in the rush to accomplish necessary tasks, you may find yourself losing your connection with the present moment—missing out on what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Did you notice whether you felt well-rested this morning or that forsythia is in bloom along your route to work?
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in happiness.

Ancient roots, modern applications

The cultivation of mindfulness has roots in Buddhism, but most religions include some type of prayer or meditation technique that helps shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life.
Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, helped to bring the practice of mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine and demonstrated that practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors.

Mindfulness improves well being

  • Increasing your capacity for mindfulness supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life.
  • Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events.
  • By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.

Mindfulness improves physical health

If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered the benefits of mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. Mindfulness can:
  • help relieve stress
  • treat heart disease
  • lower blood pressure
  • reduce chronic pain
  • improve sleep
  • alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties

Mindfulness improves mental health

In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including:
  • depression
  • substance abuse
  • eating disorders
  • couples’ conflicts
  • anxiety disorders
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
Some experts believe that mindfulness works, in part, by helping people to accept their experiences—including painful emotions—rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance.
It’s become increasingly common for mindfulness meditation to be combined with psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. This development makes good sense, since both meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy share the common goal of helping people gain perspective on irrational, maladaptive, and self-defeating thoughts.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Let Them Sleep: AAP Recommends Delaying Start Times of Middle and High Schools to Combat Teen Sleep Deprivation

Studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance. But getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. – and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day. 

In a new policy statement published online Aug. 25, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.

“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common – and easily fixable – public health issues in the U.S. today,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “School Start Times for Adolescents,” published in the September 2014 issue of Pediatrics. 

“The research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life,” Dr. Owens said. “Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.” 

Many studies have documented that the average adolescent in the U.S. is chronically sleep-deprived and pathologically sleepy. A National Sleep Foundation poll found 59 percent of 6th through 8th graders and 87 percent of high school students in the U.S. were getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep on school nights. 

The policy statement is accompanied by a technical report, “Insufficient Sleep in Adolescents and Young Adults: An Update on Causes and Consequences,” also published online Aug. 25. The technical report updates a prior report on excessive sleepiness among adolescents that was published in 2005. 

The reasons for teens’ lack of sleep are complex, and include homework, extracurricular activities, after-school jobs and use of technology that can keep them up late on week nights. The AAP recommends pediatricians counsel teens and parents about healthy sleep habits, including enforcing a media curfew. The AAP also advises health care professionals to educate parents, educators, athletic coaches and other stakeholders about the biological and environmental factors that contribute to insufficient sleep.

But the evidence strongly suggests that a too-early start to the school day is a critical contributor to chronic sleep deprivation among American adolescents. An estimated 40 percent of high schools in the U.S. currently have a start time before 8 a.m.; only 15 percent start at 8:30 a.m. or later. The median middle school start time is 8 a.m., and more than 20 percent of middle schools start at 7:45 a.m. or earlier. 

Napping, extending sleep on weekends, and caffeine consumption can temporarily counteract sleepiness, but they do not restore optimal alertness and are not a substitute for regular, sufficient sleep, according to the AAP.

The AAP urges middle and high schools to aim for start times that allow students to receive 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night. In most cases, this will mean a school start time of 8:30 a.m. or later, though schools should also consider average commuting times and other local factors. 

“The AAP is making a definitive and powerful statement about the importance of sleep to the health, safety, performance and well-being of our nation's youth,” Dr. Owens said. “By advocating for later school start times for middle and high school students, the AAP is both promoting the compelling scientific evidence that supports school start time delay as an important public health measure, and providing support and encouragement to those school districts around the country contemplating that change.”

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