"Play is the highest form of research" Albert Einstein

Dr Jim’s Points to Ponder - Live Play vs Screen Play 

It was not that long ago when parents and educators were worried about how much TV kids watched.  We were concerned about the commercials children saw on TV and we feared our kids would become “Couch Potatoes”.  How things have changed.  

We are in the middle of a technology transformation that is exploding at a mind-boggling rate.   Instead of how much TV time, we are now worried about the “Screen Time” on tablets and smart phones that our children are exposed to with violent video games and inappropriate images being an even greater concern.

The digital transformation has happened so fast that we have had little time to consider the short and long term consequences on our children or for our family. 

Recently I read that more than 3/4’s of iPad “Apps” are designed for young, pre-school aged children.  Many of those come with "In App" purchases shamelessly luring children into buying digital coins, new lives, or new stories.  It may seem impressive to an adult that a young child can interact with a digital tablet or smart phone, but is it healthy? The research as to how this new technology is affecting children is very limited.  Although the research base is growing, there are no valid longitudinal studies that measure the effects of extended screen time on child development.

However, psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham has treated a number of children for "technology addiction".  In a recent book he stated: "Tablets and phones have replaced the TV as a way of keeping children entertained, yet these devices could be damaging to a child's health potentially leading to technology addiction."

Although we don't know the long term effects of children interacting with technology, what we do know is that children need to play. Numerous research studies over the years have shown the vital importance of play to the healthy development of a child.  Even the ancient Greek philosopher Plato commented on the value of play. He knew that children learned best through physical play and hands-on experiences. His observation has been validated by modern research.  We know that to maximize brain development children need to use their senses, manipulate objects and “feel” the world around them.  "Screen time” takes time away from the types of experiential activities we know they need.  

“Live Play” is an amazingly imaginative activity.  Playing with sand, water, Legos, blocks, play dough, paints, and building materials encourage children to use their imagination and develop physical skills.  As students invent their own situations they learn to handle tasks and gain self-esteem. When children build and create with physical materials their brains construct the neural pathways necessary for academic learning and creativity.

“Screen Play” on computers, smart phones, and tablets can engage, distract, and amuse children.  An engaging game or movie can calm and focus a child’s attention for the short term.  But the damaging practice of handing a child an electronic device to distract or occupy him or her, can quickly become the norm for both the child, who looks to the device for happiness or distraction, and for parents who rely on “screens” to soothe and occupy their kids. 

Educators today also worry that many children are learning to manage their feelings and relationships by distraction, and that electronic devices and social media have become easy surrogates for the personal life experiences and private contemplation that children need to have to become happy adults. 

When we take the time to guide children to physical and creative play and help them make good choices about screen time we are maximizing their learning and their “happiness” potential. If we engage in play with them the joy, for both the adult and the child, will make it all worthwhile. 

So, as a parent, limit “Screen Play”, give your children plenty of opportunities for “Live Play”  and find at least ten to fifteen minutes a day (more if you can) to engage in real live play with your child.  I predict that when you do, you and your child will be happier and healthier, your children will learn more easily and they will be better adjusted young people and adults.

Posted on 07 Jun 2018, 20:39 - Category: Learning



Velvet Hand

Dr Jim’s Points to Ponder: “With a Velvet Hand and a Hawk Eye”

It seems like in a blink of an eye another school year is coming to an end.  Our Monroe County students have come so far in so many ways and to a great extent their accomplishments are a gauge of the unwavering support of their parents and dedication of their teachers.  

In spite of the pressure of high stakes testing our teachers must also do a superb job of helping their students think critically, understand different methods of intellectual inquiry, appreciate the interconnectedness of knowledge, and develop a global outlook.  But, we know that helping them to learn in an academic sense is only one part of our responsibility as parents and teachers. 

John Donne said, “No man is an island.”  But in reality, we are all islands until someone starts to fill in the space between us.  Therefore, we must be resolute in our desire to help our students fill in the space between their islands, develop meaningful relationships with those around them, and become personally and morally strong.  

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the brilliant French photographer from the early 20th century, spoke of his special relationship to his photographic subjects.  If I paraphrase and substitute ‘teacher’ for photographer and ‘student’ for subject his words become the ideal description of the student/teacher relationship we must strive for.

“We are bound to arrive as “intruders.”  It is essential, therefore, to approach the student on tiptoe  . . . a velvet hand, a hawk eye – these we should all have.  The profession depends so much upon the relations the teacher establishes with the students he or she is teaching, that a false relationship, a wrong word or attitude, can ruin everything.”

To live the heartfelt, authentic life of a great teacher takes continual rejuvenation and commitment. To engage, inspire and love children with a “velvet hand and a hawk eye” means that the men and women who teach must truly understand the responsibility they have to foster genuinely positive relationships.  

I believe that teaching is the world’s most important and most satisfying profession.  Educators may not make high salaries but they make kids wonder, they make them question, they make a difference.  With the help and support of parents, and all citizens of our county and state, our teachers make an enormous difference in the lives of our young people.

As my campaign for Monroe County school board continues I extend my gratitude, my respect, and my deep admiration to the teachers and parents of Monroe County for their commitment to the children of the Fabulous Florida Keys.

 

.

 

Posted on 06 May 2018, 15:56 - Category: Learning



The Importance of Joyful Learning

"Elements of instruction...should be presented to the mind of a child; however, they should not be presented under any notion of forceful education. A freeman ought not be a slave in the acquisition of knowledge of any kind. Compulsory bodily exercise does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind." Plato 360 BC

Over the years I have had a few parents remark that they were worried that their children were having too much fun in school and that we should be pushing their children harder.  Although I understand the concern that parents have that their friend’s child might have more homework or more pressure to perform on written tests, I am concerned that some people feel that children actually learn better when they are under stress. 

Over 2000 years ago Plato recognized that forced learning is quickly forgotten.   Neuroscience and incredible advances in brain scanning technology over the past two decades have backed up Plato’s observations and have literally shown us that children learn best when they are in a happy and stress free environment. Dr. Judy Willis, M.D., who is both a neurologist and a classroom teacher, addressed the importance of “joyful learning” in an article in Psychology Today Online entitled “Curiouser and Curiouser”, Plato Under a Brain Scanner.  In the article, she explains that brain research clearly supports the need to avoid forced instruction and the importance of providing children with a stress free environment of joyful learning.

When discussing external stimuli Dr. Willis states, “Getting into the brain is like getting into an exclusive nightclub where only the glamorous few are selected at the door”. Once the messages are inside the club (our brain), the level of stress determines what impulses are allowed to enter the “upper VIP lounge” where our highest cognition and emotional thinking takes place.

As part of our survival instincts, the brain gives priority to potential threats.  Every second, only a few thousand bits of sensory information, out of the millions of bits of information being sent from the sensory and internal organs, are actually noticed by the brain.  The information that is noticed is then filtered by a primitive network of cells in the lower brain stem.  This primitive network, called the RAS, favors the intake of sensations that are most critical to survival. Therefore, when a threat is perceived, the RAS automatically selects the sensory input and directs it to the lower brain where the involuntary survival response is to fight, flee, or freeze. To save time and provide a much faster response to the threat, very little thinking is involved, or even allowed, in this process.   This survival-directed filter is critical for the continued existence of animals in the wild and it has not changed significantly in our brains as humans have evolved. 

The classroom implications of stimuli filtering and involuntary survival responses to perceived threat stimuli are profoundly significant.

When a child’s brain perceives threat (punishment or embarrassment in front of classmates, pressure from a high stakes test, or anxiety that they will make an error because they are not fluent in the language) the primitive cell network lets in only what is perceived as relevant to the threat. Unless the perception of threat is reduced, the brain fulfills its primary job - protecting the child from harm. In this stressed state, "attention" is not under the child’s control.  The lesson or directions from the teacher fall on deaf ears while the lower brain stops the thinking process and decides whether to fight, flee or freeze.

In other words, when a student’s stress level is low their brain is open to learning.  When the stress level is high, the brain goes into survival mode. 

Therefore, when teachers create a joyful atmosphere that promotes curiosity and openness to new learning, it is much more likely that the student will carry the information into their long-term memory.  

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Albert Einstein

Posted on 13 Apr 2018, 17:32 - Category: Learning



Dr. Jimís Points to Ponder:

The Importance of Joyful Learning.

"Elements of instruction...should be presented to the mind of a child; however, they should not be presented under any notion of forceful education. A freeman ought not to be a slave in the acquisition of knowledge of any kind. Compulsory bodily exercise does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind." Plato 360 BC

Over the years I have had a few parents remark that they are worried that their children are having too much fun in school and that we should be pushing them harder.  Although I understand the concern that parents have that their friend’s child might have more homework or more pressure to perform on written tests, I am concerned that some people feel that children actually learn better when they are under stress. 

Over 2000 years ago Plato recognized that forced learning is quickly forgotten.   Neuroscience and incredible advances in brain scanning technology over the past two decades have backed up Plato’s observations and have literally shown us that children learn best when they are in a happy and stress free environment. Dr. Judy Willis, M.D., who is both a neurologist and a classroom teacher, addressed the importance of “joyful learning” in an article in Psychology Today Online entitled “Curiouser and Curiouser”, Plato Under a Brain Scanner.  In the article, she explains that brain research clearly supports the need to avoid forced instruction and the importance of providing children with a stress free environment of joyful learning.

When discussing external stimuli Dr. Willis states, “Getting into the brain is like getting into an exclusive nightclub where only the glamorous few are selected at the door”. Once the messages are inside the club (our brain), the level of stress determines what impulses are allowed to enter the “upper VIP lounge” where our highest cognition and emotional thinking takes place.

As part of our survival instincts, the brain gives priority to potential threats.  Every second, only a few thousand bits of sensory information, out of the millions of bits of information being sent from the sensory and internal organs, are actually noticed by the brain.  The information that is noticed is then filtered by a primitive network of cells in the lower brain stem.  This primitive network, called the RAS, favors the intake of sensations that are most critical to survival. Therefore, when a threat is perceived, the RAS automatically selects the sensory input and directs it to the lower brain where the involuntary survival response is to fight, flee, or freeze. To save time and provide a much faster response to the threat, very little thinking is involved, or even allowed, in this process.   This survival-directed filter is critical for the continued existence of animals in the wild and it has not changed significantly in our brains as humans have evolved. 

The classroom implications of stimuli filtering and involuntary survival responses to perceived threat stimuli are profoundly significant.

When a child’s brain perceives threat (punishment or embarrassment in front of classmates, pressure from a high stakes test, or anxiety that they will make an error because they are not fluent in the language) the primitive cell network lets in only what is perceived as relevant to the threat. Unless the perception of threat is reduced, the brain fulfills its primary job - protecting the child from harm. In this stressed state, "attention" is not under the child’s control.  The lesson or directions from the teacher fall on deaf ears while the lower brain stops the thinking process and decides whether to fight, flee or freeze.

In other words, when a student’s stress level is low their brain is open to learning.  When the stress level is high, the brain goes into survival mode. 

Therefore, when teachers create a joyful atmosphere that promotes curiosity and openness to new learning, is it much more likely that the student will carry the information into their long-term memory.  

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Albert Einstein

Posted on 03 Mar 2018, 15:42 - Category: Learning



Grandmother Power

"Grandmother Power"
My grandmother, wearing her apron and kneading the dough on the table in front of her, looks over her wire rimmed glasses as I try to say that I am sorry for committing a forgotten misdeed.   A chicken cooks in the oven while my father pushes the mower back and forth on my grandparents large lawn. It is a hot tropical afternoon in Punta Gorda, Florida the small town my grandparents and many of their adult children moved to from upstate New York in the 1950's. 

My summer vacation was drawing to a close and the new school year was right around the corner.  During my glorious holiday I camped out in the pine woods and palmettos near her house, built a boat out of scrap wood so my cousins and I could navigate Peace River (or at least a small part of it near Doran Heights, the subdivision my grandfather started) and encountered a rattlesnake when we were riding our bicycles along the cow paths across the main road. Yet few memories stand out as vividly as my grandmother in her kitchen, in her apron, with white, floured hands, making apple pie and listening intently to my confession.  As I finished she turned, bent down, and gave me a hug.  "Jimmy, I know you won't do it again.  Let's have a piece of pie."  I felt ashamed of letting her down, yet happy and content because of her faith in me.  Grandmother power personified.

As the son of a farm boy from Cortland, New York, who left school in the 6th grade to work with his father on the farm, and a farm girl from Latvia, who my father married at the end of WWII, I find it amazing that I was so lucky to have had such a special grandmother who would set the stage for my life.  The likelihood that her grandson, waiting in bare feet for a slice of hot apple pie in a hot kitchen in rural Florida, would live in 7 different countries around the world for over 4 decades, lead some excellent international schools and earn a doctorate in education was unimaginable.  

As I studied for my degrees and lived and worked with so many cultures, I have found that the interconnectedness of the human experience, across the years and cultures, has been the recurring theme. It is all about relationships and the modelling that I received from my grandmother, set the stage.

My grandmother had 9 children, many grandchildren and even more great grandchildren. She was a natural teacher and taught us in subtle, yet very powerful ways. I believe that because of her I have always wanted to become a teacher and work with children.  I am fascinated by the ability of skilful teachers to capture the hearts and minds of their students. I wanted to explore the skills and knowledge that make it possible for good teaching to reflect and change the children who receive it. I love teaching, and preparing for teaching, because of its power to increase my knowledge and to refine my view of myself and others. 

The best teachers I have been privileged to work with have been those who combine their expertise with knowledge and interests beyond their subject or teaching assignment. In their classes a question about algebra turns into a discussion of space flight and how math is not just numbers and formulae, but the language of the physical world. They are the high school teachers who see their own subject as a contribution to their students broader development as a person. As a teacher and then school head I hoped to bring students in touch with the joy of the world around them while helping them to discover their potential and find their niche in the world, just like my grandmother did for me.

The first and most influential teachers in a child's life are his or her parents and grandparents.  Together they set the stage for their children's and their grandchildren's future.  It is not an easy or smoothly paved road.  The ruts and boulders of life will often try to deviate the traveler from the straight and narrow.  However, when we help our offspring navigate the rocky roads by modelling a positive lifestyle and caring relationships the chances of a successful and safe journey for our children is so much greater.

Posted on 28 Jul 2018, 8:10 - Category: Learning



Pages: [1]

 

Paid by Dr Jim Doran for School Board
Campaign Websites by Online Candidate