Happy Hallowe’en & More

Happy Hallowe’en & More

High School Middle School The Study Academy Report

Can you feel it? The chill in the air… The falling leaves… The pumpkin spice… It can only mean one thing: Fall is here! And with Fall comes Hallowe’en, arguably the best non-holiday holiday of the year. This year, it lands squarely on a Monday, so I expect we’ll be seeing all sorts of appropriate (e.g., following dress code, no real or fake weapons) costumes at school. A few of us grown-up types may even don some festive wear, and we have a bunch of fun activities planned for the day, including games, movies, and a sprinkling of allergen-free goodies. This Monday, you can be anything you want to be, so come be awesome with us!

Beyond the immediate spookiness of Monday, we have a bunch of great stuff coming up that you’ll definitely want to read about. First up is our Annual Parent Social, happening tonight, from 7 – 10pm. Have you ever wished for an easier way to meet your fellow parents? Craved some time away from home? Wondered what it would be like to have fun on a Thursday night? Well now you can do all of these things and more! All current and prospective parents are invited to The Study Academy to mix, mingle, and meet other parents. We’ll provide the food and libations; just bring yourself! We’ll also be handing out Open House flyers to parents who are interested in enrolling their child(ren) at The Study, which brings me to my next point…

Tuesday, November 8th, marks our annual Open House. For those attending, come prepared to be inspired! This once-in-a-year opportunity will allow you to meet the faculty and tour our facility, watch our neurofeedback research program in action, and check out our clubs, programs, and more! With our 5:1 student-to-teacher ratio, personalized learning, highly qualified and engaging faculty, and innovative educational research, we equip our students with the academic proficiencies, learning skills, and passion to become lifelong independent learners.

Speaking of equipping our students with invaluable skills, we have had a bunch of excellent excursions since our last blog. In late September and mid-October, our senior high school students attended the Ontario College and University Information Fairs. During these trips, they got the opportunity to browse Ontario’s post-secondary offerings, with both university and college programs to accommodate the wide range of their interests. They picked up promotional materials and other branded goodies, engaged in interactive demonstrations, spoke with school reps, and came back with a better sense of their plans after high school. Later in October, all of our high schoolers visited the Aga Khan Museum, offering them exposure to the artistic, intellectual, and scientific heritage of Muslim civilizations across the centuries from the Iberian Peninsula to China. One of the goals of this trip, as well as the Museum’s mission, was to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the contribution that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage. Through education, research, and collaboration, the Museum fosters dialogue and promotes tolerance and mutual understanding among people.

While our high school students were off on their adventures, our middle schoolers also had a couple of exciting field trips at Bathurst Bowlerama and the Evergreen Brick Works. The former was a fun welcome/welcome back trip for all of our new and returning students, as well as a chance to get out of the classroom and get active. The Evergreen Brick Works, on the other hand, was a trip for the body and mind with the students’ participation in their Cycling in the City: Active Transportation program. There, they got to “explore the Brick Works through one of the world’s most energy-efficient machines – the bicycle. Students … [used] simple machines to craft and test obstacle courses and explore comparative force, while developing fundamental physical literacy skills. [One of the goals was to] get students excited about riding as transportation and recreation by designing bike routes to school, while discussing many aspects of cycling in the city and incorporating the social and environmental impact of active transportation.”

Looking forward, the middle schoolers will have a field trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario on November 11th. We’ll have many more details – and permission forms – to come soon! The week before that, on November 2nd, Grade 9 students will get a chance to shadow their parents at work through the Take Our Kids to Work Program. “The program supports career development by helping students connect school, the world of work, and their own futures.” On November 2nd, take your child to work, but make sure to tell us first!

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for more exciting news and events.

Welcome Back, CEC, & IMBES

Welcome Back, CEC, & IMBES

Educational Research High School Middle School The Study Academy Report

Greetings! Welcome back! I hope your summer was everything you’d ever hoped it would be and more.

First off, please let me introduce myself: My name is Ariana. I enjoy long walks on the beach, sunsets, and filing OSRs. In other words, I am the new School Administrator, and I am pleased to handle all of your administrative needs. I have also assumed the role of Blog Master, so here we go:

Once again, welcome back! We’re glad to see so many new and returning faces, and we’re excited about everything that this year has in store. Already, we’ve had our high school trip to the Canadian Ecology Centre, Parent Welcome Meeting, taken student card photos, had our first assembly and fire drill of the year (which everyone aced), and will soon begin our extracurricular clubs and activities. We’re powering through and loving every second of it. On to thing two!

Various balls on the groundDuring the first week back, we had our start-of-year high school trip to the Canadian Ecology Centre (CEC). For those of you who don’t know, the CEC is a non-profit environmental science education and research facility. They share the landscape with Samuel de Champlain Park, as well as the goal of “conserving and protecting our natural environment.” Their aim is to “[facilitate] informed choices [for all of their visitors] – presenting a better understanding of the conservation and development issues related to the environment and [associated] sectors. The CEC is also home to the Canadian Institute of Forestry”, and from September 6th to 9th, they housed our high school students. During that week, Grades 9 – 12 got to engage in some awesome activities, including: Team building and other group exercises, swimming, canoeing, drumming, astronomy, night vision and campfire construction, wilderness survival, stream and aquatic study, Creatures of the Night and Living Discovery Lab, orienteering and introduction to GPS, and intro to GIS. It was a packed week, but the group had a great time and learned some important information about our environment, and themselves, in the process. Trips like this are a great way to supplement classroom learning, facilitate teamwork, and present an opportunity for students to participate in outdoor education, but they also provide a practical understanding of nature and the environment, situating it in a context that then becomes more relatable and, thus, more actionable. We are dedicated, through these experiences, to the growth of our students both in the classroom and beyond; at present and into the indefinite future.

Lastly, we are very pleased to announce that our very own Jason Krell, Patrick Dolecki, and Anderson Todd have been accepted to present their research at the International Mind, Brain, & Education Society’s (IMBES) 2016 conference here in Toronto! IMBES’ mission is to “facilitate cross-cultural collaboration in biology, education, and the cognitive and developmental sciences.” They aim to “improve the state of knowledge in, and dialogue between, education, biology, and the developmental and cognitive sciences; create and develop resources for scientists, practitioners, public policy makers, and the public; and create and identify useful information, research directions, and promising educational practices. [They] invite researchers and practitioners at all levels of education to explore the questions and proposed solutions that emerge at the intersection of mind, brain, and education.” This year’s conference featured keynotes from Dr. Clancy Blair, on The Development of Self-Regulation in Early Childhood; Dr. Tania Lombrozo, on The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful (evidence for broad/simple explanation preference in children and adults); Dr. Marla Sokolowski, on Gene-Environment Interplay in Individual Differences in Behaviour; Dr. Janet Werker, on Perceptual Foundations of Language Acquisition; and Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, on About the Facts and the Myths about Education in Finland: Mind, brain, and smart education policies.

Neurofeedback schematic diagramKrell, Dolecki, & Todd (2016)’s poster, Executive Functions Through Attention, covered their research on the effects of neurofeedback training (NT) on attention and executive functioning (e.g., self-regulation, cognitive flexibility, reasoning, problem-solving, planning) in Gr. 5 – 8 students. NT teaches individuals to self-regulate by providing direct feedback on temporal and spatial patterns in brain activity. Using EEG measurement, it rewards individuals for attending effectively, encouraging them to attend further. In their presentation, they noted the changing landscape of education, with increasingly personalized learning, expanded accessibility, and new desired learning outcomes centred on adaptive competencies. Despite this, as well as the promising evidence of its effectiveness for individuals with and without ADHD, educational research on NT is presently scarce. This motivated them to examine the relationship between the use of this specific technology and student attention/executive functioning. After acquiring the appropriate assent and consent, data was gathered from semi-weekly, 30-minute training sessions, and performance was assessed by parents and teachers. Results support that both teachers and parents observed decreases in the relative occurrence of inattentive behaviours over the course of the NT sessions. This supports the hypothesis that NT can be effectively used in a classroom setting to supplement student learning and existing growth, and improve attention, planning, and organizational skills. In short, we’ve not seen the end of NT at The Study Academy, and we’re excited to see what else we can do with it moving forward.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for more exciting news and events.

Exploring Principles of Learning and Teaching

Exploring Principles of Learning and Teaching

Educational Research High School Middle School The Study Academy Report

At The Study Academy, we’re often acquainting ourselves with recent research on effective teaching strategies and structures of learning. In a recent search, we encountered an article on the website of the American Psychological Association entitled, “Top Twenty Principles From Psychology for PreK-12 Teaching and Learning” (which you can access directly here). After reading through the enclosed principles, I recognized that many of them were already underlying the framework of instruction that I’ve both witnessed and undertaken at The Study Academy. Since that’s the case, and since readers can have a glance at the principles themselves, what I’ve written below is not a summary of all 20 of the key principles outlined in the article, but instead, my own thoughts and relationship to 4 of those principles, both as an instructor and a learner.

What I quickly realized while writing was that I was gravitating toward principles that had a lot to do with personal responsibility. I think this has to do with my own personal optimism about the competency of students and the value of autonomy, but it perhaps equally has to do with the student-centred nature of instruction of The Study Academy.

So, in glorious non-chronological order, here are my thoughts:

As we are already well into the academic year, students are facing numerous types of deadlines. Deadlines are, of course, inevitable and necessary fixtures of academic proceedings. If heeded with the proper care, deadlines can incentivize students to develop crucial organizational skills that possess lifelong applicability. And yet, we all know that any kind of project quickly becomes dreary when the looming spectre of a deadline forms the sole motivation for academic progress. We know intuitively that curiosity and innovation resides in domains beyond the fear of a deadline. The ninth principle illuminates why this is the case: “students tend to enjoy learning and to do better when they are more intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated to achieve.” The article refers to deadlines and reward systems (such as the approval of teachers and parents) as examples of extrinsic motivators. The approval of others is certainly not a bad thing in itself, but it does appear that over-reliance on it may not be the most promising enterprise. While intrinsic motivation can come in various forms, researchers say that a really important core belief to achieve it is through the understanding that learning is inherently valuable — this, the authors assert, is one major way students come to progress for their own sake. And since extrinsic conditions are unstable and impermanent, the quest for intrinsic motivation makes for a more resilient position.

So, how do we accomplish this as teachers? In my own experience in this role, I encourage autonomy through classroom discussion and debate. I always strive for a mix of designing discussion topics and allowing students to do so. In my undergraduate degree, I had an English professor who said, “Texts won’t give you answers to questions you don’t ask.” That remark made an instant impression on me. I figured since it wouldn’t be possible for me to predict the questions an instructor expected me to ask, I would necessarily be engaging in a unique and radically individual exercise by posing questions of my own devising. And certainly, as I kept asking the text questions, the more personally relevant my questions became. They became so relevant, in fact, that it felt like I was working beyond the parameters of a single assignment. Thus, when I instruct English courses now, I always put emphasis on open dialogue and reflection, and remind students of the infinity of questions they can ask. My rationale is that if they are able to strike upon an interplay of personal reference points and the work at hand, this constructs a sturdy bridge to a wealth of intrinsic motivation. Furthermore, the meaning of the work has ripple effects far outside the bounds of the particular assignment, and therefore we are not dealing only with extrinsic motivations anymore.

Of course, knowledge acquisition is not limited to gaining entirely new information; it is also about challenging and, if necessary, reshaping previous assumptions and hypotheses. Principle 2 of the article speaks to this by distinguishing between conceptual growth (gaining new information) and conceptual change (reforming old assumptions). The first stage for teachers when exploring new subject matter is to gauge which strategy needs to be employed. Lessons and evaluations provide instructors the chance to gauge the baseline level of understanding. According to the article, if the baseline understanding is in line with curricular expectations, then instructors can plan their exercises in a way that fosters conceptual growth. However, when an instructor encounters a student working under an apparent misconception, instead of simply trying to change that “wrong thinking” on the spot, the instructor might rather set the stage for that student to self-correct. A student is only able to do that, though, if he or she has the space to try and advance their idea to a deeper stage of critical investigation. A tactic I use when I lead class discussions is in a sense echoing responses back to students. If I am able to maintain a non-judgemental yet skeptical tone, it opens up room for what in some cases may be very productive doubt. Moreover, having their ideas voiced by another person can be a way to help students gain critical distance from which vantage point they can either defend, revise, or outrightly change their assertions.

Keeping with the theme of personal responsibility, Principle 7 emphasizes the importance of self-regulation, which includes a broad range of capacities needed for academic success, including attention and self-control. The article stresses that teachers can help students improve these crucial abilities. We agree, and that’s evident through our curricular offerings and daily schedules. Students practice self-regulation everyday through meditation. We organize it so that students engage in the practice in a group, but with total autonomy and control over their experience. Since the only rules are that students sit in a comfortable position in silence, we avoid imposing rigid methodology onto how they self-regulate. Students who use the brain technology games we offer have a similar level of personal freedom while honing their focus. Additionally, the Learning Strategies course can also be a great way for students to work on organizational skills needed to stay on top of course work.

Another way to think about the Learning Strategies course is as an opportunity to transfer skills. Students may learn strategies geared toward building links between separate ideas. That way, in science, they are likely to forge the connection between algae growth and aquatic ecosystems, for example. Another way to think about this academic process is through Principle 4’s discussion of contexts. The authors clarify, first of all, that all learning does in fact occur in particular contexts, and that “generalizing learning to new contexts is not spontaneous but needs to be facilitated”.

One basic question we might ask upon reading this principle is the following: What are some examples of different contexts? Another question may come about when we pay further attention to the language of the principle. How can we as educators “facilitate” both context traversal and the application of ideas from one context to another?

Let’s take one context shift that the article mentions for example: students can take textbook knowledge and see how the ideas actually operate with and animate physical environments. I now realize that this is why I was so intuitively eager to write on the annual Brain Camp (you can access the entry here) event last year. This was an end-of-year event during which students stepped into a diverse set of contexts. They took part in outdoor activities, creative projects, attended various cultural sites, and more. On a broad level, the organization of these multifarious events was the facilitation for students to engage with different contexts. For instance, science experiments gave students the chance to enter a socially interactive and highly sensory context, in contrast to the text-based study of scientific formulas and principles. Or, when students worked on film-making, they entered a context of application for which all their instruction on narrative elements came in handy. One of the substantial boons of these new levels of engagements are that they necessitate mental activity beyond the surface level. Instead of rote memorization, students considering an impressionist painting at the Art Gallery of Ontario must draw from deeper wells of curiosity and critical thinking.

And certainly, students are encouraged to jump between contexts in creative and new ways. After all, Principle 4 is all about frame-breaking and “thinking outside the box”. So, for instance, during Brain Camp when they were asked to cook (or for the assertive students who cook at home), the students might stop and think about the ways in which kitchen utensils are made with materials that optimize heat conductivity for the purpose of cooking, while stifling the distribution of heat along the handles for the purposes of safety. Such an act of application takes conductivity from the subject-specific domain of science and applies it to real life tasks and tools.

Ultimately, the article from the APA strikes me as having the potential to be incredibly useful for students, their parents, and instructors. It includes practical tips for achieving academic objectives and explains why those objectives are worthwhile. While I hope my own thoughts in this piece have made for an interesting read, I strongly encourage readers to peruse the source material, as I’ve referred to a mere fraction of what’s included in it. Happy reading!

It’s Brain Camp!

It’s Brain Camp!

High School Middle School The Study Academy Report

Looking forward to mid-June? If you’re a student of The Study Academy, you should probably start. That’s because we’ve got a truly exciting set of activities planned from June 15-26. It’s our way of both thanking and rewarding students for their progress and hard work this year. And since education is what the staff and faculty here know and love, what better activities to plan than ones of the educational ilk? What we have in store is better than camp – it’s Brain Camp!

For teachers at The Study Academy, one of the objectives that always underlie our lessons plans is to set the stage for student-centred, experiential learning. We use a variety of methods to achieve that end in our classrooms. At its core, the vision of Brain Camp is about expanding those same objectives into a very new set of experiences. So while the activities we’ve planned will optimize long-term skills like critical thinking and problem-solving, we’ve also ensured that they’re interesting and enable the students to engage in practical application. Students will enjoy and be challenged by a QR scan code scavenger hunt, physical education, applied mathematics, cooking, video game creation, current events investigation and reporting, drama and outdoor games, movie-making, science experiments, and art projects.

In addition to bringing about new experiences, we also think of Brain Camp as a great way to get students into new spaces. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing with field trips to the AGO, Skyzone, Bounce World, Brick Works and Queen’s Park. We’ll be starting those days at The Study Academy, but we’ll be venturing out from there (being located so close to public transportation has definite perks!).

Teachers Eric and Jonathan are both eagerly preparing for their roles as coordinators for Brain Camp. In addition to serving as guardians and ensuring everyone’s on schedule throughout each day’s events, they’ll also be taking on the tricky task of consultation for students deciding how and what to investigate during the activities. This means judging when it’s appropriate to lend their voices, and when it’s appropriate to step back. We think striking that balance is the best way to assure a support system so students feel safe enough to partake in independent work.

Brain Camp will take place from 9am-3pm every school day from June 15-26, and will include students from 9-14 years old. We’re proud that in only two weeks from today, we’ll be facilitating this combination of academic enrichment, field trips, and activities, and assisting students in worthwhile accomplishments. See you there!

Speakers of the Oppi Education Festival

Speakers of the Oppi Education Festival

Educational Research The Study Academy Report

For readers looking for innovative ideas in education, we may have discovered something for you to pay attention to: the Oppi Education Festival. Held in Helsinki last year, the festival will be landing a lot closer to home this year in New York. The festival is all about getting educational specialists from all around the world to congregate and share their ideas. Dubbed a festival, rather than a conference, the organizers aim for “a different type of event.” Naturally, such an event has piqued the interest of those of us at The Study Academy. We concur with Sir Ken Robinson in his assertion that our times call for revolutions in how we educate; there seems no better way to oil the wheels of that progress than by ensuring that experienced practitioners have the opportunity to share and receive ideas from their international colleagues.

Given our enduring aim to make learning personalized, we anticipate the theme of the festival this year – the role of gender in education – to inform and dialogue with issues of student-to-student differences in theoretically challenging and pedagogically useful ways. Notable speakers on gender and education who will be delivering talks include Chernor Bah and Jude Kelly. Jude Kelly, citing all kinds of female pioneers in the arts, has spoken at a plethora of events (including TEDx London) advocating for increased opportunities for women. She has extended the spirit of her vast theatre background into the founding of the Southbank Cultural Centre in London England.

While certain speakers appear to have been selected for the direct applicability of their research and work to the specific theme, there’s also an array of notable speakers covering a wider range of education-related topics. For instance, Bethany Koby, a member of the company called Technology Will Save Us, has made a strong case in past public appearances for increased integration of technology inside and outside the classroom as tools to enrich learning. In a past talk, entitled “Will Technology Save Us?,” she exhibited numerous inventions that have already been implemented and engendered productive results. She cites a framework called Maker Movement Constructivism, that she feels comprises endeavours and activities from “giant robots to knitting circles” that use making and technology to “solve problems and to explore”.

But she’s not the only one championing the benefits of experiential learning. Ben Schloger is sure to venture into that terrain as well. He has talks available online in which he’s marketed an educational technology called the Skoog, a cube-like instrument with a soft exterior that encourages tactile learning through an engagement with a three-dimensional object.

You’ll remember I mentioned that the festival is international in scope. Sometimes, challenging the status quo means looking at educational frameworks outside our national borders. For that reason, it’s fortunate that Finnish educational “guru” Pasi Sahlberg will be visiting Oppi as well. Sahlberg has professed a great deal of passion for how Finnish educators educate their students in his home country (here is a great example).

I wonder what Sahlberg would say about that…

He has also warned against a trend the educational frameworks of many nations throughout the world, a trend he refers to as GERM (Global Education Reform Movement). While this trend is too complicated to fully summarize here, it’s clear that Sahlberg wants to see a lot less emphasis on competition and standardization in schools, as well as less accountability. That last one may register as a bit curious (isn’t accountability a good thing?). In Salberg’s view, it becomes problematic when the desire of educators to be accountable to governments eclipses the desire to be responsible in the first place, to care enough about students to ensure success. And among the most admirable points of focus in Sahlberg’s talk is that there is truly a statistical link between gender equality and general quality of education.

Questioning conventional modes of learning is something we love at The Study Academy. Whether you’re interested in attending the festival itself or simply engaging with a plethora of fantastic speakers, you can find out more from the Oppi website.

The Phantastic Quantum Computing Field Trip!

The Phantastic Quantum Computing Field Trip!

High School The Study Academy Report

Pedagogy is a multi-faceted thing. It has curricular and extra-curricular dimensions. And in the 21st century, we at The Study Academy have embraced the role modern technology plays in allowing students to engage with ideas. Enter teacher James Stinson who, in addition to knowing a thing or two in the social sciences, has a pretty firm grasp on advanced technology. James has already figured out ways of using that passion for the benefit of our students. His robotics club has been a big hit in past years and he’s continuing that trend this year. Add to the list the Computer Club that debuted Thursday of last week. With this in mind, it wasn’t surprising that James was a particular fan of Principal Jason Krell’s idea for a field trip to the Institute of Quantum Computing and the Physica Phantastica event at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. In fact, the field trip struck numerous faculty and staff as a very special idea for making an impact on students. We know that so many students today engage with sophisticated technology, from cell phones, to iPods, to various gaming platforms, and many more. And of course, as parents already know, we’re not shy of using modern teaching technology to illuminate our lesson plans and encourage self-knowledge for our students. Our brain wave technology has been an invaluable tool for helping students focus, and our smart boards have allowed us to incorporate various media into the classroom all in one device. But in addition to students using complex devices, we want our bright students to encounter how such devices function, and hear how they’re developed. While the Institute of Quantum Computing and Perimeter Institute in Waterloo were a bit of trek, we figured it was well worth the travel time.

Quantum Computing

On the road to the Quantum Institute.

And it was. The day began with a lecture by Outreach Scientist Dr. Kelly Foyle, whose interesting application of scientific principles made for a special treat: she demonstrated how very entwined birds are in various invisible forces. For example, birds depend on the Earth’s magnetic field and certain quantum effects to help them navigate during seasonal migrations. What an important lecture to remind us that quantum effects aren’t simply an invention of the modern age for the purpose of high-tech computers, but that they’ve been an important part of the natural world for ages. An awe-inspiring thought, one the students have proved they’re happy to engage with. And there was no shortage of people modelling deep thinking. Knowledge, as we came to see, wasn’t only being exchanged on the lecture stand — interested visitors and knowledgeable researchers were grouped around whiteboards, discussing a wide range of topics in the area of theoretical physics. What a great way for Study Academy students to witness the uncontainable nature of the scientific imagination.

After the lecture, students made their way across the snow-laden campus to see the incredible resources housed at the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridas Quantum-Nano Centre, where they encountered gorgeous open architecture. It was a beautiful backdrop against which they were about to glimpse into the heart of technologies that could “harness the quantum laws of nature,” as the Institute’s website boasts. The Institute of Quantum Computing is another fixture that puts on a number of wonderful lectures: in the past, they’ve explored topics like dark matter, the art of ‘guesstimation’, and the history of and science behind the famous Mars Rover. But in order to see why the Institute of Quantum Computing is considered one of the world’s top quantum computing research centres, we wanted physical proof.

Quantum Computing

A cryogenic chamber containing superconducting material.

That was taken care of by Senior Manager of Scientific Outreach, Martin Laforest, who offered explanations, history, and anecdotes on various machines the Institute had on display. He also fielded some really bright and creative questions from our students. While we knew the Institute contained impressive machines such as atomic clocks, we were treated to seeing two  particularly amazing machines that we weren’t expecting. We saw a quantum computer that operates through the use of a 14-watt laser, and another one that functions at temperatures barely above absolute zero (given that it was one of our colder days in November, it wasn’t hard to imagine what absolute zero would feel like). It was a privilege to get a first-hand look at these technologies. And while these machines aren’t likely to be commercially available any time in the near future, they signify massive leaps forward in the field.

With technology getting smaller and smaller, we felt it was so crucial for students to glimpse the features and components of nanotechnology which are integral to the devices they use on a daily basis. We want students to remember the human touch behind all of these technologies, to remind them that their primary purpose is to help them explore ideas and develop skills (in addition to being sources of entertainment). We think the best way to reconnect with that purpose is to see the minds that developed these fantastic technologies in the first place. We look forward to continuing this tradition of fun and educational field trips, even on the snowiest of days!

Fun Times at The Study Academy’s Brain Camp

Fun Times at The Study Academy’s Brain Camp

Middle School The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers,

It has certainly been busy these past few days at The Study Academy and I’m here to tell you that there are only more exciting things to come this week. Never a dull moment, eh?  As I had mentioned in an earlier post, children had the option to spend two additional weeks after the end of the school year to engage in creative and educational activities at our Brain Camp. Small classes benefit student learning.

I was able to contact the head teacher of Brain Camp, Meghan Patrick, to discuss what has been going on at camp so far. I was told that In the morning the students engaged in collaborative story writing activities and practiced parts of speech with mad lib games on the smart board. This was intended to ensure that the students got their “creative juices”, so to speak, flowing for the rest of the day; however one must also recognize this was an excellent way to assist the children in expanding their diction and structure.

butterfliesThe students also have started all afternoons with collaborative drama games. This week, students gathered round in a circle in the gymnasium and acted out assigned characters or scenes on their own or with a partner chosen by their teacher. The intention behind this activity was so that students could continue to work on their communication skills, especially in non verbal areas of communication.

Students also practiced a bit of video game creation that focused on creating shorelines based on earlier lessons on Medieval times and ancient Egypt. This had been possibly the most exciting part of the day for the kids, as they put their knowledge towards a fun and tangible goal. As Brain Camp will be ending off this week, the teachers have arranged a wonderful  trip for the students to the Ontario Science centre to check out the IMAX movie, “Flight of the Butterflies”(http://www.si.edu/Imax/movie/71). As you can tell the students coming to The Study for this final week of Brain Camp are really going to be having fun right to the end!

Survey Results: Educational Expectations and Opinions of Students

Survey Results: Educational Expectations and Opinions of Students

Educational Research The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers,

As promised, I come to you today with the results of last week’s Education Opinions Survey. However, due to the incoming data, I will be splitting the results over the span of three weeks, so I can discuss them from the point of views of the student, the parents as well as the teachers.

Social Studies teach critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.So, today’s results reflect students’ opinions on varying subject matter, ranging from class subjects, teachers, educational research and the future of schools. I would like it to be known that these were general feelings regarding education and do not necessarily reflect opinions regarding The Study Academy. The survey targeted current students within Toronto and recently graduated students from highschool. The reason for this is because they would have had ample amount of experience within the Ontario Educational system from which to draw their opinions. This is also the reason why younger middle school students were not used.

Considering the results all together, students thought of education in a diverse and complicated manner. While they believed education should be a tool for career preparation, they also strongly felt education should be a place of self discovery and where one can develop intellectually. It was also interesting to see that fifty percent said they saw education as stepping stone to more academic opportunities later in life.

Middle School classes are taught in small classesIn terms of how students saw their teachers, majority of the participants in the survey also strongly agreed that teachers need to be educated in the main subject field in which they teach. Furthermore, teachers should continually upgrade upon these skills by attending courses.

Students believed the communal efforts between parents, teacher and child, as well as the focused resources on a child’s learning development was indeed important. students feel there needs to be more communication between their parents and teachers about their learning development, as well as communication between their parents and self (as a student) to reinforce teacher’s effort. However, only sixty percent thought these changes was likely to happen any time soon. In addition, students also felt that it was unlikely that the current educational system would have the resources to assist troubled students sooner so that they do not fall behind.

Perhaps in response to this pessimism in Ontario’s educational system, majority of sample thought private Education was a good alternative method.  However, eighty percent of students thought home schooling was not a good alternative means of education.

Neurfeedback training for ADHDNevertheless, now we come to the most interesting part of the data! As many of my readers know The Study Academy is hoping to become the first  K – 12 Educational Research facility, therefore I thought it was necessary to ask students how they would feel if they had the opportunity to have research more intertwined within their educational experience. In terms of education structure and teaching methods, I was quite happy to find that 100 percent agreed that schools should be completing research in the classroom, which is precisely what The Study Academy intends to do! Everyone also agreed Educational institutions should be implementing new research findings into teaching practice. These results bode quite well for the continuing campaign to fund the future lab. That being said, if you are interested please visit the below website to find out more about The Study Academy Research Lab and perhaps even donate to a lab that will harness the power of neuroplasticity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity) to develop smarter students:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-study-research-lab

Also stay tuned for the next two weeks as you discover the results for Teachers and Parents Education Opinions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Study Academy Helps Children Put their Goals in Check

The Study Academy Helps Children Put their Goals in Check

The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers!

In today’s The Study Academy Report, we are going to look beyond the events of the classroom and into the educational research being conducted at The Study Academy. Previously, I wrote about the wonderful neurofeedback work that is currently being done in the lab that will benefit individual students with attentional difficulties. Well, this coming week the lab will be venturing forth on yet another scientific endeavor! They will be integrating their newly developed Goal Setting Suite in the Executive Function class for the Middle School students. It is their intent to use the Suite to help each child understand their personal goals and benefit from them in the longer term.

But you must be wondering, ‘When did this all start?” Actually, the idea for the Suite originated from Jason Krell, The Study Academy ’s Principal. He wondered how a child chose their goals out of the variety of dreams they had. For instance, one child may say they want to be a fire fighter one day and then a clown the next. Or to use a smaller goal, one child may want to spend an entire weekend playing the latest xbox game, but the next moment he could be wondering whether to read the next book in his favorite series. These may not seem like tough choices to you, but to a child they might certainly hold some weight. Thus, it was then the new mission of the lab members, Jason Krell, Anderson Todd and Patrick K. Dolecki, to discover which goals are really worthwhile aspirations for children.

Patrick K Dolecki, a current teacher of The Study Academy and The Study Hall, is the primary organizer for the Student Goal Setting Suite. He first began getting involved in the lab by setting up the neurofeedback machine on select students, and finds this new opportunity quite exciting. In an interview, he detailed the structure of the Goal Setting Suite and its benefits: “The suite itself is set up based on the 5 facets of virtue. It is composed of 21 questions that a student would answer about one of their goals, and the results would reveal, in a pass or fail answer, whether the goal was virtuous and worthwhile.” The lab members hope that  the kids will then strive towards more worthwhile goals, especially those with academic content.

However, Patricks confesses that the team recognizes the challenge in constructing The Student Goal Setting Suite. In particular as an educator and a researcher, there is concerned with the degree to which children will understand the types of questions being asked. Some of the emotional questions may beyond their point of emotional and cognitive development. Ultimately, if the children are unable to fully understand what is being asked of them the results may not be as true a reflection as could be possible.

For that reason, I was also told that for those who are interested, the Student Goal Setting Suite is being temporarily released, to test it out on willing participants. The next step after testing and perfecting the Suite, will be to construct a  subscription based model for other school boards so other students can also benefit. While there is still the need for a bit more paperwork, it will nevertheless be a great instrument for the school and for the lab. As The Study Academy  lab moves toward forming their succinct mission statement, they will continue to strive to provide to both the scientific and educational community alike.

Theoretical Thursday: Making the Memories Last!

Theoretical Thursday: Making the Memories Last!

Middle School The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers,

Welcome to yet another Theoretical Thursday written by me, The Study Academy’s humble blogger. I felt that, considering how majority of you are probably deciding whether to sign up your child this summer for camp (hopefully Brain Camp), I wanted to give you a bit more incentive.  As I mentioned in this week’s The Study Academy Report, there is indeed a concern by many Educators that students forget the material taught during the academic year while they are on break. Actually, this has been termed as brain drain syndrome, but don’t be alarmed there are ways to prevent it!

http://01.edu-cdn.com/files/static/wiley/9780470591963/WHY_DO_STUDENTS_REMEMBER_EVERYTHING_THAT_S_ON_TELEVISION_AND_FORGET_EVERYTHING_I_SAY_01.GIF

http://01.edu-cdn.com/files/static/wiley/9780470591963/WHY_DO_STUDENTS_REMEMBER_EVERYTHING_THAT_S_ON_TELEVISION_AND_FORGET_EVERYTHING_I_SAY_01.GIF

First, however, why is it happening? Well, the  Educational calendar has definitely changed over the years. For instance, there has been a gradual movement towards fewer school days in the classroom by having the children stay longer on school days to make up the minutes. Thus, with longer breaks between lessons children can fall prey to brain drain. On average, children can lose up to two months of what they were taught in school over the summer break. Why? Well this has a lot to do with the child’s memory. You see there are many different kinds of memories. Long-term memory is our brain’s system responsible for storing, managing, and retrieving information that we can keep for long periods of time. There are many different forms of long-term memory. explicit memory, or declarative memory, is a type of long-term memory, which requires conscious thought for us to retrieve it. We have to consciously think of what page of math we have in order to retrieve the memory and say, “Aha! It was page 102, questions 1 to 12!” Closely related to “working” memory, short-term memory is the very short time that you keep something in mind before either dismissing it or transferring it to long-term memory.

It takes, however, quite a bit of work for a memory to be transferred and stored in long term memory so that it can be kept for long periods of time. Memories can be encoded into long term memory most commonly through two ways: repetition and meaningful encoding. Repetition is probably the most used way. It is when you have your child review their material a bit each day or read a book each week during the summer break. I fondly recall how my parents had me write 2 to 4 book reports each summer, and this really helped to expand my vocabulary from an early age.

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/teach/z-vthink.gif

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/teach/z-vthink.gif

However, getting a child to go back to the books after they have been looking so forward to the relaxing and fun times of summer may be a bit of a challenge, to say the least. Can you blame them? Both adults and children alike want to have a bit of fun after they work hard.  This is why, meaningful encoding may be the better option. Meaningful  encoding allows for memories of what your child has learned to reach long term memory by attaching relevance to the information. It is making the details personally important to the child. In this way, the memory can be encoded and transferred through what they refer to as dual encoding process- the memory is encoded through both as information and through the emotions the child relates to the information.

Well, children can certainly have a meaningful time at camp! Academic camps are structured around the idea of meaningful encoding and therefore are a great option for reducing brain drain! Studies have shown that students in academic camps, such as Brain Camp, benefit in a number of ways including enhanced problem solving skills and memory. In fact, 98% of campers continue to use these skills after camp is over. Children certainly gain invaluable knowledge and skills at such camps  that helps them succeed in school and later in the working world.

So, what’s your decision now going to be for your child this summer?