The Study Academy Lab Campaign : Turning Science into Smarts

The Study Academy Lab Campaign : Turning Science into Smarts

Educational Research High School Middle School

Hello Readers,

I also wanted to mention to you all the exciting news about The Study Academy Lab’s campaign to build the first Canadian K-12 Educational Research Lab! In an interview with Principle Jason Krell, he states that “there has been some considerable work going on to initiate funding for not just research activities, but for a fully operational lab at The Study Academy.”

Neurfeedback training for ADHDWell, today they have launched their campaign with an Indiegogo crowd-funding platform and an additional video to communicate their vision (http://vimeo.com/69015735) .The footage was taken by Vlad Lunin (http://vladlunin.com/)  at the school and is a mixture of the old and new; old in the images of the building and in the personal interaction between student and teacher, and new in the implementation of novel and groundbreaking technologies (Neurofeedback headsets in school).

The video conveys The Study’ Academy’s Lab’s motto of turning “Science into Smarts”. The lab will work on the premise that change in Education must be recognized from the grass-root level, with the emergence of empirical evidence. In fact, it is the Study Academy’s vision to develop such empirical evidence with tools and methods for training wisdom through developing cognition, training attention, and goal setting.

The three main goals of the lab are

  1. To bridge the gap between research and pedagogy which the public and private school systems have ignored. We will be researching methods and tools that will augment traditional learning processes and replace worn out teaching models.
  2. To give students the ability to better use their brains to allow for more effective learning. In other words, we want to train students to intelligently use their intelligence.
  3. To design tools and better implement technology that will train students’ attention, problem solving abilities, thinking and rationality. In essence, we want students to gain not only knowledge but wisdom as well.

The research lab will offer an unprecedented opportunity to work with existing basic research findings from the fields of Cognitive Science, Psychology and Neuroscience and to generate and test hypotheses in the classroom.

Also,w e have a great team to head this growing research lab, including Patrick K Dolecki as the Research Coordinator, Jason Krell, John Vervaeke  (http://www.newcollege.utoronto.ca/academics/new-college-academic-programs/buddhism-psychology-and-mental-health/centre-for-buddhism-and-psychology/the-buddhism-psychology-mental-health-program/faculty/dr-john-vervaeke/), a University of Toronto Professor and our Research Advisor and Anderson Todd as our Creative Advisor. They have all been working hard to create this facility from the ground up!

John Vervake giving a talk about Mindfulness Meditation at a Ted Talk at U of T

That is why we need your help, Readers. Through the website Indiegogo, The Study Academy hopes to raise money that will assist their researching and designing projects.The funding will contribute to such things as providing wages for the research team, pay for a 3D printer, new hardware (including neurofeedback, headsets, eye tracking devices and motion detection cameras), cloud back up services to secure data, software and a small business server to handle such lab software.

The Study Academy Lab will be of great interest to a rather wide audience including families of school aged children who have an interest in new educational model that will empower their children and prepare them for the careers and independence that await them; to educators and school administrators who support the need for the educational reform and progressive and evidence based teaching methods; and to students who have an interest in participating in learning activities directed towards their specific profile.

Thus, it is the hope of The Study Academy to join the conversation of what education “should be” and how it will reform in the coming years. Here at The Study Academy  “we not only want to teach students, we want to make them smarter.” Please help support our cause so we can create a better tomorrow for students. They deserve it.

Theoretical Thursday: The Positive Effects of Music on Children

Theoretical Thursday: The Positive Effects of Music on Children

The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers,

Over the past week and a half, my posts have divulged the creative endeavors  of The Study Academy and the results of scientists on the effects of such creativity in the classroom.  In particular, I discussed the importance of creativity and innovation in fostering divergent thinking in young students (http://thestudyacademy.ca/theoretical-thursday-creativity-innovation-education/). I had also mentioned this week that music classes have been made available at The Study Academy, and therefore students are being given another opportunity to foster such thinking processes (http://thestudyacademy.ca/study-academy-report-music-classes-study-academy/). However, the importance of music goes  beyond divergent thinking.

divergent thinking, creativity and music In one study by North & colleagues (2000), research stated that music allows children to satisfy their emotional needs, both while listening and when actively involved in music making. Active participation in music classes has also been found to enhance a student’s prelinguistic communicative gestures and social development, in particular social behaviour. (Gerry et. al., 2012).

Because of such capacities of music to affect us so deeply, therapies for students with attentional difficulties  and Autism Spectrum Disorder have been proven to be quite effective. Music therapy is one type of therapy available to those with attentional difficulties and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The idea is that a certified music therapist uses music (and its capacity to affect one physically , emotionally , mentally, and socially) to help clients to improve or maintain their health. Musical interventions have been designed to mange stress, alleviate pain, enhance memory, improve communication and promote physical rehabilitation too.

SCOPEThere are in fact a few brain based reasons why music works in such beneficial ways for us. Firstly, you must understand that music has always had a core function in our brain. My goodness, from an evolutionary standpoint, music precedes even language! Even day old infants, who are still developing, can detect patterns in music. For this reason, it seem that music has some basic engrained influence over us. One of the more important reasons made available, is that we have emotional and physiologic responses to music. We can experience anything from our heart rates increasing to chills down our spine depending on the types of melodies that reach our ears. On the other hand, music also taps into our emotions, and  allows one to easily access our emotions in a beneficial and therapeutic manner. Therefore, in trained hands, music has the capacity to effectively help. In this respect, music can definitely serve as a positive instrument for students who experience challenges in the classroom.

For a student suffering from attentional difficulties , music can bolster attention and focus, while reducing their hyperactivity. It is the structure within music that can help them. The reason for this is because the rhythm within the music can allow the child to plan, anticipate and react in a structured way. With time and practice, a child with attentional difficulties  can apply their strategies they have learned from music to the classroom.

Music therapy patient needs tables music selectionsMusic therapy is useful with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Disorder also owing to the noted sensitivity Autistic Spectrum Disorder patients have to music. Evidence of this is shown in a study found in the Pertanika Journal (2012). Over a ten month period, when weekly music therapy sessions were given to children for an hour, there were notable improvements made in inattentive behaviour, restlessness, aggression, and noisiness.

Overall research has shown that music does indeed have quite a positive effect on many children! I will leave you today with a picture summary of some of the things I have discussed today and hope that maybe the next time you listen to your Ipod, you will wonder too, what your music is doing for you.

http://www.onlinecolleges.net/2012/06/20/music-learning/

Theoretical Thursday: Creativity, Innovation and Education

Theoretical Thursday: Creativity, Innovation and Education

Middle School The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers,

And welcome to Theoretical Friday! As I mentioned yesterday, I have come down with a bit of a cough and cold, so I pushed our usual Theoretical Thursday to today.

Over this week, however, while seeing the children engage in such wonderfully creative endeavors, I began to think of the importance of innovation in Education and the need for creativity in our youth.  Whether it be by the media, researchers or even educators themselves, there has been quite a bit of talk for the need to increase new modes of thinking in students. There are some schools, such as The Study Academy, that make it their mission to provide courses and teaching methods based on creativity and innovation.

imagesBut here comes the question-Why is creativity so important that makes these individuals in educational institutions, researchers, and media argue so passionately for its integration into the Educational system? One such reason, that research has provided, has to do with the process of divergent thinking in children. What is that? Well, it is the process of breaking down concepts into their various components within our minds, and being able to see things from various perspectives. Divergent thinking can provide a deeper understanding and can foster insight in children, which benefits their overall learning development.

So, to foster a child’s divergent thinking abilities, education must go beyond simply knowledge based teaching. Indeed, to simply have a child learn in a knowledge based, single answer manner does not teach students how to analyze, synthesize and evaluate ideas in the same way divergent thinking can.

However, the Educational system as a whole, does not currently reward this way of thinking about things in children. Actually the current teaching methods can detract from the development of a child’s divergent learning capacity. In one study, used as a critical argument in Robinson’s TED talk in 2006 on creativity and education, several Kindergarten children were tested for their ability to think divergently. The initia

schools-kill-creativity

l results indicated that 98% had such a capacity, but when tested five years later, the results  dropped significantly. They dropped even more so five years after that. What happened, you may ask.

Well what I am trying to indicated, and what Robinson so strongly argued in his video (which can be found at http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_ robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html), is that a student’s capacity for divergent thinking can diminish if it is not encouraged. Do not be fooled, divergent thinking does not necessarily disappear as one ages. Not at all! Instead, results indicate that the current teaching method had “taught [divergent thinking] out of them. They’ve spent ten years at school, being taught there’s only one answer.”

While I admit it is a challenge for the Educational system to anticipate what sort of useful tools a child will need for their future, I believe a capacity for divergent thinking is a skill that is always relevant both on a personal and societal level. The ability to see many perspectives and understand another human being is important for relationships. The knowledge of how to anticipate a situation can help individual know what can be their next move. To understand the long term considerations of an action can help a society act consciously. For this reason, creativity and innovation are indeed crucial tools for learning development  in an individual as well as sustainable development within a community. Education and training need to incorporate creativity and innovation into life long learning.

That’s all for now folks, but this subject is not over just yet. I find it particularly interesting and so i will touch more on this subject matter next week on the next Theoretical Thursday. Stay tuned!

Also, if you are interested in reading more on this matter I would like to suggest the following two pieces:

McGrath, J. & Davies, D. (2012) The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice. Published by Mind Shift. Available for download at: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/02/video-the-future-will-not-be-multiple-choice/

Stanford Breakfast Briefings – The Enterprise of the Future. Available for download at: https://breakfastbriefings.stanford.edu/briefings/enterprise-future

 

Theoretical Thursday: Mindfulness Meditation to Benefit Students

Theoretical Thursday: Mindfulness Meditation to Benefit Students

The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers and welcome to the Fourth Week of Theoretical Thursday!

As I mentioned on Tuesday’s blog, there has been an integration of Mindfulness and Meditation practices into the Educational System, so today I want to talk to you more about the beneficial effects that Researchers have found. However first off I want to try to provide you a better understanding of Mindfulness.

The Buddhist tradition has a long history of dealing with problems of the mind and body. In fact, it already predated Western Psychology as a science by more than eighteen and  a half centuries. To be particular, the Abhidhamma, a collection of writings that outline the doctrines of Buddhism, revealed an explicitly psychological content, providing  details on such sensation, perception, emotion and cognition. That being the case, there were already ways of dealing with many of the problems that society still faces today.

As I previously mentioned Mindfulness Meditation combines both an open mind as well as a focused attention. One focuses on one’s breath and is open to their environment. With time and practice this practice is integrated into how one see’s their every day life. So in this way, the mechanisms of mindfulness meditation, with their emphasis on developing openness and awareness to one’s inner thoughts, represent a powerful coping strategy and more adaptive way of processing in everyday life (Shapiro et al., 2006).

There has been several studies of Mindfulness and Meditation in schools that have yielded results that coincide with Shapiro’s sentiment, such as:

  • Improved self-control and self-awareness among children ages 7-9 who initially lack such skills (Flook et al. 2010)
  • Improved attention skills among elementary school children (Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor 2010; Napoli, Krech, and Holley 2005; Zylowska et al. 2008)
  • Decreased anxiety among students in grades 7-8 (Semple, Reid, and Miller 2005)
  • Decreased test anxiety in students grades 1-3 (Napoli, Krech, and Holley 2005)
  • Decreased blood pressure in youths ages 6-18 (Black, Milam, and Sussman 2009; Barnes, Beiser, and Treiber 2004)
  • Reduced misbehavior/aggression among children and adolescents (Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor 2010; Black, Milam, and Sussman 2009; Barnes, Treiber, and Johnson 2003)

If you are interested in finding out more about the many benefits, I suggest you read the meta-analysis Sedlmeier and colleagues from the Chemnitz University of Technology: http://www.ashanamind.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/physiological-effects_Sedlmeier_12.pdf

I believe that part of the reason for these results is that Mindfulness and Meditation teach students how to engage in cognitive restructuring. What I mean is that by bringing one’s attention to oneself and their surroundings, as well as incorporating an open mind to situations, an individual can adjust their normal and potentially negative reactions. Research in neuro-imaging studies has indeed shown this, where  through inhibition that an automatic reactive attitude shift towards a more open minded attitude (Brown and Ryan, 2003; Ryan et al., 1997).

This type of reconstrual is  done through breaking up the relevance of objects constructed in their mind.One is metaphorically stepping back, looking through the thought and in doing so they can break apart chunks of sequential thought patterns.The cognitive restructuring of what the individuals finds salient opens up the opportunity for a more open-minded mindset that can positively affect the appraisal process of many situations anxiety, blood pressure, and social interaction.

There has been programs popping up in Toronto that teach students Mindfulness and Meditation, however it is not fully introduced into the Educational system as of yet. However, I believe with time and the persistence of certain programs like Mindfulness in Schools (http://mindfulnessinschools.org/), it will be, and at that point Education will no longer simply consider what it puts into the minds of the children, but also how it can change the mind within it too!

Thank you and I hope you drop by next week!

Cya!

 

 

 

 

Assessing, Evaluating and Executive Functioning

Assessing, Evaluating and Executive Functioning

Middle School

Hello Readers,

I’m sure many of you can recall the distaste you may have had when you were younger every time a time came around. Perhaps, some of you even became anxious. Nevertheless, despite people’s aversion to assessments and evaluation, they play such a pivotal role for school’s to understand students learning and also the development of a very important concept in the mind, one’s executive function. “Executive functioning” is a term used to describe the many different cognitive processes that individuals use to control their behavior and to get ready to respond to different situations. Ok, this sounds rather simple, but its a tad more complicated than that. If you are interested in learning more, may I suggest you check out this wonderful introduction on Executive Function in children: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1076/chin.8.2.69.8725#.UswZSc1mhxw

ExecutiveFunctionTasksAnyways, to get back to the point, it is incredibly important to develop one’s executive functioning as it affects almost every aspect of our lives. For instance, we make use of executive function when we make good use of past knowledge or current situation, so we know how best to proceed. For a student, they can use their assessment and evaluations to take the next step, and this can carry on into adulthood.

The Study Academy creates a school environment where through assessments and evaluation a child can improve their learning and develop their executive functioning. Firstly, an Executive Function course is taught as a non credit course to all Middle School students and is linked though the use of the technology available at the school. However, the learning and executive functioning skill development is also provided through Assessments for Learning, Assessments as Learning and Assessment of Learning and Evaluation component in all other classes. Do those three sound the same? Well then allow me to clarify!

Assessment for Learning- Teachers provide students with feedback for how they can improve. This can indeed development one’s learning and executive functioning with as simple the task as repeating a given strategy or trying a strategy for an assignment. When the child receives feedback, they can learn which strategy works and which one doesn’t.

Learning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleAssessment as Learning- Teachers help students develop capacity to be independent autonomous learners so they can become an individual with stronger executive functioning (set own goals, watch own progress, determine next steps and reflect) Student are taught how when and why specific strategies should be used and when they can modify to suit their own learning preferences.  Teachers also help students set realistic goals and use self-monitoring and self-management strategies to identify areas of weakness and self-correct behaviors and performance.

Assessment of Learning -this is an evaluation and is based on already established performance standards and assigning value to represent what students know and can apply.Teachers indeed count “strategy use” as part of a student’s grade (focus on the “how” of learning, not just the “what”). In addition, the application process required in certain learning tasks is indeed another aspect of executive functioning that a student can strengthen through these forms of assessments.

The Ontario Ministry of Education also provides further description of these three interconnected assessments and how they benefit the many students of Ontario, including those at The Study Academy:http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/success.html

Overall, The Study Academy provides a wonderful environment that fosters a child’s learning of subject matter, as well as their development of higher cognitive processes in executive functioning. This, is most definitely an asset for any student’s future.

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom

Mindfulness in the Classroom

Middle School

Hello,

Welcome to the weekly school update formerly known as The Study Academy Report. Today, I want to bring up a practice conducted at The Study Academy that I find, personally, very enlightening.

The idea of focused attention in Mindfulness MeditationFor some time now, the Middle School students have been engaging in Mindfulness practices before beginning class sessions. What is Mindfulness? That’s a bit too challenging a task to accomplish in one sentence, however for the time being I will have to do it this slight injustice till we discuss it in more detail on Thursday. Mindfulness is the practice of learning to direct our attention to our experience as they unfold, moment by moment with open-mindedness and focused attention. Students would assume a posture and rest their attention on their breath. If their attention wandered away from their breath, that is to say, if the thought of what they had for lunch pops into their head, they are to gently bring their attention back to their body.

The incorporation of the practice is in line with Mind, Brain, Education structure at the school. There has been rigorous work done on the relationship between the practice of Mindfulness to our brains, our ability to focus, learn and interact. At The Study Academy, Mindfulness practice and Meditation are used to enhance awareness of the student and help their emotional regulation. The practice also is in line with the aims of the Pastoral care included in the Educational structure of the school, as Byran indeed encourages and provides strategies that promote Mindfulness.

John Vervake giving a talk about Mindfulness Meditation at a Ted Talk at U of TThe Mindfulness and Meditation exercises were taught by Dr. John Vervaeke (http://johnvervaeke.com/wordpress/) , a lecturer at the University of Toronto and involved in both the Psychology department, Cognitive Science Department, and the newly formed Buddhism, Psychology and Mental Health program (http://www.newcollege.utoronto.ca/academics/new-college-academic-programs/buddhism-psychology-and-mental-health/centre-for-buddhism-and-psychology/the-buddhism-psychology-mental-health-program/). His research interests are relevance realization, insight problem-solving, the nature of general intelligence, consciousness, mindfulness, and wisdom. These are  important to Education, therefore he was an ideal person to come and teach those ready to learn about this ancient practice. Since then the practice has been providing the students a period of time to get ready to learn once again.

While, I will admit as an individual who dabbles in Mindfulness Meditation, it is not an easy practice to jump into. Your mind will naturally wander, however, with time I found the experience to have such wonderful effects. From my personal experience, I feel it is such a great practice to integrate into our Educational institutions. So you know what? That’s exactly what I’m going to discuss with you all on this  week’s Theoretical Thursday.

See you soon!