Archive for March, 2010
In November 1936, the March of Time! newsreel introduced the progressive education movement championed by John Dewey as a series of “Strange and alarming teaching innovations which today threaten to change the entire method of public school education in the United States.”
HBO Archives has digitally restored the 8-minute film, which you can watch here.
(Note, free registration is required to access the HBO Archives.)
“Being fit isn’t about being able to lift a steel bar or finish an Ironman,” Le Corre says. “It’s about rediscovering our biological nature and releasing the wild human animal inside.“
A video of Erwan in motion:
The documented first year of four babies in four different corners of the world:
Update: This NYT Magazine story on the moral life of babies is a great complementary reading to the movie:
The mental life of young humans not only is an interesting topic in its own right; it also raises — and can help answer — fundamental questions of philosophy and psychology, including how biological evolution and cultural experience conspire to shape human nature. From Sigmund Freud to Jean Piaget to Lawrence Kohlberg, psychologists have long argued that we begin life as amoral animals. One important task of society, particularly of parents, is to turn babies into civilized beings — social creatures who can experience empathy, guilt and shame; who can override selfish impulses in the name of higher principles; and who will respond with outrage to unfairness and injustice.
A growing body of evidence, though, suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. With the help of well-designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone. Which is not to say that parents are wrong to concern themselves with moral development or that their interactions with their children are a waste of time. Socialization is critically important. But this is not because babies and young children lack a sense of right and wrong; it’s because the sense of right and wrong that they naturally possess diverges in important ways from what we adults would want it to be.
Dr. Harriet Hall has a fascinating article on the placebo effect over at eSkeptic:
We not only know placebos “work,” we know there is a hierarchy of effectiveness:
- Placebo surgery works better than placebo injections
- Placebo injections work better than placebo pills
- Sham acupuncture treatment works better than a placebo pill
- Capsules work better than tablets
- Big pills work better than small
- The more doses a day, the better
- The more expensive, the better
- The color of the pill makes a difference
- Telling the patient, “This will relieve your pain” works better than saying “This might help.”
Dr. Hall also discusses four factors that explain how the placebo effect works — expectancy, motivation, conditioning, and endogenous opiates. Also in the article, a section on whether animals respond to placebos, and a summary of the ethics of the matter.
In this great video, Dr. Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science, explains the role of the placebo effect in medical research.
It’s science’s dirtiest secret: The “scientific method” of testing hypotheses by statistical analysis stands on a flimsy foundation. Statistical tests are supposed to guide scientists in judging whether an experimental result reflects some real effect or is merely a random fluke, but the standard methods mix mutually inconsistent philosophies and offer no meaningful basis for making such decisions. Even when performed correctly, statistical tests are widely misunderstood and frequently misinterpreted. As a result, countless conclusions in the scientific literature are erroneous, and tests of medical dangers or treatments are often contradictory and confusing.
GoCognitive produces a great series of videos for educators, researchers, and the general population about a wide variety of topics in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Below, “Dr. Ione Fine from the University of Washington explains the basic mechanisms underlying neural plasticity – how the brain can change in response to the specific processing demands of an individual (e.g., by building expertise, after cortical lesions early in life, etc.). The interviewer is Jade Francetich, an undergraduate student of psychology at the University of Idaho.”
This 2003 essay review on the limits of plasticity by Michael S. C. Thomas in the Journal of Cognition and Development makes a great complement to the above video. Abstract:
The more scientists learn about the brain, the more we learn about its infinite plasticity.… If there is a challenge to one part of the brain, we can learn to revive other parts to make all sections of the mind work together. (Elaine Colliar, “mind-mapping” champion, on how a visualization technique might be used to overcome reading impairments in developmental dyslexia; Kenyon, 2002)
We should encourage the public’s interest in developmental brain science and applaud attempts to base early childhood policy and practice on a scientific basis. However, in some instances, public enthusiasm far outstrips our scientific understanding. Too often the messages broadcast by advocates and the media do not accurately reflect what scientists currently knowabout synapses, critical periods, neural plasticity, and how experience affects the brain. (Bruer, 2001, p. XXX)
Frank Forencich, Chief Creative Officer of the health leadership organization Exuberant Animal, is hosting a workshop in San Francisco on Saturday, April 10 at the Diakadi Body personal training and wellness center.
The daylong event will include presentations on human evolution, functional exercise, and the power of play. (Earlier in the month, Frank will deliver a similar talk to the Stanford University School of Design, in presentation with the design firm IDEO.) The EA San Francisco Jam will also include movement sessions and games that practitioners, educators, athletes, trainers, coaches, and athletes of all fitness levels can incorporate into their lives and work.
Anyone interested in functional fitness, play-based fitness, and evolutionary movement is encouraged to attend. Click here to register.
Skye Nacel is a friend whom I met at an EA event in Seattle — he is the founder of Mocean365, an action photography and video production firm based in Vermont that also organizes a fantastic series of action workshops. Skye recently produced 10-minute video that leads viewers through the Exuberant Animal Short Form movement sequence — a perfect way to start the day or warm-up before any strenuous physical activity.
In mid-April, Frank will lead a two-day seminar with Wildfitness in London’s Regent Park:
American movement guru Frank Forencich is one of the leading experts in the growing field of evolutionary fitness and his books have been a major influence on the philosophy of Wildfitness and our holiday programme. The seminar is a fantastic opportunity for forward-thinking fitness and movement professionals to get an insight into the new trend in fitness towards ‘natural movement’ and to gain inspiration from one of the key voices and proponents of this culture shift.
The seminar is ideal for personal trainers, therapists, martial artists, dancers and physical educators, as well as non-professional fitness enthusiasts.
Finally, trail runners, endurance athletes, and barefoot enthusiasts should check out the Misty Mountain Foot Quest, in partnership with Mick, The Barefoot Sensei. This is an EA-sponsored multi-day run in Washington state from Quinault to the Elwah, up the spine of the Olympic Mountains. The Foot Quest party kicks-off on Thursday, August 12 and the two-day run includes sherpa support. Sign up with Eventbrite.
Mike O’Donnell, a professional health and fitness coach, shares insights from his career as a trainer. A sample:
- Pushups are the best upper body workout designed….no machine can replace that…you don’t need any equipment and you can do them anywhere.
- If you eat whole foods that have been around for 1000s of years, you probably don’t have to worry about counting calories.
- If I had to pick one sport for a child to start with it would be gymnastics, the strength/speed/balance/body control they will learn can be applied to any sport down the road.
- I hate to jog…. I love to run.
Via the Bay Area Edupreneurs list-serve:
Equity Matters Research Review No. 6
Healthier Students Are Better Learners:
A Missing Link in Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap
NATIONAL–“Healthier Students Are Better Learners“ brings together the most recent findings in fields ranging from neuroscience and child development to epidemiology and public health. Charles Basch focuses on “educationally relevant health disparities” in seven areas — vision; asthma; teen pregnancy; aggression and violence; physical activity; breakfast; and inattention and hyperactivity — that disproportionately affect the educational opportunities and outcomes of urban minority youth. He argues that unless they are addressed in a coordinated fashion at the federal, state and local levels, efforts to close the education achievement gap will be compromised. Nevertheless, he strongly emphasizes that while these seven areas are important, “the expectation is not that every urban public school should have the same priorities,” and priorities may vary according to local need and capacity.
Frank Forencich shares the story of his first “earth orgasm” — a humorous and thoughtful reflection on the sexual energy of mother nature.
For my part, I can vividly recall a number of earth-shattering earth-orgasms, mostly from my days as a climber in the mountains of California. Climbing, like many outdoor sports, is all about getting your body into intimate contact with the natural, tactile world. Exposure promotes vivid sensation, anticipation and engagement. Gravity provides focus and sharpens attention to the here and now. Tactile awareness deepens as fingers and toes probe for subtle variations in form and texture. Skin becomes alert and aware. Every sense comes alive, passionate, desiring ever more. Long summer days of perfect rock, perfect weather, powerful physicality and the sweet caress of a gentle breeze.
There was usually a climax of course, when we reached the safety and panorama of the summit, but this was but a single orgasmic moment surrounded by hours of caress and erotic pleasure. Even the moonlight descent, with our bodies scraped, bruised and fatigued by our efforts, was sensual magic, a feast for eyes, ears and spirit. Only when we reached the highway would the spell be broken.
Read the entire post at the Exuberant Animal blog.
Also worth browsing — their gallery of images divided into thematic categories for movement, endurance, living, and travel. Via DolomiteSports, you can also view galleries of photographs by activity, such as hiking, road biking, mountain biking, and skiing. It’s enough to make me save for an adventure vacation to the Italian Dolomites.
Eric Mazur‘s engaging talk “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer“ at the University of Maryland on 11 November 2009. The abstract reads: “I thought I was a good teacher until I discovered my students were just memorizing information rather than learning to understand the material. Who was to blame? The students? The material? I will explain how I came to the agonizing conclusion that the culprit was neither of these. It was my teaching that caused students to fail! I will show how I have adjusted my approach to teaching and how it has improved my students’ performance significantly.”
Via the American Education Research Association list-serv (thanks, Richard Hake!):
That talk is now on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwslBPj8GgI
The abstract, slides, and references — sometimes obscured in the YouTube talk — are here as a 4 MB pdf.
For other commentary critical of the passive-student lecture — a staple of U.S. higher education — see e.g.:
- “Scholars at a Lecture” [Hogarth (1822)];
- “The Lecture System in Teaching Science” [Morrison (1986)] – a MUST-READ all-time classic!;
- “Science Lectures: A relic of the past? [Mazur (1996)];
- “The College Lecture, Long Derided, May Be Fading” [Honan (2002)];
- “Re: The college lecture may be fading” [Hake (2002)];
- “Mary Burgan’s Defense of Lecturing” [Hake (2007)];
- “At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard” [Rimer (2009)];
- “Farewell, Lecture?” [Mazur (2009)].
UPDATE: Lab Out Loud has a fantastic interview with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson on science literacy. (Thanks, Aaron!)
Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman has ditched his trainers and started running barefoot. His research shows that barefoot runners, who tend to land on their fore-foot, generate less impact shock than runners in sports shoes who land heel first. This makes barefoot running comfortable and could minimize running-related injuries. Read more here and find the original research here.
Related: The science of going barefoot.
Also — check out “Everything you need to know to become a barefoot runner“, a great list of resources compiled by MassageTherapySchools.net.
A new study by researchers at U.C. Berkeley has found that the level of physical contact shared among teammates is associated with team success.
In a forthcoming paper to be published by the journal Emotion, psychologists Michael W. Kraus, Cassy Huang, and Dacher Keltner “coded every bump, hug and high-five in a single game by each team in the NBA.” As summarized by the NYT, “good teams tended to be touchier than bad ones… The same was true for players.” Boston Celtics all-star Kevin Garnett, for example, reached out and touched four of his teammates within 600 milliseconds of shooting a free throw. Less productive players rarely initiated physical contact with others.
To correct for the possibility that the better teams touch more often simply because they are winning, the researchers rated performance based not on points or victories but on a sophisticated measure of how efficiently players and teams managed the ball — their ratio of assists to giveaways, for example. And even after the high expectations surrounding the more talented teams were taken into account, the correlation persisted. Players who made contact with teammates most consistently and longest tended to rate highest on measures of performance, and the teams with those players seemed to get the most out of their talent.
Read the entire article here.
The always exceptional Mind Hacks blog has some more thoughts and related research about “the emotional influence of brief touches.”
Doug Lemov, founder of the charter-school network Uncommon Schools, has catalogued 49 clear and specific techniques that promise to improve teacher effectiveness, including:
- The cold call,
- The difference between praise and acknowledgement,
- The use of hand signals to correct behavior, and
- The integration of joyful activities and physical movement into a structured learning environment.
Among the factors that do not predict whether a teacher will succeed: a graduate-school degree, a high score on the SAT, an extroverted personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, enthusiasm and having passed the teacher-certification exam on the first try.
When Doug Lemov conducted his own search for those magical ingredients, he noticed something about most successful teachers that he hadn’t expected to find: what looked like natural-born genius was often deliberate technique in disguise. “Stand still when you’re giving directions,” a teacher at a Boston school told him. In other words, don’t do two things at once. Lemov tried it, and suddenly, he had to ask students to take out their homework only once.
It was the tiniest decision, but what was teaching if not a series of bite-size moves just like that?
Lemov thought about soccer, another passion. If his teammates wanted him to play better, they didn’t just say, “Get better.” They told him to “mark tighter” or “close the space.” Maybe the reason he and others were struggling so mightily to talk and even to think about teaching was that the right words didn’t exist — or at least, they hadn’t been collected. And so he set out to assemble the hidden wisdom of the best teachers in America.
Read the entire article here.
UPDATE: NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” had a great story on this very issue a few days ago. Check out “Good teaching is about hard work, not a halo.” The quick takeaway: Effective teachers are made, not born. (thx, Leo)