Setting Intentions

gratitute_2016

#amorebeautifulquestion #sketchnotes #paper53 #doodler

As 2016 comes to a close, I thought I would take a moment to write one last blog post…

Winter break began on December 19 for me. For most of my colleagues, it began Friday, December 16 at 2:25PM, but I wasn’t quite done yet. As soon as I turned in the last paper of my first semester as doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University, I felt like I could finally relax. And relax I did.

I spent most of my Christmas break reading and of course thinking about what 2017 would bring.  I’ve been practicing yoga for several years and it has a made a huge difference in my mindset. Things that I used to perseverate upon now (for the most part at least) roll off my back. I’ve learned the importance of slowing down, taking notice of the little things…and just Be.

Earlier this week, my yoga instructor mentioned that though she has nothing against New Years Resolutions, she focuses more on setting intentions and she welcomed us to consider that option for 2017. In fact, each time before class, she asks us to set an intention for our practice. Usually my intention is to not fall flat on my face because I’d sure hate to have to find a new yoga studio (I’m kidding, kinda). But for 2016, I spent the better part of the year reminding myself that I should be…that I need to…always remember to be grateful for what I have. So for 2017, one of my intentions is to show gratitude for the blessings in my life.

I am lucky. Blessed in fact. I mean, who else gets to work with little minions who want to learn…who crave interactions…who blurt out the first thought that comes to mind…who share perhaps more than their parents would like about what goes on at home…who poke their heads into my room to say “Hi” even though they’ve already seen me earlier in the day or will later on? I mean, who gets to be surrounded by this much awesomeness? I’m so grateful to be able to work with children. Their curiosity inspires me. Their willingness to try new things is like a breath of fresh air. They don’t fear…much. And they laugh. They giggle. A lot. Even the boys.

This break was sorely needed as I felt like I was burning the candle at both ends but I miss my little rug-rats. I miss their faces. And as I close the door to 2016, I look forward to what 2017 brings…because I’m grateful. I’m grateful to be an educator. I’m grateful to learn along side my students. I’m grateful to work with some amazing people. I’m grateful to be on this particular path. The road is windy, one never knows what is beyond the bend, but whatever the case, I’m ready. Bring it on 2017. Bring.it.on.

Train Your Brain

One thing that I’ve learned during my first semester as a doctoral student is that I really don’t know too much about how the brain works. But I also don’t know too much about how my car works either and I’m okay with that as well.  As long as both of them work, I’m good.

But what I’ve enjoyed this semester is learning about how the brain works.  My undergrad degree is in psychology because I love learning about how people think, why they think that, and how that affects their behavior.  In fact, I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy working with my middle schoolers.  It’s like living within a social experiment. Every.single.day.  But I bring that up because one of the assignments in my Multiple Perspectives in Teaching and Learning (MPLT) class is to review two websites that are supposed to help train your brain.  As I went through the various exercises for both sites, I was intrigued…interested…motivated…and definitely engaged.  At the end of the first phase for Lumosity, I even received feedback on how I ranked among people of the same age.  Talk about feeding into my competitive streak!  If I didn’t have to go to bed, I probably would have done those exact same exercises again just to see if my percentages would have gone up.

In reviewing both sites (Lumosity and Brain HQ), I have to say that I’m impressed with the individualized learning components.  Lumosity supports individualized learning as you fill out a basic profile before starting the exercises in order to give you a score based upon people in your like age-group.  Brain HQ does not use personal information, but rather from the get-go uses performance to determine components of the activity.  I didn’t get far enough to see if or how my scores compared to other users.

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It’s interesting to use technology in this type of format.  I’ve used brain teasers that are book-based but I did not receive immediate feedback nor was I moved to different levels based on my performance but rather based on choice…not that I was deterred (remember, my competitive streak?).  However, immediate feedback is something that technology can provide which is motivating to the learner.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-9-04-02-pmI’m intrigued by the idea of using technology for game-based learning.  The points, levels, and options to unlock other levels is definitely motivating.  If I didn’t have to go to work this morning, I would have unlocked one more level for sure!  The fact that I’m even intrigued by both of these sites is a testament to their ability to engage the learner.  Believe me when I say that I am not a fan of video games.  I’m terrible…just ask my brother.  Expect for Pole Position.  I rock at that game…you can ask my brother about that as well.  I feel it’s helped to make me the driver I am today.  😉

Lumosity and Brain HQ adapt to the user’s performance.  In both games, the speed and complexity increased when I did well and decreased when I did not.  Lumosity gives immediate feedback (yay!) but I didn’t advance far enough in BrainHQ to see if there was an immediate feedback component.  In fact, the “spot the different bird” game was a bit frustrating to me because I didn’t know why sometimes only a few birds appeared when I clicked versus a whole flock.  Or was that supposed to represent feathers?  Did the whole flock…er feathers…mean I correctly spotted the wrong bird?  Who knows.

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Anyone who has attended my PD sessions knows that I’m a fan of free stuff.  As an educator, I have no problem spending money on my classroom, my students, or my own professional growth.  But I prefer free stuff.  Both Lumosity and Brain HQ are limited free…which is nice.

In evaluating the physical space for learning…because students use devices to access these sites, I don’t foresee any space issues.  However, some students might find it too distracting to use either of these sites with the regular hum of classroom noise.  I would suggest students use earbuds to block out the noise but also cardboard barriers to lessen visual distractions.

I believe sites like these are a valuable enrichment tool, especially for gifted learners, although across the spectrum I suppose these sites could be useful for all learners.  In fact, students who suffer from low-efficacy may be encouraged by using adaptive learning sites.

I believe that video games have a place in learning.  In fact, games that are historically based could help students visualize and remember historical content but having not seen or used any video games for learning in my own classroom, I cannot attest to its true value.  But I do see video games as another avenue for learning.  If the goal is to find something that interests, motivates, or engages students, I think educators need to be open to a wide variety of options.  Educators cannot use their fear of the unknown or bias against their perceived value of technology to automatically write off video games as a viable tool for learning.

#trainyourbrain #gamebasedlearning #yourbrainisamuscle