Tag Archives: learning

Are Elementary School Classrooms Getting in the Way of Learning?

Can a student’s classroom have an impact on their ability to learn effectively? According to a new study out of Carnegie Mellon University, there seems to be evidence that highly decorated classrooms may be a distraction for students.

Researchers Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin, and Howard Seltman focused their research on how classroom displays affect a child’s ability to maintain focus and learn lesson content. Their results, published in Psychological Science, found that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, were off task more often, and demonstrated smaller learning gains than their counterparts in a classroom where the decorations had been removed.

The study placed 24 kindergarten students in laboratory classrooms for six science lessons on topics that were unfamiliar to the students. Three lessons were taught in a heavily decorated classroom. Three lessons took place in a classroom without decorations. Although results showed the children learned in both environments, they reported more educational gains in the sparsely decorated classroom. In the undecorated room, children responded to test questions correctly about 55% of the time as opposed to 42% of the time in the decorated classroom.

Furthermore, the time students spent off-task was higher in the decorated classroom (38.6% of time spent off-task in the decorated room, 28.4% of time spent off-task in the undecorated room).

Although researchers do not suggest that teachers remove decorations from their classrooms, they believe more research needs to be done to understand the effect visual environment has on learning and attention.

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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

You don’t have to be Hamlet to wax poetic on the wonders of sleep, but several new studies are giving us more insight into your nightly snooze. Although you may think sleep is just a way for your body to rest and recharge, the following researchers are showing that there is so much more to it.

Sleep deprivation may increase hunger

According to a presentation given at the American Heart Association’s annual conference, people tend to consume more calories on the day after they’ve had less sleep. Researcher Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, found that women consumed, on average, 329 more calories when sleep deprived; men consumed 263 more. In addition to eating more calories, individuals also tended to consume foods with a higher fat and protein content than they did when they had adequate amounts of sleep. Though it may seem that participants were looking for quick sources of energy, if could also be that sleep impairs one’s ability to make healthy food choices.

Dreaming about a task may be beneficial to learning

Scientists are finding more evidence that dreaming about a particular task may be associated with better performance in that particular activity. Researchers are finding that dreaming is an essential part of understanding, organizing, and retaining the information we learn during the day. Harvard researchers found that college students who dreamt about a computer maze task they encountered during the day showed a tenfold improvement in their ability to navigate the maze than did those who did not dream about the maze.

Your social life may have an impact on your sleep schedule

Information collected at the University of Chicago found that people who report higher levels of loneliness also tend to report more sleep fragmentation. Those who feel more connected to others tend to get a better night’s sleep.

 

Sleep seems to have a positive impact on so many aspects of life. In what other settings have you noticed sleep’s influence on an individual’s functioning?

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Education Unplugged?

Although touch-screen phones have only been in existence for about the past three years, and iPads only hit the market within the last two years, these digital tools have completely changed the way people look at the world – including how we learn.

According to new research, 40 percent of all 2 to 4-year-olds have used touch screen technology. About 10 percent of babies less than a year have used it as well. Many schools have introduced iPads in the classroom. At the Catherine Cook School in Chicago, they teach kids to write letters, identify shapes, and interact with each other using the tablet technology.

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting screen time for those in the 2 to 4-year-old bracket, the organization says that it can be enriching if there is interaction with an adult. Though proponents of technology in the classroom believe that access to these tools at younger ages may spur growth and development in children’s abilities to use and create technology, any real research on the topic is still years away – and by then, today’s technology will be obsolete.

However, there is a growing opposing school of thought, and it comes from a very interesting place – the heart of technology in the U.S. The Waldorf method, nearly a century old, uses a teaching philosophy that focuses on physical activity and learning through hands-on, creative tasks. Proponents believe that computers inhibit creative thinking, human interaction, and attention spans. Of the 160 Waldorf schools in the country, 40 of them are in California, many of those in tech-heavy Silicon Valley, where 75 percent of the students have parents with careers in high-tech fields (students include offspring of executives from Google, Apple, Yahoo, and more). Waldorf schools have no computers, frown upon home use of screen technology, and only begin to introduce the use of gadgets in the eighth grade. Instead of iPads, Waldorf schools employ blackboards, pencils, even encyclopedias.

Is learning through activity more effective than learning with technology? It’s hard to compare – as Waldorf schools are private schools, they do not administer standardized tests. Furthermore, they admit that their youngest students may not perform well on such measures, as they do not cover a standardized curriculum. However, advocates will point to the schools’ effectiveness by showing that 94 percent of graduates from Waldorf high schools from 1994 to 2004 attended college, with 91 percent stating that they are active in lifelong education.

What is your take on technology in the classroom? Is it a distraction or is it the new way of learning?

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