Sunday, 26 February 2012

Tweeting a grown-up game for preschool students

Egalitarian Oui!, Novel Oui!, Functional Non!

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above.

FRENCH preschoolers near Bordeaux are posting daily updates to the micro-blogging website Twitter under their class' handle, camusmat04, despite not yet knowing how to read or write.

Since the start of the school year, the 29 children have posted short messages of 140 characters or less about a daily activity to a joint Twitter feed, which has 88 followers, most of them parents.

......The children's teacher came up with the idea to teach them to recognise the alphabet in different formats - cursive, keyboard, screen - and to learn to move from oral to written word.

Each day the process is the same: the children propose topics and vote on a winner. All pupils then try their hand at writing a tweet, before the teacher combines them into a final post that two children type into the computer.

''We love writing on the computer like grown-ups,'' said five-year-old Emma.

Teacher Philippe Guillem said the goal was not just to teach the children but parents as well. About 80 per cent of the parents have agreed to follow the class Twitter account, where at the start of the year only one had subscribed to the service and only a handful had Facebook profiles

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Wilderness Therapy Uses Nature to Help People Heal : Wildlife Promise

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above. 

'Many of us have stories about taking solace in nature’s simple beauty, but few realize just how crucial a lifeline it can be.....

...More and more research and anecdotal evidence indicates that nature experiences buoy our mental and emotional well-being...—just last week Melinda Koslow wrote about Beyond Tucson, a day-long nature experience intended to help the Arizonans come to terms with the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

As it turns out, the young woman in the story above traveled to DC in late September with Sierra Club volunteers to advocate for the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, which would give states funds to develop plans to get more children into the outdoors. 

Fortunately, you don’t need to climb a mountain or go into an intensive counseling program to reap nature’s emotional benefits. “Even going on nature hikes can be really calming — simple hikes, time spent reflecting in nature, journaling in nature, ...There’s a lot of different ways you can use nature for therapy. Miller wants her outdoor activism focused on children, whom she says can benefit from connecting with the outdoors even if they don’t need therapy.'

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Criminal Child Neglect and the "Free Range Kid": Is Overprotective Parenting the New Standard of Care?

Criminal Child Neglect and the "Free Range Kid": Is Overprotective Parenting the New Standard of

Picture: Hugh Kretschmer for TIME
Thanks to Lenore from Free Range Kids for directing us to this pertinent article, You can support the perspective by downloading the article here.

'In the last generation, American parenting norms have shifted strongly in favor of Intensive Parenting, placing particular emphasis on protecting children from risks of harm. 

Recently, a backlash to this trend has emerged. “Free Range” parenting is based on the concern that coddling children through overprotection inhibits the development of their independence and responsibility. Indeed, a growing body of literature suggests that parental overreaction to remote and even illusory risks of physical harm is exposing children to far more serious risks to their well-being and development. But the powerful influence of media has sensationalized the risks to children, skewing popular perceptions of the genuine risks children face and of what constitutes a reasonable or appropriate response to such risks. 

Consequently, individuals who do not buy into Intensive Parenting norms, including those from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, may be subjecting themselves to criminal prosecution for child neglect and endangerment. The criminal statutes are, for the most part, very vague, leaving these prosecutions—which amount to little more than one person’s second-guessing the parenting choices of another—in the discretion of prosecutors, who bring the charges, and of juries, who render verdicts. If prosecutors and jurors share the media-fed misperceptions of risk, overprotective parenting becomesthe de facto legal standard of care.'

Sunday, 12 February 2012

How To Help Your Baby Become A Math Genius (Or Not) | Janet Lansbury

Thanks to Tallie Allen for directing me to this fantastic piece on divergent thinking and innate creativity.

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above.

'Raise your hand if you don’t want a brilliant child.

Honestly. Ensuring our child’s good health, happiness, kindness and compassion may well be our highest priorities, but wouldn’t we do all in our power to have the brightest, most talented, top-of-the-class kid? Or, at least, one who doesn’t have to struggle too hard to make the grade?

And here is where it gets really unfair. If we didn’t have enough issues to puzzle out.....we are then presented with a torrent of persuasive, conflicting advice about how to help our babies become the quick thinkers and successful, highly motivated learners we hope they will be. 

A mom commented (on my post Baby, Interrupted - 7 Ways To Build Your Child’s Focus And Attention Span) that the information I share on my site has made her question the early learning programs she bought for her son. She asked what I thought she should do to utilize them. I suggested that she wait until her boy was 4 or 5, and then allow him to peruse the videos, flashcards, etc., if he was interested in doing so.

She replied: “Hmm. Wait until he’s 4 or 5 years? For the math thing the whole idea of doing it now is because baby’s until 2.5 years are able to perceive true quantity and that makes it much easier for them to learn math. And when I look at how terrible I am at math, I don’t want him to miss this opportunity…

I like the idea of taking the middle path — to teach him what will benefit him to learn at an early age, and to leave the rest alone on the floor for him to examine if he’s interested.

....It is true that infants and toddlers begin to perceive quantity. They also learn fractions, addition and subtraction, even multiplication, division and geometry. In recent studies reported in Berkeley psychology professor Alison Gopnik’sNew York Times article “Your Baby Is Smarter Than You Think”, babies as young as eight months old demonstrated astonishing capacities for “statistical reasoning, experimental discovery and probabilistic logic” that allow them to “rapidly learn all about the particular objects and people surrounding them.”

But Gopnik warns, “Sadly, some parents are likely to take the wrong lessons from these experiments and conclude that they need programs and products that will make their babies even smarter. Many think that babies, like adults, should learn in a focused, planned way. So parents put their young children in academic-enrichment classes or use flashcards… “ Instead, “Infants and toddlers need plenty of open-ended play time to be able to build the brain synapses necessary for higher learning abilities.”

Babies relish the time to learn this way, naturally and organically, with joy, wonder, and all five of their senses. When infants and toddlers examine the patterns on a blanket or cotton scarf, mouth the shape of a teething ring, experiment with blocks, balls or plastic beads, stack cups, pour water, shovel sand, make mud pies, watch and interact with us or even just stare at corners of the ceiling they are stimulating neural connections that build a strong foundation for math and language skills.

But interrupting a baby’s inborn desire to explore and discover to give a lesson in letters, numbers or reading is like painting a house before the foundation is built. It discourages him from working on what is really important, and wastes both our child’s time and ours.

Do we want our toddlers to learn how to use simple math and language symbols, or do we want them to truly understand mathematical concepts, develop their higher learning skills, be deep thinkers and creative problem solvers — discover who they are and what they are passionate about?

So, .... Any time we interrupt what an infant or toddler might be working on to “teach” him, we discourage focus and attention span. Attempting to plant seeds of knowledge in our babies inadvertently plants seeds of doubt. How can our child believe that the activities he chooses are valuable, when we signal that we want him to do something more…or different?

The truth is we don’t know where our children’s talents lie, but if we trust our baby, allow him to explore and experiment, and choose activities he is naturally drawn to, he will utilize the gifts he has to the fullest, and with great confidence. He may become that math whiz we hoped for…or something even cooler.'

Is iPad an educational tool or a lifestyle addiction?

Disturbed by this piece -yes, Worried  - ABSO-BLOODY-LUTELY !

They've snuck this tech. into homes and classrooms, marketed by the same people who brought you cigarettes and mobile phones, played on parental insecurities by touting it as the "Must Have" educational tool.

A large number of studies have been done on the long term effects (by long term I mean in the last twenty years) of children's exposure to unrestricted TV watching/content and console/PC game playing. 
All maintain that it can have a detrimental effect on developing minds and that these minds can easily be led if the right (wrong) content is presented in a context socially accepted by the individual peer group (very similar to why it's dangerous to have the media owned by a small number of people). Not to mention social isolation (ironically in the midst of belief that they're socially connected), lack of development of "true" social skills and abilities, stunting of emotional vocabularies, then we could go on to the physical effects...but I don't have enough space....

There have been NO long term studies done on this tech. (which is essentially a combination of the other two mentioned above) but we've thoughtlessly embraced it, as if this form of "sensory deprivation" is a gift from the divine. 

If we allow our children to believe that they are defined by their tech. presence, who do they become when the power goes out or they need to run or write with a pen or read a real book or talk to a real person......

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above.

'Today, many school districts in Clayton County are instituting the use of iPads as an educational tool. These machines are being used from kindergarten classes through high school.

According to the U.S. Center for Media Literacy, fewer than 5 percent of schools teach media education. Why not have a class dedicated to teaching the risks of media consumption rather than insisting all children need to have an iPad in their hands and know where it is at all times?

In a 2011 New York Times article, Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, suggested that millions of dollars in financial resources currently being invested in iPads would be better spent to recruit, train and retain teachers.

Cuban wrote, “There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines. … iPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.”

In the 2005 documentary, “Remote Control: Children, Media Consumption and the Changing American Family,” Hillary Clinton implied her concern with media consumption by saying, “With some additional research, the case will be conclusive that we are causing long-term public health damage to many, many children and therefore to society.”

Part of my job as a naturalist is to give classroom programs on the environment.

In December, I walked into a classroom of second-graders all scattered in different parts of the room. Headphones were covering their ears, and eyes focused on the screen in front of them. The students were so unaware of their surroundings that the teacher had to remove the headphones from their ears.

I thought possibly these students were using their iPads as a brief educational tool. Then I saw the daily iPad schedule included using the machines for math, science, history and reading.

Before holiday break, I observed 22 papers posted outside of a second-grade classroom. The students’ task was to color in a picture of a bear and answer the question “When little bear sleeps, I will be …” Nine of the 22 responses said they would be “playing video games.”

Walking into another elementary school, I saw a poster asking parents to donate money for the purchase of more iPad applications. The poster stated how critical it was for the students to become exposed to technology as it becomes more integrated into their daily life.

Another indication of the over-consumption of media in schools occurred when a veteran middle school teacher in Clayton County spoke to me of her frustrations over iPads in her classroom.

“As teachers, we are made to feel we are doing a disservice to the kids if we don’t teach them how to use this technology right now,” the teacher said. “… I have to work so much harder to implement one hands-on activity in an hour of class, yet more and more, I go home sad because of this difficult transition.”

Interestingly, this was the same class where students asked me if I had some animals they could touch.

A great forewarning is already occurring in Idaho, where virtual academies are being offered to students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade, subsequently replacing the need for school-based learning.

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Outdoor Environment Information Series

Finally available in ebook at Amazon for $1.99. More titles to follow. 
Don't have a kindle? DON'T WORRY!
Kindle Reader for PC - Here
Kindle Reader for iPhone - Here
Kindle Reader for iPad - Here
Kindle Reader for Blackberry - Here
Kindle Reader for Android  - Here
Kindle Reader for Windows phone 7 - Here
Simply purchase the title from Amazon, install the reader on your device, register it using your Amazon credentials and Viola!, the title is automatically downloaded for your reading pleasure.

Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and Outdoor Environment Information Series
Each book in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and Outdoor Environment Information Series is specifically written for educators who wish to help develop high quality early childhood environments that address how naturalistic play and playspaces can be used to meet each of the five EYLF learning outcomes. The primary aim of the books is to enable educators to 'foster children’s capacity to understand and respect the natural environment and the interdependence between people, plants, animals and the land.'

Garden Maintenance for Playspaces

Finally, after numerous requests and much appreciated feedback and field testing we have created a comprehensive manual for use by educators, parents (and in supervised circumstances, children) who want to be involved in the maintenance of their playspaces. The manual covers the Who, What and Where questions and the appendices provide checklists and all-inclusive proformas for reports, letters and links to research and organisations.

The manual specifically addresses the AS/NZS 4486.1:1997 requirements for developing and maintaining a program of inspection and maintenance for all items of playspace equipment (including the frequency of inspection and the elements to be inspected) and includes recording procedures to be followed in the event of injuries, near misses and equipment damage.

A 4-Page Playdate Waiver? Is This the New Normal?

Wow those US kids must play hard! A stunning letter to Free Range Kids, If you ever wanted proof that fear of legal liability was killing our kids chances of a normal childhood then this is up there. NOTE: Do not let you're child play at this house

Excerpt below -the full article can be read from the link above. 

'....Yesterday my daughter came home from playing at the “new” neighbor’s house with a 4-page liability waiver that they want us to sign! Wow!.....'

Saturday, 4 February 2012

World News - 'King of the farm': Sheep-herding rabbit gains fame

Not to belabour a point or seem heavy handed or ham fisted  etc., etc., (but sometimes it saves time).... isn't it amazing what happens when you allow nature a little leeway... Introducing "Champis - the herding rabbit".    

Now imagine Champis was a child, never given the opportunity to think for him/herself from cradle to grave.  

Friday, 3 February 2012

New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.

New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever younger ages, may backfire. - Slate Magazine

Further to the previous posts on divergent and convergent thinking and how unstructured imaginative/creative indoor/outdoor play is being covertly traded for 'the “cult of rigour” demanded by standardised testing (aka we have to statistically justify our funding). This is an old article but the conclusions are fairly detailed and self explanatory i.e without the innate desire to explore and think creatively children would not be able to interact to accept structured teacher direction. This demand to think in a singularly structured manner in turn quashes free unstructured creative thought. Thus it is patently obvious what Henry David Thoreau mean't when he said, 'Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.' How about we give this next generation a chance to sing their own unique songs? 

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above.

'Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents instruct their children more and more, at younger and younger ages, until they're reading books to babies in the womb. They pressure teachers to make kindergartens and nurseries more like schools. 

There are skeptics, of course, including some parents, many preschool teachers, and even a few policy-makers. Shouldn't very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover, they ask? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognition—one from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley—suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution....
...Almost by definition, directed teaching will make children do better on standardized tests, which the government uses to evaluate school performance. Curiosity and creativity are harder to measure.....

....As so often happens in science, two studies from different labs, using different techniques, have simultaneously produced strikingly similar results. They provide scientific support for the intuitions many teachers have had all along: Direct instruction really can limit young children's learning. Teaching is a very effective way to get children to learn something specific—this tube squeaks, say, or a squish then a press then a pull causes the music to play. But it also makes children less likely to discover unexpected information and to draw unexpected conclusions....

......Adults often assume that most learning is the result of teaching and that exploratory, spontaneous learning is unusual. But actually, spontaneous learning is more fundamental. It's this kind of learning, in fact, that allows kids to learn from teachers in the first place......... Knowing this, it's more important than ever to give children's remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies.