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Posts Tagged ‘Stuart Shanker’

In the spirit of Malcolm Gladwell’s popular books Blink and Outliers, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have written a book about children that challenges many of society’s (and my own) assumptions.

Based on new research about the brain, they make a compelling case that what we think we know about topics — from praise, to teaching about race, to siblings and relationships — may not be correct.  Their book NurtureShock is a great read for parents/educators, and a challenge to reexamine what we think we already know.

I can highlight many ideas from the book, but here are a few of the “new” insights I gained:

  • We should be praising kids for their effort and not their intelligence — when we praise for intelligence, kids are far less likely to take risks out of a fear of being wrong.  We need to praise the process.
  • Kids are getting an hour less sleep than they did 30 years ago, and it is having a dramatic effect on academics and emotional stability.  There is a likely link between the lack of sleep and the obesity crisis among young people.
  • We should consider talking with children about race like we talk to children about gender. We can be more explicit at a younger age rather than just create environments where kids are exposed to many races and cultures.
  • We need to give kids some immunity for telling the truth and offer them a route back to good standing when they lie.  According to the research, lying is a sign of intelligence, and often those kids who lie do better on academic achievement tests.
  • We shouldn’t be testing students for being gifted until Grade 3, and those that do the tests for Kindergarten are wrong more than they are right (okay, this wasn’t really new but it confirms what is largely the norm in Canada).
  • Books and videos that end with a problem being resolved often have a negative effect on kids; if much of the book or show is spent on arguing, threatening, excluding or teasing, kids remember this and not the resolution.
  • Teenagers arguing with adults is a sign of respect, not disrespect, so much as the arguing is constructive to the relationship.
  • There are many programs that, on the surface, appear like they should be great, but have little effect on kids behaviour (DARE was cited as a primary example of this).  The thinking is, since human behaviour is incredibly stubborn, it is extremely difficult for interventions to be successful with kids.
  • When parents have a conflict, they are better to resolve it in front of their kids rather than continue it outside of their presence — this allows kids to see the resolution, and not only the conflict.
This is a cursory list of some of the key messages I was left with after reading the book, and there is a lot more material that could be highlighted — some of which a real challenge to my natural instincts as a parent and a teacher.
There are a number of ways to connect with the ideas of the book, including a Facebook site, Twitter account, and a website with a number of other articles along the same lines as the book (given Stuart Shanker’s recent visit, I was interested in this one, which questioned the validity of the marshmallow test).
I always love a book that challenges my assumptions, and is open for discussion or debate with other parents and teachers.
Here is an interview with author, Po Bronson and others, outlining the Myth of Praise (Chapter 1 from the book):
Have you read this book?

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One of my new (school) year’s resolutions is to reallocate some of my time from television to books.  And, while there are many books about education, from time to time I will blog about the education/leadership books I have read and made connections to our work in West Vancouver, and the broader education community.

One such book is the well-researched Childhood Under Siege by Joel Bakan. Bakan is a professor of law at UBC, and the author of the widely cited book and film The Corporation.  His latest book examines how big business targets children.  And while its viewpoint is largely focussed on the United States, and interspersed with some Canadian examples, it is a cautionary tale beyond these borders.

Bakan focuses on five areas in which corporations are targeting and harming children: media, pharmaceuticals, toxic chemicals, child labour, and education. While all five have links to the school system, I found the section on media particularly compelling.

Addicting Games is one of the sites he mentions. The site is owned by Nickelodeon and is one of the largest sources of online games.

Says Bakan:

Many of the site’s games deliver emotional content interactively – players can act out and control virtual acts of brutality and murder rather than just passively watching actors or animated figures do so, as they would on TV.

Bakan also questions the spin-offs from the Grand Theft Auto, Halo and Call of Duty series.  Games I am more familiar with, like Neopets and Webkinz, also come under the microscope. Bakan says of these sites aimed at pre-schoolers and elementary students, “pet sites succeed by manipulating, using casino-style tactics, the intense feeling kids have for their virtual pets.”   What is common at the heart of all of these games — is addiction — it has “become the gold standard in gaming, the true mark of a game worth playing.”   This chapter is an interesting read in the wake of Stuart Shanker’s visit to our district at the beginning of this school year. When asked about the one piece of advice he would give parents, Shanker said he would “encourage them to get rid of their televisions.”

Bakan’s book does work into the subject of education more deeply, examining the string of US policies that have relied heavily on standardized tests.  I found this to be sad, but also reassuring, knowing how we are forging a different path in BC, and in Canada.

As parent groups look for study books for the fall, Bakan offers one with links to both parenting and schooling.

Here is a video of Bakan explaining some of the book’s key points:

Bakan’s book is a call for community and regulatory solutions to the areas he identifies.  I am interested in your thoughts, and the views of those who have had a chance to engage with the book and/or its themes.

For West Vancouver blog readers, the book is available through the West Vancouver Memorial Library.

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A great deal has been written about who is framing the education conversation in B.C. And some suggest, I believe wrongly, nobody is leading these conversations.

As the system evolves, a number of contributing voices have emerged.  It is impossible to create an exhaustive list, but in identifying the 25 people who, I think, are currently contributing to the conversation and are influencing the direction of education in B.C., I hope to generate even more conversations.  I have tried to look across roles, and balance those from within and outside the province.

Some guidelines I used for the list:

  • no elected officials (local, provincial or national)
  • no Ministry of Education staff
  • nobody I work with in West Vancouver (though I wanted to add a couple)
  • it is not about the people I agree with, but those who influence the education system

With that said, here is my list, organized alphabetically, of 25 influencers on the state of public education in British Columbia in 2011. Some of their key areas of influence are bracketed, and you can click on their name for links to bios, blogs and more information:

John Abbott, Director, 21st Century Learning Initiative (personalized learning)

Jameel  Aziz, President, BC Principals and Vice-Principals Association (assessment / principal and vice-principal advocacy)

Cale  Birk, Principal, South Kamloops Secondary School (secondary school reform / social media)

Steve Cardwell, Superintendent, Vancouver School District / President BCSSA (student engagement)

Damian Cooper, Education Consultant (assessment and evaluation)

Peter Cowley, Director of School Performance Studies, Fraser Institute (school rankings)

Maureen Dockendorf,  Assistant Superintendent, Coquitlam School District (early learning / professional learning)

Kieran Egan, Professor of Education Theory Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University (imaginative education)

Carole Fullerton, Teaching Consultant (numeracy)

Judy Halbert, Network Leader, The Network of Performance Based Schools (networked learning)

Valerie Hannon, Director, Innovation Unit (personalized learning)

Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair, Lynch School of Education at Boston College  (school/district reform)

Clyde Hertzman, Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at UBC  (early learning)

Linda Kaiser, Network Leader, The Network of Performance Based Schools (networked learning)

Craig Kielburger, Founder of Free the Children  / Co-founder, Me to We (social responsibility/global citizenship)

Susan Lambert, President, BC Teachers Federation (social justice/teacher advocacy)

Barry MacDonald, Canada’s National Advocate for Boys, Educator and Registered Clinical Counsellor, Professional Speaker (boys and learning)

Gordon Neufeld, Developmental and Clinical Psychologist in Vancouver (parenting)

Sir Ken Robinson, Internationally Recognized Leader in the Development of Creativity, Innovation and Human Resources, Author/Speaker, (creativity, future thinking)

Stuart Shanker, Research Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at York University (early learning)

Janet Steffenhagen, Reporter for the Vancouver Sun, (social media/system transparency)

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, BC Representative for Children and Youth (youth advocacy/at-risk learners)

David Wees, Teacher at Stafford Hall in Vancouver (social media)

Chris Wejr, Principal at Kent Elementary School in Agassiz (social media/rewards)

Lorna Williams, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning (Aboriginal education)

I look forward to hearing about who is on your list.

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