Thursday, June 27, 2013

ADHD and Gadgets? An Interesting Look at Attention and Devices

A couple days ago I wrote that my daughter was often upset with me and her husband because of our attachment to our devices.  Today, I stumbled across a link that looks at device addiction and its relationship to ADHD.  I found the article worthy of discussion, and it has raised several questions for me.

According the article, when children are engaged with devices, it looks like they are paying attention - and they are -but the attention is different than that tradionally considered necessary for achievement in school.  Christopher Lucas, associate professor of child psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, notes that while attention associated with successful academic endeavors requires sustained focus in absence of rewards, games present on devices provide intermittent rewards in the form of wins.  

The brain's reaction to the wins is a release of the feel-good substance dopamine.  In other words,  a win produces the same effect as Ritalin.  Children with ADHD who are engaged with devices are in fact self-medicating without the need for pharmaceuticals.

There are many, like my daughter, who see this as a problem.  I agree devices can be addicting and over-engagement can lead to antisocial behavior.  The author notes that children become agitated when detached from their devices.  

Others find this effect to be a positive, if educators can use the apps to engage children in learning and virtual socialization behaviors.

There are two very good videos presented in this article.  It is recommended for reading and viewing.  This article is well-balanced and as I mentioned, thought-provoking.

Here are my questions:

What are the differences between engagement with devices and other media?  My husband has made fun of me for years for shutting everything else out when I was engaged in reading.  Is attachment to devices physiologically so different?  If a reader is engaged in the content and making connections, does this not produce a "win" response?  Or is it the release from the electronic stimulation what causes the dopamine release?

I remember watching television on September 11, 2001.  I was overwhelmed by the replaying of images, the interviews, and although I didn't notice at the time, the volume and the rapidity at which the images changed.  When I got home that evening I  flipped channels and came upon a panel discussion on PBS.  I immediately was overwhelmed by a calm and peace.  It was then that I noticed the discophany of the CNN broadcast.  I couldn't turn away from it, but I didn't notice the stimulation until way after the fact.  While this may seem like a digression from the main topic, I am wondering if it is engagement/disengagement that would cause the dopamine release, rather than the medium itself. I wonder if the amount of dopamine released is dependent on the stimulation provided by the medium.

Back to kids and their devices.  My philosophy is that if a kid who is predisposed to ADHD can self-medicate with his devices, perhaps we all (teachers,parents, medical professionals) should look into a therapeutic method of using these devices to educate and treat those with these tendencies.  If nothing else, it is worth a look.

Rock, Margaret. "A Nation of Kids With Gadgets and ADHD." Mobiledia. Mobiledia, 17 June 2013. Web. 27 June 2013. .

Monday, June 24, 2013

End of the Year Checklist and Reflections, Part I

The end of the year brings lots of stress before we actually get to experience the ultimate relief of summer.  For me the stress is not so much with keeping children engaged in lessons as it is to catch up on the "last minute" duties that will get the library in perfect shape for next year.  I need to run overdues, do inventory (usually a three week job) complete all forms as required by the administration, plan and attend staff development sessions to name a few.  Then I have the end of school social obligations: concerts, awards assemblies, fifth grade promotions, and our volunteer breakfast.  It is enough to make a librarian's head spin.

Added to this are a plethora of reflections that, with the exception of my annual report, are not required but are important to the growth and health of our library program. 

The first of these reflections was written by Steven Anderson in Blogging About the Web 2.0 Connected Classroom. In this blog he poses what he considers the most essential questions from the Principals Technology Leadership Assessment.  They follow:

To what extent do you compare and align your school technology plan with other plans such as your school improvement plan?

 I think this is a very simple question to answer. As required by the state, our technology plan is a component of our school  improvement plan.  Each item in the tech plan must align with and support a curriculum goal.  I am very proud that before our our plans were combined, our tech plans have always reflected our curricular goals.  

To what extent do you promote participation of your school’s stakeholders in the technology planning process of your school or district?  

While I no longer write the technology plan I am consulted frequently by our technology integration specialist.  I know she also works closely with our academic coach and with the county technology visionaries.  I would imagine that, like me, the other teachers are consulted, if only in regard to the number of work orders they submit.  

To what extent did you disseminate or model best practices in learning and teaching with technology to faculty and staff?  My approach has been to model acceptable use (and best use) of technology every chance I get.  For awhile I set up early morning sessions, but after a certain point attendance dropped off.  An effective technique to get the teachers to effectively use the resources our library provides is to  teach federated database searching to the students.  They, in turn, will model it for the teachers, When I asked a third grade teacher to bring her class to the library to finish their research projects, she was amazed at the children's use of OneSearch and the quality sources it was searching. She remarked that all teachers need training on this,, but agreed that all of our staff development time was monopolized by agendas set outside of our school.  Hopefully, with her backing, some changes will be made in our staff development schedule.

Two examples of marketing directly to teachers were very successful.  Classes used the library to take the Statewide Writing Assessment.  As the students were working I was able to describe the new Nexus 7 tablets that were bought out of library funds and to describe the audio and ebook apps I had installed.  At that time I set forth my vision for helping poorer readers enjoy texts on their level.  I proposed units of study to my fourth grade teachers, who agreed to act on the collaboration.
Another important "point of sale" was my end of year planning collaboration with the fourth grade team.  We planned at least PBL units that will incorporate higher level thinking skills and targeted uses of all types of technologies.  I showed the teachers how to set up their Destiny Quest accounts, how to create lists, do federated searches and create citation and bibliography lists.  After that, I briefly showed them Google Apps, referencing my class lesson site and collaborative editing of documents.  This was the most successful collaboration I have had since I worked on my National Board certification.

To what extent do you include the effective use of technology as a criterion for assessing the performance of faculty? 

Technology integration is required by the Office of Educational Performance Audits and is a component of our lesson plans.  However, this requirement lacks teeth except for the time our school is actually being audited.  The teachers' unions, one of which I am a member, have worked to minimize the actual requirements for lesson plans.  Therefore it remains at the discretion of the professional how much data is inserted into our plans.  I suspect teachers with fewer than five years experience are held more firmly to this requirement than tenured teachers no longer required to undergo annual performance reviews.  Since I believe in full professionalism (except when it comes to attire) my lesson plans include links to applicable technology.

To what extent do you participate in professional development activities meant to improve and expand your use of technology? 

In short?  All the time.  I mainly make use of webinars and Twitter feeds to gather information on technology and learning trends, but lately I have been incorporating RSS feeds from EbscoHost in my news feed.  Because others may not have the time to sift through the feeds, I post regularly to my Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as emailing appropriate people.  Recently I began a for WV Library Media Specialists.  In less than a week I have 13 subscribers.  Not too shabby

So what does all this mean for library services to my young patrons?   

So far, this is telling me what I am doing right.  It does not tell me how to improve.  That is where reflection comes in.  In the next few posts I will look at other checklists and develop a short-term and long-term plan to improve services.

Anderson, Steven. "Blogging About The Web 2.0 Connected Classroom." : 5 Leadership Questions To Finish (And Start) The School Year With. Web. 24 June 2013.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Poll: What Is Your Greatest Professional Develo... | Thinkfinity

Poll: What Is Your Greatest Professional Develo... | Thinkfinity

Poll: What Is Your Greatest Professional Develo... | Thinkfinity

Poll: What Is Your Greatest Professional Develo... | Thinkfinity

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Teacher Librarians at the Heart of Student Learning

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Leave Me to My Own Devices

My daughter is usually annoyed with me and her husband.  She claims that we can't have a conversation without consulting our phones several times. She is right.  I am addicted to my gadgets. 

This morning I was looking at my night stand and took stock of all the devices I had there.  This is ridiculous, I thought.  Then I began silently enumerating the advantages of each device.  Yes, I need each of them.

My favorite device is my HP Pavilion dv7 laptop with 17" display.  I love this laptop.  For one thing, it is big but portable.  I can see the screen.  The color contrast and battery life are good, and it has Beats audio.  The HDMI port allows me to project whatever I want on an HDMI TV.  I can display anything I want by only using one cable.  No projector, screen or smartboard necessary.

This laptop is not without a few drawbacks.  For some reason, I have needed the OS reinstalled twice and a hard drive replaced once.  The reinstallations were most likely necessitated by user error on my part.  No doubt one of the apps I downloaded caused conflict.  Nonetheless, being without my laptop for even a short period of time is inconvenient to say the least.

Another issue with the laptop is its size.  Yes, I love the 17" display, but the size does not lend itself to the easiest portability.  The format does not easily fit into any backpack or laptop case I own. When you're carrying this baby around town, you know it.

The second device on the night stand is a an HP 3125 notebook.  It sports lots of the advantages of its larger counterpart: Beats Audio and HDMI portability.  It is only weighs 3.5 lbs, three pounds less than dv7.  The drawbacks are that the tiny keyboard takes time to get used to, as does the .  11 inch display.  However, I am only vaguely aware of it's presence in my purse as I walk to and from a meeting.

Left:  HP 3125 is portable but not easy to see  Right: HP Pavilion dv7
The next device is my Kindle Fire HD.  I love it.   I love the predictive text.  Yes, I said it.  Normally I hate predictive text, but this text is smart.  If I type "I want to go" the predictive text autofills "to the."  It really gets me.  I like that the Kindle reader syncs with the Audible app.  

The display is gorgeous!  I don't normally see a huge difference between HD and regular displays, but this is an exception.  I downloaded an insect video in HD and connected it to my HDTV after a faculty meeting.  The teachers who saw the video were blown away by the vivid colors.  It was really gratifying to know that paying the extra for HD actually made a difference.

Another feature of the Fire that I love is the Kindle Free Time app.  This app allows me to set content for my granddaughter and other small people who might use my app. My 20 month-old granddaughter can turn on the Kindle and navigate to her videos.  I don't have to worry about her downloading apps or inappropriate content.

The fourth device is a Nexus tablet.  Why would I need a Nexus tablet when I have a Fire?  Well, the Nexus can run the MyOn books that my Kindle cannot. It is also thinner and lighter.  There are more apps available for this tablet than for my Fire.  But, this tablet is not HD and does not have Beats.  The audio is acceptable, but not outstanding.

I like using the tablets to play games and check Facebook and mail, but I am not much a fan of composing on it.  Fat little fingers with limited manual dexterity do not do well with little AMOLED keyboards.

The final device on the nightstand is my Samsung Aviator. I hate it.  I loved my first Samsung phones, but this one just doesn't have the RAM necessary to run all my apps.  It locks up and doesn't dial.  Then, after I have tried five times to complete a call, it launches five copies of the call.  I really want to chuck it.  However, I don't have to tolerate it much longer.  Today I am getting a new phone.  I can't wait to have a new toy!

I do love my devices.  What were you saying?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Do You Believe in Your Profession?

I am spending my Sunday afternoon checking out Web 2.0 accounts I had forgotten.  Trying to remember what email account I registered each under is a challenge in and of itself.  Thank goodness these tools can email me password resets so I don't have to remember those too!

One of the accounts I am revisiting is Evernote.  I plan to do a lot of reading and writing this summer, and I thought Evernote, with it's Chrome and Android apps, would be a good repository for my notes.  Once I logged in, I began going through my old notes to see if they are still relevant.  The first note, which I had labelled 'advocacy' caught my eye.  

The Four Myths of Self-Promotion by Kelly Watson was published in June 2010 by Forbes.  Aimed at the small businesswoman, the article encourages women to become their own advocates by negating the four top reasons not to self-promote.  Here is my Evernote synopsis from the article:

The Bitch Myth--"Self promotion will make me look arrogant."  There is a difference  in braggadocio and marketing strategy.  

The Princess Myth--"If I'm good enough, people will hear about it." Most people are too busy doing their own work to notice that of others.  This definitely includes those whose financial decisions could impact your future work. " Survival depends upon taking action to get noticed."

The Friends and Family Myth--"Others should talk about my accomplishments, not me." No can speak as knowledgeably about your work and your qualifications as you. "By delegating promotion to others, you're taking away your best opportunity to demonstrate your value."

The Martyr Myth--"You can't control what people think anyway." It's true that you only have one chance to make a good first impression, but you can build upon that reputation each day;  Let people see what you want them to see, and leave the rest of the stuff at home.

Bottom line: "The myths you believe often mask a deeper insecurity about the value you place on what you have to offer." If you don't fully believe in yourself, who will?
I believe these myths deserve great scrutiny by library media specialists.  Stereotypically, we are portrayed as shy, introverted and retiring.  This fits very few library media specialists I know, yet this is the perception that persists. So, against this handicap, I invite my media specialist friends to evaluate the degree to which they are defined by these myths.  I'll go first:

The Bitch Myth:  I don't find myself worrying much about being perceived as a bitch.  I think I am only touchy when on the defensive, a position I don't find myself in often.  I think by trying to be proactive with most projects, I am viewed as helpful, if not nice.  If people do perceive me a bitch, I would like to know why.  I may not change, but it would be helpful to understand the rationale.

The Princess Myth:   Cinderella, I am not.  If I were Cinderella, I would have been out of there the first time the evil stepsisters suggested I be their servant.  Still, I do hope that people think positively about my work.  The bottom line here, however, is that no one really knows what my work is.  The public only sees part of what I do.  This blog post, a small part of my attempt at library advocacy, is seen by very few and probably would not be viewed as an integral part of my professional responsibilities, although anything I can do for the profession is exceptionally important to me and hopefully, if my words have any influence,  will help ensure a library media presence in more places for many  years.  I cannot wait for folks to notice my impact when other agencies with more money are screaming for attention.

The Friends and Family Myth:  Okay, I buy into this just a little, because I know how much my friends and family support me.  Recently my daughter became offended when someone asked her if "her mother worked the same schedule teachers did."  Lora, bless her heart, righteously informed the person that her mother was a teacher, a National Board Certified Teacher at that!  I can't help but admit I was pleased.  Similarly when I was nominated for selection in our newspaper's 100 Most Influential one year, I honestly believe I got as far up as I did on the list because of my work with one of the editors children.

I do value the opinion of my family and friends, and my school families as well.  But again, most people do not know my job.  I need to market what I do so as not to be marginalized in any specific category.  When a parent asks, "Do you need to go to college to do your job, I am happy to tell them how much college I have had to do this job.  I explain to anyone who asks that you have to be a teacher first, and that librarianship is specialized training on top of that.  I don't mind letting people know other things I do to remain fresh.  As soon as I finish with this blog, I will use social media to tout its existence!

The Martyr Myth:  Please. Having gone through (and survived) as many RIF and transfer hearings as I have, I know better than to be silent.  I try to always be aware of my impact and to make everyone I work with understand that impact as well.  My work is too important to my students and teachers to be taken for granted or to be minimalized.  Remember that squeaky wheel that keeps getting the grease.  I am that squeaky wheel!

In conclusion, I advise all school library media specialists to keep themselves front and center in the conversation of our school communities.  What we do is important and with the implementation of Common Core State Standards, vitally important to our children and our schools.  Don't allow our profession to be minimalized.  Stand up and speak out!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What I Want To Do on My Summer Vacation.

I am very thankful to work in a wonderful job with wonderful coworkers, children and their families. Just like the kids, however, I can't wait for the official start of out summer vacation. I have many goals to accomplish.
First, of course, I want to spend some time at the farm.  Not only do I relax there, but the farm is where I do my best writing. Mostly I want to write really good lesson plans for all levels. I also want to keep up my blogs and wikis, writing about my summer reading. I want to blast Facebook and Twitter with relevant information about libraries, technology and summer reading.
And so, of course, I will be reading. My Kindle is full of fiction and nonfiction for children and adults.  In have RSS feeds on Common Core and school libraries. I follow many leading library professionals whose works I follow on Twitterbs
BF I want to learn from these people and pass my learning on.
In between all this, I will need to work on library decorations for the upcoming school year.
And above all, I want to spend time with Eowyn, Carter and Nolan.
I think I needs bigger summer!
GH :-)