Monthly Archives: August 2017

Chocolate and Money

I am sitting on a plane on my way to California to speak about movement in the classroom to a group of teachers. I strike up a conversation with a Jewish woman next to me who is reading a book the Talmud. A young man who looks of Indian descent is having occasional outbursts is seated to my right. A Latin X gentleman in front of me is rocking the man bun while a woman of Asian descent is waiting for the food cart to move so she can sit back down.  I have officially left my bubble and entered the real world. The past couple of years has forced me to readjust how I look at the world and the people in it.

I received an email from Rich Dixon asking me if I would like to present to a group of educators about movement in the classroom in California. I met Rich at the Cue Nevada state conference last year which the fantastically amazing Heidi Carr had invited Sarah Thomas and me to attend as well as keynote. I have written previously how Rich opened my eyes to what badging should and could be. The idea is that a badge should be linked to the evidence that was created to earn it was definitely a game changer for me.

I responded that I would love to speak about movement let’s get this thing rolling! Rich got me in touch with Michelle, my conference liaison, and I asked her what they wanted me to speak about. She stated they wanted me to address crossing the midline, technology’s role in attention span as well as movement in the classroom. I knew one out of three of these topics extremely well so of course, I said yes! Wonder if this link has anything to do with that!

The first thing I needed to do was find the research about crossing the midline. I knew that Mike Kuczala had a boatload of activities that I could use to show how to cross the midline in his book the Kinesthetic Classroom. That seemed like a logical place to start. The problem is in his book he just states that there is not a lot of research showing the positive effects of specifically crossing the midline. My next step brought me to Brain Gym.

Brain Gym® movements, exercises, or activities refer to the original 26 Brain Gym movements, sometimes abbreviated as the 26. These activities recall the movements naturally done during the first years of life when learning to coordinate the eyes, ears, hands, and whole body. The twenty-six activities, along with a program for “learning through movement” were developed by educator and reading specialist Paul E. Dennison and his wife and colleague, Gail E. Dennison who say that the interdependence of movement, cognition, and applied learning is the basis of their work. Clients, teachers, and students have been reporting for over 20 years on the effectiveness of these simple activities. Link 

I ran into a couple of problems when attempting to find results from Brain Gym. In their own words, “Some academics consider only experimental research (statistical research with control groups) to be scientific. You’ll find the studies that most adhere to this standard in our Annotated Research subcategories “Quasi-Experimental Research” and “True Experimental Research”. Link  They also publish their own journal and cite evidence there. While I value anecdotal evidence I can’t in good conscience present material that is published by a for profit company by that same company. I also came across some information that directly discredited the company’s work. link

Luckily I had an ace up my sleeve. The man the myth the legend Mike Kuczala himself. Mike is on Voxer and readily gives the #PhysEd and #HealthEd community his time and energy. We had some really cool discussions and I was finally able to come up to terms with this thought process. Crossing the midline falls under that category of bi-lateralization. Bi-lateralization refers to the ability to coordinate both sides of the body at the same time in a controlled and organized manner.

There are numerous valid and reliable resources that show how important bi-lateralization is for the human brain and body. All crossing the midline activities are bilateral but not all bilateral movements involve crossing the midline. Let me give you an example of this. In the beginning of Mike’s TedX talk, he has us grab our nose with our right hand and grab our right ear with our left hand. He then instructs us to switch our left hand to our nose and grab our left ear with our right hand. That is crossing the midline because our body parts crossed over the imaginary line that divides us into the left and right side of our body. Dribbling two basketballs simultaneously with your right and left hand is an example of bilateral movement because there are no parts of the body that are crossing the sagittal (lateral) plane.

What I can safely say about crossing the midline is that they are fun brain boosts and work on bi-lateralization which improves the brain’s ability to speak to the left and right hemisphere by creating a thicker corpus callosum well as creating thicker myelin sheaths. Myelin allows your brain to send information faster and more efficiently, making it absolutely essential for the optimal functioning of your nervous system. (link) I cannot, however, state that crossing the midline movements are better than bilateral movements that do not cross the midline.

If you thought that my journey on finding research about crossing the midline was difficult I came up with another journey when I tried to find a link between the increase in the use of technology and the attention span of our children. I actually found very little research about attention span at all. One of the reasons for this is that there are so many variables when figuring out attention spans. The same kids we label with attention span difficulties can participate in activities they find engaging for hours. Think about your own attention span. You struggle to listen to a speaker who talks at you yet you can binge watch on Netflix without looking at your phone for hours.

chocI did stumble across some research that allowed me to form an interesting hypothesis on why our students are so attachchoced to their tech. When you have something that is liked or favorited on social media that activates the same receptors in the brain that eating chocolate or winning money does. (link) Might this include getting a text message or alert on social media as well? We as teachers are forcing students to learn about things they may not necessarily care about and are simultaneously fighting the feelings of winning money and eating chocolate!!

The next logical question is what do we do with this information? Do we only teach things that our students want to learn about similar to an unschooling model? That may be one answer although I don’t know enough about unschooling to figure out its weaknesses as well as the ability for school systems to be able to implement the concept.

My idea is twofold. The first thing we have to do is increase the engagement of our students. There is no doubt about that. The idea that the teacher should stand and talk for 45 minutes or longer is antiquated and ridiculous. We need to involve our students in the learning. Those that do, learn. Have your ss lead and participate in discussions or group work. Play music, allow your students mini-breaks, utilize brain boosts, or show relevant videos and texts that the students can relate to. Figure out a way to stop being boring. A simple stand and turn and talk works wonders!

The second part of this is understanding that students need to build the capacity for doing things they don’t enjoy in order to learn and be able to do the things they do enjoy. An example of this is my friend Rob who is a brew master. He hated reading and only went to college because that was what he was supposed to do according to his upbringing. He now reads textbooks about chemistry and reads anything about brewing he can get his hands on. He is able to do that because he knows that this information is relevant to him right now as well as the future. He also has built up the capacity to get through the “boring stuff” in order to bring more satisfaction to his process of brewing.

Hopefully, the participants at the conference will take away some important pieces of information. The first part is that crossing the midline can only have positive benefits for our learners; however, there is not enough evidence that doing those movements will have more benefit than bilateral movements. The second big idea is that we are fighting the pleasurable feelings of eating chocolate and winning money which affects our students ability to pay attention and stay on task. Both these concepts can help shape your teaching. What will you do with this information?

 

#CharlottesvilleCurriculum

This blog has no other choice but to discuss what happened yesterday on Saturday, August 12, 2017. Here is what happened according to CNN:

  • Counterprotesters met white nationalists and other right-wing groups at the site of Saturday’s “Unite the Right” event hours before the rally was set to start.

  • Clashes broke out and police began to disperse crowds.

  • Local officials declared the rally an “unlawful assembly” and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.

  • About two hours later, a gray Dodge Challenger rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters killing a 32 year old woman.

    For those who may be confused about the alt-right or white nationalism, it is no different than white supremacy. They changed the name to make themselves seem less sinister. To some white nationalism may seem like the antithesis of Black Lives Matter. That would be wrong.

    white supremacists or the alt-right as they are rebranding themselves, believe:

The Alternative Right, commonly known as the Alt-Right, is a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. Characterized by heavy use of social media and online memes, Alt-Righters eschew “establishment” conservatism, skew young, and embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value. Link

The alt right and white nationalists believe this is their country and that no one else should succeed but them.

Black Lives Matter believe:

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.  It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. link

Black Lives Matter want freedom and justice for themselves before they worry about others.

That distinction makes all the difference in the world. Black Lives Matter want the same opportunities and freedoms that whites and other groups have. They do not want it at others expense. white supremacists (the real term not nationalists) want to keep their advantage over other groups. Black Lives Matters believes that all groups can succeed. Their position statement explicitly includes the LGBTQIA community in their mission as well as other marginalized groups. As I read on someones Twitter feed they don’t want people on their knees in order for them to stand tall.

The leader of the white supremacists is a person named Richard Spencer. His idea is that we need to have an all white country. When asked how this could be accomplished he stated, “Look, maybe it will be horribly bloody and terrible. That’s a possibility with everything.” link What makes this scary is that these groups don’t even hide behind hoods. They protest without the use of hoods or identity hiding apparel. This isn’t some group of people way back in our history. This is happening right now in 2017.

This leads us back to the protests in #charlottesville on Saturday, August 12. The protesters for the white supremacists sprayed people with mace, kerosine, carried tiki torches and were giving the nazi salute and shouting nazi slogans. Link This was the fear I had over a year ago when I wrote this blog about how our students and our country would be put in peril with the election of Donald Trump. I am not blaming Trump for this only for emboldening the white supremacists by hiring their people on his staff and giving them every opportunity to believe that he agrees with them. Our citizens alone are to blame for the current state of the nation.

The blame lies fully in our politicians and Americans who voted for Trump and gave the white supremacists the courage to step out of the shadows. Some people said that having Trump elected was good because now we can rip the band-aid off and deal with our racial history and problems. Well, the band-aid wasn’t just ripped off we stuck the knife right back in where it has been for over 400 years.

What is more bothersome than old racists are young racists. An example of this is a picture of a young man who is screaming during this latest debacle. The 20-year-old college student was interviewed and stated, “I did not expect the photo to be shared as much as it was. I understand the photo has a very negative connotation. But I hope that the people sharing the photo are willing to listen that I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.” Link  When you look like an angry racist and are protesting with an angry racist group what else would he have us believe? Here is where his racism stands out. “As a white nationalist, I care for all people. We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture. White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have.”

When you look like an angry racist and are protesting with an angry racist group that is attacking people and attempting to set a woman doused with kerosene in a wheel chair on fire what else would you have us believe? Here is where his racism stands out. “As a white nationalist, I care for all people. We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture. White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have.” That statement is full of racism.

This country was founded and successful by creating the biggest slave trade market in the history of the world. What white people have has come at the expense of every other group that has either been forced in or entered of their own volition. This lack of understanding is what white supremacy is built upon. The idea that we (white people) have worked hard to get where we are. While that may be true we have been running the marathon on flat ground while others have been running up and down mountains.

How can we combat these young racists? What is the next actionable step we can take to remedy this as educators? My idea is to use Andy Vasily’s unit level planning guide.andy_ The part of the guide that I want to concentrate on is called the Suggested Related Concepts. This is where the students will be able to bring in their experiences with ethnicity, heritage, and gender. The toughest part will be for me to bring this authentically into the unit. I will keep you updated with my progress in this endeavor.

I would suggest to other educators that you do something in the same vein if you aren’t already. It does not matter what subject you teach. There has to be a way that we can reach and teach the whole child. One positive thing that happened from this was the creation of the #CharlottesvilleCurriculum. There are so many great ideas on what educators can do in their classroom. These suggested concepts will fit easily into social studies, language, art, music, and science. We have to do something to make this world better.

According to Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” If we go about our business as usual then we, in turn, are indifferent to hate.

Social Media and Reflection

Dear Educators,

How and why do we use blogging or social media to reflect and improve as a teacher? That is the question we are going to analyze and dissect on August 26 at 3 p.m. EST as part of the 24-hour online professional development known as the PhysEdSummit.

The #PhysEdSummit is a FREE online conference put on by health and physical education professionals for health and physical education professionals. It is a virtual conference featuring 50-minute #HealthEd and #PhysEd webcasts. It starts at 8am Eastern Time (New York) on August 26, 2017. This FREE PD event will provide the global #HealthEd and #PhysEd communities access to presentations about best practices, teaching strategies, top tips, and cutting-edge resources. (link)

I will be hosting a panel that will include: 

Victor Small (@mrsmall215)

Makisha Rogers (@kisha4tech)

Shrehan Lynch (@misslynchpe)

Dorian Roberts (@drroberts)

Mike Morris (@mikemorrispe)

Nicholas Endlich (@nicholasendlich)

Ron Madison (@madison_ron)

Toutoule Ntoya (@toutoulentoya)

What is amazing about this group of educators is that they use multiple platforms to reflect and grow. All of us use Voxer and Twitter while some also specialize in blogging, Periscope, Vlogging, and Zoom to grow both professionally and personally. The best part of this session is that it will be interactive. People can chime in on the side as well as pop in on air if they have any questions or comments.

If you are a Physical Education or Health teacher, supervisor, or just want to know more about the world of Physed and Health you should click this link to get to the conference program and RSVP for this free professional development. This is the PD of the present and future. You won’t find consultants talking about what they used to do. You will find real teachers and professors who are doing the work right now and sharing their knowledge with the world for free!!

As you reflect on your why behind your social media use and reflection/improvement please feel free to leave comments below. I will be reading them on air during the August 26 video hangout and 3 pm EST. As always I appreciate your time.

Sincerely,

Justin