Saturday, August 23, 2008

From the Week of August 17th

VIDEO GAMES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNEXPECTED. Research presented during this past week at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association confirmed some of the good effects and bad effects of video game play. On the one hand, game play can improve cognitive and perceptual skills; on the other hand, players of violent games are more hostile, less forgiving, and more likely to believe violence is "normal." And yes, frequent players performed less well in school and were at greater risk for obesity. So what was unexpected? Gaming can evidently improve the skills involved in advanced surgical procedures -- spatial skills and hand dexterity. So should you let your gifted kid play video games? Read more research here.

BRAIN FACTS. If the proper points on your "mental map" of the brain don't light up when you read phrases like "Broca's area" or "angular gyrus," check out a primer on the brain available from the Society for Neuroscience. Chapters we found interesting and relevant to child psychology and child brain functioning included those on the topics of the neuron; brain development; learning, memory and language; challenges such as AD/HD, autism, and Tourette syndrome; and new diagnostic methods. A bonus: a glossary of brain-related terms. It also contains material of interest for adult neurological issues. Find it here.

MORE BRAIN STUFF. Go to the site of the Dana Foundation to find an online version of the publication The 2008 Progress Report on Brain Research. So far in our print version, we've turned down the corners of pages dealing with arts and cognition, including the effects of arts training; the possible use of deep brain stimulation for conditions such as OCD and Tourette's; recent research on the genetics of autism and on AD/HD; and recent research on bipolar disorder and OCD. While you're at the site, check it out to see if there are publications you'd like to subscribe to or news you'd like to read.

USEFUL FOR THE GT/LD COMMUNITY? The Washington Post ran an article about a site called NiceCritic.com, where users can anonymously send pre-written criticism or comments to others via email. We started thinking about whether this tool could have a constructive use in communication between parents and educators, between educators and children, or between parents and children. Sample messages include:
  • Your talking in class is distracting.
  • You have great ideas, please participate more.
  • Your test was too hard.
  • Please try sharing a bit more.
  • Try not to interrupt the teacher so much.
Some of those are evidently meant for peer-to-peer communication, but the possibility exists of using them otherwise. Are there times when anonymous communication can be more useful or effective than personal communication? Is it "cheating" to communicate anonymously? Would students abuse the process in communicating with teachers? If these education-related examples leave you cold, visit the site to find out what kind of insults you can send to co-workers. ("Please do not remove your shoes. Your feet tend to give off an aroma.")

GRANDIN ON SCREEN. Various sources reported this week that autistic scientist and speaker Temple Grandin is to be the subject of a "biopic" for HBO. She will be played by Claire Danes. Grandin is familiar as a speaker to those who attend conferences on giftedness and LDs; some of her presentations have been covered in 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter. Read about the biopic.

GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS. The Fall issue of Gifted Education Press Quarterly is online at www.giftededpress.com. The issue contains articles on gifted girls, differentiation, and more. Read it.

APROPOS OF NOTHING GT/LD. An article in the Houston Chronicle carried a denial from the Houston school districts that teachers would be able to carry handguns in school this fall. The denial was prompted by the actions of a small (110-student) North Texas school system that, says the Chronicle, allows its teachers to become authorized to carry guns at school, supposedly to protect employees and students from armed intruders. Much of the article consisted of reactions from other educational professionals. The article did not consider possible benefits of teachers carrying weapons in situations like these:
  • AD/HD? I don't believe in it. Achieve to your potential, kid -- or else.
  • Okay, kids, put those water balloons down on the floor and back away slowly.
  • Mystery meat again? Tomorrow I want to see something edible in this cafeteria.
  • What do you mean, Madam Colleague, that Wordsworth was a better poet than Coleridge? Clear leather!
  • And I say that evolution is right [wrong/whatever].
  • No way my Odyssey of the Mind team's entry isn't best, Mr. Judge. And isn't that kind of a little pea-shooter you're carrying?
  • What do you mean, Mr. Superintendent, that I'm not getting tenure? [Although maybe the size of the weapon carried depends on one's rank in the district hierarchy.]
  • You're cutting school early? Well, you've got to ask yourself one question -- "Do I feel lucky." Well, do you ya, punk?
Maybe the entire thing stems from something Clint Eastwood supposedly said: "I have a very strict gun control policy: if there's a gun around, I want to be in control of it." Read the article.

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