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Sunday, April 23, 2017

'Mover and shaker' Elgin librarian develops free web resource | Chicago Daily Herald

Photo: Elena Ferrarin
"A free, web-based curriculum of classes designed by an Elgin librarian to help patrons learn about technology is being used by fellow librarians as far as Europe." according to
, Staff Writer.

Monica Dombrowski, director of digital services at Gail Borden Public Library, developed "Gail's Toolkit," an online portal with ready-made materials to teach classes on topics such as Windows, resume writing, LinkedIn, eBay, WordPress and more.

There are 65 classes divided into seven tracks -- basics, Google tools, Microsoft tools, software and applications, job and career, social media and tablets -- downloadable by anyone, not just librarians.

Each class includes a guide, an activity sheet and a handout, and some have PowerPoint presentations and practice files.

There's a real need for libraries to teach digital skills and literacy, but many don't have the resources to train their staff members or develop their own classes, Dombrowski said.

"The thinking was, 'What if we were you? What would we need to help our community?'" said Dombrowski, 44, who was named by Library Journal among 52 outstanding "movers and shakers" librarians last month. "It was labor-intensive on the front end, but we knew it could be built."

Librarians throughout Illinois and in Florida, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania use Gail's Toolkit, whose site got more than 25,000 page views and 4,200 site visitors after its launch Sept. 30, 2015, through the end of 2016.

Nina Yankova, who works at a regional library in Yambol, Bulgaria, said it's proven very useful in her everyday work.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

3 ways new-to-online students can thrive with virtual learning by Erica Cirino | eSchool News

How can students best approach virtual learning if they never have before?

Digital learning opportunities are widely available and abundant today. From MOOCs to digital study aids to virtual tutoring, there are many ways for students to hone their academic skills while still maintaining flexibility in their schedules. An added bonus? They can often do this from the comfort and convenience of their own computer, smartphone, or other electronic device.

What’s more, virtual experiences are not only becoming more prevalent in the academic realm, but in the professional sphere as well. This can be seen in the increase in remote workforces and online courses/graduate programs.

Students can benefit from the availability of virtual learning experiences, not just in augmenting their current learning experiences, but in helping to prepare them for the real world. The key is in knowing how to use these resources to their advantage. But when the virtual learning concept may seem foreign to some, how can they best approach it?

Here are three ways students can leverage virtual learning experiences:

1. Participate in a MOOC that covers a subject/skill he or she is lacking
MOOCs—also known as “massive open online courses”—are virtual courses open to anyone, anywhere (and usually are free!). MOOCs are a lot like college courses; students will be required to do homework and “attend” lectures if they want to succeed. However, unlike college courses, there is typically no penalty for failing to show up or complete work—but that also means students won’t get the full learning experience out of it!
Read more... 

Source: eSchool News

3 Reasons Why My Wife Dislikes Online Learning | Inside Higher Ed - Technology and Learning

Follow on Twitter as @joshmkim
Time, control, and relevancy." notes Dr. Joshua Kim, Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL).

Technology and Learning

My wife and I are in a mixed marriage. 

I work in online education. She dislikes learning online. 

I spend the majority of my time and energy trying to figure out how to leverage technology to improve education. Her experiences with digital learning have been mostly negative. 

For my wife, online education equals computerized training. She’s a doc - an academic physician - and doctors have all sorts of mandatory continuing education requirements. They need to certify that they have received training in everything from patient confidentiality policies to hand washing. 

The method that they complete this mandatory training is through web-based self-paced modules. She dislikes these online modules for 3 reasons: 

1 - Time: 
There is nothing wrong with mandatory continuing education. Medicine is a highly regulated industry, and complying with government requirements requires that the workforce receive continuous training and certification. The problem is that she is expected to squeeze the online training modules into the rest of her work or her personal time. Unlike the old days when employee training was done through in-person classes and workshops, online training is intended to be done during the employees own time. The problem is not so much that she hates the online format, but that doing the online units is an additional time burden on top of the rest of her responsibilities.
Read more... 

Source: Inside Higher Ed (blog) 

How Digital Technologies Can Help Students Learn | Stanly News & Press

"Did you know that advanced digital technologies can help grade school and high school students become better prepared for college and careers?" continues Stanly News & Press.

Photo: Stanly News & Press

From interactive platforms and applications to high-tech hardware, digital learning is empowering educators and helping prepare students for their futures. Here are a few new learning tools that are transforming education today.

Do the Math
Graphing calculators are getting an enhanced look and feel, enabling students to solve the most challenging equations and enhance their understanding of math. For example, cutting edge calculators, such as fx-CG50, the newest model in Casio’s calculator portfolio, offer a three-dimensional graphing function that allows students to view their graph from various angles to better analyze their shape. Other new capabilities include cross-section and zoom functions for greater analysis. Students can also plot graphs over pictures of real-life scenes on a full color textbook-style display, making math education a more visual experience...

Music to One’s Ears
Music education isn’t what it used to be, thanks to new technology and gear. For example, Chordana Play, a new app, can be linked with several Casio electronic keyboards as a learning tool for beginners and advanced musicians. The app displays notes graphically in real time, along with the correct keyboard positions for both hands. Users are welcome to import song data into the app and expand their repertoire over time.
To learn more, visit

Source: Stanly News & Press

Why does eLearning need a shift to digital learning? | Logicearth

Photo: Fiona Quigley 
Fiona Quigley has worked in organisational learning and development since the mid-1990s in variety of training delivery, creative design and management roles says, "I'll start with a story."
Photo: Logicearth

We had a team day in Dublin last week - six of us travelled from Belfast to Dublin in two cars. One car arrived well ahead of the others, was 30 minutes early and was waiting for the others to join in.

The other car was, let's just say, a little late! 

What was the difference between the two cars? Guess??

The difference - the driver's age! Now you might say I'm being agesist, but bear with me. The younger driver planned the journey a little differently. That is, they didn't really plan at all. When I asked afterwards why they didn't plan, they just said:

"Well, anytime I've travelled before I've just used my Apps and the web to figure it out as I go".

So there you have it. This generation, and increasingly, many of us, are relying upon being served the exact digital content when we need it. What happened in this case to make this normally reliable strategy not work quite as well - it was the fact that the location we were going to had multiple locations in Dublin. Sometimes a little tech savvy and experience of age is a better winning combination!

Whether it is the lunch deals offered by nearby restaurants, a cheat word for scrabble or an online course to learn a new technical skill - technology has brought a tremendous shift in the way we seek, learn, retain and consume information. Similarly, based on these changing patterns it has brought an incredible shift in the form, types, nature and genres of digital content.

From eLearning to digital learning - this is why 
And in case you didn't notice, technology has revolutionised eLearning so much that we now call it digital learning!

Our range of smart, automated and instant mediums of learning is a game changer for all of us who support corporate learning and development. The type and magnitude of technologies, applications, and devices for eLearning has doubled during the past five years. It has also empowered people to adopt a self-managed learning approach and become their own educator and mentor - on a scale never seen before, because it is now easier!

Around 82% - 85% of the people engaged in some form of learning are managing their own personal development, learning new skills, enhancing their acumen and knowledge base and are managing it all on their own, at their own pace and as per their own needs, convenience and feasibility.

This is a sure-tell sign that the ordinary learners of today have become more empowered than ever in the present age. They know their needs and weakness and have less ambiguities about what skills, knowledge, and expertise they need to learn to pave their way up the career ladder, seek professional growth and gain a cutting edge over their peers and associates.

In a recent article from Bersin (March 2017), there is a useful insight into how digital learning has positively disrupted how we all learn:

Digital learning = the way eLearning should have been 
So if we know that digital learning is the new, improved eLearning what steps can we take to make sure we always produce great digital content? 

Here are seven tips to get you started.  
Read more... 

Recommended Reading

Photo: Logicearth

Photo: Niamh Williams
How to use multimedia learning principles to create great digital learning by Niamh Williams has worked in eLearning design for the past 15 years.

Source: Logicearth (blog)

Women in campus: Embracing feminism and facing the future | Business Mirror

Photo: Eilene Zimmerman
"ONE of the things Tina Campt, a professor and director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women, has noticed about the young women in her classes is their radically open notion of sexuality and gender." says Eilene Zimmerman / New York Times News Service.

This March 23 photo shows Alexa Dantzler, who sees a dearth of minority women in the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. 
Photo: Audra Melton/The New York Times

“These students want the freedom to express who they are without the constraints of choices, such as either a woman or man, heterosexual or homosexual,” Campt said. “Those categories no longer carry a definitional value.”

Women now account for the majority of college students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 11.3 million of them as compared with 8.7 million men. And 63 percent identify as feminist. Their concerns run the gamut, from sexual assault and poverty to affordable education, immigration and reproductive rights, said Alison Dahl Crossley, the associate director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University.

Both Campt and Crossley, who is also author of the book Finding Feminism: Millennial Activists and the Unfinished Gender Revolution, say women today are in a world that is profoundly different from what it was a generation ago, so they are having to create ways of coping with new challenges, the same as previous generations did.
“The structure of the economy, of family and of work is very, very different,” Campt said.

She said young women today were entering an economy with fewer work opportunities and much more debt. It is also an era in which feminist activism and education happen in both the physical world and the virtual one, often through blogs and social media.

One thing that surprised Crossley about the college women she studied was their wholehearted embrace of feminism. “They spoke about how feminism permeated their worldview and their interactions and the relationships they had in their everyday lives,” she said. We spoke to female undergraduates at colleges around the country to find out what issues they were most concerned about and what feminism meant to them. Their comments have been edited and condensed.

Source: Business Mirror

Thailand sees more women in tech, but more can be done | Tech in Asia

Photo: James Austin Farrell
"The tech industry may be male-dominated, but it doesn’t mean there’s no place for women. Check out what successful women in the tech field have to say." according to James Austin Farrell, editor, journalist and author living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

Photo: Pexels.

When we think of iconic personalities in the tech industry, men often come to mind. The industry is seen as a masculine domain. And if you look at the ratio of women to men—from developers to CEOs—you’d see a vast disproportion.

Today, higher management positions globally are still dominated by men. This is in spite of women outnumbering men in attendance and graduation rates at universities, according to a study by Yale University. Research by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) also shows that women are outperforming men at the high school and university levels in most countries. However, UN statistics reveals that women still earn considerably less than men by an average of 24 percent.

It’s not that women perform any worse in tech at the school level, at least in the UK they outperform their male counterparts at GSCE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and at Computing and ICT A levels. Moreover, women’s participation drops in more advanced levels, accounting only for 12 percent of applicants in computer science degrees and only 13 percent of computer science students in the UK.

Is Thailand seeing a reverse of the trend?  
While Thailand offers little government or independent research on women in the ICT sector, a 2015 study by UNESCO revealed that Thailand was ahead of most countries in terms of women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

For instance, Thailand had 53 percent share of female researchers in science, technology, and innovation field. South Korea and Japan only had 18 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Katherine Aphaivongs, a Thai-American and managing director of SavingsAsia and Masii Group (both are B.Grimm joint venture companies) has been tasked to launch, a financial comparison portal, as well as grow the comparison platform into other ASEAN countries. Katherine told us she does see a trend in women entering the tech industry: “Women are beginning to turn towards the tech industry more as the market begins to mature. As with any industry, there needs to be a demand.”

She believes that “tech has predominately been a male-dominated industry because of the gender roles that we’ve been assigned since the generation of the baby boomers, i.e. men become engineers and women become nurses.” But she added that with all the evolution of ideas and beliefs, it takes time to see change happen. “As tech is still fairly new in Asia,” she said, “it will take some time for women to realize that, they too, can do reap the rewards of this industry. We can start seeing this from the number of women enrolled in tech-related classes.”

She said that Thailand will definitely see more women working in tech. “It’s already happening,” she said, although she explained that many of these roles are still related to sales and marketing. Nonetheless, she said she is “noticing that more and more women are applying for the technical job postings I have out.”

As examples of Thai women working in leadership in tech, she mentioned Shannon Kalayanamitr of MOXY, Aliza Napartivaumnuay of, and Suphajee Suthumpun of Thaicom.

“Over the last 12 years, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in who is applying for tech jobs. In the early days, only 10 to 20 percent of our applicants were female. Last year, the applicant split was 54 percent to 46 percent, women to men,” said Poungthong Thipdang, HR director at Aware, an IT company.

It’s evident when being guided through Aware’s offices and manicured gardens that many of the higher level staff are women, something that might have been an aberration a decade or two ago.

“I believe a lot of our success in attracting female talent is down to a strong leadership team, which is now 19 ladies strong (vs 13 men), and we’ve been able to build a culture that attracts and nurtures female talent.”

Jirakorn Nai Fun or Dew has been working with Aware for the past 11 years and currently holds the position of business analyst. Dew studied industrial engineering at Chiang Mai University when, at that time, engineering faculties all over Thailand were populated mostly by males.

Source: Tech in Asia  

STEM fields need more women | Farm and Dairy - Other News

"According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only about one-quarter of those working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, widely referred to as “STEM,” are women." notes Other News.

Photo: Wilmington College

Statistics Canada notes the percentage of women working in STEM has increased from just 20 percent in 1987 to 22 percent in 2015.

Women in STEM 
The National Girls Collaborative Project, works to bring together organizations throughout the United States that are committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM.

Another organization with similar goals is the Women in Engineering Proactive Network, which works to promote the inclusion of women in engineering fields. 
Female students in high school or college who are interested in STEM fields should make their interest known to teachers or advisers; they can even contact certain organizations to learn about the opportunities and resources available to them.

Recommended Reading
Photo: Dr. Annie Specht

To my student who didn’t show up for class by Dr. Annie Specht, professor in the department of agricultural communication, education, and leadership at Ohio State University, and she wants you to come to class.

Source: Farm and Dairy

Friday, April 21, 2017

Coding in the classroom | Pursuit - Learning & Teaching

Photo: Joanne Blannin
Joanne Blannin, Digital Learning Leader, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne reports, "Australian schools will soon introduce the new Digital Technologies curriculum - part of preparing students for the future, says the University of Melbourne."

Photo: Zach Frailey / Flickr

Soon parents around the country will start receiving reports that assess their child against the new Digital Technologies curriculum.

Every child from the first year of school to Year 10 will be working on this curriculum, although their skills will not be formally assessed until the end of Year 2 (7-year-olds).

Many are no doubt perplexed by language that directs their children to become, “confident and creative developers of digital solutions through the application of information systems”. Should we be asking whether the government is seeking to create an entire generation of computer programmers?

Today’s students will need to confidently navigate a very different future - a digital, online world with a new language and approach to work and learning. As teachers, parents and leaders come to grips with the demands of this new curriculum, it is important to reflect on why there is a global shift towards teaching students about digital technologies themselves, rather than just how to use particular software or devices.

Developing technological fluency 
When we log into the Internet, whether through Facebook, Instagram, email or another tool, we enter spaces that have been created by people. Every online space has a unique culture, purpose and accepted way to interact. These are key aspects of technology use that we need to provide in schools.

We would not send our students off to a foreign land and expect them to function as easily as they do at home. They would need to know the basics of the language, how to interact appropriately with others, how things work and generally how to act in the new culture. Similarly, we shouldn’t expect students to be fluent users of digital or online technologies simply because they play games and can search the Internet.

Fluency with digital technologies means understanding how computers work, how they might be used to meet our needs, how we might repair or modify them and yes, even how to write computer programs to control them. This is a new type of fluency for the 21st Century.

The new curriculum 
The new Digital Technology (DT) curriculum aims to develop confident and creative developers of digital solutions. There is a strong focus on creative technology use through its three learning strands: Digital Systems, Data and Information, and Creating Digital Solutions... 

Preparing students for their future, not ours 
When today’s students leave school, they will enter a world that is vastly different to the one we entered after our schooling, even if it was just 10 years ago. Nearly every job today requires some knowledge of digital technologies.

Collaboration is an increasingly important skill in today’s workplace.
Photo: Lucélia Ribeiro/ Flickr

Technology has infiltrated our homes as well as our schools. In 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that, on average, a household in Australia has six internet-connected devices. If there are children under 15 living in the house, that number increases to seven devices.

This increased technology use at home is changing the way we think about technology users and the way in which we should be teaching technological skills. Although certain language continues to be used by the mainstream media, there is no longer a clear, generational division between the so-called digital nativesand ‘digital immigrants’.
Read more...  

Source: Pursuit

Canada’s most powerful academic supercomputer will transcend the previous possibilities of research and innovation | University Communications / Media Releases

"Simon Fraser University, in partnership with Compute Canada and WestGrid, has launched Cedar, a new advanced research computing (ARC) system at the Burnaby campus.
Cedar is Canada’s most powerful academic supercomputer." inform University Communications.

Cedar Team
Cedar will help Canadian researchers transcend the previous possibilities of Canadian research and innovation in a number of industries including personalized medicine, green tech, artificial intelligence, as well as many other growth industries.

As one of the four new Canadian supercomputing and data centre sites, Cedar will give Canadian researchers unprecedented computing power through ARC resources and expertise. The system features big data capabilities in collecting, analyzing, and sharing immense volumes of data.

Compute Canada, in partnership with its regional partners and member institutions, is leading this broad transformation of Canada’s national ARC platform. The full investment across Canada is valued at $75-million and includes funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and provincial and industry partners.

Currently, there are 27 data centres and 50 aging legacy systems across Canada that will be consolidated into five to ten data centres by the end of 2018. With greater computational power than all of Compute Canada’s legacy systems combined, Cedar will provide expanded compute, storage, and cloud resources to Canada’s diverse research community.

“SFU is a distinct leader in ARC and Cedar will place us in the world’s top 100 supercomputer installations,” says Joy Johnson, SFU’s vice-president, research and international. “We are honoured to be one of the four new national advanced research computing (ARC) systems that will provide Canadian researchers access to the latest technology and expertise they need to make transformative scientific discoveries.”

The Honourable Kristy Duncan, Ministry of Science, says Cedar will help scientists exchange ideas, collaborate and make discoveries that lead to faster technologies, new medical therapies and a more prosperous economy.

“I am pleased that our government, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, is investing in the latest advanced scientific technology that will support front-line scientists whose contributions help us build a healthier, stronger middle class.”

SFU physics professor Dugan O’Neil, who is also Compute Canada’s chief science officer, says regardless of location researchers across Canada will have equal access to Cedar.
Read more...  

As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement. SFU was founded 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is Canada’s leading comprehensive research university and is ranked one of the top universities in the world. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students, and boasts more than 135,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world. 

Additional resources
What you need to know about CEDAR the most academic
supercomputer in Canada - PDF

Source: University Communications / Media Releases

UD program promotes music among low-income students | The News Journal

Follow on Twitter as @JessicaJBies
"For Xiang Gao, a violinist, the power of music is incomparable — it can illuminate, transform and heal, he says." writes Jessica Bies, Education reporter.

Xiang Gao visits Bayard Middle School in 2013. 
Photo: Courtesy of Masters Players

Music makes the world a better place, Gao believes, and can turn lives around. For kids, it can represent opportunity and solace. It gives them an outlet for their creativity and stress and can also help keep them off the streets.

"It helps with math, problem-solving, developing a healthy youth and childhood," Gao said, listing off the benefits of learning to play an instrument.

"We all know that under any economy, underserved kids in big cities, inner cities, can benefit from music. It can help them have a better life."

Xiang Gao, Producing Artistic Director

That's why Gao, artistic director for UD's Master Players and a professor of music, has developed a program to help pass along a love of music to some of the state's most disadvantaged children, he said.

It's called Little Masters and was created to provide free private music lessons and instruments to children in low-income communities. It will pilot at Bayard Middle School in downtown Wilmington starting in September.

More than 80 percent of the students there are considered low-income, according to the Department of Education. The school offers a group orchestra class, but many of the students use district-provided instruments, which they must return at the end of the school year and sometimes cannot take home.

"Some parents don't want students to bring the instruments home because they're worried about damage," Gao explained, adding that the price of repairs can often be prohibitive.

Not only that but "the music teachers at Bayard Middle School, like Sheila Hershey, they have limited time," Gao said.

The Little Masters Project will offer free after-school music lessons not only at the middle school itself but on the University of Delaware campus, he said. Select students will receive free instruments, which they will be able to keep and take home to practice upon.

Source: The News Journal  

A different drum: schools combine music, P.E. | Salisbury Post

Photo: Rebecca Rider
Rebecca Rider, Author at Salisbury Post summarizes, "It’s hard not to move to the beat. The music blaring from a speaker in Woodleaf Elementary’s gym is all high-energy — “Witch Doctor,” “Wipeout,” “Ghostbusters,” “Beat it” and “What Does the Fox Say?”"

Skylee Carter, a student at Woodleaf Elementary, prepares to strike a "drum" during a combined music and physical education class. Drums Alive combines the two subjects, teaching students balance, rhythm and coordination.
Photo: Rebecca Rider/Salisbury Post

But there’s another sound in the gym: the sound of drums. Second graders wield drumsticks, clacking them together above their heads and bringing them down with force on individual “drums” as they work their way through song after song.

The performance is part of a new physical education unit called “Drums Alive.” And it’s unlike any other unit the school system has run before. Because this one is a collaboration between music class and P.E.

When a school has the drums — bright green exercise balls balanced in a bucket — students get a chance to play twice a week, once during their P.E. time, and once during their music time. Operating on a “two brains are better than one” principal, the class is co-taught by music and P.E. teachers who guide the students through movement, rhythm and routines.

Kelly Feimster, director of instructional programs, said that research has shown that combining music or art and physical activity helps stimulate the brain and sparks creativity.

“You’re using all areas of the brain when you combine music and physical activity,” she said.

And it adds an extra “fun factor” to both classes that helps capture students’ attention. The Drums Alive unit helps students learn how to follow directions, improves coordination and can even help them with fluency and literacy later in life.

“I think you get more power, you get more of the power flowing,” she said.

Feimster said she learned about Drums Alive when she saw a video of it on Facebook. The idea immediately captivated her.  “So we started investigating to see if it was a possibility,” she said.

The school system purchased three to four sets of 25 “drums” and drumsticks to be shared between the district’s 20 elementary schools. Schools sign up for the unit, getting the equipment for several weeks, before it’s passed on to the next school.

Source: Salisbury Post

Teaching kids through 'Music with Mar' | Buffalo News

Photo: Mary Friona-Celani
Mary Friona-Celani, Emmy award winning journalist says, "If you've never heard of "Music with Mar," it's a national program that brings music and learning to kids." 

Emma loved every minute of the Music with Mar class and her musician daddy did, too.
Photo: Mary Friona-Celani/Special to The News

Classes are designed for children ages 6 months through 6 years to teach educational concepts through music. And it's a whole lot of fun, too.

There are dozens of different classes around, taught by different teachers, but they all follow the same basic idea - use songs to help kids learn while they're having fun. We went to Ms. Bridget's Music with Mar class in East Aurora. It was pretty cool.

The class is totally interactive. We were in an upstairs room of The First Presbyterian Church on Main Street. (Again, they are held at dozens of locations.) We started off with some bubbles and singing, which, Ms. Bridget said, works on visual tracking. The program includes plenty of traditional songs, like "The Farmer and the Dell" and "Peanut Butter and Jelly." There are also songs about parts of the body, one that teaches right and left, a few that focused on the alphabet, and a super-fun stop, slow and go song.
Read more... 

Source: Buffalo News

Thursday, April 20, 2017

More than recess: How playing on the swings helps kids learn to cooperate | UW Today

Photo: Kim Eckart
"A favorite childhood pastime — swinging on the playground swing set — also may be teaching kids how to get along." summarizes Kim Eckart, Public Information Officer, University of Washington.

The measured, synchronous movement of children on the swings can encourage preschoolers to cooperate on subsequent activities, University of Washington researchers have found.

A study by the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) shows the potential of synchronized movement in helping young children develop collaborative skills. The study is published online in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

“Synchrony enhances cooperation, because your attention is directed at engaging with another person, at the same time,” explained Tal-Chen Rabinowitch, a postdoctoral researcher at I-LABS.

“We think that being ‘in time’ together enhances social interaction in positive ways.”

Previous studies, including others by Rabinowitch, have linked music and being in sync with other pro-social behaviors, such as helping, sharing and empathizing, among young children: Marching together to a song, for example, might prompt one child to share with another. In this study, Rabinowitch, along with I-LABS co-director and psychology professor Andrew Meltzoff, sought to focus on movement alone, without music, and examined how children cooperated with one another afterward.

Two girls work together to maneuver
objects through a puzzle.
Photo: I-LABS
Cooperation — adapting to a situation, compromising with someone else, working toward a common goal — is considered a life skill, one that parents and teachers try to develop in a child’s early years.

For the I-LABS study, researchers built a swing set that enabled two children to swing in unison, in controlled cycles of time. Pairs of 4-year-olds — who were unfamiliar to one another — were randomly assigned to groups that either swung together in precise time, swung out of sync with each other, or didn’t swing at all. The pairs in all three groups then participated in a series of tasks designed to evaluate their cooperation. In one activity, the children played a computer game that required them to push buttons at the same time in order to see a cartoon figure appear. Another, called the “give and take” activity, involved passing objects back and forth through a puzzle-like device.

Source: UW Today

9 Ways Learning An Instrument Strengthens Your Brain | Musical U

Photo: Christopher Sutton
"Did you know that learning an instrument can seriously strengthen your brain? Don’t believe us? Here are 9 ways it helps." according to Christopher Sutton, Founder and Director of Musical U

Growing up, your mom told you to practice the piano. When you asked why, she would either say, “Because it’s good for you!” or, “Because I said so!” Perhaps this led to you feeling frustrated and eventually giving up the instrument. It’s a common occurrence.

Photo: Musical U
Now that you’re older, you know that playing an instrument might be fun, but you can’t come up with a compelling reason why it should take away time from other important things. Or maybe you want to get started but your significant other thinks it might be a waste of time.

Mom knew it was good, but she probably wasn’t aware of the details. Fortunately, today’s scientific research on the brain reveals many amazing and surprising benefits to learning music at any age.

Here are nine very good reasons to start playing an instrument, all related to your brain. Once you’ve read them, you’ll have to come up with reasons not to play an instrument.
1. Playing Music Increases Our Connection To Others 

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has played in a band. Scientific research suggests that playing music with others actually strengthens our connections with those people.

As Jill Suttie from Berkley writes:
Performing music involves coordinating of our efforts, too… at least if we want to produce a pleasing sound. According to researchers, when we try to synch with others musically – keeping the beat or harmonizing, for example – we tend to feel positive social feelings towards those with whom we’re synchronizing, even if that person is not visible to us or not in the same room. Though it’s unclear exactly why that happens, coordinating movement with another person is linked to the release of pleasure chemicals (endorphins) in the brain, which may explain why we get those positive, warm feelings when we make music together.
Playing in a band is an experience like no other. It forces close communication with your bandmates to stay in sync and avoid musical trainwrecks. This close communication leads to close connection, which often translates into deeper friendships.

2. Learning An Instrument Strengthens Memory and Reading Skills 
Good news for children: learning an instrument can significantly improve both verbal memory and childhood literacy. In other words, when children learn instruments, they remember more and read more effectively.

Childhood reading skills translate into success or failure later in life. Low reading skills significantly hamper a child’s ability to succeed in their career.

A study in 2011 at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University concluded that:
Both musical ability and literacy correlated with enhanced electrical signals within the auditory brainstem. Structural equation modeling of the data revealed that music skill, together with how the nervous system responds to regularities in auditory input and auditory memory/attention accounts for about 40% of the difference in reading ability between children. These results add weight to the argument that music and reading are related via common neural and cognitive mechanisms and suggests a mechanism for the improvements in literacy seen with musical training
Let’s paraphrase that into layman’s speech. Both musical ability and literacy show increased electrical signals in the brain, demonstrating that music and reading both tap into the same brain abilities. In even simpler terms, learn music and read more effectively.

And let’s not assume that these benefits dissolve after early childhood! The brain is adaptable, and learning an instrument most likely transfers similar benefits to adults.
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Source: Musical U