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A while back, in one of the blog entries, I wrote about the fact, that despite the pessimistic predictions, children with ADD often turn into successful adults.
Now we could not have a clearer example of this brighter picture--Michael Phelps. Diagnosed at age 9 with ADD, he now is the Olympic champion with eight gold medals.
Shortly before the start of the games, Debbie Phelps, Michael's mother revealed that her son was diagnosed with ADD. She also told the story of how they overcame it.
She described Michael as an outgoing, athletic kid whose energy never seemed to run out. "Never sat still, never closed his mouth, always asking questions, always jumping from one thing to another. But I just said, `He's a boy,'" she said.
But as she would later find out, there was another description that could and did apply. At age 9, his doctor diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which affects several million children in the U.S. Like many kids with ADHD, Michael's treatment was medication and behavior modification.
"I controlled what he was doing on the weekends and holidays and summer because I made sure there was a rigid schedule in the household," she said. Mrs. Phelps also realized that along with tight scheduling of Michael's time, swimming proved effective in calming his behavior.
By age 10, Michael was nationally ranked. Deborah Phelps watched her son, who couldn’t sit still at school, wait patiently for hours at a meet to swim a five-minute race. At 11, Michael was off Ritalin by his own choice and his coach, Bob Bowman, was already predicting greatness. Bowman, who still coaches Michael, told the family then that Michael would make the 2004 Olympics and break world records by the 2008 games. Phelps made it to the 2000 Olympics, four years ahead of Bowman’s prediction. The rest, as we have witnessed, is history.
Today, the Phelps name is an adjective, as in “phelpsian,” meaning "dominating in competition." Now, more than a decade after learning of her son's problem, Debbie is sharing her insights through a website aimed at the moms of children with ADD. You can find it at http://www.facebook.com/ADHDMoms
Congress has given the go-ahead for a new center to explore ways advanced computer and communications technologies can improve learning. It is called the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies and it will focus on "bringing education into the 21st century."
The bill, sponsored by Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky, is aimed at giving students the tools they need to maintain and build upon in the 21st century.
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said, "The creativity that developed extraordinary new information technologies has not focused on finding ways to make learning more compelling, more personal and more productive in our nation's schools...People assumed that the explosion of innovation in information tools in business and service industries would automatically move into classrooms." That, the Federation said, has simply not happened. "Today's generation is very comfortable with using tools like iPods and computers and gaming, but when they go into the classroom none of that is there and there is this sense of an opportunity we are just not grasping," said a spokesperson for the FAS.
The center will support a 'first of its kind' comprehensive research and development program aimed at improving all levels of learning from kindergarten to university and from government training to college. The center will award grants for research on a series of questions it will pose ranging from the "low hanging fruit variety" to deeper issues. Some $50m has been earmarked for the center which, it is hoped, will be up and running in a year's time.
The new film Swing Vote is designed to spread the optimistic message that "one person can make a difference." But we don't have to go along with the rather far-fetched story line to see that this message has validity.
In a recent biography of Shakespeare, Bill Bryson tells us that if we use the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as a guide, then we find that Shakespeare produced roughly one-tenth of all the most quotable utterances written or spoken in English since its inception." Imagine, a single individual is responsible for roughly 10% of the most quotable things ever said. it is, as Bryson says, "clearly remarkable."
Shakespeare's influence has become such a part of our lives that we don't even realize how much power he has. Just a small sampling of phrases originally found in Shakespeare's works include flesh and blood, bated breath, tower of strength, foul play, foregone conclusion, good riddance, dead as a doornail, fool's paradise, heart of gold, Greek to me, fancy-free, devil incarnate, one fell swoop, for goodness' sake, vanish into thin air, play fast and loose, eaten me out of house and home, elbow room, go down the primrose path, in a pickle, budge an inch, cold comfort, household word, full circle, salad days, in my heart of hearts, in my mind's eye, laughing stock, love is blind, lie low, naked truth, neither rhyme nor reason, star-crossed lovers, pitched battle, pound of flesh, sea change, make short shrift, spotless reputation, set my teeth on edge, there's the rub, too much of a good thing, what the dickens, and wild goose chase.
And "among the words first found in Shakespeare are abstemious, antipathy, critical, frugal, dwindle, extract, horrid, vast, hereditary, critical, excellent, eventful barefaced, assassination, lonely, leapfrog, indistinguishable, well-read, zany, and countless others (including countless)."
For anyone who loves language, Bryson's book is a marvelous, informative read. And if your children are past the early primary grades of school, you may find that they will be intrigued and stimulated by conversations on this topic. You can find out more at http://www.amazon.com/Shakespeare-World-Stage-Eminent-Lives/dp/0060740221
Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh recently announced some interesting results of a brain imaging study of dyslexic students and other poor readers. They showed that with intensive remedial instruction, the brain can permanently rewire itself and overcome reading deficits.
The study was published in the August issue of the journal Neuropsychologia. It consisted of 25 poor fifth-grader readers who worked in groups of three for an hour a day with a teacher specialized in administering a remedial reading program. The training included both word decoding exercises in which students were asked to recognize the word in its written form and tasks in using reading comprehension strategies.
This brain imaging study was the first in which children were tested on their understanding of sentences, not just on their recognition of single words. The sentences were relatively straightforward ones, which the children judged as being sensible or nonsense, such as "The girl closed the gate" and "The man fed the dress." The children's accurate sensibility judgments ensured that they were actually processing the meaning of the sentences, and not just recognizing the individual words.
The imaging studies show that the remedial instruction resulted in an increase in brain activity in several cortical regions associated with reading, particularly the parietotemporal area, which is responsible for decoding the sounds of written language and assembling them into words and phrases that make up a sentence. Even more significantly the neural gains became further solidified during the year following instruction--even when the specialized instruction was not maintained.
As with all good research, the study raises a number of important questions. For example, since change was so rapid when given appropriate input, one has to wonder what was occurring in early development to close off the children's attention to that sort of information. Similarly, since the techniques that are used are similar to those that take place in the classroom, we need to find out what is happening in the classroom to prevent the children's benefiting from the instruction when it is offered.
This sort of study is one in a growing body of research demonstrating the plasticity of the human brain. So the implications reach far beyond improving literacy skills. For more information, go tohttp://www.cmu.edu/news/archive/2008/August/aug5_rewirebrain.shtml
Some years ago, a colleague--Laura Berlin--and I were attracted by the wealth of educational software programs that were appearing on the scene. To help parents make decisions in this area that was so new and unfamiliar, we wrote (for Microsoft), a book titled Parent's Guide to Educational Software. We were certain that this would be the beginning of burgeoning field.
The years that followed showed us that our vision was definitely not 20-20. Educational software seemed largely to vanish, or at least be buried under an avalanche of Nintendo and related entertainment. However, the field is not quite moribund. If you would like to get an idea of some of what is currently available, it's worthwhile to read an interview with David Dockterman, the VP Tom Snyder Productions. That company, over the years, has steadily produced outstanding programs. You may well find some of their latest programs to be ideal for enhancing your child's learning.http://ednews.org/articles/27971/1/An-Interview-with-David-quotDockquot-Dockterman--The-Changing-Nature-of-Educational-Software/Page1.html
If you've picked up a student's backpack recently, its weight may well have surprised you. Those books can be incredibly heavy. Now, through the rise of e-textbook sales, that may change--lightening both the backpacks and the strain on pocketbooks. Sales of digital books for college students jumped almost 30% from 2006 to 2007.
This development has been taking place over the 15 to 20 years, but it is now starting to take off. During that time, college textbook prices have soared at twice the rate of inflation. Undergraduates at four-year public universities spent an average of nearly $1,000 on textbooks and supplies during the past academic year. Students have been looking for affordable alternatives, and the digital market seems to be offering an answer. For example, about 95 percent of McGraw-Hill's current college textbooks are available in the electronic version.
One way students access the books is to pay at the campus bookstore where they receive a code and access the book online with a username and password. They can buy a subscription for a set period of time such as 180, 360 or 540 days. However, unlike a traditional book, e-books cannot be accessed after their purchase period ends. Another restriction to their wider use is that they do not as yet have enough interactive features.
E-textbooks are still a small but rapidly growing part of the $5.5 billion college textbook industry. The National Association of College Stores found that 18 percent of students bought or accessed digital textbooks available to them on campus.
As one college senior said, “It's the natural segue for textbooks to go. I'm always on the computer and I'm always utilizing the Internet, and to have a one-stop shop where your textbook is on the computer is a fabulous marriage of multitasking.” Many of the e-textbooks have audio, video and search capabilities.
This development is still in its infancy. For those of us interested in the delivery of reading systems, it should be fascinating to watch its development.