Lowntheil Collection of African-American Photographs at Cornell University

Educators wishing to enrich their senior high school social studies or  college curriculum or to help commemorate African American History Month should check out the Lowentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, available through Cornell University.

This rich collection of historical photographs from the time of slavery to the modern era is an incredible research and educational opportunity. These digitized photos are a compelling look at “how black people in American saw themselves and were seen by others,” according to Cheryl Finley, associate professor of art.

It took several years of painstaking work to digitize and organize these photographs to be made available to the wider public.

There are so many ways an educator could use these photographs from the Lowentheil Collection of African-American photographs. For sure, to glimpse the attire, hair styles and posing of the time period. But also, to understand the essential humanity captured in the photos.

For sure, an American History teacher could find these valuable artifacts to deepen the understanding of the time period. Students can scan the gallery and answer questions about what is observed. They can begin getting an understanding of how a historian would use primary source material for research. Additionally, you can help them develop an appreciation of the great role that media specialists and archivists play in recording the history of our culture.

I can also imagine using these photographs in a creative writing context. The clothes, the facial expressions, the poses of these African-American subjects could be used as a “prompt” for a creative writing, free write. Simply look at the picture and imagine the story of the person in the photo. Imagine what was happening in their lives during the time of the photographs. What was important to them? What were they thinking and feeling and dreaming?

What genre would best fit the image titled, “Portrait of a Man?” A poem, an essay, a short story? For some reason, I see him possibly giving a speech, what about you?

I believe our colleagues in the Fine Arts classes would find much to commend about the photographers effort in “Men and children dancing” from 1886. What do you think of the staging and the intensity in which the boy in the foreground stares at the camera? How has the camera and film technology changed since the era of these older photographs? Stylistically rich and visually appealing, these photographs would enliven any photography classroom discussion. 

Any educator with a passion for celebrating the difficult work of curatorial research and of experiencing a profound glimpse into the power of the humanities to close the gap of time, would find spending time with this digital collection gratifying.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How can this digital collection help us better understand this time period?
  2. How has the photographic technology changed?
  3. What is the importance of primary source material in historical research?
  4. What can we learn about the subjects in this collection- are there generalizable characteristics or is it best to understand the subjects individually?
  5. Why do you think Cornell believed it was important to share this resource?
  6. How else could you use this collection in your own class or professional development setting?

For a link to an article in the Cornell Chronicle by Melanie Lefkowitz, please click here.

For a link to the Lowentheil Collection of African American Photographs, please click here. 

Do Video Game Ratings Labels Work?

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Yes, according to Iowa State University marketing professor Russell Laczniak.

In an excellent article posted by writer Angie Hunt, Laczniak states, “Parents must actually mediate kids purchase and play of video games, which requires effort and time.”

Professor Laczniak and his associates conducted the research by surveying 220 families online. The survey had questions for parents as well as children. Interestingly, the research respondents were primarily dyads of mothers and sons. He focused on children in the age range of 8-12 as that seemed to be a heightened time of cognitive change and growing influence of peers.

It is essential that parents must actually intervene and influence both the purchase of video games, but also the time that their child spends on video games. So, parents need to set clear limits and implement them consistently in order to have a positive impact.

So, what is this positive impact-simply reducing the number of hours playing video game? According to Laczniak and colleagues, the impact is so much more.  The article suggests that when video game use is limited in this age group, the children are less likely to demonstrate acting out behaviors. This comes as no surprise to most of us who have worked in education for a while, but is important to have yet more data that leads to this conclusion.

Previous research notes, that a particular parenting style also has the most impact on successful implementing the limits- parents who are warm and restrictive as opposed to “anxious” tend to have the best results. I think there is a body of evidence that shows that this is important in any parental interaction, not simply in the limitation of video game watching. Please also check out the science tab of Wide Open Research for further information on being a digitally wise parent or educator.

This is great research and all parents and educators would want to read the article. Teachers of Psychology, Child Development, Parenting, Marketing for sure could use this for a productive discussion. Teachers of an Intro to Law, or Media Studies course could use this to discuss the larger legal and cultural role that video games play in our society.

A few takeaways for teachers and administrators to share with parents:

  1. Read the labels on video games and follow their guidance.
  2. Calmly and firmly tell your child that you will not buy or let them play video games that are “too old” for them. Explain that you are trying to help them become the best students and people possible and this is going to help. Do not have an extended debate.
  3. Provide an alternative activity for the child.
  4. Network with other parents and educators who hold similar values. Common Sense Media is a great resource. 

Question for Discussion

  1. What is your experience in playing violent video games?
  2. Why do they hold such a fascination in our culture?
  3. Are these games popular throughout the world? Where?Who tends to play these games the most?
  4. What are some limitations of this research?
  5. How could professor Laczniak and his colleagues conduct follow up research?
  6. What do you think of the suggestions noted in the article regarding other ways companies could show a game’s rating? What other ways can you think of to help parents make more informed choices regarding video game use?
  7. Perhaps the creative teachers would like to help their students develop Public Service Announcements, to help parents use this research?
  8. What else does this inspire you to “learn, dream, do?”

Creativity in Art and Science from UCLA

Every day in the classroom, it feels like the challenge to inspire and motivate our students to think critically and creatively is just getting harder.

Using the “little gray cells” as Hercule Poirot does is more difficult than ever with the numerous distractions confronting our students.

I was pleased to come across this charming video shared by Reggie Kumar from UCLA.

It features scientific researchers talking about the mysterious source of inspiration being akin to how an artist might create. Not simply starting from a preconceived notion, but using imagination and visualization to understand a problem or process. I also really loved how the researchers spoke of the essential need to have solid fundamental skills to make great art and science. So often, we see students have the tendency to jump right to the “cool” stuff without having a firm grasp of the foundational knowledge or skills.

With compelling graphics and a great “chill” soundtrack, this video might provoke a few good conversations. It’ll at least provide a bit of inspiration for you to get back in there tomorrow and do the good work of inspiring the generation of “dreamers, makers, learners and doers!”

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Water Changes

Your Brain on Protein-Research from Bowling Green State University

Dr. Huber at Bowling Green State University has published research showing the impact of protein on the experience of the “food coma”- the state of lethargy one often has after a meal.

In this article by Bonnie Blankinship, Dr. Huber explains his research in fruit flies that helped to identify this and a possible explanation as to why this might be- perhaps sleep helps to process the ingested protein. Perhaps too, as protein is an “expensive” protein, that it is it requires a greater expenditure of energy to obtain, then  perhaps the fly is simply depleted.

Interestingly, time of day is also correlated to the fruit fly experiencing lethargy.

I love how this article talks about the details of how Dr. Huber conducted this research. He uses computer sensors and video tracking to record the details of the fly’s movement and activity level to note when it eats and sleeps.

“In one second we can get a thousand data points,” according to the article.

Wouldn’t your students benefit from such a lab?

I really also look forward to Dr. Huber’s future collaboration on creating a “fruit fly soundscape” with composer Reiko Yamada. I think it really shows the power of an inquisitive mind and the importance of collaboration.

Sharing this article with any student to help highlight not only this fascinating research but also to demonstrate some of the essential elements of research literacy- curiosity, interdisciplinary collaboration, and critical thinking.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is a “food coma?”
  2. Why does Dr. Huber study the fruit fly?
  3. What is a drosophila?
  4. Describe how Dr. Huber conducted this research?
  5. What sparked his interest in this subject?
  6. What does he say about behavior?
  7. What other implications are there for this research?
  8. What important traits of research literacy does this article highlight?
  9. How else could you use this article to inspire your students?

 

Fuel Efficiency Index-University of Chicago Research

For a great look at using economics attempting to solve environmental problems, read Vicki Ekstrom High’s article on  University of Chicago professor Ryan Kellogg’s research.

Kellogg has developed an approach to using a “market” approach to developing fuel efficiency standards, based on the cost of gasoline. So, when the cost of gasoline is higher, the fuel efficiency standards would go higher with the assumption that consumers would purchase more fuel efficient vehicles.

If the gas prices are lower, the fuel efficiency standards will go down as consumers are likely to purchase larger “gas-guzzlers.” The assumption then is that it would not put undue burden on auto makers to develop cars that might very high standards.

Based on Kellogg’s research the market will develop an optimal response to this that maximizes fuel efficiency in times of high gas prices while not straining the auto makers in times of low gas prices to achieve high emissions standards that are mismatched to consumer preference.

Kellogg suggests that this “Fuel Efficiency Index” approach (my nomenclature) provides a better response than the current system which is based on wheel base size and does not require congressional legislation.

According to Kellogg”…. it provides the maximum benefit to consumers and the general public by reducing greenhouse gas pollution at the lowest possible cost.”

Teachers of  Economics, Ecology, Automotive Engineering would find this research worth sharing with their students.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why does Kellogg’s research provide a better solution than the current system?
  2. What assumptions are imbedded in Kellogg’s research?
  3. What data do you think professor Kellogg used to develop his new solution?
  4. What are the fluctuations in gasoline prices noted in the graph in this article?
  5. Over what period of time would this Fuel Efficiency Index need to cover to be practical for automakers and consumers?
  6. How would this solution be implemented?
  7. If you were a policy maker, what other data would you want to analyze before agreeing with professor Kellogg’s Fuel Efficiency Index?

We are Montana in the Classroom-University of Montana Outreach

Congratulations to the University of Montana for sharing their faculty with K-12 students. through the We are Montana in the Classroom program in which  faculty connect with K-12 teachers and students, through distance learning.

Recent events included discussion on Native American Studies:Human Rights by Dr. Shanley and Iva Coff, What is it Like to be  a Chemist? by Dr. Thomas, Moses Leavens, and Ranaldo Tsosie.

What I love about these interactions is that they include faculty and graduate student not only sharing their research, but sharing their story on how they chose to pursue higher education.

For so many of our students higher education seems out of reach or simply an abstract concept as they may not have people in their social networks with extensive higher education or backgrounds in higher education. Simply having the opportunity to interact with the faculty and graduate students about the fascinating research they may be engaged in, but also just about what higher education is all really like can help dispel the many misconceptions that a student may have.

I love these resources that they shared as well. Please check them out and share them with your fellow educators!

Your Brain On Learning-University of Alabama Research

What if everything we “know” as educators is wrong?

Thanks to advances in neuroscience, we are likely to be exposed to revolutionary new ideas about how the brain actually learns that will fundamentally alter the way we do our jobs each day.

Sigh.

And I was just getting used to the new curriculum….

The good news is in University of Alabama writer David Miller’s article on neuroscience research on learning. According to researchers at the University of Alabama is that it will probably take ten years for the research to make its way to the classroom level, according to assistant professor, Dr. Firat Soylu- so don’t delete those slide shows just yet!

The even better news, is that much of this research will hopefully take the guess work out of how we think students learn and make differentiated instruction seem quaint, as we hopefully will be able to truly individualize instruction, so each student can learn the way they learn best.

In an ideal world, this will allow computers to handle the basic knowledge acquisition of memorization, solving basic formulas, understanding vocabulary and allow teachers to focus on developing research literacy through critical thinking, project based learning, labs, and other more cognitively complex classroom activities.

Now is a great time to introduce your students to the basics of neuroscience and the fMRI gear that are the tools of the trade.

Who knows, maybe your principal will get you that EEG machine after all?

For additional information on Dr. Soylu’s work, which includes an insightful review of educational neuroscience research and discusses several lesson designs which can likely enhance student learning, please see the article The Thinking Hand:Embodiment of Tool Use, Social Cognition, and Metaphorical Thinking and Implications for Learning Design.  The learning design method of perspective taking as exemplified in the section “Being the Sensor” as great utility for a wide variety of classroom settings.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does fMRI stand for?
  2. How does it work?
  3. How is it different than a traditional MRI?
  4. How much does it cost?
  5. What is tDCS?
  6. Are you a skeptic- does this seem like just another research “fad?” What evidence do you base your skepticism on?
  7. What teaching practices are you doing now, that are likely a bit behind the times?
  8. What do you want to know about neuroscience to help you be a better educator?
  9. How can you use this information to inspire your students?