Dear Blake Families:
After another busy week, I hope that everyone was able to enjoy a nice weekend. We had a nice one, playing outside with the kids, attending sports events, watching the Preakness, and visiting with friends. I want to thank and recognize the staff who chaperoned our May dance this past Friday evening: Eileen Hurley, Deb Manning, Elise Malone, Kelly Dengos, Brian Gavaghan, Amanda Santucci, Cynthia McClelland, Kelly Campbell, and Travis Taliaferro. The students were wonderful, and I appreciate the cross-section of volunteers to chaperone to help provide a safe and positive experience for our students.
As I have shared before, this time of year is certainly a busy one as we are planning for the 2013-2014 academic year while working to ensure that we are providing a thoughtful educational experience for the end of our current year. In this regard, this past week seemed more full than usual for me with interviews, meetings, planning for our trip to Washington, DC., and the day-to-day work that needs to be addressed. We all have many responsibilities and it is a critical skill as educators to continue to find effective strategies for juggling all of the tasks that come our way. More and more I find myself, and hear others as well, talking about the skill of 'multitasking' being a core trait that we must develop and continue to foster. Because the reality of our lives, both professionally and personally, are becoming more complex we, at least I know that I, feel that we must be able to juggle all of the tasks - an inherent 'pull' is felt from many sides. However, when I am able to sit back and take a breath, I begin to recognize that the ability to focus on 'a task at hand', rather than 'all of the tasks at hand', is the key. In this vein I have posted an article of interest from Mindshift entitled, 'How Does Multitasking Change the Way Kids Learn?' by Annie Murphy Paul. Paul references studies on the influence that technology, and in particular, media multitasking, has had on learning: "Attending to multiple streams of information and entertainment while studying, doing homework, or even sitting in class has become common behavior among young people - so common that many of them rarely write a paper or complete a problem set any other way. But evidence from psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience suggests that when students multitask while doing schoolwork, their learning is far spottier and shallower than if the work had their full attention." She then goes on to highlight five negative outcomes that occur when multitasking takes place during homework: "...assignments take longer to complete...mental fatigue...students' subsequent memory of what they're working on will be impaired if their attention is divided...when we're distracted, our brains process and store information in different, less useful ways...media multitasking while learning is negatively associated with students' grades." These conclusions may lead one to argue that technology should not be introduced and that social media should not be employed at all, but I do not think it is 'black and white'. I believe it is a reminder that students, and adults for that matter, need parameters set and structures in place to be successful. Our role for our students and children is to help establish these structures and to help instill the understanding and inherent value of these parameters in their own minds. I believe that this practice will also help serve as reminders for ourselves. Speaking solely for myself, just reading this article has made me rethink my current practices. As with many aspects of our work with students and children, balance is critical and we also need to make sure we are taking time recognize the currency of our students' lives, as Paul shares her takeaway for parents at the end of her piece: "Stop fretting about how much they're on Facebook. Don't harass them about how much they play video games. The digital native boosters are right that this is the social and emotional world in which young people live. Just make sure when they're doing schoolwork, the cell phones are silent, the video screens are dark, and that every last window is closed but one."
When challenged by the many influences that are tugging our attention and trying to multitask, I also believe it is important for all of us to find strategies to alleviate stress and tension. These relievers may be different for all of us, but it is important that we each try and find the aspects of our interests that truly fulfill us and help shift our mindsets to maintain a productive balance. As you know I thoroughly enjoy reading literature about educational trends and interests, and the subsequent process of reflection that ensues while reading truly feeds me. One of our hopes for our students is to help foster a love of learning, and a traditional component of this endeavor is the hope to instill a 'love of reading'. This interest is shared by many adults alike, and with SSR and our summer reading program, we are striving to ignite that passion for our middle schoolers. With this in mind I have posted an article by Holly Korbey, 'Why Reading Aloud to Older Children is Valuable', from Mindshift. Korbey's article cites research and also references Jim Trelease (author of The Read-Aloud Handbook) as she notes the value of reading aloud to adolescents. As we continue to delve into the realm of thoughtful integration of technology and help our children (and ourselves) navigate this world of multitasking, we need to be sure that we are keep some of our tried-and-true tenets, such as reading aloud to one another, in mind.
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