Digital Fitness, Web/Tech

Project Tomorrow, have conducted a survey into a wide range of subjects relating to education. Talking to children, teachers and parents about how schools are preparing children for the future, focusing heavily on technology.

Part of the survey is on Educational Gaming, an area where I think there is a huge potential. It is also an area that is notorious for bad software. For educational gaming (or brain training or digital fitness) to work, it must be fun but most educational games are dire. For games to teach effectively they must use the same methods and have the same investment in development as a best selling game, but I digress.

The survey found that only 3% of elementary school kids don’t play computer games in one form or another. When asked about the value of gaming technologies within learning, students in grades 6-12 responded with :

Games make it easier to understand difficult concepts – 51%

I would be more engaged in the subject – 50%

I would learn more about the subject – 46% (56% of students in K-2 chose this as their #1 reason)

It would be more interesting to practice problems – 44%

Indicating that children what to learn through games because they understand how games allow them to explore, to practice and develop skills at their own pace and in their own way.

Though educational games are not universally supported, over 50% of teachers want to use games more and 11% said they currently use games.

Source: 21st Century Students Deserve a 21st Century Education [ PDF ]. The section about games is on page 4.

Web/Tech

Encephalon is a traveling smorgasbord of neurology and psychology that tantalises you with tit-bits of science. This edition is hosted by Living the Scientific Life and features a range of interesting articles including this one on suicide: Black Box Warnings on Antidepressants Backfires

After a 2003 report linking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, with increased suicide rates among children and teen agers was published, the use of this class of antidepressants in these age groups has decreased dramatically. This led to a change in labeling in 2003 that warned that use of the medications could increase suicidal thoughts and behavior among youths. Sadly, this ‘black box’ warning has caused a decrease in prescriptions for SSRI antidepressants which appears to have has triggered a sharp increase in suicide rates for these age groups, according to two papers that have recently been published.

Encephalon 33 will be hosted by GNIF Brainblogger on October 8th. Of course, next issue’s hosts are seeking your contributions for their issue of Encephalon, so be sure to check in with them for the deadline for sending in your submissions!

Medication, Web/Tech

Can you match ten drug safety warnings to their drugs?

“Vision changes, such as seeing a blue tinge to objects or having difficulty telling the difference between the colors blue and green.” Also, “An erection that won’t go away”

“Babies born to mothers who have taken [this drug] in the latter half of pregnancy have reported complications, including difficulties with breathing, turning blue, floppiness, stiffness, irritability or constant crying.”

From Mental Floss

Dore Achievement Centres, Web/Tech

Back in December 2006, I wrote that Dore needed to create a public forum to discuss their treatment.

By creating a public space that anyone can post to, Dore is saying to the world that they don’t need to sell the product because it is so good it sells itself. Those scientists and others who attack Dore for bad science or for being overly commercial will have to explain why so many customers are writing about how it helped them. By placing everything in the public domain, by allowing potential customers to decide for themselves, Dore could do away with his sales people, saving Dore hundreds of thousands a year, allowing him to reduce his prices and making the Dore Program even more popular.

In June, Dore launched a forum to do just this. Looking in on it today I can see that in the ten weeks since its launched, 29 people have posts 101 messages. This isn’t very many for a company with 25+ treatment centers around the world and a product that on other ADHD / Dyslexia forums, the very mention of it can produce 100’s of comments.

So what is wrong with the forums?

The front page is disaster. Rather than being about Dore its about the software running the forums. This is insane. Its like opening a brand new shop and leaving the windows full of adverts for the shop-fitters. This is going to confuse and put off first time visitors to the website and the forum cannot afford to do that because its getting so few visitors.

How do I know its getting few visitors? Because there are no links to the forums from anywhere, let alone Dore’s own websites. There is no link from Dore’s UK site, Dore’s Australian site, Dore’s US site or it’s New Zealand site. All these websites have ‘News’ sections and the launch of a public Dore forum is the perfect material to go in them. On top of that, on the front page of every single Dore site there should be link in big letters saying ‘Find out what people on the programme are saying in the Dore Talk forums’. Finally Dore should get in touch with blogs that cover ADHD and dyslexia. There are quite a number out there and many would link to the forums.

All these links will drive people to the forums and that will go a long way to making the forums what they need to be but it takes more that lots of visitors to make it a success. Over time, forums develop a sense of community and make them a place people visit to find out information but stay because they enjoy the company. You cannot create or buy a community spirit like that but you can encourage it. Dore staff should be posting something new everyday. Hints for getting the exercises done, success stories, personal observations from having watched 100’s of people do the programme. The forum has to look alive to entice people to stay.

It is early days for the forum but their future looks dim if Dore cannot get its act together enough to link its own websites to the forums.

Web/Tech

We had a little downtime over the weekend leaving some or all of Myomancy inaccessible. It was a minor problem to do with our new server and everything is now fixed.

Science, Web/Tech

Which web sites are the most significant for human progress? Off the top of my head I can think of three that make a real difference not just to me but all of humanity. Wikipedia is one, Google Scholar is another but my third choice may not be so familiar, MIT Open Courseware.

MIT is one of the major US university and a centre for world class teaching and research. A few years ago it started releasing its course notes and lectures free over the internet. Allowing anyone to access top-notch education materials that were previously only available to a tiny handful of people.

The range of courses is amazing, covering astronautics to women’s studies. For the Myomancy reader, there are courses on the Neural Basis of Movement, the Neural Basis of Learning and Memory or Language and Mind. These courses are not cut down, bite-sized chunks but educational material designed for top-class university students. Consequently they are hard work. However if you really want to improve your understanding of a subject, there is no better resource.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Web/Tech

Why do millions of parents give their kids stimulants such as Ritalin or Adderall despite the health risks? The simple answer is because many children show an immediate improvement in behaviour when taking they start taking them. To a worried and stressed parent this can seem like a miracle and worth putting up with the drug’s side-effects. The trouble is that the drugs do not treat the underlying causes of ADHD (whatever you believe them to be). The human body also builds up a tolerance to the drugs requiring ever high-doses and it may expose the child to serious problems when they reach adulthood.

My thoughts on this were prompted by a post on My ADD Blog featuring a video made by an parent and his ADHD child, talking about how medication has dramatically helped. Its worth watching in order to understand the appeal of medication. It also touches on the role of parent’s with ADHD and how that effects their children.

Watch the video: Lil’ Renetto… talking about ADHD… and making videos...

Dyslexia, Web/Tech

The Eide Neurolearning Blog has a good post on the difference between poor readers who have problems decoding the text and poor readers who have problems comprehending the text.

In this very straightforward study, the authors point out the mistake of thinking that interventions should be the same for all readers in the poor reading group. Children with dyslexia and children with a more generalized language disorder have different learning needs, but they can’t be distinguished by comprehension alone.

Beyond the Poor Reading Group