Aug 24, 2012

I guess games can make kids smarter

In the last five years, the use of video-game-like math software in K-12 educational programs has grown exponentially. Every day, more studies are released regarding whether or not the use of software is actually making an appreciable difference in the mathematical skills of children and young adults. The findings are wide-ranging, and the results often seem to have more to do with how the software is incorporated into the current curriculum as opposed to the software itself. However, this statistical variability regarding efficacy has not stopped a number of companies from releasing their own educational software, and some companies have found alternative ways of packaging their products.

Programs like DimensionU have been especially successful. Part math software, part video game, the equation-based product requires students to solve Algebra puzzles to advance. It can be played against other teams all over the world via the Internet, and is currently used in a number of junior high and high school classes around the world. In Hawaii, it is currently being used at Waipahu High School, and since its implementation, 80% of the students have increased their math scores. As Waipahu High is the only school in Hawaii using the program, it has provided a highly focused sample of whether the software is having the desired affect. In this case, the answer is clear.

Kids spend a tremendous amount of time playing video games; according to a Kaiser Family Foundation Study, an average of 1:13 min per day. Think of the impact if this time were redirected towards education. But will a math video game every be as fun as blowing away zombies or flying your very own x-wing? That remains to be seen.

Original pot by FastFig Blog

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May 8, 2012

Treat the Children Affectionately

Only 29 countries in the world explicitly ban all forms of violence by law. It’s surprising, but the idea that a slap is the solution to lots of problems is still widely accepted. Truthfully, do we treat our children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren with affection? Is the way in which we relate to them free from violence?

It is essential to educate with affection, without violence. And it is also possible. It is vital in order to guarantee our children’s development and a future of fairer and more peaceful societies. Fathers, mothers, institutions and organisations must develop a common approach: one which satisfies each and every need for each phase of a child’s development, and the respect for the rights described in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

As adults and guardians of our children this is the path that should be followed, the only one. We must protect our boys and girls, care for and cuddle them, but also provide them with the tools and capacities they need to develop and reach their full potential. In short, offer them the opportunity to have a better future. But how do we go about it?

The main thing is to integrate and incorporate these guidelines into our daily routines, social policies, and encourage them in the interpersonal relationships between children and their day-to-day at school, at home, or during extracurricular activities. High expectations and not enough affection and communication? Lower expectations and more affection and communication? Neither. It is about finding a balance. Finding the exact dose of affection and expectation, combined in a responsible way, and prioritising the best interests of the child, respecting his or her right to participate and express views freely in relation to the aspects that affect him or her.

Positive parenting is based on the rights of children and involves establishing the necessary limits so that they can develop their full potential as a member of the family and the community they live in. Positive parenting means respecting their rights and educating them, without resorting to physical punishment or any other kind of violence.

It is our obligation and responsibility to ensure that children grow up in a family environment that gives them security, love and understanding. This is the best way to guarantee a child’s full physical, emotional and social development. However, it is still a considerable challenge in many parts of the world and the statistics from some countries do not leave one indifferent.

Fathers and mothers need support in order to exercise their roles in a responsible and positive way. In order to carry out their educational and social task they need more policies and programs that promote an education based on good treatment and affection, and favour the social, employment and financial conditions needed to be able to do so. It is vital to promote and favour positive parenting, as it is the best way to prevent abuse and child exclusion.

Educating and imposing discipline without using violence, without resorting to punishment, be it physical or psychological, is possible.

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Mar 6, 2012

Ata BeLibi - You're in My Heart


You are in my heart
You are the child I bore from love, with love
I dreamed of raising you in a world of tranquility
I hoped to always keep a tear away from you

You are in my heart,
you are the flower that smiles in my soul,
in my soul.
You flow in my blood and in every breath
And for me you will be a chick even when you grow up

G'd, guard the light of my eyes *
Guard my children that blossom
Look over them, and guard them for me
What is my life without them
G'd, guard the light of my eyes....

You are in my heart,
you penetrate from my throat,
weaved in my songs, in adversities
My heart goes out to you in difficult times
For me you will be a chick even when you are in uniform

So much in my heart,
You will learn the hard way, to make mistakes and pay their price
The pain will be yours
If I could only fail instead of you
How will I make sure you will be happy tomorrow

G'd, guard the light of my eyes...*

Singers, Oma and Moshe Datz
Thanks to Phill Moss and Chana Shuvaly (Words translated by Phil Moss of Chicago-USA, assisted by Chana Shuvaly of Melbourne-Australia).

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Feb 12, 2012

Bilingualism Gives Kids an Advantage

Study finds all bilingualism gives kids an advantage

All bilingual children – regardless of the languages they speak – show cognitive advantages over their English-only peers, although they may experience weakness in areas like vocabulary acquisition, says a new study by York University researchers.

The study, published today in the journal Child Development, examined the effects of specific language pairings on children’s verbal and non-verbal development, taking into account language similarities, cultural background and educational experiences.

Researchers compared more than 100 six-year-old monolingual and bilingual children (English monolinguals, Chinese-English bilinguals, French-English bilinguals and Spanish-English bilinguals), measuring their verbal and non-verbal cognitive development. The children were all public school students from the Greater Toronto Area and of similar socio-economic background.

The study reports that bilingual children differ from each other and from monolingual children in how they develop language and cognitive skills through the early school years. Children who grow up speaking two languages generally have slower language acquisition in each language than children raised speaking just one language. However, they have better “metalinguistic” development that gives them a deeper understanding of the structure of language, a skill that’s important for literacy. They also perform better on tests of non-verbal executive control, which measure the ability to focus attention where necessary without being distracted, and to shift attention when required.

“Our research shows that it doesn’t matter what the other language is – all bilingual children have an equal advantage over monolinguals in terms of non-verbal cognitive control,” says study co-author Ellen Bialystok, DistinguishedResearch Professor in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health.

Study co-author Ellen Bialystok

“People always ask if the languages themselves matter – and now we can definitively say, ‘no.’”

In terms of language acquisition, however, the study shows that some types of bilingualism – particularly where the languages are similar in origin – may have slight advantages over others. For example, Spanish-English bilinguals outperformed Chinese-English bilinguals and monolinguals on a test of English phonological awareness.

“There is really no generalized verbal outcome of bilingualism,” says Bialystok. “In terms of the language consequences of bilingualism, we found it matters very much what the other language is, what language is used in school and likely other factors as well,” she says.

Even though bilingual children may be somewhat slower in learning the vocabulary of each of their languages, Bialystok emphasizes that the benefits of speaking more than one language far outweigh any drawbacks. In previous studies, she and other researchers established that bilingualism postpones symptoms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“The benefits of bilingualism are evident in every stage of life, from early childhood through to one’s senior years. If children are in a position to learn and speak another language, parents should definitely do everything to encourage that,” she says.

The study, “Bilingual Effects on Cognitive and Linguistic Development: Role of Language, Cultural Background and Education”, is co-authored by Raluca Barac, a PhD student in York’s Faculty of Health. The research is supported by the US National Institutes of Health.

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Feb 6, 2012

Tu B'Shevat: New Year of The Trees

This Year (5772 / 2012), Tu (the 15th) B'Shvat, the Rosh Hashana (New Year) of the Trees, falls on Wednesday, February 8, 2012. As all Jewish Holidays do, Tu B'Shvat begins sundown Tuesday evening, February 7, 2012 and ends at nightfall on Wednesday, February 8, 2012.

Tu B'Shvat is a celebration of continuity. After all, what says "I am here for you just as I was here for your fathers, and I will be here for your children just as I am here for you" like a tree. In some cases, it takes longer than one lifetime for a tree to come to "fruition."

The Talmud tells us that by this point in the year, the majority of the rainfall to come during the year has already arrived. Therefore, the trees have already started to grow, and this is the time when fruits begin forming on the trees. Because the fruits begin to grow at this time, it is fitting that we start the New Year for the tree (which has significance to the fruits produced and the gifts the fruit are subject to) at this time.

In Eretz Yisroel, the 15th of Shvat is the day when new sap starts to rise in the trees. It is a time of rejuvenation. It teaches us the important lesson that even in times that seem darkest, there is new life, in times of sorrow there is hope, and in times of Galut, (exile) there is the light of Moshiach.

There are varied customs regarding eating fruit on Tu B'Shvat. Some have the custom to eat the seven species of fruits that grow in Eretz Yisroel. This "Top Seven" selection is based on a verse in Devarim: (8,8) "...a land of WHEAT and BARLEY and (GRAPE) VINES and FIG trees and POMEGRANATES, a land of OLIVE trees and (DATE) honey." Others have a custom of eating fifteen species of fruit (the "top 7" and eight more). In today’s "global fruitopia," where fruits from all over the world are available from our grocers, we mix it up: starting with the "top 7", we move on to local fruity favorites and throw in a "new fruit" (that we haven't eaten this year) in order to be able to make the Bracha (blessing) of Shehechiyanu.

What better way to celebrate the birthday of trees than to actually plant a tree. There are all kinds of organizations and groups that are dedicated to planting trees in the forests of Eretz Yisroel. You can also plant a tree in your own neck of the woods if you want to. Tu B'Shvat is the perfect time to protest deforestation and the shrinking of the rain forests, although there's no particular mitzvah to do so.

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Feb 4, 2012

Until Tomorrow

This song is for everyone, children or not, who are concerned about tomorrow. Our children will be those who will lead the world in the future, we must give love to them, protect them from evil and the concerns, to grow without fear with gentle character.

UNTIL TOMORROW - Ad Machar (Eviatar Banai - Israeli Musician)

You should not think
When you're so tired,
Go for a walk at sunrise.

Far from home
The trail that leads back is cleared
Walking on a Wire (tightrope)

The nights are long,
Without knowing why,
You're running and there is no pursuer.

Until tomorrow,
In a little while
A child runs to you,
and embraces you.

We will circulate in the park,
Just stop thinking,
The people are tired of running in the street.

We've been here before,
In a role reversal (when we were kids),
A quick walk to wear out the body.

Until tomorrow,
In a little while
A child runs to you,
Embraces you.

There's a hole in the fence
Among the vines,
Among the vine,
only foxes cause damage.
The fear and the lamentations go away.

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