Apparently rats can be taught to play hide and seek with humans, according to a new study. They know to be quiet when it is their turn to hide. They make noises when they are seeking. They also know to hide in opaque places rather than transparent ones when they are hiding so as not to be seen. Pretty cool!
Technology is a useful tool for a few things in life and in the educational world. Only a few things. One is for record keeping. The other is its use as a creative medium, akin to musical instruments or paint. There is another final use which is a two-edged sword. It is useful for tracking down information if you are properly trained in critical, logical, and skeptical thought. But it is not a tool made for delivering that found content in a way which partners with how our brains process information. That makes this last use of technology an enticing intellectual danger. This is because it has been determined definitively at this point that consuming anything more than surface level content digitally is counterproductive to memory formation and deep thought. But this fast acquisition of surface content is highly addictive to people. And as they consume more and more of this shallow type of content, people lose the ability to wrestle with deep content. I have lost count of how many of my friends and acquaintances over the years have told me they used to read books all the time. But now they can't. The book The Shallows, a Pulitzer Prize finalist book by Nicholas Carr, answers why they can't. It answered why I couldn't. That book scared the daylights out of me. There is a reason it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist the year it came out. And now the latest studies of reading for pleasure among children show that they are doing less and less of it. I remember when the Harry Potter books came out and we teachers thought we were entering a golden age of children reading as young student after student heaved around those thick books everywhere they went. This was the case even in the inner-city schools, where I was a teacher at the time. But that was right before the internet, smart phones, myspace and its followers, and of course YouTube. You rarely see students doing that in the school hallways anymore. Look in their backpacks. Very few will have a book of any weight in it anymore (that they chose for pleasure).
There was a time I was totally consumed by the technology world. I was a computer science teacher and ran a side business doing computer consulting for small businesses and private schools. I was programming and running my school district's virtual learning environment in my spare time. I was the webmaster for whatever school I was teaching at. I was sending out daily humorous emails pointing out tips for technology use in the classroom that were read by county office administrators and school teachers at different schools and archived on the county's email servers publicly for other teachers to refer back to at their leisure. I trained students to become international champions in international computer programming competitions. I believed technology was the key to better educating our students. And then I started to see the first truly scientific studies coming out about technology's effects on people. And the results were all, without exception, disturbing. Then I read the book The Shallows and began a very painful sea change in my opinion on the uses of technology. Eventually I unplugged from technology for the most part. And I found I was the happier and more peaceful for it. After years of getting my bearings while avoiding most of technology (becoming a virtual luddite), I reentered technology usage in a far more nuanced and careful way. And my life has been the better for it.
This article in the Times, points out the lie that is currently infecting our school systems and draining our budgets, and discusses a little of the research surrounding why it is truly a lie.
Link: The Times
Alan Leshner, the interim CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (The United States' most prestigious and influential professional organization devoted to science), put out an editorial this month, in the journal Science, in response to many in our country trying to use mental illness as a scapegoat for mass shootings. There is a new emphasis in our school system, and I am sure many others, on finding students with mental illness, which started last year in the wake of yet more school shootings. Our country has had two more mass shootings before the start of this school year, and the push in the schools to detect students with mental illnesses has concurrently increased.
Leshner comes out swinging in his first paragraph, making it crystal clear where Science stands on this issue (emphasis mine):
"The United States is experiencing a public health epidemic of mass shootings and other forms of gun violence. A convenient response seems to be blaming mental illness; after all, “who in their right mind would do this?” This is utterly wrong. Mental illnesses, certainly severe mental illnesses, are not the major cause of mass shootings. It also is dangerously stigmatizing to people who suffer from these devastating disorders and can subject them to inappropriate restrictions. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, the best estimates are that individuals with mental illnesses are responsible for less than 4% of all violent crimes in the United States, and less than a third of people who commit mass shootings are diagnosably mentally ill. Moreover, a large majority of individuals with mental illnesses are not at high risk for committing violent acts. Continuing to blame mental illness distracts from finding the real causes of mass shootings and addressing them directly."
The editorial goes on to talk about what really needs to be done to reduce mass shootings: real research into gun violence.
My thoughts: What students battling mental illness need is kindness, a sense of belonging, and a peaceful day, just like all other people. If they are provided those things, they will hopefully feel safe and secure enough to ask for help when they need it. It's probably not a good time to be labeled mentally ill right now thanks to the politicization of the issue, not that it ever has been. The best thing that can be given to all people battling mental illnesses, by those who are not actual professionals in mental health, is true friendship. And to be someone's friend, you don't need to know they are fighting that battle. You just have to be the type of person that gives those around you the benefit of the doubt. You must appreciate the apparent oddness in others and just go with it. Teachers should be doing this automatically with students already, one would hope. We shouldn't need to be told someone has an illness in order to act compassionately toward that person. And if all educators simply behaved this way, students fighting this fight would come to them for help, if necessary, more often than not.
This book, written by Dave Gross, was the first novel that was made in the Pathfinder RPG setting of Golarian. It came out in 2010 and started off the series of novels called Pathfinder Tales. As I’ve been playing Starfinder for some time now and am now getting into Pathfinder 2nd Edition, I thought it might be interesting to start reading the novels that are set in the Golarian world. Novels are the best way to stick a setting into your mind, I think. They certainly work better in that capacity than reading core rule books.
And so, I gave Prince of Wolves a try. It’s the story of a half-elf Pathfinder Venture-Captain Varian Jeggare and his Tiefling servant/ partner/ bodyguard, Radovan Virholt. They travel to Ustalav looking for a lost Pathfinder. Ustalav is sort of an eastern European gothic horror type area within Golarian with the requisite werewolves and vampires scattered throughout. The story itself combines aspects of mystery, adventure, and gothic horror in an effective way. Some of the horror scenes are quite macabre. There’s also a dose of humor mixed throughout to lighten the mood from time to time. The oddest thing about the story is that it is told from the two main protagonists’ viewpoints in alternating first-person chapters. Once I got used to the constant viewpoint change it worked well enough. Gross does a good job of giving both characters very distinctive voices. It quickly becomes easy to tell the two characters’ chapters apart by narrative tone alone. The end result of these literary ingredients was a good book. Good, but not great.
The book helped me solidify many Pathfinder setting tidbits in my mind, which was the point of reading it in the first place. So, it was well worth the read for me. I’d recommend the book to any adults or older teenagers playing the Pathfinder RPG.
There was a great article put out by a Magic: The Gathering designer named Mark Rosewater yesterday. In the article he lays out some reasons why games designers should design their products with diversity in mind. Basically, the more people that can find themselves somehow reflected in your game, the more people will like your game. From a purely business standpoint, it's ridiculous at this point to design a game that doesn't show a full spectrum of character diversity. Rosewater mentions that Magic now has its first major trans character in the game and what a postive reception that character has had. He also states that Wizards of the Coast ensures that they have an equal representation of the sexes of the characters in their cards. Nicely done! I'm not a Magic player myself, and thus did not know that.
I couldn't be happier than to see the game industry finally coming around to this viewpoint. It's happening just in time for my own children to be entering their teenage years. Thankfully, they won't have to put up with playing games where all the heroes are white males and any women included are portrayed ludicrously rather than heroically.
Gaming is currently undergoing an upheaval in terms of how it is working to expand its customer demographics. People from all walks of life have discovered that games are actually fun to play beyond childhood. In order to keep those people in the gaming community once they enter, gaming products must welcome them in by reflecting back to them those qualities that make them special as people.
Article: Wizards link
Here's an interesting opinion peice written in the New York Times talking about a possible reason for the rise in mental health problems in children. The writer believes it is related to the loss of free play time with children.
Link: New York Times
Here's an article by a teacher about the general uselessness of most homework. It also brings out the important point that homework steals inter-family time that can not be gotten back. Therefore, teachers should ask if the homework they are giving is important enough to take away some more of the little remaining time children have with their family in the evening before bed. One thing that comes to my mind is the issue of whether the homework can be done together with the parents or not. For instance, reading homework can certainly be done as a family. All families should read together, in my opinion. So an assignment to read in the evening should not be taking away from family time. On the other hand, there are those monstrous projects some teachers assign students with strict guidelines that the students' parents are not to help them. Those things are definite family time thieves.
Fascinating way to look at the issue...
Article: The Guardian
Page 1 of 8