Last year, teens’ desire for news was part of what prompted Snapchat, the onetime fave app of sexters everywhere, to launch partnerships with dozens of respected content providers, including VICE, The New York Times and Vogue, for its Discover feature. (In the United States, 22 per cent of Snapchat’s daily active users are 13 to 17, and an additional 36 per cent are 18 to 24.) The curated approach of Discover helps ensure fake news can’t get a toehold on Snapchat.
Still, kids’ ease with technology doesn’t automatically mean they’re media literate.
“On an anecdotal level, the kids are highly informed of what’s going on,” notes Shannon Howson, a geography teacher at Ursula Franklin Academy in the West End of Toronto whose lessons frequently deal with current events. “They’re often keeping me abreast on issues.” Still, she said, she has to remind students to think “about the validity of sources, knowing the bias and the skew of your sources and knowing if they’re reputable. The kids have no concept of that.”
Scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization”—that is, the capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.
There is a spill-over benefit for thinking skills used in reading and writing. To write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed over the fingers. You have to pay attention and think about what and how you are doing it. You have to practice. Brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.
1. Handwriting increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, similar to meditation. According to a study performed at the Indiana University, the mere action of writing by hand unleashes creativity not easily accessed in any other way. And high-tech magnetic resonance imaging has indeed shown that low-tech writing by hand increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, much like meditation.
2. Handwriting sharpens the brain and helps us learn. Writing is good for keeping one’s gray matter sharp and may even influence how we think, as in “more positively,” studies show. Apparently sequential hand movements, like those used in handwriting, activate large regions of the brain responsible for thinking, language, healing and working memory.
3. Handwriting forces us to slow down and smell the ink. Another often-overlooked benefit of writing by hand is that it just plain forces us to slow down and enjoy the moment — a novelty in today’s world where immediacy reigns. Mindful writing rests the brain, potentially sparking creativity, according to neuroscientist Dr. Claudia Aguirre.
The University of Waterloo will be hosting an evening for Grade 10 students and their parents on Thursday, February 23 from 6:30 – 8:30 PM. This is a great opportunity for grade 10 students who are thinking about attending any of Ontario’s universities. Information covered will include finding a program that is a good fit, navigating the application process, and financing post-secondary education.
Digital classroom tools like computers, tablets and smartphones offer exciting opportunities to deepen learning through creativity, collaboration and connection, but those very devices can also be distracting to students. Similarly, parents complain that when students are required to complete homework assignments online, it’s a challenge for students to remain on task. The ubiquity of digital technology in all realms of life isn’t going away, but if students don’t learn how to concentrate and shut out distractions, research shows they’ll have a much harder time succeeding in almost every area.
“It’s about using the devices smartly but having the capacity to concentrate as you need to, when you want to.”