Monday, December 31, 2012

iPad or Samsung Tablet? Get the iPad

FINAL UPDATE 1-1-2013: Just to let everyone know, Samsung absolutely refuses to resolve this issue with the Galaxy Tab 7.7. In a phone call today with Verizon tech support, their hands are tied because SAMSUNG WILL NOT SUPPORT THE DEVICE. They refuse to acknowledge there is a problem, and made no offer to me to even explore the issue. I am amazed of the arrogance demonstrated by Samsung in this matter. Since I will be switching to an iPad as soon as the one I order comes in, this will be the last update in this situation. Samsung apparently do not stand behind all of their products. 

UPDATE 12-31-2012: My Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 replacement arrived, and it immediately started trying to do the same thing my old one was trying to do. It tried and failed to update the Galaxy Tab operating software three times in less than an hour. I immediately called Verizon tech support, who then engaged an individual from Samsung. Neither of the two could help, nor did they understand why the tablet was behaving this way.  Samsung simply washed their hands of the ordeal and said it was a Verizon problem. The bottom line is my post below is even more true now than it was when I originally published it. The only good thing in this whole ordeal has been the helpfulness of the manager of our local Verizon store. It seems to me purchasing s Samsung tablet is a pretty bad idea these days, especially since they can't adequately support them.

The old adage, “You get what you pay for” has haunted me since I chose to purchase a 4G Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 instead of an iPad.  I got what I paid for: a device that crashed, poor battery life, and one that simply could not successfully complete a operating system update. Throw in just plain awful tech support from both Verizon and Samsung, and you ultimately get a miserable tablet experience. Verizon is trying to do something. They sent me an empty box to ship the tablet to them, but I have no idea what they are going to do at this point. I have basically been paying for a data plan that I can’t use because I don’t have a device to access it.

In the meantime, I have blown the dust off my first generation iPad and have been using it in place of my Android tablet. Using it has reminded me once again why I should have gotten an iPad  to begin with instead of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. The iPad has two qualities that beat the Samsung hands down: reliability and a long battery life.

From a reliability perspective, the iPad is formidable.  I have had my first generation iPad since November 201o and have never had a single update issue. In contrast to this, my Galaxy Tab 7.7 failed to update so many times I lost count, and ultimately had to be boxed up and sent to tech support. Also, I have never had the device crash a single time either. On the other hand, my Galaxy Tab, crashed at least once a day, and it would often happen at the most inconvenient time. Getting out my iPad and using it again, reminded me just how reliable that device is.

As far as the battery life goes, the iPad is hard to beat. The battery life for my Galaxy Tab 7.7 has proven to be an issue. With heavy use, I usually had to plug it in twice a day. With the iPad, I only had to plug it in every other day, and sometimes even longer.  The battery just lasts longer with the iPad.

From a tech support perspective, don’t expect a lot of help from Samsung either. Should there be an issue, apparently their answer is simply to send you and empty box to ship back to them. They don’t give you any information regarding what they are going to do once they get the device either. Throw in Verizon ineptitude, and the words “tech support” are misnomers for sure. There just isn’t any. Amazingly though, I have never had a reason to call Apple for tech support for my iPad to begin with. Perhaps making a product that is so reliable to begin with is the best form of tech support.

The old idea that you get what you pay for is true, and it is especially true in tablets. Take a lesson my my tablet misery and go ahead and buy that iPad instead of a cheaper Samsung tablet. You won’t regret paying the extra.

(NOTE: Just so you know, I am not being paid to make this post. It comes from my own experience with both of these devices and the tech support offered by Verizon and Samsung.)

Becoming Authentic Leaders: Coming to Terms with Our Shadows in the New Year

In the pursuit of 21st century leadership, there is much talk about authenticity. As Lama Surya Das writes, “Just as we are all born with innate luminosity, so too we are all born with a darker or shadow side.” In the interest of becoming authentic 21st century school leaders, it is vital that we come to terms with our shadows.

Just as often happens in our lives outside our leadership roles, we often find ourselves struggling with our own “shadow elements” in our many leadership roles. Our shadow side manifests throughout the day whether we know it or not. It appears in our “short-tempered response” to a question posed to us by our school receptionist. It shows itself in our immediate but angry response to a phone call from a parent. It rears its presence when we find ourselves chewing out a student for the 100th time about a dress code violation. In a word, our shadows reveal themselves at times of pressure and times of stress. Who we really are in these moments betrays us.

The truth is, we can’t rid ourselves of these shadows or shadow elements. If we do, as Lama Surya Das suggests, “Try to repress, suppress, and deny the shadow side of our own personality, and we run the risk of attracting these elements into our lives in other ways.” In other words, ignoring or otherwise dismissing these darker  parts of ourselves does not mean they go away. They simply show up in other ways, often at inopportune moments.

What then can we do to come to terms with these parts of ourselves in the interest of being authentic leaders? A strong enemy to authenticity is hypocrisy, and leaders often are models of hypocrisy because they don’t know themselves. “They are so concerned with persona and the images they present to the world that they choose to deny and repress rather that confront and handle their shadow conflicts." Being the kind of leader who is always concerned about your “presentation to the world” can lead to ignorance of our shadows, but there are ways to come to terms with these.

In the interest of the New Year reflections and resolutions, here’s two ways we can perhaps come to terms with our shadows in the interest of becoming an authentic leader.
  • Reflection and Meditation: Taking time as a school leader to reflect upon ourselves is vital. We can’t know ourselves if we haven’t taken the time to meet ourselves where we are. We can do this by finding quiet times during the day to both get in touch with who we are: our thoughts, feelings, etc.  Whether you choose to engage in some kind of formal meditation or simply sitting in contemplation with your morning coffee in hand with no other distractions really doesn't matter. What does matter is taking the time to meet yourself, each and every day. Finding quiet time is vital in coming to terms with our shadows. During this new year, making a commitment to find the time for reflection and meditation is important to fostering authentic leadership.
  • Enlisting Our Shadows as Allies: We can either make our shadows our “allies and teachers” or we can make them our assailants and opponents. Using our shadows as a means of learning and growing means once we know them, we can begin to allow them to teach us. Our shadows can tell us a great deal about our values and our beliefs. They can instruct us on things like self-discipline, patience, empathy, etc. Ultimately, as our shadows become our teachers, we find it much easier to become the authentic leaders that people prefer to follow. Making a commitment to enlist our shadows as allies is key step toward authentic leadership in the coming year.
The New Year is always a time of reflection and resolution. It’s possibilities and promise are comforting. This New Year, perhaps in our resolve to become more authentic leaders we can embrace and come to terms with our shadows as well. By giving ourselves time for reflection, meditation, and contemplation, as well as engaging our shadows as allies, we can take steps toward becoming who we really are and being the kind of leader others will follow.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Arming Educators Is a Bad Idea! Thoughts from a School Principal

After the Sandy Hook incident in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been a flood of calls by lawmakers and news pundits on the news networks to call for allowing educators and school employees to carry weapons as a part of their regular duties. That is a Bad idea!

While I understand some people place a lot of faith in Smith and Wesson, I however, do not share that same faith. Introducing a weapon into a school environment, even if that weapon is being carried by a well-meaning individual, has the potential to be disastrous  on so many levels it’s unfathomable. I will concede that I am not opposed to a law enforcement officer being hired to do this, if having gun in the building will allay the fears of those who think guns are the answer, but turning our schools into armed camps is a bad idea and non-starter for me, for several reasons.

1. Keeping these guns secure at all times could be a problem. As an administrator, this would be extremely important. Even if one child were to get their hands on a misplaced or unattended weapon and harm themselves or another, it is totally unacceptable. Or, what about the situation where a teacher tries to break up a fight, and in the process, one of the students takes his gun away and starts shooting? I would not accept the death of any child or individual under these circumstances as “the price we pay for security.” In spite of the common talking point put out by the pro-gun organizations, “Guns do kill.” They kill both when criminals use them, and when “law-abiding citizens” either get careless or give in to powerful emotions and use them. Schools are often very unpredictable places, and introducing firearms into them makes them even more unpredictable and potentially volatile.  Making sure that these guns brought into the building are secure at all times is another impossible task, since we can’t even guarantee that same security in our homes and in our businesses.

2. What Detrimental effects does  “gun-carrying” on the relationships between educators and their students have? Since we do not have many instances of educators carrying guns, there is of course, no research that I am aware of for this concern. However, I can’t help but wonder how an administrator carrying a weapon suddenly changes how students and staff suddenly begin to view this individual. I’m an administrator, not a police officer. I do not wish to be seen as the “law-and-order” sheriff of my building: the one who is going to shoot the bad guy when he tries to get into our building. That kind of relationship is far removed from my current relationship with students and staff. I suspect that if educators begin carrying guns, there will be changes, even subtle changes, in the relationships between educator and student.

3. Lack of adequate fire-arms training. Filling out a form and attending a class or two hardly qualifies you to engage in using deadly force in public. Using deadly force requires making snap decisions while assessing your surrounding environment. It requires thinking like a police officer, which simply having a concealed weapon permit does not qualify you to do. No educator I know is trained to think like a law enforcement officer in these kinds of dangerous situations. Putting guns into hand of educators who do not have the kinds of gun and gun violence training in extremely volatile situations is a disaster waiting to happen.

4. Guns do kill people. The purpose of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines is to kill as many people as possible is a short period of time. As we have seen in recent events, these do that highly effectively. We already keep a number of weapons out of the hands of ordinary citizens because they have no reason to have them. Bazookas, hand grenades, and rocket launchers pose a threat because they kill people, lots of people at once. Just by saying “Guns don’t kill people” does not make it so.

There are certainly other reasons that I personally oppose arming educators. By introducing guns into our schools in the hands of our teachers, what kind of message does a “gun-toting” teacher or administrator convey? I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to worry about is having a “Rambo” as a teacher in my building.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crawling Out-of-the-Box: 5 New Skills for 21st Century School Leaders

I received an email from Best Buy today that is indicative of what happens when businesses and organizations are stuck with "inside-the-box thinking" instead of “out-of-the-Box Thinking.” The email from Best Buy offered me $25 if I would spend $500. My immediate reaction was, “That’s not a deal; that’s an insult.” You would think a company that is in Best Buy’s predicament could come up something better than that. Sadly though, I am sure that email is a product of inside-the-box thinking and not outside-the-box thinking. It is apparent from this offer why they are struggling as a retailer. I would say their “Marketing Department” suffers from a bad case of “Inability to get outside-the-box.”

When it comes to “getting out-of-the-box,” Paul Houston had this to say in an essay entitled “Out-of-the-Box Leadership.”

“It might be argued that finding ways to crawl out of the box has become a basic skill for leaders.”

I would argue that “Crawling Out-of-the-Box 101” would be an excellent course for 21st century leaders, but what would the course syllabus look like? What exactly does a school leader need to know to be able to master “crawling out-of-the-box” as a leadership skill? Here’s a few things that come to mind:

1. Bridge Building: To use a phrase Paul Houston uses, 21st century leaders need to be able “build a bridge and lead people across it, because it is only by crossing that bridge people can find a new place to stand.” Bridge construction requires knowing how to foster the development and creation of elements necessary for that bridge. Things like vision, mission, and core values are a part, but also courage and integrity are needed to lead people to new places. Without “bridge-building” skills in their leaders,  people stand in the same place, a recipe for doing the same old thing.

2. Pushing the limits and expanding personal perspectives, or engaging in lateral thinking: To crawl out the box, you have to change the lens with which everyone in your organization views the world, including your own. You have to entertain new perspectives and points of view that haven’t been entertained before. Once that is done, courageously pushing the limits of current practice is necessary. Engaging in practices that hover around author Milton Chen’s “edges of innovation” are a must. You can’t crawl out of the box without trying on new perspectives, engaging in lateral thinking, and pushing beyond current limitations.

3. Engage in the business of school leadership as a creative process: Too many school leaders still see their job as maintaining what is. Anyone who dares think differently or venture outside the parameters of declared thinking is, at worst, exiled from the leadership pack. At best, they are simply ignored. Being a 21st century school leader requires creativity, not just maintenance management skills. The issues and problems our schools are engaged in require a different kind of school leader: one willing to view leadership as a creative process of fundamentally finding new ways to engage in the business of education effectively for all students.

4. Barrier and Obstacle Reduction and Removal: Being able to effectively remove barriers and obstacles to innovation is a key 21st century school leadership skill. The world inside the box doesn't like the innovative, the new, so all manner of roadblocks appear in the way. It takes a 21st century school leaders skilled in barrier  and obstacle removal to lead the way through these and onward outside-the-box. Finding ways to innovate in a system resistant to innovation is a key 21st century school leadership skill.

5. Focus on the smallest “big-changers”: To crawl out-of-the-box doesn't necessarily mean blowing it up. Too many leaders try to change everything, when a focus on a few things can dramatically bring about the kinds of innovation we seek. This skill means 21st century school leaders need to focus on the fewest things that make the biggest difference. Choose to engage and focus on those strategies that will help you crawl out-of-the-box effectively without blowing it up at once.

Best Buy’s offer to me suffers enormously from “inside-the-box” thinking. There is absolutely nothing in that offer to entice me to spend more money, unless I was planning on spending $500 anyway. Education too often suffers from this same kind of “locked-in-the-box thinking” too. Evidence of this can be seen in many of the reforms being currently pushed by policy makers and politicians. The standards and testing movement is just one example. Another would be ideas about changing graduation requirements, which in North Carolina is redone every time we have changed governors over the past several years. None of these things fundamentally change education because they are not outside-the-box thinking; they are inside-the-box thinking. Crawling out of the box in which our education system finds itself will require more than any of these reforms which only continue to tweak the edges. Twenty-first century educational leaders desperately  need skills that will help education “crawl out-of-the-box.”

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Making the Most of Your Online Professional Learning in the Digital Age

“Most successful teachers learn from a combination of resources, including local communities, virtual communities, and research,” writes Kristen Swanson in her new book Professional Learning in the Digital Age: The Educator’s Guide to User-Generated Learning. In other words, educators learn from the communities to which their are connected, and having the tools to make those connections are truly vital in the digital age. That’s where Swanson’s book comes in. Packed in only 109 pages, she gives readers the process and tools to become a connected educator in the 21st century, and engage in “user-generated learning.” Professional Learning in the Digital Age is a must read for educators who want to fine-tune the process of building and maintaining professional learning networks. And, for those have yet to venture out and begin the process of becoming a connected educator, this book gives them clear straightforward advice on how to do it, and a Tool Repository at the back of the book with which to get started.

Swanson begins by defining what is meant by “user-generated learning” which she defines as “learning acquired through active curation, reflection, and collaboration to a self-selected collaborative space.” In other words, user-generated learning is a very deliberate process of carrying out three specific actions that can transform an educator into a connected one, and by default transform his or her educational practice. These three actions that bring about the kinds of learning fostered through online connections include:
  • Curating: Process or action of carefully collecting relevant resources. In this case, these are resources entirely associated with our professional practice. There are online tools that aid in the process of curating the content and information on which learning is based.
  • Reflecting: Process or action of making sense of this newly curated information and determining what it all means for professional practice. Reflecting is vital to assimilating our new learning. Tools such as blogging assist educators in reflection.
  • Contributing: This is the final process of action of user-generated learning. It consists of giving back to the community of learners to which we are now connected. Contribution fosters connections.
In simple terms, engaging in these activities result in fostering and growing as a connected educator. Swanson gives readers a powerful formula for fostering “user-generated learning” through connectedness, capitalizing on one of the most powerful professional development tools educators have in the 21st century.
Professional Learning in the Digital Age: The Educator’s Guide to User-Generated Learning, Eye on Education,  is powerful-succinct guide for all educators to learn 21st century style.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

6 Strategies to Make Your School of District’s Office Paperless

This morning’s #satchat turned to a discussion about using technology to make the school administrator’s office paperless. I have actually always been “less paperful,” if I may coin a term, than other administrators because it is a by-product of relying heavily on technology, which I always have. I won’t go into the rationale for why one would want to have a paperless office because I think the reasons for doing so are rather obvious. Instead, let me just list some of my own practices that have facilitated being paperless as an administrator. I can’t hardly remember the last time I opened my file cabinet; maybe it was sometime in July. At any rate, my file cabinet lives a lonely and neglected life these days because its utility has been reduced to simply some place to put my printer. Still, I think these 6 simple strategies will go a long way in reducing the reliance on physical documents, hence paper.
  • Find some free/inexpensive Web 2.0 tools to streamline your practices. For example, I have a paid Evernote account and it is well-worth the subscription price. With this software, I take meeting notes, anecdotal notes, and  share articles/resources with staff. Evernote’s simple sharing feature means I can share the minutes from our last Professional Learning Community meeting with an email. Web 2.o tools like Diigo allow means I can share web resources I find with teachers, again, through email. My tablet’s Scanner app gives me a “scanner-on-the-go” and Dropbox gives me a virtual filling cabinet that follows me everywhere with access across devices. To go paperless requires finding Web 2.0 tools and apps that help you do many of those things you currently do on paper.
  • Invest in a copier that acts as a scanner and will send scanned documents to your email as PDF files. Or, you can get copiers that will scan documents and place them in specified folders on your network server. Our copier is capable of scanning any document, and with the press of button, you can send it to your email account. When I receive a document of importance in the mail, I scan and then file it electronically. To facilitate your paperless office, find the hardware that allows cut down on your need to store paper copies. A copier that scans and then sends the document to you will do just that.
  • Keep your computer file system simple; only use a handful of folders, the less the better. Many use conventional wisdom and start creating folder after folder on their desktop computers to file e-documents as they come in or are created. The problem with such file systems is two-fold. First, it takes time to ponder which folder in which you should place the created or received file. And then it takes time to remember which folder you put it when needed later. Instead multple folders, create one called “Working Docs” and another called “Docs Archive.” When working on that presentation next week, keep it in the “Working Docs” folder so you can access it quickly. If you are finished with a document or just are keeping an e-copy, dump it into your Docs Archive. One thing people seem to forget is that a computer is FULLY SEARCHABLE so finding a  file is a snap. Of course you have to put a little thought in what you name your files to begin with, but I bet you five dollars I could find my copy of last month’s principal’s meeting before you can!
  • When you receive a physical document in the mail that is important, always scan and then shred it. Walk in to any administrator’s office and I bet there’s a stack somewhere. In that stack are things received in the mail that are awaiting their fate, either filing in a folder or in the trashcan. I will confess that I have one of those stacks too, but I bet mine is smaller, and I use the “scan and shred” method for physical documents I receive to keep that pile in line. While sorting the mail, I immediately make a determination: doc-to-be-archived or junk. It is that simple. I handle mail only once. Docs-to-be-archived go into to pile which goes to my copier-scanner then the shredder. This keeps the paper pile at bay in my office, and immediately gets those documents into my Docs Archive, which I described in the above bullet.
  • Insist that others send you documents either as email attachments or share it with you as a Google Doc. I repeat constantly to everyone who will hear: “Just send it to me as an attachment.” Or I tell them, “Create your schedule on a Google Doc and just share it with me.” The rationale here is to get others to utilize the tools that will minimize the paper coming into my office. Most happily assist me. Those who don’t? I just keep encouraging them.
  • Create a simple email sorting system and avoid using multiple email folders. Keeping a simple sorting and filing system in email will also affect the paper load coming through the office too. I use a two-folder system in my email similar to that I use for my desktop. I create two email folders in my Gmail. One is called “Follow-Up” and the other is “Hold.” By using these folders and my email processing procedure, I always have an empty “Inbox” at the end of the day. I usually conduct two or three main email processing sessions a day. The first step in this processing is to read each email and immediately decide whether a) it requires action from me, b) it is information I will need in the next several days, c) it is informational, or d) it is spam or junk. If an email  requires action from me, I put it in the “Follow-Up” folder. If it is information needed in the short term, I put it in the “Hold” folder. If it is general information I  hit the “Archive” button, which automatically places it in my archive. If it is junk or spam, I hit delete. At the end of each session, my Inbox is empty. Later, I go back through the Follow Up folder and take care of each item there or add it to my “To-Do List.” Once an item in my Follow Up folder is done, I archive it. The goal is to only handle an email once or twice.
School leaders can set the example for everyone else in efforts to cut back on paper usage by employing the technological tools and the processes/procedures that help reduce both the need for paper documents and for  the file cabinets to store them.

Friday, December 7, 2012

5 Strategies for Using Your Digital Footprint to Create a Strong, Professional Online Reputation

If you are using virtual spaces for professional learning, it only enhances your digital footprint,” writes Kristen Swanson in her new book Professional Learning in the Digital Age: The Educator’s Guide to User-Generated Learning. Getting educators to think about their own digital footprint should be an important part of 21st century school leadership, and reflecting and managing our own is just as important. Examples abound in the media where educators post derogatory things about their students, or where teachers and administrators post improper photos of themselves through social media channels. Most lose their jobs as a result. My initial reaction as a practicing school administrators is, “Just what were they thinking?” and the conclusion I usually reach is, “They weren’t!”

The idea of deliberately shaping and molding your own digital footprint isn’t really a new idea. Experts write whole books advising businesses on how to shape their “online reputation” and their offline one as well. More and more businesses, though, are starting to take seriously this task of making their online presence positive. I personally see “digital footprint” and “online reputation” as strongly related but perhaps not entirely synonymous. One’s digital footprint is the collective substance of everything one has posted online. It is the physical substance of what you have posted. It includes blog posts, Tweets, comments on other blog posts, news stories, everything online connected to a single person. I personally consider the actual footprint neutral, but it is the digital footprint that foster’s one’s online reputation.Through all those blogposts, Tweets, Facebook posts, and all your other interactions online, people make a judgment about you, and that is your “online reputation.”

Which brings me to the whole point of this post: You shape and mold your online reputation through your digital footprint. In other words, you can use your digital footprint to shape and mold your online reputation, and in the world of the 21st century, it is imperative that educators take the time to make sure they are leaving exactly the kind of digital footprint they wish to leave: a strong, professional online reputation.

Here are some strategies and thoughts that I myself use to both monitor my digital footprint and to try to shape and mold my online reputation.
  • Monitor what is being said about you by setting up a “Google Alert” for your name, your Twitter Username, and any other identifiers connected to you. It is key to keep an ear to the ground to measure reactions to your digital footprint, after all, your online reputation is based on these. Setting up a Google Alert is a free and easy way to perpetually listen to the conversation about you. There are other tools that will help you do this as well. Here’s an earlier post describing “3 Free Social Media Monitoring Tools for the 21st Century School Leader.”
  • It is occasionally OK to post things controversial, in fact, having a strong online reputation demands it. Remember, if you post controversial remarks, you are going to get reactions from others, but playing it entirely safe may not enhance your online reputation. To have a strong “online reputation” your digital footprint has to have personality. In a word, it helps if it really reflects who you are. Be entirely neutral, and you aren’t real person. You’re a computer. How boring!
  • Everyone, administrators, teachers, superintendents, students, etc. need to be actively engaged in molding and shaping their online reputation through their digital footprint. Honestly, you have an online reputation whether you have taken an active role in developing it or not. When a parent or student posts a comment on Facebook or in response to local news article  criticizing you or one of your actions, that affects your online reputation. It is much better to engage in the use of 21st century tools and contribute your say in that digital footprint than to simply let others do so for you.
  • Establishing a strong online reputation requires a digital footprint that includes both quality and quantity. It is vital that you include thoughtful, engaging interactions on the web, such as blog posts, Tweets, etc. The quality of what you post is important. If you are simply using Twitter to post out announcements or to post what you are having for lunch, those are not qualitative additions to your digital footprint, and are not likely to add to your online reputation. It takes using these tools to post lively, thoughtful interactions to foster the qualitative nature of your online reputation. In addition, it does require a quantitative approach as well. You don’t want just a few posts or online interactions to represent the entire substance of your online reputation. You need lots of content in your digital footprint to balance out what might be seen negatively or doesn't truly reflect who you are. That means interacting and posting online often is a must.
  • Most of all, in my opinion, you have to be authentic online just as you must in real life. There’s something fundamentally wrong with posturing and being fake, and most of us don’t like it. Your digital footprint should contain content that reflects who are. In other words, it must be authentic. No one likes a phony!
The bottom line, when it comes to using your digital footprint to foster an effective professional online reputation, is simple: you either take an active role in contributing to your digital footprint, or there are those who will do it for you. It’s your choice to engage or not, but don’t think by avoiding interactions on the web that you have no digital footprint, therefore, no online reputation. We all do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Study Suggests Using Nintendo DS Game Software Increases Engagement of ADHD Students

According to an article in the Winter edition of Journal of Research on Technology in Education, the results of a recent study by Stacy Wegrzyn, Doug Hearrington, Tim Martin, and Adriane B. Randolph had interesting results that may have an impact on how we help students with ADHD engage and focus in the classroom. According to their study, the “daily use of brain games can help strengthen focusing ability and executive functioning in adolescents with ADHD.”

In this study, students were asked to play “brain games” for a minimum of 20 minutes each morning before school for 5 weeks. Their level of engagement was then measured at three points during the day using electroencephalogram, parent and teacher reports, researcher observations, and participant self-reports.

The findings in this study suggest that we can use Nintendo’s DS software called Brain Age as a potential “nonpharmaceutical alternative to ADHD medication. It also suggests it might be a more affordable alternative than medications as well. The study cautions though, “Not every child will see an improvement through the use of brain games.”

The study suggests the following implications for 21st century educational practice:
  • Brain games, such as the Nintendo DS Brain Age software, as a form of treatment could be kept within the school or even within the classroom.
  • Teachers could allow struggling students to play the games each morning during homeroom, lunchtime, or recess.
  • Teachers could then evaluate the usefulness of the games in increasing each student’s ability to focus.
  • Unlike medication suggestions, teachers could try using the games without liability concerns, even if the games do not help increase the student’s engagement.
For more information on this study be sure to check out the current Winter edition of Journal of Research on Technology in Education. For information on Nintendo’s DS Brain Age game software, check out their web site here.

Ultimately, this is a perfect example of personalizing education for students. One can help but wonder whether these same kinds of tools can help all students focus and engage more in their learning.