Saturday, April 14, 2012

Learning and the Brain Conference

Attended a conference today at McNeil Secondary school. It was called Learning and the Brain Conference. Being Successful Parents-Connecting with 21st Century Kids. Organized by the Richmond School District , City of Richmond, the Richmond District Parents Association and other community organizations. The keynote speakers were Jesse Miller and Tom Schimmer. They had different parenting workshops after the speaker sessions. Complimentary coffee  and refreshments were provided by Tim Hortons Coffee. Various vendor tables were also set up in the lobby area with information and resources for parents. If only they could come up with a manual of how to raise
perfect kids, it would alleviate my pain and the pain of all the frazzled parents around the world. Kids do not come with operating manuals and in all likelihood they never will. So, a conference such as this one, is the closest thing to a parenting manual.

Jesse Miller spoke about the influence of social media on children. How they are leading two lives-one online and another offline. Their innocent minds are not mature enough to distinguish between a friend and a possible online predator. They are accepting friend requests from people they have never met or seen ever in their lives. Children as young as 7 years of age are creating Facebook accounts when the legal age to set up a Facebook account is 13 years of age. Interestingly, children have more than 500-600 friends at a minimum. Where and how are they getting these so called friends? Updating their status daily and giving the whole world access to information about their friends, their phone numbers, their likes, dislikes and more. Sure there are privacy controls on Facebook but these are redundant. Nothing is truly private. There are ways and means to extract information about you if someone is real serious about it. Kids are highly tech savvy today and can be ruthless and mean to each other if a friendship breaks or falls apart. So as parents, it is highly important to set the same online rules that children have to follow offline-no talking to strangers, no accepting gifts from strangers and seeking parental help if confronted with an uncomfortable situation such as online bullying.  It sure has gotten me thinking about Facebook and social media as a whole.  My children are still too young to have a Facebook account but by that time I am sure there will be some other form of social media that I might have to worry over.

Tom Schimmer spoke about Confidence in Children. He is a speaker no doubt. He engaged his audience with his humor every now and then and spoke about how confidence and success is intertwined. However, as far as his presenting skills are concerned, he fell short. He literally read his slides word to word most of the time. The slides were more excerpts from the books that inspired him to be a confidence boosting teacher and parent. A simple suggestion to read the books-Confidence by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Outliers-by Malcolm Gladwell and Mindset by Carol Dweck would have sufficed.  There was however, one interesting message that I gleaned from his rambling. We as parents, need to have a growth-minded approach to our communication with our children. When they do not succeed at something simply telling them that they are a winner in your eyes is not helping them much. Instead letting them know what it takes to be a winner and reminding them of their past successes is more growth minded and beneficial for a successful outcome. Working harder and persevering longer is the key to success and our confidence evolves from that success.
I chose the workshop on Physical Literacy-Improving Academic Success. The speaker who had over 32 years of experience in the field of Physical Education shed light on the importance of vigorous physical activity for learning to happen. Influenced by John Ratey's book Spark, he explained that exercise facilitates Neurogenesis-the growth of nerves, opens up the frontal apex of your brain-the part that controls your impulses and gets the body ready to take up information. He did clarify that just exercise and being physically fit isn't enough. What you do with the information you receive and how you apply it towards more learning determines how well you do in your academics. So, in a nutshell, exercise not only helps you to lose weight and be physically fit, it also prepares you for academic success.

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