Leadership magazine March/April 2019 V48 No. 4 - Page 24

only reduces their capacity to retain more information for longer periods, but actually degrades the neural circuits that were once used for deep thought and concentration, while at the same time strengthening those used for cursory reading and multitasking. Conversely, applying memorization exer- cises to one subject can positively affect per- formance in all subjects. In his best-selling book, “Deep Work,” Cal Newport states that, “a side effect of memory training, is an improvement in your general ability to concentrate. This ability can be applied to any task demanding deep work.” Nowhere is this more apparent than with the dwindling ability of my students to ad- here to step-by-step directions. Over the last few years, my science lab directions have gone from one set per lab, being written ex- clusively on my whiteboard or overhead for the students to follow, to being posted on each wall, my website, a copy handed to each student, and a “pre-reading” of the lab and my expectations. Still, compliance to the di- rections is markedly decreasing, and this is 24 Leadership by no means exclusive just in my classroom; my colleagues agree that this group of chil- dren insist on asking for guidance, instead of dedicating time to read the directions they know will answer their questions. Teachers are becoming the oars to help students navi- gate the shallows. Metabolic syndrome: Exacerbating childhood obesity “The brain appears to be designed to 1) solve problems, 2) related to surviving, 3) in an unstable outdoor environment, and 4) to do so in nearly constant motion. I call this the brain’s performance envelope” (Medina, 2008). Our modern day classroom design runs in stark contrast to the way our evolution- ary brains were designed to process and re- tain information. In his book “Brain Rules,” John Medina suggests that if one wanted to design an environment detrimental to learning, they would develop something eerily similar to the average American class- room: predictable, artificially illuminated and physically confining. Force the inactive child to stare at a computer screen in that cognitively restrictive environment, and you exacerbate the problem. The brain works best when in motion be- cause exercise increases the amount of oxy- gen to the brain; while exposure to natural sunlight has been shown to improve mood, restore disrupted wake/sleep cycles that are the direct result of too much artificial light from computer screens, and positively im- pact metabolism (Garber, 2013). Today’s average teen is spending up to nine hours per day in front of a screen – thanks in part to classroom computers and tablets. That’s a shocking statistic, but even more disturbing when research shows that screen time is directly responsible for weight gain, high blood pressure, high fasting glu- cose, and elevated triglyceride levels. Unfor- tunately, the effects of metabolic syndrome may only be remedied with a screen time re- duction. Diet and additional exercise alone cannot undo the damage. “High screen time was associated with an increased likelihood of (metabolic syndrome) independent of physical activity, diet and other important