Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What the science of psychology can teach us about our daily lives

Check out the following article entitled, Social Animal: How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life from the The New Yorker. In this insightful tale, David Brooks demonstrates how the science of psychology permeates our daily lives. A wonderful and interesting read!

Kristin H. Whitlock

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011 APA/Clark University Workshop!

Seven years ago, the generous Dr. Lee Gurel made a generous donation to the APF (American Psychological Foundation) and Clark University to found the annual APA/Clark University workshop for high school psychology teachers (If you're interested in more information about Dr. Gurel and this gift to high school psychology teachers, check out the summary on the APA site). I got to work with the first group of Clark workshop psychology teachers and it is one of the best professional development experiences I've been involved in. The Clark campus is an incredible place for a high school psychology teacher: their archives are some of the best in the country - Freud visited Clark in 1909 and the university maintains maintains an impressive collection of artifacts from this trip and other significant artifacts important in the history of psychology (G. Stanley Hall's desk!). The Clark psychology faculty is committed to helping high school teachers understand current research trends.

The 2011 APA/Clark workshop will be a great experience. Our own Steve Jones (one of the co-authors of this blog - congrats Steve!) and Kristin Whitlock (one of the "rubric masters" at the AP Psychology Reading and psychology teacher-extraordinaire from Utah) will be presenting at the workshop. They will do a great job and you will receive a remarkable amount of activities/demonstrations/great ideas for your classroom. You can read about other details of the workshop (including a link to application materials and information about scholarships) on the APA site.

This year's conference will run from July 11-13 and the application deadline is April 15th. If you can go, you should try to go. You and your students will benefit for years from your professional learning experiences at Clark.

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Wisdom of Crowds

House, Season 6, Episode 2--the one where there is a rich video-game entrepreneur who becomes ill and seeks out the "wisdom of crowds" while the team attempts to diagnose him without House (who has just recently come back from a psychiatric institution and is no longer practicing medicine).

A blog with more details about how this can be used within the context of a psych or stats class.

A counter view on the idea--is there a crowd???

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Critical Period - another TED talk, but it's great! Really!

Yes, its yet another TED talk, but its a fabulous summary of recent research on language acquisition and the critical period. Patricia Kuhl summarizes work in her lab about babies and language acquisition and exactly when the critical period window is "open" and when it shuts. I love how she summarizes what's happening cognitively in babies' minds: "They are taking statistics about the languages they hear." Also, I love her slides - great examples of data representation.

This talk might be a great to show in combination with a discussion about the Genie case study, and your bi or tri-lingual kids in class could come up with great examples of phonemes that mono-lingual kids in your class won't even be able to hear.

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mapping the Brain--Brain Atlas Project

Wired Magazine posted an article back in 2009 that touted a full atlas project of the human mind explaining that the Allen Brain Institute for Brain Science were examining the brain gene by gene.  More than the information, the pictures were what struck me some of the images--clean and graphic--and beautiful.

Within the article, there is a hour-long video by Jonah Lehrer (of Frontal Cortex Blog fame) explaining the mind.  It's a great resource for background or as a supplemental project for your biology-based students.

Check it out--you'll be glad you did.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

V.S. Rmachandran--His Books and a Couple Videos

A few years ago, I read V.S. Ramachandran's book on Phantom Limb Syndrome for a brain course I was taking.  I've also seen him as a narrator or expert on multiple series.  He offers a refreshing and understandable explanation of how the human brain works.

On 2/14/2011, NPR's Fresh Air did a review of his newest book called "The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human."  The review speaks well of Ramachandran's book and there is an excerpt in the article.  They also have a wonderful 18-minute story and conversation with the good doctor.  Below are links to purchase his books--they make for wonderful reading for both student and teacher alike.  I am also including a couple of his videos.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Standards Based Grading Resources

This post may be of limited use/interest to many folks, but I just sent it to the AP Psych listserv, so I thought I'd post it over here too in case anyone is interested.

I started to get interested in researching assessment and grading practices because of a comment made by one of my psych students. After we finished going over a developmental psych test, the class took the day before, this student said "Hey, I think I know more about developmental psych now as a result of going over the test!" I mentally patted myself on the back, but then she said "And isn't our grade supposed to be the way you operationally define our learning?" Warning bells went off in my head, but I said yes, it was. Then she said "So shouldn't our grades improve?"

That student was kind of teasing me, but after that I got very interested in my grading practices (and ended up changing some of them). Below is a list of authors I like to read on this topic - if anyone else has favorites, add them in the comments?

- Ken O'Connor - Lots of detail about "troubleshooting" grades. There is a danger that some of his writing can come across as "preachy" or unrealistic (esp. the A Repair Kit for Grading book) but definitely worth reading and thinking about.

- Thomas Guskey - If anyone is talking about changing report cards ("Standard Based Reporting"), Guskey is the author to read.

- Sue Brookhart - I think she's writing the best stuff right now about formative assessment (descriptive feedback, etc.)

- AND finally, there is a thriving online conversation about standards based grading via Twitter and Blogs. I think much of these bloggers ideas are more accessible and more useful than the published pieces from the authors above. I love reading about the creative ways teachers are using the "spirit" of standards based grading in REAL classrooms. The Think Thank Thunk blog is the best place to start (but there are many others)

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Mind Lab from Japan Science and Technology Agency

I was doing some spring cleaning of my computer and rediscovered this gem in my email box. The site is called Mind Lab.  Here is the "Internet Scout Report" write up of this very cool site:

How do we perceive the outside world? How is our consciousness connected to the world? These are all important questions, and the JST Virtual Science Center in Japan is intimately concerned with such matters. This media-rich site takes interested parties on a journey to "explore the unconscious functions of the brain with visual illusions and mysterious perceptual phenomena." The site contains four interactive sections, including "Illusion of an Uninterrupted World" and "Visual Interpretation of the Physical World". Each of the sections features a brief narrated overview of the selected topic and then visitors can take part in 16 different "trials". These "trials" allow users to experience "visual phenomena and illusions used for study in psychological experiments." One can easily envision that this site could be used in an introductory college-level psychology course or another related discipline.
Take the time to examine each of the four modules.  If you need an independent project for your at-home students or some excellent demos for a few key S&P concepts, check out this site.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New resource:

This week I stumbled upon a terrific site and wanted to share it with you all. provides some excellent resources created by and for British teachers who are preparing their students for A levels.  In the past few days I've just clicked on a few links and already discovered the following tons of handouts, activities and demonstrations that could be used as they are or modified slightly for US psychology classes of all kinds. Here are some of the best sections I've found so far:
The site is a labor of love by a teacher, Aidan Sammons, who told me that the site was an offshoot of an online site for UK psych teachers. Most of the resources were created by Aidan and some other teachers, but there were far fewer contributors than he expected: "The anticipated (by me) flood of contributors never really materialised, hence the existence on the site of empty categories.  These are areas that are covered by the syllabi of the major UK pre-degree examination boards but for which I have no materials written and have never been sent any.  I suppose they're the website equivalent of those motorway off-ramps that stop in mid-air."

Aidan also noted that the materials have changed over the years as his teaching has, something we can all relate to. As he put it, "the earliest indicate a very didactic approach, the latest one that is far more epistemically-oriented and question-driven and the ones in the middle an unhealthy interest in animating things and in boxes with rounded corners."  :-)

Check it out! If you find some amazing things (like my P.S. below) be sure to post them in the comments!    --posted by Steve

P. S. If you have not seen this ESP test before you MUST use it as soon as possible. The PDF explaining it can be found here - I converted the original file from Psychlotron and changed the URL - but the video link is here. I'm trying this Monday in class and I know it'll blow their critical thinking minds.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Deindividuation and the Hive Mind

I discovered a new blog today: You are Not so Smart. In addition to the fabulous name, it looks like they do a good job concisely summarizing cognitive errors in humorous ways. Each post tackles a "misconception", following it with the boldly named "The Truth."

The blog post that got me there is about Deindividuation. The description does a nice job relating the concept of individuation to how some people are using the term "hive mind". I like how the writer personalizes the explanation, leading to a thought experiment: "This is going to be hard to believe, but this sort of behavior could be inside you as well. Under the right circumstances, you too might yell “Jump!” To understand why, let’s go shopping for costumes." The post goes on to describe Diener's clever Halloween Candy study (which would be an easy study for high school students to replicate, I think)

The archives of You are Not so Smart might be a useful place to check occasionally for misconceptions to tackle in your classroom.

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Music Instinct: Science and Song

In my recent PBS newsletter, I noticed something about music and science, but it was geared toward grades 3-5.  The combination intrigued me and I went to the site anyway.  What I found was a delightful blend of music, neuroscience, sensation and perception ideas.  What PBS has done was to take the documentary that had aired previously (and I watched and promptly forgot about since it did not fit in perfectly with my lessons) and divided it into 3 minute clips, each of which introduced a different musical concept.  Most clips also mention how the brain interprets these signals and likes or does not like the signals.  One example is major and minor chords.  Here, in the West, we tend to think of minor chords as sad.  This is not universal.  Much of our musical preferences are learned.  For those who like music theory, there is something for you here as well.

Here are the various links for each section--complete with lesson plans/ideas.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

TV alert: NOVA scienceNOW: How Smart Are Animals?

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA scienceNOW.

Full disclosure: I'm not getting a dime to remind you all that NOVA scienceNOW is following last week's excellent How Does the Brain Work? episode with this week's How Smart Are Animals? The preview for the new show is above, and last week's can be watched online.

If you use either of these shows in class or just want to review them, please do so in the comments.
-- posted by Steve

Monday, February 7, 2011

Kids and Concussions-A Time Magazine Report

For some time now, I've been posting about the most recent research and information related to concussions.  In the January 31, 2011 issue of Time Magazine, there was an article entitled, "Headbanger Nation: Concussions are clobbering U.S. kids.  Here's why."   The article has a nice overview of what a concussion is examining brain parts (that we all enjoy studying in class) along with a great graphic below.  Check out the article--it's a worthy read for both us and our students.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What's Your Sign? Are You Sure About That?

For years, I've been attempting to show my students how horoscopes theoretically work (somehow the positions of stars on the day of your birth have given you a simplistic way to predict your personal future on a day-to-day basis).  I also attempt to show them that the idea is bunk--that it is a pseudoscience.

If you have not heard, recently it became public knowledge what astrophysicists have known for some time--due to a variety of factors, over time, the positions of the stars in our respective skies change.  Yup, that's right.  Your sign is probably wrong.  There had been 12 signs, but a 13th has been added.  The stars have moved about a full zodiac sign in the past 2000 years.  While astrologers are upset about this and claim otherwise, it just seems like a bit of cognitive dissonance to me.  For more details, read the article in Time magazine from the January 31, 2011 issue.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Saturday, February 5, 2011

AP Workshop Review from San Mateo, CA 2/5/2011

I was part of a great group of attendees, both new and experience who had the opportunity to learn from the expertise of Don Leach (George Washington HS, San Francisco, CA) today at Aragon High School in San Mateo, CA for a College Board AP Day-long Training Session.  Our local host teacher was Carlo Corti who welcomed us and said some very nice words about our resources on the blog.  Thanks Carlo :-)

Of course, since the training was sponsored by the College Board and was much about preparing for the AP exam, Don took us through some unique and innovative ways to both prepare our students for the exam as well as cover the content.  I live much of my life in my head.  Don demonstrated and involved the group in a series of activities that allow us to assist the students in learning using some great mnemonics and activities that I would never have thought of or used prior to today.  Even after 24 years of teaching, there is still so much more to learn.  Although he supplied all his information on a CD, I took about 8 pages of notes.  Don's presentation was excellent and he will also be teaching three week-long summer workshops.  If you can, attend one--you will be well instructed and have a fun time.  Your students will be the better for it.

In the weeks to come, I'll be sharing a few of the very cool mnemonics and learning techniques that Don shared.  Kudos to the man who has been teaching for over 40 years and still has a big grin on his face.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn