Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Announcing: a workshop for NC psychology teachers

Attention high school psychology teachers in North Carolina: hold the date of October 8! A new group, North Carolina Teachers of Psychology, has been formed (thanks to a grant by the APF) to provide professional development for and by high school psychology teachers, and our first workshop will be in Durham on Saturday, October 8. North Carolina has not had any sort of statewide group like this since the late 1990s, and we're excited to have a way to get together to get to know each other, share our knowledge and, we hope, to improve the teaching of psychology in high schools across the state.

If you are interested in attending, please e-mail me at ashejones@gmail.com (or steven.jones@dpsnc.net) with your name and the school where you teach. Even if you can't attend this workshop, we'll add you to our contact list for future meetings.

Also, if you know a high school teacher in NC (besides me!), please share this information with him or her. Thanks!

 -- posted by Steve

Psychology Teacher Web Sites

I would imagine that there are many of use who have created some amazing web sites or know of others who have created sites for their regular or AP students. 

Let's celebrate and brag about these teachers and their web sites. 

Please add the teacher name and the web address in your comment to bring attention to those who go that extra mile (or ten) by creating online resources for our students.


posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Psychology and September 11




Tonight National Geographic Channel presents George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview, "a world premiere documentary that reveals exclusive, first-person insight into the former president's experience following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." I will TiVo this program because I'm not only interested in the political aspects of what the president recalls, but also in the nature of that kind of memory known as flashbulb memory. When we experience an event that causes us strong emotion, such as the 9/11 attacks or the death of a famous person, we frequently feel that we know exactly where we were, what we were doing, who was with us, and so forth, because the memory seems "burned in" by a flashbulb, or seemingly captured in a video in our brains.

Most people know where President Bush was when he learned the planes hit the towers in New York City -- he was in a Florida classroom reading The Pet Goat with elementary students. (Did you think it was My Pet Goat? It's not!) But did you know that the president later gave several different versions in the next four months of who told him about the attacks and what he saw of the attacks on TV? In 2004 psychologist Daniel Greenberg of Duke University did, writing a paper in Applied Cognitive Psychology (PDF here) about these inconsistencies.  In one version, for example, Bush recalled that adviser Karl Rove had told him of the attacks, whereas the video footage clearly indicates it was Andy Card. In another version, he states that he saw on TV the first plane flying into the Twin Towers, yet at that time there was no footage on any channel of that event. I will be very interested to compare Greenberg's paper with Bush's events in the NGC special.


Misremembering 9/11 is not unique to President Bush, of course. Psychology teacher Eric Castro recently tweeted about a Scientific American guest blog by Eric Boustead who was in Manhattan and who gives a very detailed description of some of his experiences of that day - what he watched on TV, neighbors coming together, even enjoying a corn muffin baked by his downstairs neighbor Serena. Later he contacts his former roommate to hear his remembrances, only to learn that their TV was only hooked up for games (thus no TV news), Serena didn't move in until a year later, and the roommate had no memory of the food - as the roommate put it, "I mean why would we be eating muffins during all of that anyway?"




One of the most brilliant insights immediately following 9/11 also came from Duke University, this time from Jennifer Talarico and David Rubin, who brought small groups of undergraduates in on September 12 and asked them to record what their memories were of 9/11. The brilliant part was that they also asked them to record what they remembered of some personal everyday memory that had happened in the preceding couple of days, such as a party, a study session or a sporting event. When they brought the students back one year later, Talrico and Rubin found unsurprisingly that the memories of both flashbulb and everyday memories had similar errors in consistency, but the students rated their confidence in the 9/11 memories much higher. In other words, their memories of both events were equally flawed, but the flashbulb nature of the 9/11 made them believe much more strongly in those memories. (The video above (also linked here) is of cognitive neuroscientist Elizabeth Phelps describing this study and 9/11 memories in general at the World Science Festival.)

One other quick pointer: the September 2011 issue of American Psychologist is devoted to the events of 9/11 and its effects in many areas, including post-traumatic stress, memory, social consequences, group dynamics and more. The introduction to "9/11: Ten Years Later" can be found here (PDF).


The 10th anniversary of 9/11 will be an interesting challenge for us as psychology teachers. If you are teaching primarily high school juniors and seniors, for example, those students were probably between 6 and 8 years old at the time. Not only will their memories of the event be as fuzzy as everyone else's, but they will have had less of an opportunity to even be exposed to the coverage that day and in the days that followed, as their parents may have shielded them from the news. Nonetheless, they have grown up in the shadow of 9/11 and their lives have definitely been affected by those events. There was a great article in the Washington Post in 2009 about the challenges of teaching students too young to have experienced this firsthand, though some of the frustrations I perceived in that story seem more pointed toward work in general and maybe very little to do with 9/11.

So - how will YOU teach about 9/11? Please add a comment below or e-mail me directly (ashejones@gmail.com) and I'll post your reply anonymously.

--posted by Steve

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What do you do the first day?

There was a recent discussion on the AP Psychology e-mail list about favorite things to do on the first day of class. I posted about my favorite, the Slippery Snakes memory demonstration by Janet Simmons and Don Irwin. You can download the demonstration here and you can also download information from me about how I use this activity here. (Note that both files are PDFs.)

So what do YOU do on the first day? How do you set the tone for the rest of the year? Please add your contributions in the comments below.

  --posted by Steve

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reminder: join psychat on Twitter tonight!

 A last-minute reminder: #psychat is on tonight from 8-9 pm ET. If you're already on Twitter you probably know how to follow #psychat, but if not, just head on over to Twitter.com and type #psychat into the search box to see the most recent conversation. Tonight's topic: projects! (Who doesn't need new project ideas?)

For more info, check out last week's post on #psychat. 
 --posted by Steve

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dancing Squid and Frog Legs--Do They Connect to Psychology?

This Discovery online uses two different YouTube hits to explain why post-mortem activity can still occur in a dead organism.  Creepy, fascinating, ethical, unethical and more responses are on the various pages where this is linked.  Potential for chemistry of not only deceased organisms, but also potentially applicable for for living ones.  What you do all think?  Of course, I suppose one could apply this to emotions and disgust as well.




posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Join the psychology Twitter crowd on #psychat

Wanted: psychology tweeps to join #psychat

If you are on Twitter, join #psychat next Wednesday night at 8pm (ET) for a live hour of free professional development! Last night @mrpotter hosted and the discussion centered on how high school psychology teachers are using social media. It was the first #psychat so the crowd was a little small, but that actually gave all of the participants plenty of time to ask and answer questions from each other. Last night folks chatted about using Twitter and Facebook, as well as new media like Diipo and the differences between Edmodo and Schoology, among other topics.

How do you participate? If you are using Twitter and you want to join, just be sure to use the hashtag #psychat at the end of each tweet. If you're not a Twitter user but still want to follow the conversation, you can go to Twitter.com and type #psychat into the search box (or just click here). It's really a great way to share information with each other in an informal manner - a psych-based virtual Personal Learning Community where your voice is heard!

And if you participated in #psychat or just use Twitter in general, please chime in about your experience!

  --posted by Steve (who can be found on Twitter as @highschoolpsych - follow me!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

AP Teaching Tips by Kristin Whitlock

Have you ever driven the same route for a long time and, out of the blue, noticed something that you've never noticed before?  That happened to me earlier this summer when I was checking out some of our previous posts.  A mention was made of a document by our very own Kristin Whitlock called "Teaching Tips or Teachers Guide," depending upon the site name or the document name.  It is a reference document on the AP Central site of the College Board.  Go to the AP Psychology Page for a full listing of materials that are free for the taking.  Somehow I had missed it the past couple of years--but now it is within my awareness.

The Teaching Tips document is a rich repository of items that will make your AP Psych course better. Among other things, there is a history of the AP Psych course and exam, choosing a textbook, working with parents, getting students to read the text, numerous activities, how to write the free response questions, eight sample syllabi (which include pacing and ordering possibilities), the exam format, what to do with students to prepare well and what to do with them afterwards.  The document also includes additional resources.  In other words, it's a gem.

Take some time to examine the document (1.6MB .pdf download).  I highly recommend it before you complete your planning for 2011-2012.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Movie review: Project Nim

NOTE: today's review comes to us via Twitter! Actually, to be more precise, it comes from a connection I made on Twitter with another psychology teacher, Shana Stites (see bio below). I have found Twitter to be one more vital way to connect with other psych teachers around the world, in addition to TOPSS, this blog, multiple e-mail listservs and conferences/workshops. Now on to the review!



I went to see Project Nim at my local arts theater this morning. I never saw a trailer for the movie, just a random poster at the theater. Always on the look-out for things to enhance what I teach in class, I wondered about its merit as a classroom tool. Was it relevant? Was it interesting? Could I show it during the year or after the AP test? Yes. Yes. I don’t know why not.

Many AP teachers already know, but Project Nim was a study led by Columbia University psychologist Herbert Terrace in which a chimpanzee was raised by humans in order to see if he would have the capacity to learn language- not just to learn certain words through modeling and reinforcement, but to put them together into grammatically correct communications. The chimpanzee, Nim Chimpsky (Terrace had hoped to disprove Noam Chomsky’s theory of innate human ability for language, hence the play on his name), was taken from his mother when he was two weeks old and raised as a New York boy who learned sign language to communicate with his family. The documentary follows Nim from his initial placement in the LaFarge household through his subsequent placements both during the study after its conclusion. However, rather than focusing mostly on the science behind the study, it really focuses mostly on Nim himself and the relationships that he formed with his various caretakers.

The film was interesting, and I would recommend that psychology teachers go out and see it. I had the expectation that this documentary was going to be most relevant to the units on cognition and use of language, but it ended up even more applicable to the unit on research methods and psychological ethics. It raised questions about Nim’s rights as a test subject and about the objectivity necessary in psychological science. At the least, it could spark a lively debate about ethics but could also delve into the complex relationships that human beings have with different animals as is addressed in Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals by Hal Herzog. (See this earlier THSP post about Hal and his book.)

Shana Stites is beginning her fifth year as an AP Psychology teacher at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, Kansas as well as her first year as a psychology graduate student at Avila University.

Related links:
The Chimp That Learned Sign Language (NPR, with video)
The Project Nim website (which was down earlier today)

--posted by Steve

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain



A couple of weeks ago, I posted a short entry about David Eagleman appearing on the Colbert Report.  After having delayed the purchase of his book, I did finally buy it.  And was it ever worth it.  His writing style is so engaging I could first imagine reading portions of it to my classes.  He mentioned so many demonstration-style activities that I started marking the book up to be able to use or remind myself of these great ideas.

The content of the book examines the premise that reality is not what the conscious mind tells us it is.  He explains how "processes under the hood" are going on in our various biology-based systems and that our "conscious choices" may not exactly be that, but rather due to some underlying mechanism that we are unaware of.

No matter if you like the neuroscience books, you will like this book.  I encourage you check it out--or at least share it with one of your students and get a more detailed book review.


posted by Chuck Schallhorn