News & Information

Effective Schools, Visualization, Addiction, Mystery Ship

The Morning Show
  • Aug 25, 2014 1:00 pm
  • 1:44:11

KEYS FOR EFFECTIVE EDUCATION (This interview starts at 6:57 in the above audio player.) A chronic complaint of school curriculum in the U.S. is that “it’s a mile wide and an inch deep,” says Marisa Cannata, a senior research associate at Vanderbilt University and associate director of the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools.   The Common Core State Standards Initiative was developed to counter the “broad, but shallow” nature of the U.S. education system.  The Common Core places emphasis on deeper, critical thinking skills, says Cannata, noting that’s the focus of education in other developed nations that tend to outrank the U.S.  High-quality teachers are fundamental to an effective education system, says Cannata. She routinely encounters teachers lamenting the mis-match between what standards require and what the tests actually measure.  As schools transition to the Common Core Standards, assessment tests will have to change, as well, to acknowledge a focus on deeper understanding of key skills. Cannata thinks the shift will bring improvement, “if we stick with it through the tough transition.” “If I could wave my magic wand and change one thing in the U.S. education system, I would reverse the idea that teaching is not something the most able people go into,” says Cannata.  In other countries, teaching is a prestigious, sought-after profession, adds Cannata.  Education programs are already looking at becoming more selective and creating a path into the profession for people who’ve had successful careers elsewhere.  Another key to having an effective education system is that children must take responsibility for their learning. Cannata’s research indicates “students don’t know what it means to take responsibility and ownership for their learning.”  Parents need to be mindful of teaching their kids to be on top of doing assignments, coming prepared to class and finding out what work they need to make up when they go out of town, explains Cannata.  And the best thing a parent can do to help their child succeed this school year: “Provide a clean place to do homework and sit with your child as they work. That doesn’t mean do the homework for them. Maybe do your own work or pay the bills, but show them what it looks like to be engaged at something. Be a role model.” IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD (This interview starts at 28:51 in the above audio player.) Athletes have long understood the power of the mind over their physical performance. When student athletes sit down for a “visualization” session with BYU psychologist Tom Golightly, they start with a relaxation exercise. “It’s a controlled daydream,” says Golightly. “Imagery is more than just thoughts - it’s not just picking up a picture,” says Golightly. “You’re really trying to engage all the senses – taste, touch, hearing, sight. You’re trying to create this reality.” Golightly walks his clients through between five to fifteen minutes of really focusing “on the feelings of the thing that you’re doing, so that it’s engaging all of you.” They visualize themselves performing well, succeeding, overcoming obstacles. Imagery can also be a powerful tool for people with obsessive disorders or paranoia, says Golightly.  “You’re essentially turning off the logical part of your brain and moving to the performance part of your brain,” says Golightly. THE SCIENCE OF ADDICTION (This interview starts at 51:53 in the above audio player.) When BYU addiction researcher Scott Steffensen was 25 years old, he was hit by a drunk driver in Salt Lake City and knocked unconscious for about 16 hours.  “It literally knocked some sense into me as to what I wanted to do in my life.” After the accident Steffensen had a couple of pressing questions: “I wanted to know why I didn’t remember anything associated with the accident. I don’t recall anything the day before, during or about 16 hours after the accident.”  He would go on to spend more than a decade studying memory.  He was also intrigued by the notion that “somebody would intoxicate themselves to the point they would hurt somebody else.” Steffensen decided to pursue a pharmacology degree and become an expert in addiction.  His research has uncovered the role of dopamine as the “main player” in addiction. “It simply comes down to this: whatever enhances dopamine will be rewarding and pleasurable and potentially addictive,” says Steffensen.  When a person becomes addicted, dopamine adapts: “The brain is very plastic,” says Steffensen. “Drugs go way beyond what natural pleasures do in triggering dopamine. The inherent balance is thrown off.” Steffensen suspects dopamine is the most regulated system of the brain. Dopamine is what motivates us to pursue things we need for pleasure and survival: eating, drinking, reproducing. “So if you start messing with this system, you’ll eventually become dis-regulated.” Steffensen’s job is to figure out how the dis-regulation works and “hopefully, find a way to reverse it.” “I don’t think pharmacology is the answer to healing addiction,” says Steffensen. “I think we need to find ways to slowly bring back dopamine levels so people don’t have the same cravings.”  MYSTERY SHIP UNDER GROUND ZERO (This interview starts at 1:15:42 in the above audio player.) In 2010, construction workers at Ground Zero in Manhattan uncovered the bones of something that clearly did not belong there.  It turned out to be a 200-year-old ship.  “For having been water-logged for over 200 years it was in a pretty good state,” says Dr. Dario Martin-Benito of the Tree-Ring Lab at Columbia University.  The researchers surmised the ship had been used as landfill in the 18th century when early settlers built up portions of the Hudson River for construction.  Wood samples from the ship were stored in salty water to prevent it from deteriorating too quickly from exposure to oxygen. Martin-Benito’s team dried the samples out very slowly so they could sand them down and get a better look at the tree rings in the wood.  Then the sleuthing began. “Tree rings have really unique growth patterns not unlike a barcode,” says Martin-Benito. The tree was basically made of oak, but the keel turned out to be made of hickory that only grows in two places in the work, which helped the team quickly narrow down where the ship was built.  “It was a key discovery.”  Other details of the wood led the team to a small shipyard in Philadelphia where the ship was likely constructed in 1773.  Old books on shipbuilding and economic history of Philadelphia at the time seem to confirm the story, says Martin-Benito.   It’s a small boat – barely 30 meters long – and not made for deep water crossings. But Martin-Benito says it likely made at least one trip to the Caribbean because the timbers had holes made from woodworms that only live in warm, salty waters.  “That probably didn’t contribute to a long-life for the boat.” The boat was made in the mid-1770s and the part of New York City where it was discovered was landfilled sometime in 1800.  The discovery provides a look at a little-known era in shipbuilding in the U.S., says Martin-Benito, and the tree-ring data will also add to the body of knowledge about climate change. COUGAR GAME WEEK ARRIVES AT LAST (This interview starts at 1:35:00 in the above audio player.) At long last, it’s game week for Cougar Football fans. “We started counting down to this Friday on January 2,” says a breathless Jarom Jordan, co-host of BYU Sports Nation on BYU Radio.  “BYU is going to beat the University of Connecticut.” The big question is, how will Taysom Hill perform as returning Cougar quarterback? Jordan says typically BYU doesn’t score many points on the road in its first game like this, but he’s predicting the Cougars score 30 points.  If you’re in Provo, countdown to the game on Friday at the BYU Broadcasting Building where you’ll find free pizza and festivities starting at 4 p.m. Mountain. “You can be part of the studio audience for the pre-game show - I don’t see a downside,” quips Jordan.  And if BYU loses to UConn? “It would be huge – it would be worse than losing to Virginia last year,” says BYU Sports Nation co-host Spencer Linton.  “The only way for BYU to be nationally relevant is to win a lot of games and be ranked highly.”