Two new studies that Matt Richtel reports on in the The New York Times find that teachers have noticed a change in children’s attention span as well as a decline in the depth and analytical skills of even their best students, which they blame on growing use of video, phones and television screens. The studies note that these are the subjective views of teachers …but this parent — subjective or not — agrees.
“There is a widespread belief among teachers that students’ constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks, according to two surveys of teachers being released on Thursday.
The researchers note that their findings represent the subjective views of teachers and should not be seen as definitive proof that widespread use of computers, phones and video games affects students’ capability to focus.
Even so, the researchers who performed the studies, as well as scholars who study technology’s impact on behavior and the brain, say the studies are significant because of the vantage points of teachers, who spend hours a day observing students….
One was conducted by the Pew Internet Project, a division of the Pew Research Center that focuses on technology-related research. The other comes from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that advises parents on media use by children. It was conducted by Vicky Rideout, a researcher who has previously shown that media use among children and teenagers ages 8 to 18 has grown so fast that they on average spend twice as much time with screens each year as they spend in school.
Teachers who were not involved in the surveys echoed their findings in interviews, saying they felt they had to work harder to capture and hold students’ attention.
The authors of the study were reluctant to characterize the findings as good or bad.
“What we’re labeling as ‘distraction,’ some see as a failure of adults to see how these kids process information,” Ms. Purcell said. “They’re not saying distraction is good but that the label of ‘distraction’ is a judgment of this generation.”
Just because it is the judgment of a previous generation doesn’t make it wrong.
“It won’t be a nostalgic trip back to 1965. It won’t be one big Springsteen concert.” That is how Michael Winerip introduces The New York Times’ newest blog — Booming — which is aimed at….you guessed it, boomers.
“Come to Booming to be informed and entertained and feel at home. We will showcase essays from readers in their 50s writing about their lives, but also essays by 25-year-olds describing their parents’ lives.
If you loved Jose Feliciano’s 1967 version of “Sunny,” we’ll tell you why you might also like Ben Howard’s 2011 version of “Only Love.”
We are going to ask some of you the secrets of being married for 30 years, and others, the secrets of getting divorced after 30.
Booming will have plenty of serious features geared to this demographic — about Medicare, Social Security, unemployment trends. We’ll have experts to answer questions on aging, retirement, investing and sex.
You’ll hear about books, movies, magazines and blogs that we think you’ll want to investigate. Or to stay away from.
But most important is you. Our generation is getting through the middle ages in 78 million ways. We want to hear your stories. Welcome.”
I hope to write for it down the road if my handlers in the Culture section will free me up.
Gabrielle Plucknette for The New York Times
A new study published in the Journal of Research in Personality says that we can accurately judge others based on the shoes they wear. The staff of the New York Times magazine decided to put the assertion to the test by photographing their shoes and asking readers to choose the gambler, the East European native and the design director. They did not ask who on the staff was “squeamish about looking at exposed breasts.” Thank goodness we staffers at the Times have some dignity left. What do you see?
This week the New York Times is running a series of forums on the making of the 9/11 museum, which I wrote about in Sunday’s paper. Today, David Blight, a professor of history at Yale University, Wilfred McClay, a historian at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, Anthony Gardner, the director of a museum and the executive director of the September 11th Education Trust, and Bill Braniff, executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) based at the University of Maryland discuss: What do you think is essential for people to understand about the history leading up to Sept. 11?
Click on the forum and join the debate.
I lived in India for a few months, working for United Press International back when there was a UPI, but I did not begin to grasp what I learned from reading Boo’s new book. There are a lot of people who write about poverty and social justice but few who really spend the time with poor people to understand what their lives are like on a day-to-day basis and the web of obstacles — both self-imposed and external — that prevent them from bettering their lives. Katherine Boo is one of them and she has produced an important and riveting accounting of a Mumbai slum that will stay with you regardless of your interest in India. Boo is a beautiful writer and her book is compulsive reading. Chip McGrath did a profile of her in the Times, which you can read here and for the New York Times review, click here.
The Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy released a selection of documents discovered during the 2011 raid in Abbottabbad, Pakistan, that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. As an article by Peter Baker in the New York Times details, the documents include information about rifts in the Al Qaeda’s top leadership about tactics and marketing(!) The Times posts selections from the documents.
By Peter Baker
“A decade after the terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center and demolished part of the Pentagon, leaders of the terrorist group debated how closely to affiliate with other extremist organizations, how much it should target the United States, how to win the support of Muslims, whether to attack drug runners to steal their money and even whether the infamous network should change its name.
One document found in Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, suggested that the name Al Qaeda had “lessened Muslims’ feelings that we belong to them” and lacked any religious connection. The name, Arabic for “The Base,” was first used to refer to some of the muhajedeen fighting the Soviets in the 1980s.”…..
“’ He was at pains advising them to abort domestic attacks that cause Muslim civilian casualties and instead focus on the United States, ‘our desired goal,’ ” the center’s report said. “Bin Laden’s frustration with regional jihadi groups and his seeming inability to exercise control over their actions and public statements is the most compelling story to be told on the basis of the 17 declassified documents.” “
A New York Times story on this study about more middle-aged people divorcing or remaining single. It’s very interesting work, but the figures look so big, to a large degree because the baby boom generation is so much bigger than previous generations.
Over the past 20 years, the divorce rate among baby boomers has surged by more than 50 percent, even as divorce rates over all have stabilized nationally. At the same time, more adults are remaining single. The shift is changing the traditional portrait of older Americans: About a third of adults ages 46 through 64 were divorced, separated or had never been married in 2010, compared with 13 percent in 1970, according to an analysis of recently released census data conducted by demographers at Bowling Green State University, in Ohio.
When life imitates art….as the New York Times reports:
“Michael Douglas, who played the financier in the 1987 movie and the sequel, is now starring in a straight-to-television videofor the Federal Bureau of Investigation meant to root out insider trading — the same crime that brought down the high-flying Mr. Gekko.
A one-minute spot that points out that illicit trading is, in fact, illegal might not seem a priority. But the new video — now showing on CNBC and Bloomberg Television — is part of the government’s broader initiative aimed at drawing cooperating witnesses and tipsters from Wall Street.”
…”as David A. Chaves, a supervisor and special agent, said on Monday, “It’s important for us to have the F.B.I. brand out on Wall Street.”
What does he mean by having the “FBI brand out on Wall Street”?
In Houston, Texas, a high school basketball team from an Orthodox school appealed to have game switched from Friday evening but no luck. What would Rick Santorum say? Read the New York Times story here:
“The school filed an appeal to change the time of the game with the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or Tapps, the group that organizes the tournament. On Monday morning, representatives of the school were notified that the association’s nine-member executive board had rejected the appeal.
“When Beren’s joined years ago, we advised them that the Sabbath would present them with a problem with the finals,” Edd Burleson, the director of the association, said. “In the past, Tapps has held firmly to their rules because if schedules are changed for these schools, it’s hard for other schools.”
Gina Kolata writes in the New York Times about two new fascinating studies that show Alzheimer’s disease spread like an infection from cell to cell in the brain. What’s surprising, she writes:
“Instead of viruses or bacteria, what is being spread is a distorted protein known as tau.
The surprising finding answers a longstanding question and has immediate implications for developing treatments, researchers said. And they suspect that other degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson’s may spread in a similar way.
Alzheimer’s researchers have long known that dying, tau-filled cells first emerge in a small area of the brain where memories are made and stored. The disease then slowly moves outward to larger areas that involve remembering and reasoning.
But for more than a quarter-century, researchers have been unable to decide between two explanations. One is that the spread may mean that the disease is transmitted from neuron to neuron, perhaps along the paths that nerve cells use to communicate with one another. Or it could simply mean that some brain areas are more resilient than others and resist the disease longer.
The new studies provide an answer. And they indicate it may be possible to bring Alzheimer’s disease to an abrupt halt early on by preventing cell-to-cell transmission, perhaps with an antibody that blocks tau. “