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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Light emitted by Technology Disrupts Sleep: Strategies for Students

Many students struggle to fall asleep at night, even though they are terribly tired during the day. Why is this becoming a common occurrence?  Daily, the average student spends nine hours using technology for enjoyment and school, and many of these hours are after the sun sets.  Although sunlight dims to relative darkness, children's exposure to light remains when they are planted in front of televisions, phones, computers, and other handheld, computing devices. What we are now learning is that this extended exposure to light is having detrimental effects on the natural circadian rhythms that have been established across time.  

What are Circadian Rhythms?
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle of light and dark in an organism's natural environment.  The study of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology.  

Are Circadian Rhythms Important?
Circadian rhythms are key in determining the sleep patterns of humans.  Our body's have a controlling clock or suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in the hypothalamus that controls the production of hormones in the brain such as melatonin.  The SCN is located above the optic nerve and relays information to the brain about when it is light and when it is dark.  At night, it is the production of melatonin that causes you to get sleepy.  As a result, when light exposure continues into the night, the brain does not secrete the chemical messengers into the blood that induce slumber.

How Does Technology Effect Circadian Rhythms and the Sleep Patterns of Students?
We now know that it's exposure to blue light at night that often keeps students up late.  In fact, for the average person, reading on a tablet or computer before turning in can result in a later bedtime by about an hour.  What's more, excessive use of technology such as texting has now been linked to sleep problems due to the continued exposure to light and sounds late into the night.  

What Can Be Done to Protect Students from Light Emitted by Technology?

  • Discontinue the use of technology at least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Help children feel comfortable sleeping in darkness and limit the use and brightness of nightlights.  If nightlights are required, make sure to turn them off or dim them once children are asleep.
  • Purchase blackout shades. These shades limit outside light penetrating into rooms, so kids can sleep deeply until they need to awake.
  • Upload the free software Flux onto your computing devices.  Flux adjusts the computer's display to the time of day and limits certain wavelengths at night.  
  • Dim computers and televisions in the night hours.
I hope you found this blog post helpful.  Let me know if you have any additional strategies!

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Solving Spelling Problems with Digital Assistants and Voice Search Technology

Challenges with spelling disrupt the flow of thoughts, distract the writer and often result in poor word choice.  Even though the author may have an excellent speaking vocabulary, their writing may suffer due to avoidance of words that are difficult to spell.  What's more, many poor spellers skirt writing altogether because navigating spelling potholes can be time-consuming, and they fear that others will question their intellect.

What Can Be Done to Help Poor Spellers?
The technology age offers a number excellent tools for struggling spellers.
  1. Speech-to-Text SoftwareSpeech-to-text is a type of software that transcribes the spoken word into typed words on a computer or handheld device.  Writers no longer have to be distracted by spelling.  As long as they enunciate their words clearly, all spelling will be accommodated via voice commands.  Macs come with this option for free. To learn more CLICK HERE.  In addition, there are many other speech-to-text options like Speech Recognition on Window 10 and purchasable software programs such as Dragon Naturally Speaking.
  2. Word Prediction Software: Word prediction software helps writers, during word processing, to "predict" a word they intend to type.  Word predictions are based on frequency of use, syntax, and spelling.  To learn more about this technology you can view a short video on ClaroCom Word Prediction and Co-Writer.
  3. Google Voice Search/Ok Google/Google Now:  Google Voice Search/Ok Google/Google Now is a speech recognition option in Google's search engine. Available via the Chrome browser and Google mobile apps, Google Voice Search merged with Google Now to provide a voice-based personal assistant.  There are also a few tricks that can make the app even more useful.  For spelling in Google Voice Search, simply ask, "how do you spell____". Google will quickly return the correct spelling of the word and speak the spelling aloud too. 
  4. Voice-Recognition Digital AssistantsVoice Recognition Digital Assistants are programs that work as a personal assistant and knowledge navigator. This option uses a voice recognition interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Web-based services.  My 4 favorite digital assistants are:
  • Alexa:  The Amazon Echo is a cylindrical device that offers, Alexa, a voice-recognition digital assistant that can spell words aloud, complete simple math, answer questions, share facts, tell jokes, provide the news, make to-do lists and more.  Click here to watch a video of Alexa in Action.
  • Siri: Siri is a computer program that works as an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator.  If you ask, Siri can you spell words for you aloud and provide a visual definition.
I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you  come across other helpful spelling devices.  Please share these resources below this blog.


Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What is Brain Training or Brain Fitness and is it Helpful?



I am a learning specialist and educational therapist.  However,  I tell many of my clientele that I’m a personal trainer for the brain.  I help individuals of all ages to improve overall cognition, develop compensatory learning strategies and master optimal study skills.  I have seen, first hand the power of brain training.

What is Brain Training?
Brain Training, Brain Fitness, or Cognitive Remediation is the act of strengthening deficits in learning or weak areas of cognition.  This is typically done using activities that concentrate on specific areas of difficulty.  Just like a personal trainer or physical therapist can focus exercises on a particular part of the body, many learning specialists, educational therapists and learning coaches can help individuals of all ages to improve memory, visual processing, auditory processing, attention, executive functioning, stamina and more.

The Brain is Not Limited and Defined:
The brain is not inflexible and fixed.  Instead, it continues to grow, if exercised, throughout our lifetime.  Repeated brain training creates new neuro-pathways, clears the hurdles that trip the thought processes and helps the mind run smoothly and efficiently. In addition, early intervention can sometimes cure or remediate learning disabilities, assist the head injured in regaining skills and can even prevent diseases of the elderly such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.  The bottom line is that it is never too late.

How Should Brain Training Activities be Administered?
When instruction focuses on the area of difficulty, it’s important for the activities to be engaging and fun.  They need to start at a simplistic level that offers some challenge for the individual, and difficulty is increased as the participants experience success, thus keeping them in their zone of proximal development.  

Where Can I Get Brain Training Materials?
I have been creating cognitive remedial tools for the past nine years.  To learn more about my products go to Good Sensory Learning.  Otherwise, one of my favorite home-fun options is Lumosity.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Learn about Strengthening Working Memory with Free Sample Activities


Working memory is a fundamental cognitive processing activity required for learning.  It is the part of the brain that is responsible for the transient holding and processing of new and stored information. It's key for executive functioning skills, reasoning, comprehension, learning and the updating of memory.   Here are some sample activities that can help educational therapists, learning specialists, tutors, parents and more help to develop this skill in struggling learners.

CLICK HERE for your free download.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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