Sunday, March 30, 2014

The 808: How Headphones/Earbuds Are Causing Hearing Loss

"Alright stop. Collaborate and listen."
Wait...what did you say?

Earphones and earbuds are the rage right now and have been for a few years. 
Seems like the bigger (the headphones) the better and louder is in. 
Are we back in the 1990's? Cue Vanilla Ice...

I frequently get asked about the effects of technology use on our bodies. One of the biggest effects is neck and eye strain, but another concern which is growing with each decibel is hearing loss. Out of the 36 million people suffering from hearing loss, about 1 in 3 can be attributed to Noise Induced Hearing Loss. Today, 1 in 5 teens has some sort of hearing loss which is significantly higher than the 1990s, many experts believe it is because of the increased headphone use. 

Here are some "Ice Ice Baby" lyrics to help remind you to tone it down:
  • 808: In case you didn't know, the term "808" typically refers to the penal code for disturbing the peace. It can also refer to the drum machine process used in rap songs in the 1990s to increase decibel levels for the bass sound to have a deeper vibe. But, here's the 808 for you: use your etiquette and manners: lower the volume. Not everyone shares your taste in music. Respect those around you. Don't disturb someone else's peace. Plus, it is better for your ears.
  • "I go crazy when I hear a cymbal": Bells or other types of ringing in your ears are a sign of hearing loss. Known as tinnitus, it can be caused by exposure to loud music, most commonly through mobile devices, especially if played for long periods of time.
  • "Yo! I'll solve it":  Your volume level is recommended to be under 85 decibels. If it reaches above that point, it can cause permanent damage. Most headphones have a maximum volume set at 100 decibels. Beware! Listening to music on max volume with stock headphones at 100 decibels can damage your ears in less than 15 minutes/day. Your ears will naturally readjust to the lower volume after about a week. 
    Check yourself.
  • "The kid don't play": Setting limits to how often and how long you are listening to your music is important. Take OFF those headphones or earbuds and take IN those natural sounds around you. Talk to people, face to face. Get active, go play (whatever that means to you).
  • "Word to your mother": Parents typically know best when it comes to taking care of their children's health, however their kids don't always think so. Buy headphones that fit over your ears (not earbuds) as those are the best for protecting your ears from hearing loss. There are headphones and earbuds available specifically designed to avoid hearing loss. Parents: helpful to talk to your kids about the importance of taking care of their ears.  Kids: listen to your parents now, otherwise you won't be able to listen at all later.

Play your favorite music...jam out. 
Everyone deserves to listen to tunes that free their mind and soothe their soul. 
Just keep it on the down low.

Let's kick it. (No headphones required).

Information to share and discuss:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Welcome Back, Kotter: Why High School Classrooms Need A Makeover

A typical high school classroom today. Having a flashback?

Raise your hand if you thought some of your classes in High School were boring. 

Now be quiet (as you stare at the back of the person's head in front of you), stay in your seat (in that uncomfortable desk) and wait until I call on you (now start daydreaming)

Sound familiar? Well, if you visited your old high school classroom, you would most likely see the same seating arrangement that was there when you were dozing off in class.

Why do we continue setting up high school classrooms like this picture above? We enable students to be consumers of content and technology instead of producers of knowledge using technology. We enable them to sit and get instead of being motivated to make and take what they are learning.

There are teachers out there taking the initiative to move their students around by engaging them in meaningful activities, and I applaud them.   Unfortunately, teachers do not always have the support and resources to design their classrooms the way they know their students will learn best. We know that teachers have little if no say about which classroom they teach in. Sure, they can rearrange their wooden or metal desks, maybe even put some pictures on the walls. But, often times, that is about it. It is not uncommon for high school teachers to have to share rooms, schlep their "classroom" around on a cart wherever there is space to teach their students for that period.  Honestly, the most charismatic and interesting teacher doesn't have a chance to completely engage all their students if their learners are sitting in uncomfortable desks, unable to move around because there is not enough space to go anywhere.

And what about 21st century mobile technology? Isn't the point to allow users to be mobile: digitally and physically? Students don't have to be tethered down with a device, yet their bodies are tethered to their desks and chairs.

Why do High School classrooms require students to sit in rows and be quiet over and over all day long?
Do you know of any job out there that requires you to sit in a row and be quiet for long periods of time each day?

What if? Let's inspire creativity and collaboration with a balance of individual work space and room to move.

My Two Cents (actually, 5 cents...)
  1. Get with the 21st century: Do you live in a home that looks like it did in 1937? Your office? Your car? Your furniture resemble 1930's decor? How about your kitchen? Your bathroom (never mind)? Do you still use a manual typewriter? We need to remodel, develop, create and change these high school classrooms. They look extremely similar to this one from 1937. Thank goodness fashion has changed!
  2. Balance of traditional and new teaching and learning methods: Teachers need support, and by that I mean progressive professional development, opportunities to go out and see places where the set up is there or at least images, sharing of ideas. Let them have time to talk about what arrangements they have tried and talk to other professional teachers about what has worked or not worked in their classrooms.  Then they can take their traditional methods (yes, lecture and whole group teaching still has its place) and mix in the new methods of delivering curriculum in a classroom which is set up to engage students.
  3. Developing hard skills:  The content needs to be taught, but it can be and should be taught in a multitude of ways to a wide variety of learners. Requiring students to sit in rows hour after hour because the furniture impedes active listening and movement is only going to make the skills gap wider. How are they going to retain any information when they aren't paying attention?
  4. Acknowledging the importance of soft skills: This is a huge issue right now with our youth. We keep hearing from employers that many of  high schools students are unemployable, mainly because of their soft skills. They struggle with manners, ethics, responsibility, social interaction, time management...the list goes on. What better way to practice the soft skills required to function as a successful citizen then in the high school classroom?  It doesn't have to be separated from the classroom activities, in fact, it shouldn't be. Acknowledge there needs to be interactive dialogue among the students. Timeliness and your best work is expected. How do HS teachers do this, especially with students who are not motivated? It's challenging, but having an open, movable environment can expose them to more experiences of teamwork, responsibility, independent activities, and following through with projects then "sitting and getting" the content all day.
  5. Include students in the designing and collaborative process: You want students to buy into what you are teaching? You want students to enjoy school? Show them the school is built for them. Let them give input on how the furniture should be placed for different activities. If possible, let them vote on furniture being purchased. If safety allows, have them rearrange the furniture themselves. Encourage student ownership of their work space. That's real world.
Our bodies were made to move and our minds were made to be used. 
Here's your hall pass to support active, not passive, learning.

Now you can have this song running through your head all day, too:

Be sure to check out this guy: 
Geoff Mulgan:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lent (Part 2): How YOU Doin'?

We all enjoy our "Friends" who can help us laugh, support us and keep us stress free.

Who doesn't love Joey? He makes everyone laugh! Laughter is good for the soul. In fact, the Bible reads that "A glad heart makes a cheerful face," Proverbs 15:13. Have you laughed this past week during Lent? Speaking of you doin'? How's your Lenten promise going? 

I hope this first part of Lent has found you free of stress, full of life,laughter and love for this season of renewal and growth, and above all, closer to God. But, we all know that springtime can also bring about some stress: busy schedules with Spring Break, Easter, new sports seasons, new interests and the end of school in clear view with summer in a blink of eye. Not to mention the daily texts, emails, phone calls, posts, and other mobile device distractions which can impede our Lent promise. 

Sorry, if I just stressed you out.

"So, no one told you that life was gonna be this way..."  

Stress. We all have it. Some more than others. How can we cope and avoid it?  Dr. Amanda Chaney,  a licensed, board-certified naturopathic physician who owns, Chaney Integrative Family Medicine and is the Wellness Director at Woodside Heath and Tennis Club, recently published an article about stress management. When I contacted her to ask for permission to publish her talented insight, she was thrilled to share her words of wisdom about this foe of ours.

Dr. Chaney explains, "Stress is an internal state, not an external one. There is no stress 'out there' in the world. Stress is in our thoughts about the world out there. If we ever hope to actually reduce our experience of stress in a lasting way, it can only be by changing how we think about our world."

Dr. Chaney's Tips to Manage Stress:

  1. Talk about it, or write it out, what's worrying you: One way to become more aware of your thoughts is to observe your stream of consciousness as you think about a stressful situation. Do not suppress any thoughts: instead just let them run their course while you watch them and write them down when they occur.
  2. Speak a stress-free language: People who handle stress well tend to employ what stress experts call an "optimistic explanatory style." They don't beat themselves up when things don't work out in their favor. Replace the word "expect" with "hope." Expectations can only be used for those things over which you have the greatest personal control. You can expect to quench your thirst with a drink of water. You cannot expect to get the job you just interviewed for. You can hope to get it.
  3. Don't be so serious: There's nothing like anxiety to annihilate your sense of humor. Remember that it's impossible to feel stressed when you're hunched over with the giggles.
  4. Once a day, get away: When you're having a hell of a day--good or bad--checking out for 10-15 minutes can be revitalizing. Find a place where you can be alone (definitely ditch the cell phone) and wipe the slate clean for a few minutes.
  5. Identify at least one good thing that happened today: It's a scenario played out every evening all over the country: come home from work and start venting to your spouse or roommate about your day. Instead of creating a negative atmosphere the minute you walk in the door, try starting off the evening with your family or friends exchanging good news. Something good happens every day!

My friend Rana, shared this the other day, It ties well into Dr. Chaney's third tip.

This Lent season and beyond: Don't stress, find a reason to laugh
It's free medicine. 

  • Three journal apps that can help with Dr. Chaney's first and last tips.
    • iMoodJournal-  This cool app is an ultimate mood journal, personal diary and charting too; It will help you discover the cause of your ups and downs and help you see insightful info into yourself.
    • Step Journal- Want to know yourself better? You can customize your dashboard and record events of your life. Choose activities you want to keep track on and Step Journal will keep it private. Or if you want to share excerpts from your journal you can easily do so through Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare.
    • Everyday TimelineThis app is a smart personal journal with photos, videos, maps calendar, checkins, tagging, search, etc. It can import your activities from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare. It backs up to Dropbox, Evernote or Email. It can work offline and sych automatically. It has a great feature “Blast from the Past” which allows you to remember what you were doing a year ago. Other details included in description and reviews.

SPECIAL THANKS to Dr. Amanda Chaney for sharing her wisdom about stress management and keeping us healthy: mind, body and spirit!