HS Friday Bulletin August 31

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Dear Parents and Guardians,

Well this year is well underway and we say goodbye to August. We have a long series of holiday-free weeks ahead of us as, from now until October break we have a string of 8 solid, 5-day weeks where a good rhythm of learning can hopefully be established.

I want to start this week by sharing an article that was sent to me recently regarding the use of smart phones in our and our kids’ lives which contains some interesting claims about smart phone dependence, sometimes to the point of addiction.

The smart phone, our most portable digital device, is amazing in its capability and capacity. It can, of course, be used as a phone or to text, to calculate, to find addresses, access the internet, measure your exercise, get a weather forecast, track a friend, set your alarm, listen to music, diagnose medical conditions, construct to-do lists, play games etc. Its power exceeds mainframe computers in use even 30 years ago whilst it is almost impossible to compare one with Bletchley Park ‘s Colossus Mk 2, built in 1944. This ran on 2400 valves. In contrast, we can use our smartphone on the move and, because of its versatility, it will draw us into some level of multitasking. We check Twitter whilst queuing, listen to music as we walk, connect to 24/7 rolling news as we eat and check what our friend s are doing or saying even as we hold a face-to-face conversation with others.
Miller, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, employs strong language when he refers to our alleged ability to multitask as a “powerful and diabolical illusion”. One of the world ‘s leading experts on divided attention he states unequivocally: “Our brains are not wired to multitask well … When people think they ‘re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.” (2013, p.3)
He argues that we are not expert jugglers able to maintain a lot of balls in the many as five or six at once but, rather, that we are more like bad plate-spinners, rushing from one task to another and ignoring the one in front in order to give attention to others.
This frantic activity is not the index of our productivity; in fact, the more diverse things that we do concurrently, the less efficient we become.
Any form of multitasking will increase the level of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in our bodies. Acting in tandem, these can overstimulate the brain and generate brain fog or disaggregate our thinking. Miller (2013) also argues that multitasking creates and sustains this dopamine-addiction feedback loop, which actually rewards the brain for losing focus. The prefrontal cortex is enchanted with the new and will easily allow the brain to redirect its focus and attention towards novelty. We are the ultimate cognitive jackdaws. Levitin, another neuroscientist, states: “We answer the phone, look up something on the in tern et, check our email, send an SMS, and each of these things tweaks the novelty-seeking, reward-seeking centers of the brain, causing a burst of endogenous opioids (no wonder it feels so good!), all to the detriment of our staying on task. It is the ultimate empty-caloried brain candy. Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugar-coated tasks.” (2015, p.1)
It gets worse! Ward et al (2017) found that cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when a person ‘s smartphone is within reach, even if it is turned off. In their study, 800 smartphone users where asked to complete a series of tests on a computer. These were designed to require full concentration in order for an individual to achieve high scores. The tests were geared to measure participants’ available cognitive capacity – the brain ‘s ability to hold and process data at any given time. All participants were asked to turn their phones to silent. Some of the participants were randomly instructed to place their phones either next to them but face down, in a pocket or in a bag, while others were asked to leave their phones in another room.
The research project showed that where a participant had left their phone in another room they significantly outperformed the group who had their phones on the desk beside them. They, also, albeit slightly, outperformed those who had their phones in a pocket, briefcase or handbag. The findings suggest that the mere presence of our smartphone reduces our available cognitive capacity and impairs our cognitive functioning, despite the fact that we believe that we are giving the task in hand our full attention. When interviewed by Fotalia about his findings, Ward suggested that: “As the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases … Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process – the process of requiring yourself to not think about something – uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.” (Fotalia, 2017, p.1)
Ward and his team (2017) extended their reach in a further experiment. They looked at how an individual’s self-assessed dependence on their smartphone mapped against cognitive capacity. The same series of computer-based tasks were used to assess performance. Again, participants were asked to switch their phones off and then randomly given similar locations to store them while the participants took the tests.
The research findings indicated that the higher the level of dependency on the digital device of the participant, the worse the participant performed in the tests. However, putting the phone in an adjacent room restored the levels of their performance. The conclusion was that having your smartphone within sight or within easy reach actually reduces your ability to focus and perform tasks because part of your brain is actively working to ignore the phone.

I think that one of the things we can all do as parents is to manage the use of smart phones at home. Let’s start by having a central location (not the bedroom) where all these devices are charged each night – go on, give it a go; let’s all (we and our children) try to get some uninterrupted sleep. We could then make moves to have phone-free dinners and have the kids put their phones somewhere out of reach and out of sight while they’re doing homework. Why not read the article above with your child and use it as the starting point for a discussion about mature and sensible use of smart phones?

And now to other things:

Kawayan (Yearbook) Photos – these were taken for the grade 9, 10 and 11 students this week. The grade 12s are having theirs taken tomorrow, Saturday September 1st and then again next Saturday, September 8th. Order your pictures using these links.
• Photo Order Sheet for Grade 9-11
• Photo Order Sheet for Grade 12 (Seniors)
Thank you to Ms. Cappuccio and Mr. Lassey for last night’s “Navigating your way through High School” presentation to the Grade 9 parents. The use of smart phones and the tools and apps that have been developed to try to tame these beasts was one of the discussion points too. Here’s the link to their presentation.
Friday August 31st – Friday Night Lights #1

This evening is the first Friday Night lights of the year. Saturday will also be a very busy day on campus with the first of the Rifa soccer festivals along with local league volleyball games.

Typically we have upwards of 500+ people Saturday morning and 300+ Saturday afternoon for the festivals so parking on campus will be at a premium. Here’s the game schedule for the weekend:

MS Field – 3:15-4pm MS A1/A2 training session and or practice match 2x20min.
MS Field – 4pm ISM JV girls vs Faith JV warm-up
MS Field – 4:15pm Kick off JV Girls vs Faith JV (2x 40min)
MS Field – 5:45pm ISM Aspirants boys vs Faith JV boys (2x40min)
HS Field – 4:15pm ISM V boys vs Faith V (2x40min)
HS Field – 5:45pm ISM V girls vs Faith V (2x40min)
MS Gym – 4:15pm JV boys vs Faith Crt 1/JV Girls vs Faith Crt 2
HS Gym – Vboys vs Faith Crt 1/VGirls vs Faith Crt 2
*Best of 5 matches with all 5 sets to be played.

Saturday September 1st – HS/MS Fields
ES Rifa soccer festival E and G divisions at 8am
ES/MS Rifa soccer festivals C divisions at BSM 8am and 1pm start
ES/MS Rifa Girls soccer festivals at HS/MS fields 1pm start
MS/HS Volleyball local league matches at MS gym.
MS A1 boys soccer away at DLSZ 2pm

Sunday September 2nd – HS Field
Aspirants/MS A2 boys soccer vs DLSZ and Marist 8am/10am

Looking ahead to next week, all Grade 10 and Grade 11 parents (and of course, anyone else that might find it interesting) is invited to the Little Theatre at 5:0pm to listen to Mr. Relf’s presentation on the IB Diploma program. This is particularly relevant for parents who are coming from a country and a system that does not follow the IB Diploma, as about 75-80% of our ISM students in Grades 11 and 12 do follow this path.

Finally, a reminder that the Parent Coffee that was originally calendared for next Tuesday, September 4th, has been moved to September 11th at the slightly later start time of 9:00am in the AMR. We did this so that we could take advantage of the expertise of the Counselor from FCD (Freedom from Chemical Dependency) who will be here all of that week, working with our Grade 11 students.

And with that, I wish you a safe and relaxing weekend. Go Bearcats!

Mike Dickinson
High School Principal