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Bryan Harris

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    • #74748
      AvatarBryan Harris

      You’ve GOT to check out this site. I just found it today but I can’t pull myself away from it!

      The Digital Promise website has some really cool features. There is a network view that helps to link different areas of research. Plus, there are videos, links to articles, and a feature that allows you to “ask a researcher”.

      Overall, the site is really hard to describe so you’ll have to jump in and play.

      For those of you who like to keep updated on research, this needs to be one of your go-to sites.


    • #73992
      AvatarBryan Harris

      There is an old adage that says, “Perception is reality”. If there is a grain of truth to this saying, we ought to pay close attention to the findings of a survey conducted at the end of 2016 concerning the perceived harmfulness of marijuana use among high school students in the State of Washington.

      The Study, published in the highly-credible JAMA Pediatrics, looked at data from nationwide survey of over 250,000 students in grades 8, 10, and 12. What caught my attention were the findings from students in Washington: a state that legalized recreational marijuana use for adults in 2012.

      The authors of the study looked at student data (self-reports of the perceived harmfulness of marijuana) both before legalization and after. What they found was really interesting; among 8th and 10th graders significantly more students reported that they didn’t view marijuana use as harmful. Coincidentally (but not surprisingly), there was also an increase in reported marijuana use among those students. When compared to those states that did not legalize marijuana use, there was also a decrease in perceived harmfulness but it was a much, much smaller percentage. In addition, among those states that did not legalize weed, there was a small decrease in use among students. In all fairness, this current study did not find similar results in the State of Colorado, but that may be due to the fact that Colorado has had legalized marijuana for a longer period of time.

      In Washington, legalized marijuana use, from the perspective of these students, resulted in two things:
      • More students reporting that marijuana use is not harmful, and
      • An increase in use among students

      So, what does this tell us? In those states that legalize marijuana, the message kids are getting is that marijuana is harmless. But we all know marijuana is extremely harmful…especially to developing teen brains.

      You can read more here:

      For those of you who want to read up on issues relating to marijuana use among teens, check out my previous posts:

    • #73741
      AvatarBryan Harris

      Thank you for a great post, Iliana!. I am currently creating the content for a 5 week introductory course for middle school students to learn about their brains. It’s amazing how similar the concepts are! Certainly there are unique characteristics between the adolescent brain and the senescent brain, but so many of the strategies to maintain a healthy brain are the same. For example, when I talk with kids about their brains, we talk about things like diet, exercise, sleep, and the power of positive social connections. I also show them images of human brains (most of them come from Dr. Daniel Amen’s SPECT collection) and show them the differences between healthy and unhealthy brains.

      When I work with kids, we also spend a bit of time helping them understand the nature of learning and memory…since so much of their lives are dominated by school (and the importance of remembering stuff). The topic of memory (and how to improve it) is also very relevant for those who are aging. My mother just turned 60 this year and thankfully she is in great health and cognitively as sharp as ever. But I know that one of her concerns over the coming years is a decline in cognition and mental capacity. It is a huge fear for our older friends and relatives and your list offers great suggestions about how to take care of their brains.

      I often tell people about the Mankato Nun Study done years ago (I’ve included a link below). If you’ve not heard of this before, it’s worth looking into.

    • #73502
      AvatarBryan Harris

      Thanks, Craig for those articles. As I reviewed them, I saw a common theme – curiosity is linked to the reward centers of my brain. When I am curious about something (and when I find compelling information and evidence to answer those questions I’m curious about), my brain rewards itself. As one of the articles stated, “We enjoy the act of being curious.” And another one of the articles challenged teachers to consider the fact that in many traditional classrooms students spend less time “exploring” new ideas and more time memorizing facts for tests.

      Great post. .

    • #73500
      AvatarBryan Harris

      The more I learn about memory, the more I keep getting lead back to this one very important truth – long-term learning is less about what we (as teachers) do and more about what our students do to actively process the information and concepts they are learning. I know, nothing new here, right? But we spend so much time talking about what teachers need to do differently (and, let’s be honest – a lot of us really do need to do things differently) that we sometimes forget about what kids need to do.

      Don’t get me wrong, what teachers do matters. How we design lessons, how we organize the learning space, our relationships with students….those all matter. But when it comes to durable, long-term learning, kids have to be more actively involved. But how to accomplish that active involvement is a question a lot of us wrestle with.

      A 2016 study provides some insight. Researchers found that people remember more information (including more detail) for a longer period of time after they told others about what they have learned. In fact, the researchers suggested that talking to people about what you are learning is a better study strategy than re-reading notes or text.

      Talking is all about actively processing and engaging with the information.

      I am convinced! If I want to remember something, I need to talk about it. I need to tell others. And our classrooms should be places where kids talk a lot. If we want our kids to remember more, they need to talk more. It’s that simple.

      Sekeres, et al. (2016) Recovering and preventing loss of detailed memory:differential rates of forgetting for detail types in episodic memory

    • #73087
      AvatarBryan Harris

      I’ll be the first one to throw something out there…

      I read this recently and said to myself, “Wow.”

      Research completed out of Finland found a direct correlation between sedentary activities and reading gains in young students. A study published in the Journal of Medicine and Sport found that the more time kids spent sitting in school in grade 1 resulted in two years of lower reading scores! One year of sitting too much could result in two years of impact? That’s where the “wow” came in. We know a lot about the relationship between movement and learning but this research sure hits home.

      But, there is an even bigger “wow” with their findings. The lower reading scores were only correlated to boys, not girls!

      Think about how often we restrict movement in an effort to boost reading scores. How much more evidence do we need that the brain/body was designed to move.

    • #69636
      AvatarBryan Harris

      Thanks, Elizabeth. You have accurately described something every primary teacher struggles with – how to focus student energy while maintaining an academic focus. Here are a couple of ideas and strategies:
      *Breaks are critical. No one, regardless of age, can maintain an unlimited focus on a task. You know this, of course, but its a good reminder that the brain needs rest. Focus and concentration use up the brain’s resources – oxygen and glucose. When those run low, they need to be replenished. Movement, breaks, and snacks are important.
      *Start small with games like Simon Says, Concentration, classic board games, etc. Those tasks build patience, self-control, and stamina. Focus and attention is a skill. When building any skill (especially with little ones) we want to make it fun and enjoyable. If building a skill becomes a painful chore, we’ll all avoid it. Then start to show kids how self-control when playing a game is similar to the self-control they need to have when focusing on a school task or controlling their body. “Remember when you patiently waited your turn to play kick ball? You really, really wanted to go next but there were two students in front of you. Do you remember that? Well, waiting your turn to play a game is a little like ……”
      *Consider doing a room check as well. Take a look around your classroom and consider the stimuli in the room – the decorations, the seating arrangements, the traffic flow. It can be hard to focus and control oneself when there are so many “hot” cues in the environment. A hot cue is something that calls for attention. I’m not suggesting a sterile environment, far from it. It is just a good reminder that environments matter a lot when it comes to self-control and fidgety behaviors.

      – Bryan

    • #69515
      AvatarBryan Harris

      One of the most famous patients in the history of neurology and brain science is a man named Henry Molaison more commonly referred to in the research as “HM”.

      While his story is fairly famous, have you ever heard of Dr. Brenda Milner? If not, you’ll want to listen to the interview at the link below.

      Now in her 90s, Dr. Milner was HM’s doctor and a true pioneer in the study of the brain.

      Make the time to listen to this amazing woman! You will not be disappointed.

    • #68034
      AvatarBryan Harris

      Here is yet another marijuana update.

      Published in July of 2016 – One Minute of Marijuana Secondhand Smoke Exposure Substantively Impairs Vascular Endothelial Function

      What does this mean? Breathing secondhand pot smoke does damage to your arteries. In fact, in this study, that damage was WORSE than secondhand cigarette smoke. Now, in all honesty, this study was done in rats but humans share many similarities with rats in how our arteries respond to smoke.

      Time to educate everyone you know – marijuana is not good for you!


    • #66105
      AvatarBryan Harris

      Great topic, Ernest. Seems counter-intuitive but I’ve noticed that I do a lot better when taking notes by hand. And I teach this to my grad students also.

      Check out this article:


    • #65086
      AvatarBryan Harris

      Marijuana use disorder is on the rise!

      Did you know there was such a thing as marijuana use disorder? Well, there is. You can check it out in the DSM-5.

      With our country’s rapidly changing view towards cannabis, it makes sense that we would see a rise in the number of people who are experiencing serious negative effects of pot. By one estimate, that number is now at 6 million people who qualify under the DSM-5 indicators for a use disorder of cannabis. 6 million people!

      Read more here:

      Its time to educate our young people…marijuana is not harmless.

    • #65022
      AvatarBryan Harris

      Hi Charlene,

      After all these years, I’ve learned two things (well, at least two things): very few topics get as much heated discussion among educators as the teaching of cursive writing and the impact of video games on kids.

      We’ll save the topic of cursive for another time. For now, enjoy reading the following article on the impact of those “horrible” video games.

    • #64963
      AvatarBryan Harris

      We’ve had lots of great discussions about movement and physical exercise. Here is another reason to get movin’ – some recent research has shown a connection between brain “age” and how often people take the stairs. Interesting stuff.

      Read more at:

    • #64760
      AvatarBryan Harris

      Thanks for a great post on an important topic, Charlene!

      In my position, I often find myself being able to talk to teens about the use of marijuana. Many of them think it’s harmless. So, I start by giving them a short quiz. Take the True/False quiz below to see how you do:

      1. Teens who were regular users scored about the same on tests of long term memory as non-users. (Rubino, et al. 2009)
      2. Marijuana today is twice as potent (in terms of THC levels) as marijuana from the 1960s. (McGorian, 2015)
      3. Marijuana is just as harmful to the brain as cocaine, alcohol, and meth. (Hall, 2015)
      4. Heavy pot smokers have about the same IQ as non users. (Meier et al., 2012)
      5. Once the effects of THC have subsided, attention span, memory, and learning ability go back to normal. (Hall & Degenhard, 2009)
      6. Marijuana use impacts brain development.

      Here are the answers….they are all FALSE, except one. Read below.

      1. False – they scored 18% worse.
      2. False – 6 -10 times higher. And, there is some evidence that it is even more potent when digested as food.
      3. False – Pot is not as harmful as other drugs like meth and should not be placed in the same category. While marijuana is clearly not healthy, we need to be honest. As adults, we’ll lose credibility if lump all drugs into the same category and catastrophize them all. Did you know: people don’t die from an overdose of pot. Again pot use is bad for the brain…it’s bad for teens and it’s bad for adults. But, we need to be honest about its impact.
      4. False – Heavy users in their teens – by the time they become adults a drop of about 8 points in IQ.
      5. False – The effects stick around….maybe not permanently but as long as a user continues to use, there are negative effects.
      6. True– You’d be hard pressed to find a legitimate researcher who disagrees.

      More information can be found here:


    • #64054
      AvatarBryan Harris

      Thanks, Ernest. This is an important discussion, albeit it a bit controversial. Aside from the points made in the article and the insights from you and Eric, an additional factor to consider is teacher morale – especially among our newest teachers. Teachers have too often been told “you make a difference” or “you make the biggest difference.” Sometimes, leaders have taken this to an extreme to assume that ALL that matters is the classroom teacher. Do great teachers make a difference? Of course. But other factors matter as well. So, our teachers hear the refrain that “you make the biggest difference in student growth” and they take it very personally when they pour their hearts and souls into kids but don’t see the miraculous growth in test scores. As a result, many of them leave the profession or (worse yet) give up trying to improve because the think there is nothing they can do. Everyone needs to know that teachers matter, but so do a lot of other things.

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