Teacher Kelly VanDyke awarded ‘Educator of the Year’ by the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan — from mlive.com by Skyla Jewell-Hammie


Grand Rapids elementary teacher Kelly VanDyke was recently recognized as the 2022 Educator of the Year by the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan.

VanDyke, who teaches at Central Elementary in Kenowa Hills Public Schools, was celebrated for her successful, supportive approach to teaching children with Down syndrome…


A Turning Point for Prison Education — from chronicle.com by Taylor Swaak
With reinstatement of Pell Grants imminent, the programs weigh technology’s long-term role.


Incarcerated people who participate in postsecondary-education programs are 48 percent less likely to return to prison, according to a 2018 study from the RAND Corporation.

Three colleges that The Chronicle spoke with are in varying stages of adding technology to their prison-ed programs.

Addendum on 5/11/22:

It was a proud, and somewhat routine commencement ceremony for Calvin University on Monday, May 9, though held in the confines of a state prison.

Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary joined the Michigan Department of Corrections Monday to host the graduation ceremony for Calvin Prison Initiative (CPI) students at the state’s Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia.

Addendums on 5/16/22:


From DSC:
For the last few years, I’ve been thinking that we need to make learning science-related information more accessible to students, teachers, professors, trainers, and employees — no matter what level they are at.

One idea on how to do this — besides putting posters up in the hallways, libraries, classrooms, conference rooms, cafeterias, etc. — is that we could put a How best to study/learn link in all of the global navigation bars and/or course navigation bars out there in organizations’ course management systems and learning management systems. Learners of all ages could have 24 x 7 x 365, easy, instant access as to how to be more productive as they study and learn about new things.

For example, they could select that link in their CMS/LMS to access information on:

  • Retrieval practice
  • Spacing
  • Interleaving
  • Metacognition
  • Elaboration
  • The Growth Mindset
  • Accessibility-related tools / assistive technologies
  • Links to further resources re: learning science and learning theories

What do you think? If we started this in K12, kept it up in higher ed and vocational programs, and took the idea into the corporate world, valuable information could be relayed and absorbed. This is the kind of information that is highly beneficial these days — as all of us need to be lifelong learners now.


From DSC:
When I saw the recent article below out at mlive.com, I couldn’t help but recall the words that our daughter just said the other day — that they had yet another day of standardized testing to do that day. (She works in a public school system here in Michigan.) In fact, she said that the relaying of new content had already ended a while ago and the last two months of the year were being allocated for reviewing what had already been covered and then taking these standardized tests. I’m guessing that neither students nor the teachers and other teaching/support-related staff were all that excited about that agenda.

In such cases, I’m guessing that the love of learning goes right out the window — as does the love of teaching. All of this is to:

  • assuage the legislators in our state’s capitol — especially to see how Michigan is stacking up in the comparison game with other states
  • give bragging rights to administrators in the comparison game as they compare their school district to other districts in Michigan
  • give the realtors and communities reasons for the increased prices of their houses (in a different but related comparison game)

Am I oversimplifying this? Most likely. But it still bothers me nonetheless.

These are the 50 highest rated Michigan high schools in the new U.S. News rankings — from mlive.com by Martin Slagter


Three Michigan high schools are once again rated among the top 100 best high schools in the country in the latest U.S. News & World Report best high school rankings released on Tuesday, April 26.

Rankings are based on several weighted factors, including college readiness (30%), college curriculum breadth (10%), state assessment proficiency (20%), state assessment performance (20%), underserved student performance (10%) and graduation rate (10%). The data used is from the 2019-20 school year.

While the six ranking indicators that determined each school’s rank were the same as those used in the three prior years, U.S. News adjusted its calculation of these measures to account for the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on schools in the 2019-2020 school year.

Also relevant from mlive.com, see:


The amazing opportunities of AI in the future of the educational metaverse [Darbinyan]

The amazing opportunities of AI in the future of the educational metaverse — from forbes.com by Rem Darbinyan


Looking ahead, let’s go over several potential AI-backed applications of the metaverse that can empower the education industry in many ways.

Multilingual Learning Opportunities
Language differences may be a real challenge for students from different cultures as they may not be able to understand and keep up with the materials and assignments. Artificial intelligence, VR and AR technologies can enhance multilingual accessibility for learners no matter where they are in the world. Speech-to-text, text-to-speech and machine translation technologies enrich the learning process and create more immersive learning environments.

AI can process multiple languages simultaneously and provide real-time translations, enabling learners to engage with the materials in the language of their choice. With the ability to instantly transcribe speech across multiple languages, artificial intelligence removes any language barriers for students, enabling them to be potentially involved, learn and communicate in any language.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Education Market size exceeded USD 1 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 40% between 2021 and 2027. (source)

Along the lines of innovation within our educational learning ecosystems, see:

3 Questions for Coursera’s Betty Vandenbosch & U-M’s Lauren Atkins Budde on XR — from insidehighered.com by Joshua Kiim
How might extended reality shape the future of learning?

Excerpts (emphasis DSC):

[Lauren Atkins Budde] “Being able to embed quality, effective extended reality experiences into online courses is exponentially a game-changer. One of the persistent constraints of online learning, especially at scale, is how do learners get hands-on practice? How do they experience specific contexts and situations? How do they learn things that are best experienced? XR provides that opportunity for actively doing different kinds of tasks, in various environments, in ways that would otherwise not be possible. It will open up  Lauren Atkins Buddeboth how we teach online and also what we teach online.”

These courses are really exciting and cover a broad range of disciplines, which is particularly important. To choose the right subjects, we did an extensive review of insights from industry partners, learners and market research on in-demand and emerging future-of-work skills and then paired that with content opportunities where immersive learning is really a value-add and creates what our learning experience designers call “embodied learning.”

Addendum on 5/1/22:
Can the Metaverse Improve Learning? New Research Finds Some Promise — from edsurge.com by Jeffrey R. Young

“The findings support a deeper understanding of how creating unique educational experiences that feel real (i.e., create a high level of presence) through immersive technology can influence learning through different affective and cognitive processes including enjoyment and interest,” Mayer and his colleagues write.


Kalamazoo Valley Museum’s newest exhibit teaches community about media literacy — from mmlive.com by Gabi Broekema along with one of our sisters Sue Ellen Christian


The 14-element interactive exhibit is scattered across two floors of the museum and invites visitors to learn about media literacy through fun games and stories.

This project is the brainchild of presidential innovation professor in communication at Western Michigan University, Sue Ellen Christian. A few years back, Christian wrote the book, “Everyday Media Literacy: An Analog Guide for Your Digital Life,” to teach media literacy to the classes she taught full of students from different majors across the university.


Beyond the Ban — from edtrust.org; with thanks to Goldie Blumenstyk, a senior writer at The Chronicle, for this resource


Each toolkit analyzes state policy to answer eight equity questions:

  • Does the state offer state financial aid to currently and formerly incarcerated students?
  • Does the state provide sentence reduction credit for incarcerated students enrolled in higher education courses?
  • Does the state provide incentives and resources to colleges that enroll and support currently and formerly incarcerated students?
  • Does the state have a streamlined process for currently incarcerated students to access documents to retrieve their state identification?
  • Does the state allow formerly incarcerated students to access federal support for basic needs like food, housing, and health care?
  • Does the state ban higher education institutions from asking about criminal history on admissions applications?
  • Does the state ban employers from asking about criminal history on job applications?
  • Do currently and formerly incarcerated individuals have the right to vote in the state?



A group of workers are shown paving a new highway in this image.

From DSC:
What are the cognitive “highways” within our minds?

I’ve been thinking a lot about highways recently. Not because it’s construction season (quite yet) here in Michigan (USA), but because I’ve been reflecting upon how many of us build cognitive highways within our minds. The highways that I’m referring to are our well-trodden routes of thinking that we quickly default/resort to. Such well-trodden pathways in our minds get built over time…as we build our habits and/or our ways of thinking about things. Sometimes these routes get built without our even recognizing that new construction zones are already in place.

Those involved with cognitive psychology will connect instantly with what I’m saying here. Those who have studied memory, retrieval practice, how people learn, etc. will know what I’m referring to. 

But instead of a teaching and learning related origin, I got to thinking about this topic due to some recent faith-based conversations instead. These conversations revolved around such questions as:

  • What makes our old selves different from our new selves? (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • What does it mean to be transformed by the “renewing of our minds?” (Romans 12:2)
  • When a Christian says, “Keep your eyes on Christ” — what does that really mean and look like (practically speaking)?

For me, at least a part of the answers to those questions has to do with what’s occupying my thought life. I don’t know what it means to keep my eyes on Christ, as I can’t see Him. But I do understand what it means to keep my thoughts on what Christ said and/or did…or on the kinds of things that Philippians 4:8 suggests that we think about. No wonder that we often hear the encouragement to be in the Word…as I think that new cognitive highways get created in our minds as we read the Bible. That is, we begin to look at things differently. We take on different perspectives.

The ramifications of this idea are huge:

  • We can’t replace an old highway by ourselves. It takes others to help us out…to teach us new ways of thinking.
  • We sometimes have to unlearn some things. It took time to learn our original perspective on those things, and it will likely be a process for new learning to occur and replace the former way of thinking about those topics.
  • This idea relates to addictions as well. It takes time for addicts to build up their habits/cravings…and it takes time to replace those habits/cravings with more positive ones. One — or one’s family, partner/significant other, and friends — should not expect instant change. Change takes time, and therefore patience and grace are required. This goes for the teachers/faculty members, coaches, principals, pastors, policemen/women, judges, etc. that a person may interact with as well over time. (Hmmm…come to think of it, it sounds like some other relationships may be involved here at times also. Certainly, God knows that He needs to be patient with us — often, He has no choice. Our spouses know this as well and we know that about them too.)
  • Christians, who also struggle with addictions and go to the hospital er…the church rather, take time to change their thoughts, habits, and perspectives. Just as the rebuilding of a physical highway takes time, so it takes time to build new highways (patterns of thinking and responses) in our minds. So the former/old highways may still be around for a while yet, but the new ones are being built and getting stronger every day.
  • Sometimes we need to re-route certain thoughts. Or I suppose another way to think about this is to use the metaphor of “changing the tapes” being played in our minds. Like old cassette tapes, we need to reject some tapes/messages and insert some new ones.

What are the cognitive highways within your own mind? How can you be patient with others (that you want to see change occur within) inside of your own life?

Anyway, thanks for reading this posting. May you and yours be blessed on this day. Have a great week and weekend!

Addendum on 3/31/22…also relevant, see:

I Analyzed 13 TED Talks on Improving Your Memory— Here’s the Quintessence — from learntrepreneurs.com by Eva Keiffenheim
How you can make the most out of your brain.


In her talk, brain researcher and professor Lara Boyds explains what science currently knows about neuroplasticity. In essence, your brain can change in three ways.

Change 1 — Increase chemical signalling
Your brain works by sending chemicals signals from cell to cell, so-called neurons. This transfer triggers actions and reactions. To support learning your brain can increase the concentration of these signals between your neurons. Chemical signalling is related to your short-term memory.

Change 2 — Alter the physical structure
During learning, the connections between neurons change. In the first change, your brain’s structure stays the same. Here, your brain’s physical structure changes?—?which takes more time. That’s why altering the physical structure influences your long-term memory.

For example, research shows that London taxi cab drivers who actually have to memorize a map of London to get their taxicab license have larger brain regions devoted to spatial or mapping memories.

Change 3 — Alter brain function
This one is crucial (and will also be mentioned in the following talks). When you use a brain region, it becomes more and more accessible. Whenever you access a specific memory, it becomes easier and easier to use again.

But Boyd’s talk doesn’t stop here. She further explores what limits or facilitates neuroplasticity. She researches how people can recover from brain damages such as a stroke and developed therapies that prime or prepare the brain to learn?—?including simulation, exercise and robotics.

Her research is also helpful for healthy brains?—?here are the two most important lessons:

The primary driver of change in your brain is your behaviour.

There is no one size fits all approach to learning.



Majority of workers who quit a job in 2021 cite low pay, no opportunities for advancement, feeling disrespected — from pewresearch.org by Kim Parker and Juliana Menasce Horowitz


A new Pew Research Center survey finds that low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement and feeling disrespected at work are the top reasons why Americans quit their jobs last year. The survey also finds that those who quit and are now employed elsewhere are more likely than not to say their current job has better pay, more opportunities for advancement and more work-life balance and flexibility.

Also relevant/see:

EDUCAUSE QuickPoll Results: The Workforce Shakeup — from by Mark McCormack
A sizable wave of staff departures is headed toward higher education. Staff cite either institutional or personal reasons for staying or leaving, suggesting a range of institutional strategies for attracting and retaining talent.


Middle-managers and middle-tenure staff, in particular, may be at risk of leaving, suggesting a number of solutions institutions might deploy to help attract and retain needed talent.

Addendum on 3/13/22:


Reading Month with MLC and PBS Kids — from michiganlearning.org
Read aloud videos from Michigan bookworms and famous faces.

March is reading month, and students everywhere are finding new books to read. We’re celebrating the most literary time of the year with read aloud videos for blossoming bookworms and little ones who are just learning their letters.

Each series below has different ways to extend learning. Answer questions about the characters and plot, try a hands-on STEM activity, and more!


Taking Aim at Disinformation — from encorekalamazoo.com with the work of one of our sisters, Sue Ellen Christian, highlighted in it
Southwest Michigan’s Magazine: WMU Professor Sue Ellen Christian and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum team up to teach media literacy…

From the Editor of Encore Magazine


The case for nurturing an infant -- a recording by Dr. Kate Christian

The case for nurturing an infant — from grcc.hosted.panopto.com by Dr. Kate Christian

Yes, Kate is one of my wonderful, talented, intelligent, and compassionate sisters! She is a Professor of Psychology at the Grand Rapids Community College.


TITLE/THEME:   The relationship between infant nurturance and the developing brain, and implications for long term physical and mental health

Question: How much time should you spend in direct interaction with your infant? 

  1. CONCERNS: Many people are concerned that paying too much attention to an infant will have negative consequences. (Words like “spoiled”, “dependent”, “mama’s boy”, etc.) 
    1. John Watson (1878-1958) wrote “The Psychological Care of Infant and Child” in 1928, arguing that infants and children should be treated like young adults, and that too much love and affection were damaging—children should not be kissed, hugged, or touched. Ideas such as strict feeding schedules (withholding nourishment if not on schedule) for infants were not uncommon during the first half of the twentieth century. 
    2. Behaviorist views emphasize rewards and punishment in shaping behavior. Today few behaviorists would argue for limiting affection. However, some may argue to let an infant “cry it out”, citing research that indicates infants can learn to self-soothe by about 7 months.
  2. HOWEVER, a wealth of evidence (theoretical, observations, animal studies, and neuroscience research) shows that nurturing an infant provides long term physical and mental health benefits. 
    1. PSYCHOANALYTIC theory:
      1. Sigmund Freud (1836-1959) coined the term “schizophrenogenic mothers”, claiming that especially for male infants, a failure of attachment to the mother could lead to schizophrenia, and that the mother’s lack of sensitive, caring behavior was the cause of attachment failure.
      2. Erik Erikson (1902-1994) established the idea of a psychosocial “crisis” during infancy in which the infant either learns to develop a sense of trust in the world (due to sensitive caregiving) or mistrust (due to unreliable, unpredictable or abusive care). 
      3. John Bowlby (1907-1990) is the founder of Attachment Theory, which maintains that caregiving in the first year of life sets up an unconscious, internal working model of relationships that shapes behavior and thoughts later in life. (Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999) came up with a measurement tool.) Secure attachment develops from sensitive, responsive caregiving, according to Ainsworth and Bowlby.Support for attachment theory varies, and many developmental psychologists today believe that early attachment is moderately predictive of later outcomes. (Things like divorce or death of a parent change the internal working model, or therapy, etc.) But infants with a secure attachment are more likely to explore their environment and be INDEPENDENT!!
    2. OBSERVATIONS: Rene Spitz (1887-1974) compared infants raised in orphanages to infants whose mothers were with them but in prison (in the 1940’s), the primary difference being maternal vs. professional nurse care. When the infants were first placed in the orphanage, Spitz found that for the 1st two months of separation, the infant would weep, scream, and/or be unapproachable. After 3 months, the infant would often become listless, lethargic, and demonstrated bizarre finger movements, and couldn’t sit or talk. 38% of the infants in the orphanage developed marasmus and died within 2 years, whereas all of the infants raised in prison with their moms were alive at follow up (age 5).  You can see video Click Here of infants who appeared dull and listless, or engaged in rocking back and forth or beating their heads on the crib. The infants were well fed and diapers changed, etc, but they had negligible physical touch or affection.Infants in institutions are less likely to play and interact with toys in the environment: Click here for video examples
    1. Rat pups   The amount of licking given to rat pups by maternal dams has predicted the level of anxiousness (vs. relaxation) in the rat, as well as inhibitory (vs. exploratory) behavior on a maze. Research has shown there are changes in neurobiology (such as hormones and brain receptors in the amygdala) that impact how the rats react to stress. In other words, the more the mother rat licks/grooms the pup, the more she sets up that rat to stay calm and resilient in the face of stress, and to feel confident to explore the environment.  nih.gov
    2. Harlow’s monkeys Monkeys in Harry Harlow’s experiment chose to spend nearly 23 hours a day in close contact with an artificial monkey that was covered in soft cloth and had big eyes (vs. a wire mother than administered food and drink). 
    3. Rhesus monkeys: Neuroscientists have found changes in the basic architecture of the amygdala and areas in the limbic system among rhesus monkeys deprived of touch, eye contact, and adult nurturing during infancy. (p. 129 Marian Diamond, Ph.D.) 
    1. Face-to-face interaction between infant and caregiver help wire the infant brain (use-dependent) and set up the basic architecture of the brain. Infants who experience positive interactions have a neurophysiological response (being smiled at calms the brain!) and neural connections that interact with biological hormones and systems regarding stress regulation get established in a positive way. This leads the infant to grow up better able to handle stress and adversity. 

Research using the ACE scale (adverse childhood experiences) found that children who face a great deal of adversity but are in relationally healthy, nurturing environments will show few long term negative effects (and the reverse is true—a child with even one ACE in an emotionally deprived environment will show significant poor outcomes).   (From Bruce Perry lecture) 

This infant nurturance also shapes the brain’s reward centers. Dr. Bruce Perry argues that infants deprived of nurturance grow up to feel dysregulated, and seek rewards in unhealthy behaviors (overeating/poor diet, substance use, thrill seeking, etc.) 

    1. Example: kangaroo care is the practice of holding an infant skin to skin, and it has been shown to increase weight gain among premature infants. 
    2. What about CELL PHONES?
      • Using a cell phone while caring for an infant has been shown to increase the risk of infant injury by 10%.
      • It also interferes with the face-to-face interaction needed for the neurobiological positive effects to occur!!
    3. Again… how much time to spend in direct interaction with an infant?
      • It doesn’t have to be 24/7, but most infants are not getting enough time. (Hunter gather—spend nearly all day in close proximity to adults, infant child care centers,  4:1 ratio)
      • Hold, sign, rock, touch, play together!
    4. But can’t you overdo it? Are you SURE you won’t spoil the infant or make him/her dependent?
      • There is virtually NO evidence to suggest that “too much” attention in the first year of life is harmful. (Again, you don’t have to spend every minute together… both you and the infant need breaks!) But this cultural perception that it is possible to “over nurture” an infant has got to change!!
    5. What about Co-Sleeping?
      • Worldwide, some form of co-sleeping is the norm.
      • A study found that in the U.S., infants who co-sleep grow up to be MORE independent (secure attachment) than those who don’t.
      • However, there are physical concerns, such as studies finding higher SIDS rates among infants who co-sleep. Also, if a parent is a deep sleeper, is drunk, or sleeps in a chair, if space between wall, etc, these are hazards.


© 2022 | Daniel Christian