Category Archives: Graduate Coursework

UCF Graduate Research Forum Announcement

UCF students should come see the research by Samantha Furbee​ and I on our measure of principal connectedness in Florida elementary schools as it correlates to percentage of low-income families: whether principals have photos and/or messages present on the official school websites.

We will be presenting at the Graduate Research Forum at the University of Central Florida on Tuesday, 3/31/2015, from 12:00 to 4:00 PM at the Student Union in the Pegasus Ballroom.

Visit http://www.students.graduate.ucf.edu/research_forum/ for more information about the forum.

– Richard Thripp

Brain Myths: Crosswords, Math Skills

An assignment (no sources required) written on 2015-02-11 by me for an online class at University of Central Florida: EDF 6529, Learning Theories Applied to Instruction and Classroom Management.

Question: What are some misapplications and/or neuromyths that may be less than beneficial to the educational process?

I am glad to see that my fellow students have covered important neuromyths such as the myth of learning styles (they do not really exist), the mythical implications of being a right-brained versus left-brained individual, the myth that we only use 10% of our brains (we use all of our brains), and the myth that plasticity completely vanishes after early childhood. These ideas are very common among the typical American, but are very wrong, and negatively influence learning by discouraging people from taking on new tasks and by encouraging them to have a defeatist attitude.

Commonly, people believe that crossword puzzles and other “brain exercises” help their minds stay sharp and help them avoid dementia in old age. Even young people believe these activities have significant benefits to their brains, despite a plethora of scientific evidence that such puzzles do little or nothing for the brain, while physical exercise greatly benefits the brain. Nevertheless, people want to believe in Cartesian mind/body dualism—they seem to want to believe the brain is separate from the body to justify living a sedentary lifestyle. This is a difficult but important myth to overcome, since debunking this myth will help people reallocate their time and resources to such things as cardiovascular exercise which will actually help their mind and body more than crossword puzzles. This can affect college students as well—when they are cramming for exams, exercising might help them retain more information and score higher.

The myth that one is simply not a “math person” is quite strong. It is similar to the myth that one is not a “morning person,” though perhaps even less supported. However, if people who are not good at math can develop the discipline to learn mathematical skills piece-by-piece starting at a remedial level, they will probably become pretty good at higher math in a few months or years. You might even see other areas of their life where they employ such discipline, yet this myth allows them to hold themselves back from exploring math. Discrediting this belief and others might be accomplished through modeling; if a person observes or hears stories about many people developing mathematical skills from a challenging starting position, he or she might replace this belief with one that is more accurate and empowering.

Cell Phones in Classrooms

This is an essay I wrote on 2014-11-17 for EDF 6155: Lifespan Human Development & Learning, a graduate class at University of Central Florida.

Richard Thripp
EDF 6155 Module 6 Discussion Post, “Research”
17 November 2014

Cell Phones in Classrooms — Richard Thripp
Richard Thripp
Research Topic: Cell Phones in Classrooms

Article 1: Baker, W. M., Lusk, E. J., & Neuhauser, K. L. (2012). On the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in the classroom: Evidence from a survey of faculty and students. Journal of Education for Business, 87(5), 275-289. doi:10.1080/08832323.2011.622814

Annotation:

This study investigated the perceptions of college students and faculty regarding cell phone, laptop, and MP3 player usage in the classroom. The research questions involved assessing these perceptions and whether they differed between students and faculty members, and by demographic characteristics. A questionnaire with 55 questions was distributed to students and faculty in three universities—one (each) in New York, North Carolina, and Texas. 978 completed surveys were received, of which 882 were from students and 96 from faculty members. 85.9% of the students were undergraduates and 14.1% were graduate students. Most of the students and faculty were from business programs. There were about 60% males, 40% females, and most faculty were over 40 while most students were under 23.

The questions entailed multiple-choice and Likert scale responses to questions mainly about what is appropriate in the classroom, device usage patterns of the subjects. Students were found to be much more accepting and open to technology use in the classroom compared to faculty. Graduate students were less welcoming of laptop usage in the classroom, and males were generally more accepting of technology usage than females. Students used their cell phones far more than faculty, but faculty spent more time on computers, perhaps related to their work. Both groups highly disapproved of MP3 player use in the classroom, while cell phones were much more accepted. While students agreed that no devices should be allowed to be used during exams, they were very much against having to turn in their cell phones during exams.

Article 2: Maguth, B. M. (2013). The educative potential of cell phones in the social studies classroom. Social Studies, 104(2), 87-91. doi:10.1080/00377996.2012.655347

Annotation:

This article examines findings from studies regarding usage of cell phones in social studies classrooms, and suggests applications of text messaging as a participation tool in the classroom. While not explicitly defined, it appears Maguth is focusing on junior high and high school students from his frequent mention of teenage youth and their habits. Research indicates that social studies are particularly uninteresting or ill-presented for many students, and thus the author proposes integrating text messaging as a tool for looking up information, receiving student feedback, and instructor announcements. Three web services are suggested, specifically for being free, user-friendly, and having educative potential (according to the author): Google SMS, Joopz, and PollEverywhere.com, which allow students to request information by text message, teachers to send announcements to students, and teachers to conduct interactive, live polls via text or Twitter message in the classroom, respectively. Research shows that text messaging has greatly increased in popularity, especially among youths—for this reason and others, Maguth argues that effective teachers must integrate cell phones for effective student learning and a “fun, relevant, and engaging” classroom experience.

Summary of Findings:
Topic: Cell Phones in Classrooms

A message from both articles is that younger people favor technology more—this is revealed in the permissive attitudes toward cell phone and laptop usage among college students compared to faculty (Baker, Lusk, & Neuhauser, 2012), and in the observation that secondary schools typically ban cell phones, even though students want to be able to use them (Maguth, 2013). Both articles cited studies finding that mobile devices disrupt learning when they are intrusive or disruptive, but found that silent usage can be useful and educational, such as when it involves note-taking or looking up relevant information. Further, Maguth proposed that technology activities can be made part of the lesson plan and lead to positive results.

Baker et al. (2012) focused on college student and faculty perceptions through self-reports, as an investigation of what different people find acceptable, annoying, or disruptive, and their usage habits themselves. They found that students approved of cell phone and laptop usage in many more situations than faculty, though it could not be discerned whether this was a function of age (younger or older) or rank (student or faculty) since these variables could not be manipulated or separated. Maguth (2013) presented opinions about the role cell phones should play in the public school classroom, and detailed three SMS (short message service, also known as text messaging) services that can be put to use by the instructor for student polls, distribution of announcements, and web searches. A compelling argument for using text messages rather than email is that the percentage of teenagers using text messaging to contact friends outside of school on a daily basis increased from 27 to 54 between 2006 and 2009, while other mediums have remained flat or, in the case of email, significantly declined (Lenhart, 2009, as cited in Maguth, 2013, p. 88). However, a large barrier to entry in secondary school is that parental consent is required to collect student phone numbers and send them text messages—one reason for this is that billing charges may be incurred (Maguth, 2013, p. 89).

In general, determining appropriate use of technology and enforcing rules is a formidable challenge—this is shown in both articles by the recurring theme of disruptive off-task usage of mobile devices. However, both articles conclude that an outright ban on cell phones is an inferior solution (except during exams), both because there are legitimate and helpful uses of cell phones in class, and because “digital natives” (operationally defined by Baker et al. as individuals under the age of 25) view cell phones as an extension of themselves, unlike older individuals. Therefore, prohibiting cell phone usage can have negative implications for a student’s affect and instructor perceptions, though both articles recommend setting rules and policies to limit unhelpful usage (Baker et al., 2012; Maguth, 2013).

Comments:

I was surprised to learn about Google SMS and had not used or heard of this service before. One can use it to send messages to Google requesting information such as stock prices, definitions of words, maps, etc. The reason I find this particularly enticing is because my phone has limited data access which does not work much of the time (I am not sure if my phone is defective or if it is due to having Metro PCS as a carrier, which is a low-cost, budget carrier). However, I can send and receive unlimited text messages and have no problems doing this unless I am in certain buildings or rural areas.

A significant problem with research in this area is the fast pace of technological development. Cell phone usage habits among teenagers and emerging adults are constantly changing due to new applications (“apps”) being deployed and gaining popularity, and due to new phones with new or improved capabilities being released. Thus, the information in these articles already feels dated—consider for example that Baker et al. (2012) set out to survey opinions on usage of cell phones and “other electronic devices,” but completely omitted tablet computers. In 2014, I would consider tablet computers in the classroom to be much more relevant and important than MP3 players. Another problem is classifying and considering different devices in the same category—a laptop computer with a 17.3” screen can be far more disruptive than one with an 11.6” screen, for instance, but Baker et al. gave no notice to this factor. Thus, scholarly research of the impact of mobile devices requires a faster pace than most other fields.

Incarceration and Accidental Death in Early Adulthood

This is a discussion post essay I wrote on 2014-10-26 for EDF 6155: Lifespan Human Development & Learning, a graduate class at University of Central Florida.

Richard Thripp
EDF 6155 Module 5 Discussion Post, “Issues & Stages of Development”
26 October 2014

Richard Thripp     Grade Contract A
Stage of Development: Early Adulthood
Issues to be addressed: Poverty and incarceration, accidental death

(1) Issue: Poverty and incarceration

Findings:

While adolescents with late-onset delinquency typically do not continue their criminal activities into adulthood, boys who have violent tendencies at a younger age are more likely to live a life of crime with periods of incarceration (Berk, 2010, p. 425). Like reckless behavior, violent crime is primarily perpetrated by males—the minority of female adolescent arrests for violent crime typically involve mere simple assault (p. 424). Teenagers growing up in poor neighborhoods are more likely to commit crimes and have exposure to drugs, firearms, and gangs; this threat is further magnified by low-quality education and bad family relationships (p. 424).

From the mid-20th century to the early 21st century, the incarceration rate in the United States has increased from 0.11% to 0.74% as of mid-2005, a nearly sevenfold increase (Apel & Sweeten, 2010, p. 449). This gigantic increase is not correlated with an increase in crime, but rather “net widening” policies that result in imprisonment of offenders who previously would have received probation, and harsher sentences for less dangerous crimes (p. 448-49). Incarceration is having a profound impact on emerging adults, particularly on poor black men, who are given little leeway to “experiment, rebel, and misbehave” compared to privileged youth, and find themselves being imprisoned at an unfairly high rate (Comfort, 2012, p. 311). Being that contemporary culture downplays marriage, parenthood, and careers as markers of adulthood, for an increasing segment of the population, incarceration is filling this void and is arguably replacing college as a period for finding oneself. Despite being subjected to depressing and limiting environments, young prisoners with release dates often look forward with greater hope and optimism than their older cohorts, consider their incarceration a time for personal reflection and planning a better life, and even maintain loving marriages and long-term relationships while behind bars (Comfort, 2012).

Some factors are correlated with both poverty and risk of arrest, such as dropping out of high school, being unmarried, and lack of gainful employment (Bender, Tripodi, Aguilar, & Thompson, 2010). However, the belief that incarceration ruins one’s job prospects may not be based on actual evidence—Apel and Sweeten have suggested that negative employment outcomes may be based more on the resulting gap in employment history, and that for emerging adults, incarceration may actually be associated with higher income in the short term (2010, p. 468). However, in the long term, ex-inmates were found to have a $4000 to $5000 deficit in annual income, which was a difference between 14 and 18 percent, and in the short term they tended to work more hours at slightly lower wages. Critically, they found that ex-inmates were much more likely to be unemployed by choice, despite having little trouble finding work after their release (this evidence was based on self-reports). Further, the negative effect on securing employment following release typically persisted for only four months. In summary, the stigma surrounding incarceration may be less important to employment prospects than common discourse indicates; a lack of desire to participate in the workforce might be more to blame.

References

Apel, R., & Sweeten, G. (2010). The impact of incarceration on employment during the transition to adulthood. Social Problems, 57(3), 448-479. doi:10.1525/sp.2010.57.3.448

Bender, K., Tripodi, S., Aguilar, J., & Thompson, S. (2010). Predicting arrest in early adulthood: The relationship between internal and external sources of control. Social Work Research, 34(1), 58-64.

Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Comfort, M. (2014). “It was basically college to us”: Poverty, prison, and emerging adulthood. Journal of Poverty, 16(3), 308-322. doi:10.1080/10875549.2012.695923

(2) Issue: Accidental death

Findings:

Reckless behaviors are much more frequent among males, especially in early adulthood. Alcohol frequently causes or is correlated with crime and unintentional injuries; 2 in 5 fatal motor vehicle collisions involve alcohol, and its links to violence and police activities are quite strong (Berk, 2010, p. 445). Alcoholism is also much more common among males, which is another reason why males are more likely to unintentionally injure themselves and injure other people, with or without intent. Sadly, motor vehicle accidents account for nearly half of all deaths among 25 to 44 year olds in the United States, greatly eclipsing cancer or heart disease (p. 439).

A Swedish cohort study of 49,411 males who were drafted in 1969 and 1970 between 18 and 20 years of age, given mandatory questionnaires about family background and behavioral factors, and assessed for injury mortality 35 years later produced interesting findings (Stenbacka, Leifman, Dalal, & Jansson, 2011). Accidental deaths in general were far more common among young Swedish men who reported alcohol use, mainly in motor vehicle crashes, but also due to drowning, fire, falling objects, or intoxication itself (p. 233). Conduct problems and incidents with police were the other two factors linked most strongly with injury death (p. 234). Early police contact was highly correlated with death by single vehicle accidents (p. 230), which may indicate a relationship between delinquency and reckless driving. In total, 485 men (0.98%) died due to unintentional injury over the 35 year period, which was 18% of the total deaths during the period. Nearly 60% of the 485 men died in car accidents, which is a testament to the great risks involved in driving or being a passenger in a small automobile.

Adolescents and young adults speed, run red lights, make illegal maneuvers, and drive while intoxicated or permit themselves to be the passengers of an intoxicated driver much more often than older adults, which has disastrous consequences—motor vehicle crashes caused a hefty 31% of injury-related deaths in the United States in 1996, and an appraisal from 1997 found the death rate for young adult drivers was more than 200% of the rest of the U.S. population (Stiglets, 2001, p. 451). Motor vehicle crashes, drowning, and firearm deaths are all substantially more common in males than females, which might be due to socialization that promotes risk-taking as something exciting or desirable, and beliefs of invulnerability among males which are disconnected from reality (p. 450).

Risk perceptions are at the heart of decisions to participate in risky behaviors. Studies by Haase and Silbereisen of students in a middle school, a high school, and a university in Germany found that positive affect was related to lower risk perceptions in all cases, in regards to drinking, smoking, being a passenger with a drunk driver, physical altercations, and unprotected sexual intercourse (2011). Subjects in these studies watched neutral or positive affective pictures for three minutes (while listening to similarly selected music), and were then assessed with a questionnaire presenting hypothetical scenarios and asking them to rate their perceptions of risk on a Likert scale. Risk perceptions were much higher in the neutral affect condition for all age groups (13, 17, and 23 year olds). This study may have groundbreaking implications for researchers—the authors note that subjects are usually more risk adverse when completing questionnaires compared to the real world, and propose a difference in affect may be a contributory factor. If sustained by further research, these results may mean that maintaining a level head—rather than being exuberantly enthusiastic—can prevent many accidental injuries and deaths in social settings, especially among impulsive individuals.

References

Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Haase, C. M., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2011). Effects of positive affect on risk perceptions in adolescence and young adulthood. Journal of Adolescence, 34(1), 29-37. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.03.004

Stenbacka, M., Leifman, A., Dalal, K., & Jansson, B. (2011). Early predictors of injury mortality among Swedish conscripts: A 35-year cohort study. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 43(1), 228-234. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2010.08.014

Stiglets, C. (2001). Unintentional injuries in the young adult male. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 13(10), 450-454. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7599.2001.tb00004.x