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Lecture to focus on motivating youth and technology's effect on brain development

By Kim Walter

Educators and parents are invited to a lecture in Front Royal this Saturday that will touch on what motivates children and teenagers to learn, as well as how technology is affecting their brain development.

The event is sponsored by the Mountain Laurel Montessori School and runs from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Front Royal Moose Lodge.

Dr. William Stixrud, an acclaimed Maryland-based neuropsychologist, will give the lecture.

Stixrud has been evaluating brain function of youth and adults for 30 years, and has been quoted in multiple publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Vogue. He is also the author of the book Plan Talk About Early Education and Development, and is a member of the adjunct faculty of the Children's National Medical Center.

A certificate of attendance will be issued to educators at the lecture who require annual training hours.

The first part of the lecture will focus on what brain research suggests about motivating children and adolescents.

Stixrud said he will focus on internal motivation in children, and respecting the fact that even at a fairly young age, "it's still their life."

"As parents and educators, it's important to keep in mind that our goals may not take our children where they truly want to go," he said Wednesday.

According to a self determination theory, humans have three needs -- a sense of relatedness, competence and autonomy. Stixrud said that while there are internally motivated people, others have trouble with things like studying and homework.

"I encourage parents to be more of a consultant to their kids when it comes to homework," he said. "If you yell at your child and force them to sit down and do work, instead of offering to help in a way that works for them, it doesn't promote that internal motivation."

The doctor said he hopes to point out to those who attend the lecture that fostering a loving, supportive relationship is better than a nightly battle over homework.

"We need to give kids choices and respect those choices, so in the end they have the confidence to figure their life out," Stixrud said.

The second part of the lecture will help parents and educators find the balance between the power of technology, and setting limits for the use of that technology.

"It is remarkable the power that technology has to teach kids, facilitate their development, and help them solve problems, but we have to figure out how to harness that," Stixrud said. "As people are increasingly engaged with technology, their health and happiness can be compromised."

The lecture won't be an anti-technology talk, Stixrud added, but more a conversation and brainstorming session on how to find a good balance.

"We must remember that we are a part of nature, and we need sleep, human face-to-face interaction, and exercise ... those are all essential things for brain development, and they've got to be encouraged at a young age," he said. "The rationale for using technology in education is that 'Kids like it.' But where's the evidence that it actually improves their educational outcome?"

The lecture is open to anyone, and requires a $40 fee for admittance. For more information or to register, call 540-636-4257 or go to www.MountainLaurelMontessori.org.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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