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Consuming multiple forms of media simultaneously, like answering an email or scrolling Instagram while watching TV, has become a regular part of daily life. But for the past couple decades, psychologists have been studying the effect this can have on our brains. In a new paper out this week in the journal Nature, researchers suggest that heavy media multitasking affects how well people remember certain events, even those that took place when they weren’t using any technology at all.
The team enrolled 80 participants between the ages of 18 and 26 and about half the study participants were female. Each subject was asked to watch a series of objects flashing across a screen. After a 10-minute break, they watched another series of objects and rated them on criteria like whether they were more or less pleasant than the objects in the first stage as well as bigger or smaller. Included in the second set were objects that had appeared in the first, and one of the criteria that participants were asked to respond to was whether they had seen an image previously.
The participants gave information about their rate of media multitasking, like surfing the internet and watching TV or texting while doing online homework. “We found that heavier media multitasking was related to a shift in how people remembered,” study author Kevin Madore told Popular Science in an email interview. Specifically, participants who identified as heavy media multitaskers misidentified more objects that they had previously seen as new and were more likely to identify new objects as repeats, he said.
During the sessions, participants’ brainwaves and pupil dilation were measured. In psychology, these metrics are commonly used to measure memory and attention. The researchers found heavy media multitaskers suffered a lapse in attention in the moment before they tried to recall how the object in front of them compared to the previous set of objects. To the researchers, this finding suggests that episodic memory—memory of specific past events—was weaker in the heavy media multitaskers, and that heavy media multitaskers have a lower ability to sustain attention.
These findings could have significant consequences. “The basic science implications are important because they offer new answers to why humans sometimes remember and sometimes forget, and why some individuals remember better than others,” Madore wrote to Popular Science.
The implications for human health are also worth noting, he says: “They suggest that there are important interactions among media multitasking, attention, and memory that we should be aware of.”
This finding adds to a growing body of knowledge about the significance of media multitasking in young people. Previous studies have found an association between using multiple forms of media and poor executive function and goal-setting abilities. But there’s a lot we still don’t know about the relationship between this phenomenon and brain function, and researchers also stress the importance of establishing firmer causal relationships between media multitasking and negative health outcomes. “Of equal importance is understanding the types of information processing that are necessary in 21st century learning environments,” one such paper notes.
Zheng Joyce Wang, a professor of communication at The Ohio State University who studies media multitasking, also notes that not all media multitasking is created equal. While the image that comes to mind might be a student watching television while studying, “people taking a class while also searching for relevant concepts on the internet, that’s multitasking too,” she notes.
Wang applauds the study’s approach and desire to look at the longterm impacts of media multitasking, rather than the immediate ones. But she says the metric that researchers used to divide participants into heavy or light multitaskers is “general and overly vague.” Known as the Media Multitasking Inventory, this metric is commonly used in related research but Wang’s lab thinks it needs work.
For this study, she says, “I would be really curious to see if they could take a more refined look at the different types of media multitasking [participants] are doing.”
Young adults and children make up the majority of media multitaskers, and their brains are still developing. We still don’t really understand the consequences of this, although some research has shown changes in brain development related to media multitasking.
But simply abstaining from this activity isn’t an option for young adults, particularly those trying to learn and socialize remotely during a pandemic. Madore notes that the research for this paper was conducted prior to the pandemic, but its findings may be more significant now that even tasks like going to school can involve consuming multiple forms of media at the same time.
Although lower ability to concentrate and shakier episodic memory are both associated with negative academic outcomes and higher impulsivity, Madore writes that it’s hard to know what the longterm consequences of changing memory might be. “We don’t have data that speak to the point about whether the ways our memories operate will fundamentally change living in an always networked world.”
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The teachers in a school have expertise that should be the basis for professional learning focused on what the school needs.
In teaching, the fear of adding “another thing” is quite valid. We know that teaching is not a simple task, yet new initiatives, acronyms, and responsibilities often send the message of a quick fix while adding to teachers’ already stretched schedules.
Teachers don’t need a savior, and they certainly don’t need to be told what to do from the newest and most exciting best-seller. In fact, teachers know what their students need, and it is the job of administrators, coaches, and instructional leaders to facilitate the collection of teachers’ expertise—already present in the school building—to guide staff as they take back the agency of their own professional learning.
As an assistant principal, I’ve found that this approach strikes close to home. Recently, our administrative team prepared a schedule of professional learning opportunities with the intention of placing the power back into teachers’ hands.
Rather than decide what teachers needed, we wanted our teachers to tell us. Using the instructional rounds model, we adapted the process of classroom observations and created a model of peer learning that brought to light areas of instruction that needed improvement—an approach that I will share below.
A Three-Step Peer Learning Process
My school initiates a three-tiered peer learning process to facilitate professional growth: First, we ensure that classroom observations are not evaluative and instead position administrators as facilitators of professional learning days, tasked with organizing teaching coverage and running debrief activities with faculty.
Next, we center problem-solving, not problem-finding. All of our teachers enter classrooms with our school’s current instructional focus in mind. When observing their peers, they look for evidence—in our case, of how feedback loops and competency-based grading impacts our students. They don’t look for a particular teacher’s area of weakness but instead look for evidence of areas in which our building as a whole can improve.
Finally, and most important, we position the observer as the learner, not the expert. Instruction is a deeply personal act for teachers, and many (correctly) see their instruction as an extension of themselves. What teachers give to their students is purposeful, meaningful, and personal, so to have visitors enter a classroom with a holier-than-thou mindset would be to dismantle the entire process of teacher-driven professional learning. Instead, an inquiry mindset invites us all to identify and learn from one another’s strengths.
A Guide to Implementation
After teachers observe three classrooms for 20 minutes each, they come to our debrief session the next morning with their notes. Our administrative team facilitates a reflective conversation that includes the grouping and regrouping of teachers as they discuss what they saw in their hour of classroom visits. In our building, this model allows us to synthesize a collective total of 36 hours of instructional observations.
Specifically, we ask teachers to identify in their observational notes specific pieces of evidence that are connected to our school’s focus. This year, that meant evidence of students collecting feedback, teachers grouping and regrouping students, and teachers mobilizing their grading practices to effectively communicate progress to students.
Each teacher picks their six best pieces of evidence, writes each on a sticky note, and joins a small group to discuss what they saw. These groups determine patterns from the day of rounds and decide the types of professional learning that they feel the building needs to engage in next.
In all, the use of building-based instructional rounds has become the filter through which all of our professional learning opportunities flow. Before any moment of professional development, our team asks the question, “Does this work come directly from what our teachers are seeing during rounds?”
As a result, we have found that the culture around professional learning in our building is shifting: Teachers are more collaborative, are discovering how their strengths often complement another’s weaknesses, and are engaged in and energized by professional learning.
Increasing Teacher Collaboration
After using the instructional rounds process, our teachers lean on each other in new ways; for example, one teacher borrowed a feedback loop that she saw during rounds, realizing that she could adapt a colleague’s approach to coding to fit her students’ work with factoring polynomials.
When we debriefed from our first iteration of rounds in October, four teachers reported that they wanted to emulate the co-teaching model that they observed their colleagues implementing. During our next day of professional learning, teachers already using the method led a short session sharing how they collaboratively planned and executed lessons.
During our second iteration of peer observations in December, another teacher showcased a grouping strategy that put students into three distinct groups based on their performance on a formative task. When teachers saw this process, they decided that the whole building would benefit from professional learning regarding quick ways to collect data and use it to inform approaches to student grouping.
Teachers, in this way, became in-house professional trainers, enhancing whole-school collaboration and uncovering the complementary nature of each other’s strengths and areas for improvement.
Engaging and Energizing Teachers
Like students, teachers yearn for authenticity. They want to know that what they are learning will help their students.
Because instructional rounds allow us to actively determine our needs based on evidence that is collected and processed by our own teachers, we embrace that authenticity and share ownership of our growth. Teachers in our building care about how their colleagues’ lessons go because they observed them, worked alongside them during our professional learning days, and maybe even collaborated with them to experiment with a new instructional move.
These days, there is a real energy in our building as teachers try out new ideas, ask each other to watch a lesson segment outside of organized instructional rounds, and consider the style and content of professional learning that they think will push their practice forward.
A Key Takeaway
When a collaborative approach like instructional rounds is used to organize the professional observation and debrief process, professional learning is deeply meaningful and rooted in the context of a learning community, and—we are finding—more engaging than something that comes from a professional outside of our school walls.
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Another year, another CES in the books. Once again, the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center were filled with folding PCs, helpful smart home gadgets, and futuristic AI dreams. But among all the hype that may or may not ship, we found some truly useful and exciting Android-related things at CES this year:Wacom One
The Wacom One pen tablet connects to your Android phone.TCL phones
TCL will be laucnhing its own phones this year, including an affordable 5G model.
Android fans should be familiar with TCL through its BlackBerry and Palm phones as well as Roku-powered smart TVs, but for the first time, the China-based company is going to be making its own smartphones. At CES, the company showed off three models: the 10 Pro, 10L, and 10 5G. The high-end 10 Pro model, which TCL says will sell for less than $500, has an infinity display like the Galaxy S10, four rear cameras, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. The 10L has a rear fingerprint sensor, and the 5G model is powered by a Snapdragon 7 Series processor, likely the upcoming 5G-integrated 765 chip. TCL even demoed a folding phone prototype, one of several the company says it is experimenting with.
We don’t know much in way of availability (frankly we’d be surprised if TCL launched in the U.S.), but consider our interest piqued.Razer Kishi
The Razer Kishi controller uses USB-C and promises to be compatible with way more phones than the Junglecat.
We’re not sure why anyone would buy the Junglecat now, and we can’t wait to check out the Kishi when it arrives in a couple of months.Google Assistant
Google brought some new Assistant features to CES this year.
Google likes to save its biggest announcements for its own stage, of course, but it always brings something new to CES. This year, it was all about Google Assistant. The biggest news is the obverse addition scheduled actions, which lets you ask Google to turn on the coffee pot on at 6 a.m. the following morning, but there are numerous others, including:
Digital sticky notes for Smart Displays: If you want to remind yourself or someone in your home to do something, you can add a sticky note to your Google Nest Hub display just by asking Google to leave a note. Interpreter mode: Speaking of languages, businesses will now be able to use Google Assistant as a live translator in hotels, airports, sports stadiums, and other places to help bridge language barriers. Privacy: In addition to new commands that let you clear your activity, you’ll be able to say, “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you,” if your phone or speaker accidentally triggers to forget what it heard.TiVo Stream 4K
Jared Newman / IDG
The TiVo Stream 4K runs Android TV and stole out hearts.
Every time we think Android TV is ready for the Google Graveyard, something comes along and gives it new life. At CES that was the TiVo Stream 4K ($50). A massive departure for the DVR pioneer and a bid to reclaim its position as an industry leader, the TiVo Stream 4K is exactly what its name suggests: a media streamer. But while it won’t record your favorite shows or let you skip commercials (at least not yet), it will collect all of your subscribed services into a cohesive menu so you can discover new shows and continue watching the ones you love. It comes with an actual remote with actual buttons, too.Samsung Selfie Type
Samsung’s Selfie Type prototype lets you use your selfie cam to type on an invisible keyboard.
Samsung spent CES dreaming big, but one of the more practical moon shots is something called Selfie Type. As its name suggests, it uses your Galaxy phone’s front camera to “project” a keyboard onto any flat surface and use AI to figure out what you’re trying to type. We’re skeptical, especially because Samsung wouldn’t let anyone actually try it out for themselves, but it’s definitely an intriguing idea. We’re not expecting it to ship on the next Galaxy phone, but if it does, we’ll be stoked.Aukey Omnia Chargers
The Aukey Omnia chargers come in 61-, 65-, and 100-watt varieties.Belkin Soundform Elite
The Belkin Soundform Elite is a high-fi smart speaker with a neat trick: wireless charging.
Smart speakers powered by Google Assistant are a dime a dozen, but the Belkin Soundform Elite ($300) is something different. For one, the audio comes from Devialet, so you’re getting the company’s patented Speaker Active Matching technology that “ensures radically high fidelity so you can experience music as the artist intended.” (That means it sounds good.) For another, you can pair it with any Google Assistant speaker to play multi-room audio. But the best part? It’s also a wireless charger and a fast one (9W for Galaxy phone, 10W for Pixels). Let’s see Apple’s HomePod do that.
Swapps allows the users to switch and access different apps with minimum effort. You just have to swipe in from the left and you can quickly all your recent and favorite apps.How it works
Swapps works by adding an invisible app drawer on the side of the screen. By swiping from right to left or left to right, the app drawer will show up and you can access your favorite app. With Swapps, you can add up to 15 applications to your favorites list. If you want, you can even customize the height and width of the app drawer as well.Using Swapps
1. install Swapps from the Google Play Store. Make sure you are running Android 2.3+ for the application to work properly.
2. Once installed, all you have to do is swipe from left to right or vice versa and it will bring the App Drawer. By default, the sidebar contains 3 sections:
The “Starred Apps” section contains the list of your favorite apps that you access regularly. The “All Apps” section contains the list of all the installed apps and lastly, the “Recently Used Apps” section contains list of last used apps.
The best thing about the drawer is that you can access it anywhere, even if you are playing game on your phone.
The best thing about Swapps is that it is customizable as well. You can change the number of apps you want to display in your Starred list as well as the option to remove the “Recently Used Apps” and “All Apps” section so only your favorite apps appear in the drawer. There is also options for you to customize the size and width of the drawer, as well as its location on the screen.Conclusion
If you are looking to expand the multitasking capability in your Android phone, Swapps is one of the more handy apps around. Personally, I prefer to use Swapps over the native “Recent Apps” button as it allows me to access my favorite apps quickly. What about you? Which apps do you use to improve the multitasking feature in Android?
Hammad is a Business student and computer geek who cover latest technology news and reviews at AppsDaily. Apart from that, I like to review web services and softwares which can be helpful for the readers.
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Old vs. New
The pre-2010 OxyContin pill crushes into grains (left) while the newer formula is more difficult to break up (right).
Those injectors and snorters have plenty of company. Prescription opioids—drugs that work similarly to opium, including OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and others—are the number-one cause of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. That includes overdoses from illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. In 2010, prescription opioids accounted for 44 percent of all U.S. overdose deaths. It’s a huge problem and drug companies are turning to a solution they know very well: chemistry.
In 2010, Purdue quietly introduced a new formula that made OxyContin pills weirdly difficult to crush or dissolve in water, hoping to undercut the ways people had discovered they could get a super-sized opioid hit from long-acting OxyContin. Three years later, studies are just beginning to show that crush-resistant chemistry does seem to reduce OxyContin abuse. Whether it reduces drug abuse overall is another question. Preliminary findings suggest those who used to abuse OxyContin are simply replacing it with other prescriptions or with heroin.
Meanwhile, researchers are working on several other ways of making painkillers physically more difficult to abuse. Nothing else is on the market yet, but the experts I talked to said to expect companies to try. “It’s a booming industry,” Jamison says.
If drug abusers respond to new formulations the way they have for OxyContin, this may mean a reduction in prescription pill abuse, although not necessarily an overall reduction in drug abuse. Instead, pharmaceutical companies will simply, finally be able to shift some blame for abuse away from their own products.
For Purdue Pharma, at least, that blame has been costly. In 2007, the company settled with U.S. federal agencies in a criminal court, paying $634 million and pleading guilty to misleading the public about OxyContin’s potential for addiction.
* * *
The technology that goes into the new, crush-resistant, long-lasting OxyContin is called Intac, and it’s made by the German company Grünenthal. A pill made with Intac begins life a little differently than the standard tablet, says Alexander Kraus, vice president for product development at Grünenthal USA.
Most tablets start as a powder mixture that includes the active medicine and any other inactive ingredients that may, for example, help stabilize the active ingredients. Machinery presses the powder into a pill. Crushing the pill into snort-able or dissolve-able grains is just taking it back to its original form. “If you take that tablet and put it between two spoons, you typically would be able to crush it back into the powder component,” Kraus says.
OxyContin, on the other hand, starts as oxycodone, plus a plastic-like polymer material made of long-chain molecules. When heated, the polymer enters a molten phase, Kraus says. The manufacturing process forms tablets out of the hot, semi-liquid stuff and then cools them until they are solid, at which point the oxycodone is embedded in the solid polymer. The final pills have a “plasticky type of solid, monolithic form,” Kraus says.
“It’s not hard like a rock,” he says. “It has some plasticity, so if you bang on it, it will deform, but it will not shatter, and that’s the trick.”
Another cool trick? If you try to dissolve the new-formulation OxyContin in water or alcohol, it forms a thick, stringy goop that’s difficult to inject.
Drug abusers sometimes dissolved crushed older OxyContin into an injectable mixture (left), but the newer formula makes a stringy jelly when mixed with liquid (right).
Other chemical blocks in different stages of research include putting little packets of opioid antagonists—think of them as opioid antidotes—into pills. If an abuser crushes the pills, he or she opens the packets, releasing the antagonists, which prevent the opioid from working. The packets are supposed to stay sealed if taken by mouth, however, so that the pills continue to work for legitimate patients.
Some companies are working on molecules that require something in the digestive system, such as an enzyme, to activate the opioid. It’s as if both the painkiller and the euphoric effect of the medicine are locked up and there’s no way to unlock them without first putting them through your entire GI tract.
* * *
When Purdue first came out with the reformulated OxyContin, it wasn’t allowed to say the new pill was abuse-deterrent because there wasn’t yet evidence it made a difference to abusers. It sounded like it should work, but who’s to say? “Drug users can be very inventive and so your best efforts may not work very well in practice,” says Wilson Compton, director of epidemiology, services and prevention research at the U.S.’ National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Now, just enough time has passed for researchers to check the effects of having the new OxyContin on the market for a few years. This past April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an abuse deterrent claim on OxyContin’s label based on newly published scientific studies.
Nearly all of the studies were funded by Purdue. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re biased. It’s common practice for drug companies to bankroll the surveillance of their own products, and of course Purdue would like to know if Intac actually works. It helps that there have been several studies that ask slightly different questions about Intac’s effect on abuse and together, they point toward Intac working, Compton says.
“The effect is significant and appears to be clinically meaningful,” he says.
Studies based on the industry-funded Researched Abuse, Diversion and Addiction-Related Surveillance system found that since the introduction of Intac-enabled OxyContin, the amount of the drug diverted for abuse fell by up to 60 percent. The number of poison control calls about overdosing on OxyContin fell by 42 percent. The median street value of a new OxyContin pill is 63 cents a milligram, compared to $1 a milligram for the old pill.
New And Old OxyContin Pills
80-milligram tablets of the current OxyContin formula (left) and the previous OxyContin formula (right)
In one study of people treated at rehab centers, scientists from the research company Inflexxion and Purdue Pharma found that since the new OxyContin came onto the market, abuse fell by 41 percent.
One dissenting study comes from RTI International, which did not receive Purdue funding. In a nationally representative survey, the research nonprofit found OxyContin abuse rates didn’t change much after the new OxyContin appeared on pharmacy shelves. It appears un-crushable OxyContin does put off a small number of users, specifically those that seem to use crushed OxyContin and heroin interchangeably, says Scott Novak, a statistician who performed RTI International’s analysis. Take the effect to the overall population, however, and it’s not significant.
Why wouldn’t a plasticky pill put off OxyContin abusers? One possibility is that people have gotten around the Intac technology. Human ingenuity knows no bounds. Another is that not every abuser crushes his or her pills. It’s still possible to get a high, though perhaps not as big of a rush, by taking OxyContin orally. Although detailed numbers on how many people crush versus how many people swallow are difficult to come by, it’s widely acknowledged in the scientific literature that some abusers simply swallow the pills, and that they won’t be affected by the new formula.
As for those who are deterred, some preliminary numbers show that they’re replacing their pills with other drugs.
In a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis and Nova Southeastern University in Florida found that in telephone interviews, the number of drug abusers who said they primarily abused OxyContin fell by 64 percent. At the same time, those same abusers reported higher rates of using other prescription opioid drugs and heroin, which is an opioid, if not a prescription one.
Richard Dart, executive director of the Researched Abuse, Diversion and Addiction-Related Surveillance program, says he also has preliminary data showing that those other abuses rise. It will be another year before he’ll have the data fully analyzed. “I think it’s clear they do go to the other drugs,” he says. “I don’t think anybody ever thought—I mean, why would they stop abusing?”
* * *
All the researchers I talked to acknowledged abuse-deterrent OxyContin’s weaknesses in, well, actually deterring drug abuse. Yet most wanted to see chemical deterrents appear in more drugs. If it works, even a little, why not? seemed to be the attitude.
Why not indeed? Some experts have argued the new formulas may make painkillers more expensive, a cost legitimate, non-abusing patients will have to shoulder. Yet insurance companies may also find they prefer covering abuse deterrent pills because they know their money is going to legit patients, Novak argues. In reality, there’s no way to know yet how the market will react.
Researchers had hoped that when people ran into crush-resistant OxyContin, they would take the opportunity to get clean, Compton says. Instead, they sought their high in other ways, which he calls “not a particularly satisfying outcome.”
Ultimately, this is a problem that pharmaceutical chemistry can have only a small, if any, effect on. At best, drug companies working on abuse resistant formulas are covering their own liability.
“Fundamentally, I’d like to see core approaches, whether that’s treatment for the underlying addiction, or prevention to keep people from going that direction in begin with,” Compton says. “But anything that stops people from using this in a lethal way is helpful.”
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