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David Anthony Colarusso - Sadly not Havoc Dinosaur
Intermittent musings on the law, science, education, technology, design, and life. Also, I build things: furniture, software, reasoned arguments... To learn more about that, click a persona below for my eponymous website.

Skepticism

For five months in 2007, I fancied myself a bit of an investigative journalist. Inspired by bloggers like Phil Plait and Ben Goldacre, I found myself investigating the pseudoscientific claims of Brain Gym along with my good friend and fellow teacher Kate Farrell. Interestingly, Goldacre linked to our work over on Bad Science. However, for the moment, this category is comprised entirely of posts from that investigation. What can I say? I’ve been busy.

Accounting for Brain Gym

by David Colarusso - May 23rd, 2007

A few months ago a colleague told me about Brain Gym. She had been to the first of two training sessions. So I tagged along for the second, were I was told tracing a figure eight in the air would improve my students’ reading comprehension. Brain Gym is a trademarked set of exercises “designed” to promote learning skills in students. At its heart is the idea that directed low-impact physical activity can help foster focus and improve student attention. This is probably true. Working with eleven year olds, I have found getting them up and moving is an important part of the day, without which attention suffers. Brain Gym, however, is in the business of selling this idea, and they push the claim that their activities can do more: improve spelling, memory, reading comprehension…. After a little digging, we’ve established a lower limit on how much money is being wasted by Scottish schools on this pseudoscientific snake oil. Over the past five years, it’s been at least £127,579.45, and the real number is likely a couple of times larger. Below I’ll discuss how we arrived at this number, and I’ll even suggest a free alternative to help prevent future loss.

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“Live” Brain Gym Data

by David Colarusso - February 14th, 2007

Digitalkatie has been doing a great job announcing the findings from our freedom of information request as they come in. However, my inner geek felt there had to be a better way. So you can now check out the numbers here. We’ll update the file as we get new information.

Freedom of Information Requests Are Out

by David Colarusso - February 2nd, 2007

If you’ve been following the whole Brain Gym thing, you should know that digitalkatie and I sent out freedom of information requests yesterday to each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities. Here’s their contact info. We’re trying to figure out the scale of Brain Gym’s pseudoscientific reach. Either Brain Gym is a minor budgetary blip (costing little or nothing), a worrisome waste of taxpayer money, or something in between. Hopefully, we’ll soon know. Replies should arrive by March. Here’s what we asked for, broken down by year over the past five years:

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Brain Gym Makes Me Sad

by David Colarusso - January 27th, 2007

[This post is part of a series examining Brain Gym which can be found here.]


Following up on my January 17th post, I attended a Brain Gym training session yesterday with a fellow teacher, Kate, who ranted about the program last week. Mostly, I wanted to be sure she wasn’t being overly critical. She was not. It was the second of two sessions, each two hours long, and I must say that coming out of the class my overwhelming feeling was one of profound sorrow.

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Skepticism

by David Colarusso - January 19th, 2007

On Wednesday I posted my concerns surrounding the Brain Gym program. Consequently, I’ve been thinking about skepticism, and how credulous we can be. With this in mind, I’d like to share a talk by Michael Shermer, founder of Skeptic Magazine.

Given at the 2006 TED conference, this talk is a pleasure to watch, primarily because you get taken for a ride–falling victim to your own human nature. Stick in there for the reprise of “Stairway to Heaven,” and you’ll know what I mean.

[I replaced a dead link to the talk with embedded video as part of spring cleaning.]

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