Concierto Benefico a Favor de los Refugiados de Houston

December 7, 2015

La Voz

Pedro Gemín toca el bandoneón en el grupo Barandúa durante el concierto a beneficio de los refugiados de Houston organizado por la periodista y artista Patricia Gras, la revista Literal Magazine y el Departamento de Servicios para Refugiados de Interfaith Ministries'

reater Houston, el 5 de diciembre de 2015.

La periodista y artista local Patricia Gras, y la revista Literal Magazine, organizaron el sábado 5 de diciembre un concierto a beneficio de los refugiados de Houston, en alianza con el departamento de refugiados de Interfaith Ministries, en Houston.

Los asistentes podían donar ropa, libros, artículos para el hogar, juguetes y/o dinero para los refugiados  de todas partes del mundo que llegan a Houston para comenzar una vida en Estados Unidos. Houston es la ciudad que más refugiados acoge en todo el país.

Además de Gras, y su banda de música folclórica latinoamericana Barandúa, participaron también gratuitamente la banda de pop-rock local CTRL+ALT+JAY y la de música latina Elefante Blanco.

Según fuentes de la organización del concierto, además de un gran cantidad de bolsas de ropa y otros artículos, la recaudación de los donativos para los refugiados superó los 1,000 dólares.

How is Technology Affecting Our Brains?

August 5, 2015

Concur Magazine

Since the mid 90’s through today, technological advances have changed our lives in a revolutionary fashion. The Internet and its quick access to information, social media, video games and now very technologically advanced cell phones have also become an ubiquitous part of our lives.

p>Since the mid 90’s through today, technological advances have changed our lives in a revolutionary fashion. The Internet and its quick access to information, social media, video games and now very technologically advanced cell phones have also become an ubiquitous part of our lives. 

Today for instance, a Pew Research study found 90 percent of Americans own a cellphone and another study by e-marketer found adults in the United States will spend more than five hours each day on “nonvoice mobile activities, including Internet use on phones and tablets, and about four-and-a-half hours watching TV. Another cross platform from Nielsen reports, the hours spent is even higher. It says Americans spend 11 hours a day with electronic media.

Some scientists are concerned to which extent this is affecting our adult and children’s brains. What we do know is that digital technology is here to stay, the question is how can we best use it to enhance our brains and our lives? For instance, what is the advantage of having a smarter brain if we can’t keep or cultivate great relationships?

The Kaiser family foundation study found kids in America for instance, are spending up to 10 hours a day of electronic content. Neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield’s controversial book the Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains, analyzes technology can become addictive and a threat to our existence.  This has started a new conversation about technology and its impact, but whether you agree with her or not, the baroness wants us to start that conversation.  “Every hour you spend on screen is an hour less in empathy, social skills, practicing empathy, rehearsing personal skills and learning to interpret body language for instance.” Says Greenfield.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests setting limits on media use.  It calls for no more than two hours per day of screen time for children older than two years old, and none for those under.

Bruce Perry M.D. and PhD, a clinician and researcher in children’s mental health and the neurosciences finds technology has negative and positive impacts on children’s brains.  “Digital media presents in visual and moving images in a short period of time, so kids have a harder time concentrating the more exposed to TV or digital media. The good side of this is that they now have access to all kinds of information they didn’t before.  What we need to pay attention to is dosing and quantity. Even if the content is good, it takes hours away from peer interactions, motor skills, and the use of the imagination. For instance, if you are consistently doing things that engage you and excite you, these parts of the brain don’t get activated as much, so you are not using your own creativity or inventing your own games or finding things to do.  So for all of us to benefit from technology, we have to regulate it and discipline ourselves and our kids.”

What concerns University of Texas psychiatrist and associate professor Dr.Prashant Gajwani, is how social media is impacting human relationships. “ I see teens who may have 500 friends on Facebook, but no real close friends. We know for normal, healthy human beings, we need three to five close human friends. It is different to communicate through technology than being in touch with someone who understands our own needs and can pick up on our body language and emotions. “ Says Gajwani.

A former seventh grade middle school teacher and educational technology expert, Sandhya Sabhnani, became more aware of the impact of technology on children when she had two of her own. “With boredom you have more creativity, you use your imagination. You have to think out of the box. It’s raining I have nothing to do? Should I read a book? We have technology but I have not introduced it to my son who is seven. I make sure my kids are part of  my own routine. Giving them tasks and duties. “

As for addiction to technology, she quickly noticed that one time during a trip, her son started playing a video game on her husband’s phone. “He was addicted within one plane ride. When I tried calling him in the morning, he kept hanging up the phone so he could play his video game. We removed the app immediately. For five years I didn’t expose them to technology and in 45 minutes, he became addicted.” She says.

Dr. Susan Greenfield has some advise for parents who want to raise emotionally healthy kids.” I suggest three things and none of them cost any money. Read to your children. This creates a bond and allows them to use their imagination. Second. Eat meals together. I know this is challenging for modern families but sitting around a table, talking together does wonders for relationships. Third, go outside. This improves creativity, you are in control, and you decide to smell the flowers or climb a tree. Now we have become passive reactors to someone else’s imagination. Again I am not anti technology, but everything has to be in moderation.“

Are smart phones making us smarter?

September 1, 2015

Concur Magazine

Depending on your age, you will probably find it humorous to think that just 25 years ago to do research, you went to the library, checked some index cards and found books or articles written at least a year or more ago to get the information to write your paper.

Today, most of us in Am

rica live in a different world. According to the Pew Center’s Internet and American Life Project, 64 percent of us own a smartphone and 91 percent own some sort of mobile device. Thus, we have immediate access to the latest information in a matter of seconds.

The question is whether smartphones are making us smarter or dumber? Most of us can’t imagine life without one. We research online information such as news, health conditions, employment resources, driving directions, e-mails and almost any information we need quickly. Most of us however, don’t use our phones for online access. Only 19 percent of Americans do. Those who do tend to be younger – 15 percent are 18- to 29-year-olds, with lower household income and usually non-white, 13 percent of Latinos and 12 percent of African-Americans are Smartphone-dependent.

Many experts argue having access to information quickly makes us smarter, but it can also make us lazier, more distracted and some believe addicted. A University of Waterloo study of 660 participants with smartphones found more analytical thinkers with stronger “cognitive” skills use search engines less than others. They also have a greater willingness to think analytically.

In 2012 the New York Times reported that while teachers observed access to technology in general had improved student’s research skills, it also had a detrimental effect on student attention spans, so they paid less attention in class, wrote less effectively, and lost some of their ability to think critically.

Mary Dickerson, executive director of IT security and the chief information security officer at the University of Houston believes these gadgets are not making us smarter or dumber. “They are changing the way we get and process information,” she says. “Today the way we get information and how we communicate with others is different. We have more access to information but we also have to vet it differently and how we communicate with other people is less likely to be a face-to-face conversation with someone.”

Dickerson is concerned with how we have to make a conscious effort not to be distracted and “that is difficult, because the expectation today is that you have to be available 24 hours a day, even if on vacation. We have to be able to get off the grid, but how do we do it?”

“Whether smartphones are making us smarter or dumber is not the right question to ask. The gadget is not the problem; how the operator uses it can be,” says psychotherapist Nan Hall Linke, who has been practicing since 1971 and has seen the impact of technology in her clients.

“Many people today have become too available, reactive and addicted to a machine rather than engaging in human communication. They have become narcissistic, demanding instant gratification, without much empathy or capacity to deal with other people. People also don’t know how to disengage from these gadgets. Many even sleep with them. I also know people who have been fired for not answering their phone 24 hours a day,” says Hall Linke. “I see the advantage for those who use it effectively, to gather information and in moderation.”

A recent Pew study found most Americans feel better informed thanks to the internet, with 87 percent reporting the internet and cell phones have improved their ability to learn new things. But Loanni Thomas Pavlidis Ph.D, a professor in the University of Houston’s Computational Physiology Lab, has noticed students are having a more difficult time paying attention and doing one task that requires concentration for a longer period of time. “It is a great tool if you know how to use it, but many become addicted and we don’t yet know the long-term implications for the younger generation. There is a lot of research going on about the negative implications if we continue like this,” says Pavlidis.


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