More and more parents are beginning to use the clicker system, and sometimes the actual clicker, to shape behavior and skills in their children (click here for an example from Don't Shoot the Dog!) People in professional circles, however, are sometimes still nervous about the idea. Here's a report from a teacher faced with an emergency situation who put the clicker to work in a truly imaginative way.
Off the Beaten Path
Recently, a fascinating research study made headlines internationally. In the September 2004 issue of the British Medical Journal, British researchers reported using trained dogs to detect bladder cancer by sniffing human urine, opening up the possibility that dogs may one day be used to detect the disease.
What the media did not report is that the dogs in this research project were clicker trained. We have also heard directly from a researcher at a West Coast university, where a similar project is underway—in which they are also clicker training the dogs.
The coaching of kids is due for a revolution. Cultural and economic forces are driving youth sports toward increasingly competitive training and commitment at earlier ages. The result is stressed-out kids, parents, and coaches, high levels of burnout, lowered levels of long-term athletic participation, and missed development opportunities.
The solution lies is in changing the way we teach athletics. Youth coaching today is still rooted in traditional theories for shaping behavior, which results in two limited approaches: coach kids to perform their best, or coach kids to encourage continued participation, i.e., to have fun. There is, however, a new approach to shaping behavior that offers a new paradigm: peak performance while having fun.
How Bob the UST [Underground Storage Tank] Inspector had to choose what was more important: compliance or enforcement
On May 18, readers of the New York Times were treated to a front-page story on mine-sniffing Gambian giant pouched rats. The reporter, Michael Wines, traveled to Mozambique to discover the latest breakthrough in mine detection technology: a squad of rats, outfitted in tiny harnesses and hitched to 10-yard clotheslines. When the rats catch the scent of TNT, the give-away for a buried landmine, they deliberately scratch the earth.