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Video Interview from Brain Summit in Seoul 2010

I recently gave two lectures at the "Brain Summit in Seoul 2010" that focused on brain based approaches for learning English.


The conference was sponsored by Neuroscience Learning, a South Korean based learning company.


The following interview was conducted by the local Seoul newspaper and posted to their web site as part of their coverage of the Brain Summit in Seoul 2010.  It addresses these questions: 

  • What are the implications of brain plasticity for children and adults in terms of language and learning?
  • What are the best ways to improve cognitive skills that influence learning, such as memory, attention, processing, and sequencing?
  • How can we balance the development of both sides of the brain?


 

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Categories: Brain Fitness, Brain Research, Family Focus

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Video Games: A New Perspective on Learning Content and Skills

Playing Video Games for Learning

Being in the business of e-learning, I am fascinated by video games. No, I’m not a big player myself, but they amaze me for what they can do in terms of teaching and learning. While their primary goal may be to entertain, the core of what they do is perform a continuous process of teaching, simulated practice and assessment, all while engaging learners in learning from worlds rich with content and experience.

As teachers, we’ve always looked to various types of non-interactive content to engage and instruct students. Prior to the 20th century, we depended upon print. In the 1970’s, I remember cassette tapes and film strips coming into the classroom. In the 1980’s, it was video cassettes. Now, we show DVD’s and online video.

Today our digital native students are looking for the kind of interactivity that they experience in their lives outside of school—and that includes the video games that they play. But what skills and experiences can students gain through interactive gaming environments?

  • Learning to try. According to James Gee of Arizona State University, the essence of gaming is that, by its nature, it integrates learning with embedded assessment. With textbooks and lectures, a learner gains knowledge by reading and hearing about subjects. In simulated environments, learners experience situations and content first-hand. They attempt solutions, experience failures and learn from mistakes to proceed to higher levels. They are rewarded for pushing the envelope.
  • Thinking about the big picture. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink discusses six different senses essential for success in our age, one of which is "symphonic thinking," or the ability to see the big picture of situations, manipulate multiple variables and add invention to solve problems. In today’s rich and detailed game environments, players must successfully learn to do exactly that to achieve the goals of the simulation.
  • Collaborating and cooperating. With the introduction of online video games, successful achievement of objectives requires communication and collaboration amongst multiple players. In today’s world, these are clearly skills that one needs to achieve success.

While the so-called edutainment market is small, educators and entrepreneurs alike are in the process of bringing the true educational value of computer games into the classroom.

Is the shift going to be rocky? Absolutely. As an example, look at the debate around a "historical action" game called Six Days in Fallujah and the mainstream discussion that has taken place on NPR and in Newsweek. Will this genre of game become a new form of documentary? If contextualized appropriately by a teacher, can this breed of games represent a serious way for students to experience the civics, political science or world history first-hand? After considering that, check out Games for Change, an example of a new breed of online games for teaching and learning a wide variety of topics with significant human impact. This is a challenging and productive debate, one that will take the marriage between computer games and the instruction of content and skills to the next level.

Edutopia recommends many resources for further exploration of the value of computer games in education, including:

What role do you think video games should play in education?  Share your perspective on our Scientific Learning Facebook page!

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Categories: Education Trends, Family Focus, Reading & Learning

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Nevada Department of Education: Fast ForWord is a “High-Gain Program”

The Nevada Senate Bill 185 (SB 185) funded districts to purchase and implement innovative and remedial educational programs, materials, and strategies specific to their academic needs. 

The Nevada Department of Education commissioned the Leadership and Learning Center (LLC) to conduct an in-depth evaluation of the programs that had been purchased with SB 185 grants.  Their 2010 Interim Report includes a review of the performance of Fast ForWord products.

To quote from the Report….“Emphasis was placed on measuring student growth toward academic proficiency and mastery using state and local assessments… The analyses were completed as a result of extensive site visits, phone interviews, and an examination of two-year sets of school cohort achievement data for Criterion-Referenced Tests (CRT) for grades three through eight and High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE) for grades nine through twelve.” 

The Report closely examined CRT results at Goolsby Elementary School (which implemented Fast ForWord across all grade levels).  They concluded that each year of Fast ForWord implementation resulted in an increase in the percentage of grade-level proficient students. To quote the Report, “CRT data indicate a statistically significant increase in Reading and Writing proficiency levels…   CRT data indicate that Reading increased from 67% to 82% proficient, [and] Writing increased significantly from 55% to 82% proficient… from 2006 to 2008.”

This graph summarizes the main conclusions from the Report. The red bars represent programs that were found to have undetermined effects or low gains. Blue bars indicate high-gain programs, in which students made high gains according to the LLC standards. The green bar represents Fast ForWord, which was also found to be a high-gain program. In fact, the Report concludes that Fast ForWord products increased student reading achievement by an average of 22.2 percentage points, which was the largest average impact of all programs reviewed in the Report. The percentile scores shown in the graph represent an analysis of data from one to multiple schools using the specified product. In the case of Fast ForWord products, data from three schools were included in the analysis.

For more information, please see the Educator Briefing on this study as well as any of our 200+ additional reports on Fast ForWord results.  If you have questions about any of our research studies, please contact us.

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Categories: Education Funding, Grants, and Stimulus, Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning

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The Results of Fast ForWord Use at the Westfield Washington Schools in Indiana

The Westfield Washington Schools are located just north of Indianapolis, in Indiana. During the 2007 - 2008 school year, the Westfield Intermediate School implemented Fast ForWord products.

For this study, the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) were used as a pre- and post-test. The MAP assesses language arts, math, and reading skills. Ninety-eight students used the Fast ForWord products and had MAP scores that could serve as pre- and post-tests.

School personnel administered the assessment and then reported scores to Scientific Learning for analysis. On average, students used the products over a period of six months. The majority of students used three or more Fast ForWord products, starting on the Fast ForWord Literacy product, then advancing to the Literacy Advanced product, and then on to one or more Fast ForWord Reading products.

MAP scores are reported in terms of RIT scores, which indicate a student’s achievement level within a specific subject. To provide a performance comparison, participants’ gains were compared to the student’s expected gains, which were based upon RIT growth norms in the three subject areas of language arts, math, and reading.

Students showed exciting results and exceeded the expected RIT growth norms. Students who used Fast ForWord products made 7 points of RIT growth in language arts, which is 67% greater than the expected growth of 4.2 points. Gains of 10.1 points were seen in math for the Fast ForWord participants, which is 35% greater than the expected growth. Students gained 8.8 points in reading, which is nearly double the expected 4.5 points growth.

The differences between the gain scores and the expected gain scores were statistically significant in all three subject areas. These results suggest that using the Fast ForWord products strengthened the students’ foundational skills and better positioned them to benefit from the classroom curriculum.

For more information, please see the Educator Briefing and Full Report on this study as well as any of our 200+ additional reports on Fast ForWord results. If you have questions about any of our research studies, please contact us.

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Categories: Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning, Scientific Learning Research

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The Imperative of Cultivating Healthy Adolescent Sleep Habits

healthy adolescent sleep habits

As dedicated parents and teachers, when we talk to adolescents, we tend to focus our coaching on coping with the big dangers like drugs, alcohol and sex. We talk a lot about the imperative of developing good eating and study habits. But when was the last time you talked to the teen in your life about sleep? Research has shown us that our young people’s sleep habits are suffering, creating negative ripples across their waking lives. Quite simply, we need to become better "sleep coaches."

Like breathing or eating, sleep is a physiological necessity. As sleeping and waking habits change during our adolescent years, youngsters begin to experience the effects of lost sleep. Even losing less than an hour a night on a regular basis can result in serious problems. In their 1998 study, "Sleep Schedules and Daytime Functioning in Adolescents", Amy Wolfson and Mary Carskadon examined the correlations between sleep/wake habits, student characteristics and daytime functioning (mood, performance and behavior). Their study of 3,120 students uncovered concerning trends:

  • Forty-five percent of tenth to twelfth graders go to bed after midnight on school nights, and 90% go to bed later than that on weekends.
  • On weekends, 10- to 15-year-olds get 30 to 60 minutes more sleep; by age 18, that difference goes up to over 2 hours.
  • Reductions in sleep time were directly attributable to later bedtimes paired with no change to wake-up time.
  • Students getting C’s, D’s and F’s got, on average, 25 minutes less sleep and went to bed 40 minutes later than their counterparts getting A’s and B’s.

See Wolfson and Carskadon’s paper for complete data, but on the whole, adolescents in their studies overall did not get enough sleep, which directly correlated with reduced capacities during the day.

So we know that these important minutes of sleep are being lost, but what are the neurological outcomes? In his 1999 study, "The Consequences of Insufficient Sleep for Adolescents," Ronald Dahl describes five effects that can create negative ripples across an adolescent’s life, such as: 1) sleepiness, 2) tiredness 3) mood, attention, and behavior, 4) impact of emotional and behavioral problems, and 5) bi-directional effects.

  • Sleepiness: While highly stimulating activities can stave off sleepiness, a sleepy brain drops into sleep mode during periods of low stimulation. For a sleep-deprived adolescent, activities like reading, driving and classroom learning can be prime dozing times.
  • Tiredness and decreased motivation: When we're tired, we find it difficult to initiate and follow through on tasks, especially those that we might find boring. Our motivation and ability to focus on future goals drops; we become less able to engage in activities like reading or studying.
  • Emotional variability: Sleep-deprived brains experience a greater range of emotions. Adolescents who haven’t had enough sleep are more likely to experience more extremes of responses like anger, aggression, frustration, sadness and impatience.
  • Attention and performance: Youngsters working with a lack of sleep experienced mental lapses in attention during simple tasks, as well as reduced abilities to perform more complex, multifaceted tasks.

So what can we do to change this trend and coach our young people to have healthier sleep habits? If knowledge is power, we can give them the facts. We can actively teach the importance of sleep and the science of circadian rhythms and our innate connection to natural cycles. We can inform our students about the importance of good, healthy sleep, and help them understand some of the real, serious consequences like those above. For some resources, check out this Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences or these five ideas for better sleep written specifically for teenagers.

Finally, as parents, we can create quiet, comforting evening environments and rituals in our homes to move our families from the fast pace of the day to a slower, protected, unpressured environment where sleep can come. For hints and tips, check out Sleep Rituals: Training The Body And The Mind by Dr. Michael Breus (from the Huffington Post, January 2010).

Are the teens in your life getting enough sleep?  Share your observations on the Scientific Learning Facebook page.

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Teaching Children to Read

teaching children to read

According to the Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read Reports of the Subgroups, the capacity to learn and grow as a reader depends on five essential skills:

Foundational Skills for Beginning Readers:

1) Phonemic Awareness: The insight that every spoken word can be conceived as a sequence of phonemes. Phonemes are the speech sounds that are represented by the letters of an alphabet.

2) Phonemic Decoding: The ability to capture the meaning of unfamiliar words by translating groups of letters back into the sounds that they represent, link them to one's verbal vocabulary, and access their meaning.

Skills Needed to Read for Meaning:

3) Vocabulary: Understanding the words in a passage, including the specific dimensions of their meanings or usage that matter in context.  For example, knowing that “tree” when reading about a “family tree” has a different meaning from “maple tree.”

4) Fluency: The ability to read with sufficient ease and accuracy that active attention can be focused on the meaning and message of the text and the text easily retained.

5) Comprehension: Thinking about the meaning of each segment of the text as it is read, building an understanding of the text as a whole, and reflecting on its meaning and message.

Teachers today are fortunate to have access to a wealth of scientifically based research into what works when teaching children to read.  The links that follow are courtesy of the National Institute for Literacy:


Birth to Early Childhood


Children begin building literacy skills long before they go to school.  Even very young children can be prepared to become successful readers later on.  Research has identified certain skills that are important for later literacy development; these skills include knowing the names and sounds of printed letters, manipulating speech sounds, and remembering what has been said for a short time.  Here are some ways to teach younger children these pre-reading skills.

Childhood


From kindergarten through third grade, young readers are actively developing all five of the core reading skills from phonemic awareness to fluency and comprehension.  Research has shown that teaching children to read successfully during this window requires a combination of strategies and instructional approaches.  Teachers must know how children learn to read and be able to tailor instructional approaches to individual children--especially those who are struggling readers.  Here are some instructional approaches for the five essential skills.

Adolescence

While many adolescent readers have mastered phonemic awareness and decoding strategies, they are often still challenged to fully understand what they read.  In middle and high school, it is common for literacy skills to be developed not only in language arts courses, but also in a variety of different content areas.  To prepare students for the literacy challenges of secondary school, language arts and content area teachers need to focus on the last three components of reading: vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.  Here are some approaches to teaching vocabulary and comprehension skills.

 

Related reading:

Sing the Alphabet Backwards Sometimes: Kindergarten Phonemic Awareness Activities

Sharing the Practices of Phonics Practice: 5 Instructional Approaches

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Meet our Science of Success Microgrant Recipients

promoting brain fitness in the classroomWe asked members of the WeAreTeachers.com (WAT) Brain Research Microcommunity to submit ideas for keeping their students’ brains fit.  All entries were reviewed and voted on by the WAT community for a chance to receive one of five Science of Success microgrants.  We received over 178 entries, and are pleased to share the five peer-selected winners and their project proposals for promoting brain fitness in the classroom:


1) Jason Dietrich, Illini Central High School: Engineering in the Classroom with LEGO NEXT and Carnegie Mellon Curriculum
The purpose of this project is to engage students in open-ended design problems using current technology in robotics research and college academic work. Activities involved in this project will challenge students to develop critical scientific inquiry skills and apply these skills in technological design. Specifically, students will: Write programs for the LEGO NXT Intelligent Brick using LEGO Mindstorms Educational Software 1.1 [Powered by National Instruments Lab View Software]   Full proposal.

2) Don Sarazen, H.B. Rhame Elementary School: Are They Really "Double Stuffed?"
My idea is to have my students remove the cream from a regular Oreo cookie and a Double Stuf Oreo cookie, measure the mass of both cream samples, and determine if a Double Stuf Oreo really has twice as much cream as a regular Oreo. They will do this using triple beam balance scales and electronic scales that measure to the nearest tenth of a gram. Description: My students will then write letters to report the results of their investigation to Kraft Foods, the company that makes Oreos.  Full proposal.

3) Melissa Wlodarski, Eggers Middle School: Brain Yoga...starting our day the SMART way!
Description: Science has proven that completing certain activities every day will help keep our students minds sharp, and improve memory. For this program, students will participate in various "brain yoga" activities during their homeroom period each morning. These activities will include: activating pressure points, which are proven to increase energy and improve attention span (particularly good for students with ADHD), writing activities, and various right brain/left brain activities to start the day.  Full proposal.

4) Gail Feely, Caldwell Elementary: Growing Algae in the Classroom, an Alternate Energy Source
My students will learn about algae as a unicellular living organism and also as an alternate energy source. We will set up a controlled photo bioreactor in which to grow algae. I have met with a local alternate energy team who is willing to work with my students in building a photo bioreactor made of PVC pipe. I think this will be an amazing experience for my students as well as the local team. It will be a trial and error project to find ideal growing conditions to reproduce algae.  Full proposal.

5) Lynn Farr, Martin Elementary: What's the Matter: Weekly class for hands-on science fun
Description: I would like to provide EVERY student from grades K-5 in our school the opportunity to explore matter through hands-on science fun. After a 6 week instruction period on grade-level science standards, students will participate in a "make-and-take" project supporting lessons and concepts learned. Ideas include: Lava lamp, blubber, rocket, sedimentary rocks... Full proposal.

Each winner receives a FlipVideo™ camera or an iPodNano® to capture their project in action. Congratulations to all!

All 178 entries can be viewed in the WAT's Scientific Learning Teacher Grant page.

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Categories: Brain Fitness, Education Funding, Grants, and Stimulus

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