The Science of Learning Blog
Text Size A A A

Showing posts in August 2011  Show all posts >

2011 Virtual Circle of Learning Customer Conference

Virtual Circle of Learning

Customers, mark your calendars!   This year’s annual Scientific Learning customer conference, the 2011 Virtual Circle of Learning, will take place on November 4, bringing together Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant product users from across North America. Circle of Learning participants will get to hear the latest in brain research and learn practical applications that will benefit students immediately. 

This year’s Circle of Learning will be a 100% virtual event.  It will include the same caliber of comprehensive content and keynote speakers as in our past on-site conferences, and we’ll be actively using social media to connect participants before, during, and after the event. 

The Circle of Learning agenda features three engaging keynotes—including the ever-popular Eric Jensen (Teaching with Poverty in Mind) and Scientific Learning’s own Dr. Marty Burns (Motivating our Coaches and Teachers) and Andrew Ostarello (The Story of Data).  Breakout sessions follow, addressing the importance of attention skills, memory, processing skills, and sequencing skills, as well as a special breakout session especially for tech team members. 

Please plan to join us for this once-a-year, not-to-be-missed customer event!          

Oh, and did I mention that it is FREE?!

Related Reading:

Students who Struggle in the Mainstream: What their Homework Patterns May Tell You

Implementation Fidelity: Maximizing Your Fast ForWord or Reading Assistant Investment

Subscribe to this blog to get new blog posts right in your inbox and stay up to date on the science of learning!

  

Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!

Connect with us on your favorite social network! RSS youtube linkedin

Categories: Brain Research, Education Trends, Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning, Reading Assistant, Scientific Learning Research

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Language Skills Increase 1.8 Years After 30 Days Using Fast ForWord

This study is a randomized controlled trial that investigated the impact of Fast ForWord Language software in 9 elementary schools.  The analyses that follow include data from 452 students in grades K through 5. 

Students were randomly assigned to be in either the Fast ForWord group or the control group.  The randomization was stratified within age and gender.

Students using Fast ForWord trained for 100 minutes per day for an average of 30 school days.  Both groups were evaluated using three assessments:

  • Test of Auditory Comprehension of Language
  • Phonological Awareness Test
  • Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Education Battery

The average gains from pre-test to post-test were larger for Fast ForWord participants than for the control group for both Language Comprehension and Phonological Isolation.  Both of these results were statistically significant.

In addition, a large subset of students in this study were English Language Learners.  A total of 85 students did not speak English as their primary language – 53 of whom used Fast ForWord, while 32 served as controls.  The results for English Language Learners were consistent with those for native English speakers.  Both of these results were statistically significant.

In conclusion, Fast ForWord participation led to significantly larger improvements than the control group in a variety of early language skills. 

The vast majority of students made learning gains; these students averaged 1.8 years of language improvement in only 30 school days.

These results are consistent for both ELL students and for native English speakers.

Finally, note that this study was conducted on the original version of Fast ForWord Language.  Since publication of this study in 2004, a new and enhanced version of Fast ForWord Language has been released (Fast ForWord Language version 2).

Related Reading:

Forecasting ROI from Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ Products

Reading in the Real World

Subscribe to this blog to get new blog posts right in your inbox and stay up to date on the science of learning!

  

Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!

Connect with us on your favorite social network! RSS youtube linkedin

Categories: English Language Learners, Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning, Scientific Learning Research

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Still the Write Stuff: Why We Must Continue Teaching Handwriting

Infant temperament

When it comes to lost arts, we could argue that none is getting lost faster than handwriting. Since the personal computer and now the telephone have become the primary methods for recording our ideas, we simply do not write – I mean with an actual writing implement like a pen or pencil – as much as we used to.

So, we must ask ourselves, is this really a problem? Sure, one could argue that receiving a handwritten letter is more meaningful than getting one that is typed, but that’s an emotional opinion; it’s not a scientific argument. And aren’t professionals in all fields using more computers, tablets and handhelds to communicate, record and share ideas? So, what is the real value of learning handwriting skills versus being able to type 100 words per minute on a QWERTY keyboard?

At Indiana University, Dr. Karin Harman James, assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences, focuses her research on how motor stimuli can influence our visual recognition, and how the brain changes as we have different experiences. This research provides a basis for a scientific argument for the continued instruction of handwriting.

In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Cognitive Science, adults were shown new characters as well as a mirror image of these characters after reproducing them through writing and keyboarding. When quizzed afterward, subjects were shown to have a “stronger, longer lasting recognition” of the characters’ correct orientation when they had written them by hand versus produced them by matching them to a keyboard button. This suggests that engaging the motor nerves to create the shapes by hand helped solidify the ability to identify such shapes.

In another study, James’ team took this idea to the next level to see what was actually going on inside the brain during these activities. They used a functional MRI to map brain activity in children as they looked at letters before and after letter-learning instruction. Their results showed that those who practiced writing the letters showed more brain activity than those who only looked at the letters. In addition, according to a 2010 report on the research in the Wall Street Journal Online, James said that after four weeks of training, the children who practiced writing skills showed brain activation similar to an adult’s.

Between these two studies, we see excellent examples of brain plasticity at work. James’ work demonstrates a clear connection between how engaging more of the brain in the activity of writing improves how letters are committed to memory. Given that letter recognition is an essential step for early readers, it’s easy to see why practicing writing letters is an essential component of the groundwork for later success.

Certainly, with limited time, schools try to maximize student achievement, and give them a baseline of skills that will allow them to continue to develop to optimize their success throughout life in an increasingly technology-based society. That said, based on James’ research, it’s quite clear that penmanship has an important place in the classroom, and not just as an important traditional skill.  In actually applying pen to paper, we allow our students to engage their brains in ways that typing on a keyboard cannot. And whether such an activity is done with pen and paper, a stylus and a tablet PC or chalk on a blackboard, it is in every student’s best interest to practice the “write” stuff.

For further reading:

The many health perks of good handwriting. Deardorff, Julie. Chicago Tribune, June 15, 2011. Referenced on August 14, 2011.

How handwriting trains the brain. Bounds, Gwendolyn. The Wall Street Journal Online, October 5, 2010. Referenced on August 14, 2011.

Writing strengthens orthography and alphabetic-coding strengthens phonology in learning to read Chinese. Guan, Connie Qun; Liu, Ying; Chan, Derek Ho Leung; Ye, Feifei; Perfetti, Charles A. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 103(3), Aug 2011, 509-522.

 

Related Reading:

Why Limit Screen Time? Scientific Research Explains

Ok, so you made a mistake. But look what you learned!

Subscribe to this blog to get new blog posts right in your inbox and stay up to date on the science of learning!

  

Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!

Connect with us on your favorite social network! RSS youtube linkedin

Categories: Brain Fitness, Brain Research, Education Trends, Reading & Learning

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Connecting the Dots Between Infant Temperament and Future Success

Infant temperament

What factors will ultimately determine a child’s ability to succeed in life? While measures like socioeconomic status might allow a child to start off on the right foot, current research is delving into the nature of temperament and how that affects a person’s ability to successfully navigate life’s many challenges.   If temperament is pre-determined, there’s not much a parent can do, but if nurture plays a role, then how can parents help their child have the best quality of life?

While temperament has long been thought of as something innate, recent research has demonstrated that only some aspects are genetic, while others are environmental.

On the genetic side, as any parent will agree, much of an individual’s personality manifests very early on in the infant’s life. Parents with more than one child often note that one of their children seems easygoing from day one, but another child is demanding. One child may be outgoing and social, while their sibling may be more shy or withdrawn.

As we consider how these seemingly innate traits develop, we cannot ignore the fact that the environment – from parental attention to nutrition – exerts a strong influence on a child’s personality development. Current research tells us that a pregnant mother’s iron levels can affect the disposition of her child. Emerging data gleaned from animal research indicates that the quality of maternal parenting styles, such as the way a mother nurses her infants or the amount of maternal grooming, affects the temperament of her offspring.

An interesting question arises: How do these early manifestations play out as the child matures? For example, will an infant who is able to self-calm herself in stressful situations by turning away from aversive stimuli or sucking her thumb, for example, continue to exhibit self-regulatory behaviors as she gets older?

Considering the interplay between innate versus cultivated aspects of temperament, what actions can a parent take to affect the development of a child’s personality to give that child the best chance at personal satisfaction, academic achievement and successful relationships later in life? As the above research – and our own parental gut instincts – suggest, we can set them up by providing:

  • Excellent nutrition
  • Logical, predictable rules for living with others
  • Optimal environments and schedules for sleep
  • Lots of interactive play with family and friends
  • Less screen time
  • Lots and lots of parental love and affection

 

With parents providing these positive factors for their children, every child – from shy to outgoing, from tense to easygoing – will have the best chance at developing a balanced temperament as they mature.

For further study, read: Child Temperament and Parenting, by Samuel Putnam (University of Oregon), Ann Sanson (University of Melbourne), Mary Rothbart (University of Oregon). 

References:

Feder, A; Nestler, EJ; Charney, DS.  Psychobiology and molecular genetics of resilienceNature Reviews  Neuroscience 10 (2009) 446 – 457

Related Reading:

Building a Foundation for School Readiness for Low Income Children

The Magical Combination of Love and Limits: Tips for Teaching Positive Behavior

Subscribe to this blog to get new blog posts right in your inbox and stay up to date on the science of learning!

  

Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!

Connect with us on your favorite social network! RSS youtube linkedin

Categories: Family Focus, Reading & Learning

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Building a Foundation for School Readiness for Low Income Children

School readiness

As educators with experience in child development, we understand the essential nature of being responsive to a child. Children who do not receive enough attention do not develop in the same way as those who receive consistent nurturing and feedback. Research has demonstrated how, at a physiological level – their brains simply wire themselves differently as they develop. This deficit in early childhood experiences often manifests itself as developmental delays across a wide spectrum of behaviors. These behavioral delays appear in parallel with delays in brain development.

Imagine a child growing up in a home where sensitive, responsive caregiving is rare. Maybe mom and/or dad work more hours and are simply not available. Maybe they come home too tired to read or play or simply snuggle with the child. Or, this is an environment where sensitive, responsive nurturing is not valued very highly. While it is not the case in every situation like this, at its extreme, the parent or parents may be truly neglecting the child’s needs at this early stage. Even moderate differences in these important parent-child interactions have important longer-term consequences for development.

Research has shown that in these situations a child’s brain development quickly gets derailed. Children who do not receive enough of what is known as “sensitive-response caregiving” and cognitive stimulation do not develop executive function skills as readily as their counterparts in more caring, stimulating environments. (Lengua et al., 2007; Li-Grining, 2007) In other words, children may not be encouraged to be aware of and interact with the world around them (cognitive stimulation). They also may not be encouraged to engage or develop planning, decision-making or troubleshooting skills (executive function).

Executive functions, also known as “domain-general” functions, are those called upon in various types of learning opportunities; these include such functions as working memory, regulation of emotions and attentional control. On the other hand, a “domain-specific” cognitive process is one that represents a specific skill or skill area, such as reading or counting.

But what are the implications as children grow and enter school? Recently, a team of researchers led by Janet Welsh at Penn State studied readiness for school in a group of Head Start children and how certain cognitive processes were associated with the development of certain skills. Specifically, they studied the relationship between domain-general and domain-specific cognitive processes in these low-income pre-kindergartners, and tracked them through kindergarten.

Welsh‘s study showed that skills scaffolded consistently from one level to the next, and these skill levels represented good indicators of how well the child would develop the next set of skills. In other words, good working memory and attention control predicted the development of early literacy and numeracy skills, and these skills were predictors of later math and reading achievement.

Whether through experience in the home, great work in the pre-kindergarten classroom and/or support from computer-based learning exercises, it is clearly essential that we support the early development of domain-general cognitive skills as early and as strongly as possible.

While this may seem obvious, Welsh’s research underscores the essential nature of laying a foundation in those executive functions, those domain-general cognitive abilities, for each and every student – but especially for those at an economic disadvantage if we are to close the gaps and truly offer the same opportunities to every student.

Read the full study: The Development of Cognitive Skills and Gains in Academic School Readiness for Children From Low-Income Families, Janet A. Welsh, Robert L. Nix, Clancy Blair, Karen L. Bierman, and Keith E. Nelson. Journal of Educational Psychology, 2010, Volume 102, Number 1, p. 43-53.

For further reading:    

Family Involvement in School and Low-Income Children's Literacy Performance, Eric Dearing, Holly Kreider, Sandra Simpkins, and Heather Weiss. Harvard Family Research Project. January 2007.

Early Care and Education for Children in Low-Income Families Patterns of Use, Quality, and Potential Policy Implications, Gina Adams, Kathryn Tout, and Martha Zaslow. Prepared for the Urban Institute and Child Trends. January 2006, revised May 2007.

The impact of poverty on educational outcomes for children, HB Ferguson, S Bovaird, and MP Mueller. Paediatr Child Health. October 2007. 12(8): 701–706.

Related Reading:

Building Unstructured Play Into the Structure of Each Day

Lifelong Learning and the Plastic Brain

Subscribe to this blog to get new blog posts right in your inbox and stay up to date on the science of learning!

  

Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!

Connect with us on your favorite social network! RSS youtube linkedin

Categories: Brain Research, Education Trends, Reading & Learning

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Implementation Fidelity: Maximizing Your Fast ForWord® or Reading Assistant™ Investment

What is Implementation Fidelity? It is Scientific Learning’s measure of how well Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant users are following product usage protocols.

In order to maximize a student’s benefit from Fast ForWord or Reading Assistant, users need to have an intensive and persistent experience.  This means using the products regularly and according to protocol.  The available Fast ForWord protocols are five days a week for 30, 40, 50, or 90 minutes per day.  For Reading Assistant, the protocols are 20, 30, or 40 minutes per day (depending on the grade band) for three days per week.  Adherence to these protocols helps students build on their daily successes.

This leads naturally to the following question:  How do you know if a student is having an intensive and persistent Fast ForWord or Reading Assistant experience?

Our answer is a concept called Implementation Fidelity.  Implementation Fidelity measures how closely users of Scientific Learning products are adhering to the recommended usage protocols.

There are three components to Implementation Fidelity:

  • Completion Rate
  • Attendance
  • Participation

Each of these components can be measured at the individual student, classroom, or district level.

Implementation Fidelity components are measured on a scale from 0 to 100%.  Scores in the top 20% are considered “Good,” scores in the middle 60% are considered “Fair,” and the remaining scores in the bottom 20% are considered “Poor.”

Scientific Learning Progress Tracker is an online tool to monitor and manage Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant success.

Progress Tracker has reports to help customers track the Implementation Fidelity of their students.  For example, one Implementation Fidelity report shows the overall Completion Rate, Attendance, and Participation categories for a district as a whole and for each school in that district.

We have found that a good implementation, on average, leads to 50% more reading gain per year.

Related Reading:

Forecasting ROI from Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ Products

Making Computerized Learning Work Takes WORK

Subscribe to this blog to get new blog posts right in your inbox and stay up to date on the science of learning!

  

Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!

Connect with us on your favorite social network! RSS youtube linkedin

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

LearnFast Australia: “If only there were a way to get into their brains…”

Reading fluency

Note: This post is the 3rd in a series on Scientific Learning Value Added Representatives (VARs)who provide our products around the world.

LearnFast Australia was founded by Devon Barnes, a speech language pathologist and audiologist. Devon has worked with children struggling with language, learning and reading difficulties for over 40 years. Many times during those decades when working with a learning disabled child she would remark to her colleagues, “If only there were some way to get into their brains and reorganize them, perhaps we could fix the problems.”

Devon had read about the work of Dr. Paula Tallal, a renowned neuroscientist. In 1997 she decided to travel to the University of York in England to hear Dr. Tallal present the results of the early trials of a set of exercises which were to become the foundation for the development of Fast ForWord®.

The results were so impressive, Devon realized she had found something that could potentially ‘re-wire’ the brains of learning disabled clients.

The following year Devon completed the Fast ForWord Professional Provider Training in New York and commenced offering the programs at her clinic, Lindfield Speech Pathology Learning Centre, in Sydney.

Today, LearnFast provides Fast ForWord to thousands of students and adults via schools, professional learning practitioners, and in homes.

LearnFast has offices in Sydney, Australia and in Auckland, New Zealand. The company has developed a staff of passionate learning experts who genuinely care about helping as many children and adults as possible overcome their learning and reading struggles, and to help every person achieve his or her potential. This passion is reflected in everything LearnFast does, from the people who work for the business, to the way the Fast ForWord programs are implemented and supported.

As well as providing Fast ForWord, LearnFast is active in supporting the development of innovative ways to improve education for all, and in bringing the latest research and knowledge to parents, educators and learning professionals.

LearnFast’s Facebook page was launched recently and has developed an active community of people who are interested in the science of learning and how the findings from the research can be applied to help all those who want to improve their ability to learn and to read.

There is also a valuable source of video content made available to the public (mostly free of charge) via LearnFast Education’s Video Store which provides information about Fast ForWord and learning and reading difficulties, including auditory processing disorders, attention deficit disorders and dyslexia, as well as adult literacy development, autism and other topics. For more about LearnFast and Fast ForWord, visit www.fastforword.com.au.

Related Reading:

Scientific Learning Around the World

Unlocking the Potential of English Language Learners

Subscribe to this blog to get new blog posts right in your inbox and stay up to date on the science of learning!

  

Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!

Connect with us on your favorite social network! RSS youtube linkedin

Categories: Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leigh Ann’s Story: Making a Difference in Children’s Lives

This post is the second in a series aimed at sharing the success stories, both personal and professional, that Scientific Learning employees witness every day.

Leigh Ann’s Story:

“Hi, my name is Leigh Ann.  I’m a BrainPro Representative with Scientific Learning and I have a few stories I would like to tell today about some outcomes that have really touched my heart.

The first story I want to tell is about Henry.  He’s eleven.  He lives in Michigan and his mom was really very excited to tell me this story. At eleven, he couldn’t spend more than fifteen to twenty minutes reading, and a month after he started our software he spent three hours in the hammock in his backyard reading a book from cover to cover.  And when he was finished he ran in the house and he goes, ‘That was fun!’ And his mom was just so thrilled when she told me that story.

There was a seventeen-year-old boy in Canada, and the Internet where they lived was not strong enough to deliver our software into the home.  So he had to drive forty minutes one way to his dad’s office.  So he drove an hour and twenty minutes each day.  That boy’s life completely changed.  His parents said he’s a different boy.  He saw himself catching up to the smarter kids in class.  It completely, totally changed his life.

And those are the stories, those are the things that help me get out of bed every morning and get to work with a big smile on my face and know that I’m make a big difference in children’s lives.”

Related Reading:

Jolene’s Story: “I Saw Tremendous Change”

Subscribe to this blog to get new blog posts right in your inbox and stay up to date on the science of learning!

  

Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!

Connect with us on your favorite social network! RSS youtube linkedin

Categories: Family Focus, Reading & Learning

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Students who Struggle in the Mainstream: What their Homework Patterns May Tell You

Reading fluency

Ms. Egli is Executive Director at Bridges Academy in Winter Spring, FL.

Students who maintain average grades, but appear to be expending an excessive amount of time and effort to maintain those grades may have underlying learning deficits. As educators, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that students who require more time for completing assignments seem to show a disparity between what they have learned in class and how they perform on high stakes assessments. They may in fact be struggling with various learning challenges such as weakness in memory function, inability to process large volumes of information, vocabulary deficits and poor abilities in written expression.

Working with University of Central Florida Communications Disorders doctoral candidate Janet Proly, I had the opportunity to collaborate on a single-subject designed study of three promising high school students who appeared to be successful in their classes but also had significant hidden learning deficits.

The three students, twin 10th-grade boys in a general education program and a 12th-grade student who attended a magnet health and science academy, expressed concern over their struggle to keep up with their respective workloads of studying, reading and comprehending assignments, and their performance on tests like the FCAT. All reported that it took them three times the amount of actual time to complete their homework, citing that they had to re-read assignments multiple times in order to master the information. This inefficient learning caused all three boys to receive lower than expected scores on the state assessment, possibly compromising their ability to obtain a standard high school diploma.  All three students approached me to inquire about participating in a summer reading program hosted by Bridges Academy, and thus became candidates for our collaborative study on the impact of improving reading fluency using computer technology for intervention.

Proly and I structured a single subject design study to determine the impact of using computer technology formulated to improve processing and working memory, as well as oral reading fluency. We modeled our study after the 2010 study published by Wexler, Vaughn, Roberts, and Denton.[i] The school offered a summer program to the three students. Using the Fast ForWord Literacy and Reading Assistant products for the six-week planned intervention would address recommendations for an alternative fluency intervention with a higher degree of intensity, and the inclusion of interventions that focus on processing.

After an initial assessment, the students participated in the intervention. We conducted a post-intervention assessment, and then assessed the students once again six months after the intervention. All three students demonstrated significant improvement in their reading fluency, and gains of more than two years on average in word attack and comprehension skills. The three students sustained these gains even though all three were no longer receiving any support or intervention.

This study, along with the focus on adolescent literacy, has increased interest in addressing the needs of middle and high school students who report these kinds of challenges in three specific programs: the UCF Communications Disorders Clinic; the UCF Communications Disorders Doctoral Program; and the Bridges Academy private school. As our results indicate, these short term computer interventions, through focusing on working memory, reading fluency and processing speed, have significant potential to help capable students succeed both in classes and on annual assessments.

In 2008 alone, over 20,000 high school students in the state of Florida dropped out of the public high school program. Did they leave because it was simply too hard to keep up? Could we have kept them in school if we had been able to provide a short term intervention that could not only have engaged them, but improved their learning and achievement? My collaborators and I all believe the answer to both of these questions is, absolutely, yes.

So what comes next? Our plan is to work together on an expanded study for the 2011-12 academic year that will take place at the private school and the UCF Communications Disorders Clinic.  In reaching more participants, our plan – and our hope – is to continue to demonstrate program effectiveness and change the lives of more students for the better.

 

 

[i] Wexler, J., Vaughn, S., Roberts, G. & Denton, C.A. (2010), The efficacy of repeated reading and wide reading practice for high school students with severe reading disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 25(1), 2-10.

 

Related Reading:

Inspiring Fluency: One School’s Journey to Improve Reading Skills

One Half Year Increase in One Month with Reading Assistant

Subscribe to this blog to get new blog posts right in your inbox and stay up to date on the science of learning!

  

Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!

Connect with us on your favorite social network! RSS youtube linkedin

Categories: Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning, Reading Assistant, Special Education

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Choose a product to log in.

Not a customer? Find Out More

Log in to MySciLEARN

What is MySciLEARN?

  • One destination for products, training, reports and tools
  • Auto-assign tool
  • Implementation Success and Gains reports
  • SciLEARNU training portal
  • Expanded roles capability

Learn More

Choose a product to log in.

Not a student? Find Out More