Professional Development: Blog

The Science of Learning

October 25, 2016
Risks of Not Identifying Dyslexia

Think about your favorite stories.  From personal tales, to books and movies, the common catalyst of action and emotion comes from opposing forces.  Storytellers and writers call these opposing forces antagonists.  Opposing forces can take the shape of authority, flawed relationships, ticking clocks, hostile worlds, or an enemy within.  When heroes overcome opposing forces, the typical result is a satisfying outcome, or at least, a good story.    Struggling learners face opposing forces on a regular basis.  While not every struggling learner feels trapped inside a hostile world, many relate to the pressures of trying to uphold respect from teachers and friends while feeling like they’re letting everyone down.  These heroes feel their own disappointment and frustration, along with the disappointment and frustration of people close to them.  That’s a big burden for a child to bear alone. Try as they might, their struggle to learn can grow into anxiety, impatience, fear, humiliation, loneliness, or shame.  Many blame themselves, and develop an inner sense of dislike or distrust.  After repeated attempts to learn in a particular way, they lose confidence and faith in their own abilities to change outcomes.     Understanding dyslexia leads to empowerment Identifying dyslexia can clarify and validate your child’s learning struggles, putting him or her in control of their own story.  Terms such as diagnosis, identification, or labels need not define or limit any person, adult or child.  Instead, the knowledge can be used as a tool for greater understanding, allowing your child access to education through instruction that is appropriate for the way they learn.  Recognizing that dyslexia, also known as a Specific Learning Disability, plays a role in your child’s behavior and learning allows parents and educators to offer appropriate learning support. Dyslexia can affect: Academic performance Behavior Confidence Communication Perception of learning ability […]

January 26, 2016
10 Facts About How Poverty Impacts Education

Education reform has been a hot topic in recent years, and leaders across the political spectrum have championed measures such as increased testing and results-based evaluation of teachers and school districts. But one of the most pervasive problems affecting public schools is rarely discussed as an education issue at all. With the recent news that a majority of K-12 students in the Southern and Western United States now live in low-income households, it is time to take a serious look at how poverty affects education. Here are 10 surprising facts you may not know about poverty and its impact on children in our schools: 1. Disadvantaged even before birth. Cognitive capacity is not just a matter of genetics, but can be strongly influenced by external factors like prenatal drug use, environmental toxins, poor nutrition, and exposure to stress and violence. All of these are more prevalent in low-income households, and affect cognitive development from the prenatal stage through adulthood. 2. Less verbal exposure. A famous 1995 study by Hart and Risley demonstrated that by the age of four, children from poor households hear 32 million fewer spoken words than their better-off peers. More recent research has shown that quality of conversation differs as well. Parents with higher education and income are more likely to engage children with questions and dialogue that invite creative responses, while parents in poverty often lack the time and energy for anything more than simple and goal-oriented commands. 3. Poor sense of agency. Children growing up in poverty often experience life as a series of volatile situations over which neither they nor their caregivers have any control. Thus they fail to develop a conception of themselves as free individuals capable of making choices and acting on them to shape their lives, instead reacting to crises that are […]

August 4, 2015
New Research Shows How to Minimize Side Effects of Chemo

Key Points: Regardless of age, cancer treatments impair learning, memory and attention The speed of processing information can also be diminished These effects can last for months, or even years, after cancer treatment is finished Research study shows Fast ForWord can help prevent learning problems in cancer survivors when used during cancer treatment The cognitive impact of chemotherapy on children When any of us are told someone we love has a diagnosis of cancer, “The Emperor of all Maladies” so aptly named by Siddhartha Mukherjee, it is very upsetting. But, when it is a parent who learns of a cancer diagnosis in their child, time seems to stand still for months, often years, as treatments are administered.  The good news is that the overall mortality rate from cancer has decreased markedly in the last 20 years. For children diagnosed with cancer, today’s cure rate exceeds 80% for some types of cancer. Earlier diagnosis and more specifically targeted forms of chemotherapy, combined with evidence-based protocols, mean many children are now miraculous survivors of this age-old, but very complex, illness. After cancer – what are the implications on learning? However, the success of targeted chemo and radiation therapy does come with a price. With improved survival rates, oncologists have become more aware of the aftereffects that childhood cancer treatments have on thinking, learning and remembering.  According to Jorg Dietrich at Massachusetts General Hospital and his colleagues at Stanford University and Anderson Cancer Center, conventional cancer therapies like chemotherapy and radiology for brain tumors in patients of any age frequently result in a variety of thinking and memory of problems. These neurocognitive deficits, as they are called, include impaired learning, memory, attention, and negatively impact the speed of information processing. Increased survival rates = increased studies on effects Interested specifically in those effects […]

August 28, 2012
21st Century Learning: Preparing Students Today

Today, we live in a world dominated by technology. Our interactions with the world and with one another are mediated by computers, tablets and smart phones. The answer to practically any question you might have, at any moment, is a few keystrokes and fractions of a second away. In the same way that print changed how humans perceive information, now technology has once again flipped the world on its head. “We should seriously consider the claim that we are now undergoing one of the most significant technological revolutions for education since the progression from oral to print and book based teaching.” -Dr. Douglas Kellner, UCLA, New Media and New Literacies: Reconstructing Education for the New Millennium Preparing students for today’s world demands that education be delivered in a vastly different manner than what we see today in U.S. schools. In this world where information creation and discovery are taking place faster than we can bring that information to our classrooms, true 21st century learning must involve more than information literacy alone. Certainly, the traditional “3 Rs” – a shorthand way to talk about traditional content areas like reading, writing and arithmetic – play a core role in the 21st century classroom. (For the sake of argument, let’s have the 3 Rs include other traditional content domains like social studies and history.) But in this new world, those “content domains” become avenues for imparting a whole array of 21st century skills – skills that will allow students to function, learn and adapt throughout life in this post-modern world. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills(P21), one of a number of organizations advocating for a revamped educational system, says that for our young people to be able to compete in the global economy, they need more than the 3 Rs; a new “4 […]

January 26, 2012
Helping Low-SES Students Thrive

Studies and statistics have clearly demonstrated the link between low achievement and low socioeconomic status or SES. Still, studies have also shown that given the right conditions, every student – including those from less fortunate circumstances – have the opportunity to succeed. Not only that, but the kinds of changes that can increase achievement are available to every household, regardless of SES. Factors linked to low-SES have been shown to have an effect upon readiness for school and achievement once a child has entered school. Circumstances include a household’s lack of financial wherewithal to devote to learning resources such as books, supplies and computers. Other contributing factors include lack of parental involvement; only 36% of low SES parents read to their kindergartners, compared to 62% in the highest SES students (Coley, 2002). In addition, parents of low SES households tend to be dual-income or single parent families who have limited time and energy at home to devote to meaningful engagement with their children. That said, many successful students do come from low-SES homes. While some of this success can be attributed to the simple innate resiliency and drive arising from within the student, research has been able to tease out a number of common factors in such homes, where certain practices are clearly contributing to student success.  Factors for Success In 2006, Allison Milne and Lee Plourde studied this population, selecting six second-grade students from a Central Washington elementary school who came from low-SES homes but were also high achievers. While the number of students in the study was limited, Milne and Plourde outline a number of common factors in their homes that likely contributed to their success: Educational content in the home:In all households, these students as early learners all had access to learning materials, such as books, writing […]

September 13, 2011
The Great Homework Debate: Is Homework Helpful or Harmful to Students?

Sometimes, I feel as if I have been doing homework my entire life.  As a child growing up, I moved from worksheets, dioramas and book reports to essays, major projects and term papers.  When I began teaching, I had lessons to prepare and my students’ homework became my homework for grading.  (And, on occasion, it was quite obvious that I was putting a bit more effort into MY homework than they put into theirs!)  As my children reached school age, “Mom’s rules” on homework included:  homework comes first, don’t wait until the last minute on a project, etc.  But somehow their homework still bled over into my life… So, how important is this icon of education?  Is homework helpful or harmful?  Is it something that, as many students claim, just eats up their time and energy for no real purpose?  Do we, as educators, need new practices that move away from homework or are we simply afraid to change, stuck on those famous eight words, “But, we’ve never done it that way before…”? In support of the view of homework as helpful, many educators stress that specifically aligning homework to the learning task is part of the strategy for building understanding.  The website Focus on Effectiveness cites several studies showing that in elementary school, homework helps build learning and study habits (Cooper, 1989; Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998; Gorges & Elliot, 1999).  Also noted is the point that 30 minutes of daily homework in high school can increase a student’s GPA up to half a point (Keith 1992).  Many students need time and experience to develop the study habits that support learning, and homework can provide that as well as the ability to cope with mistakes and difficulty (Bempechat, 2004).  Those teachers who take the time to add instructive […]

July 21, 2011
Forecasting ROI from Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ Products

Return on Investment, or “ROI” is a straightforward concept.  With educational interventions, we invest something (typically time, money, or energy) and receive some benefit.  The primary benefit of investing time, money, and energy in Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ products is increased student achievement.  This benefit has always been a focus for Scientific Learning.   However, in our discussions with customers, we realized that many district stakeholders had a parallel benefit that they are concerned with: the financial impact on their district as a whole.  We decided to see if we could address and quantify this parallel (and perhaps complementary) view of ROI. We identified four areas where data suggest that implementation of Scientific Learning products can impact a district’s financial costs: Reduction of the high school dropout rate Reduction of referrals to special education Reduction of the number of students who require ELL services Reduction of the number of students classified as “struggling readers” Here’s an example of how we tried to quantify one of these benefits.  A district in Swartz Creek, Michigan observed a 30% drop year-over-year in special education referrals after implementing Fast ForWord products with their students. To be safe, we chose a very statistically conservative estimate for the reduction a new customer might expect to see in their special education referral rates: 21.2%.  Technically, we got this by looking at the lower bound of a 95% confidence interval for the effect based on the Swartz Creek data.   These estimates led to the creation of Scientific Learning’s Return on Investment Tool.  The tool estimates the ROI—that is, the true financial cost—of using Scientific Learning products over a three year horizon.  This includes the initial software purchase and three years of product support. Note that we often see ROIs greater than 100% (i.e. a net financial benefit) for medium […]

July 20, 2011
Scientific Learning to Host Brain Summit in Conjunction with Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston

Dr. William Jenkins and Sherrelle Walker will present one-day summit on how brain fitness can help students improve one to two years in reading levels in eight to 12 weeks 7/20/11 Media Contact: Jessica LindlSenior Vice President, Marketing and Product ManagementScientific Learning Corporation(510) [email protected] Investor Contact: Bob FellerChief Financial OfficerScientific Learning Corporation(510) [email protected] Oakland, Calif. — July 20, 2011 — Scientific Learning Corp. (NASDAQ:SCIL), makers of the Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ family of products, will host a New Science of Learning Brain Summit at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers on July 26. The Brain Summit is being held in coordination with the Building Learning Communities (BLC) Conference, sponsored by November Learning. The BLC conference, which is designed to have an immediate and long range impact on improving teaching and learning, will be held at the same hotel in downtown Boston with pre-conference sessions July 24-26 and main conference sessions July 27-29. At the Brain Summit, Scientific Learning’s founder and chief scientific officer, Dr. William Jenkins, and chief education officer, Sherrelle Walker, will discuss how current neuroscience research is contributing to viable, innovative and impactful solutions for improving academic performance. They will describe the importance of brain fitness in education and explain how students can exercise their brains to overcome literacy challenges and improve their capacity to learn. Participants will learn how schools can accelerate learning for students of diverse ages and ability levels by combining good teaching, good content, and exercises that stimulate the brain to build brain fitness in the areas of English language arts and reading. In the Boston area, school districts such as Everett Public Schools, an urban district located a few miles north of Boston, are realizing positive results by helping students build brain fitness with the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs from Scientific Learning. After participating in the programs in 2009-10, elementary and […]

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