Preventing Summer Brain Drain with Dr. Martha S. Burns

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 (All day)
  • Carrie Gajowski, MA

Summer brain drain Martha Burns

One of my favorite webinar presenters here at Scientific Learning, Dr. Martha Burns, recently gave a webinar called “BrainPro:  Preventing Summer Brain Drain.”

Dr. Burns covered a number of points related to learning and retaining information.

  • How learners can benefit from current research in 3 areas: 
    • Psychology – the benefits of teaching to a child’s style of learning
    • Neuroscience and Technology – using neuroscience-based technology to individualize instruction to meet the needs of each individual student
    • Education – providing standardized content to learners across the US
  • The science of how the brain learns. The human brain has thousands of networks that work together and help us to do a lot of different things. Pathways in the brain get stronger and stronger with use.   The more we do something, the better we get at that activity.  The stronger the pathways in the brain, the easier it becomes for the child to learn and retain information. 
  • Early difficulties in reading. If a child is struggling with phonological awareness, memory, vocabulary or comprehension, it may indicate a learning difficulty. The cognitive abilities of memory, attention, processing, and sequencing that are foundational to language can be exercised with Fast ForWord Home (formerly BrainPro).

Following Dr. Burns, we heard from Jenny, a parent from Florida who had her teenage daughter use the Fast ForWord Home to help her pass the FCAT (the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test).   Her daughter has a very high GPA and takes AP and Honors classes, but had difficulty in passing the FCAT reading test two years in a row. After she went through Fast ForWord she took the FCAT for the 3rd time and passed with a near perfect score on the test.  

View the webinar to for more detail and visuals about how the brain learns, and find out how Fast ForWord Home can help your child stay sharp over the summer break.

Related Reading:

Antidotes to Summer Brain Drain (Part 2): 5 Ways to Pull the Plug on Learning Loss

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

2011 Virtual Circle of Learning Customer Conference

Thursday, August 25, 2011 (All day)
  • Pam Combs

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 ForWordand Reading Assistantproduct 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

Individualizing Instruction Through Understanding Different Types of Learners

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 (All day)
  • Terri Zezula

Individualized instruction

For an educator, getting to know each learner is like experiencing a new book. Every child—every mind that comes into the classroom—represents a new discovery with every turn of the page, their own way of seeing and experiencing the world, and they each bring a unique library of experiences, hopes, fears and dreams.

Now, while that makes for a poetic discussion about the wonderful variety among students, it also makes for a practical challenge in helping every one of these individuals achieve their greatest potential. How can an educator present information such that all of these learners—with all their different world views and brain wirings—will get the most out of the school experience?

Researchers have generated multiple models of the mind, each providing its own way of understanding how we can conceptualize and leverage learning differences in the classroom. Such categories are simply ways for us to classify students and ensure that we are reaching every one as effectively as possible.

All these models strive to answer one single question: How does each individual learner experience and process the world around them? Academics have spent great energies on unlocking these secrets and developing models of how we learn. A quick trip through just a few of these theories (and there are many other theories out there) gives us an idea of the breadth of ideas posed by experts of note since the 1980s:

  • David Kolb described four types of learners: convergers (who develop abstract concepts and then actively experiment), divergers (who experience the world and then reflect on their observations), assimilators (who develop abstract concepts and then observe and reflect), and accommodators (who experience the world and then actively experiment).
  • Honey and Mumford labeled learners as activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists.
  • Anthony Gregorc described how people perceive the world in two ways (concrete and abstract) and order the world in two ways (random and sequential), and developed a model with four learner types based on the possible combinations of these qualities.
  • Fleming’s model described learners as visual, auditory, read-write or kinesthetic, classifying learners by the kind of information that they most effectively assimilate.
  • Howard Gardner described eight different “intelligences,” including linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist.


In looking at these frameworks as a group, they all converge in certain ways and diverge in others. But one element remains consistent throughout, and that is the motivation for having them in the first place. There is a clear practical need for such frameworks in the classroom. Education is not a one-on-one teacher/learner proposition. As much as we would like, we as educators simply cannot provide fully individualized instruction for every student in a classroom of twenty or thirty.

The art and science of classifying how the human brain processes and learns is and will constantly change as we discover more and more about how the brain works. Whichever model or models are applied in the classroom (and again, the best educators will have a deep enough command of each of these models to leverage the best of each), it is up to educators to ensure that each learner is developing and cultivating the same set of core, fundamental cognitive skills: memory (the ability to store information), attention (the ability to focus on tasks and filter out distractions), processing (how fast a student can perceive and manipulate information), and sequencing (how accurately a student can order information).  These four key cognitive skill sets, when developed together, have been demonstrated to improve learning and reading. Thus, any teaching we do based on learner classifications must support the development of these skills.

That said, if these classifications add power and efficiency to the way we impart these skills to our students and classes, then we should make use of them as much as possible. In the end, any tricks we can use, any knowledge we can leverage, any technique we can employ—if the research demonstrates it to be effective—represents a valid bit of knowledge that we can use to help our students succeed.

Learn more about the four essential cognitive skillsof memory, attention, processing, and sequencing. For further reading:

Kolb, D. A. 1984. Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Honey, P & Mumford, A, (1982). The Manual of Learning Styles. Maidenhead, UK: Peter Honey Publications.

Mills, D. W. (2002). Applying what we know: Student learning styles. Retrieved May 22, 2011.:

Gardner, Howard (1983; 1993) Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences, New York: Basic Books. Second edition published in Britain by Fontana Press.

Related Reading:

Inspiring Students to Dream, Learn and Grow

AMPing Up Our Teaching to Increase Intrinsic Student Motivation

HABLA Program Helps Disadvantaged Early Learners Lay Foundations for Success

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 (All day)
  • Bill Jenkins, Ph.D.

building school readiness through language

One of the key members of the Scientific Learning community is Dr. Virginia Mann. A consultant for Scientific Learning, Dr. Mann is also Professor of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California, Irvine and Director of a program called HABLAthat serves disadvantaged 2- to 4-year old children and their parents.

HABLA, which stands for "Home-based Activities Building Language Acquisition," and is the Spanish imperative for "speak", is "a broad-spectrum Latino-focused educational outreach program" whose goal is to go into homes and help parents learn to better speak and interact with their children to build their language and school readiness skills.

Dr. Mann’s research is discovering that the key precursor skills for readingare those that we tend to take for granted, such as understanding and articulating language, naming things and letters, and having a sense of rhyme. All of these skills grow and work together as children develop the foundations that will allow them to succeed in kindergarten. The HABLA program leverages this understanding and, through regular home visits (42 each year for two years), helps parents introduce these skills—in their native language—through reading, speaking and music activities as they talk and play with their children.

The results thus far are promising:

  • Children in the program perform significantly better than their counterparts in the community in terms of these key communications skills. They are above normal where their untreated peers lag behind.
  • As participants learn these core literacy skills, they also learn counting, colors, shapes and more, building the basic concepts and organizational and sequencing skills they will need to succeed in other areas, such as math, science and more.
  • The gains that HABLA establishes in Spanish form a scaffold for learning English in school. Not only do HABLA participants excel in Spanish, they also excel in learning English and continue to surpass untreated children in preschool and kindergarten classes.

To learn more about Dr. Mann and the HABLA program, visit

Learning Difficulties in Children

Tuesday, December 28, 2010 (All day)
  • Terri Zezula

learning difficulties Today, you are nine years old and in the third grade. You enjoy playing on the monkey bars at recess and drawing pictures of your dog and your fish. You also like watermelon hard candies, mac and cheese, and, to your friends’ bewilderment, you have an affinity for tuna fish sandwiches, especially when your mom has mixed crunchy celery in with the tuna.

But also unlike your friends, you have often felt that school seems harder than it should be. For some inexplicable reason, you tend to make more mistakes than your classmates. You have a hard time grasping math concepts that they seem to get easily. You don’t remember geography facts as well as they do. And because of those difficulties, you feel different and separate from those around you. You feel incapable. You feel like a failure. And because of it, you feel angry, sad and alone.

While this is a simplistic snapshot of the thoughts typical of children with learning difficulties, such an exercise reminds us of two things: the magic of being young, and the loneliness and frustration of a youngster who lives with these challenges.

According to the Child Development Institute, six to ten percent of school-aged kids in the US are learning disabled. The causes of learning disabilities vary from genetics to nutrition to pre-birth and early childhood injury, and the challenges that children with learning difficulties experience tend to fall into five different areas: spoken language, written language, math, reasoning and memory. They may simply work slowly. They may have disorganized thinking. They may have difficulty in sequencing tasks. They may have poor impulse control. They many experience these difficulties in any number of combinations and groupings.

All children have problems. They all experience challenges with school and in social relationships. But when these problems begin to appear in combinations and clusters, or if they persist for long periods, we as educators must take a close look and ask ourselves whether the student’s challenges fall within normal ranges, or whether they should be evaluated in more detail.

If an evaluation comes back with an indication that a student has a learning difficulty, it is absolutely essential for educators and parents to team up and support that student in every way possible. If an IEP (individualized education plan) is in order, everyone needs to be informed and on board to support the student’s new path.

What exactly can we do for these children to boost their self-esteem? Writing for the Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois, clinical psychologist Aoife Lyons offers a number of recommendations:

    1. Help children understand what the label means. This gives them a degree of ownership and control that they did not have before.
    2. Help them recognize their areas of strength as well as their areas of difficulty.
    3. Help them feel special and appreciated.
    4. Help them develop problem-solving and decision-making skills.

The good news is that, for the student who has experienced years of frustration and difficulty and loneliness, a positive diagnosis can be freeing. It gives them a clear explanation for why they have been experiencing all these feelings and difficulties. It allows them to once again be proud of who they are and see their differences in a new light. And, given the research, expertise and research based interventionsavailable, it gives these students a clearer path forward to define--and achieve--their own success.

For further reading:

Self-Esteem and Learning Disabilities, Aofe Lyons, Ph.D.

How Can Parents Foster Self-Esteem in Their Children? Dr. Robert Brooks, Ph.D.

About Learning Disabilities, Child Development Institute


Where is Superman?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 (All day)
  • Terri Zezula


Success Story: Kenny Hilliard

Why wait for Superman?  Students across the country are making great academic gains with great teaching, rich content and outstanding educators.

Take a look at Patterson High School in St Mary Parish, Louisiana where Kenny Hilliard could barely read at the level of a second grader when he reached high school. After a few weeks of doing the Fast ForWord program at school, he reads at grade level and he understands what he reads. Once at risk of dropping out of high school, now Kenny is headed for Louisiana State University on a football scholarship. Kenny had great teachers, a rich curriculum and a community that supported his academic and athletic goals. Yet Kenny, like many other students across the country, needed an intervention to help build his cognitive skills of memory, attention, processing and sequencing – the skills necessary for reading and learning.

“What changed is that Kenny did a computer program called Fast ForWord,” said Patterson High School Principal, Rachael Wilson. “He is such a talented football player, and his talents can carry him far, but recruiters are looking for kids who have talent and good grades. The first two questions recruiters ask me are ‘What kind of kid is he?’ and ‘What kind of grades does he make?’ Thanks to the progress Kenny made in Fast ForWord, he does not need to rely on athletic talent alone.”

Kenny says he was a little nervous at first, but he decided to give Fast ForWord a try. It is a program that is proven to accelerate learning and increase reading proficiency in students from kindergarten through high school. The software consists of brain fitness exercises and actually improves how the brain learns.

“It worked,” said Wilson. “Within weeks, Kenny began to see a change in his ability to focus. Over time, his reading comprehension improved dramatically and that’s helped him in all subjects, and he has the GPA and ACT scores required for enrollment into a four-year university.”


Video Interview from Brain Summit in Seoul 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010 (All day)
  • Bill Jenkins, Ph.D.

 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.

Do you have questions about how the brain learns? Share your questions on our Scientific Learning Facebook page and we may answer them on our blog.

Brain Research, Learning & Literacy: Webinar with Dr. Bill Jenkins

Friday, May 28, 2010 (All day)
  • Norene Wiesen

brain research learning literacy In this pre-recorded webinar, " Addressing Literacy Through Neuroscience," Dr. Bill Jenkins discusses brain development and plasticity, takes us on a tour of the parts of the brain involved in language processing, and reviews some recent research findings on language impairment. 

You will learn about the strong correlation between auditory processing and language development, the importance of timing in our perception of speech, and more.

Be sure to take advantage of this unusual opportunity to learn from an expert about what happens in the brain when we learn language, how oral language skills influence learning, and what we can do to help children learn better.

Brain Fitness Is Not A Game

Friday, April 30, 2010 (All day)
  • Terri Zezula

BBC brain training study A recent study on brain video games is causing discussions worldwide on the benefits of brain training and programs developed to improve brain functioning. The study, published in Nature and summarized on Nature News, titled “No Gain From Brain Training,” was conducted with adults, average age 39, who practiced a series of online tasks for a minimum of ten minutes a day, three times a week, for six weeks.

These tasks, focused on reasoning, planning and problem-solving abilities, were tests and not exercises intended to improve cognitive skills. While the outcome of the study brings the concept of brain training to the forefront of online discussion sites, it’s important to note that the clarification of brain video games, brain training programs and brain fitness programs and the origins of the research behind the development of these products are critical to the discussions. 

What differentiates the Scientific Learning products from those advertised as “brain video games” or “brain training programs” is the science: decades of research into how students learn preceded the development of our products. For more than 30 years, neuroscientists at Scientific Learning have studied the way the brain learns.

The expertise and collaboration of Drs. Michael Merzenich, William Jenkins, Paula Tallal, and Steven Miller, the founders of Scientific Learning, along with several other cognitive neuroscientists, resulted in the development of a research-based series of products. The Fast ForWord® software is based on the science of how the brain learns and retains information. It utilizes the principles of neuroscience and learning to exercise and develop the brain's processing efficiency, essential for academic learning and reading success.

Brain plasticity research demonstrates that completing learning tasks in a frequent, intense timeframe accelerates learning. Just as exercise promotes physical fitness, exercising our brain improves brain fitness in four critical areas: memory, attention, processing and sequencing.

In addition, the research is recognized and supported by other scientists in peer reviews from Stanford University, Cornell University, UCSF Medical Center & Rutgers University, and many other top Universities, including a recent study by Dr. Nadine Gaab of Children’s Hospital Boston ((Gaab, N., Gabrieli, J.D.E., Deutsch, G.K., Tallal, P., & Temple, E. (2007). Neural correlates of rapid auditory processing are disrupted in children with developmental dyslexia and ameliorated with training: An fMRI study. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 25, 295-310)).

Finding the right product to improve cognitive skills can be overwhelming for the consumer. Numerous articles and research studies can be found online that address the interest and concern in this popular field of learning and brain development. In fact, a Google search on “brain video games” resulted in more than 32 million hits! Members of the education community, parents and teachers alike, who are looking for programs for their students, should be cognizant of the importance of scientific research.

If a product is touted as “research-based,” what are the origins, extent and validity of that research? Are the products intended to test or improve cognitive skills? According to Dr. William Jenkins, Scientific Learning's Chief Scientific Officer, “a program that is designed to improve cognitive, reading or language skills and build brain fitness is adaptive to the student’s abilities; critical tasks are practiced at an appropriate frequency and intensity; multiple skills are cross-trained at the same time for lasting improvement; and rewards are built into the program for maximum motivation as the student progresses.”

In the study referenced above, “No Gain From Brain Training,” researchers believe that none of the groups who participated in the study boosted their performance on tests measuring general cognitive abilities such as memory, reasoning and learning. Participants in the study were volunteers who were viewers of a popular BBC game show, “Bang Goes the Theory.” The study required the participants to complete tasks for only 10 minutes a day, 3 times a week.

While the study concluded that there is no evidence of “any generalized improvements in cognitive function following brain training in a large sample of healthy adults,” it is a study that leads to more questions than answers. Were the tasks measures of current cognitive skills or were they designed to build upon these skills? The study leads the reader to conclude that these were tests of cognitive ability, not exercises to improve skills. So the conclusion that the programs did not improve cognitive function is baffling. Were the tasks adaptive, motivating, and practiced with intensity and frequency? Was there cross-training on multiple tasks to build cognitive skills? How comprehensive is a study conducted on participants who complete tasks for only a few minutes a week?

Based on the intensive studies done on proven brain training or brain fitness products already on the market that follow the basic principles of clinical trial studies (i.e Posit Science, a brain fitness program for adults), this study is not a strong indicator of the results that can be realized with a true research-based program. Whether programs are defined as brain training or brain video games or tasks designed to test cognitive skills, they don’t necessarily have the intensive scientific research that is the foundation of a proven brain fitness program.

Davenport, IA, Succeeds with State-Funded Preschool

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 (All day)
  • Denise Ruvalcaba

state funded preschool Three years ago, Iowa's Davenport School District created a state-funded preschool program for 4-year-olds. Enrolled students spend 2 or more hours a day in the classroom learning letters, colors, numbers, and more from a licensed teacher.

The program's curriculum is designed to prepare the students to succeed in kindergarten.  So far, the program seems to be working: 90% of the Davenport students attending early childhood programs began kindergarten achieving at grade level, compared to 66% of students who did not participate.



Subscribe to RSS - sequencing