Author: barboakley

Barbara Oakley, PhD, PE is a Professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan; Michigan’s Distinguished Professor of the Year; and Coursera’s inaugural “Innovation Instructor.” Her work focuses on the complex relationship between neuroscience and social behavior. Dr. Oakley’s research has been described as “revolutionary” in the Wall Street Journal. She is a New York Times best-selling author who has published in outlets as varied as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. She has won numerous teaching awards, including the American Society of Engineering Education’s Chester F. Carlson Award for technical innovation in engineering education and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers William E. Sayle II Award for Achievement in Education. Together with Terrence Sejnowski, the Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute, she co-teaches Coursera – UC San Diego’s “Learning How to Learn,” one of the world’s most popular massive open online courses with over three million registered students, along with a number of other leading MOOCs. Dr. Oakley has adventured widely through her lifetime. She rose from the ranks of Private to Captain in the U.S. Army, during which time she was recognized as a Distinguished Military Scholar. She also worked as a communications expert at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, and has served as a Russian translator on board Soviet trawlers on the Bering Sea. Dr. Oakley is an elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Ten Fallacies that Make Founders Fail

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Books of the Month

The San Francisco Fallacy: The Ten Fallacies That Make Founders Fail, Jonathan Siegel. Many books on entrepreneurship tell you what to look for, and what to look out for.  But they don’t focus on the failures—and how those failures can eventually lead to success.  Siegel’s book is jaw-droppingly good. He knows how to write and how to tell a story—this means that it’s hard to put his book down as he makes point after point from his sometimes disastrous, but ultimately phenomenally successful career as an entrepreneur and angel investor. (Incidentally, the “San Francisco Fallacy” refers to herd mentality in thinking that the enormously expensive Silicon Valley area is necessarily the place to go for tech startups.) 

VERY highly recommended!

The 2-Hour Cocktail Party: How to Build Big Relationships with Small Gatherings, by Nick Gray. The more Barb has researched the neuroscience underlying how we learn, the more she (as a shy person simulating an extrovert) has discovered the importance of personal relationships, not only in learning, but in life.  Interacting with people with whom you have become familiar, as it turns out, activates the brain’s reward mechanisms.  It’s little wonder that we teachers like to use techniques such as “Think-Pair-Share,” and collaborative learning sessions sprinkled amongst the more difficult sessions of explicit instruction.

Which leads us right to Nick Gray’s delightful The 2-Hour Cocktail Party! (Nick himself, it should be pointed out, doesn’t drink, so alcohol isn’t at all necessary for Nick’s approach to work.)  The trick to activating those happy feelings of reward, remember, is not just interacting with people—it’s interacting with people with whom you are familiar.  How do you become familiar with people?  Invite them to a short cocktail party!  And that’s part of the trick—the party should be short.  Nick (in real life, one of the world’s nicest people) shows you how to comfortably set up the part, from sending out the first invitations, inviting your great guests (people you’ve wanted to meet!), pre-party prep, navigating the first twenty minutes, icebreakers, how to end on a high note, and what to do the day after.  

This is a wonderful book—Barb is planning her first party for after the launch of MOOC 3 of the Uncommon Sense Teaching specialization (Teaching Online) in two months!  

Uncommon Sense Teaching, the MOOCs

And speaking of which, MOOC 1 & MOOC 2 of Uncommon Sense Teaching are doing fantastic!  Here is an article in Market Screener about the second MOOC. Key graf: “How have learners responded to the course? It has been wonderfully rewarding to know that many have found it tailor-made to hone their teaching and learning skills. As one learner remarked: “How can we teach, without knowing how learning works?” It’s heartening also to find that many have come away with inspiration, guidance, and hope in these uncertain times – when the teaching experience itself has changed so much. This very evolution in the way we teach has, in fact, led me to start working on another course. Teaching Online, the final course in this series, will launch soon!”

Jump on the Waitlist for the “Everest Memory Masterclass”!

Nelson Dellis (now a 5-TIME USA Memory Champion and Guinness Record Holder) is launching his next cohort for his amazing “Everest Memory Masterclass.” Since last time, he’s revamped the class with more content, interactive sessions, interviews, and strategies––you’ll learn how to memorize names, learn languages, remember your todo lists and calendars, and tons of other practical things! He usually limits the size of his cohorts, so make sure to jump on the waitlist so you can access the class when it goes live in July! Jump on the waitlist here!

Strategie di Apprendimento in Italiano

La nostra amica Maria Luisa Dettori, ricercatrice presso l’Università degli Studi di Sassari (Italy), ha realizzato tre brevi video che hanno l’obiettivo di diffondere la conoscenza delle strategie di apprendimento fra i più giovani, in italiano. I primi due (1, 2) sono basati sui corsi Learning How To Learn e Uncommon Sense Teaching, Il terzo presenta il metodo di studio proposto dalla prof. Saundra McGuire nel suo libro Teach Students How to Learn (Stylus publishing) e altre risorse.

Meditating probably won’t make you a better person

We’re big fans of Adam Grant (here’s our review of his powerful book Think Again.) Adam strikes again with an intriguing, no-holds-barred article on meditation. As he observes: 

“Meditation doesn’t quiet your ego. In an experiment, people who were randomly assigned to meditate actually focused more on themselves.

“Wait, I know what you’re thinking: they were doing the wrong kind of meditation. Au contraire: they did loving-kindness meditation that guided them to be compassionate toward others. And they walked away more self-absorbed! (The same was true for people who were randomly assigned to do yoga.)

“At the end of the day, I’m a social scientist: I want to get to the truth about how well-being practices affect us. And sometimes the best way to do that is to present the argument that the defense doesn’t want to hear.

“Mind-body practices have a place in our lives. But focusing inward on your own sensations can shift your attention away from other people. If you want to become kinder, you might be better off investing your energy in action and interaction. There’s no substitute for listening to other people’s problems and volunteering to share your time, talents, and ties with them.”

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

Distributed Classroom

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Books of the Week

The Distributed Classroom, by David Joyner and Charles Isbell. Online teaching has a sometimes confusing welter of terminology. Common buzz words include synchronous, asynchronous, remote, flipped, hybrid (blended), and hyflex. (This article provides a quick overview of what these terms mean.)  Where Joyner and Isbell’s book comes in is to provide an encompassing perspective on how the many different forms of online learning can be used by universities, high schools, and other educational institutions to meet the needs of diverse populations.  Both authors have been deeply involved in the development of Georgia Tech’s outstanding Online Master of Science in Computer Science (or OMSCS) degree, which has captured 10% of the market for US computer science masters degrees and has become one of (if not the) largest masters program in the world due to its quality, accessibility, and low price. If you are interested in creating better online programs, this book is worth your time.

Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University, by Richard White.  This book has all the ingredients of a thriller—a murder by strychnine of the primary founder of one of the world’s leading universities. In able hands, this book would have been a real page turner—the deceit, acrimony, corruption and malevolence by academicians that underlie the true origins of Stanford University are mindblowing.  Sadly, the bulk of the writing centers on petty details, while skimming over important big-picture issues such as the corrupt means by which Leland Stanford apparently gained his wealth.  A great book if you like petty details.

Barb speaking in person in New Jersey June 25th, 2022

Barb will be giving an intensive three-hour active opening training session for teachers at the Middle College National Consortium Summer Professional Development Institute June 25, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency – Jersey City. Don’t miss if you’re a university professor or K-12 teacher who would  like to know the latest involving practical insights from neuroscience to help instructors!  It’s all here, including the neuroscience of slow learning and how to help your “hiker” students, as well as your race cars, to excel; how to tap into habit-based centers of the brain to help student gain intuition in understanding complex patterns and solving complicated problems; how and whytaking a few moments of neural “breaks” can help with the learning process, and much, much more. Plus, Barb would love to meet you!  For more information about the fascinating insights from the full three-day conference, and to register, go here.

Supporting Students with ADHD and Autism

Here is an excellent compendium by Jennifer Gonzalez (the blog Cult of Pedagogy), about how to best support your students who have ADHD. Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman’s podcast on ADHD is even better. 

This excellent article by autistic learner Chris Bonello explains why he resents being called “a person with autism,” instead of an autistic. As he notes “It is up to us to decide how we identify. It is not up to others to decide on our behalf.” And in her enlightening TEDTalk, Adriana White describes “Autism and Neurodiversity: Different Does Not Mean Broken.”

The “Digitally Enhanced Assessment and Feedback” Conference

Check out this free event next week (Wednesday the 8th June from 14:00 – 16:30 (GMT-London time)) The theme for this event is ‘Digitally Enhanced Assessment and Feedback.  It’s a free event with some world leading experts sharing their thoughts and experiences, and in some cases, their latest research findings.  Register here!

A great opportunity for ed-tech entrepreneurs!

Barb’s friend Elle Wang is a research scientist who is also an experienced judge and advisory board member for such groups as the $1M XPRIZE Digital Learning Challenge and the $5M XPRIZE IBM Watson AI for Good Competition.  Elle has partnered with Maven to build and launch a cohort-based course to teach ed-tech entrepreneurs to develop an efficient and effective research and product testing plan. At the end of the course, all participants will be able to write a compelling project pitch, ready to be submitted to research-focused funders such as the NSF SBIR to win up to $2 million dollars with 0% equity taken. 

In the process of developing this course, Elle is collecting quick feedback via a 1-minute survey, here. If you would like to help Elle out, and/or are interested in the course, please fill out the survey. Incidentally, if you fill out the survey, you be eligible to register for the course with the early bird price and receive invitations to free workshops.

Embrace Discomfort!

We have long lived a life with the mantra of “Learn to grow comfortable with being uncomfortable.”  And wouldn’t you know it, up pops a research study revealing that this approach is a good one for many reasons. As this Greater Good Magazine article about the findings notes: “There are many ways we seek comfort in life. We can find it in a warm shower, a fuzzy cuddle with a cat, or a night on the couch with no obligations… But according to a new study, our desire for comfort could be holding us back when it comes to personal growth. If we want to improve ourselves and achieve our goals, we may want to start actively seeking out discomfort.”

Three cheers to this!  And if you happen to be reading all the way into the distant corner this Cheery Friday, in this-coming autumn, Barb will be off to speak in a high school in Spitsbergen (also called Svalbard), a set of islands far north of Iceland that form one of the northernmost habited places in the world. The great number of polar bears mean that it’s not a good idea to go outside the limits of town without a weapon.  (Polar bears may be cute, but they can also be sneaky b*stards.)

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

iDoRecall

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

A new video on Learning How to Learn!

Barb has just made a new video for Learning How to Learners on how to easily create flashcards for retrieval practice while you are in Learning How to Learn—or in any Coursera course.  Check the video out here. (You may need to reset the deadlines for Learning How to Learn, or alternatively, you can find the video here on YouTube.)  The flashcard program, “iDoRecall,” also works well for YouTube videos in general, as well as web pages, pdfs, or what-have-you.

This is one of the most powerful—and easiest—methods we’ve found to retain the information you are learning in MOOCs. Barb loves this flashcard system so much that that’s why she made the video (it’s not a paid product endorsement).

ASEE Presents: Master Class On Effective Teaching, May 17, 18, & 19, 2022 12:00 – 4:00 PM, ET

The next edition of the upcoming Master Class on Effective Teaching, led by none other than Barb, has now been opened for registration.  Feedback on previous sessions of this workshop have been phenomenal: “Three words for this course:  – Astounding  – Invigorating  – Invaluable” “Brilliant insights” “This was amazing…Best $199 I’ve ever spent in my life!”  

This workshop will give you a chance to review and internalize some of the best insights about effective teaching that recent neuroscience provides.  Most great teachers (like you!) are great because you intuit what learners need, and when. This upcoming Master Class will provide you with insight into why you do what you do in your teaching. This insight can help you leverage your natural teaching intuition even further. The materials are based on the critically praised Uncommon Sense Teaching: Practical Insights in Brain Science to Help Students Learn.

Books of the Week

I Love You All the Time and You Have Feelings All the Time by child development expert Deborah Farmer Kris, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. These wonderful books are meant to reassure children about your enduring love for your child, whether they are mad, glad, or sad, and also to help your child to recognize and manage their feelings.  Start by skipping past the delightful illustrations to read the letter to caregivers at the back of the bookyou’ll get a sense from these brief instructions of how to best use and teach the ideas in the books as you go through the book with your toddler or pre-schooler.  Then enjoy paging through the book together reading aloud with your little one.  Highly recommended and engaging for youngsters!

The Social Learning App

For those of you who would like to join a study group with fellow students, we encourage you to try out this tool: www.wer6.io. It’s going live next week, but you can sign up now.  Give it a try—group learning can increase your motivation and chances of completing the course!

Further insights on Ukraine

In response to last week’s Friday email highlighting information about Ukraine, Russia, and Eastern Europe, we received the following email from a LHTLer:

“Years ago, I joined Learning How to Learn course, and even if it did not change my life, it pitched pretty close to that. Since then I got a scholarship for a Masters degree in the US, and lived in 4 different countries … I am Russian, and the letter hit the sensitive spot. I appreciate your team for speaking up about the invasion and sharing, as usual, useful resources. Me and my many other compatriots are deeply affected by the injustice of this war, and our inability to resist our government…

“My Ukrainian friends are spending hours in the basements studying for exams or learning new languages not only for a much appreciated disruption, but also to keep up with their lives and goals. I see that as bravery and wisdom. My Russian friends are burying themselves in news and history books while observing from afar the destruction that we have involuntarily caused. I am not comparing, of course, but for both sides their learning conditions have changed. What would be your advice on how to make though a new vocabulary list if your house might get bombed, or you receive a notification about another absurd law that might send you to jail? How to keep up concentration and move forward, even in baby steps, when you are in a condition of high uncertainty where your bare survival might not be guaranteed?… I believe that your team’s advice might be valuable for those who are now living though much harder challenges, and still setting up learning goals for themselves.”

As it happens, on Tuesday, Barb gave a lecture on “Teaching Kids in a Stressful Time” for the Ukrainian learning organization Osvitoria. You can access the talk:

In Ukrainian

In English

Stanford Prof Debunks Research Behind New California K-12 Math Standards

Brian Conrad, a Professor of Mathematics and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Math, Stanford University has made waves with his criticism of the fundamentally flawed curriculum of the proposed California Mathematics Framework (“CMF”).  As Conrad observes: “The abundance of false or misleading citations I found in the CMF calls into doubt the credibility of all citations to the literature in the CMF… My grade for the CMF’s accurate representation of the cited literature is F.”

It appears that those with good critical thinking skills may at last be making an impact about the de facto privatization of good teaching the proposed CMF would bringprivatization that would cause the most harm to students with the fewest resources. If you would like to add your voice to the criticism of the non-scientific nature of the proposed CMF, you can discover how to chime in here

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

After the Romanovs – Red Notice

Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

This week, we will digress to discuss how important learning is when it comes to international politics and war.  Let us begin with the book After the Romanovs: Russian Exiles in Paris from the Belle Époque Through Revolution and War by Helen Rappaport. As Barb was learning Russian back in the 1970s, the exiled “White” Russians (that is, those who opposed the communist “Reds”), had left their mark on the Russian-speaking diaspora worldwide. So it was fascinating to read this book and learn more about this community of millions who fled Russia as a result of the Soviet take-over in 1917.  What makes this book particularly intriguing is the many personal stories. Talented writers and poets in exile, for example, who found themselves lost in melancholia, unpublishable under Soviet censorship; and the mind-bogglingly wealthy who were lucky enough to escape largely penniless to the West, re-emerging as seamstresses and taxi-drivers, or worse, as drunks and suicides. 

On a side note, if you want to better understand the history of what is unfolding now in Ukraine, we highly recommend the Great Courses’  A History of Eastern Europe, by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius. Liulevicius, a professor at the University of Tennessee, is a riveting speaker who makes the complex sweep of eastern European history understandable.  It can be difficult for those in North America to understand the turmoil and upheaval endemic in recent memory within these contentious, diverse regionsuntil the European Union began to form a fruitful path forward.

After the Romanovs and A History of Eastern Europe are particularly apropos in this sad time when a new diaspora of both Ukrainians and Russian supporters of Ukraine has begun to appear. As leading scientist John Holdren and his colleagues point out in Science, in an overarching goal of overturning Putin’s regime, “Let’s not abandon Russian scientists.”  If you think it’s incumbent upon all Russians to protest the policies of their leaders, you may wish to watch “The Lives of Others,” an award-winning film about how totalitarian societies can make any protest dangerous not only for the person who protests, but dangerous as well for all whom that person might love. 

This is a time when having historical perspective can be valuable.  It is hard to believe, but in her recent visit to Eastern Europe, where support for the Ukrainians is strong, Barb still met some who believed that the Ukrainians had brought the destruction upon themselves by not simply giving in to Putin at the very beginning.  This pathologically altruistic view of the situation overlooks the fact that the last time the Russians controlled Ukraine, they managed to kill some four million Ukrainians in a genocide known as the Holodomor.

Sadly, some true-believers trust the carefully-filtered news they are fed by Russian government sources. The upshot? As one of Barb’s friends notes from a country bordering Russia: “The War in Ukraine is a personal matter for most of us …, as we have our friends, colleagues, relatives there right now. Also there is a big diaspora of Ukrainians here…. So, I am not sure if we are able to forgive anytime soon what Putin and Russia are doing: killing civilians, destroying the country. I really hope that Ukraine will be able to win in this unfair war, as Ukraine is fighting for all of us now…”

For those who would like unusual insights on Putin by a man who has dedicated his life to thwarting him, you can do little better than to read the gripping Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder. This book gives a deep sense of the governmental corruption endemic in Russia at virtually every level—and also how this affects ordinary (and extraordinary) Russians.

There are, in fact, many Russians who are deeply supportive of Ukraine, and Ukrainians themselves are feeling the stigma of mis-directed anti-Russian prejudice.  Russians outside Russia who had previously escaped the communist regime are feeling a bias double-whammy. As the famed “Russian Tea Room” notes on the entry to their website: “The Russian Tea Room renounces Russia’s unprovoked acts of war in the strongest possible terms. For 95 years, the NY institution’s history has been deeply rooted in speaking against communist dictatorship and for democracy. Just as the original founders, Soviet defectors who were displaced by the revolution, stood against Stalin’s Soviet Union, we stand against Putin and with the people of Ukraine.” So, if you happen to live near NYC, feel free to stop by the Russian Tea Roomone of our favorite iconic restaurants—and learn about their rich history of opposition of oppression!

That’s all for this week. Have a thoughtful week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

The Brain in Search of Itself

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Month

The Brain in Search of Itself: Santiago Ramón y Cajal and the Story of the Neuron, by Benjamin Ehrlich.  What a magnificent book!  Longtime fans of Learning How to Learn know that we’re in turn longtime fans of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience.  As a youngster, Santiago struggled markedly with his learning, as this remarkably well-researched and beautifully-written book describes.  We can’t help but wonder whether Santiago might have had dyslexia coupled with dyslexia’s frequent comorbid companion: ADHD. Hints and clues abound through the text:

  •  “…though he struggled to remember the spelling of words or their order within a sentence, Santiagüé never forgot an image… his talent allowed him to reproduce even the most intricate maps to perfection.
  •  “… his academic reputation was far from stellar. Cajal ‘was the typical student who was inattentive, lazy, disobedient, and annoying, a nightmare for his parents, teachers, and patrons,’ one teacher at Huesca recalled. He ‘will only stop in jail,’ predicted another, ‘if they do not hang him first.’ [This is the typical mischaracterization of those with dyslexia as “lazy” and “inattentive.” And it’s pretty tough not be disobedient and annoying when the world doesn’t understand your learning challenges!]
  • “[Santiago] passed his examinations at the end of the year in Latin I, Castilian I, Principles and Exercises in Arithmetic, and Christian History and Doctrine, earning the lowest possible grades—no doubt aided by the fact that [his father] had performed a life-saving surgery on the wife of one of the examination judges.
  • “Careful not to slacken ‘the creative tension of the mind,’ he avoided gossiping and reading newspapers, ceased writing short stories, abandoned the study of hypnotism, and even quit playing chess. He exercised his will not because he was uninterested in the world around him but precisely because he knew himself to be so distractible.  [Those with ADHD can have hyperfocus in what they are interested in—but also be easily distractable.]
  • “All who had known the Nobel Prize winner as a young delinquent responded with the same expression: utter shock.”

Cajal was a fabulously gifted and prescient researcher who pushed back against the stodgy “academic reactionists“ who, then as now, clung to outmoded ideas.  (One of Cajal’s colleagues disparaged the new truths of microscopy as “pure fantasy.”) This is a brilliant, literary coup of a book for all who wish to have a sense of how neuroscience was moved to a solid, modern foundation. A great biography of a great man.

(Incidentally, here is an inspiring story of a modern-day teacher, Lucy Senior, with dyslexia. Lucy observes: “Teachers thought I wouldn’t make it through high school, teachers said to me on graduation, ‘I didn’t think I’d see you here’.” Note her love of and gifts for imagery! [Hat tip Pat Bowden.]

Barb’s visits to Hungary and Romania to promote advances in learning

In case you’d like to brush up on your Hungarian or Romanian, here is an interview with Barb from the Hungarian Prime Minister’s office in Magyar Nemzet, Hungary’s top newspaper (the article was on the front page). We have to say, the University of Szeged, Barb’s host and now the top university in Hungary, is an exemplar of what higher education can do to improve outcomes for students! (Here is the plenary she gave at Szeged for the European University Alliance for Global Health.) And here are part 1 and part 2 of an interview with Raluca Ion of the popular Romanian online magazine Republica.  

“Why I got a PhD at age 61”

Speaking of Hungary, here’s a wonderful story in Nature of Zoltán Kócsi, an Australian originally from Hungary who decided, at age 53, to change his life and become a part-time doctoral student in biology, receiving his doctorate nearly a decade later at age 61. What an inspiring story!

Bringing ideas to mind right before sleeping to “lock them in”

We frequently allude to an idea that Terry particularly recommends. That is, in the two or three minutes right before you go to sleep, bring to mind the key idea or concept you are trying to solve or understand, to help the brain know that that’s what you want it to be solidifying during sleep. (Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should be doing all your studying right before sleep!) Barb mentioned this recently in a talk, and heard back from one elated participant, “JK”: 

“[Your talk] really resonated with me, particularly the topic of retrieval techniques for learning. My father, Z’L, was a great person and brilliant physician who got me through law school back in 1991. At first, I thought he was crazy when he told me not to study too much and the most important strategy was to run through the main concepts and ideas right before going to sleep. He would call it “do a run through” and “lock it in.” Thanks to this retrieval method, I graduated law school magna cum laude and did half as much studying and re-reading as the rest of my class…  I passed on the retrieval techniques to my 18-year-old son who was studying for his IB exams last year and did not re-read or highlight. He scored 43/45!”

Students Have Different Thinking Speeds. Inclusive Teaching Means Realizing That. And More!

Here’s Barb’s podcast interview with EdSurge about the advantages of slow learners. (If you consider yourself to be a slower learner, this interview is “don’t miss”!)

And here’s Barb’s podcast with Tyler Chessler: “Understanding neuroscience and cognitive psychology to maximize your investment portfolio.” 

For those concerned about misleading representations about math education in California

Facts matter a great deal in scientific research, and in laying the groundwork for education. This article provides insight into the lack of evidence behind proposed new revisions to California math curricula. Key graf: “California is actively considering the adoption of flawed and inequitable guidance on math curricula based on misleading data and inaccurate success metrics reported by San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). In 2014, SFUSD introduced a new K-12 math course sequence to address issues of inequity in math learning. The curriculum delays Algebra 1 by one year and mandates all students to take the same set of courses sequentially from 8th to 10th grade. For the past seven years, SFUSD has traveled nationwide celebrating its successes in spite of lacking evidence for such claims.”

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

Journey of the Mind

Cheery Friday Greetings (from Bucharest!) to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Month

Journey of the Mind: How Thinking Emerged from Chaos, by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam. This engrossing book provides a step-by-step understanding of how consciousness, language, self-awareness, and civilization itself arose. What’s unique about this book is its gradual exploration, with vivid illustrations, of how consciousness advanced as it progressed from amoeba to worms, frogs, birds, monkeys and humans.  In the context of all this, we learn of the extraordinary work of Stephen Grossberg, a Newton of neuroscience whose groundbreaking discoveries have quietly underpinned many neuroscientific advances. Highly recommended!

5 AWESOME memory books you’ve probably never heard of!

Here’s a fascinating video from our favorite memory maven, Nelson Dellis, 5 times US Memory Champion, on his favorite non-obvious memory books.  This is a riveting video not only for the books that Nelson describes, but for the fun way that Nelson edits and tells the story.

“On Thinking Matters,” Cairo Egypt Annual Conference 2022

Barb will be giving a webinar keynote on June 17th: “On Thinking Matters,” for the Cairo Egypt “On Thinking Matters,” 2022. Register here. Barb’s talk will explore metacognition, flexible and inflexible thinking, jumping to conclusions, and more!

Barb on Slovenian television

Let a bit of Slovenia lighten your day! Barb converses (in English, despite the first minute or so of Slovenian introduction) with RTV SLO television show Dobro Yutro host Mojca Mavec about the arrival of the book A Mind for Numbers in Slovenian from the publisher Zalozba Vida

Podcast – Roll with the Punches

Here’s Barb (Apple or Spotify) in conversation with ace Australian podcaster Tiffanee Cook on her show Roll with the Punches (fittingly, Tiffanee was a martial arts expert).  Enjoy!

Meta’s Yann LeCun strives for human-level AI

Here is a great article by Ben Dickson in VentureBeat, recommended by Terry, on the future of artificial intelligence.

If you’d like a little humor about today’s approaches to teaching math

As one of the commenters noted, it’s hard to understand how the actors kept their faces straight in this amusing take on modern pedagogical approaches to math.

Opportunity for Remote Math Tutoring

Zara Tutoring, centered out of Barb’s neighborhood in Michigan, has opportunities for remote math tutorsapply here

With Traditional Learning Paradigms Disrupted By Covid, What Can Cognitive Neuroscience (and Homer Simpson) Teach Us About Becoming Better Learners?

This perceptive review by experienced teacher Travis Koutsoubos-Miles of our book Uncommon Sense Teaching provides fine insight on the book’s key concepts.  Key graf: “Uncommon Sense Teaching is fresh and insightful. Most importantly, it shows us why learning hinges less on teacher actions and more on whether students actively process what they’ve been taught. Informed by learning science, our best teaching can encourage students’ attention, retrieval, rest, and consolidation through strategies that smooth the path to learning and reduce the likelihood of forgetting. With the instruction students have lost due to COVID, we need to maximize how students learn more than ever before. Written by scholars but for lay people, books like Uncommon Sense Teaching set parents and educators well on our way to helping students do so.” 

Do You Have Advice Regarding an Extraordinarily Gifted Student?

We received the following email from a Learning How to Learner regarding her gifted grandson:

I have a question for you. After watching the entire video that you posted on educational policy regarding how students learn, and the need to accommodate students rather than just throwing them all into one basket, I could not help but think about my 7 year old grandson, who I’ll call “Ben.” Ben has been disruptive in his class. Disruptive in that, about 5 minutes into a lecture, Ben bursts into song… Any song that just happened to pop into his head at the moment. Ben reads well in English, and speaks French and Spanish. Ben is exceptional in math, yet he obtains a failing grade for every math exercise or test that he completes in the classroom.

Ben’s mother has explained to the teacher that Ben is capable of solving complicated math problems, and that his singing may be an indication of boredom in the classroom. She was told that Ben would have to endure being in the mainstream for another 3 years, as the “testing” of the “gifted” children does not start until Grade 5. In frustration, Ben’s mother has withdrawn him from the in-person classes, and has registered him in the School Board’s Virtual Classes Program. Unfortunately, Ben is faring out poorly in this program as well, as he is more interested in working out logic problems on various websites rather than following his lectures and completing his assigned work. I should mention that after one or two casual classes in music theory by one of his uncles, Ben plays the piano and keyboards exceptionally well. He can pick out chords just by listening to the song on any device. He is also quick to point out to me when I start singing in the wrong key. 

Yesterday morning, as we were preparing to leave my house, everyone, including Ben was near the front door donning boots, coats etc. As I was making my way down the staircase, Ben says to me: “Did you know that every time you speak, you sing a note?” I was so taken aback by his question, that I did not respond right away. During that pause, Ben’s Mom said something to him about his boots, to which Ben responded: “Maman, you just spoke in the key of E.”

Ben’s other uncle is on the autism spectrum, and has created a series of logic puzzles. Ben has been able to solve many of these puzzles, while I struggle for days sometimes on one puzzle. 

Just yesterday I asked Ben’s mom to request a meeting with the principal of his school to consider psychological testing, and explore alternatives for Ben as appropriate.  Then I stumbled across your post. What you have explained about how the brain works makes so much sense! Do you happen to have any connections to those who might be thinking along the same lines as you are?

All we can say is, we have a tremendously talented audience of Learning How to Learners.  Do you have any advice for Ben’s grandmother?  If so, could you post your suggestions here.  Not only Ben and his grandmother, but also many other students who might be in a similar situation.  

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

Super Gut

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Books of the Month

Super Gut: A Four-Week Plan to Reprogram Your Microbiome, Restore Health, and Lose Weight, by William Davis, MD.

It is shocking how many syndromes are being connected to the gut biome—including not only autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis but even heart disease such as atherosclerosis as well as Alzheimer’s disease.  This informative book lays out interesting approaches to getting your gut biome “in gear.”  What’s encouraging is that the book isn’t recommending the author’s own products as a cure-all, but instead makes detailed recommendations for how to inexpensively grow your own biome replenishment yogurts using anything from cows’ milk to nut milks to even salsa or hummus.  You might be surprised to learn that just purchasing probiotic species such as Lactobacillus reuteri is not enough—different strains (for example, Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938) can have profoundly different effects.  Purchasing a bacteria without knowing the strain, in other words, can be akin to getting a dog without knowing whether it’s a Chihuahua or a Great Dane. This is a fascinating book!

The Bridge at Andau: The Compelling True Story of a Brave, Embattled People, by James A. Michener. In an eerie coincidence, we have just finished reading Mitchener’s riveting book on the doomed Hungarian revolution of 1956.  (Barb’s platoon sergeant in West Germany during the 1970s was an escapee from Hungary.) The Bridge at Andau provides insight into today’s equally appalling invasion by Russia of Ukraine as it tells the story of the brave Hungarian resistance to the ravages of communism and predations of the Russians.

The Homeschool Directive Conference

Many parents are moving their children out of public schools and into homeschooling. The Homeschool Directive Conference on March 14 and 15 is an online event by experienced homeschoolers that is designed to train, encourage, and inspire you so you can give your teen a great high school experience at home. If you are homeschooling, or considering homeschooling, this event is for you. 

Barb in Hungary, Romania, and Slovenia

Barb will be in Ljubljana, Slovenia March 22-24 speaking for her Slovenian publisher, Zalozba Vida. She’ll be in Bucharest, Romania March 26-29 speaking for her Romanian publisher Curtea Veche, and Budapest and Szeged, Hungary March 30-April 9 speaking on behalf of the eLearning Team of the University of Szeged, which is helping to pioneer online learning in Hungary. (Note the Hungarian version of Learning How to Learn!) 

Join a Learning Squad!

An intriguing new approach to learning with others is being pioneered by social learning company WeAreSix. If you are interested in joining a learning squad (a study group with a maximum of five people), please sign up for this pilot program at www.wer6.io. There are limited spots available.  Give it a try! Group learning can increase your motivation and chances of completing the course.

The “sweet spot” of balance between teacher-directed and student-directed learning

It can be difficult to figure out the optimal ratio of explicit instruction by a teacher (teacher-centered) versus inquiry-based (student-centered) approaches.  This report, “How to improve student educational outcomes: New insights from data analytics,”is based on a massive analysis of PISA data by McKinsey. It observes: “The “sweet spot” is to use teacher-directed instruction in most or almost all lessons, and inquiry-based teaching in some lessons. This pattern holds true across all…regions.” The report goes on to say “School systems need to tread carefully in selecting inquiry based teaching practices…. Our analysis shows that there is a set of practices that have a negative impact on average student scores across almost all regions—even when applied in only some lessons. These practices include having students design their own experiments, asking them to do investigations to test ideas, having a class debate about investigations, and requiring students to argue about science questions.”

Teaching math

In a related, “sweet spot” vein, you may wish to check out Rick Hess’s review of Barry Garelick’s mischievously insightful book on teaching math in these modern times: Out on Good Behavior: Teaching Math while Looking Over Your Shoulder.

Want to Help Others While Helping Yourself?  Free Book Giveaway!

“80,000 Hours,” a company associated with the University of Oxford that specializes in helping people to find beneficial careers for themselves AND others, has a book give away of free copies of Doing Good Better (about how altruism is often ineffective), The Precipice (about why we neglect existential risks), and the 80,000 Hours Career Guide to anyone who joins their newsletter. You can join here.

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

The Girl Who Ran

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week (special for kids!)

The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon, by Kristina Yee and Frances Poletti, illustrated by Susanna Chapman. Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to—despite staunch opposition—run the Boston Marathon.  (We still remember the newscasters’ shock at what she’d done.) Yee and Poletti have written an inspiring book about the story, with marvelous illustrations by Susanna Chapman. And here’s a wonderful video of children reading along with the story!

Barb speaking in San Francisco and Palo Alto

Register now for either or both talks—Barb would love to meet you!

Insights for the modern day from Scott’s disastrous attempt on the Pole in 1912

These two remarkable essays provide great insight into how the treatment for scurvy, which was discovered in the 1700s, was forgotten. Why?  Because of technological advances.  All this relates to Barb’s talk in Silicon Valley on February 21st, but these articles are of seminal importance to anyone interested in social progress or the history of science.

[Hat tip: Stephen W. Harmon

iDoRecall hiring educators to create flashcard sets for OpenStax textbooks

Learning How to Learners remember our favorite spaced-repetition flashcard app: iDoRecall. The core feature that makes iDR unique is the ability to link the flashcards to the concepts in your learning materials that you want to remember. When practicing memory retrieval, if you struggle with an answer, you are a click away from opening the learning content (be it a file, web page, Kindle highlight, or video) at the exact relevant location to quickly refresh your memory in the context where you first learned it.

iDoRecall is hiring educators to create flashcard sets for OpenStax textbooks. This opportunity comes with a full educator’s license, an honorarium, and the opportunity, if you like, to offer 1:1 paid tutoring to students who are using the flashcards that you created. To learn more and apply, check this out.

You can also watch this video for a 2:28 long overview of the opportunity.

A Learning How to Learner writes to Barb:

“You do not know me, but I am an alumni of Learning How to Learn from four years ago. I discovered the course long after my student days, but it was life-changing and I still use many of the techniques I learned in the course. After finishing Learning How to Learn, I graduated from a four-month programming bootcamp and became a full-time software engineer. One technique that is now a part of my daily routine is the pomodoro technique. I even programmed my own timer that has no distractions and is super simple to use: www.juicytimer.com . Thanks again for all the work you and Dr Sejnowski put out there!” —Peter Trizuliak.

We have to say, we think Peter’s Pomodoro timer is simple and cool—you might want to check it out!

The science of mind-reading

This fascinating article by James Somers in The New Yorker provides a great overview of what is happening in the field of “mind reading” via neural imaging technology.  What’s particularly interesting is how work in this area has grown from older efforts to understand how human language carves the world, growing from the seventy-year-old work of psychologist Charles Osgood.  Osgood developed techniques for mapping words as clusters in “semantic space.” This technique, it became clear, could be useful for many purposes. The dimensions of the space described abstract or “latent” qualities that words had in common that English speakers weren’t actually conscious of. These more advanced approaches came to be called “latent semantic analysis,” or L.S.A.  These techniques are behind the rapidly improving translation abilities of Google, Apple, and Amazon.  What’s even more interesting is how all of this connects to the brain’s ability to parse story and events.  This is a great read! [Hat tip, Adam Trybus.]

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

The Viking Heart

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

The Viking Heart: How Scandinavians Conquered the World, by Arthur Herman.  Seeing as how 23&Me revealed that Barb is roughly 70% Scandinavian, with intriguing dollops of Egyptian and Eastern European mixed into the gene-pool, she figured it was time to learn a bit more about her ancestry. (And who, she has long wondered, was her “Black Norwegian” grandfather?)  

This fascinating book answers all these questions, and many more.  Whether of Scandinavian descent or not, after all, one can’t help but wonder how a small group of Scandinavians perched on the outer edge of Europe could have had such an outsized influence on how European history unfolded.  

It all started, it seems, with naval technology: 

“The big change came when Scandinavian sailors introduced the square sail, which, when combined with oars for propulsion, turned the Viking ship into an unsurpassed maritime instrument. It made for swift and sure navigation across large bodies of water: comparisons with the flight of birds, made by poets and others, were inevitable… Viking ships were built to last. They were broad in the beam, as buoyant as giant water lilies, and equipped with a new nautical technology: the single oaken plank running along the bottom of the ship, from stem to stern, known as the keel (in Old Norse, kjǫlr), which the Vikings invented in the seventh century. It was the keel that gave the Viking ship its stability in any kind of sea and any kind of weather. A single sixty-foot pine mast (from the Norse word mastr, meaning ‘tree’) raised in the dead center of the vessel, with a three-hundred-square-foot sail attached, gave the vessel the wind power it needed to travel anywhere…. When a Viking vessel had to make its way up a river such as the Seine or the Thames or the Volga, its mast could be struck and laid aside and the oars lowered, so that the crew’s muscle power could take over. Viking ships, with a draft of eighteen inches fully loaded, were well designed for these waterways.”

This book will help knit together your understanding of a small group of people whose influence was broad through history. Now, thankfully, that influence is felt in peaceful realms!

“The Science of Teaching” conference by Learning & the Brain in San Franciscoand Virtually!

Barb will be keynoting at the “Science of Teaching: Applying Brain Science and COVID Lessons to Improve Teaching, Schools, and Learning Spaces” conference being held at the Fairmont in San Franciscoand also virtually via Zoom!

You will learn about:

  • Ways to create personalized, learner-centered classrooms
  • The science of sleep and improving schedules and start times
  • How COVID lessons learned can be used to improve education
  • The science of teaching and using brain research in the classroom
  • Using design thinking and redesigning spaces for effective learning
  • The science of learning and making learning engaging and personal
  • How EEG devices and partnerships are bringing research into schools
  • Improving blended learning, teen learning, and brain development
  • Strategies for spacing, retrieval practice, memory, and motivation
  • Rethinking reading, grades, assessments, and school leadership
  • Ways to improve mindsets and social-emotional learning

The high quality of this conference means it’s a “must see” for educators, parents, administrators, and many more.  Barb hopes to see you thereor on Zoom!

Join the Spanish-Speaking LHTL community in the “Aprendiendo a Aprender” Cohort 

For those looking forward to revisit, discuss and get a deeper exploration of the topics covered in “Learning How to Learn” in Spanish language, the Class Central Cohort “Aprendiendo a Aprender will be starting Jan 24, 2022. Hosted by our Spanish lead and Instructor Orlando Trejo, this cohort format and the weekly live sessions will be an excellent opportunity for Spanish-speakers to group together around the subjects of learning and improvement (and also team together to study the MOOC “Aprendiendo Aprender”). Newcomers are welcome! More information in Spanish here

Are you implementing the ideas of Learning How to Learn and Uncommon Sense Teaching in your classroom, school, or school district?

Anna Claire McKay of University School of Nashville, writes: 

“I am fortunate to be the Learning Coordinator of a middle school in Nashville, TN. Over the past couple of years, the work of Dr. Oakley and her colleagues has confirmed my desire to make the science of learning more explicit for our students and their teachers.  While we have been successful in pockets of our middle school with this work, I’d like it to be better generalized across our whole program.  I’d like to pull parents into the fold more intentionally, as well.

“Has anyone created a master plan for implementing the learning science of Learning How to Learn, Uncommonsense Teaching, and Learn Like a Pro with 10-14-year-olds and their wonderful teachers?

“If you, too, have been bitten by this bug, I would appreciate the chance to hear your ideas about implementing the Learning How to Learn approach on a larger scale.  

“Please reach out to me at amckay@usn.org, and/or post here in the discussion forum. I look forward to hearing from you!”

“Research Debt” and the juggernaut of Learning How to Learn

This excellent article by Google Brain team members Chris Olah and Shan Carter describes the vital importance of translating scientific work so that the ideas can be more broadly understood. “Developing good abstractions, notations, visualizations, and so forth, is improving the user interfaces for ideas. This helps both with understanding ideas for the first time and with thinking clearly about them.” 

Last week we had over 14,000 new learners sign up for Learning How to Learnour “Cheery Friday” email now goes out to nearly 3 million learners.  Translational work such as what we do here in LHTL is indeed appreciated!

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

The Bottomless Well

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy by Peter W Huber, Mark P. Mills.  This book is considered a classic on energy, lauded by everyone from Bill Gates to, well, the best economist we know in energy studies, Gabriel Calzada.  And we can see why.  Huber and Mills put it best:

“Energy thus consumes itself at every stage of its own production and conversion, from the grassland on the Serengeti to the gazelle to the black-maned lion of Ngorongoro crater, from strip mine and derrick to the power plant and car engine, and from the direct current (DC) power supply to the central processing unit (CPU). Not just a bit of energy, here and there, but most of it. Over two-thirds of all the fuel we consume gets run through thermal engines—and well over half of it never emerges as shaft power at the other end. Just over half of all the shaft power we produce is used to generate electricity—but another 10 percent of that power doesn’t make it out the far end of the generator. A rapidly growing share of our electricity is now used to transform ordinary grid electricity into computer-grade power—with another 10 to 20 percent overhead in this stage of conversion.

“Some small but growing fraction of high-grade electric power is used to produce laser light—and another 60 to 90 percent, or more, of the electric power dispatched to the laser never makes it into the blinding beam of light. These losses compound from end to end: overall, only 1 to 5 percent (at best) of the thermal energy locked up in the fossil fuel or the enriched uranium ever emerges at the other end of the pipeline, as a laser beam, or a stream of cool air from an air conditioner, or as 200 pounds of 40 mph mom-and-kids; all the rest goes into purifying, conditioning, and tailoring the power.”

This book will change your thinking about energy, which, no matter how you slice it, is crucial for survival and economic growth.

Meet Barb & Fellow Classmates – Introducing Face-to-Face Video Messaging on HiHo

We’re excited to announce that Learning How to Learn has launched video discussion forums on an experimental new platform called HiHo. Come introduce yourself to fellow MOOCmates, share your success stories, give and receive learning advice, and most importantly – make connections with one another!

 Download HiHo (iOS only for now) to get started, and join the Learning How to Learn channel to participate in the 7 conversations happening right now!

Cohort for Uncommon Sense Teaching on Class Central!

As a reminder, Barb will be running Class Central’s new Cohort on the MOOC Uncommon Sense Teaching.  In Class Central’s wonderful Cohort approach, students support each other as they go through the Uncommon Sense Teaching MOOC—and they meet weekly with Barb to discuss their insights and questions.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have personal time with an instructor who normally teaches to millions. 

An excellent list of online courses about teaching and learning 

Doctoral candidate Felix Mynarek of the European University of Applied Sciences has organized a wonderful listing of courses on teaching and learning that he’s taken.  Working through this list of coursework would keep you up-to-date on some of the latest approaches to teaching and learning.

Cuemath

We’ve heard some good things about a math enhancement/tutoring program called CueMath.  If you’d like to check it out and report your feedback on it, here’s a special discussion forum link. (Or just go to the general discussion forum.)

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team