Category: Uncategorized

A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Month

A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins. Hawkins is a neuroscientist as well as one of the most successful and highly regarded computer architects in Silicon Valley. Some of his scientific papers have become the most downloaded and cited papers in their journals. 

A Thousand Brains is one of the most intriguing books we’ve ever read about the brain—Hawkins takes an utterly novel approach to understanding how the brain works.  As he notes: 

“People often say the brain is the most complicated thing in the universe. They conclude from this that there will not be a simple explanation for how it works, or that perhaps we will never understand it. The history of scientific discovery suggests they are wrong. Major discoveries are almost always preceded by bewildering, complex observations. With the correct theoretical framework, the complexity does not disappear, but it no longer seems confusing or daunting. A familiar example is the movement of the planets. For thousands of years, astronomers carefully tracked the motion of the planets among the stars. The path of a planet over the course of a year is complex, darting this way and that, making loops in the sky. It was hard to imagine an explanation for these wild movements. Today, every child learns the basic idea that the planets orbit the Sun… Similarly, I always believed that the neocortex appeared complicated largely because we didn’t understand it, and that it would appear relatively simple in hindsight. Once we knew the solution, we would look back and say, ‘Oh, of course, why didn’t we think of that?’” 

Hawkin’s book proceeds to lay out precisely those relatively straightforward ideas—often arising from his group’s research—that make the brain much easier to understand.  He also makes a prescient case for why artificial intelligence will advance only by copying the approaches used by the human brain.  Highly recommended for brain buffs and those interested in artificial intelligence.

Barb Makes List of 35 Most Influential Women in Engineering

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day 2021, has spotlighted 35 women who are making their impact felt in every area of the engineering field…. They are at the top of the engineering field today, as leaders and innovators; transforming the profession and inspiring future engineering students. Check out the development here!

Planning This Year’s Professional Development?

Planning a day of professional development for teachers or instructors?  Want to ensure your university or school district is up-to-date in its approach to teaching?  Barb has a few days available in August and early September to share practical insights on teaching and learning based on the critically acclaimed Uncommon Sense Teaching and her other works. Reach out here if you or your institution is interested in a keynote or workshop, either online or face-to-face.

Want kids to learn math? Level with them that it’s hard.

As mathematician Jordan Ellenberg observes in this preternaturally powerful article in the Washington Post, math is “only easy once you’ve mastered the concepts. Telling students otherwise can backfire… A school year unlike any other is coming to a close, but one thing remains the same: We’re still tussling, in the same old ways, over how math should be taught. More data science, less stuffy trigonometry? Students placed in separate classrooms by test scores or doing differentiated work in the same classroom? These questions are vexed, but I’ve got one suggestion for how we can improve. We can tell students that math is very, very hard….I was constantly telling students, at the outset of a computation, ‘Now this is pretty simple’ — encouraging them, or so I thought. My mentor, the master teacher Robin Gottlieb, now a professor at Harvard, set me straight. When we say a lesson is ‘easy’ or ‘simple,’ and it manifestly isn’t, we are telling students that the difficulty isn’t with the mathematics, it’s with them. And they will believe us. They won’t think, ‘I’ve been lied to,’ they’ll think, ‘I’m dumb and I should quit.’”

This is one of the best articles we’ve ever read about teaching math. Read the whole thing. [Hat tip: Guruprasad Madhavan.]  

Nelson’s Back from Everest!

Nelson Dellis, our favorite memory expert, is back from his latest attempt to scale Mount Everest–and he has a wonderful memory video to give you practice in memorizing, well, you’ll find out!  Don’t miss Nelson’s latest (literally) breathless adventures.  And don’t miss Nelson’s books!

The Future of MOOCs 

This outstanding article from Forbes describes Zvi Galil’s groundbreaking work involving low cost, high-quality graduate degrees: “One might assume that with that distinguished career Galil would regard the development of an online master’s program to be a bit anticlimactic. To the contrary, he believes OMSCS is the ‘biggest thing I’ve done in my life,’ pointing to the fact that OMSCS runs on a model that challenges the prevailing brand of most elite universities, who take pride in their selectivity and exclusiveness.

“OMSCS accepts all applicants who meet the program’s basic qualifications. So far, it’s accepted 74% of those who’ve applied. By contrast, the acceptance rate for Georgia Tech’s on-campus program is about 10%. Students from all 50 states and 124 countries have enrolled in the program, which earns rave reviews from its alumni.

“Affordability is key to the program’s popularity. OMSCS is the most affordable degree of its kind. Tuition runs just a bit over $7,000 for the entire program, about 10% of the cost of the average on-campus MS in computer science at private universities. As Galil says, ‘Our motto is accessibility through affordability and technology—we are making a Master’s degree in computer science available to thousands of students.’”

Thought for the Day

As Philippe de LaHarpe has relayed to us:  “Education is the place of delayed happiness.” 

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

Course Hero’s Education Summit

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Course Hero’s Education Summit

As you may know, we’re huge fans of Course Hero and its ability to help level the playing field for students.  (Barb still remembers flunking a test during her undergraduate engineering studies because she wasn’t in the elite clique with access to old tests that had vital information the professor hadn’t actually taught.) 

Now you have the opportunity to learn more about the latest in teaching and learning by attending Course Hero’s free Education Summit: What Matters Now? on July 28th through 30th.  

By way of back story about Course Hero’s positive impact on students, research has revealed that one of the best ways for students to succeed in their studies is to take plenty of old practice tests. In other words, it can be a great idea for you to ensure your students have copies of your old tests. Course Hero can help make that happen by cleverly letting students think they are in the drivers’ seat when they get old tests to practice with.  (Naturally, your tests don’t just have easy-to-memorize solutions!)   Remember that you can find plenty of ideas for new test questions on the Course Hero platform. 

Barb will be keynoting for the conference—more on that to come!  

Uncommon Sense Teaching Webinar

Enjoy yesterday’s live webinar, where Beth, Terry, and Barb discuss Uncommon Sense Teaching—the way the book came together, and the breakthrough insights it provides. (And a sneak teaser at the end about a big coming attraction!)

Barb with podcaster extraordinaire Nasos Papadopoulos of MetaLearn

Barb and Nasos are old friends, and so Nasos is able to elicit extraordinary insights from Barb about the historical clash of research titans that has led to some of the challenges we see today in education.  As you can tell from the show notes below, this is a not-to-be-missed episode of MetaLearn.

Show Notes‍

  • Introducing Barb [00:37]
  • How the pandemic changed Barb’s workflow [02:30]
  • What are Barb’s upcoming books, Learn Like a Pro and Uncommon Sense Teaching, and her new courses, all about? [04:01]
  • What does the process of making an online course look like? [05:39]
  • Where do Barbara’s upcoming projects fit into her wide body of work on the science of learning? How has her work progressed over time? [07:46]
  • What are some significant developments that have happened to the field of learning since Barbara started researching it? [13:59]
  • Why are we seeing a decline in the practice of procedural learning? [22:52]
  • Does B.F. Skinner’s behaviorist approach to learning restrict further developments in cognitive learning? [23:34]
  • What was Noam Chomsky’s role in the cognitive revolution and in the discrediting of procedural learning? [25:58]
  • Barb shares the most expensive yet unpublicised experiment in education, and how it captures the tension of opposing views in education [32:21]
  • What has the pandemic revealed about the pros and cons of online learning? [35:28]
  • Examples and opportunities of a low-cost, high-quality education [38:11]
  • Closing remarks [40:52]

Applying Insights From Neuroscience in the Classroom

As Megan Collins notes in this article from EdSurge: “A deeper understanding of how the brain works can help teachers plan lessons that reach every student…Teachers need to know that both ways of learning are valuable and provide a deeper way for students to understand material…When teachers emphasize only one system of learning, as by forcing students to explain declaratively every step in solving a problem, for example, it can make it more difficult for a student to be a successful overall learner. We are hurting students who learn well procedurally.”

Launch School—and podcast!

Launch School is an online school for developers—they also put forth an excellent podcast about learning and the journey to mastery. In this episode, students Jenae and Mandy interview Barb.  

As Jenae and Mandy note: “The students are loving it. Lots of great comments in our community and here’s what some students are saying today: “Really cool to see that LS interviewed Barbara Oakley! Her course and the accompanying book were super helpful in getting me prepared for the slow path to proficiency four years ago and I still see the impact that it has on me today.” ~ Zac

Barb speaking in Rapid City, South Dakota

Barb will be speaking for teens, tweens, and their parents about effective learning at 2:00 pm MDT, Wednesday, July 21 at Freedom Fest. Come meet Barb face-to-face as you learn more about learning! 

French podcaster Céline Guerreiro and Barb

Céline has broken past her reservations about interviewing outside her mother tongue to make this insightful interview with Barb. It’s impossible to believe this insightful interview is Céline’s first in English!  

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

Churchill & Son

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Month

Churchill & Son, by Josh Ireland. Reaching the end of a fantastic book like Churchill & Son is bittersweet. There’s a feeling of satisfaction with the closure, but that satisfaction is mixed with the sad knowledge that you will not be able to return and spend more time with characters and a story you’ve become entranced by.  Winston Churchill is one of history’s astonishing figures—an ostracized man who saw a future few others wished to see. His accurate vision, combined with his ability to unite and marshal his country’s (and others’) forces to combat the Nazi juggernaut was unparalleled.  But when it came to Churchill’s son, Winston took a path that virtually everyone—especially Churchill’s long-suffering wife Clementine—could see was bound for disaster.  By overcompensating for his own neglected upbringing, Churchill groomed his son to become a spoiled, overbearing, overweening character whose descent into alcoholism left him with few friends, and lost him even the respect of his father. As this book so eloquently reveals, being the son of a great man can truly be a curse. This is an amazing behind-the-scenes story of what was really going on from a family perspective during some of the most tumultuous political upheavals of modern history.  This book was hard to put down—highly recommended! (Also good for audio.)

How to Tap Memory Systems to Deepen Learning

Deborah Kris’s article for PBS and NPR on Uncommon Sense Teaching is the best we’ve read – it captures some of the book’s central themes.  Key grafs: “Memorization can get a bad rap in education debates, conjuring images of mindless repetition or a ‘drill and kill’ pedagogy. After all, why memorize something when we can look it up on our phone?

“But memory is inextricably tied to learning. ‘You don’t really really learn anything unless you have it in your long-term memory,’ says Barbara Oakley, co-author of the new book Uncommon Sense Teaching: Practical Insights in Brain Science to Help Students Learn. When teachers have a better understanding of the brain’s memory systems, they can help students develop stronger study habits and engage them in deep learning. 

“Our brains are wired to acquire ‘biologically primary material’ with very little effort – think of a toddler learning their first language. Oakley calls this the ‘easy stuff.’  Biologically secondary material – or ‘the hard stuff’ – includes skills that we haven’t yet evolved to do, but that we can acquire and store in our long-term memory with instruction and practice. These include reading, writing and mathematics. 

“In classrooms, some students absorb and master these skills faster than others. Oakley calls these ‘race car learners’ who zoom to the finish line. In contrast ‘other students have hiker brains,’ says Oakley. ‘They get to the finish line, but more slowly.’

“Despite what students typically believe, speed is not necessarily an advantage, says Oakley, and understanding memory systems can help teachers support both the race car and hiker approaches to learning.”

ASEE Presents: Master Class on Effective Teaching – June 21, 22, & 23, from 12 – 4 PM, ET 

The Master Class on Effective Teaching is almost upon us! Barb and her colleagues will walk you as a university-level professor, K-12 teacher, parent, guardian, vocational instructor, learning officer in business, through a new, more neuroscientifically-based way of looking at teaching. 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. We’ll show you how some common teaching processes can actually inhibit students’ abilities to learn. The materials are based on the critically praised Uncommon Sense Teaching. Register here!

Interview Barb’s interview with Khan Academy!

Enjoy this interview (on Facebook or YouTube), with the wisdom-filled Kristen DiCerbo, Chief Learning Officer of Khan Academy—one of our favorite learning sites.


Learn Like a Pro is a hit in Japanlearn why in this intriguing article.

Flashcard Brouhaha

If you ever wanted proof that flashcards are effective, take a read of this back-handedly humorous article about US soldiers who exposed nuclear weapons secrets through their diligent use of flashcard apps. “For US soldiers tasked with the custody of nuclear weapons in Europe, the stakes are high. Security protocols are lengthy, detailed and need to be known by heart. To simplify this process, some service members have been using publicly visible flashcard learning apps — inadvertently revealing a multitude of sensitive security protocols about US nuclear weapons and the bases at which they are stored.” [Hat tip: David Handel, creator of our favorite flash card app: iDoRecall.] 

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

Teach for Attention!

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

Teach for Attention! A Tool Belt of Strategies for Engaging Students with Attention Challenges, by Ezra Werb. This brief, easy-to-read book provides “from the trenches” teaching strategies for students with ADHD, low self-confidence, distraction, and other attention challenges. There are dozens of true classroom stories that show the strategies in action. Ezra is an educational therapist working with students with attentional deficits, learning challenges, and spectrum disorders, so his insights can definitely help build your teaching repertoire if you are working with cognitively diverse students.

Learning How to Learn Effectively

You’ll enjoy Barb’s conversation about learning with real estate expert Tyler Chesser.  Their discussion focused on how to think independently and learning how to learn. Highlights include:

  • Why you should ditch your allegiances
  • The two main perspectives for paradigm-shifting ideas
  • Why stress can be a good thing
  • The benefits of broad learning in real estate investing
  • Why specialization is not necessarily the right path
  • Tips for people with a small working memory capacity

All real estate investors are read up on investing. How can you separate yourself from the pack through innovative thinking? Discover how in this insightful episode!

Parent Q & A: Do Music and Homework Mix?

This practical article by Deborah Farmer Kris gives a great deal of insight into a question many parents have about whether music and homework mix.  As Deborah suggests, experiment:  “If you like to mix music and schoolwork, spend some time figuring out what types of songs work best. Here’s a simple experiment you can try individually or with friends: 

“Take a sheet of math problems. While you work, play different types of music for exactly three minutes each: music with and without words, music at different volumes, instrumental jazz and classical, and so-called “brain wave” music. Finally, complete another three minutes in silence.

“At the end of each segment, note how many problems you finished and how you felt. Were you more relaxed? More agitated? More energized? Was music a distraction you had to tune out? Did it affect your speed or accuracy?

“Once you find music that boosts your focus, create a study playlist. Or multiple lists for different subjects and tasks. Or give yourself permission to work in silence. 

Deborah’s article is worth reading in full!

Helping a Parent to Help their Child

We received the following email, and we are hoping that perhaps learners might have insights to help Toni: 

“Dr. Oakley, I have read over the years your work and am grateful for it. I’m finding it difficult to find someone who knows how to use your work with children. My daughter is 9 and I can see we need to help her learn how to use her brain. The school system is failing her; and, while she’s excelling in different ways, I can see a tough road ahead. Who actually works with children to help teach them these tactics? Toni”

If you have ideas to help, please post your insights on the discussion forum. (If the discussion forum link doesn’t work for you, just go directly to the general discussion forum.)

What Will Remain Post-Pandemic?

This perceptive article, co-authored by Barb’s friend, MIT linguist Shigeru Miyagawa and by MIT Learning specialist Meghan  Perdue, provides insight on what will come after COVID when it comes to education. Key graf: “If an award is to be given for the most raves from instructors across disciplines, it is the chat feature in video conferencing platforms. One instructor said that when he first started to use Zoom, he saw a stream of postings on the chat, not only addressed to him but also to each other. He was puzzled by what appeared to be a distraction, but then saw that the students were engaging with the lesson and encouraging others to ask and answer questions. In a large lecture class, students liked the fact that their questions were promptly answered by a TA, which helped to keep their attention on the lesson. Many other faculty reported that the chat allowed students who weren’t comfortable speaking up in class an opportunity to participate in the discussion. Many are thinking of how they can recreate the chat experience when they return to in-person teaching.”

A Great Game to Teach Kids Computer Logic

The Turing Tumble is a new game where players ages 8 to adult build mechanical computers powered by marbles so as to solve logic puzzles. Not only is it addictively fun—it also teaches about how computers work.  Kids can have a blast learning to code in a language without words. As the company notes: “Turing Tumble blurs the line between coding and building machinery. There’s no syntax to learn, no abstraction, and no electronics at all.”  This is awesome learning—highly recommended! [Hat tip Eric Siegel, instructor of our previous MOOC of the Month: Machine Learning for Everyone.]

Helping Students be Excellent Online Learners

Here’s an excellent short video by the always perceptive Kristin Palmer, Director of Online Learning at the University of Virginia with tips for being an effective online learner, including setting up your workspace, managing your time, minimizing distractions, and techniques for learning.  Techniques include recall, chunking, testing yourself, eating your frogs first and focused versus diffuse thinking.  

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 Tiger

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival, by John Vaillant.  This is one of those books that’s hard to put down, as the story unfolds of a tiger with a lethal grudge against a particular human—a grudge that widened to encompass every human the tiger encountered.  John Vaillant is a magnificent story-teller—this brief excerpt gives a hint of his literary prowess: “As the encyclopedic reference Mammals of the Soviet Union puts it, ‘The general appearance of the tiger is that of a huge physical force and quiet confidence, combined with a rather heavy grace.’ But one could just as easily say: this is what you get when you pair the agility and appetites of a cat with the mass of an industrial refrigerator. To properly appreciate such an animal, it is most instructive to start at the beginning: picture the grotesquely muscled head of a pit bull and then imagine how it might look if the pit bull weighed a quarter of a ton. Add to this fangs the length of a finger backed up by rows of slicing teeth capable of cutting through the heaviest bone. Consider then the claws: a hybrid of meat hook and stiletto that can attain four inches along the outer curve, a length comparable to the talons on a velociraptor. Now, imagine the vehicle for all of this: nine feet or more from nose to tail, and three and a half feet high at the shoulder. Finally, emblazon this beast with a primordial calligraphy: black brushstrokes on a field of russet and cream, and wonder at our strange fortune to coexist with such a creature. (The tiger is, literally, tattooed: if you were to shave one bald, its stripes would still be visible, integral to its skin.) Able to swim for miles and kill an animal many times its size, the tiger also possesses the brute strength to drag an awkward, thousand-pound carcass through the forest for fifty or a hundred yards before consuming it.”

In The Tiger, you will learn a great deal, not only about tigers and their remarkably human ability to think abstractly, but about how the Russian Far East is slipping toward ecological imbalance, even as brave conservators work to keep this unique region intact. Highly recommended!

Live Webinar about Uncommon Sense Teaching with Barb, Terry, and Their Co-Author Beth!

Barb, Terry, and Beth will host a live webinar on Thursday, June 24th @1pm EST to discuss their new book, Uncommon Sense Teaching. There’s still time to register! They will drill down on two key ideas related to the declarative and procedural modes of thinking, and also give insights on how the book came to be. And there should be plenty of time to take questions. To receive your webinar link: 

1) Preorder the book here. Please note, for international book purchases our publisher recommends Book Depository.  

2) Complete the brief registration form here by Monday, June 14th. The form’s confirmation page will contain your link to access the webinar on June 24th!  We look forward to seeing you!

Audio Excerpt of Learn Like a Pro!

Here is a wonderful excerpt of Learn Like a Pro, read by Robert Petkoff—and when you hear Robert’s upbeat, enthusiastic reading, you’ll know why he’s such a star in the voice industry. Learn Like a Pro, audio version, is a concise, witty, practically useful book, and a perfect listen for those moments where you’d like to listen to something interesting.

Barb on the What Got You There Podcast with Sean DeLaney

Sean DeLaney is an insightful host with a fascinating podcast show—What Got You There.  Below are two links where you’ll be able to find everything from the episode, including listening, watching and episode notes. 

  • Show Notes Page, with a deep dive into the many key topics Sean and Barb discussed.   

Class Central’s MOOC Study Groups

We highly recommend the fascinating study groups that Class Central has been putting together for learning on MOOCs.  Check out upcoming groups here: Learn with Class Central: Join our Study Groups on Redis, Excel for Data Analysis, and A Life of Happiness.

Reminder: ‘Pedagogy and Practice when Teaching Online’ webinar taking place June 10th via the University of Kent

Barb will be speaking for 15 minutes on June 10th at 8:15 – 8:30 am Eastern time for the ‘Pedagogy and Practice when Teaching Online conference. This intriguing conference features short presentations of the best ideas from a variety of teachers about good online teaching. If you would like to attend the webinar, please register your interest here, and you’ll receive more information. If you yourself would like to present and share, please fill out this form to join the fun! 

Why an Active-Learning Evangelist Is Sold on Online Teaching

Eric Mazur, a professor of physics and applied physics at Harvard University, has long been the leading figure in active learning. As Beth McMurtrie notes in this excellent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Mazur was just as surprised as anyone when the pandemic hit and he had to scramble to move his course online for the remainder of the spring-2020 semester. And, like so many others, he took time over the summer to redesign his course for a fully remote experience once Harvard decided to remain online.

Rather than just move what he usually did online, he decided to take advantage of the new format. That meant making changes including minimizing synchronous and instructor-paced activities.

Now, says Mazur, the results are in and he’s convinced: online teaching is better. Not in all circumstances, to be sure. But in his applied-physics courses, students showed larger learning gains and felt more supported than students had in in-person classes. In fact, they appear to have learned so much more effectively in this new format that he wonders if it’s “almost unethical,” to return to the classroom this fall. [Hat tip: Zvi Galil]

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

Learn Like a Pro

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Barb and her good friend and co-author, Olav Schewe, are thrilled to give you an early heads up that their new book Learn Like a Pro: Science-Based Tools to Become Better at Anything! will be available on Amazon this Tuesday, June 1 and can be pre-ordered here.  Where Uncommon Sense Teaching took an instructor’s view of helping people learn, Learn Like a Pro takes a business professional look at learning. It is a quick, practical guide that is full of sticky insights that can allow you to learn more effectively in today’s fast-paced world.

About Barb and Olav’s new book

Neuroscience has moved fast in the past five years, showing how our MOOC Learning How to Learn got it right with key insights about learning and the brain. Now you can springboard even further ahead in your learning, as Learn Like a Pro swiftly reviews the basics (the Pomodoro Technique, focused versus diffuse mode), and then leaps ahead to describe vital new neuroscientific and cognitive psychology findings that can help with learning, including insight about how to develop intuition in coding, problem-solving, or language-learning; note-taking; metacognition; and why speed-reading can be problematic.

What’s great about Learn Like a Pro is that it condenses key learning insights and techniques down into one quick and easy read. Writing short books is hard—it took Barb and Olav years of work to make this exceptionally well-researched book into light-hearted treasure you’ll find yourself referring to again and again. 

Why should you read Learn Like a Pro?

Learn Like a Pro teaches learners to make the best use of their brains, whether those brains seem “naturally” geared toward learning or not. Are you already a great learner? This book is still for you! Learn Like a Pro gives useful tools to become even more powerful in your learning.

 Barb and Olav’s handbook will answer questions like:

  • Can electromagnetic stimulation help with learning?
  • What is the research verdict on using binaural beats to help you learn?
  • Can supplements help with your learning?
  • What’s the best way to take notes?
  • Is it possible to improve your reading speed?
  • What is the difference between learning a physical sport versus a mental concept?

You will also learn how to:

  • Develop your problem-solving intuition
  • Speed up your ability to answer complex questions
  • Read effectively
  • Maximize your working memory capacity
  • Cultivate self-discipline and motivate yourself 
  • Improve your performance on tests 

Learn Like a Pro stands out from other books on learning because it weaves together cutting edge insights from neuroscience to show unexpected, yet practical, new approaches on how to learn effectively. It shows how some of the same techniques you use for activities you enjoy, such as dancing or playing basketball, can, with clever retooling, help you gradually master any subject.

About Barb’s co-author, Olav Schewe: 

Olav is the founder and CEO of Educas, an educational technology startup that develops solutions to help students learn how to learn. He is also an educational consultant to one of the world’s largest educational tech companies, Kahoot!

Olav holds undergraduate degrees from the Norwegian School of Economics and the University of California, Berkeley and a graduate degree from the University of Oxford. He has also authored and co-authored several books, including Super Student, which has been translated into more than 20 languages.

 Advanced praise for the book:

“If you want to learn how to learn, I can’t think of better guides than Barbara Oakley and Olav Schewe. They transformed themselves from struggling students into master teachers, and they’ve written an unusually digestible, immediately useful book about how to build your knowledge, improve your memory, and boost your motivation to keep getting smarter.” —Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife 

Learn Like a Pro is the book I wish I’d had when I was a student. It is jam-packed with practical, evidence-based advice for overcoming procrastination, strengthening memory, and reading more effectively. You’ll find a nugget of learning gold on every page.” —Daniel H. Pink, #1 New York Times bestselling author of When, Drive, and To Sell is Human

 We’re excited for you to read Learn Like a Pro to boost your learning success—and have fun while doing it! 

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

Fast Language Learning

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

How to Learn a Language Fast

What is the best way to learn a new language quickly? If you had a full month how much could you learn? These questions are answered in a newly released documentary, produced by Barb’s co-author friend Olav Schewe. Equipped with the best learning techniques stemming from cognitive psychology and neuroscience, Olav traveled to Argentina for a month to see if it was possible to become fluent in Spanish. Watch his entertaining and insightful documentary here.    

Book of the Week

We rarely repeat a recommendation, but Jonathan Brennan’s Engaging Learners through Zoom: Strategies for Virtual Teaching Across Disciplines is on sale this week for $2.99, so you may wish to head over and take a look. As Barb wrote in her blurb for the book: “Engaging Learners through Zoom is like a banquet of ideas for polls, chats, breakout rooms, using the main session as a central hub, and far more.  What’s terrific about this book is that it gives concrete, innovative examples for practically every discipline—any instructor can benefit! I never knew I needed this book, but now, I couldn’t do without it!” 

ASEE Presents: Master Class on Effective Teaching – June 21, 22, & 23, from 12 – 4 PM, ET 

An upcoming Master Class on Effective Teaching, led by none other than Barb, will walk you as a university-level professor, K-12 teacher, vocational instructor, or learning officer in business, through a new, more neuroscientifically-based way of looking at your teaching. 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. Along the way, we’ll show you how some common teaching processes can actually inhibit students’ abilities to learn. The materials are based on the critically praised Uncommon Sense Teaching: Practical Insights in Brain Science to Help Students Learn.

From the feedback of Session 1 in January:

  • I had been looking for a course like Barb’s Learning How to Learn course most of my life. This course was equally informative, developed and enriched concepts presented in the original course.

  • The entire webinar class was PHENOMENAL! In particular, I will ensure that I use retrieval practice thoughtfully and regularly in the course that I teach, find relevant metaphors that elicit students’ prior knowledge for the content being presented, and give a class presentation on how the brain functions in learning and best ways to improve learning through effective studying.

  • This was an amazing experience. Given the chance, I would participate in another class like this in a heartbeat. It was wonderful not only for the things that the course creators could control – the content, the presentation, etc. – but also for things that were out of their control, like the rich, respectful, positive interaction in the chats. I had a wonderful time and I learned fascinating, relevant information that I can apply in a practical way to my own teaching and learning. Thank you so much!

  • Veteran teachers teaching -Street Cred!

Registration is $149 for ASEE Professional Members, $49 for ASEE P-12 and Student Members, and $199 for non-members. Space is limited—Learn more and register today!

Teaching Python with Kelly & Sean

Barb was lucky enough to speak with Kelly and Sean, two middle school teachers who produce the podcast Teaching Python.  Their goal is to help teachers with the art and science of teaching Python so that more students can learn how to code. These two amazing instructors who are constantly trying to sharpen their—and our—teaching skills!  In this episode, Barb joins in to speak about everything from learning Russian, to the ways that the brain processes information, to how teachers can best help students learn.

California Department of Education to Disenfranchise and Discourage Students Who Learn Differently

The California Department of Education is manifesting a deeply anti-science initiative by rejecting, against all neuroscientific evidence to the contrary, ideas of natural gifts and talents in math. The Department’s proposed new framework for teaching K-12 mathematics will, if not opposed by California residents who truly care about inequity in education, dramatically worsen math education for disadvantaged children who are unable to escape the public school system. This is a perfect example of pathological altruism—promulgating clear and obvious harm that goes wildly against the findings of science, all under the guise of “helping.” 

More in this Wall Street Journal op-ed by Williamson M. Evers, who describes how:

“The framework explicitly rejects ‘ideas of natural gifts and talents.’ That some are gifted in math implies some others aren’t, and this is ‘inequitable.’ The framework’s authors also fear that those designated ‘gifted’ may have their fragile egos hurt if they later lose that designation. So it writes an obituary for gifted-and-talented programs, which would hobble the rise of many talented children in California.

The framework rejects ability grouping, also called tracking, even though studies show that students do better when grouped with others who are progressing in their studies at the same pace. We have known for years, including from a 2009 Fordham Institute study of Massachusetts middle schools, that schools with more tracks have significantly more math students at advanced levels and fewer failing students.

“The proposal’s agenda becomes clear when it says math should be taught so it can be used for ‘social justice.’ It extols a fictional teacher who uses class to develop her students’ ‘sociopolitical consciousness.’ Math, it says, is a tool to ‘change the world.’ Teachers are supposed to adopt a ‘culturally relevant pedagogy,’ which includes ‘the ability to identify, analyze and solve real-world problems, especially those that result in societal inequalities.’

“Under this pedagogy, ‘students must develop a critical consciousness through which they challenge the status quo of the current social order.’ Don’t think that kindergarten is too early for such indoctrination: ‘Teachers can take a justice-oriented perspective at any grade level, K-12,’ the curriculum revisionists write. Students could be taught fractions in the distracting process of learning the math of organizing a protest march.

“This program is quite a comedown for math, from an objective academic discipline to a tool for political activism. Society will be harmed: With fewer people who know math well, how are we going to build bridges, launch rockets or advance technologically? Students will pay the heaviest price…”

Californians (and citizens of the US, Canada, and worldwide) who are interested in true social justice can help reject this science-denying exercise in group-think in education while it is still in its formative stages. In the decades to come, researchers will shake their heads at how groups with vested interests in building their own power base could work so hard to lead people toward cult-like thinking that turns a blind eye to simple, obvious, scientifically-grounded facts. 

That’s all for this week. Have a happy (and hard-charging!) week in Learning How to Learn!

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

Uncommon Sense Teaching!

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Exciting announcement!

We appreciate all your support of our work over the years! As a thank you, we are planning a very special event—where we could talk with you all about our new book Uncommon Sense Teaching, and hear some of your thoughts and questions once you get your copy and start reading. On Thursday, June 24th @1pm EST, Barb, Terry, and their co-author Beth Rogowsky, EdD, will host a live webinar for anyone who has preordered the book at any point. Our topic for the event (and one we’re so passionate about) is “Teaching Through Both Declarative and Procedural Pathways.” We can’t wait to do this with you all! 

How to receive your webinar link: 

  1. Purchase your copy of Uncommon Sense Teaching from any of the locations listed through the “order now” link here
  2. Complete the brief form to enter your order number & register for the webinar here.
  3. Immediately receive your registration confirmation with your link to access the webinar on June 24th. (If you don’t receive your link or run into any trouble, please reach out to  

What we’re looking forward to sharing during the webinar: 

We will drill down on two key ideas related to the declarative and procedural modes of thinking. Beth also has a remarkable personal story (not shared in the book), that offers a framework to discuss how important the consolidation of neural links is the learning process. At the end, we’ll take questions from the audience.

About the new book: 

Most teachers, parents and people managers want to offer the best instruction they possibly can for their students or staff. Often, we rely on the way we were taught in our approach to teach others. But effective teaching requires understanding the complexities of the human brain. Neuroscientists have made enormous strides in understanding how we learn, but little of that insight has filtered down to the way we teach.

Drawing on these research findings as well as our combined decades of experience in the classroom, Uncommon Sense Teaching equips readers with the tools to enhance their teaching, whether they’re seasoned professionals or parents trying to offer extra support for their children’s education. We share insights to help break down the broad spectrum of how people learn including: 

  • How to teach inclusively in a diverse space where students have different working memory capabilities and strengths 
  • Strategies for keeping students motivated and engaged, especially with online learning
  • Helping learners remember information long-term, so it isn’t immediately forgotten
  • How interleaving and spaced repetition build procedural memory links—and why that’s important
  • Remedies for procrastination 
  • And so much more! 

What sets this book apart is that it is the first to put a solid neuroscientific grounding on foundational approaches used in the field of education. It is truly a book for all kinds of teachers! 

About our co-author Beth: In addition to completing postdoctoral training in neuroscience, Beth Rogowsky, EdD has fourteen years of experience teaching English language arts to middle-schoolers in rural and urban public schools. Today, Beth is an education professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, where she frequently observes K-12 classrooms as part of her professorial duties. What’s striking is how often she sees some of the same ineffective practices she used in classrooms decades before—even though research has shown us new and better ways.

You Are the Expert: You’ll find a link to dozens of the illustrations and animations used in the book and related materials (more surprises to come!) This will make it easy for you to prepare simple, colorful presentations to share your new, practically useful insights with both your fellow teachers and your students!

New advanced praise for the book: 

 “For too long, teaching has been treated as an inscrutable craft, with each practitioner fashioning idiosyncratic practices from intuition and experience. But like all professions, pedagogy can be improved through technology, research, and science. This trio of experts show how to elevate this dark art to an effective and enjoyable practice.”
—Steven Pinker, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and New York Times bestselling author of How the Mind Works and Enlightenment Now

“The authors bring to this highly practical, user-friendly book a deep understanding of teachers and classrooms, the implications of neuroscientific findings for successful teaching and learning, and the ability to write about complex ideas in an approachable way.”

—Carol Ann Tomlinson, EdD, author of How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms

We can’t wait for you to join us for the webinar! 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


Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

Undisruptable: A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention for Individuals, Organisations and Life, by Aidan McCullen. Aiden knows something about reinvention. He had finally achieved his dream of becoming a professional rugby player, when injury forced him to completely rethink his life’s journey and turn to business—and writing, where he is a master of analogy.  (We personally like to think of analogy as one of our favorite mental sports!) As Aiden observes: “Rather than a rigid set of frameworks or business models, I present the book as a series of mental models. To bring these mental models to life, I offer analogies from nature, anecdotes from business, ancient wisdom, exemplars of perpetual change and evidence from evolution, neuroscience, business and life.” Aiden’s goal is to help you adopt a mindset of permanent reinvention. Enjoy!  

Teach Your Kids This Simple Strategy for Improving Focus

Here is a wonderful article by Deborah Farmer Kris about using the Pomodoro Technique to help reduce stress while getting schoolwork done with ease. Kris’s article hooks from the very beginning:

 “‘I just can’t make myself get started,’ a high school senior told me. She was sitting in my office in obvious distress. College deadlines were approaching, and all she had for an essay were a few scattered notes. 

“‘Try a Pomodoro,’ I suggested. ‘Right here, right now. I’ll set the timer for 25 minutes. You don’t have to finish your essay — just work on it till the timer goes off, then take a break.’

“Twenty-five minutes later, she looked up. ‘OMG. I’m half-way done. That totally worked!’

“When faced with a task you are dreading or that seems overwhelming, the hardest part is usually just getting started. And this is the space where so many of the parent-child homework battles live.

“The single most concrete, effective tool I’ve found for starting a task and remaining focused on one’s work is the Pomodoro Technique. Alas, I was twice my student’s age before I heard about this strategy. During an interview with Barbara Oakley—author and creator of the wildly popular Learning How to Learn MOOC—she shared with me that of all the techniques she teaches in that course, the Pomodoro Method is ‘far and away’ the most popular.

Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit

This fascinating website points toward independently evaluated projects or materials, focusing on 14 high priority issues. or themes, for schools. “The themes provide greater depth to the evidence on common school challenges by linking together evidence in the Toolkit with key messages emerging from [Education Endowment Foundation] EEF-funded projects, and other resources. Taken together, they provide a rich picture of the developing evidence base on how to improve the attainment and wider outcomes of children and young people. These themes were developed in collaboration with teachers and school leaders in response to demand for evidence around specific school challenges.”

This is very fun to poke around with! 

MOOC of the Week

We’d like to recommend the fascinating, highly rated MOOC “Sheep in the Land of Fire and Ice,” put forth by the University of Iceland and co-starring one of our favorite instructors, David Hik, who also co-taught the wonderful Mountains 101 course. While reading last week’s superlative The Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West, we learned a little about sheep’s sometimes inexorably pernicious effects on grasslands—”Sheep in the Land of Fire and Ice” delves further into this phenomenon—and how to resolve it.

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

*******AND, stay tuned for next week’s big announcement!!!!*******

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

The Cattle Kingdom

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

The Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West, by Christopher Knowlton. What an eye-popping read! Many North Americans grow up familiar with cowboys, cattle barons, and the battle of barbed wire fences in the Western US, along with haute cuisine (at least as haute as American cuisine could get) at the legendary Delmonico’s Steakhouses in New York City. And North Americans know at least a little about the meatpacking industry of Chicago and its accompanying scandals.  They may even be familiar with iconic, laconic, literary figures like Shane and the Virginian (an apparent legacy of European aristocracy). 

But until the publication of The Cattle Kingdom, few of us had the opportunity to put together the disparate pieces to understand this important era in US history. We know why the buffalo disappeared (a horrific addendum to the genocidal predations on Native Americans), but Knowlton helps us understand how cattle arose so quickly to take the place of buffalo, why the life of a cattleman became so popular, and how the whole enterprise came crushing finale with the Johnson County war, when local newspapers essentially owned by the elite, wealthy cattlemen spurred an insurrection allowing them to quite literally get away with murder.

This is an in-depth look at virtually every aspect of the history of the cowboy west, from the major players (including fascinating discussions of Teddy Roosevelt, the father of the American conservation movement),  to saddles, barbed wire, the economics of cattle rearing, British attitudes of “I can do what I want with my land,” and of course, the “Big Die Up,” where millions of cattle died in one horrific winter—officially sealing the end to the cattle kingdom. From about 1850 to 1900, the US Kingdom of Cattle was the equivalent to today’s Silicon Empire. A remarkable work of history. Also great for audio listening. [Hat tip, Ryan Holiday.]

Aiden McCullen and Barb Oakley Discussing Barb’s New Book, Learn Like a Pro 

Here is a discussion with one of our favorite podcast hosts, Aiden McCullen, surrounding the key ideas of Barb’s upcoming book Learn Like a Pro, (St. Martin’s Press, June 1st, 2021).  More to come as we get closer to launch, but learners looking for a brief introduction to how to learn more effectively using the latest insights from neuroscience couldn’t do better than to read Barb’s latest book, co-written with her good friend, learning expert Olav Schewe. This excellent article by Aiden expounds on the ideas of Learn Like a Pro and how they are important in business.

Learn with Class Central: Join our Study Group

Class Central is experimenting with an unofficial semi-synchronous study group for the Mountains 101 course from the University of Alberta. This venture looks so fun and interesting that Barb has also joined the group.  But far better is that David Hik—one of the instructors and co-creators of Mountains 101—will also be in our study group. What could possibly be better?  Join us there!  

‘Pedagogy and Practice when Teaching Online’ webinar taking place June 10th via the University of Kent

Phil Anthony, a learning technologist at the University of Kent (UK), has set up a new ‘Digitally Enhanced Education Webinars series’ as an opportunity to share examples amongst colleagues when using digital technologies for teaching. As the primary goal was to create a large sharing community, the university decided to open the series to colleagues outside of the University of Kent. The free webinar series has become really popular. The idea is to listen to and learn from brief, 15-minute talks with the best ideas from a variety of speakers about good online teaching. 

Barb will be speaking on June 10th at 12:30. If you would like to attend the webinar, please register your interest here, and you’ll receive more information. If you yourself would like to present and share, please fill out this form to join the fun!

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