Churchill & Son

17th June 2021

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

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