Comic books, Kahoot! and more

4th October 2018

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Books of the Week

This week, we read two books by or about self-made men:

  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, by Benjamin Franklin.  Although we read Walter Isaacson’s outstanding biography, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, we couldn’t resist digging deeper to see what Franklin himself wrote about his life.  Once we grew accustomed to Franklin’s style, we found the book to be a deeply insightful read. We were taken with Franklin’s quote of Pope:

“Men should be taught as if you taught them not,

And things unknown propos’d as things forgot.”

Many of you have already realized that is the approach we took with the creation of Learning How to Learn. Franklin’s is an inspiring book about how to improve both yourself and the lives of others. Plus, who knew that Franklin almost made a living as a swimming instructor?

  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, by James Weldon Johnson, a polymath author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, civil rights activist, and key figure in the history of the NAACP. Johnson’s book is actually a fictional account of a man of biracial heritage of the late 1800s and early 1900s who describes his experiences as the son of an African-American woman and a wealthy white aristocrat.  The astonishing musical gifts of the “Ex-Colored Man” (Johnson never supplies a name) are subverted by his horrifying experience in witnessing a lynching. This is a moving roman à clef that will haunt you.


While we were in Norway, we became aware of one of Norway’s most popular exports: Kahoot! It’s a game-based learning and trivia platform used in schools and other educational institutions as well as businesses. Kahoot’s learning games, “kahoots,” (natch) are multiple-choice quizzes that can be accessed via web browser. Kahoots can be used for review, for formative assessment, or as a break from traditional classroom activities.

As Wikipedia notes: “Kahoot was designed for social learning, with learners gathered around a common screen such as an interactive whiteboard, projector or a computer monitor. The site can also be used through screen-sharing tools such as Skype or Google Hangouts. The game design is such that the players are required to frequently look up from their devices. The gameplay is simple; all players use a device to answer questions created by a teacher, business leader, or other person. These questions can be changed to award points. Points then show up on the leaderboard after each question.” It’s clear why Kahoot! is so insanely popular with educators and students alike, with well over 50 million users.

Class Central’s Latest Update

Dhawal Shah, founder of Class Central, is one of our favorite people in the MOOC-making world.  Catch up on his latest escapades here. (You’ll see Barb and her hubby Phil with Dhawal and some of the great Class Central–and Learning How to Learn–team!)

How to Make a Comic Book: A Review of the Course

Here is a wonderful review by Pat Bowden on Coursera’s MOOC on making comic books.  Kudos to Pat for a great review, and to Patrick Yurick and Coursera for creating the course–just the kind of seemingly off-beat but deeply useful course that MOOCs are perfect for.

The Diversity Delusion

As we’ve mentioned previously, we’re proponents of diversity, but at the same time, we are well aware that diversity today seems to be devolving to a quasi-religion that is harmful for education, with diversity chiefs becoming the new political commissars of our time. (We’re very familiar with the “right think” of political commissars from our prior work with the Soviets.)  This article by George Leef explores the phenomenon by describing New York Times best-selling author Heather McDonald’s book The Diversity Delusion. In a related vein, see Cass Sunstein’s wonderful Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide, which describes how thoughtful, rational people can find themselves going to harmful excess when they surround themselves only with like-minded people.

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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