Fast Language Learning

20th May 2021

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

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