28th February 2019
Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!
Books of the Week
This week, we read two different books on how diet can improve your brain’s health.
- Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life, by Max Lugavere and Paul Grewal M.D. This is a well-researched and beautifully-written book that covers some of the same ground as other books we’ve reviewed regarding sleep, the microbiome, and fat. But it puts everything together in one “life healthy” package that also includes food. Well-produced extra virgin olive oil, incidentally, is considered of standout importance. (Hey, we knew also that from reading the outstanding Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.) Genius Foods is a “most sold” book of the week on Amazon.
- Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power, by Lisa Mosconi. Dr. Mosconi is the Director of the Women’s Brain Initiative and Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, where she also serves as an Associate Professor of Neuroscience in Neurology and Radiology. Mosconi’s book couldn’t be more different from Genius Foods—for one thing, grains are big for Mosconi, where avoiding grains is fundamental to Genius Foods. We got the sense that Brain Food was based on information cherry-picked to coincide with the way Mosconi was raised, rather than an impartial review of recent research literature. And sometimes her recommendations are based on rocky research ground: for example, she refers glowingly to the herb ashitaba without regard for the fact that in vivo research results have not been conducted, and royal jelly is touted notwithstanding the lack of research evidence. Mosconi’s frequent mentions of her website—a dozen repetitions of the URL throughout the book—became tiresome.
Barb’s Upcoming Talks in Azerbaijan, Spain, Italy, ASU-GSV in San Diego, and Kentucky
Barb will be in:
- Baku, Azerbaijan speaking for Yarat, with a 1 hour keynote on March 7th, and two half day workshops for students on March 8th and 9th. Here is the Facebook page where you can sign up, and here’s an article about the upcoming event. (Incidentally, Learning How to Learn is the only MOOC on Coursera we are aware of that has complete video subtitles in Azeri, thanks to Ali Gara and his team.)
- Valencia, Spain, March 11th for INTED, describing “How Neuroscience is Changing What We Know about Learning: Practical Insights for Instructors.” There is a 45 minute keynote and a 1 hour and 15 minute active workshop.
- Naples, Italy, March 13th at the University of Naples Federico II, with in-house discussions and presentations on MOOC-making.
- ASU GSV, San Diego, California, April 10th at 11:00 am for a “fireside chat” with Jeff Maggioncalda, the CEO of Coursera.
- Lexington Kentucky, University of Kentucky Economics Teaching Workshop, April 13.
Barb would love to meet you if you’re at any of these events—be sure to come up and say hello!
Class Central’s Best Online Courses of 2018
In case you missed it, Barb and Terry’s, and newcomer Greg Hammons’ new MOOC Learning How to Learn for Youth is in the Top 10 of Class Central’s list of all 2,300 MOOCs released in 2018—a special feat considering that it wasn’t even released until the end of November. Here also is an article about the course’s launch by Arizona State University—the #1 university in the US for technical innovation.
Teachers’ Notes to Accompany Learning How to Learn for Youth—Great Active Exercises!
You asked for it, and now you’ve got it! In the additional resources for each video in our MOOC Learning How to Learn for Youth, you will now find detailed teachers’ notes, which include summaries, deeper insights, and plenty of active exercises for you to do with your students in class. Enjoy!
The Devil’s in the Details—How Much Direct Instruction Is Too Much?
Our discussion above of the value of active exercises and group work might seem to violate the tenets of the important paper we’ve often cited: “Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching.” The devil, it seems, is in the details. Too little guidance can indeed pose a challenge to students. But on the other hand, unrelenting direct instruction is also harmful—there seems to be a limit to how much students can generally absorb before they need to take a micro-break and do a test run themselves with the materials. (These microbreaks are often where students discover they didn’t understand as much as they thought.) As cognitive developmental and evolutionary psychologist David Geary has concluded, “It is unlikely that teacher-directed, peer-assisted, or self- discovery alone will be the most effective way to learn secondary academic material” (p. 224), and that “only empirical studies will allow us to determine the best mix of methods for different academic domains and for different children”(p. 224). (“Secondary academic material” means material that humans have not done for evolutionarily lengthy periods of time. Speaking, for example is primary, while writing is secondary. See the abstract of Geary’s original paper on this concept here.)
Our readings have further led us to Chapter 9 of the book Evolutionary Perspectives on Child Development and Education, edited by David C. Geary and Daniel B. Berch. If you go to the Google books version, you can get a few excerpts of the chapter, including, perhaps most importantly, the magnificent graph on page 240. This graph develops a 3-dimensional way of visualizing the degree of direct instruction that might be optimal, given other important factors such as whether the subject-matter is, for example, more socially-oriented, or is evolutionarily novel (eg math or reading). It will be exciting to see the research unfold with the many educational researchers!
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
- Get the course recommended text, A Mind for Numbers!
- And Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens. Great ideas for parents, too!
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