In A Sunburned Country

16th May 2019

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Month

In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. In years past, Barb has occasionally looked with concern at her husband as he would suddenly double over with a paroxysm of—well, she wasn’t sure what, but it didn’t seem healthy.  Gradually she came to learn that these paroxysms came about whenever her husband Phil was reading a Bill Bryson book. The laughter came so hard and heavy that he sometimes couldn’t breathe! Bryson is a master of doubling or tripling up on his humor. A story is funny at first. But then Bryson circles around later to hit it again from an unexpected angle. And then again.  The result is comedic depth that will swallow you whole.

Who could have ever guessed that a book about both the history and travel related to a country could be so funny? If there were a Nobel Prize for comedic travel-writing, Bryson would take the honor.  If you want to find a way to look in an upbeat way at the weird and wacky things that can happen during travel—or in life itself—you can do no better than to read Bill Bryson. This has just become our favorite travel and outlook-on-life book. Barb can assure you (despite the fact that she’s in Australia now), that you don’t actually need to be traveling to Australia to enjoy this great comedic, travel, and life classic.

Can People Learn Subjects Like How to Read As Adults?

This important paper—“Illiterate to literate: behavioural and cerebral changes induced by reading acquisition,” by Stanislas Dehaene and his colleagues, describes the changes in the brain that occur as a person learns to read.  Interestingly, even if a person learns to read as an adult, most of the same basic changes in the brain are observed, although there is some fascinating reorganization taking place in those who learn to read while they’re younger that doesn’t occur to the same degree in those who learn to read when they’re older.

How A Dance Book Relates to Online Learning

We can’t resist Pat Bowden’s (of the great blog Online Learning Success) review of the book Frou Frou to Fruition. Key grafs: “You don’t need to be a dancer to find this book useful. Written in a flowing, readable style, Frou Frou to Fruition incorporates a surprising amount of transferrable information. Although aimed at people involved in the dance industry, there are tips relevant to anyone trying to make a career as a performer, a teacher or a business owner. Kym Degenhart has done all three…

“Based on Kym’s own experiences as a dancer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, and performing for other shows in various countries, the early chapters can help you define your own life goals, then set out to achieve them. Useful ways to deal with setbacks (unsuccessful auditions in this context) and how to cope with life in a foreign land are presented alongside Kym’s checklist for audition preparation. Many of these techniques can also help in other contexts. Think job interview instead of audition and you are on the right track.”

Abundance of information narrows our collective attention span

As this article notes: “The negative effects of social media and a hectic news cycle on our attention span has been an on-going discussion in recent years—but there’s been a lack of empirical data supporting claims of a ‘social acceleration’. A new study in Nature Communications finds that our collective attention span is indeed narrowing, and that this effect occurs – not only on social media – but also across diverse domains including books, web searches, movie popularity, and more.” The graph at the beginning of the article says it all.

Learning by Teaching

This article re-emphasizes the value of learning through teaching.  But of course, we already knew that from the research we cited several weeks ago that revealed the value of teaching appears to involve its use of retrieval practice. 🙂 [Hat tip: Tom Pinit.]

Playful Learning

This article from the Brookings Institution evaluates “playful learning” approaches around the world.  There’s a multitude of ideas here, but see the key graf: “Though the methods of evaluation used may vary, it is crucial that the intervention assessed is related to the stated objectives, rather than simply providing information on activities undertaken. Few playful learning innovations in the catalog have made their evaluation results and data publicly available—just 202 (11 percent) have publicly available data on their external evaluations… In addition, only 633 (33 percent) [of] innovations have shared data on cost or cost-effectiveness. Making evaluation and cost-effectiveness data widely available is a crucial step in the formation of a knowledge base on innovations in education and will provide immense support to interventions seeking to scale up their operations. [Hat tip Enrique Planells.]

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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