The Bilingual Brain

10th July 2020

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

The Bilingual Brain, by Albert Costa.  We’re suckers for books on bilingualism, and this recent book, by multilingual Albert Costa, (who is in real life a leading researcher on bilingualism), really delivers the goods on what we know from neuroscience.  Unlike many authors who are in love with their discipline, Costa is an honest broker—he thoughtfully describes areas where research may be reflecting a bit of wishful thinking about the benefits of bilingualism. But he also has intriguing perspectives on how, for example, making decisions while speaking a foreign language can result in a more rational decision. As Costa notes: “I realized that we had discovered something interesting when I was explaining these results to my mother and son over lunch and they both said at the same time: ‘No way!’ If people who were more than fifty years apart in age were surprised by the same phenomenon, it was because they could not believe that their moral judgements, what most identified them as individuals, could be affected by such an insignificant thing as the language in which a moral dilemma is presented. And believe me, my stories almost always bore them.” If you’re trying to learn a new language, this book will give you fascinating insights into how your brain will change. Count us now as Costa fans! Also good for audio.

Thinking about Transfer in Education

We sometimes hear from teachers that the ultimate goal of their teaching is that students be able to easily transfer their understanding of one topic to other, more distant topics. This interesting post by Rob McEntarffer, Assessment/Evaluation Specialist, Lincoln Public Schools, explains why transfer is not as simple as you might think. This contrasting article involves quite a bit of wishful thinking about teaching transfer, but who knows what the future will bring.

MOOC of the Week

Amongst the best of MOOCs currently available on online learning is Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology, from the University of London. It’s intended for people who are new to e-learning, but it is also heavily activity oriented, a review of classical features of instructional technology, but updated and expanded. Week One allows you to learn about LMS’s and select one which you will use to create a practice course. You’ll learn about a wide range of instructional design tools, such as LMS, Padlet, social media, and various presentation design programs such as Piktochart.   Lots of hands-on interaction and practice. Great “how to” instructions. And it’s only 3 weeks long! [Thanks to the ever-perceptive Scott Mathews, Lead Mentor Mindshift]

From the Annals of Silly Studies on Why Online Teaching Is Not As Good As Face-to-Face

Every once in a while, a research article is published that’s just plain questionable. Such a study is  Arias, J. J., et al. “Online vs. face-to-face: A comparison of student outcomes with random assignment.” e-Journal of Business Education & Scholarship of Teaching 12, no. 2 (2018): 1-23. This study concludes that “Students in the face-to-face section have statistically significantly higher exam scores and statistically significantly greater improvement on the post-test instructor questions.”

The problem with the study is that the online version of the course consisted primarily of a bunch of Word documents stuck online.  This is a bad online class.  It’s a little like comparing a teacher who is enclosed in a large cardboard box with a teacher who is able to teach in normal face-to-face fashion. No surprise—the face-to-face teacher is better! The authors are to be commended for controlling for sample selection, but without having courses of comparable quality, the results are of little use.

The Role of Fruits, Nuts, and Vegetables in Maintaining Cognitive Health

As this worthwhile paper from Experimental Gerontology notes, “Many fruits, nuts, and vegetables are neuroprotective yet widely under-consumed. Intake of these foods is positively associated with cognitive ability. Dietary supplementation with these foods can improve cognitive ability. Increasing fruit, nut, and vegetable intake may forestall cognitive dysfunction.”  Yes, food matters when it comes to cognition!

For The First Time, Scientists Have Captured Video of Brains Clearing Out Dead Neurons

If you look at the video on the lower part of the article by David Nield in Science Alert, it’s pretty cool. “‘This is the first time the [clearing out of dead neurons] process has ever been seen in a live mammalian brain,’ says neurologist Jaime Grutzendler from the Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.

“Further down the line, these findings might even inform treatments for age-related brain decline and neurological disorders – once we know more about how brain clean-up is supposed to work, scientists can better diagnose what happens when something goes wrong.” [Hat tip: Victoria S.]

Thank you!

(Barb here) I want to thank the many Learning How to Learners helped Michael Gratowski last week.  Caring people really can make a difference—my niece Meg and her husband Michael are overwhelmed by your generosity. Michael is about to start treatment—fingers crossed! 

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