Think Like a Rocket Scientist

17th April 2020

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Need PPE Support for Your Hospital?

In response to last week’s call for PPE equipment for hospitals, LHTLer Rafael Mayer points us toward Frontline Heroes, a charity initiative to source PPE and donate to institutions in need in the US. It’s grass-roots and not meant to exist post crisis, but it is serving an urgent need. Incidentally, you can see Rafael’s daughter, Gabrielle Mayer, a doctor who is also on the front lines battling COVID, in a stirring interview here.

Book of the Month

Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life, by Ozan Varol. The book is finally out! Varol really was a rocket scientist—he served as a member of the operations team for NASA’s 2003 Mars Exploration Rover project; which sent two rovers to examine the Martian surface. But, in a tribute to his wide-ranging intellect, Varol is now tenured law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School. Think Like a Rocket Scientist is a wonderful book—a sort of vade mecum of critical thinking, whether in business, learning, or life. Varol has an unparalleled ability to weave together the brilliant thoughts of others into a coherent narrative that is greater than the sum of its parts.  A counterintuitive thinker, Varol often surprises: you’ll learn about how to act under conditions of uncertainty; how to think big, but carefully; how moving fast and breaking things doesn’t work well for rocket science or many other situations; how success can cause failure, and many other mental frameworks and strategies. Think Like a Rocket Scientist is a book to savor. 

As a special exclusive gift, Ozan is including two bonuses for ordering his book by April 21st. You’ll get (1) a pack of 10, three-minute, bite-sized videos with actionable insights from Think Like a Rocket Scientist that you can implement right away (among other things, you’ll learn the single principle Elon Musk used to revolutionize the aerospace industry and how you can use the same principle to revolutionize your life) and (2) a video training with a behind-the-scenes look at Ozan’s productivity system (you’ll learn how to defeat procrastination and get more done in less time). Just forward your receipt to and mention Cheery Friday.

Take Learning How to Learn for College Credit

Oakland University is offering ISE 1170 Learning How to Learn 100% online this summer for college credit (May 4 – June 24, 2020).  The course is based on Barb and Terry’s MOOCs Learning How to Learn and Mindshift, and their accompanying books. College students can register for ISE 1170 as an Oakland University guest student and earn 4 credits (please contact your College Academic Advisor to determine if the credits will count toward your degree). Contact Dr. Robert Van Til if you have questions about how to enroll.

iDoRecall Flashcard Program

This just in—iDoRecall, our favorite flashcard program, has just been awarded the rare “Digital Promise Research-Based Design Certification.” This means, among other things, that “Research about how people learn is core to the theoretical framework that drives product design and is evident throughout the product.” A big congratulations to a great flashcard program. (Check it out!)

Tanulj meg tanulni a Courseraval!

Yes, it’s Learning How to Learn in Hungarian. Check out the cool promo video!

Free Public Online Charter Schools

We’ve been intrigued to discover several major schooling institutions that specialize in providing online education, often free, for K-12 students. The first is called Connections Academy—it is free for those in the US, although you have to check for the specifics related to your state. An international companion school system is International Connections Academy.  Although not free for international students, this school system does offer relatively low cost, high quality education for those learning from abroad. In a similar vein, Agora Public Charter School at Home (K12 Online Schools), also offers free high quality online education for K-12 students.  

All of these institutions have years of online teaching experience. We should note that Connections Academy gets their materials and platform via Pearson, the publisher. Of all publishers worldwide, Pearson has impressed us as having the most visionary and high quality educational materials that take advantage of online advances. The quality and the economy of scale that an outstanding publisher like Pearson can provide can take learning, and online learning, to a whole new level. (This is probably one of the few times you won’t hear us grumping about textbook prices.)

Interestingly, we understand that the Governor of Pennsylvania has been trying to shut down cyber schools by mandating that students can only attend a cyber school within their own district—meaning that all the years of expertise developed by institutions like Connections Academy and Agora go to waste so as to keep schools from having to compete by potentially losing their students to other schools. This, of course, prevents parents from having choice.  

Worse yet, many online charter schools that were poised to move forward beautifully in the midst of the pandemic were forced to halt their usual teaching plans so as not to outdistance regular brick and mortar schools. This is a travesty. 

On a more positive note, no schooling system is perfect. But if you are a teacher looking to get away from spending your days disciplining students, you may wish to think about teaching at an online charter school. There are no physical fights to break up online, and unlike a face-to-face class, you can mute a miscreant with the click of a button.  In fact, many troubled students who struggle with brick and mortar schools find the online world to be much more conducive to allowing their inner lives to flourish—the bullying and nastiness that can be so harmful for some sensitive students are far more difficult to get away with online. Online charter schools provide a great, safe learning environment—far more so, in many cases, than do many brick and mortar schools.

Online cyber schools have also figured out how to teach younger children. An important element is that K-6 children generally need to have a “responsible adult” to help the children on the side. You may think “well then, that’s only for wealthier families with a stay-at-home parent.” But that’s not true at all. Many young online students, for example, from inner city Philadelphia, have an older sibling, grandparent, aunt, or uncle as their responsible adult. In fact, most parents, rich or poor, are deeply invested in their children’s education and are willing to go the extra mile to help them succeed. Families also have mentors paid for by the schools.

If you want to promote your child’s sense of mastery of their own learning journey, even while they receive a quality education, check out the online charter schools. 

Reaching Homeless Students

We believe one of the biggest learning challenges of this pandemic is how school districts can effectively reach out and teach their students who are homeless.  Does anyone from LHTL have experience in helping homeless students get online and share the advantages of online learning?  If so, please share your ideas in the discussion forum here.  (If the link doesn’t work, just go directly to the top of the general discussion forum of the course—update your session if necessary.)

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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