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Posts Tagged ‘learning

“Different languages, the same thoughts; servant to thoughts and their masters”*…

 

Every year, the US Census Bureau releases data on the languages spoken in American homes. Usually it groups the languages in 39 major categories. Now it has released much more detailed figures, which show that Americans speak not 39, but more than 320 distinct languages.

The bureau collected the data from 2009 to 2013 as part of the American Community Survey, which asks Americans all kinds of questions to create highly granular estimates on various demographic indicators. The new data estimate that more than 60 million Americans speak a language other than English at home…

Learn more– and see the breakdown– at “All 300-plus languages spoken in American homes, and the number of people who speak them.”

* Dejan Stojanovic, The Sun Watches the Sun

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As we choose our words, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that Sesame Street premiered on public television in the U.S.  In 2008, it was estimated that 77 million Americans had watched the series as children.  By its 40th anniversary in 2009, Sesame Street was broadcast in over 120 countries, and 20 international versions had been produced. And as of 2014, Sesame Street has won 159 Emmy Awards and 8 Grammy Awards—more than any other children’s show.  The show, which was itself based on mountainous research,  has been the subject of, literally, thousands of studies on its effectiveness as a learning vehicle for children; it has been a keystone of English (and native) language learning in the U.S. and around the world.

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Written by LW

November 10, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”*…

 

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The wonders of modern millinery…

Caffeine-fueled cram sessions are routine occurrences on any college campus. But what if there was a better, safer way to learn new or difficult material more quickly? What if “thinking caps” were real?

In a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Vanderbilt psychologists Robert Reinhart, a Ph.D. candidate, and Geoffrey Woodman, assistant professor of psychology, show that it is possible to selectively manipulate our ability to learn through the application of a mild electrical current to the brain, and that this effect can be enhanced or depressed depending on the direction of the current…

The success rate is far better than that observed in studies of pharmaceuticals or other types of psychological therapy,” said Woodman. The researchers found that the effects of a 20-minute stimulation did transfer to other tasks and lasted about five hours.

The implications of the findings extend beyond the potential to improve learning. It may also have clinical benefits in the treatment of conditions like schizophrenia and ADHD, which are associated with performance-monitoring deficits.

Read more at “Electric ‘thinking cap’ controls learning speed” in ScienceBlog.

* Shakespeare, Hamlet Act II, Scene 2

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As we crank up our crania, we might recall that it was on this date in 1747 that Benjamin Franklin sent a thank you note to British scientist Peter Collinson:

 Your kind present of an electric tube, with directions for using it, has put several of us on making electrical experiments, in which we have observed some particular phenomena that we look upon to be new. I was never before engaged in any study that so totally engrossed my attention and time.

As the Franklin Tercentenary notes:

The study of electricity was the most spectacular and fashionable branch of Enlightenment natural philosophy. Franklin was immediately hooked when the Library Company’s British agent, Peter Collinson, sent him a glass tube used to generate static electricity. Franklin taught himself to perform basic electrical “tricks” with it and was soon immersed in trying to understand how this surprising phenomenon worked.

Through his electrical investigations, Franklin developed important new theories, complete with new terms and instruments to describe and demonstrate them. As usual, his concern centered on developing useful applications for his discoveries: the result was a lightning protection system that is still in use today, notably on St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Franklin’s experiments were known all over Europe, initially through his personal correspondence and then through publications initiated by colleagues abroad. Later, Franklin’s international fame as a scientist would give him the status and political access to succeed as America’s premier diplomat.

Franklin at work on his most famous experiment

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“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”…

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Mark Twain’s quip has found an altogether modern kind of expression on the web, where entrepreneurs and enthusiasts have expanded from the how-to space (c.f. Instructables, …for Dummies, et al.) to arenas that were until recently the undisputed province of the traditional educational establishment. Two of your correspondent’s favorites:

Khan Academy is–literally– the brainchild of Salmon Khan, a 33 year-old who has no PhD and has never taught.  Khan quit his job as a financial analyst and began to produce short simple videos on the sorts of topics covered in advanced high school and college classes.  As The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, Khan has posted over 1400 videos on YouTube, covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, biology and finance.

Squashed Philosophy is the work of Glyn Hughes:  “The books which defined the way we think now.
Their own ideas, in their own words, neatly honed into little half-hour or so reads”…  and so they marvelously are.

(TotH to reader PR for the CHE reference.)

As we resolve to improve ourselves, we might recall that today is the birthday of scholar and critic Adrien Baillet; he was born on this date in 1649.  While Baillet was on the faculty at the college of Beauvais, served as librarian to François-Chrétien de Lamoignon,  and was advocate-general to the Parlement de Paris, he is best remembered as the biographer of René Descartes.

Adrien Baillet

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