Tuesday, January 31, 2012

One Trick To Learning

Dr. Paul Pimsleur's approach to learning languages makes an astonishing claim. Learn a language in 10 days! Obviously, few on the planet could learn a language in 10 days, but many, I suppose, could learn to communicate basic concepts in another language in 10 days - this is essentially the cornerstone and success of immersion programs. 

Many people have traveled abroad to participate in immersion programs that in 2-weeks or 4-weeks time jumpstarted 4-years of high school Spanish, French or German that failed to get them speaking the language. 

It is with this result in mind - basic communication - that I am going to order Pimsleur's language course to see if his claim is accurate. Only, I'm not going to test it out on myself. I'm going to test it out on my son. 

We moved to the states when he was a toddler. When he entered Kindergarten, he looked up at his teacher with those big bright eyes of his and said, "I speak English, no."  

He had to work diligently to learn and master English. So diligently that we literally had to stop speaking Spanish with him to give him every advantage to master the language. 

Today, he is a fluent English speaker. Living in Paris, he began learning French much like my daughter learned English, using the traditional method. However, his French advanced more quickly than ours because of his age and due to the fact that we were living in Paris (i.e., immersion). 

My daughter and I speak Spanish between ourselves. She was 2 1/2 years older than her brother when we moved to the states. While I speak both languages fluently, I had only taught her Spanish up until she was 4 years old. Consequently, because English was not her "mother tongue", we ended up approaching learning the language as if it were foreign, utilizing the traditional approach to learning languages. Subject, verb, verb conjugation, pronouns, adjectives - these all build a coherent whole but it's a lot to dump into your brain at once without the advent of experience to connect language to emotion. 

(The temporal lobe is one of the four major divisions of the cerebral cortex. It regulates memory, emotions, hearing, language, and learning. The capacity for declarative memory takes awhile to develop, "this is why it's rare to remember experiences from before the age of 3 or so.")

Essentially, the issue in our household is that my daughter's mother tongue, shared with me, is Spanish. My son's mother tongue, reestablished with me, is English. How do I bridge the gap? 

We have spent the last 4-years learning French. We moved to Paris without speaking French. The kids were enrolled in a private International school for English speakers. They "studied" French as a foreign language. We learned more French going to the bakery and the butcher than we did writing out verb charts and making vocabulary flashcards. 

Today, we're preparing to enter intermediate French. I can tell you, it's been a lot to master and none of us can communicate as fluently as we'd like. Still, we are applying basic immersion techniques. For example, when we go shopping, we speak amongst ourselves in French. In Paris, we went to the grocery store every day given that we did not have a lot of space in our apartment to store food. Also, it was easy to walk down the street and have fresh food available from nearly every world cuisine. It was treat to go choose our daily meal. This experience we repeat wherever we're living, and shopping is now our own little version of immersion. 

From experience, I know you can immerse yourself in a new culture without mastering the language. If you have family members and other people who can and will communicate with you in your own language, you don't force yourself to learn the new one. This has more to do with human behavior than it does with learning. 

This is similar to the issue we have at home. Since my son and I have reestablished our mode of communication in English, it feels "awkward" to speak in Spanish. As such, relearning Spanish is boring because we're taking the traditional approach. 

So, that's it. I'm going to order the program and 10-days after it arrives, I'll report back and let you know what happened! 

Out of probability, actualities manifest...

What's the matter with the quantum field? Who knows, but what I can tell you is that listening to Dr. Fred Alan Wolf is listening to what passion unleashed on a subject of interest can sound like. He covers a broad range of highly complex subjects just to drive home a point that leads to another point that leads to another point that leads to a question that leads to a thought that leads to an inference that leads to a judgement that leads to another question and so on and so on and so on. 

Irrespective the subject, what parent wouldn't take delight in their child for displaying such passion for learning, such passion for sharing, and such obvious delight in their thoughts? 

In Fred Wolf's book, "Dr. Quantum's Little Book of Big Ideas", he states: "Asking yourself the deeper questions opens up new ways of being in the world. It brings in a breath of fresh air. It makes life more joyful. The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery." 

This is my children's favorite Dr. Quantum video! 

PS: It's my favorite, too! 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reward-Driven Learning

Neuroimaging and brain-mapping research have found correlations between many AD/HD subjects and a lower quantity of neurotransmitters - dopamine and norepinepherine are of most importance with respect to learning. 

We've all heard the saying, "I'm bored." 

Psychologists turned this around on us in reverse psychology. Relying on the psychological phenomenon of reactance, in which people have a negative emotional response in reaction to being persuaded, and thus chooses an option that is opposite against what is advocated, you can persuade a person to rectify the experience of being bored by encouraging them to action by attacking their personhood. For example, "Only boring people get bored." 

This statement shifts the responsibility to the individual whereby a person will create a diversion from their boredom and reengage their minds toward action because they do not want to be called "boring". You can call people many things, but "boring" seems to be the most personally offensive. 

Boredom, in to preexisting chemical imbalances, can lead to AD/HD-type symptoms because dopamine responds to reward-driven learning. In the absence of reward-driven learning, the brain does not produce enough dopamine - the result is a lower quantity and complexity of interconnecting brain cell networks (i.e., it's difficult to make connections). 

When you bore a child or an adult to death, the brain does not produce as much dopamine. Furthermore, norepinepherine levels decrease, and as a stress hormone, norepinephrine affects the amygdala, where attention and responses are controlled. As such, attention levels drop and response levels diminish. 

Add a dash of stress (e.g., if you do not master and regurgitate the large amount of information we have amassed for you onto our algorithmic assessments designed for one type of factory-processing intelligence (because we didn't have enough teachers in the early 1900s we needed to process kids through a system), we will drop your grades, which will result in an avalanche of problems for which you may be punished at home, while in society we will punish you by not allowing you to stay in our system, a system that will give you a job so you can survive in the world and support yourself and have a happy life)...

The systems we created are not working (we realize that, but we do not have an answer), but please, bear with us and follow our system anyhow because it is still your best bet to get a job in a company that may or may not exist depending on how the economy goes over the next decade. 

By the way, we're calling it "The lost decade
Sorry about that...
We are officially working on the problem

Still, don't think about what's happening in the world, just do what we say and study these books, take these assessment tests, which no one, even us who design the tests cannot stomach, and do your best

The result

Epinephrine (adrenaline) is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is released at periods of high stress (situations like having your entire future presented to you as being in jeopardy if you fail at a pre-defined task). Norepinephrine is believed to play a role in AD/HD as well as depression and hypertension

Basically boredom not only enhances AD/HD-type symptoms, but it can lead to a number of other adverse conditions. 


When a child is engaged with a reward-driven learning approach, norepinephrine is synthesized from dopamine and is then released into the blood as a hormone. When noadrenergic neurons in the brain form a neurotransmitter, and when that is activated, large areas of the brain respond and the result is increased alertness and arousal, which influences the reward system

Our brains reward system regulates and controls behavior by inducting pleasurable effects. This neurological system ignites reinforcement in the brain, which is the process of strengthening a directly measurable dimension of behavior. Essentially, reinforcement strengthens our responses. When we strengthen our responses, the continued possession of them leads to retention. 

Essentially, a reward-driven learning system would increase the brain's ability to effect the rate of probabilistic shifts in predictive cueing and enhance subsequent learning. 

Irregardless of whether frontal lobes, limbic system, and reticular activating system (RAS) are below normal activity levels, an increase in reward-driven learning would increase stimulation to these centers of the brain and result in increased attention, learning, and memory recall = happiness


Reward-Driven Learning is Personal 
Mastery is Personal 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Environmental Education

Environmental issues and their social implications should be presented to children as a core component of their educational curricula given the climate change impacts we are seeing on a global scale. 

While it is important not to frighten and alarm children, this knowledge helps them become aware of fundamental preservationist principles that should be adopted early in life. Adhering to these principles should be a core value of global citizenry. 

Over the next 100 years: 
  • 0.8ºC - change in temperature would result in
    • Heatwaves
    • Oceans warming up
    • Arctic icecaps melting
    • Sea levels rising
  • 1ºC - change in temperature would result in
    • Rare species becoming extinct
    • Coral reefs will be destroyed
    • Island nations will sink
  • 2ºC - change in temperature would result in
    • Greenland melts
    • Polar Bears go extinct
    • Water supply affected
  • 3ºC - change in temperature would result in
    • Environmental refugees being displaced - seeking refuge
    • Food shortages will be on the rise in first world nations
    • The Amazon will collapse
  • 4ºC - change in temperature would result in
    • Millions of refugees now displaced
    • 1/3 of Bangladesh will be under water
    • Permafrost will melt - gases will be released into the atmosphere
  • 5ºC - change in temperature would result in
    • Most of the world would be uninhabitable 
    • Tsunamis would be rampant 
    • The Earth would be hotter than it has been in 55 million years
    • We'd see mass extinction on a global scale

The economics of these changes would result in a minimum of a global GDP lowering by 20%, and that's a conservative figure. Essentially, the results of global warming would be worse than the following historical cocktail: 
  • War + Famine + Plague + Global Nuclear War
The way I see it, conservation strategies should be a core subject that today's global student should be taught in order to successfully address the pressing needs of our world going forward. 

Emotional Intelligence in Formative Education

Daniel Goleman stated that "The common thread of raising the level of social and emotional competence in children should be part of their regular education."  

Numerous neuroscientific studies indicate that children would benefit from being taught a core of emotional and social competences, such as impulse control, managing anger, and finding creative solutions to social predicaments. In terms of citizenship, emotional intelligence is perhaps the most important of all the intelligences, whereas purely academic intelligences, in contrast, do not always guarantee success. 

Boston opened its first public school in 1821, however, it wasn't until the 1840s that schools began to take on their present-day form. Prior to this, schools were mostly private and unorganized. Literacy rates in Colonial America were higher than in the rest of the world, given the strong emphasis on biblical readings. However, creative freedom was perceived as behavior that would eventually lead to making ethically wrong decisions. As such, processes, rules, and standards were devised. Essentially, education grew out of the colonial worldview of what a child's pending civic role would be in society.

McGuffey's Original 1879 Readers

For a child in today's society, it would seem that "everything is riding" on outdated standards that are contradictory to how the brain naturally learns and what skills children (and adults) need in today's highly communicative global community. 

Naturally, contradictions are arising. In this respect, teachers have their hands tied as they lack the resources and time to create multiple entry points for students with diverse learning styles, which would evoke positive emotional responses from children, enabling affective filters to open access to the brain's processing centers. 

In the meantime educational reform synthesizes with holistic, competency-based, emotionally intelligent educational strategies, parents and private institutions can choose to offer children content that is personally meaningful, which would result in higher levels of cognitive processing taking place. Even though we were previously taught that this creative freedom would not benefit our children in society, today's high-tech world is proving that it's time to revitalize the learning environment based on what our present technological trajectory offers.

A is for Apple! 

What Motivates Learning

Learning is the acquisition of knowledge through experience, practice, or study, but what motivates people to learn? According to Dan Pink what motivates people is thinking. 

Autonomy, as Dan states, is the desire to be self-directed. When people are self-directed, they are engaged. When they are told what to do, they merely comply. You see this in education. If a child is given more freedom to explore, they amaze us. 

When my children were 9 and 12-years old they liked the television show iCarly. Over Christmas break, they told me that they wanted to make their own television show, so I told them to go up to their library and come up with an idea. 

After my spinal cord injury in 2005, we learned a lot about neuroscience as a family, so they decided to create something on the brain. Before I knew it, they had built a website and came up with a program to teach other kids about the brain. We later filed for NeuroKids Foundation (they came up with the name and designed the logo). 

Their adventures in neuroscience were many: newspaper articles, television appearances, appearances on Radio Disney, and interviews with scientists around the world. It just goes to show, give kids some autonomy and they'll amaze you. 

At this time, they began questioning the origins of genius and whether or not it could be developed in the brain. In Susan Polgar's case, it would seem that genius can be cultivated. If there is an element of genius in every human brain, irrespective of what subject matter that genius is unleashed upon, it can come out under individually tailored (according to strengths) or self-directed learning activities. 

My children asked me for the opportunity to explore this concept.

I said yes...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Magical Realm of Learning

Our learning environment should not be limited to a classroom with four walls, where our days are spent stuffing as much information into our brains as possible, only to base our entire academic success on our ability to regurgitate it back up on a bubble test. This type of assembly line education might have helped to stabilize the population boom during post-industrial era, but it is outdated in a world where knowledge is widely accessible and technology is advancing exponentially

Today, schools like MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Stanford offer a free, online learning initiatives, an early trend toward where the world is heading: Unlocking knowledge in what will eventually become a Global, Open-Source Learning Initiative. 

In the neuroscience community, a deeper understanding of brain-compatible teaching strategies have emerged that can increase authentic, long-term learning, yet teachers are still following formulas in pursuit of higher test scores. These test scores do not measure intelligence nor are they in alignment with our present technological and global trajectories toward cooperative learning. 

The only way that diverse learning styles and intelligences can be respected is to allow for a competency-based curricula. 

Academic success has never been commensurate with an individual's level of intelligence, which, according to Howard Gardner, is made up of distinct learning proficiencies that can work individually or together. 

To better serve the changing learning dynamics of our global population, we need to step out of the more traditional verbal-linguistic comfort zones of direct lectures and include more visual-spatial and bodily-kinesthetic instruction, as well as holistic learning principles that are geared toward developing multiple intelligences rather than stifling them in outdated, unimaginative, highly pedantic concerns for book learning and formal rules. 

Holistic Competency Learning

Competency is about being able to do things. It's not about knowing things. It's about understanding ourselves, our needs, and our place in the world - and being in harmony with all three. Competency is a holistic learning style that eventually leads to mastery. 

Mastery arises when you ignite an individual's love of learning. When this happens, people naturally desire to contribute to a subject - and should be allowed to do so. 

Throughout history, the most significant contributions to our world have come from people who were passionate about understanding something or passionate about helping someone else. In this respect, mastery must be linked to selfless concern for the well-being of others. Despite the theories that would suggest that we live in a world of mere survivalists, we also hold within us a behavior whereby we desire to help others, even at our own expense. 

The Dalai Lama also said, 
"My religion is very simple; Kindness is my religion." 

There are other, more natural methods that we can utilize to educate a child and ourselves, and while stepping away from any established system requires an element of bravery, it is also an exciting feeling to think that if we spend more time focusing on what we love rather than what we fear, that we can expand our learning into areas that will bring about a deeper appreciation for this experience that we call life. 

While traditional rote memorization has its place in keeping the brain fit and healthy, it is not a holistic learning style because it is not balanced. Accordingly, traditional learning methods can never be entirely be synthesized. That puts our global society at a disadvantage that could be minimized by holistic educational approaches and true educational reform. 

When we built our present-day, post-industrial educational school model, we knew less about the world than we do today. Yet, despite our rapid growth and learning, we do not always allow for new thoughts because genuine thinking frightens a lot of people - in particular, the people who feel they have the most to lose if they are not controlling others. 

I can't help but believe that if others knew they had more options with respect to educating their children, that many families who are disenchanted with traditional educational models would "jump ship" in a heartbeat in favor of what "feels right" for their families. 

Our family has "jumped ship" - as an advocate of open-source sharing, I've decided to publish my thoughts and our journey. In this way, I hope our family, while navigating this new journey, can still make a positive difference in the lives of others.

KCAASE Genius Test for Indigo Children

For Indigo Children

  1. Watch the 20-minute Ted Talk video with Sir Ken Robinson. 
  2. Answer the following questions in each section of the KCAASE Genius Test. You do not need to list everything you've ever thought of or learned. Merely list the things that are most important to you. 

Special Instructions:

In other words, pretend that you have decided to live forever and have made the decision to transfer your consciousness into a symbiotic mechanism. However, in doing so, you only have enough space for your best thoughts. Which thoughts and what knowledge would you want to take with you? 

Dig deep and find the highest level of human understanding within yourself. 

Have fuN! 


  • What do I know? 
  • What do I remember? 


  • What can I describe in my own words? 
  • What things can I explain? 
  • What do these things tell me about other things? 


  • How could I use best my knowledge? 
  • Where else is my knowledge needed? 
  • How would I demonstrate that my knowledge was needed? 


  • What caused everything I've ever thought of or witnessed to happen? 
  • What are the benefits and disadvantages to things I've recognized as true? 
  • How is everything I've ever "seen" (thought of, thought, heard of, heard, conceived of, conceived, imagined, dreamed, daydreamed about, wondered, or wondered about) the same? 


  • How might I tackle any problem that could come my way? 
  • What skills can I use to solve problems? 
  • How could I improve my own thinking and skills? 
  • After designing my approach to living, how can I best apply it? 


  • Am I happy?
  • Do I like myself? 
  • Do I treat others with respect and kindness? 
  • Do I see life for its potential despite preconceived or temporary limitations? 
  • Am I happy to be where I am? 
  • Am I happy to merely exist? 
  • Am I grateful that I do (exist)? 
  • Do I enjoy living? 
The details to the questions in the Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, and Synthesis of knowledge are subjective

If you answered the questions in the first four sections of the KCAASE Genius Test, you passed


If you can answer "Yes" to all of the questions in the Evaluation Section of the KCAASE Genius Test, then you are an Indigo Genius


Limitations of this test: 

Genius can not be fully defined because it cannot be limited to any known expression (academic, artistic, or physical). Genius is the ability to tap into the unknown and comfortably synthesize it with what is perceived or intuited. This results in an increased frequency, which positively affects human emotions and the experience of described as "knowing." 

The term "Indigo Child" is a label given to children who possess special, unusual or supernatural traits or advanced humanistic abilities. Many of these children possess advanced levels of cognitive processing, which according to the theory of evolution, would be the next stage in human evolution and learning. 

The KCAASE Genius Test for Indigo Children can help you determine if you have an Indigo Genius in your life. It can also help you determine anyone's present level of perceived happiness. If you believe that life is too short to be unhappy, then you're not the only one. In this case, this test will probably affect you more profoundly. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sample Lesson Plan

January 25, 2012 

Today, we explored historical events by connecting them to today's date (in history) and then looked at one prominent news story prior to watching a video by Stephen Hawking. The kids worked on the assignments given and ended the day by reading their favorite novels. 

Today in History:
    • Robert Burns, Scottish poet, b. 1759 
      • Discussion: We discussed Robert Burns, a little about him, and then read some of his poetry. 
      • Assignment: 
        • Write a short biography of Robert Burns, include your favorite poem and what it means to you. 

    • Transcontinental Telephone Svs. est. 1951
      • Discussion: We discussed what we knew about Alexander Graham Bell and then watched a student report video on his life on YouTube.
      • Assignment: Answer the following questions: 
        1. How did Alexander Graham Bell's telephone change the world? 
        2. If you were going to invent something, what would it be and why? 
        3. What systems do we need to support inventors and entrepreneurs in our society? 

    • King Henry VIII secretly wed Ann Boleyn - 1533
      • Discussion: We reviewed what we learned on King Henry VIII from prior history units and from our travels in England. We then watched the documentary, The Private Life of King Henry VIII
      • Assignment:
        • List and describe all of King Henry VIII's wives 

    • World's largest diamond unearthed (Star of Africa / Cullinan diamond)
      • Discussion: After reading the news story, we talked about our visit to the Diamond Museum in Antwerp. 
      • Assignment: 
        • Draw a picture of the Cullinan I, II, and III (describe each) 
World News

Obama's State of the Union Address
      • Discussion topics: 
        • Obama's campaign strategy 
        • Job claims (e.g., 4 million jobs vs. 3.378 million) 
        • DJIA down 20% 2007 - 2009
        • Housing bubble
        • NINJA Loans (No income, No job, (No) assets)
        • What is a Bear Market? 
        • Ninja + Occupy = X (Solve for "X")
        • 1984 George Orwell
      • Assignment: 
        • After conducting your own research on these topics, create a project to convey your answers to the below questions: 
          1. How did the economy recover after the Great Depression? (easy)
          2. How could our present-day level of technology lead to and ultimately support an Orwellian-type state? (medium)
          3. Could the Occupy Movement lead to anarchy? (medium-difficult)
          4. If yes, what would happen to the world's resources? (difficult)
Popular Science Video 

During lunch, we generally watch documentaries and educational videos. On today's calendar was "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking", which fascinated the kids. They watched the segment on Aliens and asked to continue with Time Travel this evening. 

This lesson plan is easily adaptable, and provides varying levels of challenging goals and structure for student learning needs. It included a variety of presentation formats (video, Internet research, cross-curricular discussions) and accommodated both of my children (ages 13 & 16). 

The theme was to investigate historical events by associating them with today's date. The news stories provided multiple points of entry for diverse intelligences and interests; both were allowed to conduct their own investigation and present their findings. 

The objective for today's lessons were to: 

  • Compare and contrast historical similarities and differences 
  • Use discovery science and research to investigate how technological development affects our society 
  • Correlate geography, environment, and time periods 
  • Conduct research of greater depth than has been done in previous learning environments. 

    Going forward, I will give them more choice in selecting subtopics to investigate within larger units.