Tag Archives: learning

Learn how to speak a new language in a few months – from Lifehacker

A condensed version of the article, if this interests you read the full article.

Lifehacker reader Gabriel Wyner was tasked with learning four languages in the past few years for his career as an opera singer, and in the process landed on “a pretty damn good method for language learning that you can do in limited amounts of spare time.” Here’s the four-step method that you can use.

 

Stage 1: Learn the correct pronunciation of the language.
Time: 1-2 weeks

Starting with pronunciation first does a few things—because I’m first and foremost learning how to hear that language’s sounds, my listening comprehension gets an immediate boost before I even start traditional language learning.

 

Stage 2: Vocabulary and grammar acquisition, no English allowed.
Time: About 3 months.

This stage takes advantage of a few valuable tricks: First, I’m using Anki, a wonderful, free flashcard program that runs on smartphones and every computer platform. Second, I use a modified version of Middlebury College’s famous language pledge—No English allowed! By skipping the English, I’m practicing thinking in the language directly, and not translating every time I try to think of a word. Third, I’m using frequency lists to guide my vocabulary acquisition. These lists show the most common words in a given language, and learning those words first will be the best use of your time—after 1000 words, you’ll know 70% of the words in any average text, and 2,000 words provides you with 80% text coverage.

 

Stage 3: Listening, writing and reading work.
Time: This stage overlaps quite a bit with stage 2 and 4. Once you’re comfortable reading or writing anything, usually a month or two into stage 2, you can start stage 3

Once I have a decent vocabulary and familiarity with grammar, I start writing essays, watching TV shows and reading books, and talking (at least to myself!) about the stuff I see and do.

 

Stage 4: Speech

At the point where I can more or less talk (haltingly, but without too many grammar or vocab holes) and write about most familiar things, I find some place to immerse in the language and speak all the time (literally).

 

// Photo – Spree2010

144 places to educate yourself online for free

The most extensive listing of free online education I have ever seen. Bookmarking for later.

12 dozen places to education yourself online for free

All education is self-education.  Period.  It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.  We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.

Broken down by subject and/or category, here are several top-notch self-education resources I have bookmarked online over the past few years.

  • Science/Health
  • Business/Money
  • History/World Culture
  • Law
  • Computer Science/Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • English/Communications
  • Foreign/Sign Languages
  • Multiple Subjects/Miscellaneous
  • Free Books/Reading Recommendations
  • Educational Mainstream Broadcast Media
  • Online Archives
  • Directories of Open Education

Click to start browsing

 

// Photo – Ed Yourdon

Enroll in free online in courses from top institutions – Princeton, Stanford, Michigan

Online educational marketplaces are on the rise, with tools like Udemy and Khan Academy allowing people of all ages to become an expert in any topic.

New company Coursera is targeting higher education by offering university-level courses from top institutions to students all over the world, all for free.

The company launched with $16 million in Series A funding and is announcing partnerships with four schools:

  • Princeton University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Michigan.

Coursera will offer over 30 courses from its partner schools across a variety of disciplines, including computer science, sociology, medicine, and math.

 

A selection of the classes:

 

Classes typically last for five to ten weeks, and during that time students commit to watching the lectures, and completing interactive quizzes and assignments, which are auto-graded or graded by peers. Upon completion, the student receives a statement of accomplishment, a letter from the professor, and a score, but the course doesn’t count for any actual credit with that specific institution. The site also features a Q&A forum where students can ask questions about the course material and get answers from fellow students.

via Betakit

 

Screenshot of Coursera offerings

iTunes University – free online education – is booming with 100s of millions of downloads

This month both Stanford and Open University reached 50 million downloads of their iTunes U content, a major milestone for online education.

Altogether, the service from Apple reached 700 million downloads in January 2012.

 

Stanford News:

In subjects ranging from human behavior to linguistics, Stanford lectures…have been downloaded a whopping 50 million times.

The milestone, reached March 14, comes nearly seven years after Stanford became the first university to offer public access to campus lectures, concerts and courses through iTunes U.

“It shows there is a huge appetite for high-quality educational content,” said Brent Izutsu, the senior program manager for Stanford on iTunes U. “And that will only grow as more people look online to supplement their education.”

The most popular offerings are in engineering, where students can learn to build an iOS app or study quantum physics under one of the fathers of string theory, Leonard Susskind.

 

The Open University:

Open University is the first in Europe to reach more than one million active subscriptions through the iTunes U app since it launched back on 19 January. The University’s 52 courses add to the University’s extensive material on iTunes U which has now seen more than 50 million international downloads, with over 40,000 new downloads each day.

Our most popular course on the iTunes U iPad app The New Entrepreneurs has over 100,000 active subscribers, with another six of our courses having over 50,000 subscribers each. Last week we released a new course Moons: An Introduction which incorporates the University’s first Multi-Touch iBook Moon Rocks: An Introduction to the Geology of the Moon, created using Apple’s iBooks Author.

 

Thx to Pando Daily

iPads for every kindergartener – early results show a positive trend

This is the nation’s first public school district to give every kindergartener an iPad. And the implementation was done very carefully, with the research component built in from the start, not added as an after-thought.

This fall, the district randomly selected 8 of its 16 kindergarten classes to receive iPads. There’s been ongoing professional development to help the teachers incorporate the devices into literacy instruction.

In December, iPads were rolled out to the rest of the classes. Assessments of all students’ literacy were made at the beginning of the year and again in December. The initial assessments and research has focused on literacy skills, but the researchers are also looking at how iPads might affect numeracy skills as well.

Of the assessments that were made, the results all trended positive, with students in the group that received iPads at the beginning of the school year performing better on average than students in the comparison group. However, the differences between these two groups were not statistically significant, except in one area. That is, students with the iPads exhibited a substantial increase in their scores on the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (HWSIW) test, a test of a student’s phonetical awareness, assessing their ability to make the sound and letter connection.

via Hack Education

University 2.0 – Sebastian Thrun, Stanford, and free online knowledge

Thrun engaged his audience with the heartwarming story about how an initial idea of offering his renowned Stanford classes for free to students online evolved into an education project touching hundreds of thousands of students across the world.

“I hoped for 500 students. We got 160,000,” Thrun said.

Thrun’s approach is more than “just” offering quality teaching for free. What he wanted to do was, in fact, to revolutionize higher educate itself, he said.

“Maybe we should rethink education,” he concluded. “If we can make education free and accessible for the world, we can achieve things we never thought possible.”

The first step on this journey was taken already today, right here at the DLD12. To the sound of massive applause, Thrun unveiled Udacity.com.

via DLD

 

If you cannot watch the video here is a summary from Felix Salmon.

Amy’s Amygdala: the emotional brain that controls fight-or-flight

The brain evolved from the bottom up and one of its first structures was the Amygdala. An almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe.

It plays a key role in the processing of emotions and is linked to both fear responses and pleasure. For this reason it is often known as the “emotional brain”.

While a lot of research concentrates on the rational brain in the frontal cortex, not much is said about the Amygdala even though it plays a central role in so many current problems, including alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and anxiety disorders.

Here is an in-depth look at the Amygdala.

Emotional learning

The Amygdalae perform the primary roles in the brain of the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. The most important of which are the memories that elicit fear behavior.

For dangerous situations this behavior can save our life but in today’s modern world it often acts in a role of paralysis, where the central nuclei is the genesis of many fear responses, including freezing (immobility), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), increased respiration, and stress-hormone release.

Memory modulation

The Amygdala is also involved in the modulation of memory consolidation. Following any learning event, the long-term memory for the event is not formed instantaneously. Rather, information regarding the event is slowly assimilated into long-term (potentially life-long) storage over time, possibly forming permanent neural pathways.

The formation of those permanent pathways, called long-term potentiation, can become vital for behavior. Creating pathways for anxiety, fear conditioning, can be hard to overcome. Whereas, starting with pathways for positive behavior can improve behavior and help during stressful events.

This kind of positive conditioning can be done as an adult. A study performed on Buddhist monks who do compassion meditation have shown that they can modulate their Amygdala during their practice. When tested they showed a calmer reaction to stress than other people.

The Amygdala is most active when emotional. Greater emotional arousal following an event can enhance a person’s retention of that event. Which makes it interesting because it controls both emotion and memory. The full extent of this “bias” is not fully understood.

The obvious studies on fear and anger show positive correlations, where increased fear (emotion) then increase memory of that fear. Not much study has been completed on the opposite, for example, do positive emotions stimulate the Amygdala to create memory as much as negative ones do.

In nature there is certainly a desire to learn quickly from bad experiences, but is there a similarly strong desire to learn from positive outcomes?

Neuropsychological correlates (behavior and disorders)

As early as 1888, rhesus monkeys with a lesioned temporal cortex (including the amygdala) were observed to have significant social and emotional deficits. Heinrich Klüver and Paul Bucy later expanded upon this same observation by showing that large lesions to the anterior temporal lobe produced noticeable changes, including overreaction to all objects, hypoemotionality, loss of fear, hypersexuality, and hyperorality, a condition in which inappropriate objects are placed in the mouth.

These studies and many more discussed below show that the Amygdala plays a substantial role in mental states, and is related to many psychological disorders.

Of particular focus is the left Amygdala and it’s size.

Some studies have shown that children with anxiety disorders tend to have a smaller left Amygdala which increased in size with the use of antidepressant medication.

The Amygdala exists on both sides of the brain.

Other studies found the left side to be linked to social anxiety, obsessive and compulsive disorders, and post traumatic stress, as well as more broadly to separation and general anxiety.

Similarly, depressed patients showed exaggerated left side activity when interpreting emotions for all faces, and especially for fearful faces. This hyperactivity was normalized when patients went on antidepressants. 

Alcoholism and binge drinking also affects the Amygdala by dampening its activation, reducing its ability for emotional processing. This is thought to happen by inhibiting the protein kinase C-epsilon which is important in regulating drug addiction, drinking, and anxiety.

Amygdala Hijack

In 1996, Daniel Goleman wrote the book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. In it he described a biological response we sometimes exhibit, naming it the Amygdala Hijack:

“Some emotional reactions and emotional responses can be formed without any conscious, cognitive participation…because the shortcut from thalamus to Amygdala completely bypasses the neocortex (the rational brain)”.

In scientific terms, the Thalamus bypasses the Cortex and routes the signal directly to the Amygdala, which is the trigger point for the primitive fight-or-flight response, and in our modern settings can often result in irrational or destructive behavior.

“Emotions make us pay attention right now – this is urgent – and give us an immediate action plan without having to think twice. The emotional component evolved very early: Do I eat it, or does it eat me?”.

Here is Mr. Goleman explaining it himself:

The emotional response “can take over the rest of the brain in a millisecond if threatened” and exhibits three signs: strong emotional reaction, sudden onset, and post-episode realization that the reaction was inappropriate.

In these cases self-control is crucial so as to avoid a complementary hijacking. For example ‘one key marital competence is for partners to learn to soothe their own distressed feelings…nothing gets resolved positively when husband or wife is in the midst of an emotional hijacking’. 

The danger is that ‘when our partner becomes, in effect, our enemy, we are in the grip of an “Amygdala hijack” in which our emotional memory, lodged in the limbic center of our brain, rules our reactions without the benefit of logic or reason…which causes our bodies to go into a “flight or fight” response’.

On the Upside

Finding ways to enlarge your Amygdala can have multiple obvious benefits beyond emotional stability. One study “suggests that Amygdalar enlargement in the normal population might be related to creative mental activity”. Another found positive correlations with both the size (the number of contacts a person has) and the complexity (the number of different groups to which a person belongs) of social networks.

What was left unsaid was how to increase the size of your Amygdala without the use of antidepressants, or maintain the size after terminating use.

One can infer that for those experiencing anxiety or overcome by fear or other emotions, the size of the Amygdala is small. That smaller size leads one to destructive behaviors, flight-or-flight responses, and limited growth.

The recommendations by nearly every study may provide an insight into how one can increase the size of there Amygdala. The reoccurring suggestion was practice, or regular repetition that allows the neurons in the brain to form new pathways and then strengthen those until they form the dominant behavior.

A method I often practice, although I recommend doing it with a trusted friend or therapist involved. Remember, improvement can always be had and nothing about you is set in stone.

Sources

Wikipedia, Scholarpedia, Science DailyMemory Loss Online (photo)

 

Amy's Amygdala: the emotional brain that controls fight-or-flight

The brain evolved from the bottom up and one of its first structures was the Amygdala. An almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe.

It plays a key role in the processing of emotions and is linked to both fear responses and pleasure. For this reason it is often known as the “emotional brain”.

While a lot of research concentrates on the rational brain in the frontal cortex, not much is said about the Amygdala even though it plays a central role in so many current problems, including alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and anxiety disorders.

Here is an in-depth look at the Amygdala.

Emotional learning

The Amygdalae perform the primary roles in the brain of the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. The most important of which are the memories that elicit fear behavior.

For dangerous situations this behavior can save our life but in today’s modern world it often acts in a role of paralysis, where the central nuclei is the genesis of many fear responses, including freezing (immobility), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), increased respiration, and stress-hormone release.

Memory modulation

The Amygdala is also involved in the modulation of memory consolidation. Following any learning event, the long-term memory for the event is not formed instantaneously. Rather, information regarding the event is slowly assimilated into long-term (potentially life-long) storage over time, possibly forming permanent neural pathways.

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How I spent my summer, by Steven Mandzik

Yesterday was the first day of Fall and Summer is officially over, which means it’s time to write my follow-up to Amy’s back to school letter…How I Spent My Summer.

An act in two parts.

Part I – The Taming of the Bear

[box type="shadow"]Forward, I pray, since we have come so far,

And be it moon, or sun, or what you please. And if you please to call it a rush candle, Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.

- The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare[/box]

The quote is from the final moments where Petruchio finally tames Katharina. Which is what I spent greatest amount of effort on this summer. Except, instead of taming the Bear I set her free.

Perhaps, I should call it by its modern name, 10 Things I Hate About You. Where Heath Ledger prompts Julia Stiles to let go of her hurt and smile again.

This summer Amy started smiling again. She is surfing and writing and feeling proud. Ready to love me and move our relationship to the next level.

While details of this struggle are personal let’s just say I was nearly killed in the process.

Part II – The Blogger

I’ve never been a good writer. All through my high school and college years I rarely got higher than an B. In fact, those years were a slapstick comedy of errors, with everything from a state-wide English teacher strike to a series of corrupt substitute teachers.

After I left school is when I learned how to write. It turns out that part of the problem is my nonconformist streak. Even when the teachers taught me how to do it the right way, I would do the opposite. I simply refused to write a boring essay.

Then blogging came on the scene and being unique with poor grammar was/is all the rage. Ever since I have been writing and writing, often getting paid to do it by big corporations. You could say that I have been a corporate blogger for 5 years.

During those years I dreamed of leaving everything behind, moving to paradise, and trying my own hand at writing. That is done. Amy and I moved out of DC, into a tranquil Southern California life, and I’m blogging my heart out.

So far I have been able to post something new, and interesting, every day and our growth is good, from 300 to 40,000 views/month.

In many ways this lifestyle is ideal. We get to set our own schedule, avoid the working crowds, and even pick-up long-lost hobbies (surfing). In other ways it is the scariest thing we’ve ever done. I say ‘we’ because Amy is also taking up writing, as a screenwriter.

The thing about being a writer is that you’re nothing until you have a name. It takes forever to build up that audience and, in the meantime, makes you a “struggling writer”. Once you do build up the name you have to be a hit machine. There are no consistent paychecks only your own ability to write something that works and keep doing it.

This summer served as our starting point. The beginning of our path toward our dreams. It was not all peaches and cream, but what they say is true. When you do what you love, it’s not work.

photo by Rajeev Nair

Wikipedia: Gateway Platform to More Girls in Tech?

Ever since the Wikimedia Foundation announced its goal to raise the share of female contributors to Wikipedia 25 percent by 2015, I’ve had it in my head to make sure my 11-year old niece is adding her voice to the collective knowledge of the world.

It was with this goal of lighting the next generation’s torch that I ventured over to my brother’s house to hang out with the little genius who happened to be working on a homework assignment on her computer when I arrived. The assignment was to research and write a report on an invasive species – and she had selected the “mitten crab” – a species introduced to the Chesapeake Bay in 2005 and is currently being evaluated for its impact on the native Chesapeake Blue Crab.

As she was searching and culling the internet for information, I asked if she was allowed to use Wikipedia – she said yes. Then I asked if she had ever edited Wikipedia – she said no.  That’s when I gave her her first lesson in editing Wikipedia. We had fun, for over an hour, and it went off exactly how I first learned to edit Wikipedia back in 2006 when I was an instructor for Intellipedia.

The mitten crab Wikipedia page was the perfect page to launch her learning. Why? Because the number one reason people avoid contributing to Wikipedia is the feeling that they don’t have anything or enough information to contribute (per the 2010 survey conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation).

My niece and I quickly noticed we had something to add. The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center just announced it’s seeking reports of mitten crab sighting and collections. But this wasn’t mentioned anywhere in Wikipedia article – and we believed it belonged there.

To get her going I started with the basics – how to edit sections (versus the entire page), wiki-markup for things like links, bullet points, and bold text, the importance of including an edit summary. She picked it up effortlessly like the little sponge-brain she is.

In fact, her hand was on the mouse clicking “edit” faster than I could say “Whoa, Tonto!” First thing the following morning, she was reporting on the status of the page. It had been edited by a “crustacean nerd” (my niece’s words, not mine) but the bulk of our contribution was still there, including the line we added in the first sentence: named for its furry claws that look like mittens.

I don’t think doubling the number of females contributing to Wikipedia by 2015 is a difficult mark to hit. In fact, I think it should be much higher since the barriers to contributing are pretty easy to address. My experience this weekend proved just how easy it can be.

While wiki markup is just a syntax (similar to using Word), I can’t help but think that learning it could encourage girls to learn to program – as a gateway language so to speak – by showing them how fun it is to build and create something, moving them from consumers of information, to creators and builders.

If every Wikipedian took just one hour of their life to teach a girl how to contribute, the future of Wikipedia would be forever changed. Diversity is the key to survival and Wikipedia needs more of it – not simply to survive, but to thrive. Maybe there should be a pledge to sign – teach a girl to wiki. Or free classes led by Wikipedian volunteers. I don’t know, but I don’t think females aren’t contributing to Wikipedia because they lack desire or don’t have the time. I think there’s a barrier (albeit a small one) in education and awareness that once addressed will create a stronger, better Wikipedia, and in the process, perhaps will create a more technologically capable generation of women who can build the future they want to live in.