Archive for the ‘computer-assisted learning’ Category

High Schooler Reading at 2nd Grade Level Goes to College After Fast ForWord

November 18, 2010

Articles about educational programs in scientific journals are generally concerned with significant, measurable and repeatable effects on a large pool of subjects. They’re focused on improvements in scores on standardized assessments or, increasingly, physical changes in the brain that can be established by before and after imaging using fMRI.

The measured results of Fast ForWord training are impressive. From the initial university research that led to the development of the programs to the over 1 million students around the world who have now used Fast ForWord programs, students have and continue to make significant gains in critical learning skills after short, intense training with Fast ForWord programs. For details, check out Scientific Learning’s databases of measured user results.

But sometimes it’s the anecdotal results that can be most compelling. Take, for example, this recently publicized story of a high school student who went from struggling reader to scholarship football player after using Fast ForWord:

When Kenny Hilliard reached high school, he was a gifted football player; he was not a gifted student. He was reading at the level of a second grader and struggled in all of his academic courses. School district officials in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana, originally put him on a GED track, hoping he could earn a general high school equivalency diploma instead of a traditional diploma. But today, Kenny is looking forward to not only graduating from Patterson High School with the traditional diploma, but also to attending LSU on a football scholarship.

“What changed is that Kenny did a computer program called Fast ForWord,” said Patterson High School Principal, Rachael Wilson. “He is such a talented football player, and his talents can carry him far, but recruiters are looking for kids who have talent and good grades. The first two questions recruiters ask me are ‘What kind of kid is he?’ and ‘What kind of grades does he make?’ Thanks to the progress Kenny made in Fast ForWord, he does not need to rely on athletic talent alone.”

“Before Kenny did Fast ForWord, I was worried sick that he would drop out of school,” said Brenda Hilliard, Kenny’s mother. “I knew something was different when he began reading on his own. I’d find him reading sports magazines. I knew then, that he was actually understanding what he was reading. Now he’s going to college. I am so proud of him.”

Aside from the fact that we generally cheer for the Pac-10 over the SEC here at Be Amazing Learning, this is pretty cool stuff.

Be Amazing Learning Offers Cogmed Programs for Attention Challenges

November 15, 2010

Be Amazing Learning is pleased to announce that we now offer Cogmed Working Memory Training Programs!

Cogmed is a computer-based solution for attention problems caused by poor working memory. Cogmed combines cognitive neuroscience with innovative computer game design and Be Amazing Learning’s close professional support to deliver substantial and lasting benefits. The program consists of 25 daily training sessions, each 30-45 minutes long. Individuals work on the program five days per week for five weeks. Each session consists of a selection of various tasks that target the different aspects of working memory. The difficulty level of each task is adjusted in real time according to a highly sensitive and specific algorithm.

Individuals train on a computer at home, in school, or at work. During training, performance is tracked online and can be viewed by the individual and learning specialists from Be Amazing Learning, who provide feedback and support throughout the training.

Cogmed can be an effective intervention for ADD/ADHD and Executive Function Disorder, as well as for the 1 in 10 typically developing students who have working memory challenges that are holding them back from reaching their full potential.

To find out more or get started, visit our Web site or call (800) 792-4809.

You might also be interested in these recent posts on the importance of working memory for learning:

Technology as a tool

November 4, 2010

Technology can make a lot of things easier and more efficient: email is faster than the US Mail, and shopping online doesn’t require hunting for a parking space. In the case of the Fast ForWord programs, technology actually enables something that isn’t otherwise possible: it can be used to modify to a consonant sound that a student is struggling to process and make it longer and louder. Go ahead: just try to make the /b/ sound in the word “bat” longer. It isn’t going to happen without some technological assistance.

The NY Times highlights technology – specifically the Apple iPad – that, while not specifically designed for those with disabilities, is nonetheless helping them communicate.

The article highlights Owen, a 7 year old with a motor-neuron disease that leaves him without the strength to maneuver a computer mouse. But he got the touch-screen iPad to work on his first try. The article also describes iPads used to train basic skills to children with autism, and, loaded with a speech-to-text application to give those with disabilities a voice.

One of the major advantages of the iPad is its relatively low price compared to specialized computer equipment that individuals with disabilities have used in the past. And, according to one interviewee, the “cool” factor of the iPad makes it a less stigmatizing tool in social situations.

Teaching language to a machine

October 5, 2010

We posted last week about the Children of the Code Web site, and noted that reading is such an incredibly complex task that it’s not notable that some students struggle with reading, but rather miraculous that any of us can read at all. Computers are good at breaking down complex tasks like forecasting weather – could they be any good at learning language and reading?

Today’s NY Times describes a computer program under development at Carnegie-Mellon University called NELL (for Never Ending Language Learning). NELL is attempting to learn by acting not like a computer (computers are generally very good at following rules – for example, learning to play chess – but lousy at more nuanced tasks), but like a human being.

Researchers working on NELL cited an example of the following two sentences:

The girl caught the butterfly with the spots.

The girl caught the butterfly with the net.

A human reader inherently understands that girls hold nets, and girls are not usually spotted. So, in the first sentence, “spots” is associated with “butterfly,” and in the second, “net” with “girl.”

“That’s obvious to a person, but it’s not obvious to a computer,” Dr. Mitchell said. “So much of human language is background knowledge, knowledge accumulated over time. That’s where NELL is headed, and the challenge is how to get that knowledge.”

But if a computer is using a hierarchy of rules self-developed rules to resolve ambiguity in language, what happens if it gets a rule wrong?

When Dr. Mitchell scanned the “baked goods” category recently, he noticed a clear pattern. NELL was at first quite accurate, easily identifying all kinds of pies, breads, cakes and cookies as baked goods. But things went awry after NELL’s noun-phrase classifier decided “Internet cookies” was a baked good. (Its database related to baked goods or the Internet apparently lacked the knowledge to correct the mistake.)

NELL had read the sentence “I deleted my Internet cookies.” So when it read “I deleted my files,” it decided “files” was probably a baked good, too. “It started this whole avalanche of mistakes,” Dr. Mitchell said. He corrected the Internet cookies error and restarted NELL’s bakery education.

The researchers behind NELL (and other projects that are attempting to teach computers to attack language as humans do) cite the possibilities for improved natural language search (where searching returns answers to questions, rather than just lists of relevant Web sites) as a positive outcome of their research. One hopes as well that as we train a computer to think like a human we gain additional insight into how humans think and learn, with the potential to improve learning for our children.

Take a break!

October 2, 2010

Taking a break while working on the computer is good for both adults and kids. Screen breaks help prevent eye strain and reduce repetitive stress injuries. And for kids working intensely on challenging programs, screen breaks can improve focus and attention.

A few tips from Kids Health:

  1. Give your eyes a break. Focus on something across the room or out the window. This activity gives your eyes a rest from focusing on the computer screen.
  2. Get up and move around. Go get a drink of water or stand up and stretch. Kids can do jumping jacks and march in place.

Adults can also try screen break software. You can purchase this or find free downloads. Once loaded on your computer, the programs remind you to take a break at different intervals. Some even recommend stretches you can do in your chair.


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