Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Be Amazing Learning reviews “The New Science of Learning”

April 29, 2009

Our local PBS station (KQED) just aired a new documentary, “The New Science of Learning: Brain Fitness for Kids”. The program, while not mentioning Fast ForWord by name, extolls the virtues of cognitive training for enhancing learning in children of all ages and abilities.

If you’re familiar with the Fast ForWord story, and the idea that training programs like Fast ForWord can enhance learning by developing foundational cognitive skills like memory, sequencing, processing rates and attention, there’s not too much new stuff here. The show includes interviews with Drs. Merzenich and Tallal, as well as other psychologists, neuroscientists and educators. And Willie Brown, perhaps the most famous Fast ForWord alum, makes a very compelling appearance.

The show does a good job of pulling together all of the pieces that comprise Fast ForWord and presenting the package in a clear way. It’s all in there, from the criticality of timing in language, to the very concept of brain plasticity.

The elephant in the room, of course, is Fast ForWord, whose existence is implied, but never specifically mentioned. In the grand scheme of things, that’s probably good for the movement, as the endorsement of a specific product would weaken the overall message that brains are plastic and can be made stronger and more efficient with the appropriate training program.

We’d recommend “The New Science of Learning” for everyone, especially if you have only a cursory understanding of the premise and promise of a program like Fast ForWord.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ve got a couple more chances to catch the show this week. It’s on Thursday evening at 7:30 PM and again early Friday morning (1:30 AM). We understand that a wider national release is imminent.

If you’d like to know more about brain fitness and how Be Amazing can help your child, visit our Web site.

Published Study Shows Brain Exercises Improve Memory and Attention

February 17, 2009

A study to be published in the April 4, 2009 edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that computerized brain exercises can improve memory and attention in older adults. 

The study, conducted by by researchers from the University of Southern California and the Mayo Clinic, found that participants who trained on The Brain Fitness Program from Posit Science more than doubled their processing speed, with an average increase of 131%. The researchers also report gains on standard measures of memory and attention of 10 years, on average.

From Posit’s press release about the study:

“The changes we saw in the experimental group were remarkable – and significantly larger than the gains in the control group,” said Liz Zelinski, PhD, a principal investigator for the study from the University of Southern California. “From a researcher’s point of view, this was very impressive because people got better at the tasks trained, those improvements generalized to standardized measures of memory and people noticed improvements in their lives. What this means is that cognitive decline is no longer an inevitable part of aging. Doing properly designed cognitive activities can enhance our abilities as we age.” 

“We saw gains of 4% in memory scores in the brain exercise group,” said Glenn Smith, PhD, the study’s principal investigator from the Mayo Clinic. “That may not sound like much, but it is about what an older person normally loses in a 10 year period. The lectures group saw about a 2% gain, which may sound like they did half as well; however, we look at memory on a curve, not a straight line, and a 2% gain is not something you are apt to notice in your life.” 

Posit Science is a San Francisco-based company that develops computer programs that engage the brain’s natural plasticity to improve brain health. It’s founder, Dr. Michael Merzenich, was a founder of Scientific Learning (creators of the Fast ForWord programs). And Posit Science licenses some of the patented technology behind the Fast ForWord programs for use in its Brain Fitness program.

The USC/Mayo Clinic study obviously addressed improvements in a different population from that with which Be Amazing typically works. Still, it’s great to see another published study definitively showing the improvements in brain fitness that are possible with a program based on Fast ForWord’s technology.

The full study is available online on the Web site of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The abstract is free, and the full article is available for a fee.

School Improves Literacy Through Brain Fitness

February 9, 2009

The Salt Lake Tribune has an article today about a trial project at an area elementary school where 50 6th graders are working with Fast ForWord.

The results teachers and parents are reporting aren’t surprising to anyone who has followed Fast ForWord over the years. But what I found interesting about this pilot project was the population of students represented:

Not all the children are disabled; they were picked for the experiment from classrooms at random to represent the full spectrum of learners.

And while the test score results won’t be in for a few months, families are already noticing improvements:

“I’ve seen a real improvement in Alex’s ability to articulate what he wants, and it seems to have boosted his self-confidence,” said his grandmother, Joan Watson, who describes her grandson’s disorder simply as an inability to express emotions and thoughts.

The “money quote” comes from a teacher though:

Said 20-year teacher Dale Johnson, “I wish we could put them all into it, if you want to know the truth … I’ve seen a lot of things come and go, but this is really getting down to the nitty gritty. This will give them a foundation that will help them academically for the rest of their lives.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Using computers to teach

March 17, 2008

When I was a kid, we used to get sent to the library in groups to listen to a story playd on a tape (or more likely a record player). Then we were given a ditto sheet (ah… remember ditto sheets? That smell?) with questions to answer about the story we had just heard. And that, in a nutshell, was “education technology.”

There has been a major push in the last decade to wire schools and classrooms. Connect them to the Internet, load them up with donated computers, etc. But most of the content delivered in this way isn’t much more than what we got from the record player and the ditto sheet, only it’s slightly more interactive and delivered over the Internet or from a CD-ROM.

Fast ForWord is one product that is different because it’s not just using the computer do something faster or even more efficiently than it could be done without the computer. It’s using the computer to do something that’s not possible without the computer. From the delivery of modified speech stimuli to the thousands of precise, adaptive trials, Fast ForWord isn’t just using a computer to deliver content more efficiently than a teacher; it’s delivering brain-changing exercises that a human being flat out can’t deliver. No that, to me, is real education technology.

And as a bonus, by increasing students’ memory and attention skills, Fast ForWord actually sets kids up to better absorb the content delivered by great teachers.

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