Posts Tagged ‘press coverage’

Be Amazing Learning client featured on ABC News

June 17, 2011

Be Amazing Learning client Sami Merit was featured on San Francisco Bay Area ABC 7 News, as part of a story that looked at Fast ForWord use at home and at an Oakland elementary school.

Hooray Sami!

What’s going on in there? A look inside the teenage brain

November 12, 2010

Research tells us that significant brain development occurs in the first few years of life: the brain reaches 95% of its adult size by age 6.

But recent brain studies show that significant brain development occurs around adolescence. Up to age 12, the brain is adding gray matter (or, to put it more technically, “cortical thickness” increases), at which point, gray matter begins to thin, as the brain prunes connections that developed in childhood, but are no longer deemed necessary.

The PBS series Frontline recently dedicated a show to the teenage brain. The show’s Web site is loaded with content, including the transcript of interviews with several researchers who are looking at the development of the teenage brain. One in particular that caught our eye is with Dr. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Giedd is focused on how to turn what we’re learning about the brain into practical advice for parents, teachers and teenagers. Now that we have established the concept of brain plasticity, says Giedd, researchers are turning to:

… the forces that can guide this plasticity. How do we optimize the brain’s ability to learn? Are schools doing a good job? Are we as parents doing a good job? And the challenge now is to … bridging the gap between neuroscience and practical advice for parents, teachers and society. We’re not there yet, but we’re closer than ever, and it’s really an exciting time in neuroscience.

At Be Amazing Learning, we regularly work with teenagers who themselves (or whose parents) are looking for solutions for their developing brains. In many cases, these teens have difficulty planning, organizing, and paying attention to and remembering details. Cogmed and Fast ForWord programs can be effective interventions for children and teens with these “executive function” deficits because they develop and strengthen the cognitive skills associated with successful executive function, including working memory, attention and processing rates.

The Frontline series on the teenage brain is fantastic, and there’s a bunch of information available on the show Web site. We’ll be highlighting additional interviews in future posts.

Don’t Choke!

October 26, 2010

Remember President Obama’s inauguration, when Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the oath of office? Sian Beilock, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, is pretty sure she knows what happened:

Pressure-filled situations can deplete a part of the brain’s processing power known as working memory, which is critical to everyday activities.

Specifically, Beilock says Roberts was probably overthinking his delivery, and should have just put the whole thing on autopilot.

Beilock is the author of Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To. A recent Chicago Tribune article highlights some of Beilock’s advice for preventing stress from interfering with brain processing, including the above-mentioned need to put things on autopilot, putting worries to paper, and practicing making a fool out of yourself.

Study skills are the Talk of the Nation

October 22, 2010

We posted a couple of weeks back about new research into effective study techniques that was featured in the NY Times. Yesterday, NPR’s Talk of the Nation featured the author of the Times article, Benedict Cary, sharing highlights and answering questions from listeners.

Cary reports that research indicates that there’s a benefit to taking tests and quizzes (the act of recalling information for a quiz can actually improve the likelihood that you’ll be able to recall the information again later) and mixing up your study locations increases the number of associations your brain forms with the information you’re studying.

NPR’s Web site has a summary and a link to the audio from the show (there’s also a transcript for you visual-spatial learners).

Early retirement may retire your memory

October 12, 2010

The New York Times today reports on a study, published recently in the Journal of Economic Perspective, that suggests that the earlier people retire, the more quickly their memory declines.

The study compared memory test results for aging populations from many countries and found a direct correlation between performance by a nation’s seniors on a memory task and that nation’s average retirement age. In the United States, where 65 to 70 percent of men are still working in their early sixties, seniors had the highest cognitive score (11 out of 20 words remembered when asked to repeat and later recall a list of words). In Spain, where only 38 percent of men are working in their early sixties, the average cognitive score was 6.

As the Times article pointed out, the study doesn’t indicate what aspect of working helps older individuals retain their memories, nor whether all types of work are helpful:

If work does help maintain cognitive functioning, it will be important to find out what aspect of work is doing that, said Dr. Richard Suzman, associate director for behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging. “Is it the social engagement and interaction or the cognitive component of work, or is it the aerobic component of work?” he asked. “Or is it the absence of what happens when you retire, which could be increased TV watching?”

Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention

October 11, 2010

NPR’s Talk of the Nation last week featured an author interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Katherine Ellison, whose new book Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention chronicles her struggle to effectively parent a child with ADHD, while dealing with her own ADHD symptoms.

You can hear the entire segment on the Talk of the Nation web site, or view a transcript of the discussion. There’s also an excerpt from Ellison’s book.


Technology in the classroom

September 25, 2010

Last week’s NY Times Magazine was dedicated to the interface between technology and education. As purveyors of computer-assisted learning, we were naturally intrigued.

The Times’ included a history of technology in the classroom that starts with the Horn Book, a wooden paddle with printed lessons that was introduced circa 1650, and ends with the iPad (a 21st century Horn Book of sorts), which the Times speculates may replace the textbook. Along the course of history was the chalkboard (1890), the pencil (1900) and Liquid Paper (really? technology?) (1960).

The use of technology to assist with learning is obviously not new. And since the time of the Horn Book, educators have probably wondered whether technology would, at some point, replace them at the front of the classroom. Recent developments in online learning are certainly challenging the traditional nature of how we learn.

Thirty years ago, we wrote papers out by hand. Today, students can type them and submit them by email. Technology has improved the efficiency of this process, but it hasn’t really changed the nature of the process itself. A program like Fast ForWord, improves learning by using technology to accomplish something that wasn’t previously possible. For example, for students who struggle to accurately process brief consonant sounds in English, the program acoustically modifies the short and soft consonant sounds to make them more pronounced. You and I can’t do this. (Try it. Say the word “cat” slowly. It comes out “C-a-a-a-a-a-t”, and all you’ve done is make the vowel sound longer.) But with an algorithm applied to digitized speech, the Fast ForWord program can isolate the consonant sound, make it louder and longer. And then it can present the modified sounds in thousands of precisely adapted trials that ensure that each student is challenged appropriately to promote learning.

Technology in the classroom is great. And learning to navigate technology is a life skill. But when it comes down to using technology to promote learning in new and different ways, programs like Fast ForWord stand out from the crowd.

“Lives have been changed!”

September 23, 2010

Fantastic article in the Vancouver Sun about schools in British Columbia that have adopted Fast ForWord programs to help students who are struggling with language and literacy.

Great quote from Sandy Collins, the speech-language pathologist who is overseeing the implementation:

We had interventions and we’d done lots of wonderful things, but we couldn’t do what computers can do. We can’t synthesize our speech, slow it down, stretch it out and emphasize the various elements that need to be emphasized. I couldn’t quite believe it myself when I started working with the program. It was doing things that I had thought for years, ‘if only I could do that.’

Exercise Can Make You Smarter

September 25, 2009

Just a warning: this is not going to be as interesting or fun as our post a couple of months ago about how chocolate can make you smarter! OK. You’ve been warned.

The New York Times Phys Ed feature last weekend had an article about the types of exercise that can make you smarter (as measured by your ability to perform complex cognitive tasks).

In gist of current research seems to be that the harder you exercise, the more you can impact your cognitive abilities. And aerobic exercise beats other types when it comes to overall effect. To whit:

  • One study looked at two groups of seniors, one of whom was given daily stretching exercises to perform, another which performed brisk daily walks. Only the brisk walkers improved on tests of cognition (though the other group apparently became quite limber).
  • Another study looked at three groups of college students who sat still, lifted weights, and ran on a treadmill. Those who ran on the treadmill were noticeably quicker and more accurate in a memory task after exercise. And interestingly enough, those improvements remained even after cooling down post-exercise.

One of the more interesting studies mentioned in the article looked at two groups of mice, one of whom ran in exercise wheels (which mice apparently enjoy), and one of whom ran on a treadmill (pushed harder at a pace and duration set by the researchers). Both groups of mice improved their performance in a water maze task, but only those who ran on the treadmill also improved their performance on an avoidance task.

So what exercise can make you smarter? Aerobic, and the harder the better.

“It appears that various growth factors must be carried from the periphery of the body into the brain to start a molecular cascade there,” creating new neurons and brain connections, says Henriette van Praag, an investigator in the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. For that to happen, “you need a fairly dramatic change in blood flow,” like the one that occurs when you run or cycle or swim.

So call the trainer! We’ll see you at the gym!

Be Amazing selected as a finalist for an Oakland Indie Award

April 28, 2009

OK, nothing about brain fitness or literacy in this post. Just a heads up that Be Amazing has been selected from over 500 nominations as a finalist for the 2009 Oakland Indie Awards. The awards celebrate “the social and environmental impact of Oakland’s independent businesses and artists.” 

We’ve been selected as a finalist in the Innovator category, for companies that “excite and inspire because of a creative new idea or perspective they are sharing with the world.” Last year’s winner in that category was Pandora, the Internet music service that uses the work of the Music Genome Project to create customized stations based on users’ musical tastes and preferences.

Winners are announced on May 15th.

How about that?

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