Posts Tagged ‘study skills’

Fast ForWord vs. Cogmed

January 5, 2011

Be Amazing Learning offers programs that address foundational cognitive skills, rather than academic content. We work on helping children learn better. By developing skills such as working memory, attention, sequencing, and brain processing rates, our programs don’t simply give kids new academic knowledge; instead, they equip kids’ brains to better access and retain information they are exposed to, whether in the classroom or in daily life.

Two programs we use most frequently are Fast ForWord and Cogmed. Both programs are based on the concept of neuroplasticity (the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize neural pathways based on new experiences). They both are computer-based interventions with rigorous daily protocols. And both have very solid foundational research behind them: Fast ForWord research and Cogmed research.

The programs differ in the cognitive skills they develop. Fast ForWord primarily develops auditory processing rates and auditory working memory, with additional training in sequencing and sustained attention. Cogmed primarily develops working memory (auditory and visual-spatial) and attention skills.

At Be Amazing Learning we recommend one or both of the programs for students, depending on the specific learning or behavior challenge they are dealing with. For example, we typically will recommend Cogmed for students struggling with ADD or ADHD. Cogmed addresses the underlying causes of inattentive behavior and improves attention by developing working memory and the ability to focus on multiple tasks and ignore distractions. (Poor auditory processing abilities can also contribute to attention challenges, and in these cases, the Fast ForWord programs may also be an effective intervention.)

Similarly, for students with dyslexia, we typically recommend the Fast ForWord programs, as they attack the auditory processing disorders that cause reading difficulties. And there’s great research on students with dyslexia showing significant improvements in reading and oral language skills on a number of assessments, as well as normalization of activity in critical areas of the brain used for reading after Fast ForWord training.

And in some cases, such as for students struggling with executive function disorder, we might recommend both programs, because they both effectively develop and strengthen the cognitive skills associated with successful executive function, including :

  • Memory – The ability to store information and ideas.
  • Attention – The ability to focus on information and tasks, and ignore distractions.
  • Processing Rate – The rate at which a student is able to accurately perceive and manipulate information.
  • Sequencing – Placing the detail of information in its accustomed order.

The bottom line is that nearly every child can benefit from improved brain processing efficiency.  Wherever your child is, Be Amazing Learning can help move them forward. Our programs have been proven to be effective with many types of learners of all ages, from students with diagnosed learning difficulties, to those simply struggling with homework or reading. With Cogmed and Fast ForWord at our disposal, we can design an effective training program to develop a range of foundational cognitive skills and improve academic potential and performance.

Traditional Tutoring vs. Cognitive Training

January 4, 2011

Traditional tutoring offers additional help in a particular subject area or with a particular skill. It can be an effective addition to content delivered in the classroom, especially because it can frequently be tailored to a child’s individual needs.

Be Amazing Learning is different because the programs we offer (Fast ForWord and Cogmed) address foundational cognitive skills, rather than academic content. We work on helping children learn better. By developing skills such as working memory, attention, sequencing, and brain processing rates, our programs don’t simply give kids new academic knowledge; instead, they equip kids’ brains to better access and retain content they are exposed to, whether in the classroom or with a tutor.

Additionally, training cognitive skills with Be Amazing Learning is a one-time shot: kids build their brain fitness with the programs, then move on to better academic performance. Once children have cognitive training, they stay “fit” by using their new cognitive skills. Studies have shown that the improvements in cognitive skills we can help your child achieve are both substantial and enduring. For example, a 4-year longitudinal study conducted at Dallas Independent School District that showed that students who trained with Fast ForWord programs achieved significant gains in reading, and maintained those gains relative to their peers.

For more information about how cognitive training can help your child, visit our Web site or call (800) 792-4809.

Brain training games rise in popularity

December 27, 2010

From the San Jose Mercury News:

The idea of “brain training” has been gaining popularity since a 2006 study from the National Institutes of Health suggested that a cognitive training program can have lasting, though narrow, benefits. Numerous companies are touting products such as online games and software packages designed to improve mental sharpness and memory. More are sure to be developed as the number of users, both in the classroom and at home, continues to grow.

The article cites Alvaro Fernandez,CEO of market research firm SharpBrains. Fernandez “estimates that consumers spent about $70 million on them last year, up 40 percent from $50 million in 2008. Schools, employers and health care companies spent more than $200 million in 2009.”

The article focuses primarily on aging populations, who, according to Fernandez, generally chose a brain fitness program out of a desire to stave off age-induced mental decline, or to treat a brain injury or problem. At Be Amazing Learning, we have worked with older learners, but our focus tends to be the beginning of life: building brain fitness abilities (working memory, processing speeds, sustained attention abilities) as a foundation for future academic success.

It’s worth noting, however, that there are similarities between programs designed for young and older learners. In fact, the Posit Science programs that are mentioned in the article, are based on some of the same technology and research that are behind the Fast ForWord programs that we offer for young learners (Dr. Michael Merzenich, the founder of Posit Science, was one of the founders of Scientific Learning, which created the Fast ForWord programs.)

The Mercury News article closes with great advice: do your research before investing in a brain fitness solution. We have previously linked to SharpBrains’ 10 question evaluation of brain fitness programs. It’s definitely worth a look.

November is Family Literacy Month

November 8, 2010

Many factors contribute to academic success, including a family’s income, education level, or cultural background. But research shows that a home environment that encourages learning is more important than any of these other factors.

We’ve previously posted on the importance of providing early language exposure to young children. As children get older, exposure to print is a critical determinant in students’ reading abilities. So in celebration of Family Literacy Month, here are a few suggestions from Education.com on how to increase children’s exposure to the written word:

  • Make reading materials available
  • Be a reading role model
  • Read aloud to children
  • Encourage personal libraries
  • Limit television, computers and video games

You might want to check out these other reference articles, also from Education.com:

 

 

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).

Can we be serious here for a minute?

October 21, 2010

Last week, we posted about kids’ recognition and use of ironic language. Today, it’s the serious stuff.

Dutch researcher Lotte Henrichs has examined what she terms “academic language.” It’s not a unique language, but rather is:

Characterised by difficult, abstract words and complex sentence structures. The language often contains a lot of clauses and conjunctions and due to the methods of argument and analysis it has a scientific appearance.

Why is academic language important for children? From a Science Daily summary of Henrich’s research:

Children at a primary school need a certain type of language proficiency: academic language. Academic language …  is the language that teachers use and expect from the pupils. It enables children to understand instructions and to demonstrate their knowledge in an efficient manner.

Henrich says that how parents approach language interactions with their children has a significant impact on the children’s development of academic language: “Those who address children as fully-fledged conversation partners lay an early basis for the development of ‘academic language'”:

If children are given the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to conversations, they often use characteristics of academic language proficiency naturally. In addition to this, the knowledge of academic language depends on the extent to which parents read to their children, tell them stories and hold conversations about interesting subjects.

We’ve also previously posted about the importance of engaging children with language.

 

Changing Education Paradigms

October 20, 2010

If you’ve got 10 minutes, check out this 10 minute excerpt from a talk by creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson. The visual presentation is fantastic (calling all visual-spatial learners!), and the subject of the talk fascinating.

Robinson hits on the roots of many challenges in education today, focusing on our lack of ability to engage students and to foster what he calls “divergent thinking”: an essential capacity for creativity, which includes the ability to see lots of ways to interpret a question, and multiple answers to a question, not one (distinct from “creativity” itself, which is the process of having original ideas that have value).

Robinson’s talk was given to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), which (from their Web site) “has been a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress.  Our approach is multi-disciplinary, politically independent and combines cutting edge research and policy development with practical action.” Robinson was the recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin Award.

If you’ve got a bit more time, you can see Robinson’s talk in its entirety (and in a much more traditional presentation).

Even gifted students can improve

October 13, 2010

When the Fast ForWord programs were first introduced in the late 1990s, there was a general consensus that the programs were appropriate for students with diagnosed language and learning difficulties. The standard for “appropriateness” was typically that students should score at least one standard deviation below the norm on a standardized language battery.

When Fast ForWord was introduced into schools, students from across the learning spectrum were exposed to the program. Mainstream educated students, including many who were designated as gifted and talented, trained with the programs and saw tremendous improvement in foundational cognitive skills as well as general learning and reading abilities.

The programs target cognitive skills that are critical for effective learning. These skills don’t necessarily correlate to grade levels (for example, there’s no such thing as a second grade working memory), so kids with varying abilities across these skills and of many ages can benefit.

Scientific Learning (creators of Fast ForWord programs) just released the results of a study of gifted students who trained with the programs. The study looked at early fourth graders whose average reading grade equivalency was mid-fifth grade. After training with the Fast ForWord programs, the students grade equivalency in reading improved to mid-seventh grade. These dramatic results indicate that even gifted and talented students, who would not be identified for additional reading support, can still benefit from improved foundational cognitive skills developed by Fast ForWord.

There is more information on the study at Scientific Learning’s blog.

Be Amazing Learning is a provider of Fast ForWord programs. At Be Amazing Learning, we have helped students across the learning spectrum, including many gifted students, reach their full potential. For more information, visit our Web site at beamazinglearning.com or call (800) 792-4809.

Developing abilities in gifted and talented kids

October 6, 2010

We spend a lot of time talking about struggling students, from kids with diagnosed learning difficulties like dyslexia or auditory processing disorder, to kids for whom reading and learning is just plain harder than it should be.

But students across the learning spectrum can struggle to reach their potential. As an example, check out this recent post from Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog (Prufrock Press publishes books and other resources about gifted education; blogger Carol Fertig is the author of Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook):

Young people who have a strong visual-spatial ability visualize and retain images in their minds and then mentally manipulate those images. Kids who have this ability may be very smart but, because they learn in a style that is different from the usual sequential and verbal style of the classroom, they may not be a good match for the typical school.

Maybe. Or perhaps with assistance developing other foundational cognitive skills like sequencing and auditory processing, these visual-spatial learners can thrive.

We know from fMRI scans that learning and reading tasks activate various centers of neural activity in the brain, including those responsible for visual and auditory processing as well as memory. And we know that when particular areas are abnormally activated, significant challenges to learning can occur (for example, the visual centers of the brains of students with dyslexia tend to be hyper-activated during reading, while their auditory centers are under-activated).

But most importantly, we have programs that can strengthen areas of the brain, such as those responsible for sequencing and auditory processing, that may not be operating at peak efficiency.

Learners across the spectrum will struggle to reach their potential when their brain processing efficiency isn’t maximized. For gifted students who are visual-spatial learners, this may mean that they need assistance to develop their auditory sequencing and processing abilities. At Be Amazing Learning, we have helped many gifted students reach their full potential. For more information, visit our Web site at beamazinglearning.com or call (800) 792-4809.

Denver area presentation: Brain Rules for Baby

October 3, 2010

If you’re in the Denver Colorado area, you might be interested in an upcoming presentation by Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School and Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five.

This lecture is aimed at early childhood professionals, family and pediatric health care professionals, parents, and parent advocates. With Dr. Medina’s engaging style and provocative approach to creating “brain‐friendly”environments, we will challenge ourselves and our communities to turn scientific evidence into the actions needed to provide a more secure future for our youngest citizens.

The lecture will be held at the University of Denver on Thursday, October 28 at 4:30. The lecture is presented by Early Childhood Colorado Information Clearing House (a “gateway to information and resources about all matters related to the healthy and thriving development of children, birth to age 8”). More information is available at their Web site.

At Be Amazing Learning, we’re intrigued by Dr. Medina’s work (we’re chugging through Brain Rules, and hope to have a review posted soon). In particular, it’s great to see educators and parents contemplating new approaches to raising and educating children that are driven by the newest research into how the brain develops.


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