Monday, September 29, 2008

LD Podcast #95- Dr. Andy Van Schaack- Technology and Education

I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Andy Van Schaack from Vanderbilt University about Education and Instructive Technology. We spoke specifically about what technology can and cannot do to aid education and learning. We spoke about how it's even more important to go beyond just research-based learning and look at evidence-based instruction, working with what we know about psychology and brain function to maximize learning in the classroom and beyond.

Technology tends to work best when it amplifies human capabilities, but real learning involves being able to take new information and apply it in novel situations.The tests we're often given in school tends to value cramming versus encoding information for long term retrieval and use, so teachers and students alike have to be on the look out for testing that requires recall of information, or merely recognizing the appropriate answer.

The core issue here is the following: The best learning occurs when there are more opportunities to respond with feedback. Teachers are invaluable to provide feedback to students, but we have to find a way to do this is a positively reinforcing way that mentors students as they seek mastery of subjects and material.

Dr. Van Schaack is the educational advisor for LiveScribe, which has developed a new computing platform- the Pulse pen- a computer in a pen. The pen uses special paper that comes in an ordinary spiral notebook; it records fairly high fidelity audio that syncs up perfectly with the words written on the page. The audio and "picture" of the written notes are then transferred to your PC as a PDF file, where you can listen to the lecture and see the notes being wirtten at the same time. This means you can jump to the exact place in a lecture where a teacher talks about what's going on the mid-term, for example, without having to listen to the whole lecture again. If students also use the Cornell Notetaking system, they can end up with better and more effective notes than ever before, making learning easier, especially in complex subjects. Not only that, the notes are searchable for key terms, so you can go exactly to the spot you need in a notebook to look up a particular piece of information as needed.

I purchased one of these for my boys, hoping it will help us teach them how to take more effective notes in class, and I have to say that the kids have actually been debating over who gets to take the pen to school with them each day. I'm afraid I'm going to have to buy another one, shortly! I've used it for a community meeting I attended and blogged about for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and was very pleased with the results.

The first part of our interview focuses on using technology in education and what it can and cannot accomplish; the second half, which will be released by the end of this week, will discuss the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen in more detail, including what kind of mental load notetaking has on the brain, how fast we can process information, the research data about why we take notes in the first place, and how we should be using them, and we talk about how capturing information is fundamentally useless without access.

Links to things discussed on this episode:

*Listener feedback
*Check out Ken Robinson's presentation at TED in 2006. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started back in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader, and I always learn a ton from the talks there- some of the best material available on the web;
The Obviousness of Social and Educational Research Results- NL Gage
Frontline Report- Kids Growing Up Online
* BBC News: Basic Sums Stress 1.3Million Adults
Cornell Note Taking technique-

Click Here to listen to Dr. Andy Van Schaack- Understanding Instructional Technology, Part I

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

LD Podcast "Unplugged"- Mark Blevis interviews Whitney about Homework

Mark Blevis, from the Just One More Book podcast,interviewed me on our drive into Podcamp Philly about homework. This is a really honest and revealing interview about how we handle homework at our house, and what I see as the value and pitfalls of how homework is used in schools. Since I was the driver, the answers are about as honest and non-scripted as is possible- you hear exactly what was said, uncut and unedited, as two parents, two friends, discuss homework and their children.

To give you some background, Mark and his wife Andrea Ross, interview authors and illustrators on their Just One More Book podcast, as well as give their reviews of different children's books. You can even call up and leave a review of your favorite book, and they'll play it on the show. Mark and Andrea are raising two fantastic daughters in Canada, and they always point me in the direction of fanatastic books my kids and I love to share, even though I have boys. The show helps me appreciate the richness of children's literature, and how it can enrich the lives of adults and kids alike.

Let me know if you like the style of this show- please send feedback to If this is interesting, we'll try to do work more unfiltered interviews with parents into the show.

Thanks again to Mark for the audio, the idea, and the opportunity to go "unplugged".

Click here to download and listen to LD Podcast Unplugged- Mark Blevis and Whitney Hoffman Discuss Homework

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Show #93- Sharon Martin SLP, Part II

We're back after a brief hiatus for Podcamp Philly, a new media unconference I helped put together at Temple University. I'm really happy to report that we raised over $6,000 for the Sciece Leadrship Academy, a Philadelphia Public special admissions high school, run by Chris Lehmann, who I met at the Educon Conference, held at SLA last year.

Sharon and I continue our talk about when you might need a speech language pathologist; why the diagnosis may sometimes be irrelevant to the treatment; and how there's a general movement to try to get Speech-Language pathologists more involved in literacy. We can't emphasize too much how important good hearing and good speech are to the reading and writing process, and early intervention is critical for children. We also talk about the importance of the bond/relationship between a therapist and a child, and why there's got to be a good balance between work and fun, as well as follow-through on the part of parents and regular ed teachers.

I've been racking up a bunch of interviews, so the shows should not only be more regular, but there's some exciting things coming up-and we also want to hear from you!

Click here to download/listen to Sharon Martin, SLP Part II

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