Thursday, October 30, 2008

Show # 99- Elaine Weitzman, Hanen Centre

In this episode, I talk with Elaine Weitzman from the Hanen Centre. The Hanen Centre is an international organization focused on helping parents and educators enhance the language and literacy skills of young children. The programs they have been developed are research-based and the information they offer parents is practical, easy, every day things we can do to truly enhance how our children learn.

The Hanen centre has come out with a yearly calendar that gives parents and teachers a month by month, week by week resource of how to specifically help build critical language skills for young children. This is a straight-forward, easy to use guide to doing simple things that can have a big, long term impact on your child's education and literacy.

To give you some perspective on how important this is, a recent show entitled "Going Big" on This American Life by Ira Glass featured a segment regarding the Harlem Children's Zone, an ambitious program focused on helping parents help their children in the same way the Hanen Centre does- and it's working miracles in terms of improving children's scholastic outcomes.

It's simple things, like reading to your child, asking them questions, talking about emotions, answering those endles "Why?" questions that help spark your child's curiosity about the world and encourage them to develop these critical skills necessary for later literacy and academic success.

Please contact the Hanen Centre through their website at The calendar for 2009 is now available, and sample months are available on their website.

Click here to listen to Elaine Weitzman, Hanen Center- Developing Early Language Skills with your kids

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Show #98- Marcus Buckingham, Part II- The Truth About You

In the second half of my conversation with Marcus Buckingham, we discuss why kids with learning difference don't always fit into a standard model, but how it's even more important that we find things that engage them and make them shine. Every child has something terrific and unique to contribute, and too often, the one-size fits all system ignores what individuals can add to the mix.

We discuss how self-esteem is great, but self-efficacy, performance and contribution are the real measures of success. In the end, success should be defined by finding out where you can make the greatest contribution, not always by external metrics of bank accounts. Many kids with learning difficulties have gone on to be wildly successful by almost every metric as adults, ranging from doctors, like Dr. Edward Hallowell, to actors like Henry Winkler and Tom Cruise, to business people, like Charles Schwab. Part of this success is not about an easy path, but finding where on the path they seemed to belong, and that's what I think we wish for all of our children.

Marcus Buckingham is currently on a book tour across the Country- you can check this out at his website, Marcus is also hosting an online seminar you can take as time suits as part of Oprah Winfrey's Change Your Life program, which you shouldn't miss. And I guarantee that Marcus's new book, The Truth About You is well worth the purchase price.

For visitors to the website, I am running a special contest! Send an email to by November 1, 2008, with your feedback about the interview with Marcus Buckingham, and you can win an audio book version of Marcus's first book, "First, Break all the Rules", and a copy of The Truth About You. We'll randomly select a winner from all entrants!
Click here to listen to Marcus Buckingham- The Truth about You

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Marcus Buckingham- The Truth About You

Show #97- Marcus Buckingham, The Truth About You, Part 1
I've been a fan of Marcus Buckingham's work for years. Through his books, I've helped to identify what I do best, and it's helped me focus on where I can be most helpful and productive. Marcus has a brand new Kit out called the Truth About You- which combines a book, DVD, small pad to track strengths and weaknesses and links to online material, that is truly excellent. I admit having some initial skepticism, as I am not a big "kit" person, but I was really impressed by everything, especially the DVD material. So much that I sat my kids down to watch as well, to reinforce that they need to start looking at what they do best, every day, for themselves.

The first half of my conversation with Marcus addresses what strengths are, and why this is so much more than just what your child is good at, or some mystic way to boost their self-esteem. A strengths-based approach is trying to help your child figure out where they are most effective- where they contribute the most, as well as what gives them the most joy and success. This is about actual performance and outcomes for kids, not just puffery. And importantly, Marcus also talks about his own experiences with his son, and why we have to help kids honor who they are and make the most of it every day.

In the second half, we talk more about how we need to help kids get really specific about their strengths and where they're most effective. In the DIY culture, we're all supposed to be the est at everything, but in reality, it means we may be a jack of all trades but a master at none. We ask kids to be perfect at all aspects of school, yet do very little to let them really investigate and hone their areas of interest and natural talent. This does not mean doing the easy thing- nothing's harder than continuously honing and improving your skills- and this has the side effect of building resiliency along the way- a one-two punch for setting kids on a path of knowing who they are and realizing how very much they have to offer.

Click here to listen to Show #97- Marcus Buckingham- The Truth About You

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

LD Podcast#96: Dr. Andy Van Schaack- Part II

In this second part of my interview with Dr. Van Schaack, we talk about how technology can help students, and what it can't do. One of the most important things we need to remember is that the tech might make some things easier, but it doesn't replace real learning.

The crux of this new "computer in a pen" is that while you are taking notes in a regular spiral notebook (on special paper with a watermark...), it is recording the audio in the classroom, at a meeting- wherever, at the same time. The pen stores your handwriting, diagrams, and notes exactly how you write them, and this will get transferred to your PC as a PDF file- just like you took a picture of your notes. It also syncs the audio to exactly when you wrote those words, so whenever you go back to your notes and tap on the word, online or offline, you can hear the audio recorded at that moment. Moreover, your notes also become searchable, so you can find exactly when the professor was talking about the effects of inflation in the economy, or what would be on the midterm.

So you are saying, "Cool, but is it worth the cost?"

Research into how people learn best shows that notetaking is important in the learning process- but when they looked deeper into why, they found that the value is in having this external storage system for information. And if you know that capture of information is worthless without having meaningful access to it, making all of your notes searchable takes on greater meaning, even if there is no accompanying audio!

Now, good note taking is a skill in and of itself. People talk at 40 -50 phonemes a second, much faster than people can read or write. Studies also show the cognitive load of listening to a lecture and taking notes is as strenuous as playing grandmaster-level chess. So assuming even the best notetakers can't keep up with the lecturer, word for word, maybe we need to alter how notes are taken in class, and add the ability to rehear and fill in details later as a better strategy.

For me, I became intrigued with this "gadget" because I could finally get a handle on what my kids were taking for notes during class, and afterwards, be able to compare what the teacher was saying to what my child was writing- and in the process, we're trying to hep him build a more effective note taking and studying strategy, that he will surely need for high school and college. Factor in his poor handwriting, and this tool can really help make up for a cognitive and fine motor task that is very difficult for him.

This is not really an infomercial for this product, but a show where you can hear about how something like this product might really make a difference in the classroom- also as a tool for teachers to provide meaningful audio feedback to students, that students are more likely to use to change their future performance, as well as understand the time and effort the teacher is putting into reviewing their work- critique becomes more meaningful, even if the student and teacher are not in the same place at the same time.

I'm excited about this product and how it's working so far for us, and I hope you'll find the science behind the learning process as exciting as I do.

Oh, and someone posted on the blog that if you use this code, SCRIBE5A20 on the Livescribe site, you can receive a 5% discount on the purchase of the pen, which is great!
Click here to listen to Dr. Andy Van Schaack and the Livescribe Pen- Part II

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