How playing an instrument benefits your brain

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What’s going on? Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians’ brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.

Lesson by Anita Collins, animation by Sharon Colman Graham, narration by Addison Anderson, music by Peter Gosling.

[via wimp.com]


I came across Vocabulary.com in browsing a few weeks ago and each time I check it out I play around with their vocabulary challenge. Given my background (reading problems, not a huge reader of books) one would think I’d run the other way but in fact, I’m finding the multiple choice challenge/game fun.

The site is all about building vocabulary but it also has an extremely fast dictionary for looking up words.

Today I signed up and made an account so I could keep track of my progress with the challenge and start building some word lists of words I have trouble with.

While I’m not considering retaking the SAT (at 60) I do have an interest in well-designed sites like this and how they might help anyone, with or without a reading disability improve their vocabulary. I have no idea who runs vocabulary.com but it doesn’t have advertising on it and it’s a relatively clean site.

Moses and Benny hack languages


This video isn’t slick but it’s worth watching end to end and if you’re intrigued, read the back story and watch Benny’s interview with Moses: Language leveling up: Moses and Benny speak a dozen languages in Columbus Ohio.

In the second video you’ll learn that both of these guys are polyglots or maybe hyper-polyglots (six ore more languages fluently). The embedded video above is Moses showing Benny how he practices languages he’s just learning in a mall in Columbus, Ohio. He finds random people in the mall who look like they might speak another language he knows, breaks the ice and morphs into using that language. In the second video he talks with Benny about this technique and why it’s a great way to learn a language (by using it in real world settings).

This is not about a black guy (or a white guy) shocking people with their use of a language other than English but in watching the video there is little doubt that as Moses breaks into Chinese his various conversational partners’ eyes light up. This is about a learning technique that’s powerful in many different disciplines: learning by doing.

Here’s Moses’ YouTube channel: Laoshu505000’s Foreign Language Road Running Channel.

As someone who speaks only English and who has a tough time with just a single language, I’ve been intimidated, no, scared to start learning a second language for my entire adult life. This is the first encounter with foreign language learning that has ever appealed to me and that’s saying something.

[via wimp.com]

The concept of learning styles may be a self-fulfilling prophesy

Think You’re An Auditory Or Visual Learner? Scientists Say It’s Unlikely

This is really interesting. Not sure I’m willing to toss out the concept just yet but this piece is worth taking seriously.

More on Learning Styles and Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences.

Hands-on learning

PBS NewsHour does Maker Faire: “Can DIY Movement Fix a Crisis in U.S. Science Education?”

Xeni Jardin, one of the tech contributors to boingboing has a great post and overview of a piece Miles O’Brien did the other night on the PBS NewsHour on the Maker Faire. Read her excellent post and watch the NewsHour segment, it’s very well produced.

I just commented on her piece, here’s my comment:

Great post Xeni. I too saw the NewsHour segment and have been following the movement for a long time. I’m of the age where we used John Muir’s How to Fix your Volkswagen for the complete idiot (me) as the bible and it worked by making car mechanics more accessible.

For at least one set of roots of the makers movement check out The Whole Earth Catalog and all of the associated publications Brand, Kahn, and others did.

The only thing that bothered me about Miles’ piece was that I think it was put together backwards: the case for making engineering more accessible should have been made first, then the makers movement shown as one possible way to help it happen for people with visual/hands on learning styles.

Hands on learning isn’t for everyone just like book learning isn’t for everyone. The problem with American education is that we design it for book learners so hands on types don’t do well (except in shop class). But, the answer isn’t to cater more to hands on types, the answer is to have many ways in and not rank them one better than another.

Tips and Advice for Students, Teachers, and Parents

Note: This list was compiled in 1990 by me and originally posted in 1995 on LD Resources. The ideas still make good sense and may be even more useful in our TV and smartphone obsessed world. With thanks to the now defunct Whole Earth Catalog, CoEvolution Quarterly, and The Whole Earth Review.


Pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students. Pull everything out of yourself. Work hard. Then work harder.

Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.

Learn by trial and error, and don’t avoid the errors. Consider everything an experiment.

Learning doesn’t happen in class, it happens when you get home and look at the wall. Don’t forget to make time for looking at walls.

Be self-disciplined.

Be a self-advocate.

Learn from your mistakes. There is no win and no fail, there’s only honest effort.

Assume that others are always doing their best.

Work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things. Worrying about work doesn’t get it done, it only makes getting started harder.

Get good at something other than school-related work (like skateboarding or cooking).

Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes. Continue reading

Quotations about Learning

I’ve been collecting quotations for years and figured I’d put my collections online for others to use as they wish. Enjoy these quotations, use the comment form to share any quotations about learning you don’t find here.

I never let my schooling interfere with my education.
– Mark Twain

I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and six months as a cabdriver. Then they would really be educated.
– Al McGuire

Education is learning what you didn’t know you didn’t know.
– George Boas

I quit school in the fifth grade because of pneumonia. Not because I had it but because I couldn’t spell it.
– Rocky Graziano

Experience is a good school, but the fees are high.
– Heinrich Heine

Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together.
– Georg Christopher Lichtenberg

Any place that anyone young can learn something useful from someone with experience is an educational institution.
– Al Capp

The great difficulty in education is to get experience out of ideas.
– George Santayana

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.
– Mark Twain

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.
– Douglas Adams

Continue reading