Category Archives: Education

Neuromyths Busting and Education


English: PET scan of a normal human brain

English: PET scan of a normal human brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The OECD’s Brain and Learning project (2002) emphasized that many misconceptions about the brain exist among professionals in the field of education. Though these so-called “neuromyths” are loosely based on scientific facts, they may have adverse effects on educational practice. 

Here the list of some of the biggest neuromyths, or misguided beliefs about brain functions and their impact on learning and education design:

1-We use only 10 percent of our brains.

Wikipedia collected the refutations of the myth in its  “Ten Percent Of The Brain Myth” page Neuroscientist Barry Beyerstein sets out several kinds of evidence refuting the ten percent myth, here the top three most evident for me:

  • Studies of brain damage: If 90% of the brain is normally unused, then damage to these areas should not impair performance. Instead, there is almost no area of the brain that can be damaged without loss of abilities. Even slight damage to small areas of the brain can have profound effects.
  • Brain scans have shown that no matter what we’re doing, our brains are always active up to 45%. Some areas are more active at any one time than others, but unless we have brain damage, there is no one part of the brain that is absolutely not functioning.
  • Brain imaging: Technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allow the activity of the living brain to be monitored. They reveal that even during sleep, all parts of the brain show some level of activity. Only in the case of serious damage does a brain have “silent” areas.

2-The brain is static, unchanging, and set before you start school. The most widely accepted conclusion of current research in neuroscience is  neuroplasticity: Our brains grow, change, and adapt at all times in our lives depending on stimulus received from our environment. Therefore the more we use our brain at any age, the more we can develop connections and learn new skills even new languages. Experts routinely take the time to learn, unlearn and relearn relevant information related to their fields of expertise. There is a lot of new research going on in the field of cultural neurosciences, looking at the relations existing between cultural dimensions and the brain’s plasticity. Although most people think that good memory means good retrieval, good memory is actually good learning–forming a strong association when acquiring new information.

3-Some people are left-brained and some are right-brained. Like many other myths, this one has emerged from a misunderstanding of experiments made by 1981 Nobel Prize winner Roger Sperry, who noticed differences in the brain when he studied people whose left and right brains had been surgically disconnected. Today, neuroscientists know that the two sides of the brain work together to perform a wide variety of tasks and that the two hemispheres communicate through the corpus callosum.

4-Male and female brains are radically different. Though there may be subtle differences between male and female brains, there is absolutely no significant evidence to suggest that the genders learn or should be taught differently. 

5-The ages 0-3 are more important than any other age for learning. Even though the connections between neurons, called synapses, are greatest in number during this period there are few studies that have to do with teaching during these “critical” time periods.

Still, there are some powerful insights emerging from brain science that speak directly to how we teach in the classroom: learning experiences do help the brain grow, emotional safety does influence learning, and making lessons relevant can help information stick. The trick is separating the meat from the marketing.

 Related resources:

How Intercultural Competence Drives Success in Global Virtual Teams


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See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

A study that shows intercultural competence as a factor in effectiveness of global virtual teams, and that building relationships, establishing structure, and having discipline are critical for success.

Anne Egros‘s insight:

To build a global team, first determine what needs to be done and then identify who are the best individuals for achieving the goals based on individual coaching and through intercultural training programs

See on gbr.pepperdine.edu

Online Education as an Agent of Transformation


See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

Online education is beginning to show itself as a disruptive innovation, introducing more convenient and affordable services that can transform sectors.

Anne Egros‘s insight:

Online (higher) education or E-learning, will change the way students will learn and it will help serve students who cannot afford traditional on campus teaching today. With globalization it is inevitable that traditional learning processes will be challenged and prestigious universities may lose their competitive advantages to the benefit of more collaborative and multicultural entities.

However the need for face to face meetings will still be there. The students may meet in person in local clusters to work on projects while using online materials instead than on campus classes.

The word MOOC has been introduced to designate MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSES (FREE ONLINE COURSES) OFFERED BY THE BEST UNIVERSITIES AND ENTITIES. Already many universities offer online free courses  The top three MOOC-makers are Coursera, Udacity, and EdX

Another trend in education is crowd-sourcing, an open way to solve complex problems by using social media tools to get fresh ideas through group collaboration. For example, I use Memrise.coman online learning platform that users feed with their own ideas on how to memorize a specific topic.

See on www.nytimes.com

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The Dangers Of Slang For Non-Native Language Speakers


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I have had interesting discussions with linguists and intercultural coaches after publishing an article,  “You Are What You Speak: How Language Influences Behaviors”,. The debate was mainly around  words and cultural context.

The most recurrent question was:  Is it the cultural context or environment that impacts the way we attribute meaning to words and then produces thoughts that trigger certain behaviors ? or is it actually the language itself that makes us think and react in a certain way ? I would say both based on differences between regional variations of the main language such as English spoken in UK or American English or Spanish from Spain and South America.

Nobody really found a satisfactory answer as there are too many factors involved in a communication process including personal preferences. However some interesting comments highlighted the differences between native speakers and non native speakers.

I just experienced something quite typical for a non-native English speaker. I use a “curating” tool:  “ScoopIt” that helps compile different articles and blogs organized by specific topics. You can use ScoopIt to automatically quote an article in a WordPress blog then make your own comments, edit text, add images or links to additional resources.

For my previous post I found an article from “Fast Company” about networking and I kept the original title without feeling that something was wrong. One word I did not know sounded “soft” slang to me. The initial title was Yes, It’s Possible To “Network” Without Being A Scumbag … Yes, I know now, that is a really, really BAD wordProbably you were shocked to read that in my blog ! Hopefully I have an American friend who is also a regular reader of my articles who suggested that it was maybe a word I would never use in my language, especially in writing  (Thanks Barbara !). So I look at the translation for this word in French and I felt it was disgusting, obscene and vulgar. Yet when I read the title again in English I do not feel that bad, the word doesn’t trigger any emotional reaction that probably native speakers learned when they were little boys and girls watching the faces of their parents and other adults with a horrified look after they said it.

So English might be the most common language in the business world but I guess few people learn slang and profanity in their English as Second Language (ESL) classes. In every cases I would recommend to learn some slang and other swearing words to understand fully a conversation between natives but would not use them especially in writing.

Back to language and behaviors, many expats report that they behave differently when they think with words from their mother tongue or think and speak using their second language, unlike true bilingual people who learned two language simultaneously. It is clear that emotions and feelings linked to a sound or a word are learned very early in the development stage of babies and young children. It is also true that people who are exposed to technical and international  business English feel much at ease in a professional environment than some native language speakers who do not know specific jargon and didn’t learned leadership skills in English for example

How about You ?

Can you share examples of foreign words you used that were inappropriate ?

What was the reaction of people around you ?

Life as a Bilingual: Speech Discrimination in Bilingual Infants-Psychology Today


Soviet Inlay: Multiracial children. A kinderga...

I have summarized and commented the findings of an interesting article “Speech Discrimination in Bilingual Infants” in Psychology Today by François Grosjean, Ph.D.  Emeritus Professor of psycholinguistics, Neuchâtel University, Switzerland. Dr Grosjean is famous for his work on the holistic view of bilingualism, language mode, the complementarity principle, the processing of code-switching and borrowing, as well as the bilingualism of the Deaf. He is the author of the book “Bilingual: Life and Reality” where he talks about myths and strategies to raise bilingual children.

Bilingual infants are particularly good at discriminating the sounds of their different languages in their first year as long as the languages are acquired through live human exposure. But this does not mean that bilingualism needs to start at such a precocious age. For the majority of bilingual children, it begins at a later age without any problem.

Can any type of exposure to two languages (through human interaction, DVDs, audio input, etc.) will encourage infants to develop the phonetic categories of their languages ? University of Washington researcher Patricia Kuhl and her colleagues replied negatively based on a study they undertook.They exposed 9 month-old American infants to twelve sessions with Chinese native-speakers who read and played with them in Mandarin. A second group of similar infants received the same amount of Mandarin language exposure but only through DVDs and audio input.

The results were clear. Whereas the live human exposure infants acquired the Mandarin phonetic contrast, the second group did not. This shows that phonetic learning doesn’t rely only on raw auditory sensory information.

According to the authors, the presence of a live person interacting with an infant generates interpersonal social cues that attract the infant’s attention and motivate learning.

Based on these interesting findings, can we extrapolate and answer the following questions ?:

Can we apply same conclusions to adults learning a new language ?

Can we really learn intercultural communication in books ?

Beside languages, can we learn any new  topic via online teaching and E-learning ?


Related article: Does Raising Bilingual Children Make Them Smarter ?

The Twitter Trap


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Image via Wikipedia

The Twitter Trap By  Published: May 18, 2011 : What thinking in 140 characters does to our brains.

This article is providing good perspectives on how Twitter and other social media may have an impact on the way you learn or how you make connections with people.

The predominant criticism for Twitter is making us having shorter and shorter attention span like calculator did with our ability to memorize math facts. However blaming technology won’t help bad parenting or bad teachers not able to captivate the students’ attention and inspire them.

If children are obese because they eat junk food and drink sodas, it is the parents’ responsibility to educate and be a role model, set boundaries and say no. If you eat while watching TV you are basically saying to your kids that it is OK to multi-task and not focus on either the food or the news!

My point is this : technology has evolved since the first Homo sapiens used a stone as a tool to break a coconut. Nowadays you cannot stop the wave of new electronic technologies but you can learn to surf on it. Twitter and Facebook do bring great features helping making real connections and bring people together from all over the world for good causes. For example we saw the great role of social media to support the Japan earthquake victims or allow free speech in non-democratic countries.

Is Twitter addictive ? Absolutely yes, for some of us, like tobacco or alcohol. Drinking good wines does not make you automatically an alcoholic!

Does Twitter make your children stupid? certainly NOT !  Kids learn different things that will help them thrive in their increasingly fast-paced, global world. Generation gap always existed with or without Facebook. By the way the fastest growing segment for Facebook is baby-boomers who are retiring.

So don’t blame Facebook if your kids don’t communicate with you but ask yourself questions: Are you a role model ? Do you set clear rules and consequences ? Do you truly listen and focus on what they say, not checking emails or watching TV at the same time ?

Read the original article:  The Twitter Trap

Related Video:  Twitter at School

Kids React To Osama Bin Ladens Death [VIDEO]


Episode of KIDS REACT – It is important to take pause when historical events occur and to reflect on how the next generation views the actions of our ever-changing world. Though this is a more serious subject than our usual episodes, it is valuable to learn from the insights of more innocent eyes than our own.

Some answers are really smart ! Kids nowadays are much more aware of the global news and issues than my generation of baby-boomers

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