Thursday, February 22, 2007

Education problems - is there a silver bullet?

(This blog forms part of a series. Please check the previous entries on how to use computers wisely, how much time in front of the computer is healthy, what is better: the library or the Internet, what are the education problems of today.)

The solutions to education problems are aplenty, at least in theory. Almost everybody has their favourite (please add a comment at the bottom of this blog if we’ve omitted yours):
· Smaller classes (i.e., a better teacher-child ratio) - you can find a good argument here:
· More technology
· Less technology
· A radically different education approach (like Montessori or Rudolf Steiner)
· Stricter discipline
· Nutritious breakfast
· Better teacher
· Better paid teachers
· More passion
· More money
· ... And many others.

But is there a silver bullet? I believe that the answer is yes, to an extent. Every student is unique, every situation different. By finding out exactly what a student needs in his or her learning environment - also known as Learning Style Analysis ( - and then catering to those needs, we create a student who is more receptive to learning and less inclined to be disruptive (or even self-destructive).

Example 1:
Mary dislikes bright lights, thus she will become hyperactive, stressed and undisciplined in a room with fluorescent lighting (such as many classrooms have). However, Jake who likes bright lights will feel lethargic and sleepy in a room that’s dimly lit. Catering to their unique learning needs by creating brighter and darker areas in the classroom would make these students perform better at school.

Example 2:
Emily has a non-preference for external motivation (to find out more about this need, please look at This means that the traditional carrot-and-stick approach so often used by teachers and parents alike doesn’t work on her. Offering her a treat for doing her homework will only irritate her, while withholding privileges for not doing the homework might make her rebellious is she also has a non-preference for conformity. To encourage Emily to do her homework, you must appeal to her inner sense of motivation, in other words, you must make her want to do homework for her own sake.

For more information on this topic, please do not hesitate to drop a comment or an email to yvonne at

Friday, February 16, 2007

What are the education problems of today?

(This blog forms part of a series. Please check the previous entries on how to use computers wisely, how much time in front of the computer is healthy, what is better: the library or the Internet>)

At first glance, the question “What are the education problems of today?” seems far too generic. Surely the education problems in USA must be different from those in Africa, India or New Zealand?

Naturally, every country will have its unique problems. In some countries, women are allowed to go to university. In others, children don’t have access to schools, textbooks, teachers who speak their language, learning tools. Some education systems are criticised for pushing children too hard, making them too stressed by exams and too busy with homework. Other systems are criticised for not monitoring the students’ progress closely enough or comparatively enough.

However, some education problems are shared by numerous and often seemingly diverse countries:
· Students leaving school without gaining an adequate level of literacy and numeracy.
· Discipline problems at school.
· Students who dislike school and consider learning a chore.
· Students who battle with homework.
· Drop-out rate.
· Students who are mislabelled as “learning-disabled”, or “learning-challenged”, or ADD.

Please feel free to post a comment on this blog and list more education problems. The ones I’ve named above are the first that came to mind because I work with them every day... and because I know the solution.

That’s right. The solution is called “Letting children learn according to their Learning Styles” or “Learning Styles” for short. Please have a look at to find out more.

While I know I can’t solve the education problems in a single blog column, here is an interesting article about what makes for happy children (stay-at home mothers, open channels of communication with parents, lack of peer pressure, high level of education with a simultaneous lack of unreasonable demands from teachers). And here is another article about why Learning Styles are important: to Stay.pdf.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The library or the Internet?

(This blog entry forms part of the series: “Is Technology the Answer to our Education Problems?”)

Your child has a school project to do. Should you invest in a Cyber Nanny program and introduce the child to the search engines on the Internet, or take her to the local library instead?

The advantages of the Internet:
If you have access to the Internet at home, at school or at work, checking information online is faster than browsing through catalogues and finding the right books on the shelves.
The latest, most up-to-date information.
Usually more points of view can be found on an issue than in an officially approved reference book.

The disadvantages of the Internet:
You have no way of knowing whether the information you find is correct or just somebody’s opinion.
References are usually absent, so is the date of publication.
You can experience information overflow.
Because the computer and the Internet itself offer many fun pastimes, it’s very easy to get distracted from your research topic.

Realistically speaking, children will need both skills in life: that of library navigation as well as that of safe Internet browsing.

But did you know that some children prefer to see information on the computer screen, while others need to touch the book for better information assimilation? Or that some children might prefer the busy library environment to the quiet of the house? Find out what your child needs in order to learn new things: visit us on

Thursday, February 01, 2007

How much time in front of the computer is healthy at any age?

(This entry forms part of a series about IT and learning. Please see the previous entry about how to teach your children to use computers wisely.)

How much time in front of the computer is healthy at any age? Or perhaps a more prudent question would be “What’s the maximum time you can spend in front of the computer without it being unhealthy?”

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.

There is no doubt that spending time in front of a computer is not the best thing you can do for your body. Even if you’re sitting or kneeling in a special ergonomic chair designed by posture experts, you will tend to hunch your shoulders, bend your neck, strain your spine. Even the best computer screen, with minimal or no flickering refresh rate, will eventually tire out your eyes (although LCD screens are much better than CTR ones - see Typing is bad from your wrists and mousing is bad for your dominant-hand shoulder.

Then of course come all the disadvantages of a sedentary pastime instead of a kinaesthetic one, and the psychological dangers of spending too much time in cyberspace, like going to chat rooms instead of parties all the time. (To see whether you’re in danger of becoming addicted to the Internet or lured by electronic casinos, etc., please visit us on and fill in your Learning Style Analysis.)

It’s a researched fact that preschoolers are beginning to spend time in front of the computer at the cost of other activities. “Children aged 6 and under spend an average of two hours a day playing video games, using computers, and watching TV and videos, about the same amount spent on outdoor activities, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports in a study released Tuesday. That amount is about three times the average 49 minutes spent reading or being read to.” (source:

Can too much time in front of the computer harm my child? Yes, according to a reputable parenting advice forum:

But not only children are at risk. Japanese researchers surveyed 25,000 office workers over the period of three years. They discovered that people who spent the most time in front of a computer screen suffered most from such symptoms as back pain, anxiety and insomnia. Workers with the worst symptoms spent five or more hours a day computer-bound.

To improve your health, then, it makes sense to eliminate or limit all the non-essential tasks you perform on the computer (surfing the Net for the fun of it, checking emails too often, playing games, chatting).

Starting now. :-)