Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 --> 2015

This time of the year is a time to reflect on the past and to plan the future. It's also a time to count our blessings and to be grateful. A novel way to remember all the things we're grateful for, is to create a Gratitude Jar. An old jam jar, an ornamental box with a lid, a decorated Tupperware container - the choice is yours. Fill it with scraps of paper and attach a pen. Throughout 2015, make a point of jotting down the things we're thankful for, big and tiny. And then at the end of the year, we can sit down with a mug of hot chocolate or a glass of champagne and re-live our year in positives.

Happy 2015!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves. So may your world be filled with love, warmth and good cheer this Holy season, and throughout the year.

Friday, December 19, 2014

For the teacher in your life

Do you know a teacher? Delight them this Christmas with a unique gift: a present created especially for them.

Barbara Prashnig’s book, “Learning Styles in Action”, is a practical guide to implementing learning styles in the daily teaching practice, thus helping teachers solve any stress and discipline issues.

The newspaper-column-style of the book ensures fast reading. The layout allows the reader to skim and dip into the content at any point, gathering the desired information and enhancing it with the content supplied on the left-hand pages. (These pages partly elaborate the content of the right-hand pages, partly illustrate and explain the concepts discussed on opposite pages.)

The book is full of scenarios and diverse real-life situations. Among others, “Learning Styles in Action” shows you:
  • How learning styles can help underachieving or disruptive students
  • Multi-sensory teaching and learning in action
  • Ways to integrate learning styles and ICT (computer technology)
  • How to create a real learning styles classroom
  • The do’s and don’ts of using learning styles.
Each chapter gives answers to different areas of teaching. Special care has been given to the application of LS in different age groups because despite the same underlying concept and philosophy, teaching strategies, classroom set-ups, and interaction with students vary profoundly from pre-school to university level.

The book also explains the integration of LS with other pedagogic concepts like learning cycles, Multiple Intelligences (MI) and Information Communication Technology (ICT). Most importantly, it also suggests strategies for dealing with discipline issues and disruptive disrespectful students.

Help a teacher today with “Learning Styles in Action”. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Travel Less Save More

For many companies and organisations, travel is routine. Meetings, training, site visits, and, of course, commuting to work – for most people these are all part of the daily schedule. With travel comes cost: the cost of travel, the cost to the environment, as well as the cost of productivity lost during travel time.

Communications technology can help reduce the need for travel in business today. Depending on your Working Style, tools such as the telephone, video conferencing and email can be as effective as face-to-face meetings, without the time and expense of travel.

Innovative working arrangements can also help reduce travel time. With compressed working, employees can accumulate the hours they work and then use these to take a day off. This can contribute towards fewer travel costs, for example, a person may elect to work a 10-hour day Monday through to Thursday and take Friday off.  Allowing staff to work from home one or more days per week can reduce their travel costs and improve their productivity by maintaining their work-life balance.

Are you well suited to working flexi-hours or in a virtual office? Find out.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Christmas Maths

Whether it's summer or winter in your part of the world, you've probably noticed your children's learning has decreased in intensity in anticipation of the Christmas holidays. However, the break will not be favourable towards the students' progress in maths.

Fun sheets to the rescue! Have a look at these magnificent ways of capturing your child's imagination and enthusiasm for learning this Christmas season:

 +  = ???

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Useful Maths Tricks

How many of these super-cool maths tricks do you know? Have a look.

Incidentally, did you know that your child's ability to do maths depends, among others, on their Learning Style:

  • If you ask a child who needs movement to sit still and memorise a times-table, you’re unlikely to get good results. You would do far better if you allowed them to walk around or play hopscotch on a makeshift map of times-tables.
  • Tactile children, would love to use Koosh balls and learn better by using self-correcting learning tools (flip chutes, electro boards) and other hands-on activities. 
  • Auditory children benefit from making tapes of their lessons (either recording their teachers in class, or reading the material themselves out loud).  E.g., chanting the times-tables.
  • Kinesthetic children may make schoolwork more interesting by miming the lesson or staging a production.

What is your child's Learning Style? Discover it today.

9 x 8 = ???

7 x 6 = ???

30 degrees C = ??? F

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Learning Resources: Do you prefer technology or tradition?

When it comes to learning, today's technology keeps providing us with the latest and the greatest gadgets. We can access knowledge online, we can experience new skills in simulated environments, we can use our eyes, our ears, and our hands.

Whether you embrace technology or prefer the tried-and-tested resources will depend, in part, on your Learning Style. But here's an interesting argument from IKEA (with our apologies to Apple). Have a look

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Teachers Can Learn From Famous People

Terry Pratchett is an internationally bestselling novelist and a multi-millionaire. At school, he was, according to his own words, "a non-decrypt student", a "dreamer", and a "goat". His principal open doubted Terry would achieve anything in life. At 17, Terry left school with 5 O-levels, and got a job at a local newspaper. at 35, he had his first Discworld novel published. 25 years later, he was knighted.

Thomas Edison, famous scientist and inventor (of, among many things, the electric light bulb), was thrown out of school at age 12 because he couldn't learn maths and was unable to focus. His teacher said, "he was too stupid to learn anything."

Tom Cruise, a world-famous movie producer, director, and actor, describes himself as a “functional illiterate” due to dyslexia. He wasn't a good student. Today, his estimated wealth is 380 million dollars.

Director of Jaws, Steven Spielberg, dropped out of high school because he was put in a "special education" class.

Benjamin Franklin, whose image graces the $100 bill, left school at age ten.

Bill Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft and the richest person in the world for a number of years, left Harvard in his junior year.

All these people succeeded despite, rather than because of, their teachers. And yet, a good teacher can ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning. Are you a good teacher? Find out.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

What Teachers Can Learn From Students

In a recent study, a teacher took two days to replicate a student's life at school: she attended all the classes, played the sports and did the homework. Here's what she learnt:
  • Students spend a lot of time sitting, and it's more energy-draining than you can imagine. Before the first day was over, the teacher had a lot of empathy for children who fidget in their desks.
  • Students spend a lot of time having to listen. In many lessons, there's no opportunity to express your own views, you just have to assimilate those of the teacher. Even students who learn well by listening need a regular break to aid their concentration.
  • In some classes, students may feel belittled if they ask a question.
The problem doesn't end at school though. Sometimes it continues on the sports field, with the coach doing all the talking and reprimanding, as well as at home where homework awaits.

Depending on the child's Learning Style, they will be better or worse equipped to handle what's expected of them. Discover their optimal Learning Style today and learn what makes them tick.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An Excerpt From Barbara Prashnig's Keynote Address in Poland

11 Steps to implementing Learning Styles on a school-wide basis:

1. Teacher training (LS Day 1) “Diversity in the Classroom Based on Learning Styles” including teachers’ own personal LSA-Adult profiles

2. Student assessments with LSA questionnaires, printing of computer-generated student profiles by the school itself

3. Teacher Training (LS Day 2) “Help for Problem Students – new Classroom Management – Group Profiles” interpreting student profiles with focus on underachievers; LSA Interpretation Manual; classroom re-arrangement

4.    Observation period of seven days carried out by teachers trained in learning styles

5. Sharing results with students and parents: interpretation of LSA profiles, homework and study strategies for students; parent evenings to share results

6. Teacher training (LS Day 3) “Teaching Styles, Learning Tools, implementing LSA” including teachers’ personal TSA-Ed profiles; focussing on mismatch between learning & teaching styles; production of learning tools; implementation strategies

7. Creating and using interactive learning tools, produced initially by teachers, later by students, resource teachers and/or parents

8.    Adaptation of classroom teaching to suit analytic and holistic students – lesson preparation to integrate LS into learning cycles and accommodate L/R brain processing, plus strategies for multi-sensory teaching to cater for auditory, visual, tactile & kinesthetic learning needs

9.    Classroom redesign: based on students’ preferences from group profiles and with students’ input; school-wide co-operation is necessary to achieve the desired outcomes

10. Evaluation phase: monitor students’ progress and evaluate impact of programme on teachers, students, parents and the community at large

11. Continuation: incorporate new students, train new teachers and continue
     to build the ‘School of the Future Based on Learning Styles’.

 Please contact us for more information.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Learning Styles Continue To Conquer Poland

(please scroll down for the Polish version)

Good morning. It's our privilege today to host in our virtual studio a Polish specialist in learning and teaching, an enthusiast of psychology, education, neuro-didactics and learning styles, as well as a mind map devotee: Joanna Prus. Earlier in October 2014, Joanna took part in the Conference Of Neuro-Didactics, attended by outstanding Polish and foreign lecturers in the field of neuroscience, neuro-didacticsand learning style analysis. We are honoured to be able to share her impressions from the conference.

Q: Joanna, please tell us about the general atmosphere of the conference.
A: It's amazing that something is finally beginning to vibrate slowly in the Polish rigid educational system. There are already quite a number of teachers searching for better and more effective teaching tools, people who have a passion and desire to grow, who are looking for new, more effective ways of working and strive to constantly improve them. I remember even just three years ago typing
"learning styles" into the Polish Google yielded disappointing results: one article written by a passionate teacher as well as my own website, where I described the LSA. In those days very few people were interested or knew anything about learning styles and the proof was the Google search results for the phrase "learning styles". This is why the atmosphere at the conference was so special - I finally felt that I didn't talk to a brick wall when discussing learning styles and proclaiming that all children are talented, they all like to learn, but they sometimes just have completely different learning preferences.

Q: And now, specifically, what did you think about Barbara's presentation?

A: Barbara is fantastic. I was impressed by her presentation - very substantive, yet interesting and engaging. Personally, I think the lecture is one of the most difficult forms of communication and you have to be a really good speaker to
keep the audience's attention for an hour. Barbara, however, by the very way she presented, proved that learning styles are the key to success in education. In her lecture, there was something for auditory learners, visual learners, and kinesthetic learners - sound, music, text, images, movement and emotion. Something for the right and left hemispheres - the whole picture in the form of an LSA pyramid and an extremely logical analysis of the various elements. Barbara argued successfully how much can be achieved simply with the awareness of learning styles and understanding that students learn in different ways. 

Q: Other experts also attended - what interesting new concepts did they bring to the conference?
A: It was Dr. Marzena Żylińska, author of "Neurodydaktyka" and the cause of the whole positive vibe around this topic in Poland. Dr. Żylińska used a bitter joke to describe the mistaken direction of education in most schools today: "Sit down, Johnny, this is a school, no-one here is interested in what interests you." She tries to gather lessons learned from neuroscience and convince teachers, parents, and educators, that it is up to them to create an environment that determines what becomes of our children. Last year, she invited  Manfred Spitzer, a German neuroscientist, and this year she hosted the famous German professor of neurobiology and educator, Gerald Hüther, the author of the book "All children are gifted." Professor Hüther also starred in the acclaimed Erwin Wagenhofer movie "Alphabet".

What stood out for me in the professor's speech was that brain development is not genetically determined. The way in which our brain connects nerve cells does not depend on any genetic programming. Every child comes into the world with plenty of invaluable neural connections. Gerald Hüther illustrated it thus: like a sculptor carves a block of stone, so does a human by his/her activity and experience shape the neural structure of the brain, strengthening some connections and pruning the others. The "Mozart gene" or the "Einstein gene" doesn't exist. We parents, educators, teachers should not spoil the natural potential of our children, instead, we should create conditions for their development through love and acceptance. Entice, encourage, and inspire. The professor also highlighted the importance of cooperation between students, teachers, and parents. This was also strongly emphasized by Barbara Prashnig.
Q: Following the conference, what
will you do differently?
A: Good question. I wondered about this already before conference, as well as during it. Now I am convinced that the next step after the engagement of the teachers are the parents. We need to invite them to work with us to change schools for the better, to help children learn and to ensure their development in accordance with their predispositions. Parents want the best for their children, but often end up unknowingly ruining the natural potential of their children in the name of parental love. I see my role in helping parents, I would like them to notice their children's potential, recognize their learn preferences and discover their talents. Building a community, a kind of club for parents, students, and teachers - that's my dream.

Q. Wow. If anyone would like to try LSA in Polish, how can they contact you?
The easiest way to reach me is write to the address, or contact us through our Facbook

Thank you so much for the interview.

Wywiad po polsku

Dzień dobry. Dzisiaj gościmy w naszym wirtualnym studio polską specjalistkę od uczenia się i nauczania, pasjonatkę psychologii edukacji, neurodydaktyki oraz stylów uczenia się, wielbicielkę map myśli – Joannę Prus. W połowie października Joanna uczestniczyła w Kongresie Neurodydaktyki, w gronie znakomitych polskich i zagranicznych prelegentów z dziedziny neurobiologii, neurodydaktyki, analizy stylu uczenia. Jesteśmy zaszczyceni, że zechciała się z nami podzielić wrażeniami.

  1. Joasiu, powiedz nam ogólnie o atmosferze konferencji.
To niesamowite, że w Polsce wreszcie coś powoli zaczyna drgać w sztywnym systemie edukacji. Jest już całkiem spora grupa nauczycieli, którzy poszukują sposobów na lepsze i efektywniejsze nauczanie, ludzi, którzy mają pasję i chęci, by się rozwijać, którzy poszukują nowych, skuteczniejszych metod pracy oraz ciągle je doskonalą. Pamiętam, jak jeszcze zaledwie trzy lata temu wpisując w Google wyrażenie „style uczenia”, można było znaleźć w polskim Internecie zaledwie kilka wyników, z czego jeden artykuł napisany przez nauczycielkę pasjonatkę i moją stronę, na której opisałam LSA. Faktem jest, że rzadko kto się tym interesował i wiedział cokolwiek o stylach uczenia się. Dowodził tego również ówczesny raport Google, dotyczący wyników wyszukiwania frazy – „style uczenia”. Zatem atmosfera na Kongresie była szczególna, bo wreszcie poczułam, że nie „rzucam grochem o ścianę”, kiedy mówię o analizie stylu uczenia się, o tym, że wszystkie dzieci są utalentowane, że lubią się uczyć, tylko mają do tego czasem zupełnie różne predyspozycje. 

2.      A teraz specyficznie o wystąpieniu Barbary.

Barbara jest fantastyczna. Byłam pod wrażeniem jej wystąpienia – bardzo merytoryczne, a jednocześnie ciekawe i angażujące. Osobiście uważam, że wykład jest jedną z trudniejszych form przekazu i trzeba być naprawdę niezłym mówcą, aby przez godzinę utrzymać uwagę słuchaczy. Barbara jednak całą sobą udowodniła, że style uczenia się to klucz do sukcesu w edukacji. W jej wykładzie było coś dla słuchowców, wzrokowców, kinestetyków – dźwięk, muzyka, prezentacja, teksty, obrazy, ruch i emocje. Coś dla prawej i lewej półkuli – obraz całości w postaci piramidy LSA i niezwykle logiczna analiza poszczególnych elementów składających się na style uczenia się, w której jedno wynika z drugiego.
Barbara przekonała, jak wiele można zdziałać już samą świadomością i zrozumieniem tego, że  uczniowie uczą się w różny sposób.  
  1. Byli tam też inni specjaliści – co ciekawego wnieśli do sympozjum?
Była dr Marzena Żylińska, autorka książki „Neurodydaktyka” i sprawczyni całego pozytywnego zamieszania wokół tego tematu w Polsce. Dr Żylińska jednym gorzkim dowcipem opisuje niewłaściwy kierunek nauczania w większości dzisiejszych szkół - „Siadaj, Jasiu, tu jest szkoła, tu nikogo nie interesuje, co ciebie interesuje.” Stara się zebrać wnioski płynące z neuronauk, przekonuje nauczycieli, rodziców, pedagogów, że to my tworzymy środowisko, które decyduje o tym, czym zajmować się będą nasze dzieci. W zeszłym roku zaprosiła do Polski Manfreda Spitzera, niemieckiego neurobiologa, a w tym roku gościł równie znany niemiecki profesor neurobiologii i pedagog – Gerald Hüther, autor książki „Wszystkie dzieci są zdolne”. Profesor Hüther wystąpił również w głośnym filmie Erwina Wagenhofera „Alfabet”.

Dla mnie niezwykle interesująca w wystąpieniu profesora była informacja o tym, że rozwój mózgu nie jest uwarunkowany genetycznie. O tym, jak w naszym mózgu będą łączyły się komórki nerwowe, nie decyduje żaden program genetyczny. Każde dziecko przychodzi na świat z niedocenianą jeszcze dziś obfitością połączeń neuronalnych. Gerald Hüther tak to zobrazował – jak rzeźbiarz z kamiennego bloku wykuwa rzeźbę, tak człowiek poprzez swoją aktywność i doświadczenie kształtuje strukturę neuronalną mózgu – jedne połączenia wzmacnia a inne „przycina”. Nie ma – jak powiada profesor – „genu Mozarta” czy „genu Einsteina”. My rodzice, wychowawcy, nauczyciele nie możemy psuć naturalnego potencjału naszych dzieci, a stwarzać warunki do ich rozwoju poprzez miłość i akceptację. Zachęcać, dodawać odwagi i inspirować. Profesor również podkreślił ogromną rolę współpracy na linii uczeń – nauczyciel – rodzic, co również silnie podkreśla Barbara Prashnig.
  1. Co teraz, na skutek sympozjum, zamierzasz zacząć wdrażać w życie?
Dobre pytanie. Zastanawiałam się już nad tym tak przed kongresem jak i w jego trakcie. Teraz już jestem przekonana, że kolejnym krokiem po zaangażowaniu nauczycieli są rodzice. Aby zmienić szkołę na lepsze, ułatwić dzieciom naukę i zapewnić im rozwój zgodny z ich predyspozycjami, musimy zaprosić do współpracy również rodziców. Rodzice często chcą jak najlepiej dla swoich dzieci, ale często w imię właśnie rodzicielskiej miłości zupełnie nieświadomie psują naturalny potencjał swoich dzieci.  Widzę ważną rolę w pomaganiu rodzicom, chciałabym aby umieli tak spojrzeć na swoje dzieci, by zobaczyć drzemiący w nich potencjał, by potrafili rozpoznać ich predyspozycje do uczenia się i kształtujące się w nich talenty. Zbudowanie społeczności, czegoś w rodzaju klubu rodzica, ucznia i nauczyciela to moje marzenie.
  1. Jeśli ktoś chciałby spróbować LSA po polsku, jak może się z Tobą skontaktować?
Najprościej do mnie napisać na adres można również się z nami kontaktować przez naszego Facbooka

Dziękujemy za wywiad.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Learning Styles Rock Poland

Earlier this week, Barbara Prashnig caused an outbreak of public excitement when she addressed the audience of the First Neuro-didactics Conference in Poland. Learning Styles, it seems, is exactly what the Polish education system needs in order to overcome forty years of communism followed by three decades of not knowing how to apply the political freedom to bring about a learning revolution.

The attendees of the conference hope to shape the necessary changes in education systems around the world and find answers to the following questions:

·        Do today's schools facilitate or hinder brain function?     

·        Why do students lose their motivation to learn?     

·        Does it make sense to focus learning on testing outcomes?     

·        Is student potential realised in school?     

·        Does school help students develop a positive self-image and build self-confidence?

Creative Learning and Learning Styles will be behind them all the way.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Our Company Turns 20!

That's right! Creative Learning Systems is now twenty years old. Scary how time has flown. We've survived the Big Auckland Blackout of 1998, the introduction of NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) in 2002, the Global Recession of 2008-2009, and the birth of National Standards in 2010.

We've had several website looks and we've added heaps of new products to our offering. Our client list expanded to include Carter Holt Harvey, Bell South, Air New Zealand, Flight Centre, University of Auckland Graduate School of Business, Nokia (Finland), Northland Health, TV New Zealand, Motorola, and many others.
We could spend many happy hours philosophising about the two decades of fun. We could recount all the highlights. Not that we're not tempted, but what we thought we'd do instead is to celebrate our success with you.

More about that in next week's blog.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

New Productivity Rules... Or Are They?

Business consultant, Gihan Perera, has this to say about our productivity:

"The old rules of goal setting, productivity and time management don’t work. Our goals become meaningless when the environment changes, it’s difficult to stay productive when we’re constantly interrupted, globally dispersed teams make in-person meetings impractical, and the 9-to-5 workday just doesn’t make sense anymore. The new principles for high performance and super productivity are direction (rather than goals), signals (rather than interruptions), collaboration (rather than meetings), and flow (rather than time management)."

All the new terminology. Sounds scary, doesn't it? The good news is, it shouldn't. Although the words are different, we at Creative Learning and Prashnig Style Solutions have been advocating them for decades. We agree with Gihan Perera that the golden rules include:
  • Working when your energy levels are high (this may mean morning for some of us, evening for others) - check your own Working Style to see how to increase your productivity.
  • Process information faster and more effectively - your Working Style will help you do it in an optimal way.
  • Collaborate - this will come to you easier if your Working Style has a preference for working in groups.
  • Manage your email and mobile phone interruptions - if your Working Style allows global information processing, so much the better.
  • Know the direction and the destination.
Work smarter. Work with your Working Style.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's better - books or reading online?

There's no doubt about it: exposure to fiction is essential for developing children's imagination. In a way, it matters less whether the format is listening to a book, reading together with a parent or reading by themselves, just as long as they get lost in the imaginary world of book characters.

We usually include e-books and online reading in the same set: as long as it's a book, it doesn't matter whether it's on paper or on the Kindle. However, as early as 2006, an eye-tracking study by scientists at the US-based research group, Nielsen Norman, indicated that people read web pages and books on iPads in an “F” pattern. This means that they scan the top line all the way, then halfway across the next few lines, and then only down the left side of the page, all the way down to the bottom of the article.

This kind of reading is helpful when we're trying to form a quick overview of the text (non-fiction reading), but it doesn't work to yield a deeper understanding of what we’re reading. Wall Street Journal had this to say: "as much as rich multimedia-laden content captures our attention, with a mixture of words, sounds, and moving gifs, videos and image galleries, studies have shown that together they can lead to lower comprehension than just reading plain text."

Something to ponder, for sure, especially if your Learning Style is visual.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society

This blog post is a tribute not only to Robin Williams, but also to all the great teachers out there. In the movie "Dead Poets Society", Williams played the role of John Keating, an unconventional English Literature teacher. John Keating's teaching style - it involved tearing "boring bits" out of textbooks - would have horrified sequential thinkers and delighted simultaneous ones. (To read more about Learning Styles, please click here.)

Some famous John Keating quotes include:

  • When you read, don't just consider what the author thinks, consider what you think.
  • No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.
  • We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
John Keating was their inspiration. He made their lives extraordinary. He was a real teacher.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Finland and South Korea - The Best Education

Recently, Finland and South Korea were proclaimed the two countries with the best education systems. Shocking? Indeed. You would be pressed to find two countries so different in their philosophy towards learning, and yet, both systems yield results.

The differences are staggering. South Korea has large classes and relies heavily on hard work and repetition. Finland has tiny classes with very few school hours, withe the emphasis placed on students thriving outside the school.

There is only one similarity we could find: in both countries, teaching is a highly respected profession. Could the answer to the world's schooling problems be as simple as that?

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Best Learning Quotes

“Every student can learn, just not on the same day, or the same way.” – George Evans

“Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” – Plato

“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin

“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.”
― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog 

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” ― Robert Frost

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

“Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Google Earth and Learning Styles

Google Earth helps children visualise and discover the world around them. It’s an online program that lets you explore the earth using 3D maps and 3D street views. It also has some library images of forests and mountains, so you can see inside the White House including all the details of the Oval Office décor, as well as the spots on a jaguar inside the Amazon Jungle. (Incidentally, when you do see a large spotted cat inside the Amazon Jungle on Google Earth, the search engine Google itself can tell you, as it told me, whether it’s a leopard or a jaguar. It’s a jaguar. Leopards don’t inhabit South America. You Google and you learn.)

Depending on your child's learning style and personal interests, you can use Google Earth to:

·        Find the globe’s volcanoes and researching details about their locations.
·        Map the journey our food takes from the farm to our plate, and investigating the environmental impact of food choices.
·        Travel back in time to learn about their own neighbourhood and how it’s changed over the years.
·        View shipwrecks.
·        Use the Ruler tool to calculate distances.

 Have fun!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fun Education Apps

For all those students out there whose Learning Style is visual, tactile and stationary, here are a few iPad apps to try out at school or at home.

  1. StoryKit - an awesome app that allows users to create an electronic storybook via illustrations by drawing on the screen, using pictures and text, and recording audio to attach to stories. 
  2. Video Science - A growing library of hands-on science lessons. These short videos demonstrate inexpensive and easy to recreate experiments that are designed to inspire and excite kids of all ages. 
  3. Google Earth - Explore the planet: search for cities, places, and businesses. Browse layers including roads, borders, places, photos and more. Visit the Earth Gallery to find exciting maps such as real-time earthquakes, planes in flight, hiking trails, city tours, and more. 
  4. Hubble Space Telescope Discoveries - Soar through the universe with the Hubble Space Telescope, exploring dark energy and colliding galaxies. 
  5. Solve the Outbreak - Get clues, analyze data, solve the case, and save lives! In this fun app, you get to be the Disease Detective. Do you quarantine the village? Talk to people who are sick? Ask for more lab results? The better your answers, the higher your score – and the more quickly you’ll save lives. You’ll start out as a Trainee and can earn badges by solving cases, with the goal of earning the top rank: Disease Detective.
 Is e-learning a good option for your child? Find out.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Your Working Style And Conferences

You hear about a new conference in your field coming up next month. The topics all seem interesting at worst and ranging all the way up to super-fascinating. The guest speakers are experts you've heard of and would love to connect with/ And, best of all, your diary is clear for that week and your boss is paying.

Are you excited? Or not so much? That will probably depend on your Working Style. If you learn best in groups, by looking and by listening, in a noisy environment, during the day and by sitting still, then conferences are the thing for you. Change some of these preferences into non-preferences, and you might actually not enjoy your conference experience very much. Of course, there are always the tea breaks to look forward to.

With this in mind, we've decided the time may be right again for a Learning Styles conference. Watch this space for more details.

What is your own Working Style? Find out.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Nigel Latta Rates Kiwi Schools Brilliant

Nigel Latta is a familiar name in every Kiwi household. His parenting advice may appeal or raise eyebrows, but is inevitably hilarious and memorable. A few weeks ago, we were honoured to host Nigel on our blog. Today, the country hosts him in our TV lounges as he discusses the way New Zealand schools work today and whether it's better than the traditional approach.

The traditional approach relied on an end-of-the-year examination system that have you a neat mark out of a hundred. You got 50%, you passed, You got 49%, you failed. But, on the day and under pressure, is that one mark really important enough to determine whether or not you're labelled a failure? What if you worked hard all your school life, but crumbled under exam pressure because of your learning style? What if you had a headache on the day of the big exam?

Nowadays, New Zealand schools offer Discovery Learning as part of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Discovery Learning, according to the Wikipedia, is "a technique of inquiry-based instruction and is considered a constructivist based approach to education. It is supported by the work of learning theorists and psychologists Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, and Seymour Papert."

What this means in the real world is that the teacher doesn't impart his or her knowledge to the students, expecting them to assimilate and regurgitate. Instead, the teacher guides the students towards the answer or answers, bearing in mind that there may be more than one correct outcome.

For example, a class on Soft Materials Technology (sewing in traditional speak), might design and create a soft toy that scares away monsters at night but doesn't scare the child. Doesn't it sound more fun than sewing an apron from the same pattern throughout the whole school?

In English, the students may watch a movie and discuss the character's emotional journey or the symbolism of certain objects.

In maths, kids will be learning that there is more than one way to solve a problem. If you need to add 12 and 15, you may go:
  • well, 12 is 10+2 and 15 is 10+5, so I'll just add the two tens and then add 2 and 5; or
  • well, 15 is the same as 12+ 3, I know two twelves are 24, and I still have 3 left over, so I'll add that to 24.
This helps children get strategies to choose from. Some kids will choose strategies best suited to the numbers. Others will choose strategies best suited to their own learning style.

Watch Nigel Latta go to school:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The secret to balancing work and life

Julie Ashton, Life Coach and Business Consultant, has this to say about managing time:

"It is well a known fact that you cannot manage time, you can only manage what you do with your time. Many people talk about ‘to do’ lists and priority management in order to get control of their ‘time’. However, while we need these tools, most of us do not question our habits, personality and belief systems when trying to improve how we manage our time. Often when trying to ‘prioritise’ tasks in order to gain control of our day, we prioritise on what we believe is important and those beliefs have been created by our values and other people’s expectations not on what is truly important to us in our lives."

What is really important? What is urgent but not really important? If you track your daily activities, you may be shocked to discover that you spend more than 80% of your time dealing with issues that are urgent and yet not important. Sometimes it's because they are small and therefore easy to get out of the way with a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes it's because they're persistent and won't go away (phone calls are a good example). Sometimes it's because we simply go through our lives, hour after hour, week after week, stuck in our routines (particularly if our Working Style has a non-preference for variety).

When you plan tomorrow's activities, classify each one in terms of importance and urgency. And, just for one day, try to do only the important stuff.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Can You Learn In A Boat?

What can you learn if you sail the world with your parents for a year? In addition to your expected home-schooling lessons, you will learn:
  • minute geographical details of the area you're sailing
  • the culture and the history of every port
  • exposure to foreign languages
  • navigation
  • soft materials technology when mending sails and sewing new clothes from your old ones
  • hard materials technology with boat repairs
  • food technology: meal planning with cans and local produce
  • electronics: when your laptop malfunctions
  • converting from the local currency into your own - in your head
  • the art of bartering and bargaining
  • the dying skill of letter writing
and the list just goes on and on.

A dream come true, not only for kinesthetic learners.

If you don't own a sail boat or can't see yourself shutting down your normal life for a year in order to go on holiday, don't despair. There is always pretend-play. Try it out.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thinking-Based Learning

How do you teach children to think? One intermediate school in New Zealand believes they've found the golden key. We found their thinking-based approach to learning so compelling, we hasten to share it with our clients.

Here's what the school website says: "Here at Birkdale Intermediate School we have developed a thinking-based learning approach in social science, science, technology and The Arts. We give our students ‘real world’ problems to solve with no one right answer. Their work is judged on the quality of their argument. Each unit has a particular thinking focus where the thinking skill is explicitly taught.

To support this learning we are developing units of work we call Quests. A Quest for new insights and understandings. A major Quest lasts for about six weeks. The Quests come with a teachers guide and a multimedia CD ROM or iPad App of specially chosen resources. We are happy to share these with other schools."

Here are some of the examples of their awesome quests:
  • "Titanic – When something tragic happens people are often quick to guess at the cause. This can be very dangerous. If we are to protect ourselves from further harm we must be very certain of the cause. It is vital that we are skilled at causal explanation. In 1912 Captain Smith was on the bridge of the largest man made moving object on the planet. The R.M.S. Titanic was near the leading edge of technological development and was thought to be virtually unsinkable. We all know it hit an iceberg and sank, but knowing what happened will not protect us from another disaster. Knowing why it happened is the key. Using skillful causal explanation and the original documents from 1912 can you work out why the Titanic hit the iceberg?"
  • "Filemoni’s Dilemma - Filemoni is a 13 year old Samoan student. He is the eldest of five children. He lives in a village on the island of Upolu with his mother, father and siblings. His parents are thinking about emigrating to New Zealand under the belief that the children will be able to have a better life there. They would be able to stay with extended family members in Auckland. However, Filemoni is very confused and has called upon his friend (you) in New Zealand to help him through this time. Using skillful ‘compare and contrast’ what would you say to Filemoni? Should he come or should he stay?"
  • Lest We Forget – On hundreds of War Memorials all around New Zealand you will find the words ‘Lest We Forget’ engraved in stone, etched into glass or cast in bronze. These monuments are designed to last many centuries. People have gone to a great deal of trouble and expense to get this message to everyone who stops and reads the words. Make a well-founded judgement. What should we remember about War?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Magic Of Field Trips

Education doesn't only happen in a classroom. More often than not, a fun outing can lead to learning, especially for kinesthetic learners. And, if you choose your trip field well, it can also lead to ice cream! 

A few years ago, my children and I were lucky enough to witness the ice cream making process from beginning to end. Zany Zeus in Wellington is more than an ice cream factory and parlour. That’s because the owner, Mike, is very focused on educating his customers about the ice cream making process. “I did a degree in food science,” Mike says, “yet I never saw how to make ice cream until I started my own factory.” This is why his shop has a ceiling-to-floor window looking straight into the factory where the magic happens. And magic it is indeed. From ingredients as simple as organic milk, skim milk powder, sugar, stabilisers and frozen boysenberries, Mike and his assistant John (who jokes he pays money to come to work and make ice cream every day) can whip up boysenberry ice cream in as little as fifteen minutes. But first, the laws of food hygiene have to be observed. Anybody who steps into the ice cream factory has to wear a hair net, an overall apron, and gumboots. They must also wash their hands like a surgeon. “It’s because harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in the ice cream mixture,” Mike explains.

Once the ice cream makers are scrubbed clean, the fun begins. Mike and John work as a team to blend the ice cream ingredients into a uniform mixture, achieving the most amazing colours: pale green for pistachio ice cream, pink for boysenberry ice cream, brown for chocolate. “Nothing artificial,” Mike assures us as he pours the big bucket of ice cream mixture into the churning machine. “If we can’t achieve the flavour or colour we want using natural ingredients, we simply don’t make that ice cream.”

The churning process takes 10 minutes at -3 to -6 degrees Centigrade and you can see the liquid ice cream turn solid before your eyes. When Mike scoops it out of the machine into plastic containers, I get a taste. Amazingly, the pistachio ice cream tastes of pistachios, and the chocolate ice cream is a chocolaty as you can get. All of them are incredibly smooth and creamy, and, like John, I’d happily pay to work here every day.

The last part of the process is freezing the ice cream for an hour in an industrial fridge at a whopping -30 degrees! In a world where children sometimes don’t know that apples come from trees, factories like Zany Zeus are a boon. “Once you see the ice cream made,” Mike says, “you know where it comes from.”

(Is your child a kinesthetic learner? Find out.)

The visit to Zany Zeus made us think about ice cream and Google additional questions.

·        Q: What are the different types of ice cream?

·        A: Gelato, sorbet, sugar-free, dairy-free.

·        Q: When was ice cream invented?

·        A: Over two thousand years ago, in the Persian Empire. They didn’t use milk.

·        Q: What’s the weirdest ice cream ever?

·        A: Turkish ice cream - it stretches like chewing gum and is so chewable you can eat it with a knife and fork!

·        Q: The weirdest flavour?

·        A: Garlic!

·        Q: What is Centigrade?

·        A: A scale on which to measure temperature. Water freezes at zero.