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Brainscape’s Vision for the Future of Education 5 tips for creating great flashcards Why rote memorization is more important than you think

Going Gaga for learning English

By , 4/4/2014 at 10:07 am

lady gaga

Guest post from Alice Morell, a professional musician, dancer, and blogger at My Music Box.  You can find Alice on Twitter @AliceMorell.

Music is all about spectacle, no matter what culture you’re in.  It pushes boundaries, changes perceptions, and challenges the status quo. The best music makes us think, makes us feel, and reminds us that the way things are is not the way things always have to be. It speaks to some of our baser instincts, and the part of us that refuses to be just another copy of the cultural standard.  These elements are vitally important in any culture, keeping it evolving and flexible, and helping to prevent cultural stagnation.   All of these elements of music are put forth to the listener through the artists voice.

Language finds its ultimate expression through music, where emotion and vitality are transmitted through the power of the singers’ voice.  It’s an aspect of our culture that is with us from the very beginning, when we first start learning the alphabet, and carries on being with us through all aspects of learning language.   Most everyone, at some time in their lives, has had to write poetry in school, and it is a hallmark of the angsty teenager to write poems expressing this time of change.   In the case of Lady Gaga, she used it to challenge the world to tell her to change, just so she could spit in its eye.


Apple is now making 20-year bets. It has to.

By , 1/2/2014 at 1:26 pm

Apple-logoOver the past few years, Apple haters have delighted in the fact that the company has not released a major new product line since the iPad.  “Apple can’t innovate without Steve Jobs,” the mantra goes.  “They’re dying.”

Yet recall that when Steve Jobs first returned to Apple as CEO in 1997, the company barely had 3 months of cash in the bank (and had to be temporarily bailed out by Microsoft).  Jobs was practically forced to release a new product line — the iMac — within fewer than 2 years of re-taking the helm, lest the company go bankrupt.  Apple’s short development cycles were a result of necessity and were made possible by setting more “modest” short-term goals.  And people got spoiled.

Things are a lot different now.  Growing hordes of cash reserves from the iMac (and soon after the MacBook and iPod) have allowed Apple to extend its R&D cycle many more years.  Indeed, Apple didn’t release the iPad until a full nine years after it first began working on it in 2001.  The recently released iPad Air represents a full fourteen years’ worth of iPad R&D.

Now that it’s 2014 and Apple has about $150 billion in the bank (8x the size of NASA’s budget), do you honestly think that their A-Team is rushing to release a cute new little revenue-earning product within a matter of months?  Do you think Tim Cook is fighting Carl Icahn’s dividend demands because he needs that $150 billion in cash to spend developing next year’s products?

Helllllz nah.

With such a fast-growing mound of cash, Apple literally has a responsibility to plan much more ambitious innovations for the long haul.  They need to be forecasting what the world will want in the year 2025 or 2035, and their Board of Directors knows it.  I have no doubt that Steve Jobs and Jony Ive spent many hundreds of hours formulating this multi-decade strategy during his final years.

So whatever groundbreaking new products Apple releases in 2014 or 2015, I plan to ignore both the fanboys and the haters.  I will rest assured knowing that Apple’s best years are way, way ahead of it.

Four Steps to Managing Stress: Part Four

By , 8/20/2013 at 8:04 am

Guest Series by Kathy McGurk:

Congratulations, you have made it to the fourth and final step for managing stress. Good news, in this step you will learn to have fun! In Step 1, you successfully identified the major stressors in your life. Step 2 allowed you to focus on changing your unnecessary and controllable stressful feelings, while Step 3 concentrated on the realization and acceptance that some potentially stressful situations are beyond your control, consequently altering your reaction to the stressor became imperative.  If you have completed all of these steps, then you are ready for the final, and the most fun, step. (more…)

Four Steps to Managing Stress: Part Three

By , 8/13/2013 at 8:04 am

Guest Series by Kathy McGurk:

If you’ve been advancing through the 4-step process to better manage your stress, you have officially made it half way! You have identified the major stressors in your life and begun to avoid the unnecessary stressors that are within your control. In the next step, you will continue to learn how to identify and deal with stressful situations that are often times aren’t quite as controllable as those in step 2. Already, you should be feeling a little bit of stress relief and you should be proud of yourself for making it this far, but just imagine how you will feel after completing the full 4-step process. (more…)

Four Steps to Managing Stress: Part Two

By , 8/6/2013 at 8:04 am

Guest Series by Kathy McGurk:

Hopefully after following step 1 of the 4-step process to managing stress, you have adequately pinpointed the real triggers of stress in your life, and are ready to continue moving on in the process. If you were dedicated to finding and acknowledging what really makes you anxious, I know you are committed to further understanding how to rid yourself of the negative these emotions. By sticking to this process, your body and mind will feel exponentially better and you will be able to put more energy into other tasks, instead of stressful emotions. (more…)

Four Steps to Managing Stress: Part One

By , 7/30/2013 at 8:04 am

Guest Series by Kathy McGurk:

We’ve all been there. The moments when we feel in over our head—when our job, our family, our education, or our lives seem like too much to handle—when we are stressed! While stress can often times be a good response–stress keeps us alert, motivated, and energized, all too often it becomes unhealthy and counter-productive.

Stress can take a major toll on our bodies, both physically and emotionally, leaving us with the difficult task of figuring out how to manage it all. While there are many different ways to cope with stress, I have broken the arduous job into 4 easy-to-follow steps that will ultimately help you cut back on the daily anxiety that impacts your well-being. In the next 4 blog posts, I hope to walk you through the 4 steps towards becoming as stress-free as possible. (more…)

How to Lose the Accent and Sound More Like a Native

By , 7/23/2013 at 8:41 am

Once we start investing the time into acquiring a new language, we are eager to see results and test ourselves. A good opportunity (and sometimes the reason for learning in the first place) is traveling to a country where the language is spoken. Being able to communicate with and understand a native speaker is probably the greatest reward. However, once you have acquired a certain level of mastery, it can become frustrating to be immediately placed as a foreigner who has merely acquired the local tongue. The perpetrator that tells on us every time: Our accent.

Depending on your native tongue, pronouncing certain sounds of another language can prove to be difficult. Still, it is not impossible to learn these phonetic elements and if you invest the time and patience, your work may just pay off. For his blog Fluent in 3 Months Benny Lewis put together a few tips that might help English speakers improve their foreign accents. What has been your experience with learning a new language and mastering its unique sounds? (more…)

Dr. Bill on Memorization – It’s Not a Dirty Word

By , 7/3/2013 at 4:43 pm
We have extolled the virtues of rote memorization many times on this blog. From its benefits for your brain to improving your long term retention, memorization is all sorts of awesome. Unfortunately, in recent times, schools and teachers have been using memorization less and less as an integral learning method in their curriculum. Of course, while project-based and interactive learning projects are great in the classroom, let’s not forget that memorization is a necessary component to fully learn a concept.
Fortunately, thought-leaders like Dr. Bill Klemm, agree that memorization is as important as ever. In his recent blog post Memorization Is Not a Dirty Word, he reminds us that, “In ancient times, people took great pains and pride in memorizing huge quantities of information,” and that, “the advent of printing greatly reduced the need to memorize history and cultural mores. In modern times, we have the Internet, where you can just Google what you need to know. So who needs to get brain-strain trying to remember things?” (We have also written on how Google cannot replace studying when learning a language.)
We loved this post and have shared it below for you to read. There’s plenty more to his argument than ancient vs. modern times. Read on! (more…)

Placebo Effect to Better Grades

By , 5/17/2013 at 7:43 am

Guest Post by Robert Blakey:

Take a sugar capsule which is labelled and marketed as a proven treatment and you may recover from an illness – that’s the traditional placebo effect. Take on the belief that a test’s answers are being displayed subliminally and your test score may improve – that’s the new drug-free placebo effect demonstrated by Ulrich Weger and Stephen Loughnan in a paper published this March. (more…)

Brainscape Is The Thread That Holds Your Learning Together For Life

By , 5/13/2013 at 8:50 am

bc library tapestryAmerica’s current education technology ecosystem suffers a tremendous weakness: Students are constantly forced to switch between learning platforms nearly every year, as they progress through K-12, college, and graduate school.  At the beginning of each school year, students are painfully herded onto different learning management systems (or “apps”), and all their learning data from previous semesters’ studies is completely lost or ignored.

Such constant platform switching prevents students from leveraging past semesters’ mastery in a fully adaptive and scaffolded learning process. Without a systematic way to refresh their knowledge over the years, students forget what they’ve learned in previous semesters when they are repeatedly forced to re-learn the same subject many times throughout their K-12 and college journeys.  Billions of dollars worth of education are wasted on one-time cram units that evaporate into thin air once the semester is over.

Solving this problem is one of the main reasons we founded Brainscape.

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