Archive for the 'neuropathways' Category

08
May
13

What Jerusalem Day and Teachers’ Day and Spock have in common

spockWithout teachers, there might not be a Jerusalem.  How’s that, you might ask.  Well, it is a matter of “Tradition” as goes the song in “Fiddler on the Roof.”  There has always been the Jewish tradition of teaching the next generation.  The whole liturgy of the Passover is one big object lesson for kids.  While university professors were lecturing away, enjoying the sound of their own voice, doing a data dump in their bored students’ minds, rabbis were facilitating before facilitators were in vogue.  Talk about home-schooling, Jewish mothers would teach the Hebrew aleph-bet by baking cookies in the shape of the letters.

When will educators leave behind the old Greek oratory lecture method of teaching and enter into interactive learning?  The Digital Age of Education is how we will teach the next generation.  It has to be quick, memorable, visual, putting the student in the driver’s seat.  This is scarey for the 20th century educator.  But I say to you, give it up!  Even Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has given his mantle to Zachary Quinto, Elijah/Elisha style, ensuring future generation of Trekkies.   See them together in Audi advert.

Right now I am developing an online course for the most ancient of languages:  Hebrew.  This will not be a course for old fogies who want a grammar lesson.  This is meant for kids–because they are the ones who need to find Hebrew fun, because it is.  Through a company called iSpring, I have been able to make powerpoint presentations and upload them on their site.  They convert them to flash presentations.  But this is the kicker–they keep all my animations–which are essential to the method of the course.  Also, the student has control on the slides: the student can set the pace. Other website where you can upload your ppt don’t always offer these features.  That is where YouTube doesn’t cut it–a video is too fluid–it’s gone before you know it.  No time for reflection.  With iSpring, a student can stop one a slide as long as needed.  it’s easy to go back and repeat.  In learning languages, it’s all about repetition.  The student can hear the word as many times as necessary.  What is good about iSpring is that it accommodates a language written right to left. Also, there is no problem mixing the English with the Hebrew.

Also, at the end of each module, there is a game, what some would call a quiz. For learning to take place, real learning, students need to have the opportunity to check what they have studied, and many times, the learning actually takes place during the game.

This course is a great way for kids who are preparing for their Bar-Mitzva and Bat-Mitva to actually learn how to read Hebrew and have fun.  After this course, they can easily learn to read the prayers and scripture that they need to know.  And if some adults who are still kids at heart want to learn how to read Hebrew, they can enjoy it too.

In the Jewish tradition, I am searching for beta-testers.  I welcome interaction from participants where I can learn from you.

15
Jan
13

What they don’t tell you that could help you learn a language

When you wonder why you have difficulty learning a foreign language, before you beat up on yourself, consider this: a lot of language learning programs are not just stuck in the 20th century, but they might even be in the Middle Ages.  Try some of these techniques and let me know how you get on:

1.  Listen.  Before you try to talk, listen–a lot.  The first thing you want to do is to learn how to hear the music of the language.  Just sit back, relax, listen, and let it roll into your ears.  Have fun with it.  Notice the funny sounds.  Listen for about ten minutes every day for a week.  See if you can pick out your target language from other languages.  Listen to a two minute recording over and over again.  See what works for you.

2.  Get movies in your target language with English subtitles.  Maybe some of the foreign films from the Academy Award nominations will help you. Enjoy the movie.  Get to know the culture of your target language.   If you can get a dubbed version of your favorite TV show like Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, or The Office,  that helps too.

3.  If you want a tutor to help you, plan your own lessons.  What do you want to know how to say?  Do you want to know how to order at Starbucks? Write it down.  Give the list to your tutor.  Sometimes the best tutor is someone who knows your target language and will be willing to follow what you want.  Sometimes, the best tutors are the ones who had to painfully learn the language like you did. Their accent will be easier for you to understand.  A native speaker is good as you get further along.

4.  Don’t repeat what you hear.  Just learn to listen.  There is no rush to repeat.  Ask your tutor to teach you different commands to which you can respond–like the game “Simon Says.”  You only obey the commands without speaking.  It gets your body involved.  The language is real to you.  And you don’t have to say anything.  You just want to know how to start learning how to recognize words:  Close the window.  Open the door.  Can I have a glass of water please?  You don’t have to understand every word.  You succeed if you do what your tutor asked you to do.

5.  After you have listened to the language for a few weeks, have been able to fulfill requests, now you may want to talk.  But again, make sure that you have listened to what you want to say enough times.  Sometimes, you may need to slow it down.  Sometimes you may need to hear it many, many times–especially in the beginning.

6.  Do not repeat it aloud.  First, repeat your responses in your mind.  Don’t repeat them aloud until you are happy with what you hear in your head.  Each time you listen for it in your head, you are creating synapses which will help you be more successful when you say it aloud.  For instance, take a phrase that you want to learn how to say.  Listen to it three times at least.  Then listen and repeat it in your mind.  Do this three times.  Now you are ready to repeat it aloud–even if it is only to your golden retriever.  He’s very non-judgmental.

7.  Make sure that your tutor only corrects you if you cannot be understood–not if your articulation is not perfect.  You are just beginning.  Remember pronunciation is caught not taught.  It comes over a long period of time.  Be patient with yourself.