Getting Closer to Brilliant

My dear brilliant readers, For the past three years, I’ve been researching and reporting and reflecting on what it is that makes people smart. The usual answers to that question concern long-range causes—genes, childhood rearing environment. I’m more interested in the short-range determinants of intelligence: the immediate conditions under which we learn and work, conditions that can prompt us to
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News of the World, At Every Level

“A man who traveled from Liberia to visit family members in Texas tested positive for Ebola on Tuesday, marking the outbreak’s first diagnosis outside of Africa, health officials said.” That’s a pretty standard lead-in for a news story, pitched at the level of a newspaper-reading adult. But it’s a long, rather complex sentence, and a younger reader would likely find
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Making Student Data Useful

One indisputable effect of introducing technology into education has been the generation of unprecedented amounts of electronic data on America’s public school students—their attendance, their test scores, their graduation rates, and many other kinds of information that can now be tracked and stored in massive databases. What to do with all this data is another question. The use of students’
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Relevance and Purpose = Engagement, Motivation, and Persistence

Why does this matter? Teachers are often called upon to answer this question about an academic subject, and computer science instructors may face this demand more frequently than most. Learning to write lines of code can seem, to many students, like a pointless exercise in tedium. But a few professors of computer science have a compelling reply at the ready.
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The Feeling of Learning

Human tutors—teachers who work closely with students, one on one—are unrivaled in their ability to promote deep and lasting learning. Education researchers have known this for more than 30 years, but until recently they haven’t paid much attention to one important reason why tutoring is so effective: the management of emotion. Studies show that tutors spend about half their time
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Do Girls Learn Differently Online?

To hear some ed tech enthusiasts tell it, online learning is sweeping aside the barriers that have in the past prevented access to education. But such pronouncements are premature. As it turns out, students often carry these barriers right along with them, from the real world into the virtual one. Female students, for example, are poorly represented in science, technology,
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Parents And Kids, Learning Together—And Having Fun

Mindy Brooks was eager to gauge the reactions of parents and children to “Electric Racer,” a new interactive educational game. Brooks is the director of education and research at Sesame Workshop, the children’s media company that brought us Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, and Elmo, and that now develops content for computers as well as for TV. “Electric Racer,” intended
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Computational Thinking: How To Get It, and Why It’s Important

A group of children on a playground, each kid clutching a slip of paper with a number on it, moves along a line drawn in chalk, comparing numbers as they go and sorting themselves into ascending order from one to ten. Another group of children, sitting in a circle, passes pieces of fruit—an apple, an orange—from hand to hand until
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Kids Get Enough Tech Outside of School—Shouldn’t the Classroom Offer Them Something Different?

One thousand hours: That’s approximately the number of instructional hours required of U.S. middle school and high school students each year. Four thousand hours: That’s approximately the number of hours of digital media content U.S. youths aged 8 to 18 absorb each year. (If you doubt that’s possible, be sure you’re taking into account the near-universal practice of “media multitasking,”
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The Dumb Jock Stereotype Can Be a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Social scientists know that in research studies, minority and female students appear to be vulnerable to the phenomenon called “stereotype threat.” Aware that the group to which they belong is often stereotyped as intellectually inferior, their anxiety that a poor showing on a test will confirm the stereotype actually depresses their performance on the test, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now,
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