Are You an Autodidact? Or Do You Need Other People To Learn?

When Bill Gates was still a teenager, he would sneak out of his family’s house before dawn and ride his bike to a building on the campus of the University of Washington. He had discovered that the university’s huge supercomputers were idle between the hours of three and six in the morning, allowing the budding computer enthusiast to teach himself
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Technology That Understands Its Human Users

MIT BLOSSOMS, one of the most exciting and effective uses of educational technology to help high school students learn math and science, doesn’t boast the latest in artificial intelligence or adaptive algorithms. Its secret weapon is, rather, a canny understanding of human psychology—both students’ and teachers’. Technologically speaking, its basic model could be executed with an old television and VCR.
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Educating Kids About Sleep

We tell children why it’s important to eat their vegetables. We tell them why they need to get outside and run around. But how often do we parents tell children why it’s important to sleep? “Time for bed!” is usually the end of it, or maybe “You’ll be tired tomorrow.” No wonder children regard sleep as vaguely punitive, an enforced
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Bringing The Body To Digital Learning

Today’s educational technology often presents itself as a radical departure from the tired practices of traditional instruction. But in one way, at least, it faithfully follows the conventions of the chalk-and-blackboard era: it addresses itself only to the student’s head, leaving the rest of the body out. Treating mind and body as separate is an old and powerful idea in
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Why Schools Should Block (Some Of) The Internet

As schools around the country have rolled out one-to-one computer initiatives, handing out tablets and laptops to their students, a sour note has often intruded on the triumphant fanfare heralding these programs. Within days, even hours, of the devices’ distribution, their young users have figured out how to circumvent the filters meant to block access to games, social networking, and
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What Young Children Can Get Out Of Technology—And What They Can’t

Note to readers: The following is a cover story I wrote for the June 2014 issue of School Library Magazine. Although it’s aimed at librarians, parents and teachers of young children may find it of interest to them as well. And as always, I’d love to hear your feedback!—Annie It’s been a long time since libraries were paper-only domains. Computers,
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The Problem With “Boot Camp”-Style Learning

If there’s a new skill or body of knowledge you want to learn, should you immerse yourself completely for a short time, or stretch the learning out over a longer period? “Boot camps”—for foreign languages, computer programming, executive leadership, and any number of other topics—favor the first approach. Alina Tugend writes about them in a piece appearing in the New
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Why Pediatricians Are Prescribing Books

Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement recommending story time with mom and dad start in infancy: parents should be reading to their children, the group says, from the first days of their lives. Research shows that one-third of American children start kindergarten lacking the basic language skills they will need in order to learn
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Technology Is Making Achievement Gaps Bigger

Note to Brilliant readers: I’ve launched a new weekly column about digital learning on the website of the Hechinger Report (the pieces will also appear in the online magazine Slate). The first column is below—I’d love to get your feedback!—Annie The local name for the Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington is “the Badlands,” and with good reason. Pockmarked with empty lots
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The Value of “Cognitive Humility”

“Quite possibly the best fish and chips in central London.” “Probably the oldest pub in Oxford.” “Might well be the finest Indian curry in Euston.” These are signs I saw on my travels through Britain this past week—advertisements promoted by the restaurants themselves, mind you, not lukewarm reviews on Yelp.com. They struck me in part because they’re so different from
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