The Language Fix

A blog for sharing language and learning information


October 2009

Language Podcasts

Here are some recent podcasts related to language and learning that I’ve found interesting:

American RadioWorks , by the American Public Media, has many great podcast documentaries.  Among those related to languageamerican public media pic and learning are:

  • Financing the Real World – “American RadioWorks goes to Holy Family Cristo Rey, a school that makes preparation for the work-world part of the curriculum.”
  • Education and Motivation – “American RadioWorks Executive Editor Stephen Smith talks with education reporter Emily Hanford on President Obama’s recent address to the country’s students.”
  • Put to the Test – “No Child Left Behind has had a dramatic effect on American schools. Producers spent two years in one high school documenting how high-stakes testing has reshaped teaching and learning.”
  • Rewiring the Brain; Early Deprivation and Child Development – “After the fall of communism in Romania, the world was shocked to discover a vast system of orphanages where unwanted children languished in cribs with little attention from caregivers. Sixteen years later… scientists are measuring how children recover from early neglect and discovering what early damage might be irreversible.”

psych files pic

The Psych Files podcasts – Michael Britt has done an inspiring with these terrific podcasts.  Among those related to language/learning are:

  • Episode 90: The Learning Styles Myth: An Interview with Daniel Willingham – “Guess what? There’s no such thing as learning style (the theory that each of us has a preferred way to learn new ideas. There are many supposed kinds of learning styles, such as a visual learning style, an auditory style, kinesthetic, etc.). Don’t believe it? Neither did I at first. I was sure for a long time that I personally had a visual learning style. Now I’m not so sure anymore. Listen to this interview with professor and author Daniel Willingham as he and I discuss the topic of learning styles.”
  • Episode 53: Mindful Learning, NCLB, and the True Foundations of Success – “Tired of rote memorization? Tired of NCLB? Try mindful learning. In this episode I explore psychologist Ellen Langer’s concept of mindful learning. What does it mean to teach and learn in a mindful way?”
  • Episode 29: Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic vs. the Motivation To Learn – “You’ve probably heard about the battle between intrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Well, here’s a new and powerful way to motivate students: the Motivation to Learn.”

Also try:

whole child picThe ASCD’s Whole Child Podcasts are topical, monthly, and archived on their site.  Some interesting past topics include:  Understanding the Education Stimulus Package, Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners,and Beyond the Test Bubble:  Accountability, Expectations, and Planning.

learning matters pic

UNC Charlotte’s Center for Teaching and Learning has some great podcasts under the title:  Teaching and Learning Matters.  Topics include: Creating Interesting Assignments, What is Cooperative Learning, and Respecting Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning.

Individual versus Group Testing

  • Testing takes too much time.
  • There is too much pressure to teach to the test.
  • Tests measure limited aspects of a student.
  • Ignores standard error of measurement.
  • Increases anxiety and stress

I don’t think I even have to write an introductory sentence for this post – if I did, it would be something like, “The way group testing is done now creates a lot of problems.”  It’s become almost cliche to say that No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on testing has created a lot of headaches and hassles.  The testing emphasis and the accompanying problems have been shared by other countries.  Research has been mounting in support of the overwhelming mountain of testimonies from educators, and even the general media at large has joined the bandwagon.  (For example:  CBS news story; Boston Globe article; UK Daily Telegraph study story)   Everyone agrees that accountability is a good thing, and there’s only one way to measure how our children are learning.  Well, actually, there’s something wrong with that last part… There is another way.  Individual testing.

I’ll go ahead and get my bias out of the way, because I am a diagnostician.  I test students for speech and language competency in order to decide special education eligibility, and to help provide planning for appropriate speech and language therapy.  I work with a team of other diagnosticians serving 13 school districts.  Most students that we test receive IQ and educational testing, and probably two-thirds get speech and language testing.  I am not exaggerating when I say that when we finish testing a child parents, teachers, and the students themselves know the tested child like never before.  We can tell exactly what’s wrong, and exactly how to fix it.  Individual testing trumps group testing in so many ways.  Individual testing specifically…

  • takes less time with greater accuracy.
  • is impossible to teach to the test.
  • We can measure any educationally relevant aspect of the student that we want.
  • frustrated test takertakes special circumstances into account.
  • has less anxiety.

Additionally, individual testing …

  • specifically measures progress (or lack of) in very specific areas.

That’s the only bullet there, but its important enough to merit its own list.  Put another way, this means that when we are able to test kids this way, we can determine exactly what a student knows, and what a student should know, but doesn’t.  We can also tell what’s developmentally appropriate for each student to learn next.

So why don’t we just test each kid individually then?  Well, it would require a lot of change – change sparked and implemented by bureaucrats in an educational system who would only do so in response to mandates from politicians in a government who would only mandate in response to political pressure which would require much greater media attention.  As the ongoing attempt to overhaul health care has demonstrated, real change in our country is often extremely difficult.  Especially systematic change.  And even when the need for change is obvious.

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