Great dose of Hans Rosling and Manfred Spitzer

Today is my day off. And so far it is proving to be just as inspirational as you would expect the best of Saturdays to be.

If you’re not familiar with cogdogblog I highly recommend it. Alan Levine’s post on the TedTalks includes an embedded video of Hans Rosling talking about world development and statistics and making data available and understandable to the public. To say he was “talking” doesn’t do him justice – he gives an engaging performance, the kind that makes you wish you were a student in his class. Just watch the video and enjoy (seeing him is better, but if audio is your only option do listen).

Another morning diversion was reading an interview with Manfred Spitzer, a cognitive neuroscientist, psychiatrist, professor, plus a dozen other titles, who is adamant about keeping kids and youth away from TVs and computers. As the founder of the Ulm Transfer Center for Neuroscience and Learning and prolific author on the subject, he talks about learning with a passion.

A couple of points he makes definitely make sense to me (aside from the throw-away-your-TV one). For example, the best teachers are the ones that are enthusiastic learners themselves and passionate about what they teach.

Another fascinating fact is about how we learn best. He says that results of studies when they measure brain activity as we are working shows that our brains are most active when we are dealing with people. So doing an assignment all alone is not nearly as effective as when we are working together with other people to come up with a solution to a problem in a fun way. He says that this explains the superior results of Japanese kids versus American kids in a comparison of success with learning fractions, in spite of the fact that the Japanese class were bigger (37 versus 25 students).

And another connection happens: what Spitzer says coincides with Jay Cross‘ view that at work, we learn 80% of what we need to know on the job informally, in conversation with our colleagues. Not that we needed a brain scanner experiment to prove that…

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