Commentary: "How To Be Your Child's Learning Advocate"
What You Can Do Now To Save Headaches Later
Keep your child enrolled in high school and on the right curriculum path that includes state guidelines. If college is not your aim, focus on obtaining fundamental work skills, so they can be self-supporting.
Focus on a college and/or trade school preparatory coursework in junior high school, especially in English, math, and science.
Follow your child's grade school math, reading, and language skills carefully. They will become the basis for more advanced learning in junior and senior high school, and college.
Grades at all school levels are often inflated, and this camouflage can fool you into false complacency. Future catastrophic career blocks may occur with a lack of performance and achievement in high school and college.
Watch for lost learning experiences that can impede high school, college and career success. Language and math courses are sequential and progressive.
Skills not mastered in the 3rd through 7th grades result in missing links in the student's progressive learning chain.
Differentiated Learning is the new trend. Ask if your child has been placed in an ability level class and which differentiated level he/she is in. Some ability groupings are positive ways of effective classroom instruction, as students are at the same learning pace. Once in middle school or junior high, students may be placed in English and math classes according to their demonstrated ability.
Preparing for a Higher Education or Job Placement
Those who decide to work at semi-skilled labor in industry need the mental abilities to follow sequences of procedures.
These jobs require that a person be able to read manuals, do mathematical calculations and remember details crucial to job success. Students should learn visual sequencing through support computer programs designed for this purpose.
Competency in language, reading, math, and science is essential for entering college curriculums or obtaining skilled jobs to become self-supporting.
Mastering these subject areas is crucial for those who desire gaining admittance to out-of-state or private schools. Many college fields require several hours of foreign language, science, and math. Often, they require a "B" average for admittance into a major field concentration. Therefore, these foundations must be mastered in earlier grades.
Many college-bound students arrive on campus functioning at junior high school levels in basics such as English and math. This creates a problem as college instruction is faster paced than high school and demands more independent work. Classes start at high functioning levels, leaving no time to "catch up".
As a result, when freshman students are required to take basic math or English courses that they should have mastered in high school, typically, more than 60% can receive a "C" average or lower. For example, remedial math courses in 4-year colleges have increased by 75%.
Remedial college classes are the most highly endowed by the federal government. Parents are then forced to pay extra years of college tuition, which can run $18,000 -$60,000. per year to learn the basic courses that should have been mastered in earlier grades at a lower cost, if any.
If You Don't Prepare Early:
There Will be Strain on Both Students and Parents The consequences of being poorly prepared and getting off to a poor start on the job or in college profoundly affect students and parents alike. Let's consider:
A poorly prepared student may be forced to drop out of high school or college. Plans and goals are reoriented to accept a lesser job or career working for a lower wage.
It is difficult to live on a low wage, which precipitates not only personal hardships but creates social dilemmas.
A struggling student may take a minimum college course load and require extra semesters of work to graduate, achieving only a modest grade point average.
If admittance is not obtained in a desired field, alternative fields must be considered. Often the easily accessible majors or career schools have saturated field entry in which job competition is fierce.
Some students take minimal course loads in order to ease study pressure, and many need five to six years to graduate. This extended luxury costs $18,000 to $60,000 per extra year in tuition costs alone.
Increasing numbers of young people in their 20s are living at home or under the parent umbrella. More parents than ever are subsidizing their young adult offspring, still hoping for miracles. Unfortunately, they request "study skills", search for costly tutoring programs, and the dilemma lies within personal information processing deficiencies. Tensions at home direct that the student reside in their own apartment, which is additional family cost.
Your Personal Involvement Checklist:
Education will be a priority in our home. I will research online resources. Parent information portals exist, like our 501 c3 nonprofit Innovative Learning Stratagems, Inc. A Parent's Educational Information Portal, and offer many low- cost, affordable directions for assistance.
I will observe my child's speaking, reading, handwriting, and spelling abilities, beginning at age six. If there is any difficulty, I will have him/her tested by a qualified professional.
I will carefully follow nationally standardized tests given by my school district, and will look at the percentiles and understand where my child fits into the total picture.
I will communicate with my child's teacher if I have questions.
I will meet with the guidance counselor to see which academic path my child has been placed. I will review my child's cumulative folder for negative notations.
I will investigate whether my child qualifies to take higher levels of math, science, and English. If I have any concerns about his educational progress with the basics,
I will seek professional cognitive skills testing either by the school or by private professionals.
I am aware that in many cases grades can be inflated, and that my child may not be an A or B student as described by his teacher. Those who receive failing grades receive such for incomplete or missing assignments, not for how well they are completed.
I will make sure homework is not only monitored, but completed and turned in on time with the schools' dashboard of assignments.
I will monitor and limit TV viewing, the Internet, computer video games, and focus on applying quality reading materials.
I will visit my child's school at least twice a year, especially on Parent's Night plus other activities.
By observing and following these procedures, you will save yourself from having life-long financial support of your child and double the expenses spent along the way. These suggestions will make your life less hectic and stressful for all the members of your family.
Commentary: "Mastering Sequential Learning"
Why Instruct Step-Wise Learning? Although the average person does not understand how sequencing
memory works, parents and teachers are beginning to recognize the critical necessity for teaching visual
and listening sequential memory as a separate supplemental instructional piece, as it is so integral to academic
learning proficiency. Now, students at all learning levels can be trained to optimum achievement levels with powerful learning
Not only is serial learning critically fundamental to all technical and skilled trade operations, but it is at
the root of all academic and athletic learning – reading, writing, spelling, mathematical equations,
learning foreign languages, communicating through written composition, athletic plays, musical
compositions, recipes, including operational procedures.
Every movement in your day is a series of orchestrated steps. The faster you can sequence, the more
organized you are, and get more accomplished.
Creating adequate working memory resolves often unidentified learning problems. Schools have not
overly taught memory organization as an independent course. Not only have there been few available
programs, but they have not fit into traditional educational curricula as adaptive learning instruction.
For years, textbook companies did not have a niche for this type of training, and curriculums absorbed
this concept necessity within the routine teaching of math equations or reading comprehension exercises.
Technically speaking, step-wise learning is called visual and listening (auditory) sequential working
memory training. Much research was conducted in the 1960s and 1970s in this arena, but few training
programs existed, and even today, very few academic or professional programs teach sequencing and
coding operations as auxiliary “How To” course.
Now, various supplemental academic learning options abound with digital, online learning, but the
question is how to find as an academic companion, like a sequencing training program with evidenced
validity. It becomes a question of sorting out options.
Online working memory courses offer teaching visual figural memory matching, and with few
sequencing operations (as in algebraic equations). Two-dimensional cartoon characters lead the way
through rapid pacing activities, which actions may be difficult to follow. Video games develop fast visual
processing speed, and leave operational logic devices up to the player. Serial operations, or step-wise
learning, that instructs formal chunking and coding “How To’s” are not systematically taught.
Now that we have touch screens, we are relegated to visual figural, tactile learning, through tapping
interfaces. We are not offered listening/auditory serial processing that is critical as a gateway into our
It should also be pointed out that any supplemental, accelerated training should not be considered
“remedial”. Since listening and visual sequential memory creates conceptualization or the integration of
information, parents should step forward to ensure that their youngsters have this necessary foundation
to excel in academics at any level.
As a classroom teacher, recognizing the critical need, I researched and developed a training system to optimize fast
sequential or operational learning. As the root of all technical operations, it had definite instructional
As a result, my graduates have since risen to top administrative/executive/official levels with the ability to
make fast and decisive decisions. Serial training is not only administratively beneficial, but it adds
personal power, as it opens access to logic, reasoning, and problem solving, not to mention creating
optimized school and workplace efficiency.
For example, recently, an electronics store’s sales clerk inadvertently gave me incorrect operational
sequences, leaving out two steps, when programming a newly purchased television remote. Of course, the
remote did not operate. Unabashed, I referenced the manual (which most of us are reluctant to do), and
noticed that steps were verbally inaccurately transmitted to me. This results in a loss of time, not to
mention the ensuing frustration receiving inaccurate instructions.
To resolve these daily ineptitude issues, schools will emphasize the teaching of reading
comprehension, or deep understanding and retention of classroom assignments. There will be alternative
forms of practice recitation to create deep learning. Work process flow states will be introduced, and speed
of careless input work will be deemphasized.
Professional educator development will be instrumental in learning these new training
procedures and processes. The school culture will become one led to continuous personalized student
improvement. Now students will move into secondary school levels optimizing their ability to follow
directions, compute, read, write, and communicate effectively. All, of which, have the basis of serial
Questions for consideration: Does your student listen, remember, and follow oral directions and/or
procedures easily? Can they spell words correctly? Can they complete serial answers clearly? Are
mathematical step-wise procedures easily understood and followed without missing steps? Technical
operations will not operate correctly if a step is omitted, removed, or out of proper sequence.
Our nonprofit organization, Innovative Learning Stratagems, Inc. offers an information portal
www.edstretch.com to ease parents’ search for applicable online resources. As a result, parents will
become more involved and supervise online learning sessions at home, where their child is not lost in a
classroom quantum of multiple, asynchronous activities. Students will have their school computerized
dashboard transferred to homework assignments. Supplemental online supplemental help – will be
utilized and applied at optimum levels.
Commentary: "Sorting Through Online Educational Training Systems "
Finding Virtual Learning Technology Answers. Parents and teachers are finding a proliferation of virtual remediation to acceleration brain training programs promising fast and optimum gains in learning reading, math, and science that are research based. It is difficult to believe these promises, as most often the program designers do not have a background in classroom implementation let alone e-Learning implementation, which is totally different form pure classroom teaching.
Many virtual learning entrepreneurs come from backgrounds of scientists and somewhat related fields to education like optometry (testing vision), psychiatry, psychology, and medicine pediatrics (medically treating the whole child, and prescribing stimulant medications). Others are business and technology product development entrepreneurs who have never worked in a classroom, and understand technology delivery parameters, but not how children/adults actually learn and retain information so that it will transfer into real life productivity.
It is most unusual to find a combination of the three (business and education/special education, and then additionally, scientist/researcher). This is because it takes years to form this knowledge-based and insightful professional level.
Program providers claim they are backed by longitudinal research, (whose, theirs?) but this can take a multitude of forms, as they loosely cite other researcher’s work that has entirely different parameters and findings, including that through science learning the brain is plastic (the learner can absorb new material at any age, and at any time). This statement is true, but only under certain conditions and procedures.
Training programs that have longitudinal claims are usually one-to-two year follow-ups at best, not multiple years, or what happened to the same trained students years later. This is because a longitudinal study takes six to nine years, and then requires additional follow-up heuristic research, and the exact same experimental subjects students are rarely available for analyses as time goes on.
I had to abandon several research studies with inner city schools, as I was informed that seldom do their students remain in place two semesters in a row. This leaves little opportunity for pre-and post-testing, let alone 1-3 year longitudinal testing, which I have been fortunately able to obtain.
Learning Centers are most unlikely to have their trained students return 1-3 years later for subsequent post standardized testing, especially if they have evidenced the remarkable acceleration change the center claims to have realized. Clients will not pay for subsequent diagnostic testing if the student appears to be progressing satisfactorily in school.
Fragmented Training Systems Across Schools of Thought
To complicate matters, various schools of thought disciplines research and publish cognitive science studies, yet often remain isolated and uncoordinated. Research conducted in higher education departments i.e. cognitive science medicine, psychology, education, special education, music therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, do not co-ordinate their findings and applications, because the research masters and doctoral students are transient and graduate within short time frames.
Additionally, grants are on short time periods with findings narrowly focused within certain parameters.
And finally, higher education school departments do not have the time and resources to co-ordinate the vast amounts of research being conducted today within the various inter-disciplinary fields.
To complicate matters, school special services are political in nature. Parents seeks help first by asking that their child be referred for diagnostic testing and evaluation by school specialists. Unfortunately, the waiting lists are long, while the child struggles in school in the interim. The No Child Left Behind Law stipulates that the school provide services to a child that is in need, and if they don’t, they must pay for private services.
Often there is a battle with this interpretation. First, the child must qualify for special services, and few will. Then, schools often lack the resources for available researched licensed technologies. Although there is a proliferation of virtual online free lessons, remediation requires concentrated, interactive supervision by a trained teacher/clinician/professional who can offer individualized assistance. If the lesson is tightly scripted for virtual instructional delivery, it is possible a para-professional could assist with the online delivery if the virtual instruction is specific enough.
Getting the school to pay for private services or online fees that are resisted by the school districts, often winding up in legal court’s decision-making. Few parents want to tackle this expensive, upsetting, and lengthy legal hassle. By the time they receive monetary compensation (if awarded by the judge), the child has missed out on critical years needed to learn and absorb the basic core curriculums’ instruction.
It becomes an endless cycle of which program meets customer expectations.
Our nonprofit 501 c3 Innovative Learning Stratagems, Inc. website is an aggregator of educational program information that will save parent and teacher consumers time and frustration: A Website Portal of Virtual Learning Information When you locate the program that appears to meet your needs, research the program developer’s background – is it in education, medicine, science, or research, or business, and then decide for yourself how it will interface with your learners. Does the research document subsets of demographic data? Will your time and monetary virtual learning purchase be truly educational advancement, or merely entertaining busy work?
The topic of this blog is determining the value of brain games, blog in follow-up of Ted C. Fishman's May 9, 2012 USA Today article "Gaming Our Brains: Do online mind exercises really improve our mental processing? As the article indicated, the internet is being flooded with a variety of visual memory games and is a $300 million a year business with millions of hours spent playing these exercises.
The concern is that many games are random, non-progressive exercises that simply measure "right and wrong" speed recognition answers. which can be discouraging to the learner, if not completely beneficial.
Although our cognitive skills have been shown to diminish as we age. i.e. auditory memory (listening) declines at age 35, but varies greatly depending upon the actual task coordinated with the person's innate ability (Craik & Grady, 2000. Changes in Memory Processing with Age). And, there is a high correlation to our sensory acuity of visual, hearing, gait, and balance (p.2). Additionally, Many have cognitive processing discrepancies that they compensate for on a daily basis, and can be improved through the correct intervention.
This indicates that we all would benefit from brain exercise, but what programs will be beneficial specifically to our own personal needs? Subsequently, are short, random, visual brain exercises worth our time, effort, and money? Although the exercises do no harm, how will we know which programs work effectively?
The key to these exercises is whether they can create "clinical transfer" to every day life work and learning activities. The Mem-ExSpan thirty years of independent research has documented cognitive skills-memory transfer (five published, juried, award winning, longitudinal reports) with remarkable changes in academic and work proficiency. This work is at least a start in the vast research to be continued by many around the globe.
The program that has shown work and academic proficient transfer is called, "The Bridge to Achievement". (The BTA) The question is - how does the BTA differ from other random exercise games offered by competing companies?
My former blog commented on how we each have our own brain map of cognitive skills that make up Intelligent Quotients (IQs). This topic has been explored for decades by various psychologists and scientists evaluating the role that memory plays with daily functioning.
The BTA offers more than mere self-taught memory games, and works as a prescriptive system to strengthen visual AND auditory memory segments and sequencing in gradient, rehearsed steps. Craik and Lockhart"s Hierarchy work (1972) demonstrated the various incremental levels of memory absorption, and the influencing factors create "cementing" to our minds. The BTA steps encompass rapid right-and-left-brain cognitive shifts applying tonal patterning through musical phrasing. Subsequently, synapses strengthen.
Few specialists have conducted in-depth, standardized cognitive skills testing to the extent of examination that I have completed, applying ten standardized cognitive skills test batteries individually and group pre- and post-test (6 hrs. intensive measurement per student), and evaluating them with schools' yearly standardized assessment batteries. Only through this type of correlated, tracked assessment can future change processes and trending be determined and predicted.
I was fortunate that I tested individuals in small town, small group settings, where the schools had students that remained and moved lock-step through the grades. Otherwise, they could not be tracked longitudinally.
Having our own personalized cognitive skills tested has high personal value and will direct to your training options. Yet, psychological assessments are expensive and hard to come by, as they must be conducted by a certified psychologist/clinician/diagnostician. Whether you utilize "indicator" free tests, or pay for a thorough psychologist's evaluation, it is helpful to know your visual and listening area strengths and weaknesses, as this information will be key in determining your required specific intervention, and that you are not wasting your time working on the wrong cognitive area.
It can not be deduced that ANY game will produce desired results, or are similar to the BTA program. Will tracking the random answers of millions playing games produce significant clinical trial information? This is unlikely, because each person has their own cognitive brain map, which processes uniquely to themselves, and gaming tracking systems will not measure specific cognitive improvement in directed areas.
Only by thoroughly assessing each of the millions through prescriptive cognitive assessment, will it be determined the effectiveness of random brain games. Longitudinal assessment through learning management systems (LMS), will be unlikely, as people will not commit to independent, self-instruction on a continuous basis, nor can cognitive assessment be administered effectively online. Subsequently, it will be unlikely that the games played will have futuristic measurement capabilities of seeing if the memory for visual detail exercises "transfer" to higher work and academic learning proficiency.
Yet, we can not overlook the possibility that the games are fun to play.
Commentary: "Theatrical Puppetry Exercises with Musical Choral Speech Serve as a Tool to Enhance Memory and Learning Proficiency"
Today, there are many brain exercise programs online that expect the client to have the motivation and interest to stay focused with an often tedious program. Many are random visual figure exercises to learn a series of images. The various types of visual and listening memory are not over-viewed, and, what is presented are visual memory exercises that are difficult to complete.
What is obviously missing from this paradigm is the crucial "listening-auditory memory" facet. Researchers have long written that auditory memory must couple with visual memory for the learner to understand or comprehend new information and follow instructions quickly. Auditory/listening memory exercises must accompany the visual ones, and obtain effective results in the process.
This challenge becomes a complex measurement and evaluation process to discover what is effective and works with all learning levels and capabilities. Following years of test-train-testing iterations, puppets were found to be an engaging, differentiating tool.
Yet, it can not be “any puppet, with any instructional purpose, or with any filmed procedure”, but should have a specific rationale and lesson objective in mind. Students are taught how to interface, react, and engage effectively.
To teach rapid auditory-visual memory, and to make the training palatable and exciting, I engaged a family of historical vaudevillian ventriloquist puppets that taught sequential learning to children age 9, up to the adult learner, who appreciated “the Charlie McCarthy – Edgar Bergen retro Hollywood radio days”.
Puppet characters offer the following beneficial qualities:
1) They offer a non-threatening, stress free, fun-like presence, and can become a “family affair” for the learning process. The learner remains in an abstract "one-up" position. Although they can challenge your capabilities to the next level, they do not intimate. When they back-talk, you are not personally offended, as they become your friend.
2) Their messages are rapidly understood. For example, they have been used in political cartoons and comic strips for decades.
3) Their vocal intonations penetrate the memory system.
Becoming an effective learning tool, we can learn from speaking puppets, but only when uniquely presented, are programmed effectively, and engage the learner.
Rather than fighting your way through a labyrinth of random, abstract memory lessons, as an alternative, instructional Mem-ExSpan puppetry games can improve our cognitive skills and memory uniquely and easily. We can learn visual and auditory factual names, words, and sequential memories, as in learning technical procedures, having jumped past outdated, rote memory systems.
Jan Kuyper Erland, CEO, Intervention Educational Consultant
The Bridge To Achievement ®