Learning Science News and Comments
Logical Fallacies: Arguing from Ignorance

Using Apostrophes for Possession

Social Good Now's excellent video on logical fallacies.  It explains three logical fallacies: strawman, outlier or anecdotal evidence, and an ad hominem attack.  The only thing that I would add is that pointing out that someone is arguing from ignorance is not an ad hominem attack because a lack of knowledge and expertise is relevant. 

   APA Presents                   
   Speaking of Psychology:  
   Recognizing a narcissist   

Episode 37
"Narcissism is not just something attributed to people who post selfies and list all their favorite meals on Facebook. It’s a diagnosable personality disorder that causes people to have a delusional sense of self-worth and lack of empathy. In this episode, psychologist Ramani Durvasula, PhD, talks about how people can recognize a narcissist and what to do if you’re in a relationship with one." http://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/narcissism.aspx

 How Do Infants Learn Language 

 Penn and Teller Explain Why Vaccines Are Good. 

The Self-Esteem Myth
Recently, NPR ran an article on the costs of pre-college courses. In the article, future college student Andrea Diaz complained that having to take pre-college courses was traumatic to her, 'I was traumatized by it because I felt that they didn't see in me the potential to do well in college.'  Her sense of self-esteem was obviously shaken, and this is what she finds traumatic.  That isn't trauma by any standard: medical or psychological.  However, she does represent what has gone horribly wrong in the American education system.  Here is Scientific American's explanation of the problem.

When to Use Apostrophes 

Using Type.js 
For this block I used Type.js to type out the words.
To see the source page go to http://practiceengineer.com/typing.html

Learning Styles Myth 

John Cleese on Stupidity 

Technology doesn't improve educational outcomes 
Research by the OECD shows no improvement in education outcomes in countries heavily invested in technology.  

The Comma Queen Videos: Mary Norris 
Copyeditor for the New Yorker, Mary Norris, provides grammar help in video.
Click here to see her videos and articles: http://www.newyorker.com/contributors/mary-norris

 Trying Out Linux 
For several months over the summer, I conducted a qualitative study of Mint Linux, a free open-source operating system, to see if it was a viable option for me.  Sadly, it wasn't, but soon it could be.  Originally, I thought it might work when I discovered that I could use Blender 3D, an open source 3D program, to edit videos.  That being said, here are the problems I ran into.
1. Screen capture programs were lacking.
2. Audio was sporadic.
3. Hulu stopped working until I spent  a day fixing it by using Firefox and install "hal."
4. Several essential programs that I could not find decent alternatives for.  

 FiveThirtyEight Blog Makes Claim Minus  the Math 
The FiveThirtyEight blog makes the claim that grading teachers based on previous performance is sound; however, the articles is oddly devoid of numbers.  Why?  If the data is there, why not present it?   The problem is that the grading of teachers method used was repeated but the results were only "nearly" the same, which means that they weren't the same, or they don't understand what the word "nearly" means.  

The other problem is that the method used to confirm it is what is called quasi-experimental.  Quasi-experiments are by their nature biased.  This is because the subjects are not randomly selected as is required.  FiveThirtyEight calls a controlled experiment the "ideal" but it is not ideal, it is required for non-biased results.  

If you know statistics, you know that FiveThirtyEight gets low marks for not actually understanding the math and methods involved.  

 What Neuroscientists Say About Brain Based Teaching Methods 
Schools like to claim that they are using the latest methods from neuroscience, yet as one researcher points out, much of it hasn't been proven effective.  Teaching methods should be "proven" to be effective via controlled experiments and not via some biased inference.  Below is a brief excerpt from the article.

DAPHNA SHOHAMY: Right, right. Yes, it’s the million-dollar question. I think we have some answers.

The brain learns when things are surprising and interesting.

Brainwave Study Shows Phonics is Best 
Brainwave studies out of Stanford University indicate that sounding out words using phonics activates those areas of the brain most associated with reading. 


How Bryan Cranston 

Broke Bad Into Acting 

You may not know this but Bryan Cranston from Seinfeld, Malcolm in the Middle, and Breaking Bad didn't start out in acting.  He actually was going to college to become a police officer, but he had to take some electives and one of those was acting.  Here is the video from his interview from Inside Comedy with David Steinberg.  


Start writing essays: Track 1

From The Open University
Returning to study or starting it for the first time can be daunting. Many students are frightened of writing essays, but it’s a craft that can be learnt. This album will help you to build confidence in all areas of essay writing. A student discusses with two tutors her writing methods and how she adapts her techniques for exams and assignments. With tips shared from Professor Richard Dawkins, TV personality Matthew Kelly, former MP Brian Walden, Baroness Helena Kennedy, journalist John Pilgner and radio presenters John Humphrys and Peter White. This material forms part of The Open University course A172 Start writing essays.

The image snapshot is from the documentary movie, Waiting for Superman at 30:18.

From Newsweek
Why Education Research Is Failing Us: Begley
I recently saw this article in Newsweek that sums up many of the problems in the field of education, such as poorly designed methods.  This would include not using control groups, using volunteers, and other such problems.  

 The Difference Between Controlled and Quasi-Experiments or Sometimes Known as Natural Experiments                         
There is a pattern in the history of education.  Some new technique, method, or technology comes along.  Everyone thinks it is a great idea.  People study it with great enthusiasm.  Research indicates it is successful at improving students' academic performance, and then over time, the gains are lost and performance falters.  What happened?  Well the problem has to do with the quasi-experimental nature of educational research.

4/ 9/2015
People are Overly Optimistic About New Technologies
According to the study, "The Technology Effect: How Perceptions of Technology Drive Excessive Optimism," which was published in the Journal of Business and Psychology people view new technologies in an overly optimistic way.  The conclusion was based on three studies.  The first looked at how individuals positively correlated technology with success.  The second looked at how they based business decisions depending on the newness of the technology, and the third showed that individuals still preferred tech stocks for investing even though they were projected to perform no better than other stocks.

Significance: Statistics Making Sense is a publication of the American Statistical Society and the Royal Statistical Society.  The magazine applies statistical methods to the everyday world around us.  For example, in the latest publication, they provide statistical data on home security systems and point out the effectiveness of outdoor lights to the ineffectiveness of burglar alarms.  In "For want of a nail: Why unnecessarily long tests may be impeding the progress of Western civilisation," the author discusses the diminishing returns as an exam get longer. For example, a 30 question test stands at 81% reliable whereas a 50 question test stands at only 89%--just an 8 point difference for 20 questions: 2.5 questions per point.  Finally, a 100 question test sits at 95% reliable: 14 points for 70 questions--5 questions per point.  The good news is  that with computers questions can be added if a student fails with 30 questions.  This allows the student to have improved reliability and prevent them from being the victim of a false negative. 
Read it here at

Study Illustrates the Placebo Problem in Educational Studies
This study's fundamental flaw is that the subjects know they are getting the treatment ie the video game Brain Age.  This leads to bias because of the placebo effect.  The problem is that once the new technology becomes old technology it wills lose its effectiveness.  In fact, the study is way too short, only nine weeks.  It would be interesting to see the improvements on a graph.  It is most probable that gains started to flatten out after 30 days of use.

PaperRater Checks Your Writing for Free
Also from PaperRater
Writing Slides Available to Help with Writing

Media Prefers Pseudo-Education Experts to Real Experts Study Finds
A study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign finds that many "education experts" are not experts at all.  These pseudo-experts get a lot of undue media attention because they are backed by policy groups that journalists like to go to because they provide simplistic commentary that is easy to reprint.  For example, the study found that, "People associated with the American Enterprise Institute were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be cited in education media."  The most problematic part of the study was the finding that the more expertise someone had, the less likely they were to be cited in the media.  

Build a Computer Stand to Stand at for Under $10.

Maybe by now you have heard that sitting at a desk all day isn't good for
you.  If you are looking for a cheap way to stand at your laptop or computer, good luck.  They aren't cheap.  The good ones are expensive and the cheap ones are just flimsy.  So, I built my own using materials I already had from Goodwill.  Last year, I bought an old, metal, Kamero camera tripod for $3.  And some years before, my wife had purchased a TV stand as well for $5.  I removed the top of the TV stand, drilled a hole, and put a longer bolt and washer through to the camera stand, which on the Kamero is solid metal.  

More Research Confirming the Positive Effects of Phonics on the Reading Process
Research from the University of Buffalo Psychology Professor Chris McNorgan PhD,  "A better reader is someone whose visual processing is more sensitive to audio information, according to the study's results."  As is well known, all of the brain is working at the same time and when people learn through multiple cognitive channels, audio and visual, the learning is deeper and more resilient.  Follow the link to learn more.   

Teaching Makes You Smarter 

Research published in Memory and Cognition concludes that when students are expected to teach a topic to another student they perform better than if instructed that they will be taking a test. It appears that this simple statement of instruction can boost student performance whether they actually teach the material or not. 

Pens and Pencils Are Better 
In this Scientific American article, the author outlines the benefits of using writing instruments like pens and pencils over typing on a keyboard when taking notes.

Tools for Writing Instructors and Teachers
    As a writing teacher, I am constantly trying to improve my workflow so that I can provide better and faster feedback to students.  I use Blackboard; however, Blackboard's tools are limited and the annotation system used is subpar.  Often annotations don't line up or are cumbersome.  Then when it comes to scoring, I have to type in numbers, which takes more time. So, here are two programs I use and why I use them.
    ArsClip is a clipboard manager.  I use this when scoring short answers.  It allows me a range of numbers from a list.  For example, say a student answers a question that is worth 20 points, but only answered part of the question and I want to give that student 15 points instead of 20.  I simply press Ctrl+Shift+Z and a menu pops up and I quick select 15 from the list and it inserts it into the score box.  I didn't have to let go of my mouse and type 15 in.  The list also includes 20, 10, 5, and 0.  ArsClip can be found at
    The other program I recently discovered is PicPick Portable, which I found at Portableapps.com.  It is a screen capture program that allows you to capture scrolling windows and then annotate it.  This is what I use to annotate essays in Blackboard.  Although you do have to get rid of the menus on the left side of Blackboard before it will work.  It then lets you automatically save or upload the annotated image to your hard drive or Internet where it can be loaded as an attachment into Blackboard or sent via email to a student. 

TED-Ed Lessons
The Power of Simple Words

"Measured Approach or Magic Elixir: 
How to tell good science from bad"

Portableapps.com for free software
An excellent site for free software is portableapps.com.  It contains over 300 free apps that can be downloaded legally for free.  
Here are some of my favorites
From the National Academies Press
Reaching Students: 
What Research Says About Effective Instruction in Undergraduate Science and Engineering (2015)

Personality Traits Are Predictors of Academic Success
New study finds that the personality traits of conscientiousness and openness are better predictors of grade point than intelligence.  Conscientious students are hard workers and the fact they are open to instruction means they do better than smart students who often feel that they don't need to put in that much effort. 

National Center for Educational Statistics is one of the best sites for educational statistics.  No other site compares.

Do you want to know what percentage of young adults graduate the twelfth grade proficient in writing, reading, math and more?  Well, the Nation's Report Card can help you.  However, the news isn't very good.  

Learning Videos 
Jimmy's Corner: Dayvon the Mnemonic Pimp

Does Grammar Matter?

Verb Patterns (Chapter 12)

Subject-Verb Agreement (Chapter 13)
Prepositions and prepositional phrases.  This is important because often times the preposition phrase comes between the subject and the verb, which can confuse the writer.  
Subordination and Coordination, Combining Sentences (Chapter 14)
Subordination and Coordination, Combining Sentences (Chapter 14)
Fixing Run-On Sentences (Chapter 15)
Sentence Fragments (Chapter 16)

Commas (Chapter 23)

Comma Rules Part 1

Comma Rules Part 2

Essay Basics

Modifiers Part #1

Dangling Modifiers

Parallel Structure

Reflexive Pronouns

Personal Pronouns--Subject vs Object

Serial Comma

Can We Trust Scientists?

Logical Fallacy: Strawman Argument

Logical Fallacies: Burden of Proof

False Cause: Correlation vs Causation

Subpages (3): Evaluation SVG Writing Slides