Author: Steve Kaufmann

Don’t Study the Basics, Learn By “Grazing”

If you really want to learn something, don’t worry about learning the basics first. Just go about gathering knowledge wherever you find it, doing things you like to do. Instead of trying to build a house of knowledge, one brick at a time, starting from the foundation, try to learn by “grazing”, following whatever attracts your interest. You will find that apparently aimless “grazing” will take you over increasingly familiar ground, and your grasp of the subject will naturally deepen.

At school we are taught that we need to learn things in a certain order, according to the curriculum, so that we can pass our tests. Learning is divided up into short spurts of activity, with the class subject changing every 30-40 minutes. The teacher decides what we are going to learn and at what pace. We are usually dissuaded from going ahead of the teacher to pursue things that interest us. We don’t have the luxury of staying with a subject of interest for a whole morning, let alone weeks at a time.

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How the iPad Will Change Education

An optimist always thinks that change is for the better. In his book, The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley describes the progress of human knowledge, a process of accelerating, spontaneous, change. Larger and larger human communities connect and exchange goods, information, and ideas. Only the best ideas survive. As these ideas accumulate, they become part of our collective intelligence. The result, in the last few hundred years, has been a dramatic improvement in living standards and a reduction in the number of hours of work necessary to acquire basic goods and services.

Education has been an exception. In the US, the cost of K-12 education, in constant dollars, has increased by 350% since the 1960s with no improvement in results.

The iPad , and the next generation of cheaper and better electronic tables that will follow it, are symbols of the dramatic change that is sweeping through the world of education.

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The Seven Deadly Sins – The Secret to Language Learning

This is my confiteor, my confession, my mea culpa. I speak 10 languages and I have achieved this result by sinning. What’s more, I have not committed just any old sin. I have indulged in the seven deadly sins.

1. Extravagance

I love showing off my languages. I am learning Russian. If I hear Russian speakers, I will immediately accost them and inflict my grammatically incorrect Russian on them. I even do the same with Korean, which I speak even less well. Don’t even mention the languages that I speak well. If I detect the slightest accent, I attack. I am a shameless show-off. Yet I am totally unconcerned about the accuracy of my language. I do not care if I am full of mistakes. If they do not understand me it is their fault. I just want to show off. Look at me! I can communicate in your language! Shameless!

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