Tag Archives: academic

Virtual Lectures

lecture hall

Occasionally, students in our program ask if they can take regular university classes in addition to our full-time intensive ESL program.  In a very few cases, we have arranged informal course audits through which students may sit in on courses as a way to supplement their learning.  In addition to the language input, this arrangement can be a good way to introduce international students to American academic culture.

Recently a student approached me about his interests in sitting in on a few lectures.  His primary interest was in becoming familiar with the English vocabulary in his field of study.  He was already comfortable with the content in his own language, but was nervous about learning all new terminology in English.  In the end, actually sitting in on a class was not a good option for this particular student.  Fortunately, there are a couple of good online alternatives that I could recommend: YouTube’s EDU site and iTunesU.

YouTube.com/edu hosts thousands of lectures from institutions across the U.S.  Not all of them are lectures — and it’s easy to get sucked in to videos of marching bands and football games — but there are lots of options available.  Search for “physics lecture” and you’ll get over 4000 videos.

iTunesU.com takes a similar approach, but it is tied in to Apple’s iTunes music store.  This means it is very easy to put videos on your iDevice (iPhone, iPod, iPad, etc.) to watch on the go.  The bad news is that you need to install the iTunes application to access them.

Both locations offer hours of free content from some of the most prestigious institutions in the country.  Of course, many of the videos are just recordings of lectures, which may be somewhat dull.  And sadly, that may be very good preparation for American academic culture.  But, if high level students are looking for content rich input, these sources will provide a wealth of options.

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The Marshmallow Experiment

marshmallows

Want one? If you wait, you can have two.

I recently tweeted about the Marshmallow Experiment after reading about it in the Toronto Star. Yesterday, I listened to the Radio Lab podcast that discusses the same experiment.

The gist of it is that children are given the choice of taking one marshmallow or waiting a few minutes and taking two.  At around 4 years of age, many people develop the ability to delay their gratification.  Not all, but many.

More interestingly, when researchers followed up with the children who had been tested years later, those that were able to delay their gratification were more successful on a number of measures ranging from SAT scores and GPAs to whether they were overweight.  Fortunately, these skills can be developed, so even if a four-year-old swipes the marshmallow at the first opportunity, she is not predetermined to be an obese dropout.

As a teacher, I’m thinking about how this skill translates to my classes.  I suspect that I can identify a few students in my class who are instant-swipers and some who are probably still waiting to take the second marshmallow in case they will be rewarded with a third marshmallow.  Some students cram for tests, while others forgo fun in favor of studying and reviewing.

I find it encouraging to learn that these skills can be honed, but I wonder if this is true for the adult students that I work with.  How can we help this message reach them?  How can we help them to apply this information to their academic and, eventually, professional careers?

Maybe I need to bring a bag of marshmallows to class.

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