“Hey, Grandma,” Benjamin said to me the other day. “Want to learn German with me?”
Actually, I wasn’t looking for another challenge. My days have felt full with writing and Zoom meetings and running errands for my pandemic-bound elderly parents and volunteering. Benjamin must have noticed my hesitancy because he pressed on.
“Just get on Duolingo,” he said. “You’ll be amazed at what you can learn in ten minutes a day.”
Benjamin, I found when I logged onto Duolingo’s website, had grasped their approach to learning—a little every day. And I recognized this as what, in education, we call spaced learning.
These frequent, bit-sized pieces of learning bring great benefit to students, helping them—
- To start—Doing something two hours is reason for procrastination; doing something for ten minutes is manageable.
- To concentrate—By the end of the ten minutes when attention evaporates anyway, it’s over.
- To remember—Daily practice builds up myelin around brain nerves like a superhighway, making it easier to retrieve information.
- To enjoy—Time is up before initial enthusiasm dies, and the lesson seems almost like a game.
Even in classes that lasted over an hour, I tried to use spaced learning by changing the texture of the class every ten minutes or so—from individual to group work, from reflection to action, from verbal to spatial, and from heavy to light.
I found that spaced learning worked with my students.
And now Benjamin has given me the chance to try it on a sixty-five-year-old brain.