Is language-speaking ability rooted in biology? | PD seen as key to success in virtual instruction | Khan: Virtual learning is not a complete replacement
August 6, 2020
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Spotlight on Languages
Is language-speaking ability rooted in biology?
(Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The idea that some people speak a certain language because of their biological makeup is untrue, writes Katherine Kinzler, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago. In this article, Kinzler writes about some myths, research into language acquisition and how people learn through exposure.
Full Story: Scientific American (tiered subscription model) (8/2020) 
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Getting to September, Part II: The First Four Weeks
As students and teachers prepare to begin the 2020-2021 school year, questions linger. What will instruction look like this year? Will learning be fully online, in person or a mix of both? Tune in August 18th to hear a panel of educators discuss strategies for navigating the first few weeks successfully. Register Now
Technology & Trends
Some school districts are using time and resources this summer to train teachers to administer lessons online as some schools prepare to start the school year virtually. Richard Ferdig, an education technology researcher at Kent State University, says teachers in these districts perform well, while teachers without access to such training will be at a disadvantage.
Full Story: The Associated Press (8/1) 
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Policy Watch
Restrictions on international travel are affecting international English language learners and their teachers, including in Ireland. In many cases, teachers have transitioned to online instruction -- some as much as six hours per day -- and some teachers have reported job losses amid a decline in enrollment.
Full Story: Irish Examiner (8/1) 
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Global Competence
Pandemic-related school closures have affected 1 billion students around the world and increased the likelihood of around 23.8 million dropping out of school without completing their education, a UNESCO report warns. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging world leaders to reopen schools as soon as it is safe, prioritize funding for education as well as digital literacy and infrastructure, and develop initiatives to support at-risk students.
Full Story: CBS News (8/4),  Prensa Latina (Cuba) (8/4) 
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Research Notes
Research has shown the role language can play in creating career stereotypes by gender, but this article offers a look at a new wrinkle in that field of study. By tallying how often certain words "co-occur" in large swaths of text across 25 different languages, researchers were able to determine the role the implicit bias of a language can play in shaping gender stereotypes about various careers.
Full Story: Carnegie Mellon University (8/3) 
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Study: Education budget cuts affect test scores
Budget cuts to education during the previous recession worsened academic outcomes for students, particularly students from lower-income households and those who are Black and Latino, according to a report published in Education Next. Data shows that for every $1,000 a school district's budget declined by, test scores in math and reading were reduced by 1.6 percentage points, with a 6 percentage-point gap between white students and their Black and Latino peers.
Full Story: Education Week (tiered subscription model) (8/4) 
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Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) testers needed in less commonly taught languages
ACTFL's ILR Testing Program is seeking language experts interested in becoming certified OPI Testers. Testers will work as paid consultants. The languages needed include the following: Thai, Cebuano, Ga, Mandingo-Malinke, Luganda, Malayalam, Mossi, Chechen, Chavacano, Danish Ilocano, Kashmiri, Pasto and Persian Farsi. Learn more and apply.
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The news reported in SmartBrief is a collection of articles originating from news outlets in the U.S. and around the world, and does not necessarily reflect the official position of ACTFL.

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