Etherless Learning

learning everywhere, all the time

About me

InformingLearning (“Ming Ling”)

I’m an educator and researcher (trained as a cognitive scientist) who is passionate about understanding and improving how people learn. I am also a parent to a preschooler whose antics constantly challenge me to identify better research on learning and development to inform my parenting and schooling choices. In my professional and personal lives, I seek to integrate research on learning with real-life practices that actually make a difference in how learning happens.

The “luminiferous ether” was a hypothetical substance postulated to be necessary for the propagation of light and thought to explain phenomena as varied as magnetism, gravity, refraction, and diffraction. Subsequent experiments demonstrated that such a substance is both unnecessary and unhelpful in explaining the range of phenomena observed. To me, “etherless learning” is learning which doesn’t require some magical medium or special structure to take place; it happens wherever and whenever an opportunity arises, which is everywhere, all the time.

Thus, Etherless Learning is a collection of reflections on how to improve learning, mostly in informal and everyday settings, such as through casual conversation, reading the news, or playful discovery. Some may highlight research, others may address recommendations for practice, while still others may simply explore my own thoughts-in-the-making about teaching, learning, and parenting. Themes that have emerged so far include statistical reasoning and scientific literacy; learning from different opinions and different people; relationships between gender / culture / diversity and learning; and distinguishing between external behaviors and internal traits / abilities. In general, this blog reflects my view of daily interactions in the world, filtered through a learning-science or cognitive-science lens.

I also contribute to Real Learning Matters, another blog I share with a fellow educational researcher. That blog explores more issues about teaching and schooling in formal settings, with a stronger research and policy angle. General themes address assessment design and interpretation, teaching effectiveness, instructors’ professional development, school management, and the educational research enterprise.


Many thanks to Spherical Cow for designing the panda avatar and for extensive help in setting up this blog.

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