Learning Course #7: Readings from week 3-4 #LH2L1

The optional readings for week 3 & 4 of the Learning course* I am taking were interesting. Here is a set of quotes/highlights from them:

Benedict Carey, (May 19, 2014), Remembering, as an Extreme Sport,The New York Times

  • “We found that one of the biggest differences between memory athletes and the rest of us,…is in a cognitive ability that’s not a direct measure of memory at all but of attention.”
  • images accumulate during memorization, they tell an increasingly bizarre but memorable story.
  • Anyone can learn to construct a memory palace, researchers say, and with practice remember far more detail of a particular subject than before.
  • Once any given competition is over, the numbers or words or facts are gone.
  • The old one must be suppressed, so it doesn’t interfere with the new one. One term for that skill is “attentional control,”
  • memory champions are not only exceptional at remembering. They’re also experts at forgetting.

University of California Los Angeles, (June 4, 2014), “Poor health, lifestyle factors linked to memory complaints, even among younger adults,” Medical Press.

  • risk factors [depression, lower education levels, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking] increased the likelihood of self-perceived memory complaints across all adult age groups.
  • Depression, low levels of education, physical inactivity and high blood pressure increased the likelihood of memory complaints in younger adults (ages 18–39), middle-aged adults (40–59) and older adults (60–99), the researchers found. Depression was the strongest single risk factor for memory complaints in all age groups.
  • For younger adults, stress may play more of a role, and the ubiquity of technology

Graham, Paul. “Good and Bad Procrastination.” (Link broken, see in Google cache)

  • you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I’d argue, is good procrastination.
  • [“absent-minded professors”] put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff. What’s “small stuff?” Roughly, work that has zero chance of being mentioned in your obituary.
  • Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work.
  • Real work needs two things errands don’t: big chunks of time, and the right mood.
  • forcing someone to perform errands synchronously is bound to limit their productivity
  • Errands are so effective at killing great projects that a lot of people use them for that purpose.
  • The most dangerous form of procrastination is unacknowledged type-B procrastination, because it doesn’t feel like procrastination. You’re “getting things done.”
  • What’s the best thing you could be working on, and why aren’t you?
  • Another reason people don’t work on big projects is, ironically, fear of wasting time.

Carlin Flora, Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are, Anchor, 2013.

  • friendfluence-book-coverJust as the role of friends is expanding in our culture, Friendfluence explores their powerful and often under-appreciated influence on our personalities, habits, physical health, and even our chances of success in life. In this fascinating book, packed with the latest research findings, Carlin Flora traces friendship from its evolutionary roots to its starring role in childhood and adolescence to its subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) impact on adults—both positive and negative, online and offline. Told with warmth as well as rigor, Friendfluence not only illuminates and interprets the science of friendship but will help you reflect thoughtfully on your social history and wisely navigate your present and future friendships.

Pam Belluck, (January 20, 2011). “To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test.” The New York Times.

  • Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.
  • students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.
  • learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge
  • The students who took the recall tests may “recognize some gaps in their knowledge,” … and they might revisit the ideas in the back of their mind or the front of their mind.”
  • “The struggle [of recall] helps you learn, but it makes you feel like you’re not learning,… “You feel like: ‘I don’t know it that well. This is hard and I’m having trouble coming up with this information.’ ” By contrast when rereading texts and possibly even drawing diagrams, “you say: ‘Oh, this is easier. I read this already.’ ”
  • “More testing isn’t necessarily better,” …“Some tests are just not learning opportunities. We need a different kind of testing than we currently have.”

Harvard Health Publications, (May 2009) “Take a Deep Breath,” Harvard Medical School.

  • Proper breathing goes by many names. You may have heard it called diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, or belly breathing. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and you will notice that your lower belly rises. The ability to breathe so deeply and powerfully is not limited to a select few. This skill is inborn but often lies dormant. Reawakening it allows you to tap one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms.
  • Our culture often rewards us for stifling strong emotions. ..Unconsciously, you hold your breath or breathe irregularly.
    Body image affects breathing, too. A “washboard” stomach

Justin Reich, (March 30, 2014). “Big Data MOOC Research Breakthrough: Learning Activities Lead to Achievement,” Ed Tech Researcher.

  • students who do stuff also do more stuff, and they do stuff better
  • there is a correlation between the number of minutes a student spends on Khan Academy and test scores. This isn’t casual evidence
  • kids who do more math stuff on Khan Academy, do better on math tests.
  • students who did stuff were more likely to pass the class
  • learners who complete activities are more likely to complete the course than peers who completed no activities
  • those who took many actions in the course were more likely to earn a certificate than those who took few actions
  • Reich’s Law of Doing Stuff: students who do stuff in a MOOC or other online learning environment will, on average, do more stuff than those who don’t do stuff, and students who do stuff will perform better on stuff than those who don’t do stuff.

University of Utah Health Care Office of Public Affairs. “Researchers Debunk Myth of ‘Right-Brain’ and ‘Left-Brain’ Personality Traits.” Science Daily (2013).

  • Neuroscientists now assert that there is no evidence within brain imaging that indicates some people are right-brained or left-brained. For years in popular culture, the terms left-brained and right-brained have come to refer to personality types, with an assumption that some people use the right side of their brain more, while some use the left side more. Researchers have debunked that myth through identifying specific networks in the left and right brain that process lateralized functions.

Felder, Richard M. “Memo to Students Who Have Been Disappointed with Their Test Grades.” Chemical Engineering Education 33, no. 2 (1999): 136-37.

  • The more “Yes” responses you recorded, the better your preparation for the test.
    1. Did you make a serious effort to understand the text? (Just hunting for relevant worked-out examples doesn’t count.)
    2. Did you work with classmates on homework problems, or at least check your solutions with others?
    3. Did you attempt to outline every homework problem solution before working with classmates?
    4. Did you participate actively in homework group discussions (contributing ideas, asking questions)?
    5. Did you consult with the instructor or teaching assistants when you were having trouble with something?
    6. Did you understand ALL of your homework problem solutions when they were handed in?
    7. Did you ask in class for explanations of homework problem solutions that weren’t clear to you?
    8. If you had a study guide, did you carefully go through it before the test and convince yourself that you could do everything on it?
    9. Did you attempt to outline lots of problem solutions quickly, without spending time on the algebra and calculations?
    10. Did you go over the study guide and problems with classmates and quiz one another?
    11. If there was a review session before the test, did you attend it and ask questions about anything you weren’t sure about?
    12. Did you get a reasonable night’s sleep before the test? (If your answer is no, your answers to 1- 11 may not matter.)

Sue Barry, Fixing My Gaze, Basic Books, 2009.

  • Sue Barry, Fixing My Gaze, Basic Books, 2009.Barry had been cross-eyed and stereoblind since early infancy. After half a century of perceiving her surroundings as flat and compressed, on that day she was seeing Manhattan in stereo depth for the first time in her life. As a neuroscientist, she understood just how extraordinary this transformation was, not only for herself but for the scientific understanding of the human brain. Scientists have long believed that the brain is malleable only during a “critical period” in early childhood. According to this theory, Barry’s brain had organized itself when she was a baby to avoid double vision – and there was no way to rewire it as an adult. But Barry found an optometrist who prescribed a little-known program of vision therapy; after intensive training, Barry was ultimately able to accomplish what other scientists and even she herself had once considered impossible.

Magic Eye, Inc., Magic Eye: A New Bag of Tricks, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1995. See also the website at http://www.magiceye.com/.


  • an authoritative source of information about the brain and nervous system for the public.
  • The brain is the most complex biological structure in the known universe. It is a topic rich with exciting new discoveries, continuing profound unknowns, and critical implications for individuals, families, and societies.

App: Breathe2Relax, by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology

  • Breathe2Relax is a portable stress management tool. Breathe2Relax is a hands-on diaphragmatic breathing exercise. Breathing exercises have been documented to decrease the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ (stress) response, and help with mood stabilization, anger control, and anxiety management.Breathe2Relax can be used as a stand-alone stress reduction tool, or can be used in tandem with clinical care directed by a healthcare worker.
  • Capitalizing on touch-screen technology, a user can record their stress level on a ‘visual analogue scale’ by simply swiping a small bar to the left or to the right. Breathe2Relax uses state-of-the-art graphics, animation, narration, and videos to deliver a sophisticated, immersive experience for the user.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” course I am taking.

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