Tag Archives: learning

Learning Course #3: Readings from week 1 #LH2L1

The optional readings for week 1 of the Learning course* I am taking were interesting. Here is a set of quotes/highlights from them:

John Hamilton. (October 17, 2013). “Brains Sweep Themselves Clean of Toxins During Sleep.” NPR All Things Considered.

  • During sleep, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increases dramatically, washing away harmful waste proteins that build up between brain cells during waking hours, a study of mice found….
  • The best explanation yet of why animals and people need sleep. If this proves to be true in humans as well, it could help explain a mysterious association between sleep disorders and brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s….
  • So why doesn’t the brain do this sort of housekeeping all the time? Nedergaard thinks it’s because cleaning takes a lot of energy….
  • The report also offers a tantalizing hint of a new approach to Alzheimer’s prevention, Bateman says. “It does raise the possibility that one might be able to actually control sleep in a way to improve the clearance of beta amyloid and help prevent amyloidosis that we think can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.”

Anne Trafton. (July 21, 2014), “Try, try again? Study says no: Trying harder makes it more difficult to learn some aspects of language, neuroscientists find.Science Daily.

  • Neuroscientists find that trying harder makes it more difficult to learn some aspects of language. When it comes to learning languages, adults and children have different strengths.
  • Adults excel at absorbing the vocabulary needed to navigate a grocery store or order food in a restaurant, but children have an uncanny ability to pick up on subtle nuances of language, sometimes speaking a second language like a native speaker within months.
  • Brain structure plays an important role in this “sensitive period” for learning language, which is believed to end around adolescence.

Richard C. Mohs. “How Human Memory Works.” How Stuff Works.

  • Memory is located not in one particular place in the brain but is instead a brain-wide process.
  • What seems to be a single memory is actually a complex construction.
  • Encoding is the first step in creating a memory. It’s a biological phenomenon, rooted in the senses, that begins with perception. It is encoded and stored using the language of electricity and chemicals.
  • The connections between brain cells aren’t set in concrete — they change all the time.
  • To properly encode a memory, you must first be paying attention.
  • there are three ways we store memories: first in the sensory stage; then in short-term memory; and ultimately, for some memories, in long-term memory.
  • When you want to remember something, you retrieve the information on an unconscious level, bringing it into your conscious mind at will.
  • If you’ve forgotten something, it may be because you didn’t encode it very effectively, because you were distracted while encoding should have taken place, or because you’re having trouble retrieving it.
  • Age-dependent loss of [memory] function appears in many animals, and it begins with the onset of sexual maturity.
  • Studies of nursing-home populations show that patients were able to make significant improvements in memory when given rewards and challenges.

James Morehead (June 19, 2012). “Stanford University’s Carol Dweck on the Growth Mindset and Education.”OneDublin.org.

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

    Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

    In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits.

  • In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence.
  • Both mindsets are widely held, are rampant in our culture.
  • Steve Job’s had a real growth mindset about himself. He was constantly experimenting, using the feedback and creating new things from it. But I don’t think he necessarily had a growth mindset about other people.
  • Praising [kids’] intelligence backfires. It puts them in a fixed mindset and not want challenges. They don’t want to risk looking stupid or risk making mistakes. Kids praised for intelligence curtail their learning in order to never make a mistake, in order to preserve the label you gave to them.
  • Students praised for the process they engaged in – their effort, their strategies, their focus, their perseverance – these kids take on hard tasks and stick with them, even if they make lots of mistakes. They learn more in the long run.
  • After a poor score on a test the students with a fixed mindset say yes, they would seriously consider cheating.
  • The way we praise, the way we talk to kids, all of these messages are conveying a value system. We have to really send the right messages, that taking on a challenging task is what I admire. Sticking to something and trying many strategies, that’s what I admire. That struggling means you’re committed to something and are willing to work hard.

Gretchen Reynolds. (April 30, 2014). Want to be More Creative? Take a Walk.The New York Times.

  • An significantly increase creativity, according to a handy new study.
  • Exercise has long been linked anecdotally to creativity.
  • Walking markedly improved people’s ability to generate creative ideas, even when they sat down after the walk.
  • When volunteers strolled Stanford’s pleasant, leafy campus for about eight minutes, they generated more creative ideas than when they sat either inside or outside for the same length of time.
  • Just how a brief, casual stroll alters the various mental processes related to creativity remains unclear.

Brigid Schulte, (May 16, 2014). “For a more productive life, daydream.” CNN Opinion.

  • Brigid Schulte Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time

    Brigid Schulte Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time

    Legend has it not only that Archimedes had his “eureka!” moment about water displacement while relaxing in the tub, but that Einstein worked out the Theory of Relativity while tootling around on his bicycle.

  • Though Protestant work ethic-driven Americans have tended to worry about the devil holding sway in idle time, it turns out idle time is crucial for creativity, innovation and breakthrough thinking.
  • The default mode network is like a series of airport hubs in different and typically unconnected parts of the brain. And that’s why it’s so crucial. When the brain flips into idle mode, this network subconsciously puts together stray thoughts, makes seemingly random connections and enables us to see an old problem in an entirely new light.
  • just before that moment of insight, the brain turns inward, what they call a “brain blink,” and lights up an area believed to be linked to our ability to understand the poetry of metaphors.
  • You need this oscillation between deep study with focused attention and daydreaming.
  • Companies pressure workers to be in the office, to work all the time. But at the same time, they’re really interested in innovation, which comes from letting go.
  • Art, literature, inventions, innovation, philosophy has come as a result of a delicate balance between the uninterrupted time in leisure to daydream, to set the default mode network free, and the concentrated time at work to make those flights of whim and fancy something real.
  • Philosopher Bertrand Russell, in his famous 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness,” advocated a four-hour workday and more leisure time for all.
  • Our antiquated laws give no overwork protection to knowledge workers.

Sumathi Reddy, (July 21, 2014). “Why Seven Hours of Sleep Might Be Better than Eight.” The Wall Street Journal.

  • Several sleep studies have found that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep—not eight, as was long believed—when it comes to certain cognitive and health markers, although many doctors question that conclusion.
  • Skimping on a full night’s sleep, even by 20 minutes, impairs performance and memory the next day.
  • Getting too much sleep—not just too little of it—is associated with health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and with higher rates of death, studies show.
  • People who reported they slept 6.5 to 7.4 hours had a lower mortality rate than those with shorter or longer sleep.
  • Other experts caution against studies showing ill effects from too much sleep.
  • Cognitive performance increased as people got more sleep, reaching a peak at seven hours before starting to decline.
  • People should be able to figure out their optimal amount of sleep in a trial of three days to a week, ideally while on vacation.
  • Five healthy adults were placed in what the researchers called Stone Age-like conditions in Germany for more than two months—without electricity, clocks or running water. Participants fell asleep about two hours earlier and got on average 1.5 hours more sleep than was estimated in their normal lives, the study said. Their average amount of sleep per night: 7.2 hours.

Robert Wright, (April 21, 2012). How to Break the Procrastination HabitThe Atlantic. (Charles Duhigg’s book,The Power of Habit, which is mentioned in the article, is also great!)

Daniel J. Levitin, (August 9, 2014), “Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain,” The New York Times.

  • But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.
  • The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited.
  • Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain).
  • The daydreaming mode, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight.
  • The attentional filter, helps to orient our attention, to tell us what to pay attention to and what we can safely ignore.
  • The switch between daydreaming and attention is controlled in a part of the brain called the insula, an important structure about an inch or so beneath the surface of the top of your skull. The efficacy of this switch varies from person to person, in some functioning smoothly, in others rather rusty.
  • If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.
  • Email, too, should be done at designated times.
  • Increasing creativity will happen naturally as we tame the multitasking and immerse ourselves in a single task for sustained periods.
  • Daydreaming leads to creativity, and creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, to mold it to our liking, to have a positive effect on our environment.
  • Taking breaks is biologically restorative. Naps are even better.

Charlie Tyson, (August 14, 2014), “Failure to Replicate,” Inside Higher Ed.  This is a very interesting overview article about the state of affairs in education research.

* 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.

Drupal Learning Journal 2. Theming, CSS, Permissions, PHP array

As I mentioned I am working on increasing my Drupal skills by doing and learning. I did some passive learning by watching videos.

1. I finished watching Lullabot’s “Theming Basics For Drupal” It is a great DVD, I strongly recommend it. I obviously didn’t master everything I’ve seen yet, but I feel I have a great overview of how theming works and can start playing with it.

2. I also watched about 75 minutes of video on CSS. I have been working online long enough to be aware of the basics of CSS, but I started to watch this series from the beginning just to make sure that I got the foundations right. The first half an hour covered mostly things I already knew, but there were a few bits of information that were new to me. So this was the right decision.

The active part of my learning, i.e. doing, right now includes moving my WordPress based SocRelig.com site to Drupal 6.2. I already did a lot of the work last year and the list of tasks to be finished before the relaunch is getting shorter and shorter. I maintain a todo list, so here I won’t mention all of the tasks I checked of, only the ones where I learned something from.

1. Using the “Views” module for the list of books, I managed to display the categories the books belong to (e.g. Academic, Popular, Christian). These categories are stored in their own taxonomy. This taxonomy was automatically set up when I imported my blog from WordPress, there the name and the URL for them would include by default the reference to WordPress. I managed to circumvent that by using Replacement patterns in the field setting of the Taxonomy in the View setup. This way the category words are clickable and lead to the list of books belonging to that category. Those list are also created by Views with the help of the Arguments.

2. I overcame an issue of the Books view where none of the columns showed up for anonymous visitors beyond the title of the books. I asked help online and got the fix within half an hour. It was a permission issue.

3. I started to theme the pages for the individual Books. I had an issue on how to call the content of variables stored in arrays in the PHP files. I asked for help and got the pointer I needed in half an hour. The answer was to use this syntax: $node->field_authors[0][‘safe’]

Drupal Learning Journal 1. Past, Present, Future

I mentioned in the previous post that my goal of becoming a proficient Drupal developer and that I will document the journey of getting there. Here is where I am now. I know

1. how Drupal 6 is structured
2. how to to handle routine tasks within Drupal 6
3. how to set up up anything that is within the core capabilities
4. how to find, install and configure most modules

I am in the process of figuring out

5. how to integrate more complex modules with each other
6. how to configure the advanced options of more complex modules
7. how to set up an e-commerce website

I am learning #5-6 by transporting and revamping my socrelig.com site to Drupal 6. I am doing #7 in the context of working on a client’s site. None of these sites assumes or requires a user community, so I will have to learn the practicalities of Drupal’s aspects related to the integration of more social features elsewhere. If I get a client project requiring it I will learn the social aspects in the context of that. If I won’t, then I will do that by revamping my filmandreligion.com site and making it a Drupal site to be actively used by a community of users.

The rest of my Drupal related learning plan includes the following steps, in this order:

8. learn CSS (which defines how the look and feel of modern websites are composed)
9. learn Drupal theming (which defines how the look and feel of Drupal sites is composed. This presumes knowledge of CSS and PHP, of which I only know the latter)
10. learn about Drupal 7, including
a. how is it structured (i.e. where to find things I know in Drupal 6)
b. how to do routine tasks
c. what’s new in it (i.e. what capabilities have been integrated into the core)
11. learn module development, if necessary

2011: The year of growing

Last year I made a few resolutions for 2010. I kept them mostly private, only sharing some of them with friends and family in person or protected online spaces. This year I am not making resolutions. Instead, I am announcing my intentions in this public space. My main intention for the year is to grow in a balanced way.

My wife and father believe in the power of affirmations. I am ambivalent about them, but will attempt to formulate my intentions as affirmations. The list below is organized by priority, the first being the most important.

Financial: By the end of 2011 I will have enough money in reserves to sustain us for 3 months.

Explanation: I am not willing to disclose on this public blog the details of my financial situation, but suffice to say that our reserves are not there yet. In order to be able to set aside that sum I will need to generate much more income, beyond the current level.

I am trained as a librarian but the local job market is disheartening. In the last three years I applied to every library in the county that had an opening and failed to attain a position. Meanwhile, I worked a year as a part time librarian in a small library and have been volunteering there since funding for the part time position ceased to exist. I will keep applying to positions that come up, but I have to accept that pursuing other money-making avenues is inevitable. The best short and long term opportunity I know of is becoming a Drupal* developer. Hence the next point.

* According to its website: “Drupal is an open source content management platform powering millions of websites and applications. It’s built, used, and supported by an active and diverse community of people around the world.”

Technical: By the end of 2011 I will be a proficient Drupal developer.

Explanation: Learning Drupal was first suggested to me in early 2005. At the time, after about 10 years of being a web-developer, I was not open to investing more of my time in learning new web-technologies as I was moving in other directions. Back then, I was finishing up my double BA in Religious Studies and Sociology and getting ready to start working on my MLIS. Now, 6 years later, I am ready for Drupal. I am already working on a number of projects and actively learning Drupal. More about that in a separate post.

Part of my “growing” this year will be achieved through becoming more conscious of my learning. In order to accomplish that I intend to keep a journal here about my Drupal related learnings. Thus, the nature of this blog may change, and it will include more technical posts. This may happen at the expense of my book and film reviews. This year, if I am short on time and have to choose writing one or the other, I will choose the learning journal.

Scholarly: By the end of 2011, I will have formulated the outlines of three original essays in the realm of religion online.

Explanation: Right now I have three intellectual/academic interests: Religion Online, Kabbalah, and Film and Religion. As my primary focus for 2011 is to become financially balanced I suspect I will have less time to pursue my intellectual pursuits. Nevertheless, I want to make sure that I devote some time to things that provide me with the intellectual stimuli I am interested in. So I picked the newest of the three: Religion Online. These are my intended steps to live up to my affirmation above:
A. Keep reading. I’ve already accumulated several academic books on the topic and almost one hundred articles. I want to at least read what I already have, not to mention new materials coming out or older books I don’t have yet.
B. Keep monitoring: I keep my channels open about the topic and post pointers on my socrelig.com site on new developments. I want this site to become known as a clearing house and main resource for scholars interested in this topic.
C. Keep thinking: As I keep reading and monitoring the field I want to document my personal learning journey and reflections. I believe that I have ideas that will be considered original contributions. I want to use these as the base for my essays mentioned in the affirmation.

To summarize, by the end of this year my financial situation will be balanced, I will be a knowledgeable and well-paid Drupal expert and a recognized contributor in an academic field.