• Follow me on Twitter

  • Some of my Photos at Flickr

    Epupa Falls

    More Photos
  • My DEL.ICIO.US

  • Pages

  • July 2015
    M T W T F S S
    « Jan    
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    2728293031  

Procrastination – what to do with it?

During last four weeks, I have been enrolled in the course on “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects’. The course was designed and delivered by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, and is available on Coursera. I have found the entire course very well designed, engaging, and I recommend to everybody who is interested to improve his or her learning ability. There were three crosscutting themes that I find appealing and useful for practically anybody who enjoys learning and cares about keeping his or her brain well-functioning for as long as possible.


Procrastination – what to do about it?

Who didn’t procrastinate at some moment of time? And why do we fall into procrastination trap?
Procrastination is an automatic habit, and we often aren’t even aware that we have begun to procrastinate…
According to research, when you are getting ready to do something you would really rather not do, area in the brain associated with pain is activated. Naturally the brain tends to stop such negative stimulation by switching your attention to something else. The more you are procrastinating (postponing what you need to do), the stronger is the negative stimulation.

According to Dr. Barbara Oakley (1), there are four parts of the habit of procrastination:

  1. The Cue – trigger that launches the habitual mode (‘automatic behaviour’)
    Cue by itself is neither helpful nor harmful, it’s the routine. What we do in reaction to that cue, that’s what matters.)
    Most common cues – 1) location; 2) time; 3) how you feel….
  2. The Routine – the routine habitual mode that the brain is used to falling into when it receives the cue. Response can be useful, harmless, but also harmful. We need to re-wire our old habits.
  3. The Reward – every habit develops and continues because it rewards us = it gives an immediate little feeling of pleasure. Procrastination is an easy habit to develop because the reward (i.e. moving your mind’s focus to something more pleasant) happens so quickly and easily.
  4. The belief – habits have the power because of our belief in them.
    To change a habit we need to change our underlying belief.

So, what can be done to change the habit of procrastination?

  • Researchers discovered that not long after we might start working out what we didn’t like, that ‘neurodisconfort’ disappeared. Therefore you need to focus on 1) recognizing the cue, 2) re-writing the routine, and 3) rewarding the new, positive habit and (4) have a ‘can do’ philosophy!
  • When approaching the task that you would rather not to do; it is important to FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, not the product, which may be too far to reach. Thinking of the product may be the trigger that leads to your procrastination. Processes relate to habits.
  • Create a setup that minimizes distractions – especially at the very beginning of the process. When some distraction arises (and it always happens), just let it flow by.
  • Start the day with the most unfavorable tasks – having the highest energy and fresh mind will help you to finish these tasks easier.
  • One doesn’t need to feel excited when starting the ‘disliked’ task. Important is to start.
  • Try not to exercise the willpower.

One very effective method and well-known technique to address the procrastination is POMODORO:

  • Use some device (e.g. kitchen timer) that will measure your 25 minutes of focus steady concentration with no interruptions (workout)
  • At the end of the 25 minutes REWARD yourself with a minute of surfing, coffee or brief chit-chat and then back to another 25-minutes period.

Reference:

(1) Oakley, B. (2015). Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects, Lecture videos & presentations. Coursera, UC San Diego. https://class.coursera.org/learning-003 Accessed on January 28, 2015

What is useful to know about memory to enhance your learning

During last four weeks, I have been enrolled in the course on “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects’. The course was designed and delivered by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, and is available on Coursera. I have found the entire course very well designed, engaging, and I recommend to everybody who is interested to improve his or her learning ability. There were three crosscutting themes that I find appealing and useful for practically anybody who enjoys learning and cares about keeping his or her brain well-functioning for as long as possible.


What is useful to know about memory to enhance your learning For those who know little bit about how our brain is working it is a known fact, that we have two types of memory – (1) long term memory and (2) short term memory (also known as working memory). I will first summarize some basic information about these two types of memory and further list some tools to improve memory.

Working memory, located principally in pre-frontal cortex, is what occupies immediately and consciously our mind at any moment of the time. One could imagine it as a combination of computer processor and RAM memory. Working memory actually isn’t very good– it has limited ‘storage capacity’ and it stores information only for a limited amount of time. In order to keep the information in the working memory, we need to repeat thoughts about it (for example a phone number). Currently it is believed that working memory has a capacity of four ‘chunks’ of information at a time (1). Sleeping is from large part erasing the short term memory.

Long term memory is distributed in different parts of brain. According to Dr. Terrence Sejnowski (3), there are actually multiple memory systems for different types of learning.  We could imagine it as computers’ ROM memory. Capacity of our long term memory is theoretically unlimited. The main constraint on recall is actually accessibility rather than availability (2). The new information introduced to the long term memory through the process called ‘consolidation’ that is happening in hippocampus. That process can take long time and that information/piece of memory needs to be ‘revisited’ several times in order to increase the chance that it will be possibly to locate and use it later when needed. Moving effectively information from working to long term memory takes time and practice. The long term memories can remain dormant for a long time until the memory is retrieved and “reinstalled”. It is important to note that memories are not fixed. They are changing over the time. Why and how? Whenever we recall some old memory, it is “reinstalled” in the working memory, in the new context which may alter the old memory and be ‘saved’ through the process called ‘reconsolidation’. Like consolidation, also process of reconsolidation occurs during sleep. So, what are some tools that we can use to improve our memory? 1. During millions of years of evolutions our brain has developed tremendous visual-spatial memorability. Taping to its incredible capacity can help us to significantly improve our memory. One technique that uses our visual-spatial memorability is called MEMORY PALACE. Following are the steps of this technique in brief:

  • Call into your mind a familiar place (for example a layout of your office or house)
  • Use it as a visual notepad to deposit images of things you want to remember (the funnier and more evocative images, the better 
  • When you need to recall this memory, call to your mind again the place and you will see that the images of things will quickly pop-up.

2. There are many techniques and tools that can help with the process of consolidation:

  • Create meaningful groups that simplify the material (chunks).
  • Visualize – associate the chunks of information with images.
  • Write down (handwrite) and say loudly the information you are trying to remember
  • Flashcards or Index cards. When using them gradually extend the time between repetitions. There is a useful program and app for ‘virtual index cards’ called Anki.
  • Interleaving the learning – practice jumping back and forth between problems and situations that require different techniques or strategies to learn and remember.
  • Associate (link) numbers with events or with familiar numerical system.
  • Create memorable sentences to memorize concepts. Example learning cranial bones:
    • Old        [Occipital]
    • People   [Parietal]
    • From      [Frontal]
    • Texas     [Temporal]
    • Eat         [Ethnoid]
    • Spiders  [Sphenoid]

References: (1) Anonymous. (n.d.). Working memory. Retrieved January 25, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_memory (2) McLeod, S. (2010). Long Term Memory. Retrieved January 25, 2015, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/long-term-memory.html (3) Oakley, B., Sejnowski, T. (2015). Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects. Lecture videos & presentations. Coursera, UC San Diego. Retrieved January 28, 2015, from https://class.coursera.org/learning-003

Some insights about brain and the process of learning

During last four weeks, I have been enrolled in the course on “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects’. The course was designed and delivered by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, and is available on Coursera. I have found the entire course very well designed, engaging, and I recommend to everybody who is interested to improve his or her learning ability. There were three crosscutting themes that I find appealing and useful for practically anybody who enjoys learning and cares about keeping his or her brain well-functioning for as long as possible.


Some insights about brain and the process of learning

During my years in high school, the common understanding was that functionality of the brain has limits as the number of the neurons in each brain is fixed. Dr. Sejnowski summarized in the course the old view of mature brain as follows: While the strength of the synapsis can be adjusted by learning, the pattern of cognitivity doesn’t not change much unless there is a brain damage. Most of the neuron connections are created prior to the maturity, but with age many connection’s die, so there is a shrinkage of the cortex in the aging brain. It was a ‘good excuse’ for not being able to learn, isn’t it?

Well, the more recent discoveries of neuroscience proved that brain dynamically evolves even after it matures and new synapsis are constantly being formed as other are disappearing. And there is more: In 1998, Professor Fred (Rusty) Gage and Peter Eriksson demonstrated that in the brain area called the hippocampus, new neurons are being born even in adulthood (1). What a relief! It was also found that physical exercise is increasing the number of the new neurons that are being born. But there is a catch: these newly borne neurons don’t survive long if they are not needed. Now, the obvious question is: ‘What can be done to enhance new neurogenesis (creation of new neurons in the adult brain) and at the same time to assure that they don’t die soon’?

Experiments with animals (principally rats) shown, that an ongoing learning experiences (not surprisingly especially training of visual-spatial memory – see post on Memory) and enriched environment (exercise and interactions) stimulated formation of more and stronger connection with other neurons, but also increased the survival of neurons (2).

In conclusion:  Even as adults we need to live in an enriched environment – it is healthy for our brain to be surrounded by stimulating, creative company and actively participate in events happening around us.  And do physical exercise – that is also increasing the number of the new neurons.

But there is more what I have learned about process of learning:
According to Barbara Oakley (3), one of the course facilitators, our brain has two principal ways of thinking – so called focused mode and diffuse mode.

Focused mode is that time of focused concentration of our attention, essential when we are working on problems that require the use of rational, sequential and/or analytical approaches. Focused mode activity is located principally in the pre-frontal cortex. The brain is trying to use an existing neural connection pattern that helps to understand what we are learning. However, when we encounter totally new problem or new concept, there may not be any helpful existing neural connection pattern. Instead, a new one needs to be created. To be able to create such neural pathway, brain needs to switch to a different way of processing the information – to diffuse mode thinking. In this mode, the problem can be analyzed from a broader perspective without being limited by the existing neural pathways. Diffuse mode is when our attention is relaxed; we are for a moment ‘absentminded’ letting our mind ‘wander’. There is no specific area of the brain, where diffuse mode would be located. The diffuse mode rather allows our unconscious mind to connect with many different parts of the brain and return valuable insights.

Apparently, the brain cannot consciously be in both thinking modes at the same time. What seems to be happening during effective learning or solving complex problems is continuous switching back and forth between these two thinking modes. Indeed, learning process is surely much more complex than just switching between the two thinking modes, however understanding these two different thinking modes is very useful to set up effective learning approaches, but also clearly justifies the need for short breaks at work to remain productive during the whole working day (4).

References:

(1) Eriksson PS, Perfilieva E, Björk-Eriksson T, et al. Neurogenesis in the adult human hippocampus. Nat Med. 1998;4:1313-1317. doi:10.1038/3305.

(2) Klemn B. New Neurons: Good News, Bad News. SharBrains. 2008. http://sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/04/25/new-neurons-good-news-bad-news/. Accessed January 25, 2015.

(3) Oakley B. How Pinball Helps Explain Ways We Think and Learn. 2014. http://www.sciencefriday.com/blogs/09/04/2014/how-pinball-helps-explain-ways-we-think-and-learn.html?series=33. Accessed January 25, 2015.

(4) Seiter C. The Science of Taking Breaks at Work: How to Be More Productive By Changing the Way You Think About Downtime. 2014. https://open.bufferapp.com/science-taking-breaks-at-work/. Accessed January 27, 2015.

(5) Oakley, B., Sejnowski, T. (2015). Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough
subjects. Lecture videos & presentations. Coursera, UC San Diego. Accessed January 28, 2015, from https://class.coursera.org/learning-003

Open online courses

What MOOC stands for? Massive Open Online courses. And during last few years this movement is massive. Many universities and educational institution all around the world offer open online courses. Not surprisingly, quality of these courses does vary  – both in relation to the content and to the way how it is presented. Recommended sites with long lists of online courses include:
COURSERA  – https://www.coursera.org/
UDACITYhttps://www.udacity.com/
KHAN ACADEMY  – https://www.khanacademy.org/
MIT OPENCOURSEWARE – http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
and more

But there are now several online platforms which offer creation of online courses even for people who do not know much about the techie stuff … One just need to know what the course shall be about! Really? No, not, one thing is what technology does allow, but a different thing is the design of instruction that facilitates the learning process. And the second one is still very much depending on the human brain, imagination and innovation.
But I wanted to provide here are few tips on platforms that can help with the technical part of an online course design – some of them for free, some of them for a fee. I was attracted by UDEMY – https://www.udemy.com/, which is free for instructors.
Udemy.com is a platform or marketplace for online learning. Unlike academic MOOC programs driven by traditional collegiate coursework, Udemy provides a platform for experts of any kind to create courses which can be offered to the public, either at no charge or for a tuition fee.[1] Udemy provides tools that enable users to create a course,
promote it and earn money from student tuition charges.
[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Udemy]

Another one to mention (although its bit more techie) is Course-Builder from Google:
https://code.google.com/p/course-builder

and then I found quite a good overview of other existing options to create and sell online courses:
http://www.learningrevolution.net/sell-online-courses/

Critical thinking

“Being a critical thinker is both attitude and intellectual skill; that is, one must choose to act like a critical thinker and master the analytical techniques employed by a critical thinker. Some of these attitudes and techniques include:

  • being open-minded
  • being objective
  • seeking root causes
  • viewing a problem from multiple perspectives
  • giving a fair hearing to evidence on multiple perspectives
  • suspending judgement until all pertinent information has been heard
  • listening to contrary views
  • changing conclusion in the face of compelling information.”

[Dick, W., Carey L. and Carey J.O., 2009. The Systematic Design of Instruction. Sevent edition. Page 18.]

Home design

Are you re-designing your home? Or just like to get some inspiration for future projects? check following sites and suggest some more that you may know!

Print on demand

Are you considering to ‘print something on demand’? Maybe T-shirt? or Mug? Or do you think your art is worth more? Here are some links to sides which offer ‘print on demand’ of diverse products that you may consider useful too:

Mugs, Accessories, Clothing, Gifts, and many more …

Fabric, wallpaper, gift wraps and more …

Paintings & photographs, but also postcards, books and others

Do you know some more to suggest?

Good and more profound review of some of these pages can be found here: http://www.artpromotivate.com/2012/01/top-print-on-demand-websites-list-2012.html

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 134 other followers