Tag Archives: learning

‘Bit Culture’ and the Benefits of Distraction

The information consumption habits of many in the younger generations–one feature of the ‘Internet information culture’–has many merits, despite its many detractors. So says Ban Casnocha in an article for The American that acts as both a review of Tyler Cowen’s Create Your Own Economy and a fairly positive and comprehensive overview of the “bit culture” and its affects on attention and learning.

Casnocha begins with a look at his own media consumption habits (that closely mirrors mine and, no doubt, many of yours, too) and a couple of theories for explaining this style:

The first is economic: when culture is free and a click away, as it is on blogs and Twitter and the broader Internet, we sample broadly and consume it in smaller chunks: “When access is easy, we tend to favor the short, the sweet, and the bitty. When access is difficult, we tend to look for large-scale productions, extravaganzas, and masterpieces,” […]

The second reason is the intellectual and emotional stimulation we experience by assembling a custom stream of bits. Cowen refers to this process as the “daily self-assembly of synthetic experiences.” My inputs appear a chaotic jumble of scattered information but to me they touch all my interest points. When I consume them as a blend, I see all-important connections between the different intellectual narratives I follow […]

When skeptics make sweeping negative claims about how the Web affects cognition, they are forgetting the people whose natural tendencies and strengths blossom in an information-rich environment. Cowen’s overriding point, delivered in a “can’t we all just get along” spirit, is that everyone processes the stimuli of the world differently. Everyone deploys attention in their own way. We should embrace the new tools—even if we do not personally benefit— that allow the infovores among us to perform tasks effectively and acquire knowledge rapidly.

Evidence-Based Study Tips

A recent issue of The Psychologist included a “rough guide to studying psychology” by the editor of the excellent Research Digest blog, Christian Jarrett. In his guide, Jarrett provided nine evidence-based study tips:

  • Adopt a growth mindset: [Students] who see intelligence as malleable, react to adversity by working harder and trying out new strategies. […] Research also suggests lecturers and teachers should […] avoid comments on innate ability and emphasise instead what students did well to achieve their success.
  • Sleep well.
  • Forgive yourself for procrastinating.
  • Test yourself: Time spent answering quiz questions (including feedback of correct answers) is more beneficial than the same time spent merely re-studying that same material. […] Testing ‘creates powerful memories that are not easily forgotten’ and it allows you to diagnose your learning. […] Self-testing when information is still fresh in your memory, immediately after studying, doesn’t work. It does not create lasting memories, and it creates overconfidence.
  • Pace your studies: The secret to remembering material long-term is to review it periodically, rather than trying to cram. […] The optimal time to leave material before reviewing it is 10 to 30 per cent of the period you want to remember it for.
  • Vivid examples may not always work best: Students taught about mathematical relations linking three items in a group were only able to transfer the rules to a novel, real-life situation if they were originally taught the rules using abstract symbols. Those taught with [a metaphorical aid] were unable to transfer what they’d learned.
  • Take naps: Naps as short as ten minutes can reduce subsequent fatigue and help boost concentration.
  • Get handouts prior to the lecture: Students given Powerpoint slide handouts before a lecture made fewer notes but performed the same or better in a later test of the lecture material than students who weren’t given the handouts until the lecture was over.
  • Believe in yourself: Students’ belief in their own ability, called ‘self-efficacy’, and their general ability both made unique contributions to their performance. […] Instructors that focus on building the confidence of students, providing strategic instruction, and giving relevant feedback can enhance performance outcomes.

Understanding Wisdom

In a review of Stephen Hall’s Wisdom, Bookslut’s Jessa Crispin asks ‘Can we understand wisdom?’ and looks at the evidence for and against.

Wisdom is not the same as knowledge, and so it seems odd it has attracted the attention of science. There is such a thing as “wisdom studies” now, and in his book Hall talks to researchers and neuroscientists in a search for the latest information about wisdom. Scientists treat wisdom the way they treat anything else. They break it down into its smallest components to identify and test, and they attempt to figure out how it works, how to obtain it, and what it is. [Hall says:]

To be wise is not to know particular facts but to know without excessive confidence or excessive cautiousness. Wisdom is thus not a belief, a value, a set of facts, a corpus of knowledge or information in some specialized area, or a set of special abilities or skills. Wisdom is an attitude taken by persons toward the beliefs, values, knowledge, information, abilities, and skills that are held, a tendency to doubt that these are necessarily true or valid and to doubt that they are an exhaustive set of those things that could be known.

According to Hall and the researchers he has spoken to these are the eight “attributes of wisdom”:

  • Emotional Regulation
  • Knowing What’s Important
  • Moral Reasoning
  • Compassion
  • Humility
  • Altruism
  • Patience
  • Dealing with Uncertainty

via Intelligent Life

Medicine, Specialism, and the Scientific Education

In the commencement speech he delivered to the graduates of Stanford’s School of Medicine earlier this year, Atul Gawande eloquently (as ever) examined the state of modern medicine (in the U.S. specifically, the world generally), the problem with specialism, and the problem of specialists trying to fit into a system not necessarily designed for it.

I particularly like Gawande’s analogy on the experience of a scientific education:

The experience of a medical and scientific education is transformational. It is like moving to a new country. At first, you don’t know the language, let alone the customs and concepts. But then, almost imperceptibly, that changes. Half the words you now routinely use you did not know existed when you started: words like arterial-blood gas, nasogastric tube, microarray, logistic regression, NMDA receptor, velluvial matrix.

O.K., I made that last one up. But the velluvial matrix sounds like something you should know about, doesn’t it? And that’s the problem. I will let you in on a little secret. You never stop wondering if there is a velluvial matrix you should know about.

via Intelligent Life

The Ideas of Frank Chimero

Designer Frank Chimero presents his ‘Ideas’: his manifesto of sorts principles on creativity, motivation and innovation. Chimero briefly covers seven topics, entitled:

  • Why is Greater Than How
  • Not More. Instead, Better.
  • Surprise + Clarity = Delight
  • Sincire, Authentic & Honest
  • No Silver Bullets, No Secrets
  • Quality + Sincerity = Enthusiasm
  • Everything is Something or Other

I’m particularly fond of the final two topics and this, from Why is Greater Than How:

This complex world has made us over-emphasize How-based thinking and education. Once the tools are understood, understanding why to do certain things becomes more valuable than how to do them. How is recipes, and learning a craft is more than following instructions.

How is important for new practitioners focused on avoiding mistakes. Why is for those who wish to push, are not risk-averse and seek to improve. How is coulda, Why is shoulda. How is finishing tasks, Why is fulfilling objectives. How usually results in more. Why usually results in better.

via Link Banana