Digital Minimalism

12th April 2019

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Month

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, by Cal Newport. We have to start out with an admission of bias—we have always loved everything Cal Newport has ever written. (Cal’s most recent book before Digital Minimalism, Deep Work, is one of the best books on improving productivity we’ve ever read.) In Digital Minimalism, you will find that Newport has become today’s Thoreau, whose cogent observations give us much insight into how to live happier lives.  Plus, Cal’s a wonderful writer—witness this gem: “Earlier, I cited extensive research that supports the claim that the human brain has evolved to process the flood of information generated by face-to-face interactions.  To replace this rich flow with a single bit [the “Like” button] is the ultimate insult to our social processing machinery. To say it’s like driving a Ferrari under the speed limit is an understatement; the better simile is towing a Ferrari behind a mule.”  Highly recommended. (An excellent book for audio: Two free audiobooks may be possible through this link.)

Why taking a few moments of “quiet waking rest” is so valuable

This excellent recent review article in Trends in Cognitive Neurosciences, “Memory consolidation during waking rest,” gives further insight into why taking breaks is so important. One key graf (among many): “Recent studies demonstrate that experimentally introducing brief periods of quiet waking rest following learning benefits memory, in comparison to equivalent periods of time spent engaged in sensorimotor or cognitive tasks.” And here’s an excellent related essay by researcher Mattias Björnmalm in ScienceIn academia, hard work is expected—but taking a break is effort well spent, too.

A Nice Articlewith Video!On the Value of the Attentional Octopus in Learning

This neat article and video describe our metaphorical methods of teaching about the value of the attentional octopus in learning.  (And you can also enjoy our full Coursera course!)

How to Do a Pomodoro Session

Here’s another wonderfully innovative video by 4-time US memory champion Nelson Dellis. This is nothing mind-boggling, which is part of its charm. You’ll simply see a video of Nelson studying (memory training) for a single 25-minute Pomodoro session. The idea is for you to play the video and study whatever you need to study while sitting beside Nelson. We must say, studying with a role model and online friend like Nelson is a great way to motivate yourself.  Incidentally, Nelson uses the same earphones to those that Barb uses. But when Barb’s really focusing, she uses even more heavy duty earphones. (Yes, really—here she is working happily away while looking like a nerd at an airport.)

A podcast with New Zealand star broadcaster Kathryn Ryan

Barb was fortunate enough to have a conversation with the brilliant interviewer Kathryn Ryan on New Zealand’s radio show From Nine to Noon in relation to her upcoming talk for the New Zealand Initiative-University of Auckland on May 1. Barb did the interview while she was at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto. Can you hear the restaurant clanking in the background?

Fascinating Results Regarding Socioeconomic Factors in Schools

These fascinating results from the New Zealand Initiative show the results of analyzing school performance by separating out family circumstance.  This is important to do because parents often go through a great deal of trouble to send their children to a “better” school, when actually, the school they are near may do just as well for their child.  

As NewsNow reports:

“The new study…looked at 400,000 students…through the past decade and “statistically adjusts for all of the different family circumstances”, including their parents’ education, income, employment and benefits history, and reports from Child, Youth and Family…

“We’re always beating up on decile one schools with a big stick because they don’t do quite as well [in analyses] but they are performing – a lot of them – admirably, given the circumstances they face.

“We need to have information like this going down to every parent so we stop having parents have their kids walk past the local school to the higher-decile school because they see these [analyses].”

See also these articles from RNZ (which highlights the travesty of parents being unable to discover data about their local schools), Newshub (a nice overview with statistics), a podcast from RNZ, and a brief overview from Education Central.

The Creeping Capitalist Takeover of Higher Education

This insightful, much-talked-about article by Kevin Carey in Huffpost provides an insightful view of how universities are increasing using for-profit institutions to increase their bottom lines via online programs, without a thought for student costs and debt. As Carey describes, Georgia Tech stands virtually alone in in providing at-cost (less than $7K USD for a masters degree!), high quality online educations. At Georgia Tech, a visionary dean, Zvi Galil teamed with Sebastian Thrun to change students’ future.  Why are so few other university administrators—who often tout their ostensible caring for students—willing to do the same?

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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