Good Habits, Bad Habits

11th February 2021

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Month

Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick, by Wendy Wood. It looks like we’re on a roll this month with fantastic reads! Good Habits, Bad Habits is one of those life-changing books where the implications of what you’re discovering unfold gradually, until it hits that you’ve been oblivious to a vital part of you.  Although Wendy writes in an easy-to-read, friendly way, the book is not just woo-woo fluffy stuff—Dr. Wood is a UK-born psychologist who is the Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at University of Southern California, as well as the Distinguished Visiting Professor at INSEAD Business School in Paris. Her research on the brain’s habitual system is world class. (Our very own Terry recommended this book to Barb.)  

As a bit of historical background, Skinnerian research about the habitual system was quashed about fifty years ago by the burgeoning cognitive revolution. “Cognivistas” claimed (with some legitimacy) that Skinner’s behaviorists had been suppressing them. The problem is that Skinner and his behavioral approaches were on to something big—a lot of learning does take place through simple stimulus-reinforcement. Only in the past decade has the value of stimulus-reinforcement (habit-based) learning come to be more widely appreciated—except, sadly, in the field of education. (But follow our merry, mischievous crew this year… there is much more on that to come!) 

Good Habits, Bad Habits is an extraordinary book. Your relationships, productivity, health, and ability to learn will all benefit from reading it—and it’s so well-written that you’ll enjoy every word.  Also excellent as an audio book.

Barb Opening the Learning & the Brain Conference

Barb will be giving the opening keynote for the Learning & the Brain Conference, where she will discuss “Keeping Students Focused, Motivated, and Engaged in the Classroom and Online.” You’ll learn how little spurts of dopamine can make an enormous difference in your students’ attitudes—and how you can encourage those dopamine spurts.  You may also wish to attend Barb’s surprisingly practical second talk about the mysterious procedural learning system and its importance in learning math. (Psst—the procedural system also helps with learning art, language, music, dance, and pretty much any subject you want to name, so you’ll get a lot out of this talk whatever your discipline.)  

The all-star line up of speakers at this conference is extraordinary—Paul Kirschner, Carol Ann Tomlinson, Dan Willingham, Daisy Christodoulou, Richard Mayer, James Lang, and many, many more. This conference is definitely worth your while. What’s even better is that with registration, you have access to all the video-taped speeches for a whole month, allowing you to check out those talks you wanted to see that are in different tracks.

Top Influential Computer Scientists Today

A new listing has been published of the most influential computer scientists alive today. Two of the top ten are heavily into online learning, including Coursera’s mastermind co-founder Daphne Koller and the genius underpinning Georgia Tech’s breakthrough low-cost masters’ program, Zvi Galil. (Here is a fantastic interview with Zvi about his inspiring “earthquake” of a low-cost graduate program.) Clearly the intersection between computer science and online learning is an outstanding way to have high impact!

A Virtual Workshop on Engaging Learners through Zoom 

Jonathan Brennan, author of the superb strategy manual Engaging Learners through Zoom, has put together a virtual workshop on the topic to be held March 5th.  Dozens of active learning strategy examples with step-by-step directions, along with ideas for including diverse content across a broad range of disciplines. Register here for yourself or a group. Another Engaging with Zoom workshop  will be held just prior to the OnCourse national conference.  

An Innovative Conference on Learning by Students and for Students

McGill University is breaking innovative new ground in education with students organizing the webinar conference “Rediscovering Learning: Engineering New Perspectives”—a conference intended directly for students themselves to help them learn. The speakers’ talks will range in topics from self-mentorship, leadership in engineering environments, metacognition, and equity in STEM fields—all through the lens of learning and adaptation. There will also be panels on diversity and accessibility in engineering, told from student and faculty perspectives. Finally, there will be a mingling session at the end designed to allow for direct interaction with the speakers. Barb’s keynote will focus on reviewing key insights from Learning How to Learn that are practically useful for students in their studies. 

Incidentally, whatever high school or university you may be affiliated with, you may wish to send some of your students to this conference to get ideas about putting together your own student-run conference. Register here!

Engaged Learning in Engineering (ELINE), the organizer of the conference, is a new committee that’s been formed under the Engineering Undergraduate Society. Their purpose is to help engineering students more deeply learn the skills, technical or “soft,” that they need to succeed in academia and industry. Their end goal is to create more passionate and involved lifelong learners.

We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

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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