Into Thin Air

18th July 2019

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week 

Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer,  “ranks among the great adventure books of all time,” notes the Wall Street Journal, and we couldn’t agree more. This book has resonated with us over the years—whenever we’ve found ourselves in a tough situation, we remember to, either literally or metaphorically, keep taking just one more step forward.  The Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters is rarely given for a book that’s an on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller. This new edition addresses some of the controversies that arose after the book’s initial publication. A must-read, and great as well for audio.  (Two free audiobooks may be possible through this link.)

4 Books that Changed Memory Champion Nelson Dellis’s Life

4-time US Memory Champion Nelson’s ideas are always worth watchingin this video, you can learn more about which books shaped him, and why.  (And yes, we too were affected by Into Thin Airalthough we didn’t end up as a world-class mountain climber like Nelson!) See as well the odd reason why Nelson doesn’t recommend the fantastic memory masterpiece Moonwalking with Einstein (hint, it has nothing to do with the book’s quality!)

Taking a Nap Does Seem to Help Learning

A writeup on a fascinating study, “Does splitting sleep improve long-term memory in chronically sleep-deprived adolescents?” provides fascinating insights.  Researchers allowed students to sleep a total of 6.5 hours during the week (a typical sleep time for Singapore students). The sleep time was either 6.5 hours all at once, or split into a 5 hour night sleep, plus a 1.5 hour nap (totalling 6.5 hours). Which worked better for student learning?  As the study author noted: “We found that memory for facts learned in the afternoon was significantly enhanced under the split sleep schedule, suggesting that the nap beforehand boosted learning. However, groups did not differ in their memory for facts learned in the morning. This means that even though the split sleep group obtained less night-time sleep prior to the morning learning session, it did not impair their ability to learn…. Interestingly, if you added together sleep duration for nap and night-time sleep, the split sleep group obtained approximately 10-minutes less sleep each day, and yet they still out-performed those on the continuous sleep schedule.”

Don’t forgetBarb in Spearfish, South Dakota

Barb’s meetup is at 10:00 am on Saturday, July 27 at Blackbird Espresso, 503 N Main St, Spearfish, South Dakota.  If you’re in the Wyoming-Dakota area, come and have a cuppa, and share delight in learning!

DARPA Funds Brain-Stimulation Research to Speed Learning

This article from DoD News outlines how researchers are trying “to identify physiological mechanisms that might allow them to enhance natural learning by electrically stimulating peripheral nerves—those that connect neurons in the brain and spinal cord to organs, skin and muscles—to make the brain more adaptive during key points in the learning process.”

“The mechanisms underlying this enhancement are not well understood,” Program Manager Dr. Doug Weber said, “but we believe that neurostimulation boosts the release of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, norepinephrine and others that play a role in modulating cognitive processes related to learning.”

There’s probably no single “silver bullet,” he added, “but rather there are multiple processes involved. Thus, a primary goal of [the program] is to tease apart the various mechanisms to understand the links between neurostimulation, neurotransmitter release, and resulting changes in plasticity.”

See also this article: “DARPA’s New Brain Device Increases Learning Speed by 40%.”  (Now, if only we could get ourselves to think as quickly as a monkey.)

Good Questions for Teachers to Use to Drive Discussions about Quality Learning

Drs. André Booms, Senior adviseur Leren en Ontwikkelen, writes:

“Let me share my main question which I use in my lectures about study skills: What are you going to do in order to be successful or to successfully finish your study? I noticed this question is the key to having good discussions with my students. It is going about their individual study behaviour. 

“Another triggering question I use is: “Describe your ideal study day. When do you start, when do you finish, when do you have breaks, etc.” This question is a good starting point to talk about the pomodoro technique.” 

A Summary of Learning How to Learn

Anmol Singh Jaggi, a 24 year old software engineer from Bangalore, tried to summarize the course teachings of Learning How to Learn. (After all, Anmol notes, one of the course teachings was to summarize what you learn!) Here is his summary—which is indeed a good overview summary of the course.

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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