The Artist’s Quest for Inspiration

28th June 2019

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

The Artist’s Quest for Inspiration, by Peggy Hadden. We were turned on to this book by Barb’s artist daughter Rachel, who has found it to be deeply inspirational for her work.

What we love about this book is its insights into how to look at life around you in a fresh way, and why these fresh perspectives are important. For example, Hadden talks about how seemingly silly questions can be valuable, giving the example of Dr. Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid camera: “One day, Dr. Land and his young daughter were walking on a beach when he stopped to take a photograph of her. “Can I see it now?” she asked. When told she’d have to wait until the film went to the lab, she wanted to know why. Although the question seemed dumb at the time, because all film had to be processed in a lab, it prompted Dr. Land to consider the need for faster-processing film.” Hadden gives example after example of practical exercises to help you redevelop the fresh eye you had as a child and overcome creative blocks. You don’t need to be an artist to gain creative insight from this book!

Rachel “Oaktree”Artist 

And speaking of creating vibrant, inspirational art, we can’t help but suggest that you check out the website of Rachel (Barb’s daughter). Rachel’s eye has always been drawn to color, and the aim of her artwork is to share her view of the vibrance all around. We can attest to Rachel’s eye for coloreven as a small child, she pointed out minute differences in tooth color that the dentist himself hadn’t observed.

ApologiesWrong Date! Barb Keynoting in Redwood City, California on July 18-19 (not June!)

Sorrylast week’s email had the wrong date. Barb will be at the Course Hero Summit reception in Redwood City, California on the evening of July 18th, and conducting an afternoon workshop on July 19th.  If you are an educator, apply to attend!

Would You Like to Volunteer as a Beta Reader of a Short Book on How to Study Effectively for College/High School? 

Barb and her friend, Olav Schewe (author of the international best-seller Superstudent) have written a short book with the best insights, based on neuroscience and cognitive psychology, about how to learn effectively—this is especially geared for college and high school students. Would you be willing to be a beta reader of the manuscript?  If so, please fill out the brief form here, and if you are selected, we’ll send you a copy of the manuscript with instructions to get started.  We’ll need all feedback back by August 5th.

A Penetrating Analysis of the Caveats of Evidence-Based Education

This brilliant paper by Nick Cowan in the journal Educational Research and Evaluation describes the “… features of [evidence-based education] that make it attractive, or at least uncontroversial and safe, to policymakers. This [attractiveness] is because it avoids casting judgment on structural features of the education system that policymakers, rather than teachers, are in a position to change. At the same time, the attractiveness of this kind of research for policymakers comes at a cost of relevance to teaching professionals…

“In a controlled laboratory environment, randomization is unnecessary as you can observe and manipulate all the features of an experiment until you know precisely how each factor affects the outcome. In the world outside of the laboratory, however, interventions are made where there are limitless varying factors (and interactions between factors) that could change the outcome. So it seems to make sense to use a research design that keeps these factors the same while varying the intervention. That produces a compelling result (almost a guaranteed causal inference if a statistically significant difference between treatment and control is found). However, the researchers still do not know whether that causal effect will survive a change in environment… To make such claims, they need a broader account of how the intervention worked, not just to demonstrate that it worked. These claims cannot be established through experimental testing.”

Read the Lost Dream Journal of Ramón y Cajal—and Standing Up to Groupthink by Academics

Here is a nice article in Nautilus about Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s rebuttal of Freud’s theories regarding dreamsalong with descriptions of Ramon y Cajal’s actual dreams.  Key graf: “Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Spanish histologist and anatomist known today as the father of modern neuroscience, was also a committed psychologist who believed psychoanalysis and Freudian dream theory were ‘collective lies.’ When Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900, the science world swooned over his theory of the unconscious…. Cajal, who won the 1906 Nobel Prize for discovering neurons and, more remarkably, intuiting the form and function of synapses, set out to prove Freud wrong.” [Hat tip: Ramiah Ramasubramanian MD, FRCA.] 

Sadly, the need for debunking in science, where dominant players can obliterate common sense and prevent advancement, is evergreen. Think it doesn’t happen nowadays?  Check out this fantastic article by one of our favorite science writers, Sharon Bagley, on “The maddening saga of how an Alzheimer’s ‘cabal’ thwarted progress toward a cure for decades.” (You can subscribe temporarily for free to read the article—and it’s worth your while to do so.) 

Most importantly, think of what all of this implies for the Wild West of much of educational research. There, charismatic players in dominant positions can easily stifle approaches, no matter how well-grounded those approaches might be scientifically, that contravene their own. Barb remembers going to NSF to discuss a grant proposal to help children develop procedural fluency in mathematics, and being told—”We simply don’t support research involving procedural fluency.” Also see also the fourth in Barry Garelick’s series on being a math teacher who is unafraid of going up against received dogma in education.

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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