What I’m Reading: St. Lucia Day Edition

Folks of a certain age will remember St. Lucia Day as “that thing Kirsten got to dress up as in Kirsten’s Surprise.” Like so many holidays at this time of year, it involves feeding people and questionable uses of candles.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading during various seasonal Festivals of Lights.

Learning and Creativity

To Learn, Students Need to DO Something,” Jennifer Gonzalez, Cult of Pedagogy

“Every day, for the most part, information is delivered to them in some really basic way—usually PowerPoint—and the kids copy down what the teacher tells them to from the slides. Then they have some sort of worksheet where they’re basically regurgitating what was on those slides. After this cycle repeats four or five times, they have some kind of test. And that’s it.

This is not good. If we want our students to actually learn the facts and concepts and ideas we’re trying to teach them, they have to experience those things in some way that rises above abstract words on paper. They have to process them. Manipulate them.

To really learn in a way that will stick, they have to DO something.”

How Exercise Reprograms the Brain,” Ashley Yeager, The Scientist

“Researchers have long recognized that exercise sharpens certain cognitive skills. Indeed, Maejima and his colleagues have found that regular physical activity improves mice’s ability to distinguish new objects from ones they’ve seen before. Over the past 20 years, researchers have begun to get at the root of these benefits, with studies pointing to increases in the volume of the hippocampus, development of new neurons, and infiltration of blood vessels into the brain. Now, Maejima and others are starting to home in on the epigenetic mechanisms that drive the neurological changes brought on by physical activity.”

Laziness Does Not Exist,” Devon Price

“I’m a social psychologist, so I’m interested primarily in the situational and contextual factors that drive human behavior. When you’re seeking to predict or explain a person’s actions, looking at the social norms, and the person’s context, is usually a pretty safe bet. Situational constraints typically predict behavior far better than personality, intelligence, or other individual-level traits.

So when I see a student failing to complete assignments, missing deadlines, or not delivering results in other aspects of their life, I’m moved to ask: what are the situational factors holding this student back? What needs are currently not being met? And, when it comes to behavioral “laziness”, I’m especially moved to ask: what are the barriers to action that I can’t see?”

No More ‘Struggle Porn,’” Nat Eliason

“Entrepreneurs devour this message like doughnuts at a WeWork because most of them are failing. I think Vaynerchuk would want them to hear “If I work hard at the right thing I can succeed,” but the message is easily misinterpreted as “if I’m struggling, I’m doing the right thing.”

I call this “struggle porn”: a masochistic obsession with pushing yourself harder, listening to people tell you to work harder, and broadcasting how hard you’re working.

Current Events

Why Did Fans Flee LiveJournal, and Where Will They Go After Tumblr?“, Heather Schwedel, Slate

“For as long as there’s been an internet, fans have used it to connect with like-minded fans, first through fledgling services like Usenet and email lists, and more recently, on sites like Tumblr and the fan fiction hub Archive of Our Own. … So how do they know when it’s time to vacate one platform and decamp for a new one? Earlier this month, Casey Fiesler, an information science professor at the University of Colorado–Boulder (and Slate contributor), posted her initial findings from a survey she conducted on the popularity of different fan platforms over time. Fiesler, who is working with graduate student Brianna Dym to synthesize the data for an academic paper, spoke to Slate about fandom migration patterns, whether anybody still uses LiveJournal, and where fans might be going next. ”

Do Not Let Tumblr Frame Their Adult Content Ban as ‘Positive,’” Miri, Brute Reason

“The disingenuity of Tumblr’s statement starts very early on, when they describe their position on posting child porn: “Let’s first be unequivocal about something that should not be confused with today’s policy change: posting anything that is harmful to minors, including child pornography, is abhorrent and has no place in our community.”

That’s nice, but if you don’t want this policy change to be “confused” with banning child pornography, you might try not instituting it in response to getting criticized for allowing child pornography.”

Gifting Holiday Joy

The 100 Best Pens, As Tested By Strategist Editors,” Karen Ioria Adelson and Lauren Ro, The Strategist

“We consulted a panel of experts, picked through personal favorites, and mined our own pen coverage to determine the top contenders. Then we called in and tested dozens upon dozens of gels, rollerballs, felt-tips, ballpoints, and fountain pens, and put them to the test. The resulting list is a ranking of the top 100 pens, according to Strategist editors and writers.

One note: A lot of what makes one pen better than another is completely subjective.”

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