Reading Aloud to Yourself

The production effect is the memory advantage of saying words aloud over simply reading them silently. It has been hypothesised that this advantage stems from production featuring distinctive information that stands out at study relative to reading silently. MacLeod (2011) (I said, you said: The production effect gets personal. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 1197–1202. doi:10.3758/s13423-011-0168-8) found superior memory for reading aloud oneself vs. hearing another person read aloud, which suggests that motor information (speaking), self-referential information (i.e., “I said it”), or both contribute to the production effect. In the present experiment, we dissociated the influence on memory of these two components by including a study condition in which participants heard themselves read words aloud (recorded earlier) – a first for production effect research – along with the more typical study conditions of reading aloud, hearing someone else speak, and reading silently. There was a gradient of memory across these four conditions, with hearing oneself lying between speaking and hearing someone else speak. These results imply that oral production is beneficial because it entails two distinctive components: a motor (speech) act and a unique, self-referential auditory input.

—Noah D. Forrin & Colin M. MacLeod, Memory (via Wired)

looking at art and creating it

How to Teach Your Children to Care about Art:

To start, it’s a cornerstone of art education programs to cultivate a symbiotic relationship between looking at art and creating it. In museums, it’s become standard practice for educators to develop art-making programs that engage audiences with the works in a current exhibition or permanent collection.

New York’s Whitney Museum, for example, has developed a vast array of programs to engage children of all ages (beginning with Stroller Tours for newborns and new parents), but one of its most popular programs is Open Studio, an in-house art studio led by graduate students that allows families to visit freely and create art on the weekends. “It’s a drop-in art-making program” says Billie Rae Vinson, coordinator of Family Programs, over the phone. “It’s a way to explore the artwork through some kind of material exploration.”

More of this please.

makes people uncomfortable

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Removed From School in Mississippi:

Eighth graders in Biloxi, Miss., will no longer be required to read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about racial inequality and the civil rights movement that has been taught in countless classrooms and influenced generations of readers.

Kenny Holloway, the vice president of the Biloxi School Board, told The Sun Herald there had been complaints about the book.

“There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books,” he said. “It’s still in our library. But they’re going to use another book in the eighth-grade course.”

The book is supposed to make people feel uncomfortable.

If you can’t codify your thoughts, you can’t do anything.

Over at The New York Times, Dana Goldstein looks into the reasons why kids can’t write:

There is a notable shortage of high-quality research on the teaching of writing, but studies that do exist point toward a few concrete strategies that help students perform better on writing tests. First, children need to learn how to transcribe both by hand and through typing on a computer. Teachers report that many students who can produce reams of text on their cellphones are unable to work effectively at a laptop, desktop or even in a paper notebook because they’ve become so anchored to the small mobile screen. Quick communication on a smartphone almost requires writers to eschew rules of grammar and punctuation, exactly the opposite of what is wanted on the page.

Before writing paragraphs — which is often now part of the kindergarten curriculum — children do need to practice writing great sentences. At every level, students benefit from clear feedback on their writing, and from seeing and trying to imitate what successful writing looks like, the so-called text models. Some of the touchy-feel stuff matters, too. Students with higher confidence in their writing ability perform better.

I believe writing is one of the foundational tools for many fields, whether you’re building a car or designing a mobile application. As a graphic designer I’ve come to value writing skills more and more each year and it’s one of the goals I’ve had maintaining this blog for over 11 years. If you can’t codify your thoughts, you can’t do anything.

I’d like to think there’s multiple approaches to improving kids’ writing skills (I’ve taught students at the university level but I’m in no way trained in the methods to teach writing).

If I had teach kids how to write tomorrow (hypothetically), I’d probably start with a recontexualized version of Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers.

Learning to Learn

Learning to Learn: You, Too, Can Rewire Your Brain:

Dr. Oakley is not the only person teaching students how to use tools drawn from neuroscience to enhance learning. But her popularity is a testament to her skill at presenting the material, and also to the course’s message of hope. Many of her online students are 25 to 44 years old, likely to be facing career changes in an unforgiving economy and seeking better ways to climb new learning curves.

Dr. Oakley’s lessons are rich in metaphor, which she knows helps get complex ideas across. The practice is rooted in the theory of neural reuse, which states that metaphors use the same neural circuits in the brain as the underlying concept does, so the metaphor brings difficult concepts “more rapidly on board,” as she puts it.

I live by metaphors. Metaphors are not only one of the best ways at conveying complex ideas, but sometimes they’re the only way.

Richard Feynman famously thought if you couldn’t explain it simply, then you didn’t understand it. Metaphors, analogies, and similies are the primary devices for this complex-to-simple idea conversion.

I love Mark Bao’s analogy for analogies:

Analogies are like lossy compression for complex ideas

I went down an even deeper rabbit hole a few years ago when I read ‘I is An Other’ and learned individual words themselves are metaphors for other things.

Martin Scorsese, Rejected

Cardinal Hayes is a high school in the Bronx, and after a year of minor seminary — a tryout for the priesthood; once a regular stop for bright Catholic boys of limited means — Scorsese went there. (Don DeLillo, the novelist, was a few years ahead.) Rejected by Fordham University because of poor grades, Scorsese enrolled at N.Y.U.’s Washington Square College and its film program. From there, he plunged into the ’60s: a concertgoer at the Fillmore East, an expatriate in England and Holland, an assistant director at Woodstock (he became an editor on the concert film) and then a maker of his own movies — “Who’s That Knocking at My Door,” about a young man in the suddenly liberated ’60s whose Catholic principles keep him out of bed with his girlfriend, and “Boxcar Bertha,” a film about a female rabble-rouser “free’er than most.”

The Passion of Martin Scorsese, The New York Times Magazine, 21 Nov 2016

I always find it interesting (and validating) how many successful people were crappy students.

My Newsletter: Mikey Likes It

Imagine if, when you checked your email, it wasn’t all junk. Imagine if there was a message you looked forward to getting every week. This the goal with my new newsletter, Mikey Likes It. It goes out every Tuesday morning. Here’s the first one that went out this past Tuesday.

What motivated me to start it was looking at all the different things I have my hands in: this site, my podcast, what I’m reading, what I’m listening to, movies I’ve seen, and all personal projects I’m creating.

Sign up here and I guarantee you’ll have at least one thing in your inbox that doesn’t suck.

Students Rethink iTunes

[… ] when one of your flagship software applications is assigned in schools as a case in feature bloat, it’s crossed some threshold for acceptability.

Khoi Vinh on the rethinking of iTunes by the students of Fachhochschule Potsdam

The student redesigns can be seen here. It’s student work, so they’re not all winning designs but I agree with Khoi: Apple needs to fix iTunes.

As someone who has taught design at the college level, I love having students redesign existing websites/services. It’s a great exercise in problem solving.

“The argument that art or culture is valuable only when it is monetised is a dangerous one.”

Art schools are at the forefront of the sustained attack on humanities that Marina Warner has written so brilliantly about. One of the slogans of those occupying Central Saint Martins is simply this: “We’re an art school not a business.” Languages, humanities, social sciences and particularly arts are subject to huge losses in funding and are expected to do just this: become businesses. This is the only model that our politicians understand. Hence we keep being told that the creative industries do employ lots of people. Every film made here requires carpenters and electricians and so on. The argument that art or culture is valuable only when it is monetised is a dangerous one. A false dichotomy between science and art has been set up – first by Labour with the Browne review, and now amplified by the Tories. So Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are seen to be financially viable. Which of our ministers has a degree in maths or science I wonder?

—Suzanne Moore, The Guardian

They call it the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.*

THE best escalator to opportunity in America is education. But a new study underscores that the escalator is broken.

We expect each generation to do better, but, currently, more young American men have less education (29 percent) than their parents than have more education (20 percent).

Among young Americans whose parents didn’t graduate from high school, only 5 percent make it through college themselves. In other rich countries, the figure is 23 percent.
—Nicholas Kristof, The American Dream Is Leaving America
[*title is a quote from George Carlin]

Focus, Kids.

No more laptops in Clay Shirky’s classroom:

Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I do have a specific reason to ask everyone to set aside their devices (‘Lids down’, in the parlance of my department), it’s as if someone has let fresh air into the room. The conversation brightens, and more recently, there is a sense of relief from many of the students. Multi-tasking is cognitively exhausting – when we do it by choice, being asked to stop can come as a welcome change.

So this year, I moved from recommending setting aside laptops and phones to requiring it, adding this to the class rules: “Stay focused. (No devices in class, unless the assignment requires it.)” Here’s why I finally switched from ‘allowed unless by request’ to ‘banned unless required’.
Great move by Clay.
I did the same thing with my students when I taught web design at FIT in 2010.
I used to make everyone to put away their phones at the start of class. To back up my request, I’d hold my iPhone up above my head so everyone could see it, and place it face down at the front of the class with the ringer off.
[Because my class was about web design, they were all sitting in front of iMacs with Internet connections, so I’d still have to walk up and down every row to make sure the students weren’t on websites unrelated to their projects.]

Origins: The Database Icon

I’ve been creating an icon system this week for my company. One of the icons we need is for a database.

Doing a quick search on The Noun Project (or Google Images) reveals what you’ll get: a stack of cylinders.

If you’re old enough to remember the spinning disk drives that came before solid state hard drives, you’ll have a clue to the origin of the cylindric stack.

Go back a little farther to 1956 and you’ll hit the source.

Some specs on the 305 (via Wikipedia):

  • one of the last vacuum tube computers that IBM built
  • It weighed over a ton
  • stored 5 million 7-bit (6 data bits plus 1 parity bit) alphanumeric characters (5 MB)
  • it had fifty 24-inch-diameter (610 mm) disks.
  • two independent access arms moved up and down to select a disk, and in and out to select a recording track, all under servo control
  • Average time to locate a single record was 600 milliseconds
  • the system was leased for $3,200 per month in 1957 dollars, equivalent to a purchase price of about $160,000
  • more than 1,000 systems were built
  • production ended in 1961

I continue to wonder about the future of icons. How long do we represent current technologies with iconic representations of things which no longer exist or that we rarely use?

Envelopes for email. Handsets from rotary telephones for (cellular) phones, magnifying glasses, physical bookmarks, point-and-shoot cameras, alarm clocks with two bells on top, paint brushes, block erasers, reel-to-reel tapes.