In Their Own Words & Thoughts & Interests

A very simple story to illustrate a larger problem.  When I was a special education teacher I had a student who stated that he was unable to multiply.  We were standing at the blackboard and he was struggling to decipher 6 X 4 = ?

I explained that multiplying is really just a short cut for adding groups of the same size, but he still looked at me with frustration and the certainty that he could never do this problem.  Knowing that this boys’ Dad was a carpenter and that he sometimes helped his Dad on weekends I said, “If you had 4 pieces of drywall to mount and needed 6 drywall screws per piece, how many drywall screws would you need?  He immediately answered 24.  I of course then informed him that he just multiplied.

Of course the problems your students encounter are not necessarily that simple, and the solution is rarely arrived at so quickly or so dramatically, but there can be problems of communication exacerbated by a history of failure that impedes student progress.  My 4th grade student knew that he was bad at school work, AND he knew he was good at helping his Dad.  Helping students to find what they are good at, what they are confident about and expounding on that can start with allowing them to use their own language and thought process associated with success when solving problems or considering complicated sets of information.

– Ask students to consider the information from the viewpoint of their most successful endeavor or persona.  In other words, if the student is most successful when babysitting, have her think of herself as babysitting while studying A&P.  Ask her to relate what she is learning to babysitting.  If the student is most successful at a video game or when playing music or a sport or entertaining friends, then encourage that student to consider him or herself to be learning the information for that endeavor, through the language of that endeavor and as related to that endeavor.

– Allow students to describe what they know in their own language – even if it is not purely the language of A&P.  You can acknowledge the correctness of what they say and then encourage them to translate that into the language of A&P.  Or you can congratulate their analogies and understanding and then supply the correct terminology.

– Ask students, whenever possible, for answers to open ended questions in which they must describe or explain something.  Encourage them to relate what they learn in A&P to preferred topics in their writings.  Proficiency comes with practice!

– An A&P professor of mine suggested (and offered) projects in which it was our job to explain a process to a younger or less experienced person.  That person could be a novice in whatever the student enjoys or is successful in / knowledgeable about.


Study Tracker – Figure out What Works For You

Tracking study techniques offers you 3 benefits.  The first 2 benefits are the possibility of discovering which study actions are the most beneficial, and whether or not you need to try something new.  If you make note of how you prepared for a test and then look over your techniques right after getting back the test, you can assess your preparation performance.  Hopefully, you will gain insight as to which actions were the most helpful and should be expanded, emphasized or developed, and where a new technique could be helpful.

Lastly, tracking study techniques is like writing down what you eat.  It forces you to consider and be honest about how much time, and the quality of the time that you spent studying.   Remember that being engaged in what you are doing, i.e.
asking questions about what you are reading,
linking what you are reading/studying to things you are interested in,
noticing similarities and differences between facts, ideas and processes within this class,
and similarities and differences between this class and other classes or realms of life,
will help you appreciate the topic, enjoy the topic, remember and be able to utilize the topic in your wonderfully unique and engaged life!

Forms are not necessary for everything, but for many of us, a form to fill out makes it all official and keeps us on track.  So, I offer the Study Tracker… a form to encourage exploration of study techniques and which includes a list of study suggestions to supplement your diet of reading and re-reading texts and class notes.

View or Download the Study Tracker here! (Click on the icon that appears after clicking here)

7 Stages of Creativity

A professor and artist who lost the ability to draw and to speak through traumatic brain injury finds his voice as a proponent of creativity.

In an inspiring and informative 15 minute lecture called, “7 steps of creative thinking: Raphael DiLuzio at TEDxDirigo” explores how the creative process unfolds and how that knowledge can help us nurture the process.  This is a TED talk in Maine.  TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and TED events are conferences for “ideas worth sharing.”

According to Professor DiLuzio, 7 stages of creativity are described by Murray Gelman, a nobel laureate physicist.

This is my summary of Professor DiLuzio’s presentation of Gelman’s 7 stages of creativity.
I believe these stages can be shared with students, engaged in ourselves and related to the simple process of sharing our crazy ideas, connections and inspirations that can lead to insight, creative connections and deeper learning.

Stage 1: find/ ask/ pose/ realize a question or a problem that needs to be overcome.  Frame a question.  This can be a simple question about what is being learned, or a question that is raised by the learning.

Stage 2: engage in research.  Research is second nature to us – like a baby putting everything in its mouth.  Check out the world / try different things, experience the world and gather info around that question.  Look into your question.   Don’t be afraid to admit that you have questions.

Stage 3: When you stop researching – Enough is enough moment.  Time for the student to stop inputting new info.

Stage 4: Gestation – hold that question. Enter into a state of detachment.  Let it stew.  Keep the question in the back of your mind.  Do something different, think of other things, approach the question through metaphor – what would the question look like if it was a tree?  Visualize the problem as something else – mesh intuition and empiricism.  Operate with fearlessness of imagination like an artist.  DiLuzio says, “Invention is part of our primal being.”

Stage 5: Eureka moment (flash of idea – a song, a connection, how to fix something, how to handle a problem).  It is very important to write Eureka moments down – we do not give them enough importance.  You may just have a Eureka moment about what you are stewing on, or something related…. or something that leads back to your original question.

Stage 6: Process of making – bringing the idea into being – stage of fear, “what will people think?” “I’d rather have eloquent failure than boring success.”  Engage people who can help.  Talk about the elements you don’t think you can handle with those you think can handle that element.

Stage 7: Testing and criticism – share it.  See what other people think.  Bring it into the world.

The stages may come in different order – allow yourself to keep track of the stages – what stage you are in and to acknowledge the process because it may open you up to engaging in the process more frequently and losing some fear about creativity.

Value ideas.  DiLuzio asks us to, “Keep them, make them and share them.”  It may make it easier for your students to value their own ideas and connections and inspirations if you value their ideas, connections and inspirations first.  Encourage creative participation in your class.

Frameworks for Interest

Frameworks for Interest

Just like the absorption and re-deposition of calcium re-shapes a bone even after it is done getting larger, your students’ ideas and knowledge are constantly re-modeled.  It is easier for them to utilize their new knowledge within a framework of what they already know, aligned with their current interests than it is to utilize new knowledge which has been randomly ‘learned’ or ‘placed’ without connection to prior knowledge.  Perhaps many students ‘cram’ their knowledge into a Wormian bone that, un-needed and neglected, is re-absorbed not long after the final exam?

Whatever the details of storage and usage are, connections with prior knowledge and experience will help student performance.  But how to convince them of this and help them apply it?

Providing students with a framework in which they have an interest on which to organize their newfound knowledge might be just the ticket.  In other words, the student can relate what they learn to a topic of interest that will force them to make creative connections that they find interesting.  You can discuss this with them, offer the following suggestions for frameworks (along with any you or they think of), and even offer extra credit for those who present their framework at the end of the semester in writing, graphics, or some other form of presentation.

I suggest the following frameworks:

Suggest that your students relate everything they learn about in A&P to sexual activity.  What is the importance of this knowledge for sexual activity?  How does the organ, process, tissue, system or pathway affect sex?  Does it give ideas for enhancing sexual activity, can it hinder it?  Is there a gender difference?  Why?  Is this related to sex or pregnancy or something else?  (This framework may not be suitable for sharing at the end of the semester!!)

Are there lyrics or songs that you can relate to this topic?  Is there a theme song you would assign for this chapter?  for this organ?  for this process?  What kind of singer or instrumentalist would the pituitary gland, a blood vessel, a white blood cell, the molecule ATP be?  What style of music would a particular A&P topic play?  How does this organ, tissue, process, system or pathway affect the ability to play or to listen to, music?  What is the physiology of attending a concert?

What is the best dressed organ in the human body?  What is the color palette of a particular system?  Are the layers of a particular tissue or organ functional?  Are the layers protective like a coat, and what kind of coat are they like, or do the layers function in some other way that can be related to fashion?  How does this body process affect movement of a model on a runway, or the ability to ‘work’ a piece of clothing?  How does this organ, tissue, process, system or pathway affect body shape and therefore clothing?  What would a tee-shirt worn by the adrenal gland say?

Is there a disease that is plaguing you or a loved one that you would like to know everything about?  Consider everything you learn from the viewpoint of that disease (either as an exercise in acting like the disease agent or process, or as an exercise in understanding how this particular organ or process affects, or is affected by, the disease in question.

Like sex – how does any organ, process, tissue or system affect the performance of any or one particular sport?  What kind of this organ, process, tissue or system would the ideal athlete want?  Can he/she get  or enhance it?  Which sport is this most important to?  Which athletic activity would be most enhanced by optimal functioning of this organ, tissue, system, process or pathway?

How does the organ, tissue, process, system or pathway being studied affect one’s: ability to listen; ability to bite one’s tongue; ability to decrease stress level; ability to help teenager take on more responsibility; ability for teenager to survive the lack of sleep and poor nutrition that often accompanies adolescence; ability for both to survive the stress and immunity challenges.

Any topic is okay because thinking about A&P, even in relation to another topic, is thinking about A&P.  And that’s a good thing.

Questions to Spark Interest and Creativity in A&P

The question can be more important than the answer…. at least if it is a question that motivates a student to find an answer.  Learning nomenclature can be dull, there is no doubt but if questions involve more than pure fact, perhaps even a little imagination, the learner might just find things to be interested in where there was no prior interest.

Giving students some unusual questions to answer about A&P topics might engage them creatively and help them make connections that they will remember and build on.  Try some of these questions in class, as extra credit on quizzes or to start students off making concept maps or mind maps.

The ‘it’ in the questions is the organ, tissue, pathway, process, physical concept or cell in study.

1) Could I live without it?  If not – how long would it take to die?  Would it hurt?

2) Is it at all involved in sex?

3) Can I palpate it, auscultate it, smell it or sense it in any other way?

4) Is it something we eat from animals or something we remove in the butchering process?

5) Does it (or any part of it) come in ___________ (enter favorite color here)?

6) What do we NOT understand about this?

7) Is this self-directed or automatic?  In other words, do I have to think about making this happen?

8) How would you phrase admiration of a good example or fine specimen of this in another person?

9) What celebrity would you choose to endorse better understanding of this and why?

10) What could you substitute for this and why?  (It’s all right to be whimsical or imaginative.)

11) Can you think of a piece of equipment or a process from sports or the arts that is similar?


Concept Mapping & Mind Mapping in A&P

Help your students cast a net for enhanced learning by stringing ideas together into a network of connections and explanation.  Both concept maps and mind maps are like graphic organizers but they emphasize much more inter-connectedness between the ideas and explanations portrayed.  There is a simple and on-going exercise for using these tools in your classroom at the end of this post.
Concept Mapping
“Concept maps are tools for organizing and representing knowledge. They include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and relationships between concepts or propositions, (indicated by a connecting line and linking word) between two concepts. Linking words on the line specify the relationship between the two concepts. Joe Novak defines “concept” as a perceived regularity in events or objects, or records of events or objects, designated by a label.”  Read more….
(Excerpted, rearranged (and annotated) from an online manuscript by Joseph D. Novak, Cornell University.)
Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is very similar but does not direct the maker to label the lines or connections between mapped items.  In that regard, I think concept mapping is more helpful to a student in learning or understanding concepts while mind mapping may be a more freeing and creative exercise, which can help some students get the ball rolling with learning to make new connections.
Examples of mind maps from a science perspective and other links about mind mapping…
This is a journal paper about using concept maps in the science classroom.
Stringing or Linking a Semester Worth of Learning Onto a Poster Board
Start the semester by providing an avenue for progressive concept mapping.  Place poster boards around the room with concepts central to A&P at the center of each poster board.  These will become collaborative mind or concept maps with students (and you) adding on as the semester progresses.  Use concepts like osmosis, acid-base balance, homeostasis, stress, automaticity, threshold, healing, protection or action potential as the themes for each map.  Allow students to add to these posters as the semester progresses.  Then when there is a lot of material present, you can have groups work together to re-arrange what is present with greater connectivity and organization in mind.

Responding to Mistakes – Effect on Learning

Responding to Mistakes

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

– Samuel Beckett –

Why are some people so much more effective at learning from their mistakes? A new study by Jason Moser at Michigan State University is premised on the fact that there are two distinct reactions to mistakes, both of which can be reliably detected using EEG. The first reaction is called error-related negativity (ERN). It appears about 50 milliseconds after a screw-up and is mostly involuntary. The second signal, which is known as error positivity (Pe), arrives anywhere between 100-500 milliseconds after the mistake and is associated with awareness. The latest research suggests that we learn more effectively when we have 1) a larger ERN signal, suggesting a bigger initial response to the mistake and 2) a more consistent Pe signal, which means that we are probably paying attention to the error, and thus trying to learn from it. This Wired Magazine article delves further into the neuroscience of learning from mistakes.   read more

Mindfulness and Changing Your Emotional Setpoint
A blog by Daniel Goreman who has written a book called The Brain and Emotional Intelligence : New Insights
“One of the most upbeat people I know is Richard Davidson, a friend since my grad school days, now a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds.
Richie, as everyone calls him, has always been one of those people whose mere presence brings a good feeling. And now, because of his research, I know why: I suspect his brain has a beneficial emotional setpoint.

Richie has been studying the emotional dynamics of the brain for decades. Along the way he discovered that when we’re in a down mood — irritable, anxious and grouchy — our brain has high activity in the right prefrontal area, just behind the forehead. But when we’re in an upbeat mood — energized, enthusiastic, optimistic — there’s lots of activity on the left side of the prefrontal area.
Each of us has a typical ratio of left-to-right activity when we’re just at rest. And this ratio predicts fairly well our typical, day-to-day mood range.

There’s a bell curve for this ratio, like the one for IQ: most of us are in the middle, with some good days and some bad days. Those who are tipped to the far right are likely to have clinical levels of depression or anxiety. And those whose setpoint tips far to the left are able to bounce back quickly from upsets.

The good news: we can nudge our setpoint more to the left. Richie teamed up with another old friend, Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts medical school. Jonny, as he’s known to his friends, teamed up with Richie to study folks working at a high-stress biotech startup.

Jonny taught mindfulness to a group of the biotech workers and had them practice about half an hour a day for eight weeks. Richie measured their brains before and after. The result: at first their emotional setpoint was tilted toward the right — they were, after all, on a hectic, 24/7 schedule. But after eight weeks, the mindfulness group on average showed a greater tilt toward the left.

What’s more, they spontaneously said that now they were in touch again with what they loved about their jobs, with why they had gotten into the field into the first place.

The bonus: Richie tells me that the biggest boost in the tilt to a happier brain comes in the first months of mindfulness practice, not after long years. But even so, to get the benefits, you’ve got to practice daily.

Mindfulness is not some exotic ritual; in essence, it helps us train our minds to focus on what matters in the moment and to resist distractions. There may be no mental skill more essential in this era of constant distraction.

The instructions are easy to follow; Jon Kabat-Zinn has taught the method to people around the world. You can even practice mindfulness while on a long drive or during your morning commute. What better way to start the day?”

A lecture by John Kabat-Zinn is available on YouTube:  There is a rather long introduction before the main speaker begins.  This is long, but
it could change your ability to be happy, to be interested and how can that not help you as a person and a student?

Exercises for Increasing Creativity

A Game called ‘Uses For’

This is probably not something Professors can use class time for, however it is a basic example of a brainstorming, creativity technique that might help your students to learn to think outside of the box.  If students learn to think more openly and creatively they are likely to make more lasting connections between things they learn, see and experience.  This can only improve memory and performance, not to mention interest.  So share this with them and even suggest they try it at the beginning of a study group session, or their own studying.  Or they can refresh their thinking in the middle of studying with this exercise.  And of course you could do it yourself… or at the beginning of a faculty meeting!

Uses For.
Choose one of the items below and think of at least 25 original uses for it. (That is, you cannot list things that the item is already used for.) The uses can be fanciful, but should at least approach practicality. Describe each use in a sentence or two.
Uses for a steak knife.
1. Drill a hole in the tip and use it as a “knife switch” to turn electricity on and off.
2. Use the wood or plastic handles of two or three to make a hot pad for serving casseroles or soup in hot containers.
3. Use it to measure a spot for a new sofa, so when you go to the store you will know how many “steak knife units” long your new sofa can be.
4. Use it to drill holes in plasterboard walls.
a cardboard box
a towel
a nail
a sheet of paper
a spoon
a fan
a roll of adding machine paper
a ball point pen
the yellow pages
an inner tube
a candle
three feet of Scotch tape
popsicle sticks
a plastic drinking glass
a toothpick
a marble
old newspapers
ball bearings that aren’t round
worn out automobile tires
non-returnable soda bottles
tons of broken rubber bands
I got this idea and list from Virtual Salt:

Improve Memorization Part B

Memory Principles from Middle Tennessee State University

Quick Reference Guide for Brain Compatible Learning Principles

Below is a list of memory or learning principles with a brief definition of each.

1) Making an Effort to Remember

* Interest–The brain prioritizes by meaning, value and relevance. To have meaning, you must understand what you are learning. In order to remember something thoroughly, you must be interested in it and think that it has value and relevance in your life.

* Intent to Remember– Your attitude has much to do with whether you remember something or not. A key factor to remembering is having a positive attitude that you get it right the first time. Attention is not the same as learning, but little learning takes place without attention.

* Basic Background–Your understanding of new materials depends on what you already know that you can connect it to. The more you increase your basic knowledge, the easier it is to build new knowledge on this background.

2) Controlling the Amount and Form

* Selectivity-You must determine what is most important and select those parts to begin the process of studying and learning.

* Meaningful Organization–You can learn and remember better if you can group ideas into some sort of meaningful categories or groups.

3) Strengthening Neural Connections

* Recitation–Saying ideas aloud in your own words strengthens synaptic connections and gives you immediate feedback. The more feedback you get, the faster and more accurate your learning.

* Visualization–The brain’s quickest and probably the longest-lasting response is to images. By making a mental picture, you use an entirely different part of the brain than you did by reading or listening.

* Association–Memory is increased when facts to be learned are consciously associated with something familiar to you. Memory is essentially formed by making neural connections. Begin by asking, “What is this like that I already know and understand?”.

4) Allowing Time to Solidify Pathways

* Consolidation–Your brain must have time for new information to establish and solidify a neuronal pathway. When you make a list or review your notes right after class, you are using the principle of consolidation.

* Distributed Practice–A series of shorter study sessions distributed over several days is preferable to fewer but longer study sessions.”

There is more in-depth info about these principles including links to related research at the Middle Tennessee State University website :   retrieved 9/23/10

Improve Memorization Part A

Some memorization tips:

– Make sure that you practice naming without looking at the back of your flash card.

– Touch the part of your body where the muscle, bone or organ is found as you say it in your head.

– Imagine yourself using that muscle, bone or organ as you say it.  If possible, make the imagined use funny or sexy – either one will stay with you longer!

– Take a section or group you are having particular difficulty with and make it the last thing you look at before going to sleep and the first thing you look at when you wake up in the morning.  (I have no scientific backing for this idea – but it seemed to help me.)