Professor of Psychology, Carroll University (USA), Lover of Dogs, Reading, Teaching and Learning. Looking for ways to enhance cross-global communication and to apply technology learning tools. Interested in brain health maintenance, brain fitness training, and truth in advertising.
It’s amusing and edifying to revisit the last “Curious David” blog piece I wrote for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (JSOnline) before they discontinued (terminated) their educational community bloggers. I still stay in touch with one of those community bloggers–and a number of the students who took this “Pioneering Learning Tools Course” a decade ago. They taught me much.
Pioneering Web 2.0 Learning Tools
By David Simpson
Monday, Sep 1 2008, 09:32 AM
I’m nervous and excited. Time to take off my invisibility cloak. Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 8:00 a.m.)
I meet in person for the first time with my 20 first-year students. What an immense responsibility to be their first professor!
We’re going to explore 21rst century learning tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks, virtual
worlds, and Youtube. The idea for this
course emerged from my experiences writing this Curious David
blog column. Last year’s opportunity to write for JSonline was transformative for me as I learned from elementary and
secondary school teachers, high school students, virtual school advocates, retired faculty and readers about innovations,
challenges and successes they faced promoting learning.
In this first-year seminar we shall focus on some of the 25 free learning tools described by educator Jane Hart. As we examine these learning tools we hope to answer questions such as these:
1. To what degree can these web tools truly enhance student learning?
2. To what degree are they just cool tools?
3. Could they be used to develop critical thinking?
4. Do they improve or degrade communication skills?
5. Might they be applied to fostering cross-cultural or international understanding?
6. Might they strengthen or weaken writing skills?
7. What are their weaknesses or dangers? Should they complement or replace 20th century learning skills/tools?
8. How can one evaluate their effectiveness?
We shall read two books—Little Brother, a work of fiction (maybe it is fiction) and a work of nonfiction Dispatches from Blogistan. My intent is to assist students in the transition
from high school to college–and to investigate Web 2.0 learning tools which might be useful across classes and in the
workplace. I want to involve them in educational experiences that will develop and enhance abilities in reading, writing,
reflecting, presenting, thinking, and producing. Writing exercises will include papers, journals, blogs/wikis, and exams.
Presentations will be both formal and informal; individual and in small groups. Collaboration will be both with fellow
students and with me I welcome reader feedback about
this course. I’d gladly share a course syllabus in .pdf format which has many hypertext links. (Indeed, I’d welcome reassurance that I still have readers after a two month hiatus from writing!).
email me at email@example.com.
Tomorrow’s final exam may give me some insight into what the students have learned. I received an email today from someone in Great Britain interested in the course. It is my intent to begin (renew) serious writing in a blog format starting in January. I’ll most likely use Type Pad.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of writing. Yesterday I met with a friend to celebrate the publication of her first novel. Today I met with my business partner to discuss a book we are working on together. I just now received a progress report from my research assistant on some e-book publication software about which she is writing a student user’s manual. I continue to be haunted by the lyrical prose and themes of Sigrid Nunez’s novel The Friend.
Curious David Redux:
For numerous reasons, I am a slow writer. I don’t type. Though a nuanced writer I do not naturally dictate into a piece of software as my business partner Greg Schneider does so naturally. I’ve never had a secretary or administrative assistant.
I am, however, a prodigious reader. I have a stack of over two dozen books awaiting my reading this summer. Greg just suggested two to add to the stack.
I have rightfully been criticized for reading too much in order to delay my writing. I revise multiple times trying to find just the right word, the right tone, the right feeling. My novelist friend just gently admonished me to stop striving for perfection.
I self-handicap by being interested in so many different things. I am very easily distracted from the task at hand. Yesterday I was distracted from writing by reflecting on digital doppelnamers!
I have no strong external incentive to write nor am I interested in carrots or sticks. I am tenured and intrinsically motivated. Are these excuses or reasons?
Last night I started reading a new book The Seven Sins of Psychology. I’ll write a book review of the book after school is out. I miss having the writing outlet of the journal PsycCritiques where I published several dozen book reviews before it was discontinued by the American Psychological Association. Reading and reviewing the book may give me closure on resolving ruminations I struggled with in this piece I wrote about 6 years ago.
Curious David Redux
I am having quite a bit of difficulty writing this piece–and have had that difficulty for the past few years when my identity with my discipline of social psychology became disrupted and unsettled. When I taught Experimental Social Psychology class I shared with students a case study of the influential career of European social psychologist Diederik Stapel. May I never be so famous that
The past two years I have invited my students to share in writing their reactions to this case study. Before “publishing them” in a blog piece, I was interested in whether Diederik might be interested in seeing them. Thank you, Diederik for replying and sharing some of your experiences over the past years.
Diederik’s behavior leaves me struggling with the questions of at what point is ostracism unwarranted and forgiveness or a variant of compassion warranted. At what point does ostracism degenerate into a witch hunt? How can one both acknowledge and condemn wrong behavior (never forget) and yet not engage in wrong behavior by failing to allow an individual opportunity to show that they have learned from their wrong behavior?
Today is “Celebrate Carroll” day. For me it is a a day of reflection. I’m sitting in my Humphrey Art Center office awaiting any students who may come by for some help. If When they do come, I’ll ignore the phone, close my computer screens (Dell, Mac, Ipad, Iphone) and give the students my full attention. It is my Way. Being a professor has brought me so much joy.
Right now the office and art building are quiet even though my door is open. I have taken advantage of that quiet time to rediscover the dictation capabilities of my Mac and to upgrade my Camtasia screencasting software. I think I’ll teach its use to my research assistants since it works across both Macs and PCs.
I am more than usually sleep-deprived this morning due to a night Brewers’ game and a barking dog who feels obligated to alert me about the deer outside. Often my best ideas for writing emerge when I am in this cognitive state. But also the typos, slips of the tongue, forgetting to include email attachments, and other “oopsies” manifest themselves.
As I think about the blog pieces I hope to write next year, I see their being organized around my “wedding” to this institution. Hence there will be something old (Curious David Redux), Something new (current events in psychology, the world, or in my life), something borrowed (taking or reflecting upon the ideas of others, and my Carroll Blues!
Yesterday I had a delightful tea time with Friend and colleague Peggy Kasimatis who had just published her first novel, Not Pink. She encouraged me to publish my not-so-fictional work about Camp Carroll. She nudges well. I enjoy wordsmiths such as she and colleague BJ Best.
Earlier today I had some delightful electronic interactions with several trustee and former trustee friends and from a dear former colleague now in the Netherlands. Later today I’ll be having lunch with another colleague, and friend (Dave MacIntyre) whose Dad (Bruce) was one of my early mentors and role models. Such a richness of relationships have blessed my life.
I especially enjoy this year the office presence of my student research assistants. In their presence (and with their talent development) I find myself happy, productive, and more youthful. With this week’s announcement that the Rankin renovations are on schedule for my return to an office there, I am hopeful that I can expand their numbers from the three that I presently have. (I already have a waiting list of three.) I’ll have some 200 boxes of materials to retrieve from storage, peruse, use, or discard. Stay tuned.
As I continue my investigations and writing about brain health and brain training, I am interested in “vetting” resources that I think are best evidence-based, rich in fact, and readable. Here are ten current favorite resource links. Click them for details.
Please forgive any duplication of earlier blog posts as I continue my mastery of the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org and winnow my writings of the past 10 years before grouping them into e-books. I am attempting to make sure that the pieces are still germane and that there are no dead links.
Curious David Redux:
For Christmas nephew Alex gave me some “brain challenging” puzzles. For a very short while I was able to fool him (and myself!) about my mental acumen by solving two of them in a few minutes. Then my beloved, intellectually curious grand nieces and grand nephews (ages 5 through 8) exposed me and put my achievements into context. They quickly took apart the remaining two puzzles which I had avoided because I thought that they were too difficult for me! I still haven’t figured out how to put the puzzles back together!
Later that evening grand nephew Cole invited me to play a board game “Brain Games for Kids.” I had reason to heed the warning on the box!
My mind was indeed blown away as he outperformed me very quickly — answering all questions correctly and gleefully (but kindly) correcting me when I failed to know the answers.
Putting his success into context, 1) he probably had memorized all the questions and answers and 2) he is quite precocious. Still, the children taught me a number of lessons and raised a number of questions for me to ponder. Are these additional signs of changes in my aging brain? Should I stop comparing myself to those younger than I? Are there brain fitness strategies they use which could inform me? Are there deleterious effects of their constant use of of iPads and cell phones? Is this why I focus much of my research time on the topics of brain health and aging?
In an earlier blog piece I summarized five preliminary conclusions I had reached as a result of my immersing myself with my research students investigating the claims of brain fitness training companies. I hope to continue that research in the Fall and to build upon what I learned at a Brain Health Virtual Summit. (I also am looking forward to participating in the 2018 SharpBrains Brain Health Virtual Summit.)
“Brain Training” and brain health products is a huge, lucrative and growing industry with very expensive market research reports! Alas, I did not have the $7,150 to purchase such a report. Click this link to read the abstract.
There exist excellent scholarly reviews of the efficacy (and validity of claims made) of “brain fitness” programs. The best such review is by Daniel J. Simons et al. which can be found here: (Click this link to see it in full).
Among the authors’ important conclusions and advice most germane to this blog piece (and the next series i am contemplating writing) are the following:
“Consumers should also consider the comparative costs and benefits of engaging in a brain-training regimen. Time spent using brain-training software could be allocated to other activities or even other forms of “brain training” (e.g., physical exercise) that might have broader benefits for health and well-being. That time might also be spent on learning things that are likely to improve your performance at school (e.g., reading; developing knowledge and skills in math, science, or the arts), on the job (e.g., updating your knowledge of content and standards in your profession), or in activities that are otherwise enjoyable. If an intervention has minimal benefits, using it means you have lost the opportunity to do something else. If you find using brain-training software enjoyable, you should factor that enjoyment into your decision to use it, but you should weigh it against other things you might do instead that would also be enjoyable, beneficial, and/or less expensive.
When evaluating the marketing claims of brain-training companies or media reports of brain-training studies, consider whether they are supported by peer-reviewed, scientific evidence from studies conducted by researchers independent of the company. As we have seen, many brain-training companies cite a large number of papers, but not all of those directly tested the effectiveness of a brain-training program against an appropriate control condition. Moreover, many of the studies tested groups of people who might not be like you. It is not clear that results from studies of people with schizophrenia will generalize to people without schizophrenia, or that benefits found in studies of college students will generalize to older adults. Finally, just because an advertisement appears in a trusted medium (e.g., National Public Radio) or is promoted by a trusted organization (e.g., AARP) does not mean that its claims are justified. Consumers should view such advertising claims with skepticism.”
5. Many helpful insights into memory loss can be gleaned from literature such as Lisa Genova’sStill Alice and from individuals sharing first-hand experiences such as in the beautiful bogging in Sally Remembers.
Today I made additional considerable progress obtaining, reading, and vetting information about brain health issues. Thanks to Alvaro Fernandez at Sharpbrains.com for corresonding with me about the forthcoming 3rd edition of the Sharpbrains Guide to Brain Fitness. I look foward to “attending” the 2018 Sharpbrains summit in December. LinkedIn feeds are now alerting me to a number of resources about Brain Health Summits (such as this one) and dead-ends in pharma funded research (such as this one).
Increasingly there is a need for paying attention to the good work of organizations such as the Truth in Advertising Organization (truthinadvertising.org). Recently they did good work exposing false claims about memory enhancement supplements such as Prevagen.
I still hope to pull all this information into one place in e-book format before I leave Carroll for the summer on May 13. I have now discovered several easy ways to convert WordPress files into Word or pdf formats. Stay tuned!
The closer I get to retirement, the more meaningful Carroll graduations, past traditions, and the relationships I have formed with students, faculty, alumni, and other members of the Carroll Community become. Carroll has changed greatly since I wrote the message to seniors below. Baccalaureate is now at 5:00 Friday evening without Faculty regalia. Commencement (no longer on Mothers’ Day) is now at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. The physical appearance of Carroll continues to change daily with new or renovated buildings.
Carroll has a new President, Cindy Gnadinger. I have personally known five other Carroll Presidents since I arrived in February of 1978. And Carroll Emeriti, faculty, and students look younger to me every day :). Certain Carroll music triggers strong emotions.
My feelings about my overall Carroll experience haven’t changed from what I wrote years ago (or how I felt here forty years ago) so I re-share them here–with a few photos taken since then!
Curious David Redux: Reflections from a few years ago:
As is my habit of the past many years, I am sitting in my office on this graduation day morning reflecting. I drive in early to ensure getting a parking place before the proud families start arriving. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, babies, babies-soon-to-join-the world—-the campus explodes with sounds, colors, emotions, and celebratory chaos. Often I walk around campus taking photos (or accepting an invitation to be photographed).
My emotions are mixed–not unlike that of the soon-to-be-graduates. Joy–sorrow–elation–sadness–weariness–rejuvenation. At the end of a long Commencement Day I experience some emptiness and some poignant, positive residual reminders. I often tease my graduating research assistants that upon their exit from campus I “exorcise” our shared office space to better allow me to adjust to the temporary emotional vacuum caused by their absence from “Dr. David’s Neighborhood.” You know of course that when you graduate, you remain in my memories as I have come to know you–and you remain forever at that age! Forever young.
I can hear chapel bells. Soon I’ll hear the chimes of the campus hymn and that of the alma mater. My sitting in the front row has its liabilities as I’ll feel that I must behave in an uncharacteristically well-mannered fashion!
Each Carroll Baccalaureate and Commencement ceremony is special to me just as is each student whom I have gotten to know. I have chosen (or been called) to teach and to learn and though they (you) may not realize it, I truly do learn so much from my students and from the challenges of trying to teach them well.
Thank you, graduating seniors past and present (and for a few ever so short more future time) for all YOU have taught me. Put to good use your many talents, your energy, your playfulness, your empathy, your resilience and your creative ideas to make the world a better place. Come to appreciate (as I did upon graduating from Oberlin College in 1971) that you have been privileged to receive a good education due not only to your own sacrifices and hard work but also due to the many members of the larger community whom you may never have met or whom you took for granted–Board Members, Administration, Staff, Faculty, Physical Plant Staff, and Alumni–who deeply care about you.
I still am choked up in tears from reading it. It strikes close to home, and it triggered reflections about my best past and present canine friends.
Curious David Redux: Here are some of my earlier reflections about dogs who taught me lessons. As the biped protagonist in Nunez’s novel comments to Apollo, the Great Dane, “Remember, I’m only human. I’m nowhere as sharp as you are.”
Today I am “dog-tired”–it was a three dog night yesterday as we celebrated a birthday with dear friends.
Several summers ago I was humbled at how much I have yet to learn about teaching and about learning. A friend Mary directed her beloved, devoted blind Newfoundland Ernie to “rescue” me by, on command, swimming out to a rowboat where I feigned being in distress.
I was saved as he towed me back guided only by the loving voice of Mary.
Reflections: It has been 6 months since Robin the Newf left my life. She leaves me with many fond memories and enduring lessons about patience, love, persistence, forgiveness, coping with pain, loyalty, and playfulness.
Her successor, Leo the Great, already is reminding me of all those lessons and, in his own way, offering me new things to learn.
Reflections: Robin and Glenn the Big Dog and Mollie the Golden Retriever and Queenie and Duchess and Snapper and Freud and Leo have made me laugh and cry, exhausted and rejuvenated me, and constantly pointed out to me the frailties of being a human. My father-in-law, Walter G. Schmidt deep love of dogs was extolled in his eulogy given by the Reverend Charles Valenti-Heine:
…”And that world, for Walter, included his beloved Canines. Lucy, Canis, Oaf, Chaucer, Trollope, and Freud, the last-named because Walter was told that the companionship of a good dog was of greater worth to people than any other therapy! The one time I remember Walter speaking in church was when Trollope died, and he stood up during joys and concerns to opine: ‘If there is a place in heaven for Presbyterians, then surely there is a place for greyhounds.’
I have had many dog role models both real and fictionalized. As I child I fondly remember Mr. Peabody and his seven-year-old sidekick, Sherman. I am attracted to the nonsense of dog cartoons in the same way that my dogs are attracted to scents. Though many of my friends claim I behave more like Scott Adams’ cartoon character Dilbert, I have often learned from the philosophies of his character Dogbert and from Snoopy.
Rudyard Kipling and Lord Byron have warned us ofhow dogs can capture your heart! Dogs continue to teach me so much! Some day soon I hope to be their full-time student.
Do dogs match their owners in physical appearance? in personality? There is an interesting body of research dealing with these questions. Under what circumstances does pet ownership reduce stress? increase it? Why in the world did I spend $250 tonight on pet treats? Perhaps I still am affected by my first reading of Argos‘ blind enduring faith. Robin, the patient gentle giant, knows.
Here is some anecdotal evidence provided by one of my playful students that owners like me (though there was sometimes confusion between Robin and me and, presently, Leo and me as to who is the owner) may start looking like their dogs!
I enjoy arriving at work by 7:15 am. It gives me time to walk around the Art building to discover the many new student and faculty works of art that are showcased in the different galleries. It will be interesting to see on April 23 the finalized versions of the sculptures which students did (including of your truly!). You can learn more about that project by clicking this link. It has been an (In)Sightful academic year for me! Thank you, Amy Cropper and Saskia de Rooy, for expanding my artistic horizons.
I look forward later today to a “check in” phone call from my consulting partner, Greg Schneider, in preparation for our meeting next week. Being a partner in Waukesha’s Schneider Consulting (here is our web page) has been invaluable in opening my eyes and horizons to corporate culture.
My partnership, long-standing friendship, and interactions with Greg and Jane Schneider always help me step back, rebalance, slow down, recenter, and put into context what I want to accomplish with the talents I have or that I need to develop. Greg and I started working at Carroll College on the day. Here he is in 1978 with another Walter Young Center colleague!
Time to review, cull, revise, or delete more of my earlier blog writings. I’m going to focus today on pieces dealing with reflection, refocus, and redirection. Apparently I wrote at least 28 such pieces. I may ask student research assistant Kristen to pull them together into an e-book format.
From May 2017…
Two books to read laid out before me: David Pogue’s Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Show You) for Simplifying the Technology in Your Life and Jocelyn K. Glei’s Unsubscribe: How to Kill email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real work Done. Each lends themselves to reading and learning when one has short “down times” for learning.
I should be finishing the grading of the exam I gave yesterday while I proctor the exam I am now giving. Yesterday Leo the Grading Dog and I devoted five hours to the uncompleted task–and decided that we needed sleep to continue. I playfully attempted to engage former students on Facebook in a crowdsourcing grading “experiment.” Alas, a lot of LOL’s. About as successful as my tabled crowdfunding proposal:).
Instead, I am reviewing all my past WordPress posts, Tweets, and Facebook Photos as I plan for major projects next semester. I am contemplating pulling all that material together in a “Best of Curious David” e-book. I hope to engage in extensive self-publishing with students, teach a research seminar dealing with “brain fitness/training” apps and interventions, and pull together 40 years of Carroll-related archival documents that really should not be forgotten. My physical office environment could be challenging as the Rankin Hall reconstruction begins–necessitating a moving from the office.
Here are some previous (unedited–I have not checked the links’ viability) musings about final exams. Clearly the fact that I pondered these questions before suggests that I still haven’t come up with a clear answer–yet I see value comprehensive, multifaceted finals despite the costs of time to grade them.
Final Reflections on Final Exams Dec 20, 2009Read More