There is much interest today in using technology to improve one’s brain power, one’s health, and one’s well-being. Take a moment to conduct an online search on the topics of “brain fitness for seniors,” “brain fitness games,” “brain fitness apps, “and “brain training.” You’ll be overwhelmed with the number of results. Unfortunately the social media and advertising claims are far removed from the science upon which legitimate claims can be made. How can one decide which claims are “snake oil,” which represent vaporware, and which are based upon well-done research? Which programs are merely entertainment? Which make false or unverifiable claims? Which claims are patently wrong? Are there some vaild brain training interventions that are appropriate and proven effective for special populations? How can one protect or improve one’s brain heath?
In part because a number of Carroll alumni have been actively involved in research involving aging and memory (e.g. Michelle Braun, John DenBoer and Mark Klinger), and in part because I am approaching the age of 70, I’ve taken an increased interest in memory research. I’ve always been fascinated by the too much-neglected research of Harvard’s Ellen Langer exploring concepts of mindfulness and mindlessness. I found especially fascinating her book Counterclockwise, though I am still skeptical about its implications for age reversal. [There IS empirical evidence (needful of replication and extension) that subjective perceptions of age can be affected by the mere process of measuring variables related to aging].
A day doesn’t pass when I am not flooded with emails about “brain fitness training opportunities” that I am implored to explore. Brain U Online gives me a friendly reminder of the availability of a brain training session invitation. Blinkist suggests that I read a synopsis of the book Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect your Brain for Life. I am alerted that Episode #4 (of 10) “Six ‘Brain Hacks’ to Enrich Your Brain” from a gohibrow.com course awaits my viewing. An interesting NPR story invites me to explore the brain-enhancing benefits of bilingual education. I receive an invitation to take an AARP approved (and United Health Care supported) “Life Reimagined” free online course on “Brain Power: How to Improve Your Brain Health” taught by Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D. Posit Science urges me to become a “Smart Cookie” by joining their “…unique braining program … which unlike others… is backed by more than 100 published scientific papers”… I think that I’ll send them all a copy of the recent review of brain training research n Psychological Science in the Public Interest (here is the link).
How does one separate the wheat from the chaff of these claims? Which avenues are promising and which are merely advertising promises? Will I really get smarter with five-minute lessons delivered to my inbox every morning? Do I want to? Would I be well-served by following my heart and attempting to (re) learn long forgotten Spanish? Would I be better served by exercising more? Learning how to play an instrument? Should I become involved in creating an Elder hostel educational experiences? So many questions. What fun to begin systematically answering them with talented students, data, and critical thinking.
Meet my Fall 2017 Carroll University student research seminar team. Jeff, Alexis, Sami, Abbey, Antonio, Nathan, Alex, Alex, and Ricky.
We have begun developing answers to questions such as these and are in the process of writing a short book sharing our findings. What questions would you like us to answer? Stay tuned!
Dear 2017 Carroll University Graduate…
Now is a good time to gather together some last thoughts about and for you. Because of my
age seniority good looks length of time at Carroll and rank of Full Professor, I march at the front of the line at Commencement (following Faculty Marshall Gary Olsen). That gives me an ideal seating position for seeing and hearing speakers, but forces me to be on my best behavior (awake, disconnected from my Ipad, resisting wearing my Brewers’ or Carroll College hats).
For those of you I have met, I have done my best to teach you well but I am only human. Every student I teach is different, special, and teaches me. You have enriched my life, and I welcome the opportunity as you become alumni to continue and perhaps to even expand upon our relationships. Thanks for the lessons.
Many people (family, staff, faculty, administrators, and trustees) have worked very hard, in addition to you, to try to provide you with the best education that Carroll can provide both within and outside of the classroom. I often think that we ought to set aside a time for recognizing those unsung “guardian angels” who have done their best to make Carroll a caring community and a better place. I urge that as time and circumstances allow join them in giving back (without expectation of receiving “convocation points”) your time, wisdom, networking resources, prospective student recommendations, and examples of skills or values developed here at Carroll that have served you well.
Give Carroll its due credit when it has earned it, but also offer constructive criticism when the institution has failed to meet your expectations for it. Seek out opportunities to do “a” right thing. Use your mind to think carefully and critically, but don’t forget that there are indeed many times when it is appropriate to follow one’s heart. I envy your youth and the many opportunities that lie ahead of you to share your talents and to make the world a better place. Stay in touch. Oh, yes… Here is a final exam.
With many fond memories, David Simpson, Professor of Psychology
This year’s Carroll Campus-wide year-long theme was “Citizenship” so I thought it might be appropriate to share this discussion between two “senior citizens”:). Alison is one of my two graduating senior research assistants. She will be attending graduate school at Illinois State in the Fall.
Returning to my office two of my student research assistants were “at their work stations.” One was engaged in an animated phone conversation in Spanish with someone in Honduras. She has the difficult choice this weekend of choosing among three graduate school acceptances. Hasta luego, we have a brief team meeting where I update them on present and future projects (CrowdFunding proposal for extending their book publishing capabilities; a grant to fund brain fitness training research in the fall). I indicate that I also want to make a screen cast of each of them before Tuesday. Both Alison and Lizzie are very facile with technology learning tools such as iMovie. I share with them that I soon am going to need to find some new student assistants. THEY know best what goes on in Dr. Simpson’s Neighborhood, so they will do my “vetting.”
I ask Lizzie to share her experiences as my research assistant.
What has kept me here almost forty years is not the buildings but the traditions, the faculty, staff, administrative, and trustee friendships–and the students. I asked one of my graduating senior research assistants to stop by and to spontaneously share some of her Carroll reflections. I promised to be well-behaved—i.e. no funny hats and unusually quiet:)
She laughed. She knows me well.
Arianna will be leaving me for graduate study at Marquette University in the Fall.
We recorded this from my MacBook Pro using the Capto screen casting software.
I had a few “extra minutes” at work today for reflection. I’m awaiting (dis)approval of seeking Crowdfunding financial support to expand my students’ capabilities to self publish books. I am also writing a few small grants to fund some modest research comparing several different “brain fitness” programs (e.g. BrainHD and Lumosity).
Just for fun I chose to document my rambling ruminations by creating a screencast. I still find Screenflow easier for me to use than Capto or Camtasia. I favor using Skitch for Screenshots from my Mac. It is indeed hard to teach an old dogged professor new tricks (or to discard old tools).
In the screen cast below I am thinking out loud as I experiment with the camera software (iglasses) and the microphone (a Yeti). I am leaning towards using both for our next Student Guides to Internet Learning Tools (if funded). The first volumes of the new works will most likely focus on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Screencasting tools. Oops, time to go for a walk with my canine companion!
There are buildings on campus whose cornerstone bears a date before my birth. My father-in-law walked in some of these very buildings in 1936. Voorhees Hall was a women’s dorm when Walt walked this campus.
So many memories. Some converge; some change. Some researchers argue that memories change every time that they are retrieved.
With age comes my increased interest in the inevitable aging process. At one time or another I have written over 80 blog pieces (or drafts) about relationships between aging and memory.
Here are a few: (Clicking on all the links in each and viewing their contents might be a valuable brain fitness exercise!):)
- Thanks for the memories!
- I’m not sure that you will remember me but…
- Brain fitness training (Part 1)
- Brain fitness training (Part 2)
After consulting with my four student research assistants, I’ve decided to focus my Fall semester research seminar on the topic of “brain fitness”—fact and fad. I am particularly intrigued by the promises of the program “BrainHQ.” Time to don my skeptical thinking cap:
While cleaning the office today I came across my journal notes from when I still was a graduate student at Ohio State. I had just returned from a two-day job interview at then-named Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Much has changed since then! I continue working against changing too much too quickly.
I still use and keep journals now–some paper and pencil— though I now do most journaling using software dedicated to that function. Though I have explored the utility of many apps, my personal preference at the moment is DayOne.
I particularly use journaling to follow the recommendations of Jane Hart on the value (I would argue, the necessity) of reflecting on my work day accomplishments and failures and for short and long-term goal setting. This was one of many lessons I learned from Jane this past year. I encourage my students and clients to create regular times for written reflection.
What journaling software do you use? Why?
I have come to believe that a syllabus should be a dynamic learning tool. To that end on the first day of class I randomly select some students to download my syllabus. Using the classroom projection system, they explore in the syllabus embedded links to such things as a paper I wrote about how I teach and they begin using a tool (Research Randomizer) for drawing random samples and for randomly assigning participants to conditions.
Here is the syllabus I use in my PSY205 “Statistics and Experimental Design Course.”
How useful do you find these links? How might they be improved?
I am moving towards requiring that all my students demonstrate to me minimal mastery of my technology enhanced teaching and the learning tools which I introduce into the classroom.
Here is an example of a Quizlet benchmark: Example 1: Quizlet.
Here are two examples of StarQuiz benchmarks: Example 1: Starquiz and Example 2: StarQuiz.
How helpful are these links? How might they be improved?
I also am increasingly incorporating screencasts made by me (or by my students) into the class as additional instructional support—especially as I teach SPSS. Though I realize that there are an abundance of such resources on YouTube (and even on LinkedIn!), I still see some value in my personally producing them (or having my students do so).
Here are some screen casts that Simpson research assistants Tia and Ariana made for me to demonstrate their mastery of using screen casting software tools:
And here is one of my SPSS screen casts made at home with the help of Leo the Dog:
Should I continue to produce these even though their production quality may not be “professional”?