Tag: Memory

Curious DavidMemory

Curious David Redux: Ruminations about Memory Loss

So much unfinished business forfore putting the semester to bed. I see that I have 100 drafts of unfinished blog posts. Some of the drafts ooks like their ideas are still worth developing. Other drafts I have no recall of having even of having written! Clearly it is time either to delete them or to bring the ideas to fruition. My modus operandi has always been to have a plethora of unfinished tasks.

In November 2009 I wrote this draft about the Zeigarnik effect:

“I was first introduced to the Zeigarnik effect (people typically recalling interrupted tasks better than their recalling completed ones) by my first Oberlin College Introductory Psychology professor, Celeste McCollough. My participation in her visual perception studies of the “McCollough effect” formally introduced me to the science of psychology. I remember being both amused and fascinated by Professor McCullough’s sharing an anecdote where she intentionally used the Zeigarnik phenomenon as a motivator for her to resume working on manuscripts that she was writing for publication. I find it curious how a phenomenon such as the Zeigarnik effect can be discovered, experimentally investigated, popularized, misrepresented, forgotten, and rediscovered.”

I was able to use that anecdote in a review I completed of Bob Cialdini’s newest book Pre-suasion. Equally important, I was able to use that Zeigarnik tension to motivate me to complete the revisions suggested by my editor and to successfully have the review accepted for publication.

One common theme among my unfinished work is the tensions I feel between rigorous, experimental psychological science and well-intentioned attempts to popularize psychological findings. How can one avoid avoiding overstatement and misrepresentation?  Why is there such a disconnect between what is popularized (or advertised) and what empirical evidence actually shows? Across the past fifty years I’ve seen oversimplification and misrepresentation of research investigating learning styles, mindfulness, subliminal perception, and most recently brain fitness training.

I’ve taken an increased interest lately in memory research–in part because a number of Carroll alumni have been actively involved in that area (e.g. Michelle Braun, John DenBoer and Mark Klinger). I’ve always been fascinated by the too much neglected research of Ellen Langer’s exploring concepts of mindfulness and mindlessness–as she uses the terms. I found fascinating her book Counterclockwise, though I am still struggling with believing its implications of age-reversal. Still, 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. This merits further study. Perhaps because I just recently read that the CEO of Evernote wants me to be able to remember everything, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jorge Luis Borges‘ Funes Memorius and about those Seven Sins of Memory outlined by Psychologist Daniel Schacter. One of the down-sides  joys of being liberally educated is that one sees interconnections among seemingly disparate things.

Based upon my thinking about the links above, I’m convinced that I don’t want a perfect memory—nor do I want technological tools for remembering everything. Still, as I grow older I am increasingly sensitive to issues of memory loss. I am haunted by the descriptions of  dementia so graphically and accurately described in Walter Mosley’s novel The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. Here is an interview with the author.

There is so much hype interest today in using technology to improve one’s brain power,  health and well-being. Try, for example, doing an online search on “brain fitness.” You’ll  be overwhelmed with the results though (hopefully) be underwhelmed by the validity of the claims. The challenge is to know how to decide which claims are “snake oil,” which represent vaporware, and which are truly science-based.  Consider these  Internet “tools” (none of which I am endorsing but each of which I am considering investigating with my students)  … and their promises and claims of success at improving one’s life

  1. lumosity.com
  2. happify.com
  3. learningrx.com
  4. brainhq.com
  5. neuronation.com

Which (if any) is based upon valid psychological science? Which is merely entertainment? Which make false or unverifiable claims? Which is patently wrong? Do brain training programs really work?

A very thoughtful and thorough  scholarly review was recently completed which provides some useful caveats and preliminary answers. A shortened summary of that report can be found here and the complete article is here. A relatively recent citizen science project, the game “Stall Catchers” (found here) provides an interesting crowdsourcing avenue for conducting Alzheimer’s research.

I hope to share my answers to these questions in the near future. Hopefully these thoughts won’t merely end up in my draft pile!

 

Curious David

Curious David Redux: Brain Boosting or Bloated Claims?

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.)

  1. “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.
  2. There exist a number of excellent, current, well-written and understandable science-based guides to maintaining cognitive fitness and brain health (e.g. Click this link to see an example of this Harvard Medical School paper).
  3. 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.”

4. Many cognitive training studies and brain training companies overpromise results, cite the same methodologically faulty studies, cite studies funded by their organization,  ignore best practice experimental designs (see point 2 above), and fail to take into consideration placebo effects (Here is a simple, well-designed,  study indicating how EXPECTATIONS may cause the outcome attributed to cognitive training.)

5. Many helpful insights into memory loss can be gleaned from literature such as Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and from individuals sharing first-hand experiences such as in the beautiful bogging in Sally Remembers.

 

— Still curious at age almost 69,

David

AgingBrain health supplementsCurious David

Works in Progress (Part 2): Brain Health, ebooks, Learning LinkedIn and Research Assistant Development

Today I made considerable progress obtaining, reading, and vetting information about brain health issues. Thanks to Alvaro Fernandez at Sharpbrains.com for introducing me to the Truth in Advertising Organization (truthinadvertising.org) and the good work they do exposing false claims about memory enhancement supplements such as Prevagen.

I hope to pull all this information into one place in e-book format before I leave Carroll for the summer on May 13. One challenge I face is finding an easy way to convert WordPress files into Word or pdf format. Any solutions would be welcomed.

 

 

 

I am delighted that I shall have a 2nd talented student joining my research assistant team in the Fall.  Kristen has already successfully stepped into the shoes of Tia and Lizzie who are abandoning me for a better deal — graduate school. I need to remind myself that Kristen is “only” a freshman since she handles responsibilities so conscientiously, responsibly, and capably.

Here are Kristen’s thoughts about LinkedIn:…

Being only a freshman in college, I am progressively expanding my knowledge on how to successfully use different platforms. Dr. Simpson recently introduced me to a site called LinkedIn. Although I have heard of this networking platform in the past, I previously had no use for it. However, as I start to enter into adulthood, we thought it would be wise to start my profile this year. Dr. Simpson assisted me in the creation of my profile by sending me a video series on this platform called Learning LinkedIn for Students created by Oliver Schinkten.

Throughout this video series, Schinkten goes step-by-step on how students can successfully obtain a professional profile. He gives nice examples for the viewers on certain information employers look for in these profiles. He also gives the viewer tips on how to stand out from other users. Although this information is useful, there is copious amounts of information that he suggests that seem to be too detailed. If one wants to use LinkedIn as a resume, they should keep it simple and organized. It can also be difficult, especially as a freshman, to add skills onto one’s profile. Maybe adding some examples on what senior high schooler/college freshman could have on their profile.

            Overall, I thought this video series was a good starting point for students who want to start their job networking. Schinkten gives a nice overview of the website and gives clear directions on how to add, edit, and use this platform. Even though some of the information he suggests can be quite detailed, Schinkten does give a nice overview of the platform. Not only does he give clear directions on how to use the platform, but also in how a student can successfully use this professional site for seeking future jobs.  

Curious David

Works in Progress…

With Kristen by my side evaluating evaluating Oliver Schinkten’s recent excellent LinkedIn for Students Course, I am pulling together materials for a series of articles about

  • how to evaluate “brain fitness” supplement claims (cocoanut oil anyone)?
  • brain health maintenance guidelines (e.g. the Global Council on Brain Health Guidelines documented here)
  • and reviewing all I learned from last semester’s Research seminar in case I get the enrollment I need to teach it again in the Fall.

First I need to clean my desk and sharpen some pencils!

 

AgingApp GenerationForgetting names

Oops – My Playful Memory Failed Me!

 

 

I’ve never claimed to have eidetic memory. Clearly I don’t. I committed a memory faux pas last week by sending a message on my LinkedIn account indicating my delight at seeing a former student (whom I hadn’t seen in 40 years)  at our new Carroll University President’s inauguration. Alas, the 15 seconds of reunion with the former student and the intervening hours before I took the time to look him up on LinkedIn (hmm, he looks so different from whom I talked with) resulted in this subsequent electronic exchange.

  • David Simpson sent the following message at 8:35 PM

    Thanks for saying hello today!

  • Doug Cumming sent the following message at 2:57 AM

    Professor – unfortunately that wasn’t me that said hello yesterday. I am with my family, on my way home from Rome and a little vacation. Hope you are welland thanks for the note!- Doug Cumming CC ’85

  • David Simpson sent the following messages at 8:19 PM
  • Less you think that I am completely losing it, what happened is as I was emerged from the ceremonial march, someone called out “Hello, Professor Simpson. Do you remember me, Doug C_____. He then asked about Ralph Parsons. Ordinarily I have access to all my files of all students since 1977 (hard copy) but they are in storage while Rankin Hall is refurbished. Though he did not look like you, he had indicated that we had been in touch on LinkedIn. Oops. Must be nice visiting Rome! Take Care Doug—and thanks for the correction. I may have to blog about this! DS

  • Maybe Doug Cushing…another class of 85 Pio?!?

  • David Simpson sent the following messages at 8:28 PM
  • You may be correct although I thought he said 1978. I can check eventually because I am compulsive.

Other times my memory for former students is so rich  that there is no need to consult (inaccessible paper files. Such was the case for a Soul food Reunion Dinner
with Carl Meredith.

Do keep those letters, emails, and visits coming. I enjoy your shared memories—some of which are new to me such as the one below shared with me in 2014.

 

The letter was posted out of state on April 29, 2014. It appeared in my campus mail box a few days later. I glanced at the hand-written envelope (too) quickly, guessed that it might be a (sigh, yet another) solicitation for a letter of recommendation, and didn’t have a chance to open it until the following Saturday while I was proctoring my first final exam.

Dr. Simpson,

     I hope that this letter finds you in good health and spirit. I’m not sure if you’ll remember me, but you did something for me that I’ve never forgotten.

[Alas, he’s right that I am not as good at remembering students as I once was. I suspect that some of that memory failure is age-related; some is caused, I think, by how Carroll has changed. Some by the sheer number of students I have taught in the past 40 years. And though I had no immediate recollection of the particular event he shared, nonetheless I recalled him in some detail even without going to my filing cabinet and pulling out his advisee folder.]

In 2004 ,,, I called the College to inquire about online classes. The adviser I spoke with told me that you changed one of my grades allowing me to graduate. You gave me my life and I can never begin to thank you enough. … I never contacted you because I was embarrassed, but always so thankful for it….[B]ecause of what you did I have been able to get my Masters… and have the current job I hold.  I am about to leave for Afghanistan … And just want you to know that I have never forgotten what you did for me and have always tried to earn it and will continue to. Thank you so much. Respectfully,

I have only a vague recollection of the particular circumstance alluded to (but I verified its occurrence).

A student, about to graduate fails a final exam in one of my courses. Were there personal circumstances affecting their performance? Is this part of a pattern? Is there justified reason to give them an additional chance — say, an oral exam?

A student is just a few points away from the next higher grade needed to graduate. This is easier for me to resolve, because of my extensive training in statistics and measurement error I am aware of and sensitive to the imprecision of measurement. I am quite comfortable in this situation under certain circumstances allowing some subjective (human, humane?) factors to enter into my final judgment of the student’s demonstrated abilities and likelihood of future success.

I most assuredly would change a grade if I myself had made a clerical error in assigning a grade. My vague recollection is that the latter was the case in this instance. Sometimes memory failure (or fuzziness) is a blessing!

Simple acts of kindness, even when unintentional, can have long-lasting effects. This I believe. I was overjoyed to hear from him and communicated my thankfulness for his letter and best wishes for safety while serving our country.

AgingMCIMild Cognitive impairment

Sexagenarian Obsession: the F-Word

With aging I have become overly sensitive to the F-word—- “Forgetting.” I meant to sandwich in a chance to have my photo taken with Truman, President Gnadinger’s dog. Was it “forgetting” that resulted in my not following through with my intent — or was it the fact that I was trying to squeeze that event into a time during which I was also proctoring an exam, writing a blog piece about brain health, monitoring email, and making sure that all students had the time they needed for the exam before the next group arrived.

I am well aware that nearly everyone who lives long enough experiences some cognitive decline. I am human. I am also quite familiar with that grey area of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) — how to test for it, its relationship to dementia, how to compensate for it, and diagnostic guidelines for it (found here) .

According to Peter Rabins’ (University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health) 2018 White Paper on Memory (found hereit is estimated that 10 to 20% of Americans over 65 years of age have that condition with men more often affected than women and at earlier ages. Welcome, David, to your new reference group norms. Perhaps this is part of my motivation for continuing to surround myself with intellectually stimulating students — and playful, younger relatives.

In their presence I am younger. A number of studies (for example, this one: click here) suggest the preventative value of stimulating mental activities such as playing games, doing crafts, using a computer, and engaging in stimulation-rich social activities. Many studies have also found strong evidence for the value of age-appropriate strength training for global cognitive function (though not for memory). And I may have to start learning to dance ( see this link) or at least take up Tai Chi!

I have two playful partners in mind who always make me laugh when we dance or play together.

AgingApp Generation

Brain Boosting or Bloated Claims? Promising Research or Wishful Thinking? Part 1

At Christmas time one of my nephews gave me some brain challenging puzzles. For a few minutes I was able to fool him (and myself!) by being able to solve two of them in a few minutes. Then my beloved, intellectually curious grand nieces and nephews (ages 5 through 8)  proceeded to provide a context for my achievements by taking apart the remaining two puzzles which I had recognized as too difficult for me! Alas, they then lost interest and I still haven’t figured out how to put the puzzles back together!

Later I was invited by one to play a board game “Brain Games for Kids.” My mind was indeed blown away as he outperformed me very quickly. My solace was that he probably had memorized all questions and answers. Also, he had earlier shown me (on “his” computer which he had “built”) a school project he had on his Google-drive account.

Are these additional signs of effects on my aging brain? I must confess I find more of my research time focused 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.

  1. “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.
  2. There exist a number of excellent, current, well-written and understandable science-based guides to maintaining cognitive fitness and brain health (e.g. Click this link to see an example of this Harvard Medical School paper).
  3. 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.”

4. Many cognitive training studies and brain training companies overpromise results, cite the same methodologically faulty studies, cite studies funded by their organization,  ignore best practice experimental designs (see point 2 above), and fail to take into consideration placebo effects (Here is a simple, well-designed,  study indicating how EXPECTATIONS may cause the outcome attributed to cognitive training.)

5. Many helpful insights into memory loss can be gleaned from literature such as Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and from individuals sharing first-hand experiences such as in the beautiful bogging in Sally Remembers.

Over the next few months I plan to focus my writing on expanding upon these points by examining recent claims. I shall take a look at products such as that pictured below that claim their products are backed by “clinical trials.” I actually still have the energy, motivation and developed cognitive skills to find, to read, to reflect upon and to evaluate such claims.

Can you train your brain to drive longer into your golden years? Such was the headline that appeared in my LinkedIn feed today that caught my interest. So I hunted down the original article (rather than trust that which was summarized) AND I contacted the author of the article asking her what she thought of the claims being made for her study.

Stay tuned…

— Still curious at age almost 69,

David

AgingCurious David

Sharpening My Brain

I’m looking forward later today to (virtually) participating in the 2017 SharpBrains Virtual Summit.  As I await its starting, I am flooded by emails from brain fitness companies. Lumosity claims to have “…adapted age-old-techniques of Mindfulness training into a series of easy-to-learn courses and activities.” I’ll learn more about that on Thursday from a Summit presentation. BrainHQ from Posit Science shares with me their latest claims. A new blog piece is published by Smartbrainaging.

I now am a subscriber to a number of very science-based brain health resources coming from Harvard Medical School and UC Berkeley,  I also now monitor National Institute of Aging clinical trial research. There are some intriguing ongoing randomized trials investigating cognitive, dietary and behavioral interventions (such as exercise programs) for mild cognitive impairment such as these.

I am looking forward to opportunities to interact at the summit with some of these CEO’s, entrepreneurs, and fellow investigators and to continue those relationships over the next few years.

My student research team has now spend a semester investigating brain fitness research claims. We are in the process of reflecting on what we have learned. Here are a few preliminary thoughts which will be expanded into a book.

 

  1. “Brain Training” is a huge and growing industry with very expensive market research reports! Like this one:
  2. There exist a number of excellent, current, science-based guides to maintaining cognitive fitness and brain health (e.g. this one).
  3. There exist excellent scholarly reviews of the efficacy of “brain fitness” programs (e.g. this one).
  4. Many cognitive training studies and brain training companies overpromise results, cite the same methodologically faulty studies, ignore best practice experimental designs (see point 2 above), and fail to take into consideration placebo effects (See this study.)
  5. Many helpful insights into memory loss can be gleaned from literature such as Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and other like works (Such as these).

Time to log into the summit. To paraphrase the proverb, all work and no play makes David a dull boy.

Agingbook writing with studentsbrain fitness trainingCarroll University USACurious David

Brain Fitness Training: Fact vs. Fiction

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

AppsCurious David

Building Student Research Teams

 

Though I failed to get the crowd funding I sought last year (described in an earlier post) I am delighted to report that I have been blessed to have 10 very bright, eager to learn students in my Research Seminar. Without doubt  their research will  advance some of the accomplishments I hope to achieve before my leaving Carroll. Some of what I am incorporating into this seminar —e.g. giving students numerous opportunities to self-publish—  is described in several earlier blogs like this one and this reflection. As we enter our 2nd week of learning together I begun introducing students to technology learning tools (e.g. WordPress, Diigo, SurveyMonkey, and Skype) and my 68-year-old thinking about memory and aging. Thank you, Jane Hart, for your introducing me to these tools 11 years ago.

My student co-researchers are responsible for taking much of the initiative in making this course successful–and for teaching me. Below is a description of Abbey S.’s and Alex F.’s creation of a Facebook Messenger group for our research team. In the next few weeks we shall be Skyping with some Carroll alumni who are knowledgable about our research topic (“Brain Training”). Do let us know if you are interested in following us, supporting our efforts, or contributing to our learning.

Effectiveness of Facebook Messenger as a Communication Tool

By Abbey Schwoerer and Alex Fuhr

In our Psychology Research Seminar this semester, we were given the task of coming up with a user-friendly, easily accessible communication tool for the class to use. What we needed was a platform that could be accessed free of charge, and allowed us to send pictures, links, and word messages. We wanted to use a tool which was generally familiar to our classmates and translated easily to different technological devices.  Our final solution to this problem was to use Facebook Messenger or simply called “Messenger”.

What is Facebook Messenger?

Facebook Messenger is an instant messaging application of Facebook.  It allows the user to have a private conversation with other Facebook users.  To use Messenger, you must have a Facebook account on facebook.com. There is a newer feature which allows you to message other Facebook users without being their friend, although the other user will need to accept your request to chat with them.  You can create one-on-one chats, or chats with multiple members called “group chats”.  It is equivalent to texting, but without having to exchange phone numbers with others.  You can access Facebook Messenger through the Facebook website or as a downloadable application on your smart phone.

Why use Facebook Messenger over other communication tools?

This versatility of the tool is what drew us to use it for classroom purposes.  Unlike most team chat applications, Messenger is free to use; even so, it still provides the most important functions that most of the paid apps have.  Messenger allows you to send word messages, voice messages, pictures, videos, polls, plans, games, locations, payments, links, emoji’s and GIF’s. The interface looks a slight bit different depending on if you are using a computer or a phone, but each allow you to perform the same functions.  It also allows you to connect to other websites to share media from them to a conversation.  Some websites include the musical application Spotify, KAYAK travel planner, and The Wall Street Journal news website.

How do you use Facebook Messenger?

To use Messenger on your computer, log in to the Facebook website and on the blue bar at the top of the screen, towards the right-hand side you will see a black and white version of the picture above.  You can also access it on the left-hand side of the page.  Click on this and it will show you all recent conversations you have had on Messenger.  You can also start a new conversation by clicking the blue words which read “New Message”.  Once you click on a conversation, it will open a chat box on the lower right portion of your screen and you can continue or begin to converse with a friend.  Other than simply messaging, you can voice call and video chat with others.  To modify the chat, you can click on the gear button labeled “options”.  You can change the color of the chat, send files, and many other functions.  If you desire to search for a picture or an article within the chat, you must enter the application through the button on the left-hand side of your home page.  This will pull up your conversations in a different format.  On the left of the new screen will be your conversations and on the right, once you click on a conversation, will be the “Search in Conversation” option.  The class may need to use this once the conversation becomes larger and longer.

To use Messenger on your phone, you need to download the Messenger application.  It will look like the picture above.  You can see all your recent message conversations when you open the application.  Once you click on a conversation, you can perform the same actions as on the computer.  To create a new message, you will click on the square with a pencil in the upper right-hand corner.  If you allow it, the application will send you notifications when you get a new message.  A downfall of using Messenger on your phone is you cannot search for an item within your conversation.

In summary, the multitude of applications this tool provides makes it a viable medium for our communication needs in Research Seminar.  We have already begun to use software and it seems to be running smoothly.  We look forward to the new possibilities this communication tool will provide for us this semester!