Tag: Research Seminar

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Preview of Things to Come: “Brain Fitness” Research

This morning I sandwiched in a bit of very preliminary background work for my Fall Semester Research Seminar (assuming I get the minimum enrollment!). I’ve been too busy today to see if I’ve got the students!

I asked Alison to document my efforts as we try out different cameras and different screen casting software. Later I interviewed her about her Carroll experiences. Stay tuned!

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Can my old brain be (re)trained?

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!):)

  1. Thanks for the memories!
  2. I’m not sure that you will remember me but…
  3. Brain fitness training (Part 1)
  4. 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:


Curious David

Learning by Teaching: Alison’s and Lizzy’s Guide to Using SPSS Data Analysis for Simple Linear Regression

DSCN8480One of the many lessons I’ve learned from many years of teaching is how much I learn through the act of teaching. It recently occurred to me that one way to facilitate my students’ learning of statistics is to position them to teach it. Below is a video created by two of my students illustrating how to use and interpret SPSS’s procedures for creating a scatter plot, calculating Pearson’s r, and, if warranted, performing a simple linear regression. Here is what they wrote and did:


This video was designed to help demonstrate an SPSS analysis for a simple linear regression. This video helps to show the steps to obtain an analysis of data, but the steps are also printed below for further assistance.

Step 1) Enter the names of the data into the variable view. For our data, the first name is Global Awareness which is the “independent variable” while the second name is “Satisfaction” which is the dependent variable. The data will come up automatically as numeric, but change the decimals to 0. Once complete hit the data view.

Step 2) Enter data under the appropriate name.

Step 3) To see if several of Pearson r’s assumptions are met  first create a scatter plot. To create the scatter plot, go underneath graphs, legacy dialogues, and then click on scatter/dot. Then a pop up menu will appear and select simple scatterplot, which is the first option. Then SPSS will ask you for the x and y axis. The X is the independent variable while the Y is the dependent variable.

Step 4) When the scatter plot appears, notice the  direction (positive or negative), the strength of the scatter plot, and if the scatter plot is linear. If the scatter plot is linear, calculate Pearson’s r.

Step 5) To calculate Pearson’s r, go under Analyze, Correlate, than select bi-variate, and a pop up menu will ask you for the independent and dependent variable. Make sure the Pearson box is selected as well as the two tailed box.

Step 6) To calculate the linear regression, go under Analyze, Regression, and select linear. A pop up menu will ask for the independent and dependent variable.

To understand the data:

Pearson’s r indicates how strong the two variables are correlated.

r squared is the coefficient of determination which communicates how much of the Y variable is explainable by knowing the X variable.

The standard error of estimate is the range around a predicted score within which you are sure with a specified degree of certainty that the predicted score will indeed fall.

Underneath the coefficients table in the B column, one is able to see the y predicted equation (Ypredicted = Bx + A). B is going to be the next to the independent variable while the A is going to be next to the constant.



In Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness is being ONE with the Dog

Robin the Newf knows about FLOW.

In an interesting article entitled “The What, Why, When, and How of Teaching the Science of Subjective Well-Being” in the April 2014 issue of the journal Teaching of Psychology Ed Diener and Christi Napa Scollon point out that in the past few years there have been over 10,00 publications per year on the topic of happiness. Anyone interested in teaching a course about Subjective Well-Being (I myself developed and taught such a course once for Freshmen) might find this article especially useful. It includes sample discussion questions, sample syllabus topics, exercises for enhancing well-being, and scholarly references. Here are webpages describing related work of two scholars I admire Richard Davidson and Sonja Lyubormirsky.

Some relatively recent “SWB” research is summarized in this  Happify link.

Below are some germane videos I have come across that made me laugh, smile, or think and that I might use were I to teach such a course again.








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Three Digital Tools in Need of My Sharpening

I’m in the process of revisiting several resources that have influenced my choice of online teaching tools. This post focuses on the book by Steve Johnson (2011)—a thoughtful and concise compendium of his thinking about today’s “tech-savvy” (high school age) learners and how to prepare them for their digital future. He systematically  evaluates over 30 “etools” he judges to be useful for engendering collaboration, creation, and publication across the curriculum, and offers concrete suggestions for how to get started (and how to keep up) as an instructor. Among the many tools that he recommends that I have personally found especially useful for my teaching at the college/university level are the following:

  1. I have grown to like Animoto as a vehicle for creating and sharing video-like productions, despite its constraints of needing to use Adobe Flash and accepting only MP3 formatted music files. I have elected to have an educational account with them. Here is an example of how I have used it.
  2. WordPress is now my blogging tool of choice and the blogging tool that I teach to students. I myself move back and forth between WordPress.com (“David in Carroll Land”) and WordPres.org  (“Curious David in Carroll Land”). The latter gives me far more creative freedom (e.g. the use of plugins) but at an additional cost (both financial and time I need to devote to its higher learning-curve). Here is an example of a WordPress.com blog piece in which my student research assistants shared  “sand box” activities while they explored for me the value of some beta version software which showed promise to me of eventually being useful in the classroom.  Here, on the other hand, is a recent blog piece co-written with my students using the WordPress.org blogging software (which I still am at an early stage of mastering). Without doubt, my best etool  evaluators are my highly trained student assistants.
  3. Google Docs is becoming an increasingly important tool for me. Indeed, I would love to devote the time to create a Google Apps course for our students.  Richard Bryne, an educator thought leader whom I follow on Twitter and whose contributions I benefit from, has created a wonderful comprehensive guide to this tool.

Presently my students are more facile with this learning tool than I!.  We regularly use it as a means of collaborating and sharing documents —photos, videos, journal articles, rough drafts, spreadsheets. Just today one of my senior research seminar students shared with me, on Google Drive, a wonderful video she had made of her interviewing her twelve-year-old son about his experiences with a form of Asperger syndrome. Keri and I shortly shall be incorporating this video and her insights about parenting such a special child into a blog piece as a first step in assisting her in writing a book to share her knowledge.


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Dr. David’s Neighborhood: Angela and David Explore Edynco


Introduction to Edynco—and research assistant Angela: Click me.

Review of Edynco by Angela Wong

Things I really like: Edynco is a multi-feature learning tool for educators. Created in Slovenia two years ago, this tool provides easy-to-use templates for creating learning maps. The creators of the software are  quick to distinguish between mind maps, which are usually used for brainstorming and planning, and learning maps. Reminiscent of Prezi [which I, DS, personally find dazzlingly distracting].  Edynco’s setup is different because its learning maps allow for additional media, clarity, discussion and communication between educator and student, and numerous kinds of interaction. The blended learning method style is intended to help anyone who wants to educate others. Overall, Edynco is well-thought out with a beautiful design.

Areas in need of improvement. There are a few areas that still need improvement. Throughout the website, users will find quite a few spelling and grammatical errors.  ESL users in particular may suffer from these translation errors. Users unfamiliar with dynamic technologies may too quickly become overwhelmed. For better UI, the learning map module should integrate a “snap to grid feature” (as illustrated on Microsoft, Adobe, and LucidPress software). Lastly, the tutorial that automatically pops up every time when entering a learning map is slightly annoying, as it can be accessed anytime.

Despite these minor and relatively unimportant flaws, Edynco is incredibly sleek and promising. The user is not left wanting for a “share” feature to post on social media. Edynco also has an export to computer feature that is inaccessible to non-subscribers. The interface is dynamic, responsive, and relatively easy-to-use. In addition to the learning map software, all users have access to additional content, including micro-lectures, quizzes, videos, images, audio, and more- all of which can be seamlessly added to the user’s customizable learning map. The developers have left room for expansion to release even more educational tools and are to be praised for the present wonderful-work-in-progress.  Educators and students alike should be excited for this beta software to go live—and in the interim, to try it and to provide constructive feedback for improvement.

Here is an example of a learning map which  Angela created using Eydynco: Angela’s example of Iranian Women in Film.

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Movenote Revisited


Across my 35 years of teaching at Carroll I have been blessed to have highly skilled, patient, playful student research assistants who cheerfully and ably respond to my hurried, fly-by” task assignments such as “learn how to use Movenote and report back to me its potential value”. Thank you, student friends, for your support and for your being part of Dr. Simpson’s Neighborhood. Here is a result from our early explorations this year of the capabilities of Movenote –  Click on the link:  Angela and Amy Tutorial on Movenote.

Here is an example of what Angela learned THIS SEMESTER about how Movenote has evolved—Click on this link:  Much has improved!



I have much for which to be thankful as a professor. Especially I am thankful for the delightful opportunities to learn along with students such as these!


Ten Meditations on Meditating

There is an interesting, well-written article in Time Magazine about Mindful Meditation that recently drew my attention for several reasons.

  1. This is a semester I finally have an unusually large amount of time to focus on reading, writing, reflection and research as I plan an ordered exit from Carroll Land within the next two-to-four years. There is much yet for me to do before I move on.

2. Since my Oberlin College days I have been interested in “East Asian” philosophies and religions. I recall being intrigued by Herbert Benson’s first empirical studies of the “Relaxation response”.

3. I have always admired his holiness the Dalai Lama, who holds an honorary degree from Carroll COLLEGE (WI).  Ah, the things things I remember that many here at Carroll do not know or recall since they weren’t here then:).

4.  I have been very impressed by the research and values of Richard Davidson, who shared the evolution of his research program in a well-written, thoughtful book The Emotional Life of Your BrainHere are some of his current activities.

5. I have also found of value thinking about (though I have been remiss in practicing) the ideas in Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius’s Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. I truly have been blessed to have opportunities to pursue each in my 35 years here surrounded by bright students and colleagues.

6. Some of my younger Carroll University colleagues are starting to gain well-deserved  recognition exploring these topics and building bridges across interdisciplinary areas. And, their enviable publication rate even motivates me (in my own way) to match/complement/ supplement their scholarly contributions—but at my own speed as I savor the twilight of my career here.

7.  Recently President Obama (who is visiting Waukesha, WI today which may explain the many hovering helicopters) has called for a BRAIN Initiative. Concomitantly, there is an explosion of apps and software claiming to improve thinking and to optimize brain power.

8. I have been intrigued by recent attempts to popularize and capitalize on such findings and initiatives and am contemplating doing some modest research to address their claims—particularly those that purport to improve memory, enhance happiness, and enhance one’s ability to focus.

9. I’ve always been fascinated by the too much neglected research of Ellen Langer’s creative work 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.

10. So many questions to answer. Time to make some decisions and see where the research takes us.