Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Learning and Memory from multiple perspectives

I just found this totally funky website on memory and learning designed by Bruno Dubuc (affiliated with Canadian Institutes of Health Research). The website is interactive and adjusts focus and level of information based on your knowledge (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced) and interest (Social, Psychological, Neurological, Cellular, and Molecular).

So, for example, the first "Beginner" (the default) sentence is "Memory and learning are so closely connected that people often confuse them with each other. But the specialists who study them consider them two distinct phenomena." However, if you click "Intermediate" the opening sentence is "Learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour that marks an increase in knowledge, skills, or understanding thanks to recorded memories. A memory is the fruit of this learning process, the concrete trace of it that is left in your neural networks." And finally, the "Advanced" opening sentence is "Learning is a process that lets us retain acquired information, affective states, and impressions that can influence our behaviour. Learning is the main activity of the brain, in which this organ continuously modifies its own structure to better reflect the experiences that we have had."

All of these sentences present memory from the psychological point of view. If you then click on "Social" the first sentence (Intermediate) is "People have always tried to keep some records of what they have learned. The earliest records consisted of oral tradition, rituals, and cave paintings. Later on, the ancient Egyptians used pictographs called hieroglyphs to glorify their pharaohs. The subsequent invention of alphabetical writing marked the first universally accessible form of external collective memory (as opposed to internal individual memory, located in the human brain). This was the birth of history."

I really like the flexibility of this site and how easy it is to see how different disciplines approach a different topic. Students who are taking different subjects (as most of do) may find themselves discussing/learning the same topic from a number of different disciplinary perspectives. However, sometimes we have a hard time seeing topics from multiple perspectives and this site provides one useful example of such an exercise.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Graduate Writing Kit

The University of Ottawa has developed a wonderful resource for graduate students called the "Graduate Writing Kit." The "kit" covers graduate writing, thesis writing, writing a thesis proposal, information management and writing a literature review. As many graduate students know there are few writing resources available for them, so this new site is very welcome!

Also, don't forget about the graduate section of the VLC!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Yet another podcast post

I confess I'm addicted to listening to podcasts. In particular, I like listening to them on the bus on my way home after work when I'm kind of brain-dead, but still need to do some work. I also like accessing information on my own terms and podcasts allow me to listen anywhere – even in the bathroom!

It's easy to find great radio-based podcasts (I love CBC Radio 3 & NPR's All Songs Considered for example) but informational podcasts on something other then technology (and the wonderful grammar girl mentioned in the previous post) are more difficult to track down. However, McMaster's Centre for Student Development has developed a useful series of video podcasts that are short (usually under 4 minutes) and to-the-point. These podcasts present time management, writing, math, and learning tips. I really like the one podcast called "winning through wedging" (as opposed to "winning through wedgies"). They also come in a variety of video formats: video iPod, mp3, Flash, Quicktime and Window's media.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Grammar Girl and "Writing Dates"

For me, January is all about remembering to write down the correct year. For the next couple of weeks I'll be writing 2007 instead of 2008. New year or not, there concerns about how to deal with dates in text that arise over and over again – for example, do you write two thousand and eight or two thousand eight? Grammar Girl (Quick and Dirty tips for Better Writing) tells us what do in this case, as well as explaining why we should never write January 1st, 2008 (you write January 1, 2008), where to put the comma, and whether to capitalize New Year's Day (you do). Grammar Girl's podcasts can be downloaded on to your mp3 player and/or read in transcript form on her web page.