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Interesting Abstract

Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard, Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Authors: Pam A. Mueller, Daniel M. Oppenheimer

Source, Link to Paper.


You’re Not Special; Multitasking is Bad for You


Chronic media multitasking is quickly becoming ubiquitous, although processing multiple incoming streams of information is considered a challenge for human cognition. A series of experiments addressed whether there are systematic differences in information processing styles between chronically heavy and light media multitaskers. A trait media multitasking index was developed to identify groups of heavy and light media multitaskers. These two groups were then compared along established cognitive control dimensions. Results showed that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli and from irrelevant representations in memory. This led to the surprising result that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set. These results demonstrate that media multitasking, a rapidly growing societal trend, is associated with a distinct approach to fundamental information processing.

I have made it a point to no longer have, ever, more than one screen on around me at one time. And I even make it a rule not to jump around from one article to the next when I working through a reading list. I read one article completely before moving on to the next.

Social Sciences – Psychological and Cognitive Sciences: Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass, and Anthony D. Wagner, Cognitive control in media multitaskers. PNAS 2009; published ahead of print August 24, 2009, doi:10.1073/pnas.0903620106

Christmas Gift Guide 2009

Rolling Hoop

I don’t care if this looks like I stole the idea from some stupid video game commercial. I had this site bookmarked last summer.

Give this gift and teach those young people that life isn’t all exploding Russian WWII soldiers with magic spell grenades you found on SIMs while playing Civilization 2.0.

If nothing else, you will be remembered by said kid forever for being a boring old person. Which you probably are.

Some Quick Reviews

-The Bruce Willis film “Surrogates” was a real joy. The ending was a tad Hollywood-vanilla that I hate with such a passion, but the message was a good one, if not entirely thought out. Sometime in the near future, advanced robots connect us to our lives, we never have to leave our homes. We can be anybody, and normally this entails being attractive. A mad scientist soon realizes surrogates have replaced the joys, pains and meaning of life and made everyone a bunch of pleasure hungry, shallow narcissists (sound familiar?). Some gratuitous action shots of Bruce Willis being Bruce Willis later, the movie ends in climactic fashion. There has been a lot of good, meaningful, science-fiction being produced by Hollywood over the last few years; this film should be included as one of the future classics (along with Gattaca, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and about a third of “The Island,” among others).

-Zombieland was similarly superlative. Fun, light and breezy (not exactly normal zombie adjectives) the film is life affirming and almost sentimental. The “rules” developed throughout represent not just a how-to guide for surviving the zombie apocalypse, but a guide to life in general.

-“The Dumbest Generation”, a book by English professor and notable scribe Mark Bauerlein, details the consequences of the new screen-obsessed youth culture now pervading our country. This includes declines in knowledge, reasoning ability, complex task completions and overall wisdomage. Using surveys and hard data, Bauerlein shows students coming out of high schools and colleges are not getting any kind of classic education based on intellectual traditions. He links these declines to the declines in leisure reading by those under thirty years of age, and to the new technology-based education doctrine that has students focusing on how to use computers rather than learning “unplugged”.

Bauerlein is persuasive, thoughtful and slowly builds his case over the length of the entire book. Unfortunately, his thesis is insurmountable to those who could learn the most from it: screen-obsessed youth. Unrelenting in his vocabulary, long and complex in sentence and paragraph structure, subtle and magniloquent, his words must be taken in with deep contemplation and patience. His work stands as an indissoluble whole, cogent only in toto–Totally not what the Twitter crowd is looking for.

It is a rich work for the curmudgeon in all of us. It was especially sweet to my ludditic preferences. Will it matter? I doubt it.

The End of Libraries

The library (media center?) at my old high school is getting a makeover. In fact, it’s not even a library anymore:

80 to 85 percent of the non-fiction books had not been checked out in the last 10 years. Although it was once a library, where hundreds of books took up much of the space, the JHS media center is now a place where students can get up-to-date information through use of computers and the Internet. Books can still be found in the media center, Duwenhoegger (principal) said, but noted that most of them are fiction or books students read for pleasure, not for doing research. Regardless of what is found in the media center, students are using it and that makes their principal and teachers happy.

Students cannot only check out books, which are found on a few shelves in the corners of the media center, they can check out laptop computers and use them in the media center’s all new Cyber Café. The Cyber Café, which really isn’t a café at all, but merely a place with café-style tables, a couple of couches, comfy chairs and an oversized ottoman, was created by Jefferson’s Group 212. Group 212 is a student leadership team with about 30 students, who meet on a regular basis, according to Duwenhoegger. Last July, during a retreat with the 212 students, Duwenhoegger said the idea for the Cyber Café was born. Students were asked what they thought the “world’s greatest high school” looked like and the picture included a space similar to what is now found in the media center. Painted in rustic, jewel tones, the Cyber Café is also a place where student artwork is displayed – from paintings and papier-mâché masks to digital photography. It gives students a place to be noticed, said the principal. Kelsey Olson, a JHS senior, said the space in the media center designated as the Cyber Café is similar to a coffeehouse or college commons area and that it has a relaxed, laid-back feel to it. “It’s a cool place to hang out and study together with your friends,” said Olson.

Liz Billberg, another JHS senior, said the café is a place that incorporates all cliques within the school. “It’s really a place for everybody,” she said.

One of the things I liked about the old library: the lack of unwanted cliques. An old friend on his 8th blog attempt (or whatever) and H.S. teacher weighs in:

I am set aback by the dismissal of non-fiction texts.

what pressures did JHS Media Center succumb to when it dumped its non-fiction? Why were the books not being checked out? Are there different books that could have replaced them? Will students be using the Cyber Cafe to construct knowledge about real world issues or will they just be updating their facebook pages…

I’d read the entire post.

Some reactions I have:

-Non-fiction is so important to lifelong learning. There are a lot of voracious readers out there who spend all their time on a single genre of entertaining but fatuous fiction. Yes, enjoy a novel once in a while, But pick up something more substantial once in a while.

-Recent research suggests we need to be skeptical of “tech savvy” education. Yes, students should have knowledge of computers, but the vast majority get that education on their own.

-Anyone else concerned with the “Wikipedia Society” where all knowledge is simply googled as needed and people can live worry-free, blissfully ignorant lives? I struggle with ideas like Free Will, Monotheism, Natural Evil, Consciousness, Probability, Epistemology and Flatulence because I had teachers who forced me to read thick philosophy books in my youth (I might still count as “youth”). Soon, students will just go on wikipedia, copy the sources, and punch out papers comparing dualism and dialectical materialism and not capture anything permanent from the assignment.

-And where are the teachers? Shouldn’t they be forcing students to *gasp* read non-fiction?

-Maybe I’m too much of a luddite to “get” new education. I know print is basically dead. But I don’t like a Wikipedia world. I want people to have more than a CliffsNotes grasp of the world.

From the Notebook

-The Twins season is starting up and the wheels of amatuer baseball punditry are starting up. I recently contributed to the opening Twins Roundtable at the Bleacher Report. For those interested in reading the specific sources of skepticism I have regarding Joe Crede, you can look here and here.

-Thanks the MLB Network I was able to watch a Twins Spring Training game and I noticed a few things: Danny Valencia is making solid and square contact with the ball; Joe Nathan doesn’t look very polished right now; Trevor Plouffe has a good arm. It’s not much, but it was good to finally see some real baseball.

-MLB TV also played an entire Tigers/Yankees classic game, a CG win for Mark Fidrych. Bob Uecker and Ernie Harwell (both HOF announcers) provided the play by play. Awesome. The MLB network is quickly becoming my favorite idiot box station.

-Read through Col. Charlie Beckwith’s book “Delta Force” last week. A very good book, the late Col. Beckwith was one of the primary catalysts in the creation of “Delta Force” and the man who led the failed rescue mission into Iran. This book was very readable, the information given a rather enlightening look at the role of special forces in modern warfare, and as a military autobiography it is truly excellent.

-To complete my Managerial Accounting class I had to get MS Excel. When I installed Excel, MS Word was also updated (I had been running a very old version of Word). Now, MS Excel has become my favorite toy. MS Word on the other hand crashes everytime I try to use it. After spending hours and days trying to find and fix the problem, I have given up and switched to Open Office Writer. What the hell is wrong with MS? How hard is it to make MS Word not crash?

-One little bit of political hackery: Whenever you hear about one political party talking about “bipartisanship” it is almost always in an effort to spread the blame in case a piece of legislation flops. Bipartisanship itself is not a value. However, sometimes coming together in “bipartisanship” isn’t a bad thing (post 9-11 being an example from recent memory). Those times when bipartisanship is a legitimate appeal to the humanity within in us all are exceedingly rare.

The Return of the Antenna

Rabbit ears were going extinct:

Buying an antenna for a high-definition television seems as out of place as using a rotary phone to make a call. But some consumers are spending thousands of dollars on LCD or plasma TVs and hooking them up to $50 antennas that don’t look much different from what grandpa had on top of his black-and-white picture tube.

They’re not doing it for the nostalgia.

Local TV channels, broadcast in HD over-the-air, offer superior picture quality over the often-compressed signals sent by cable and satellite TV companies.

And the best part? Over-the-air HD is free.

“Eighty-year-old technology is being redesigned and rejiggered to deliver the best picture quality,” said Richard Schneider, president of Antennas Direct. “It’s an interesting irony.”

A few years ago, Schneider started an assembly line in his garage and sold antennas out of the trunk of his car. Now his Eureka, Mo.-based company has seven employees and did $1.4 million in sales last year. He expects revenue to double in 2007.

“People thought I was nuts. They were laughing at me when I told them I was starting an antenna company,” Schneider said.

Before cable and satellite existed, people relied on antennas to receive analog signals from local TV stations’ broadcasting towers. Stations still send out analog signals, but most now transmit HD digital signals as well. (Congress has ordered broadcasters to shut off old-style analog TV broadcasts by Feb. 17, 2009.)

While I like old technology like antennas, I also lament the loss of analog TV.

Let’s make sure skynet and this character don’t hook up.

Yeah, they think we’re stupid

Stonehenge Solved…


I love it when people bring innovative ideas to fruition. I’m from the “brute force” philosphy (from everything like math and construction to crime). Despite years of Judo (maximum effeciency through minimum effort) I still get lazy and use brute force while sparring too. Moving a 2 ton block with a thousand slaves isn’t impressive, moving the same block with one grandpa and a free afternoon is.