Learning Stylee

According to the online DVC Learning Style Survey my primary learning style is ‘Visual/Non-verbal’ (Visual/Nonverbal 34 – Visual/Verbal 26 – Auditory 18 – Kinesthetic 14). Based on this they recommend:

“You learn best when information is presented visually and in a picture or design format. In a classroom setting, you benefit from instructors who use visual aids such as film, video, maps and charts. You benefit from information obtained from the pictures and diagrams in textbooks. You tend to like to work in a quiet room and may not like to work in study groups. When trying to remember something, you can often visualize a picture of it in your mind. You may have an artistic side that enjoys activities having to do with visual art and design.”

Learning Strategies for the Visual/ Nonverbal Learner:

  • Make flashcards of key information that needs to be memorized. Draw symbols and pictures on the cards to facilitate recall. Use highlighter pens to highlight key words and pictures on the flashcards. Limit the amount of information per card, so your mind can take a mental “picture’ of the information.
  • Mark up the margins of your textbook with key words, symbols, and diagrams that help you remember the text. Use highlighter pens of contrasting colors to “color code” the information.
  • When learning mathematical or technical information, make charts to organize the information. When a mathematical problem involves a sequence of steps, draw a series of boxes, each containing the appropriate bit of information in sequence.
  • Use large square graph paper to assist in creating charts and diagrams that illustrate key concepts.
  • Use the computer to assist in organizing material that needs to be memorized. Using word processing, create tables and charts with graphics that help you to understand and retain course material. Use spreadsheet and database software to further organize material that needs to be learned.
  • As much as possible, translate words and ideas into symbols, pictures, and diagrams.

I’m not sure if that’s all true, but some of it definitely is. When I was doing my GCSEs & A Levels I used to learn best by starting to revise about 10pm each night when it was dark and everyone was heading to bed, and by writing out my notes again neatly in new books, condensing it as I went. All of this was text based rather than using diagrams and visual aids, but then maybe I missed a trick.

Chick-Sent-Me-High-ee’s Secret of Happiness

Having raved about the book Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience a month or so ago, I was glad to see that author Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi is getting some new press for a study program on happiness. The main take away from the article? Mikhail’s name is pronounced ‘Chick-Sent-Me-High-ee’, although he just tells his students to call him Mike which I’m sure keeps them happy. [From Lifehacker]

Screw It, Let’s Do It – Richard Branson (5/5)

I picked up this offering from the famed entrepreneur owner of the Virgin Group at random and I’m glad I did. The book, written as part of a ‘read a book’ promotion, was designed to be short and easily digestible and it certainly is, however Branson’s mix of life anecdotes and business ‘rules’ is highly enjoyable and uplifting. Every chapter has an example of how Branson has overcome one challenge or another, normally by setting his mind to a goal and going for it while returning a flexible outlook on how these goals are achieved. Screw it, go read it!

Caffeine Withdrawal #1: The Revenge of the Coffee Pixies

As part of a general ‘healthy living’ week (aside from yesterday’s carb overload) I decided to stop drinking coffee on Monday, slowly easing myself out with a nice cup o’ earl grey tea. Tuesday morning – green tea with honey, mmm. Tuesday midday – complete exhaustion, could hardly move. Tuesday afternoon, the headache started, and boy was it a doozy! So after popping a few hundred headache pills I felt back on track and the evening went quite well.

I’ve realised now that was just the coffee pixies massing their forces for today’s second assault. Yowch. They don’t like it when you try and escape them… I’ve not been as sleepy today, but the headache is back with a vengence. So much so I got worried – until I read this site, where a whole pile of people list their symptoms. Dizziness, tiredness, crazy headaches and so on. Apparently knocking out caffeine severely lowers your blood pressure, which also explains why I felt really woozy the other day. Lovely.

The worst part is that this might go on for another 5 days or so! So apologies to everyone if I don’t seem more cranky than usual. Will give you further updates as they happen. Or don’t.

To Do: Create Flow

I’ve been re-reading the excellent Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience again and I highly recommend you all do too. In it, author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes his research into how people get into ‘flow’ states, that is states of enjoyable activity where you immerse yourself completely in what you are doing and stay deeply focussed. We’ve all done it at some point, missed our train stop when reading a book, sat down to do something then looked up and it’s the middle of the night and we forgot to eat and so on.

Mihaly argues that modern western society is full of flow destroying activities ripe with passive pleasure, such as television, rather than engaged enjoyment, for example knitting. These activities, while fun at first, lead to a longer term malaise as they do not involve us actively setting our own goals and following them through, which is core to the flow experience. Sports on the other hand are rife with flow, as they exist in their own world with strongly defined goals and excellent feedback to tell you that you’re there and getting better. Experts in the art and music world start to look for more complex experiences, moving from rock bands to classical or jazz, and then setting their own goals to analyse the music and deeply immerse themselves into that world.

What’s amazing about this concept is it works on a many different levels, you can even feel good about your day simply by writing a list of small tasks that need doing (goals) and ticking them off (feedback). Longer lasting, sustainable flow happiness comes from creating more complex experiences within overall goals, for example when you start taking photos you’re proud to create something that’s in focus, but as you spend more time immersed in the subject that is no longer sufficient – more complex internal goals must be met such as composition, lighting and the story being told.

It’s (almost) Groundhog Day!

Just finished re-watching Groundhog Day. Wow. I remembered it as being good, but didn’t realise quite how amazing it actually is. For a romantic comedy, not the most subtle of vehicles at the best of times, it addresses some pretty deep issues in a complex framework, while managing to be laugh out loud funny all the way.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, it centers around a self-centered, cantankerous weatherman played by the ever amazing Bill Murray who goes to cover the groundhog day festival. All goes well for him, and badly for everyone else, until the next morning when, for some never explained reason, Murray wakes up on Groundhog day again. Everything is the same as the day before, and noone else seems to realise what he’s going through. This happens the next day, and the next, and so on..

The framework is based around an old Greek fable of an eternal idiot who never learns, and can’t die, but Harold Ramis (of Ghostbusters fame) does an amazing job of re-writing the story in a modern way. Murray is of course amazing, and is totally believable as he goes through the roller coaster emotions of happiness, despair and then acceptance. Along the way he learns many important life lessons and, of course, ends the film a better person. In the hands of these two masters, and a great supporting cast, the film never seems trite or preachy as it shares Murray’s learnings with us about how to best live your life. Plus it has a cute groundhog! So go watch it today. It’s perfect winter watching, and Groundhog Day is only a few days off now on February 2nd.

All good things

Back in the US again – sunny New York City is outside my window with the usual chorus of sirens trilling away on the streets below. Flew back yesterday with the delightful Virgin who, having saved me an hour of queuing through the use of my silver card then decided to upgrade me to Premium Economy for the first time ever. Yee-haw! I’m now thoroughly hooked and will be contemplating how to get a non-economy flight back to the UK and then a non-economy round the world ticket. The thought of spending 20 hours in a plane to some far off country in cattle class does not appeal…

Other thoughts now fill my mind – which parts of my life do I pack up and ship back to store in England while I travel and which to leave behind? Don’t have a huge budget for shipping so that will help keep me to the bone on what stays and what goes, plus most of the electronic equipment won’t work so that’s easy. What of the less physical aspects though? The friendships and behaviors I’ve developed over the years? At least this time I’m emotionally more prepared for such upheavel, something that I totally underestimated three and a half years ago when I came here from London. Still scares me a bit though – the through of just leaving stuff and stepping away for a while, if not ever. Never was very good with change, so this is a great opportunity to get better at it. Chocks away…