Making Learning Fun

Times-table GameMy daily schedule means that I am normally sat upstairs in my office before other members of the family (apart from Jonathan) have left. They normally come upstairs to see me before they leave.

Some time later I normally go downstairs to make coffee (decaff at the moment) and do some stretching.

This morning I was greeted by a lounge covered in cards – 72 of them.

I know there was 72 of them because they were 3 lots of times-tables – one for the equation, another for the answer.

Emily is right in the middle of learning her times-tables – and she’s struggling.

We have always tried to make learning fun. I have always believed that we learn more when we are having fun, and others seem to agree.

The Chief Happiness Officer had this to say only last week:

Who says our workplaces have to be so boring, lifeless and meaningless that we can only get people to show up there by paying them to sacrifice their time and energy at jobs that don’t make them happy?

Let’s stop doing that, OK? It’s been proven time and again that both schools and workplaces can be fun, energizing affairs that draw people in voluntarily. It’s also been proven that doing this makes them more effective.

Let’s not settle for any less any more!

I’ve always regarded myself as quite privileged to have a job which for the most part I find fun and energizing. The challenge is that people are constantly trying to burden me with things that aren’t fun or energizing. Sometimes I let me guard down and find myself in a position I don’t enjoy. I’m in a 50/50 situation at the moment which means that a good deal of this week will be spent removing the 50% that is dull and adding to the 50% that is fun and energizing. Removing the 50% of dull is not likely to be a good career move in the short term, but experience has shown me that it pays dividends in the long-run.

Fun and energizing is more important to me than almost any other reward you can give me.

Times-table GameThe cards were all part of a matching game. We start with the cards all upside down, and you have to match the equation with the answer. The fun is that you get to play the game with Mum or Dad and beat them. The trick is that you have to say the equations out loud all the time embedding them.

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Concept of the Day: Visual Illiteracy

Crozon ChurchIn a post about the use of PowerPoint during the Iraq War, Visual Beings used this term “Visual Illiteracy”.

Some days a phrase gets me thinking – Visual Illiteracy is a new one.

Visual Illiteracy is of course the opposite of Visual Literacy of which there seems to be a lot written.

There’s even an International Visual Literacy Association.

Take your pick of definitions, they all seem to be saying very similar things: the ability to communicate and understand visually rather than in words.

I suppose this fits into my brain series. The right-brained people seem to be the ones who are more likely to be visually literate. Visual literacy is going to be a skill which will be invaluable to people who are needing to be more creative and more conceptual. It seems to be something you can learn.

Having done a small amount of research I am staggered by how many words have been written about a topic that is all about visual. Apparently there is a taxonomy of visual literacy?

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Remembering Names – Duh Moment

The Governors House, DinanLast night I put some thought into how I might fulfill my goal of being able to remember peoples names and then it struck me:

“Graham you dimwit you can’t set yourself a goal of remembering people face, names and roles when 99% of the people you interact with are faceless individuals who you very rarely ever meet”.

So I’ve modified my objective to de-emphasize the face bit. But that might not be so important as I can normally remember faces, it’s names and roles that I forget.

Brain Strength Goal – Remembering Names

Jonathan's new friendI’ve decided that I am not going to get anywhere with this brain thing unless I have a goal to focus on.

My first goal is going to be this: developing a technique for remembering the association between names, faces and role for people I come into contact with.

Remembering names is a popular issue and there seems to be a lot of techniques already so this should be attainable.

I’ve chosen this goal for a number of different reasons:

  • I struggle to remember names.
  • Remembering names, and other customer relationship techniques are going to be increasingly important for people in the West.
  • Associating names, faces and roles (from what little reading I’ve done already) seems to require usage of both the left and right side of the brain so should help me to build brain strength.

I’m still working on the basis that brain strength is something that it is possible to build.

Brain Dimensions

Grassy Sun

I was watching Imagining the Tenth Dimension yesterday with intrigue. The intrigue didn’t so much come from the idea or concept, but rather the method of communication. This site tries to convey a very complex scenario by using diagrams, animations and voice.

Having started to research our leaning styles a little in order to understand a little more about brain polarization I was intrigued by how others would interact with this site. I (as a right-brained person) found myself primarily following the diagrams and animation. Do left-brained people focus more of the voice? Is the concept easier to understand in words than in diagrams?

As an IT Architect I regularly come across issues which have multiple dimensions, because they have multiple variables. I have often tried to portray these problems as diagrams and often struggled, the diagrams becoming too complex for many people to understand Trying to explain the multi-dimensional problem in words is also problematic. This issue is often made worse by different people wanting to understand their dimension, and not being too bothered about the other dimensions. I have often found myself writing documents which repeatedly say and illustrate the same thing, but in different dimensions representing different members of the audience of the document. I’ve also used PowerPoint as a mechanism to constrain myself to a single slide for each dimension and hence each audience. This constraint actually helps to remove the desire to explain every other dimension.

If we want people to engage with something we need to show a dimension that’s relevant to them and not to confuse them with the totality of all of the dimensions. Showing all of the dimensions might not be enough though, we might need to show all of the dimensions in a way that is relevant to people with different learning styles.

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Right Brain – Left Hand

La Palud

One question that has popped up about brain orientation has been it connection with hand orientation. I’m left handed and appear to be right brained. The people asking the question are right handed, and having done the tests appear to be left brained.

It seems that the dominant point of view on this is that left-handed people have a tendency to be right-brained. It also appears to be a lot more complicated an answer than the simple, left or right question.

I’m starting to thing that the brain orientation issue has been over-simplified a bit and I need to go back to some basics in order to answer the fundamentals of the questions.

Brain type? Brain strength? Brain training?

Sand Art - La Palud

Well it was fun doing a couple of tests (here, here) on what type of brain I have. It was also interesting to see that they weren’t at all conclusive other than to prove that I don’t have a completely left oriented brain or a completely right oriented brain. I suspect if I did though I would be dead.

The problem with these two tests is that they don’t actually answer the important questions:

  • What type of brain do I need to be happy?
  • What type of brain do I need to remain employable?
  • How ‘strong’ is my brain?
  • Is it possible to change your brain orientation?
  • Is it possible to ‘train’ your brain?

It’s no use knowing that you are right-oriented if your brain is actually a load of mush and you can’t do anything about it.

Where do I go to find the answers to those questions?

The Right Side of the Brain

Quiberon sand artHoliday’s are great times to do something different. On this holiday I did two things which were different for me. The first one is the boring sounding one, I read a business book rather than a novel – The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. The second was spending lots of time on my daughters Nintendo DS playing Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training. While these two things might not sound like they have too much in common – both of them focus on the brain and specifically the use of the right side of the brain.

In the knowledge businesses the brain is obviously a very important asset, and understanding it could help us to look after it better.

Much scientific research has gone into understanding the brain. It would appear that the two  sides of our brain have different roles. The left side of the brain is apparently responsible for thinking things through in a linear way helping us to understand things sequentially. The right side of the brain processes things holistically, it’s about the big picture. The right side is also the side which is the creative side.

The web is littered with information.

In The World is Flat, Friedman argues that all of the left brain activities are the ones ripe for automation by IT systems, or for Outsourcing to other cheaper countries. The people who can see the whole picture and deal with concepts (the right brain people) will be the ones that will be invaluable. This type of people are the ones who will be the versatilists.

The Dr Kawashima game is focussed on exercising the brain – both left and right.

This has left me with a few questions, some of which I think it’s about time I knew the answer to:

  • Is it possible to change the focus of your brain – from left to right?
  • Which am I, left or right?
  • Is it possible to strengthen your brain?
  • If it is possible, how do you strengthen the right side?
  • Will truly right-brained people be the most valuable, or are we talking about people who are balanced?
  • Which type of people are the happier?
  • Will having a more balanced brain make me more employable in the future world?
  • What is creativity anyway?

No answers yet, but I’ll let you know how I get on.

Is my brain trying to tell me something

I often think that my hidden brain is massively more intelligent than the bit that I am conscious of working with every day.

My current wonder is the word collaobration, or should I say collaboration, because I current find it impossible to type collaboration without misspelling it.

As my job is primarily focussed on collaobration software I wonder whether my hidden brain is trying to tell me I’m in the wrong job and that I should give up trying to even spell the word .

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