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Educational psychology

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Original author: 
John Timmer


One of the problems with cognitive and behavioral research is getting a good cross-section of the general population. Although they're convenient to work with, a couple hundred college students rarely represent the full diversity of human capability and behavior, yet that's exactly what many studies rely on. But a brain-training game may now provide access to data on scales that behavioral scientists probably never dreamed of. With a user base of over 35 million, the data obtained through the game could help us tease out very subtle effects. But as a start, a team of researchers have focused on some simpler questions: how aging and alcohol affect our ability to learn.

The software is less a game itself than a game and survey platform. Developed by a company called Lumosity, it's available on mobile platforms and through a Web interface. The platform can run a variety of games (a typical one asks users to answer math questions that appear in raindrops before they hit the ground), all with an emphasis on brain training. A few games are available for free and users can pay to get access to more advanced ones.

The scientific literature on brain training games is a bit mixed, and there's some controversy about whether the games improve mental function in general, or only those specific areas of cognition that the game focuses on. Lumosity clearly argues for the former and one of its employees pointed Ars to a number of studies that he felt validate the company's approach. What's not in doubt, however, is that it has a huge user base with over 35 million registered users. And because the Lumosity platform is flexible, it has been able to get basic demographic information from many of those users; they and others have also filled out personality profiles and other assessments.

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Some inspiring and helpful thoughts on the creative career by our good man Ze Frank.

Some salient points in there about business and education as well.

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Original author: 
Akshat Rathi

U Penn

In recent years, massive open online courses (MOOCs), through the likes of Coursera, have attracted hundreds of thousands of students from across the world. Many teachers are using a "flipped" classroom model, where students take lectures through videos at their convenience and spend the time in class delving into issues they don't understand.

But are they really improving learning? The evidence is not fully convincing. A 2010 meta-analysis of the literature on online teaching by the US Department of Education revealed that there are only "modest benefits" to online learning compared to classroom learning, but more rigorous studies were needed. After all, ease of access to the learning material comes with a bundle of distractions only a single click away. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that students suffer from attention lapses when learning through videos.

Given those findings, an improvement in students' attentiveness is bound to pay significant dividends. To that end, Karl Szpunar, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard University, might have a rather simple solution to rein in distractions, one that focuses attention in real-world classrooms: intersperse pop quizzes into the online lectures.

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FuzzNugget writes "ReadWrite has posted a thought-provoking piece on how mobile devices killing our boredom may also be killing our creativity. Quoting: 'Numerous studies and much accepted wisdom suggest that time spent doing nothing, being bored, is beneficial for sparking and sustaining creativity. With our iPhone in hand — or any smartphone, really — our minds, always engaged, always fixed on that tiny screen, may simply never get bored. And our creativity suffers. ... For example, psychology professor Gary Marcus distinguishes between the two primary types of pursuits we use to defeat boredom. "Boredom is the brain's way to tell you you should be doing something else. But the brain doesn't always know the most appropriate thing to do. If you're bored and use that energy to play guitar and cook, it will make you happy. But if you watch TV, it may make you happy in the short term, but not in the long term." So much of what we do on our smartphones, however, is decidedly short-term: a few moments playing a game while we stand in line, a minute to scan Instagram as the person in front of us at the grocery store pulls out their checkbook. ' Of course, you'll probably be reading this on a smartphone."

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Digital design studio FIELD have long held a reputation for pushing the boundaries of computer-generated design. With a commitment to the aesthetic qualities of their output that’s uncharacteristic of creatives with such a technical background, they can count themselves almost peerless. Having just released Energy Flow, a monolithic application that offers almost infinite video storytelling subject to the manipulations of its user, they’ve set sail into uncharted waters exploring, for the first time, the potential of generative software and complex programming on narrative storytelling

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Robert Tercek at TEDxTransmedia 2012 - '7 Gifts for Creative Activists'

Robert Tercek is one of the world's most prolific creators of interactive content. He has created breakthrough entertainment experiences on every digital platform, including satellite television, game consoles, broadband Internet, interactive television and mobile networks. His expertise spans television, telecommunications and software. His motto is "Inventing the Future." He is passionate about inspiring audiences to seize their own destiny by thinking creatively and taking decisive action. At TEDx Transmedia 2012 he shared '7 gifts for creative activists' on creative collaboration and how to turn dreams into reality. Robert's website:

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