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Be honest: What is more appealing — ventral temporal context or Pokémon brain region?


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Calling the ventral temporal context the part of the human brain that helps people recognise and remember Pokémon lowers the entry barrier by relying on popular culture. It also helps a learner of neural physiology to link the abstract with something concrete.

That is the trick to using videos, popular culture, or anything that has emotional appeal. It is not getting stuck at ground level with something bright and easy. It is using that object as an anchor or hook to something fuzzier or more difficult.

It is Mother’s Day. This is a day set aside for children to thank their mothers at least once a year. Many express their love, so card, flower, and gift companies profit richly from sentiment.


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I like this video because it focuses on time and effort spent together. The mother is also authentic and funny without trying to be.

People who follow the main presenter, Inga, might marvel at how young her mother still looks. This is not due to the steam from the bao. People might know the saying that “black don’t crack”, but they might not have heard that “Asian don’t raisin”.

Happy Mother’s Day 2019!

Gmail has been rolling out scheduled sends and replies.

I have relied on the Gmail add-on, Boomerang, for years to do this. The add-on would change my Gmail layout and interfere with rollover effects, but I liked the convenience of scheduling email.

Now the feature is baked into Gmail as a standard feature on both desktop and mobile, all without the janky Boomerang effects.

While some might point out the giant swallowing effect that Gmail will have on Boomerang, I reflect on how this plays out in larger systems.

Change agents do not always see their efforts pay off in the short term or even in their lifetimes. Their cumulative efforts work like water eroding and shaping rock over time.

Some teachers crave videos that do ALL the teaching for them. I can understand that as a human response to unburdening oneself.


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But here is another strategy: Leveraging on videos that spark discussion. With enough creativity and critical thinking, an educator can weave just about anything — the Marvel comic universe, for example — into any subject. Here are just two examples on physics and philosophy.

 
This article cited a shocking statistic:

In one study, a test based on NASA’s recruiting process for engineers and rocket scientists was used to measure creativity and innovative thinking in small children. At age five, 98 percent of the kids had genius-level imaginative abilities. But at age ten, only 30 percent of the children fell into that category. Want to guess how many adults maintain their creative thinking skills after making it through our educational system? Just 2 percent.

So what might a parent or teacher do to encourage independent and creative thinking? They might take the advice of Esther Wojcicki, a teacher and the mother of Susan Wojcicki (the CEO of YouTube), Janet Wojcicki (a Fulbright winner), and Anne Wojcicki, cofounder of 23andMe.

  • Unshackle from standard curriculum, connect to the daily world: Get students to start “paying attention, taking an interest in the world around them, and forming their own opinions”.
  • Address the why: Remind them to ask why they are learning something. Tell them why.
  • Encourage questions and model seeking answers: Co-learn with kids, but show them search and evaluation strategies.

Jakob Nielsen found that it takes only five users to detect more than half of previously uncovered user interface problems. By reiterating this process over a usability testing cycle, one might roll out a fairly polished user interface.

I have found a similar principle when figuring out the culture of an organisation. I need only interact with a few people from different parts of its hierarchy to get a good feel of the place.

While my observations and experiences are anecdotal, this does not make them less true. But here is a caveat should anyone else decide to try this method: The new people you meet should not all be from the PR or HR group. Duh.

The Simpson’s Paradox has nothing to do with the popular and long-running cartoon. It has everything to do with how a single dataset can result in contradictory conclusions.


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The video above explains this paradox with examples and initially uses medicinal interventions to illustrate.

This paradox also applies in schooling and education. So just because a university or an edtech vendor claims that a classroom intervention or a tool is effective does not make it so, even if it can provide the research.

What is crucial is access to the data and understanding how it might be interpreted. Rarely is such research shared openly, so stakeholders cannot make informed decisions. So what might a stakeholder do?

Consider the context, i.e., the circumstances in which the studies were conducted and the situations in which the interventions and tools are to be applied. These will provide a healthy dose of skepticism and spark critical thinking.


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