Monday, May 6, 2024

group of people staring at monitor inside room
Photo by Jake Hills on Unsplash

Greetings Starfighters,

I’ve come to grips with something that will be very helpful when working with teachers and students going forward. I’ve come to understand that my brain works a little differently than others regarding visualization.

I had just assumed that everyone sees images or even films playing in the inner theatre of the mind when thinking about events in the past or even as they tell a story. If I’m saying something about something I did or somewhere I went, I can very easily see the events unfold in my mind like I’m watching a movie.

I just assumed this is what everyone did when accessing memories. And, of course, I was hopelessly, completely wrong.

When I write a story and share it with my wife, I often say to her, “I just write the movie playing in my head.”

I don’t know how much that ability affects designing lesson plans or professional development activities for teachers, but I imagine that it does. Some people just can’t do it. I have to come to terms with how they see the world and how they process memories because they are not like me.

Yet again, I’m learning that you must learn the experiences of others before you can truly understand how they see the world, even in the world of their own mind. More on this in a bit.

Quote of the Day

"When you appeared in this world, you cried, and all the people around you rejoiced. You have to live your life in such a way that when you leave this world, you will rejoice, and all the people around you will cry." (Leo Tolstoy and Peter Sekirin, A Calendar of Wisdom)

“When you appeared in this world, you cried, and all the people around you rejoiced. You have to live your life in such a way that when you leave this world, you will rejoice, and all the people around you will cry.” (Leo Tolstoy and Peter Sekirin, A Calendar of Wisdom)

Musical Interlude

I have these five questions I ask people when I’m getting to know them; questions I stole directly from super music producer David Foster. The first question is simply, “Beatles or Stones?”

I may have to change that at some point, but while I have a healthy appreciation for the Beatles, I know I’ve found my people when I hang around those who answer Stones.

Of course, I’m speaking of the Rolling Stones. They are brilliant, with just enough bluesy rock to really get the adrenaline flowing and settle into a great jam.

Here’s a performance from the Tokyo Dome in 1990:

Long Read of the Day

Hyperphantasia, or intense visual imagery, can teach us about creativity and mental health. People like me, with hyperphantasia, can imagine things very clearly, sometimes blending our thoughts with what we see around us. This could change how we think about mental health.

On the other hand, aphantasia is when you can’t picture things in your mind. People with aphantasia think and remember things without seeing pictures, which differs from the bright images of hyperphantasia. While hyperphantasia can make creative work more vibrant, aphantasia can lead people to jobs where they don’t need to imagine things visually.

Studying these conditions can show how they affect jobs and mental health. People with hyperphantasia might remember past events very clearly, which can strengthen their feelings. However, people with aphantasia might find it hard to do tasks that require imagination or memory because they can’t use visual images to help them remember things.

Read more

Video of the Day

In this interview, Paul Auster, who recently passed away, discusses his journey to becoming a writer, triggered by a childhood memory of a missed autograph from baseball player Willie Mays. This event led him to always carry a pencil, symbolizing his readiness and later influencing his writing decision. Auster reflects on his early struggles with writing, where he amassed numerous unfinished manuscripts, viewing them as an apprenticeship for his later success. He emphasizes the laborious nature of his writing process, often rewriting a single page multiple times to achieve the perfect rhythm and fluidity, likening it to composing music.

This is a great video to share with your young writers, or if you have that writing itch you need to scratch yourself, take heed.

Final Thoughts

Sitting next to me is quite possibly the greatest shirt I’ve ever purchased. It just arrived in the mail today. If you think you can handle the awesome, perhaps I will share it with you tomorrow.


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The Meta-Diaries of Marion Milner: Prescribing Creativity

MARION MILNER, SUMMER BEECHES.
MARION MILNER, SUMMER BEECHES.

Marion Milner’s unique approach to self-discovery involved using her creative explorations in literature and art as a therapeutic project. Through her meta-diaries, she abandoned preconceived goals and embraced free writing to uncover hidden thoughts and dark instincts. Milner’s focus on creativity influenced her self-discovery and guided her therapeutic practice with patients like Simon, emphasizing the importance of creative expression for maintaining a sense of the future.

Since 1926, Milner had been writing diaries in which she recorded her impressions of life in ways that seem ordinary enough. She would, for example, note seeing “a little boy in a sailor suit dancing and skipping by himself on his way to look at the sea lions,” or reflect, “I realized how untrustworthy I am in personal relationships … always agreeing with the person present.” But in the thirties Milner turned her diaries, as a sort of raw material, into her first books, which were published as essayistic reflections about her diaries: A Life of One’s Own (1934) and An Experiment in Leisure (1937). In them she invented something new and a genre of her own: a diary about a diary, or what the critic Hugh Haughton has called a “meta-diary.” Contemporaries like W. H. Auden responded with enthusiasm.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Three Writing Tips Backed By Scientific Evidence

woman writing on a notebook beside teacup and tablet computer
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As my doctoral colleagues and I near the end of Year 2, we’re thinking more and more about writing our dissertations. While that process involves much research and planning, it also involves a whole heck of a lot of writing.

So, how do you write better? Here are three tips based on scientific evidence:

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and it doesn’t mention the most important part about becoming a good writer…

Writing. All. The. Time. The more you write, the better you’ll get. 2,000 words a day, according to Stephen King.

So, get to writing, my friends.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Doing the Work of Learning

There is no substitute for doing the work, whatever your work may be. Put in the time, mastery will come.

stephen king on writing

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Is journalism disappearing?

close up view of an old typewriter
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I know folks have strong feelings about this, especially journalism profs. Trust me — there’s no one who loves journalism as much as me, or someone who is constantly screaming about the blurring lines between *content* and *journalism.* But — I’m coming from a place of concern.

Tulika Bose, Scientific American

Leaders from several US journalism schools discuss the news industry’s declining state and how they prepare students to enter a turbulent business. They acknowledge the harsh economic realities facing the industry, which has seen layoffs and the closure of several news outlets.

However, they stress the importance of journalism and the need to teach students the skills needed to report on crucial events and provide accurate information to the public. These educators are also exploring ways to make journalism education more affordable and equip students with the knowledge to understand the business side of news.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Using Photography as a Writing Tool

black dslr camera mounted on black tripod
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Photography allows me to reevaluate my linguistic and narrative choices from a fresh perspective and reframe the central questions of my work.

Jennifer Croft

Jennifer Croft, a recipient of literary grants and a founding editor of The Buenos Aires Review, discusses how photography can be used as a tool to inspire and improve writing. Croft highlights various considerations in photography, such as format, frame, contrast, texture, and depth of field, that can be applied to literature in productive ways. By adopting a fresh perspective and reframing the central questions of their work, writers can experiment with different techniques and enhance their storytelling.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Beyond English: Why Writing Belongs in Every Classroom

person holding blue ballpoint pen writing in notebook
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Given the benefits of writing on reading skills, comprehension, information retention, higher-order thinking, and quality of learning, it makes sense for all teachers to focus on increasing the time they dedicate to writing in their classrooms.

Dr. Catlin Tucker

Dr. Catlin Tucker emphasizes the importance of integrating writing across all subjects in education. Tucker argues that writing enhances learning, academic success, and helps students develop relationship skills and manage emotions.

She highlights how writing boosts reading skills, comprehension, and higher-order thinking. It underscores the necessity for educators to support students through the writing process, leveraging it for a deeper understanding of material and emotional well-being, regardless of the subject taught


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Scraft – An AI Writing Tutor for Language Learners

old opened book with calligraphic inscription
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In a recent study conducted by researchers at Columbia University, a prototype AI writing-support tool named Scraft has been developed. This tool is designed to aid writing education by using recursive feedback mechanisms to encourage critical thinking.

Scraft is not just a simple text-generating AI; it’s a sophisticated tool that asks Socratic questions to users and provides personalized feedback throughout the writing process. This approach is designed to stimulate critical thinking and improve writing skills by engaging the writer in a recursive process of reflection and revision.

The researchers conducted a preliminary study with 15 students to evaluate the effectiveness of Scraft. The results indicated that the recursive feedback provided by Scraft was helpful in improving the students’ writing skills. However, the participants also noted that the feedback was sometimes factually incorrect and lacked context. This highlights the challenges of developing AI tools that can provide accurate and contextually appropriate feedback.

The researchers argue that AI writing-support tools should focus on preserving the recursive and thought-provoking nature of writing. This means that the AI should not just correct grammar and spelling errors, but also engage the writer in a dialogue that encourages reflection and revision.

Scraft could be particularly beneficial for multilingual learners. It can provide immediate, personalized feedback, which can be especially helpful for those who are learning English as a second language and may not have access to a human tutor. The Socratic questioning approach used by Scraft can also help multilingual learners to think critically in English, which is an important skill for academic writing.

However, it’s important to note that Scraft is still a prototype and further research is needed to improve its accuracy and contextual understanding. Despite these challenges, the development of Scraft represents an exciting step forward in the use of AI in education.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

2023: A Quick Half-Year Review

black and white typewriter on table
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Heading into the second half of 2023, I thought I’d take a minute and review some of my accomplishments thus far. This is mostly for my own benefit as I continue to curate a digital commonplace book.

Also, it scratches my itch to curate all the things. So here we go…

Reading

  • Yearly Books Goal: 150 books
  • Pages Read Goal: 50K
  • Current book count: 59 books
  • Current page count: 22k

Writing

  • Blog posts this year: 94
  • Class papers: Who the hell knows, but it was a lot

Professional Development

  • Four full-day PD sessions
  • Two mini-sessions
  • Numerous one-on-one meetings with teachers

Music

I curate a Spotify playlist every year of great songs I find or rediscover over the course of the year. Here is the 2023 playlist, so far:


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Comparing and Testing AI for Education

AI robots becoming the new rulers, a grand throne room filled with robots in regal attire, adorned with glowing symbols and intricate metalwork, human ambassadors kneel in submission, the mood is one of awe and submissiveness, Artwork, a detailed Renaissance-style oil painting with the use of dramatic chiaroscuro to highlight the metallic sheen and grandeur of the robots

Professor and friend John Nash co-hosts a podcast on all things online learning. In a recent episode, he shared his work on coaching ChatGPT to write more “human” and the results are… interesting…

While generative AI tools are very cool right now, they are a long way from being truly disruptive and overtaking the world.

Here’s what’s interesting. Scaffolding the prompts, defining perplexity and burstiness, and then prompting an explicit increase of those measures made the text “human” to GPTZero. Still, it also made the text ridiculously flowery and inflated. Kind of like when a master’s student thinks they are supposed to “sound academic.” It was so bad that the ChatGPT output was immediately suspect to my human eyes, even though GPTZero said it was likely written entirely by a human.

– John Nash, PhD