How Is The Human Brain Like A Pencil?

May, 2010

What a “sharp” idea!

How is the human brain like a pencil? You probably have already guessed at least one possible  answer.

Here are some of my answers:

>They both need to be sharpened for the best performance.

>It’s what they have inside that’s important.

>They are only useful when used.

>It’s possible to erase what they produce, yet often times, a little “residue” remains.

Now, of course, I am using the pencil as a metaphor. The two (pencil & brain) are quite different. On the other hand, the first comparison of the two, where I state that they both have the need for sharpening in order to have the best performance, is powerful. An unsharpened pencil and brain both work, but not as well as sharpened ones. Let’s explore, a little deeper, this need for sharpening the brain.

It is very easy to get stuck in a routine of doing the same things, going to the same places, socializing with the same people, eating the same foods, drinking the same drinks, waking up and going to sleep at the same time, etc. Many people are literally stuck in a rut.

Being stuck in a rut is an example of a brain that isn’t being sharpened. In order to sharpen your brain, you need to do something you do not know how to do. You must learn new things in order to sharpen your brain. If you don’t know how to garden, then learn how. If you don’t know how to do crosswords puzzles, then learn how. If you don’t know how to use a particular piece of software for your computer, then learn how. The key is to force your brain to learn something that is new and non-simple.

Maybe this will also sharpen my brain! :-)

Learning new things can help keep you and your brain fit. Often the new thing you learn can help with both, mental and physical fitness. Therefore, you could use the act of sharpening your brain as a way to temporarily achieve total fitness. I used the word “temporarily” in the previous sentence because I don’t think it is wise to repeatedly use the same mental act. Anything we always mentally do can eventually end up not giving us any meaningful results. A simple example of this is driving a car. When I first learned to drive – at age 14 – I found it to be mentally challenging. After awhile, driving became such a simple routine that it was no longer challenging. It’s important to “mix-up” our mental challenges in order to sharpened the brain. Similar to doing the exact same physical workout everyday, doing the same mental workout will eventually result in little or no appreciable results.

Is a mechanical brain like this “pencil?” Never needs to be sharpened.

Finally, as some of you may have read in earlier posts, one of the reasons for my blog is, “writing for learning. In an earlier post entitled, “My Writing, Dementia and Mother,” I explained that this mental exercise of writing my blog for learning, hopefully, would also”ward-off” dementia. Of course, I have no evidence that it will, but I don’t see how it can hurt.

So, how is the human brain like a pencil? As mentioned in the first paragraph, they both need to be sharpened for the best performance. Oh, I almost forgot, they also have to be used in order to be useful! :-)

How about a sharpened comment?

Advertisements

What Does It Take To Motivate?

September, 2009
How do I motivate?

How do I motivate?

I have always wanted to be able to motivate myself and others.  As a friend, family member, team member, coach, teacher, mentor, etc., there have been many times where I wanted to be able to motivate people. Eventually, I discovered a strong connection between motivation, values and ideas. Here’s my humble attempt of explaining what I mean.

I remember coaching my son’s little league baseball team and wishing that I could somehow motivate him and his teammates so they would work together as one cohesive unit. I wasn’t able to. I remember student teaching and wishing that I could motivate the students I was responsible for, to pay attention to what I was teaching and follow my instructions. To be honest, I wasn’t successful. Oh, the students were fine, because my cooperating teacher (the true professional and experienced teacher) was able to “clean up” after me. Of course, I was student teaching and was learning how to teach. Part of what I was learning, while student teaching, was how to motivate. What did I learn?

Well, the first thing I learned was that I can’t motivate someone else. I know, you are probably saying to yourself, “that doesn’t make sense.” Really, trying to motivate someone is similar to didactic teaching (teaching by telling). When a teacher teaches by telling, s/he usually ends up helping her/himself understand better what was already known. In other words, it was good for the teacher and not good for the student.

Let me tell you about didactic!

Let me tell you about didactic!

Now, I know you are aware of people who are very good motivators. So, what is it that they do? Let’s consider what good salespeople do. They don’t sell products, but instead, they sell ideas. They will find out what really matters to the people they are trying to sell to and then build that into an idea. The idea is what they really sell. Take, for example, a salesperson trying to sell you a car. The good salesperson works at finding out what you value and then “sells” you on how the car fits your values. The salesperson isn’t selling the car, but instead the idea of how the car is what you value.

If you want to motivate someone, you must present the person with ideas that stimulate her/him into action. Be as clear as possible. Show a picture, a video, an article, and/or any other “thing” that helps clarify the idea and how it connects with what you are trying to motivate the person to do.

Now, here's something I value.

Now, here’s something I value.

As a general rule, in order to motivate, you must show those you are motivating the personal “pay” for them. First, find out what they value. Second, tie in what they value to what you are motivating them to do. Third, illustrate the end result. Maybe the end result is only they will feel good. If that is it, then be sure to illustrate that end result as clearly as you can. Describe the feeling and explain to them how they are going to absolutely love it. For example, let’s consider trying to motivate someone to learn a particular subject in school. First, we need to take what they value and connect it to the subject they are learning. Specifically, let’s consider the subject of history. Suppose the person we are motivating to learn history values baseball. Perhaps, we could connect the long and storied history of baseball to the study of history and show how using historical thinking allows us a greater appreciation for baseball. Finally, paint a vivid picture in the learners’ mind how history will give a deeper appreciation of  many other interests, both current and in the future.

This, of course, is only a short explanation of how motivation is tied to values and ideas. Hopefully, if you value the power of motivation, then you have an idea of how to start motivating. I wish I could switch motivation and idea in the previous sentence. They didn’t come out in the correct order. :-)

I value your idea and comments about motivation.

I have an idea about what you value.

I have an idea about what you value.

grab-small-r21

Value  → Idea → Motivate


“And” What Is Better Than “But?”

September, 2009
Pen and Pencil, but maybe Pen and Pen :-)

Pen and Pencil, but maybe Pen and Pen :-)

What is the difference between “and” and “but?” They are both conjunctions. They are also known as co-ordinating conjunctions. One is inclusive (and) and the other is “sort of” exclusive (but). I guess that is a difference. On the other hand, I’m the one who declared the two as inclusive and exclusive conjunctions. As far as I know, there is no formal designation of inclusive and exclusive applied to “and” and “but.” OK, so what’s the point?

...But... :-(

…But… :-(

The point is that I think “but” forces us to think in such a way that we pay little attention to what comes before the “but.” I realize that I use many sentences with the word “but” and indeed, what I write before the “but” is not usually as important to the thought being portrayed in the sentence as what follows. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to what is before “but”; it means we should know that without what follows the “but,” the sentence is an incomplete thought. You know, those sentences where a person says, “That’s true, but …” What follows is an explanation about why you shouldn’t pay any attention to what was just declared as true. How about, “This is an interesting idea, but …?” What is really being communicated is that the idea is not good and here is why. Ouch!

It’s important for us to realize that certain things we say are almost designed to create conflict. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the word “but” can be conflicting. Replace the word “but” with “and” and we have a much better chance of smooth and conflict free communication. How about, “That’s true, but …” compared to “That’s true and …?” The second sentence sounds like you are respecting what was previously said and not excluding its merit. Or, consider, “That’s an interesting idea, but you could look at it this way” compared to, “That’s an interesting idea and you could look at it this way.” The “and” is friendlier. At least, that’s what I think.

...And... :-)

…And… :-)

So, why is using “and” friendlier than using “but?” I think it has to do with “and” including what proceeds it as compare to “but,” which seems to exclude what precedes it and directs your attention to what follows. I guess we could call this a big “but” problem! :-)

I know I’m guilty of overusing “but” in my writing. Reading some of my past postings, I’ve noticed some cases where it would have been better to use “and” instead of “but.” I hope that my writing didn’t cause conflict, since an overuse of “but” could cause my readers to be subconsciously hostile. Using the word “and” more, will subconsciously cause agreement. Agreement instead of hostility by the simple use of “and” instead of “but.” Now that’s an easy solution and “no buts about it!” :-)

BUT AND, what do you think?grab-small-r21


What Is “Correct” English?

August, 2009
Correct English Class?

Correct English Class?

Recently, I sent the following e-mail to some friends and relatives. I had received a “joke” where the humor was derived from the way someone spelled and pronounced a name. My e-mail was designed to encourage a response to the “joke,” focusing on the importance of using “correct English” and providing different points of view for this posting.

Here’s the e-mail with the “joke.”

————————————-

How To Pronounce Le-a

Hello All,

I received the following recently and was wondering what you thought of it. I have been thinking about doing a blog posting on “What’s the value of using ‘correct English’ when speaking and writing?”

Many of you, over the past few years, have expressed to me your feelings and/or thoughts regarding this. Sometimes you have criticized, made fun, joked, snarled, laughed, etc.

I’m wondering if you have any strong feelings about the “incorrect use of English.”

Please share, if you care.  :-)

–Ron

How would you pronounce this child’s name? “Le-a”

Leah??        NO 
       Lee – A??            NOPE 
        Lay – a??             NO 
        Lei??                    Guess Again.  

This child attends a school in Detroit, MI.. Her mother is irate because everyone is getting her name wrong.  It’s pronounced “Ledasha”, When the Mother was asked about the pronunciation of the name, she said, “the dash don’t be silent.”  

SO, if you see something come across your desk like this please remember to pronounce the dash.   If they axe you why, tell them the dash don’t be silent.

_________________________________

Is sign language correct english?

Is sign language correct english?

OK, I’m sure you can see an element of sensitivity in the “joke.” Some of my friends immediately said that the “joke” was from a racist. Of course, they thought that since the child attends school in Detroit, MI and “ask” was pronounced as “axe,” that a reasonable implication is the mother and child are black. I’m not sure that is a fair implication, but I do see the possibility. Having stated that, there was a hidden reason for me to ask my friends and relatives for a response.

You see, I am guilty of purposely using incorrect English on my website. I have a site for math tutoring and enrichment called “R2Math4U” and I know that the title is not “correct English,” or is it? As you might imagine, I have a reason for the title. Let me explain. “R2” is for Ron Rogers. “Math” is for math. “4” has two different meanings. First, the “4” is for “for.” :-) Second, the “4” is for the cardinal number four. How am I using it as the number four, you asked? Well, I am offering math tutoring and enrichment in four different ways – one to one, telephone, e-mail, and through the website. And last, but not least, the “U” is for you. Therefore, R2Math4U means that Ron Rogers is offering math tutoring and enrichment four different ways for you!

 English (correct) sheep dog:-)

English (correct) sheep dog:-)

I think the mother in the “joke” and I are guilty of the same incorrect use of the English language. That is assuming we are incorrectly using the language. Perhaps we are simply using the language in a creative way. In 1940, what did the word “astronaut” mean? In 1950, what did the word “software” mean? In 1960, what did “email” mean? In 1970, what did “AIDS” mean? In 1980, what did “www” mean? In 1990, what did “blog” mean? And how do you pronounce, Web 2.0? I’ll bet you say “web 2 point oh” and not “web 2 and zero tenths.”  Ok, ok, I’m sure you see my point. We are constantly inventing new “words” and new ways to write and pronounce words. Perhaps R2Math4U and Le-a are examples.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that my maternal grandfather pronounced “ask” as “axe.” No, he wasn’t black, but a white man who immigrated from Copenhagen, Denmark and spoke with a strong Danish accent. He also spoke incorrect English (i.e. the dash don’t be silent). If the joke had used the word “father” instead of “mother” and if my mother’s name was Le-a instead of Lola, then it could have been about my family. :-)

How about a creative comment.grab-small-r21


Are You Only Happy When You’re Right?

August, 2009
Yes, it's right!

Yes, it’s right!

I'm one happy guy.

I’m one happy guy.

I had a conversation recently with a person who made the following statement, “For my own happiness, it’s important that people think I’m right.” The statement made me pause and literally step back. I think the person has his personal happiness tied directly to whether or not he is right. Later, I asked him if he would rather be right or happy? His response to that question was even more revealing. He said, “I am only happy when I think I am right.” Please note that in this discussion, “right” means correct and has nothing to do with politics. :-)

The feeling that I got from this conversation is he would go to almost any extreme to prove somebody wrong in order to make him right. He is willing to sacrifice a lot, such as relationships or respect, just to be right. I’m not sure if he realized that people who make others look bad generally make themselves disliked. I know that while I talked with him, I got an “unlikeable feeling” from just our conversation. It all stemmed from imagining how he was making others feel so he could be “right.”

Sort of right :-)

Sort of right :-)

I think, fundamentally, there is a choice here. Would you rather be right or happy? Now, I know that it is often very complex and not as simple as one or the other. Having stated that, “being right,” where one sees the world as one big competition and winning translates into the end result of right as compared to happy, is not realistic. A person cannot, or at least should not, always expect to be right.

Life should not be a competition of who is right or wrong, but instead, I think it should be viewed as a cooperative endeavor where happiness is the end result. The best approach is for all of us to realize that everyone is on a learning curve. Cooperating instead of competing will help create a world of happiness instead winners and losers. I know that when I was teaching, having my students focus on cooperation instead of competition allowed more and better learning for all.

Each of us must decide what we value. If we value winning above happiness, then how can we be happy when we lose? Oh, I know, we won’t lose. Now, is that realistic? No, but people who value winning instead of general happiness often will not take chances for fear of failure. They will often make “lying” statements of “I don’t know” when they’re sure they do. Of course, no one knows everything, but a fear of failure will cause us to lie about what we know — the “I don’t know” syndrome often seen in children. Wow, that reminds of the classic statement of, “The only thing I know is that I don’t know.” I believe that is almost a “Socratic Statement.”

This “right or happy” is just a matter of choice. We need to decide for ourselves what kind of person we want to be. One who chooses freely and is responsible for the choices. One who gives and takes freely and is responsible for the give and take. One who knows that between competing and cooperating, that one is about being right and the other is about being happy! Of course, sometimes we can do both, but when we can’t, which one do you choose?

Yes, we chose happiness!

Yes, we chose happiness!

grab-small-r21


Tackling Tonguing Tough Tongue Twisters!

August, 2009
Tongue "stucker" or twister?

Tongue “stucker” or twister?

Today, let’s have some fun with tongue twisters. Besides fun, we can also help ourselves become better at pronunciation. Fun pronouncing to improve pronunciation. Wow!

First, here are a few short ones to warm us up.


Red lorry, yellow lorry.
Unique New York
Greek grapes
he epitome of femininity
Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?

Red lorry, yellow lorry

Unique New York

Greek grapes

The epitome of femininity

Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?

Supposedly, the toughest little tongue twister in the english language is:

“the sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.”

What do you think?

Some well known tongue twisters are “short poems.”

A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk, but the stump thunk the skunk stunk.

Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie.

She stood on the balcony, inexplicably mimicking him hiccoughing, and amicably welcoming him home.

Some can be a little “dirty.”

I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit; and on the slitted sheet I sit.

One smart fellow; he felt smart. Two smart fellows; they felt smart. Three smart fellows; they all felt smart.

Some “well known ones” are from longer poems.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper Picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

She sells seashells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
And chuck as much as a woodchuck would
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.

Mr. See owned a saw.
And Mr. Soar owned a seesaw.
Now, See’s saw sawed Soar’s seesaw
Before Soar saw See,
Which made Soar sore.
Had Soar seen See’s saw
Before See sawed Soar’s seesaw,
See’s saw would not have sawed
Soar’s seesaw.
So See’s saw sawed Soar’s seesaw.
But it was sad to see Soar so sore
just because See’s saw sawed
Soar’s seesaw.

Is there any value to tongue twisters? In other words, other than fun, do tongue twisters help us in any way? Yes!

Teaching poetry to children is one value of tongue twisters. They serve as attention grabbers and help children to keep their focus on the lesson.

When learning another language, tongue twisters may help. They force the mind to concentrate on pronunciation.

Perhaps, the greatest value is “having fun with language.” Learning is a joyous and fulfilling experience. Tongue twisters can make it “funner.” (more fun:-)

How about a tongue twisting comment from you?grab-small-r21


Quotes, Questions and Answers!

August, 2009
“There is a mysterious connection between language and thinking.”
How can we access our thinking?
Since it is difficult to think without using (one’s own) language, the natural way to access thinking is through language. The tool to use is the language arts. To access and improve our mathematical thinking we must READ THE MATH, WRITE THE MATH, HEAR THE MATH, SPEAK THE MATH, therefore THINK THE MATH. This is true for all academic learning.
“Choose freely, live creatively, and think critically.”
What does this mean?
Choosing freely means you are choosing and accepting the responsibility of your choice. Living creatively means you are living in a way in which you are creating the meaning of life in your mind. Thinking critically means you are thinking about your thinking and assessing your thinking with good intellectual standards–clarity, relevancy, appropriateness, logicalness, etc. As a problem-solver, citizen, parent, student, teacher, legislator, professional, or any other label one might have, the focus statement of “choose freely, live creatively, and think critically” can keep us directed toward rationality. By rationality I mean, conforming to principles of good reasoning, showing good judgment, being sensible, logical, and relevant.
“What you are becoming is often more important than what you are accomplishing.”
What are you becoming?
A life-long learner? Yes, but what are you learning? It is important to “become” the learner that has good intellectual traits, such as intellectual empathy, intellectual courage, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, and fair-mindedness. With good intellectual traits the thinker can be a life-long learner who is productive in a positive manner in a democratic society. The “becoming” is acquiring good intellectual traits and the “accomplishing” is life-long learning.
“Questions drive thinking.”
Why focus on questions instead of answers?
Asking questions is a sign of thinking. Questioning is necessary in order to keep your thinking active. Questions do not need to be asked to anyone but yourself. In fact, the goal, though not attainable in most situations, would be to answer all of your own questions. For every question you ask, ideally your mind will generate two more. Therefore, if you start with one question and pursue your line of thinking, you end with many questions. Questions are a sign of an active mind and not a sign of ignorance. Use questions to drive thinking.
“Know yourself.” “Be true to yourself.”
Who should assess our thinking?
Ultimately, each person must assess him/herself. As you know, you don’t always have another person to assess your thinking. We must constantly work toward the time in which we will assess our own thinking and decide for ourselves its clarity, accuracy, relevancy, appropriateness, etc. Self-assessment should be done on everything that represents one’s own thinking.
“Metaphorically speaking in education, the journey is more important than the destination.”
When are we learning?
We are always learning. The question is, what are we learning? We must view our journey of life as the important time for learning and not just the end of our formal schooling as the time we are learned. Education is never ending. It is like life, in the sense that as long as you are alive, you are also learning. The only destination is to be a life-long learner. When are you learning mathematics, language arts, science, history, etc. ? ALWAYS!

Note: This post contains quotes that I have been using for awhile. I am unsure if any of them are verbatim from some single source. If you know a direct source of any of them, I would appreciate a comment.

◊ Responding to “questionable” quotes. :-)question

“There is a mysterious connection between language and thinking.”

How can we access our thinking?

Since it is difficult to think without using (one’s own) language, the natural way to access thinking is through language. The tool to use is the language arts. To access and improve our mathematical thinking we must READ THE MATH, WRITE THE MATH, HEAR THE MATH, SPEAK THE MATH, therefore THINK THE MATH. This is true for all academic learning.

“Choose freely, live creatively, and think critically.”

What does this mean?

Choosing freely means you are choosing and accepting the responsibility of your choice. Living creatively means you are living in a way in which you are creating the meaning of life in your mind. Thinking critically means you are thinking about your thinking and assessing your thinking with good intellectual standards–clarity, relevancy, appropriateness, logicalness, etc. As a problem-solver, citizen, parent, student, teacher, legislator, professional, or any other label one might have, the focus statement of “choose freely, live creatively, and think critically” can keep us directed toward rationality. By rationality I mean, conforming to principles of good reasoning, showing good judgment, being sensible, logical, and relevant.

“What you are becoming is often more important than what you are accomplishing.”

What are you becoming?

A life-long learner? Yes, but what are you learning? It is important to “become” the learner that has good intellectual traits, such as intellectual empathy, intellectual courage, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, and fair-mindedness. With good intellectual traits the thinker can be a life-long learner who is productive in a positive manner in a democratic society. The “becoming” is acquiring good intellectual traits and the “accomplishing” is life-long learning.

“Questions drive thinking.”

Why focus on questions instead of answers?

Asking questions is a sign of thinking. Questioning is necessary in order to keep your thinking active. Questions do not need to be asked to anyone but yourself. In fact, the goal, though not attainable in most situations, would be to answer all of your own questions. For every question you ask, ideally your mind will generate two more. Therefore, if you start with one question and pursue your line of thinking, you end with many questions. Questions are a sign of an active mind and not a sign of ignorance. Use questions to drive thinking.

“Know yourself.” “Be true to yourself.”

Who should assess our thinking?

Ultimately, each person must assess him/herself. As you know, you don’t always have another person to assess your thinking. We must constantly work toward the time in which we will assess our own thinking and decide for ourselves its clarity, accuracy, relevancy, appropriateness, etc. Self-assessment should be done on everything that represents one’s own thinking.

“Metaphorically speaking in education, the journey is more important than the destination.”

When are we learning?

We are always learning. The question is, what are we learning? We must view our journey of life as the important time for learning and not just the end of our formal schooling as the time we are learned. Education is never ending. It is like life, in the sense that as long as you are alive, you are also learning. The only destination is to be a life-long learner. When are you learning mathematics, language arts, science, history, etc. ? ALWAYS!grab-small-r21


%d bloggers like this: