Thursday, May 31, 2012

Serious Games: Developing a Research Agenda for Educational Games and Simulations

The folks over at SharpBrains are trying to get a means of evaluating the use of educational games and simulations.

The research overview pro­vided by Tobias, Fletcher, and Dai (this vol­ume) is very help­ful in sum­ma­riz­ing stud­ies to date on var­i­ous dimen­sions of edu­ca­tional games and sim­u­la­tions. The next chal­lenge for the field is to move beyond iso­lated research in which each group of inves­ti­ga­tors uses an idio­syn­cratic set of def­i­n­i­tions, con­cep­tual frame­works, and meth­ods. Instead, to make fur­ther progress, we as schol­ars should adopt com­mon research strate­gies and models—not only to ensure a higher stan­dard of rigor, but also to enable stud­ies that com­ple­ment each other in what they explore. As this book doc­u­ments, we now know enough as a research com­mu­nity to under­take col­lec­tive schol­ar­ship that sub­di­vides the over­all task of under­stand­ing the strengths and lim­its of games and sim­u­la­tions for teach­ing and learn­ing. Fur­ther, through a con­tin­u­ously evolv­ing research agenda we can iden­tify for fun­ders and other stake­hold­ers an ongo­ing assess­ment of which types of stud­ies are most likely to yield valu­able insights, given the cur­rent state of knowledge.

Research agen­das include both con­cep­tual frame­works for clas­si­fy­ing research and pre­scrip­tive state­ments about method­olog­i­cal rigor. (For an exam­ple of a research agenda out­side of gam­ing and sim­u­la­tion – in online pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment – see Dede, Ketel­hut, White­house, Breit, &McCloskey, 2009.) In addi­tion, research agen­das rest on tacit assump­tions often unstated, but in fact bet­ter made explicit, as dis­cussed below. In this chap­ter, to inform a research agenda for edu­ca­tional games and sim­u­la­tions, I offer thoughts about fun­da­men­tal assump­tions and a con­cep­tual frame­work that includes pre­scrip­tive heuris­tics about qual­ity. In doing so, my pur­pose is not to pro­pose what the research agenda should be – that is a com­plex task best done by a group of peo­ple with com­ple­men­tary knowl­edge and per­spec­tives – but to start a dia­logue about what such an agenda might include and how it might best be formulated.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Electric Car and Auditory Processing

LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 07:  The Chevy Volt is dis...
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 07: The Chevy Volt is displayed at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Hilton January 7, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology tradeshow, runs through January 10. The gadget show is expected to feature 2,500 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 110,000 attendees. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Like a lot of people, hubby and I have been very prudent through the Great Recession and have lived modestly (except for medical expenditures! and last year's vacations).  As a result, we have some really old cars that have had it:  a 1999 Acura Integra with 179,000 miles on it and a 1997 Ford Thunderbird with a transmission that was on the verge of falling out.   So, with my husband returning to work, we decided to buy a new car.

We fell into the green thing and got a super good deal on a Chevy Volt.  Love the car.  Got 87 mpg on a trip out to Atlantic City.  Got 50 mpg one day when we didn't charge.

But our ears love the car too.  Since our good deal included a high end stereo system (really, what more do you need in a car), Bluetooth and an inboard GPS, we are in heaven.  An electric car rides nice and quietly so we don't have any background engine noise.   Really nice for those of us with problems hearing signals in noise.

Also, with an integrated system, I can hear the GPS instructions no matter how loud I play my music!  The audio system lowers the music volume and increases the GPS volume.  Real nice.   In my Acura, when I am grooving to the tunes on a long trip, I can miss my instructions.  So, occasionally, I would miss a turn because I was too into my music.

Bluetoothed phone is also real nice too.  I can hear my cell phone nice and clearly regardless of the ambient noise.  Nice features for those suffering from auditory processing.

Copyright © 2010-2012 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

From Cubicles, Cry for Quiet Pierces Office Buzz -

office setup
office setup (Photo credit: Rob 'n' Rae)
How many ways can we annoy each other in the office?   Let me counteth the ways!

Noise is one of the chief suspects.   As corporate America tries to save space and, most especially money, they have gone towards the open office, aka, the bull pen.

The walls have come tumbling down in offices everywhere, but the cubicle dwellers keep putting up new ones. They barricade themselves behind file cabinets. They fortify their partitions with towers of books and papers. Or they follow an “evolving law of technology etiquette,” as articulated by Raj Udeshi at the open office he shares with fellow software entrepreneurs in downtown Manhattan.

“Headphones are the new wall,” he said, pointing to the covered ears of his neighbors.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What To Do With Too Many Greens From Your CSA

Lettuce (Photo credit: photofarmer)
For a lot of us in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where we've signed up to get a box of veggies each week, this is the time of year when we get inundated with greens.  So, I've got way too many greens.  In fact, due to the weather, we are drowning in spinach and we have been told we are going to be getting a lot more.

Spinach is relatively easy to deal with.  You can always boil it, stir fry it, or just fry it and it cooks down.  Today we made a nice Indian dish with spinach and substituted tofu for the Indian cheese.

However, we have tons of lettuce, arugala and bock choy.  I am turning much of these into soups or pilafs if I can't eat them as salads.

I have a nice recipe for arugala and chickpea and potato soup.  Arugula gives the soup a nice peppery zing.

As for lettuce, there is always lettuce wraps.  But when you just want to get rid of the stuff before it goes off, you've got to cook it in one form or another?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Shamanic Drumming: Sounds of the Soul

The sound of the shaman’s drum is very important. A shamanic ritual often begins with heating the drum head over a fire to bring it up to the desired pitch. It is the subtle variations in timbre and ever-changing overtones of the drum that allow the shaman to communicate with the spiritual realm. The shaman uses the drum to open portals to the spirit world and summon helping spirits. As Tuvan musicologist Valentina Suzukei explains, "There is a bridge on these sound waves so you can go from one world to another. In the sound world, a tunnel opens through which we can pass -- or the shaman’s spirits come to us. When you stop playing the drum, the bridge disappears."1

When a spirit is invoked, there is often an accompanying rhythm that evolves. Shamans frequently use specific rhythms to "call" their spirit helpers for the work at hand. A shaman may have a repertory of established rhythms or improvise a new rhythm, uniquely indicated for the situation. Shamans may strike certain parts of the drum to access particular helping spirits. The drumming is not restricted to a regular tempo, but may pause, speed up or slow down with irregular accents.

Shamans are also known for their ability to create unusual auditory phenomena. According to Scottish percussionist Ken Hyder, who has studied with Siberian shamans, "Shamans tend to move around a lot when they are playing, so a listener will hear a lot of changes in the sound…including a mini-Doppler effect. And if the shaman is singing at the same time, the voice will also change as its vibration plays on the drumhead."2 Furthermore, in a recent ethnographic study of Chukchi shamans, it was found that in a confined space, shamans are capable of directing the sound of their voice and drum to different parts of the room. The sounds appear to shift around the room, seemingly on their own. Shamans accomplish this through the use of standing waves, an acoustic phenomenon produced by the interference between sound waves as they reflect between walls. Sound waves either combine or cancel, causing certain resonant frequencies to either intensify or completely disappear. Sound becomes distorted and seems to expand and move about the room, as the shaman performs. Moreover, sound can appear to emanate from both outside and inside the body of the listener, a sensation which anthropologists claimed, "could be distinctly uncomfortable and unnerving."3  

The Shaman's Horse

The drum -- sometimes called the shaman's horse -- provides the shaman a relatively easy means of controlled transcendence. Researchers have found that if a drum beat frequency of around 180 beats per minute is sustained for at least fifteen minutes, it will induce significant trance states in most people, even on their first attempt. During shamanic flight, the sound of the drum serves as a guidance system, indicating where the shaman is at any moment or where they might need to go. "The drumbeat also serves as an anchor, or lifeline, that the shaman follows to return to his or her body and/or exit the trance state when the trance work is complete."4

Recent studies have demonstrated that shamanic drumming produces deeper self-awareness by inducing synchronous brain activity. The physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain synchronizes the two cerebral hemispheres, integrating conscious and unconscious awareness. The ability to access unconscious information through symbols and imagery facilitates psychological integration and a reintegration of self. Drumming also synchronizes the frontal and lower areas of the brain, integrating nonverbal information from lower brain structures into the frontal cortex, producing "feelings of insight, understanding, integration, certainty, conviction, and truth, which surpass ordinary understandings and tend to persist long after the experience, often providing foundational insights for religious and cultural traditions."5

It takes abstract thinking and the interconnection between symbols, concepts, and emotions to make unconscious information meaningful. The human adaptation to translate an inner trance experience into meaningful narrative is uniquely exploited by singing, vocalizing, and drumming. Shamanic music targets perception, memory, and the complex emotions attached to symbols and concepts; the core functions humans rely on to formulate belief.  Because of this exploit, the result of the synchronous brain activity in humans is the spontaneous generation of meaningful information which is imprinted into memory.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Overwelmed and Working Memory

Bits and Pieces (Painting and Poem)
Bits and Pieces (Painting and Poem) (Photo credit: faith goble)
Frankly I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed and a bit frenetic my world is changing a lot.It's like as my vision improves, I get to see more things. However, i am not editing out the unimportant things and I will focus on the fact that gas stations have bays or that now a plastic cup has very interesting little rings engraved on it. To the normal person these rings are nothing to notice, but they are there. So, I have been a bit ditzy these days and a bit forgetful.

My occupational therapist has explained that my brain is so busy analyzing and processing all this new input that it just doesn't have any space like it used to in my working memory. I will get my memory and processing speed tested at the end of May. So, we shall see if it is just a question of me getting a bit more used to the world or whether I truly have problems with memory.
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vision and Behavioral Disorders

Example of hazel-green eyes. Photo taken by my...
Example of hazel-green eyes. Photo taken by myself of my own eyes. Laurin Guadiana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Very Interesting article tying Vision and Behavioral Disorders such as ADHD, Depression, BiPolar Depression, and  Oppositional Defiance Disorder

The way in which we judge a child’s visual attention typically involves sustained attention to nearpoint tasks. One of the hallmark features of convergence insufficiency is the inability to sustain attention when reading. On the Convergence Insufficiency Symptom Survey (CISS), only 8% of children with normal binocular vision reported frequent inability to concentrate when reading as compared to 43% of the children with convergence insufficiency. (Borsting et al 2003) Loss of place occurred frequently for 58% of the children with convergence insufficiency as compared to only 11% of the children with normal binocular vision.

We might therefore suspect co-morbidity if not causality between convergence insufficiency and A-D/HD. 

One of the more intriguing theories about bipolar disorder is that the condition relates to vision through hemisphericity, the balance between left and right hemisphere integration, as well as chronobiology, the balance between sleep and wake light cycles. Papolos and Papolos (2006) posed the following question:

While the various interconnected brain nuclei and their multiple neurotransmitter, neuropeptide, and hormonal circuits keep us grounded in three-dimensional space, alerting us and assessing danger, remembering adaptive responses to environmental and social cues, what biological mechanisms anchor us to the passage of time, and how do they influence behavior? Their conclusion is that the timing of events within the central nervous system is at least as important to us as the spatial arrangements of the centers of neuronal activity in the brain. Viewed through this lens, bipolarity stems from dysregulation or desynchronization due to faulty biological clocks

Beyond the scope of our review, the entire field of syntonic phototherapy is structured around the concept of chronobiology and the application of light to influence the timing of the visual pathways and the functionality of visual fields. (Liberman 1991) Discovery of the significance of the suprachiasmatic nucleus on the release of melatonin has renewed interest in the potential for lens tints or more active forms of phototherapy to help influence mood and stabilize emotions. (Gottlieb and Wallace 2001).

This validation of syntonic phototherapy and chronobiology is surprising to me.  I had been following some syntonic phototherapy but had been a bit wary of it  as, to my layman's eyes, it seemed a little far out.  Apparently, I was wrong. 

Read more:
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Quantum Dots Repair Damaged Neurons

English: Quantum dot. Fran├žais : Nanocristal.
English: Quantum dot. Fran├žais : Nanocristal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Complete neuron cell diagram. Neurons...
English: Complete neuron cell diagram. Neurons (also known as neurones and nerve cells) are electrically excitable cells in the nervous system that process and transmit information. In vertebrate animals, neurons are the core components of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neuroscientists in Seattle, Washington, have discovered a way to use quantum dotslight-sensitive, semiconducting particles just a few nanometers in diameterto repair neurons which have been damaged by disease or age. When quantum dots were placed next to nerve cells and then stimulated by shining light on them, the ion channels of the nerve cells opened, allowng ions to rush in or out. This caused the nerve cells to fire. The development is an unlikely marriage between quantum physics and neuroscience.  

What's the Big Idea?
To reactivate damaged neurons, quantum dots need to be placed in the brain and stimulated by light. Lih Lin, who directed the study, says attaching certain molecules to the quantum dots would allow them to be delivered to the brain intravenously. Getting light into the brain without invasive surgery, however, will be trickier. So for the moment, quantum dots would most likely be used to cure blindness associated with retinal damage since the eye is built to receive light in the first place. Future research will target Alzheimer's and epilepsy.

I think this is very interesting as it is part of the NBIC convergence:  Nanotech, Biotech, Information Technology, and Cognition.  I wonder if some of my therapy may one day be replaced with quantum dots.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Life's Messy. Train Your Brain to Adapt

Sagittal human brain with cortical regions del...
Sagittal human brain with cortical regions delineated. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Margaret Moore is the founder and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital. Paul Hammerness, MD, is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Together, they hope to get at the physical and psychological roots of chaos. In a recent interview, Moore told Big Think that there is a cognitive basis for chronic disorganization.

Organization, she says, is not just about a cluttered desk. It’s about self-regulation, a skill that is developed by the pre-frontal cortex--the seat of executive function in the brain. The left pre-frontal cortex regulates your attention: it evaluates, judges, makes decisions. Modern life, with its barrage of incoming emails and phone calls and texts, taxes the pre-frontal cortex, inhibiting the brain’s ability to focus. Those who have naturally strong self-regulation can handle the overload—and those who don’t are left feeling guilty and out of control.

But the plasticity of the brain means we can all learn to be better focused and more organized. “When you can focus all of your brain on one thing, that’s when you’re at your best, she says. "You’re integrating all your brain. But it also consumes a huge amount of resources. You get tired. That’s really how the brain learns—when the brain is learning, it’s laying down new networks. The brain is changing when we focus. It takes a lot of energy, and when it’s depleted it isn’t able to manage the emotional brain. When your pre frontal cortex is depleted, your emotions rule all day. ”

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Art and Dance Dance Dance

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Yellow, Blue, ...
Piet Mondrian, Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red, 1937–42, oil on canvas, 72.5 x 69 cm, Tate Gallery. London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I just finished a painting class.   While I haven't been hiding from the heat I've been doing some reading and listening to Open University courses on consciousness, giftedness and nature.

My painting is abstract sort of like Rothko or Mondrian.  I have been going for a lot of big energetic colors lately.  I have been starting to understand the Munsell color system so my colors are coming out a lot stronger. 

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Mind Wandering Is Linked To Your Working Memory: Scientific American Podcast

Baddeley's model of working memory in English
Baddeley's model of working memory in English (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Think you can stay focused on this podcast for the next 60 seconds?
Well that depends on how much working memory you have, according to a new study in the journal Psychological Science (pdf).
Working memory is our ability to hold onto information for a short period of time, like keeping a phone number in mind while you search for your cell phone.
Now a study finds that your capacity for working memory is directly related to how often your mind wanders.
It turns out that those with a larger working memory capacity reported more distraction during the task. Indicating that our working memory strives to work at capacity. Such subjects had greater focus when tested with more complicated tasks.
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