Dixie Darr

Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

In Learning, Learning Tools, work on December 30, 2008 at 5:59 pm

Some Assembly Required

Here’s a simple way to determine whether you are primarily a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner. When you buy or receive something labeled with the three scariest words in the English language, some assembly required, how do you react?

Do you look at the diagrams, read the instructions, or just dive right in and try to figure it out yourself?

If you look at the diagrams, you are a visual learner.

If you read the instructions, you are an auditory learner.

If you dive in and figure it out for yourself, you are a kinesthetic learner. You’ve heard the expression, when all else fails, read the instructions, right? Strong kinesthetic learners won’t read the instructions even when all else fails. If they have to, they might have someone else read the instructions and then tell them what to do.

Of course, the smartest people are the ones who find someone else to put the thing together for them.

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In creativity, Learning, work on December 18, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Looking Back

Alyson Stanfield, the Art Biz Coach recently shared this list of year-end questions to evaluate progress over the last twelve months. With a few adjustments, I think it will work for just about anybody, artist or not. I plan to use it as a guideline for planning 2009.

How did you promote your art?
What did you do to enhance your online presence?
What technological skills did you learn or improve?
How many people did you add to your mailing list?
Who were the top ten cool or influential people you met?
Whom did you mentor or help out?
Did you create a new business card, portfolio, or other marketing piece?
What medium or skill did you attempt or master?
What did you try that was completely new?
What did you try that was uncomfortable, but helped you grow?
What worthy cause did you support in some way?
What new art events, galleries, and museums did you visit?
What resources did you discover?
How did you improve your studio habits?
What books did you read to help your career? What videos or films were useful?
What seminars/workshops/lectures did you attend or teach?
How did you enhance your office or studio environment?
What organizations were you involved with?
What grants/honors/awards did you receive?
What articles were written about your work?
What exhibits, grants, contest, etc. did you submit your art to?
Where did you save a wad of money?
What was the single best thing that happened to your art career in 2008?

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In Home, Learning, self-employment, work on December 15, 2008 at 1:14 pm

No Snow Day

It’s brutally cold in Denver: Minus 19° overnight and a high today of only about 20°. All I want to do is burrow in somewhere cozy and wait for warmer weather. One of the disadvantages of working or studying at home is that you don’t get any snow days. We didn’t get much snow out of this storm, so nobody’s getting a snow day today, and I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t have to join the rush hour madness this morning.

When I face new students at the University of Phoenix, one of the first things they always ask me about is weather cancellations. They react with surprise when I tell them that we just don’t do them. Denver’s national reputation for cold and snow aside, our weather really isn’t bad. The bigger issue, though, is that dealing with the impossibly full schedules of adult college students is extremely difficult. We can’t just cancel classes and forget about them; we have to make them up within the same week, a Herculean task.

Staying cheerful in freezing temperatures can be an adventure. Yesterday ten people showed up at my church to go caroling even though it was only 5°. We had a good time and maybe even brought a few people a little Christmas cheer.

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In creativity, Learning, Learning Tools on December 12, 2008 at 4:37 pm

What About Granny Einstein?

My little great nephew, Griffin Wilson, (is he a cute kid or what?) celebrated his first birthday this week. At a loss at what to send as a birthday gift for a one-year-old, I asked several people for suggestions. The idea I liked the best was a Baby Einstein DVD.

Although I hesitate to advocate using the TV as a babysitter, my friend Maureen assured me that the DVDs are great when you need to take a shower. I talked to my niece (Griffin’s mom) later and she told me that he loves his Baby Einstein videos. “He doesn’t normally pay any attention to the TV,” she said, “but when his Baby Einstein video comes on, he is immediately drawn to it.” His interest is so intense, in fact, that she wonders if there’s some kind of subliminal messages included, although she didn’t know what a subliminal message for a baby might be. Griffin is currently learning sign language from his signing video.

It led me to wonder where are the Granny Einstein products? If these are such good learning tools, why are they only made for tiny tots?

Maybe Video Professor is at the other end of the spectrum, although they focus exclusively on computer skills and there are plenty of other topics I’d like to learn. YouTube is filling in the gap. Want to learn about investing, time management or losing weight, chances are good that somebody out there has posted a video on that topic on YouTube. Here’s one of my favorites about the perils of PowerPoint.

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In creativity, Learning, work on December 10, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Gift of Time

Your gift this year is the secret to time management. It’s elegant in its simplicity and so obvious that you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. Interested? The secret to time management is this: Do less.

I know; you don’t want to hear it. You want to know how you can continue doing everything you’re currently doing and still have plenty of time left over to do MORE. Americans have succumbed to a cult of terminal busy-ness. This is the only country in the world with a national monument called Rushmore.

Part of this greed for time stems from our belief that time is money. It isn’t. If time were money, you could put it in a savings account and use it whenever you chose. You could take out a time loan, then pay it back with interest. We would all carry time credit cards and live on borrowed time. Killing time, like destroying money, would be a federal offense.

Time has become our most precious commodity. If time were money, people would stand on street corners begging for spare time. You could buy extra time when you need it. For example, I could have bought an extra 24 hours to write this column — and I could pay it back some day when I have the flu and time is really dragging.

If time were money, privileged people would have more than the rest of us. Instead, we all have the same 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can’t earn more, no matter how hard you work. In fact, the harder and longer you work, the less discretionary time you have available. Remember, work expands to fit the time available.

No matter how lucky you are, you can’t win more time. There is no time lottery. You can’t put a nickel’s worth of time into a slot machine and win back 500 minutes. If you spend your time doing something that doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, you can’t return the activity and get your time back.

On the other hand, we do experience time inflation. As we get older, an hour simply doesn’t go as far as it used to. Scientists say that soon we may reasonably expect to live 150 years. Unfortunately, those are 21st century years and they’ll only go as far as about 75 years in the 20th century.

Time isn’t money. Your time is your life, so don’t squander it on nonessentials. The only way to have an abundance of time is to use it only for things that really matter. That’s my wish for each of you this year–that you will get less done and enjoy it more.

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In Learning on December 9, 2008 at 10:16 am

Money to Learn and Learning to Earn

The latest economic forecast for Colorado is in and—big surprise—it shows that we face a recession in 2009, just like the rest of the country. Three sectors will hold their own or even grow: government, health care, and education.

Education always thrives in hard times. As people lose their jobs to layoffs and plant closures, they turn to schools to reboot their careers. Most of my students tell me that they decided to enroll in college at a time when their lives are already full for three reasons:

  1. To qualify for a better job.
  2. To enhance their employability in case of a layoff.
  3. To change careers.

Ironically, in an economic crisis, going to school usually means diving deeper into debt. At least one older student thinks she has found an answer to this problem. Since student loans only become due when the student’s education ends, she vows to continue going to school, earning one degree after another until she dies.

We all need to keep learning throughout our lives, so maybe she has a point. I’m looking forward to seeing what innovative methods the Obama administration comes up with to finance education.

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In creativity, Learning on December 5, 2008 at 3:02 pm

To Teach is to Learn

I can’t quit teaching because I learn so much from my students. This week I learned about gauged ears. The first time I saw someone (outside of National Geographic) with these large stretched earlobe piercings, I was horrified. Why on earth would somebody want to do that to themselves? Of course, I have the same reaction to all kinds of body piercings and tattoos.

I’ve been noticing more and more of these odd mutilations (my word), so I asked one of my younger students what they were called. Gauging is the colloquial term and refers to the incrementally sized tapers used to gradually stretch the skin, sometimes (as in my waitress) forming holes as big as several inches across.

My student wants to grow his fairly large because the larger the holes, the wiser the person. I can’t really follow that logic, but according to Wikipedia, stretched piercings were popular thousands of years ago in Asia and Africa. “The re-emergence of body piercing in the developed world has been accompanied in an interest in stretched piercings. Much of this activity was initially associated with the modern primitive movement, but like piercing in general, it has become a more mainstream activity, common amongst young people and members of many subcultures as an identifier and due to its aesthetic appeal to the masses.”

The fact that it doesn’t appeal to the masses of my generation is probably the point.

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In creativity, Learning on December 3, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Sleep on it

When I tell my students that sleep is very important to their brain functioning, they nod in boredom and roll their eyes. While they can accept that some of them are natural morning people and some are nightowls, they typically believe that sleep is a waste of time. Most already sleep fewer than six hours a night.
A few months ago, I discovered Brain Rules by brain researcher, John J. Medina. This fascinating book describes 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Rule #7 is Sleep well. Think well. The book comes with an entertaining and accessible DVD.
Apparently, people are more likely to listen to a scientist than a teacher when it comes to the need for sleep. The week after I showed the video, a student reported that he had tried taking a 30-minute nap before studying and found, much to his surprise, that he was able to finish his work quickly and easily and retain more of what he read.
Faced with his testimony, some of his more skeptical classmates thought they might just try it themselves.
Today came news that a national panel of medical experts is recommending mandatory sleep breaks and more structured shift changes for medical students to reduce the risk of fatigue-related errors. It’s nice when doctors finally accept that they are not super-human after all.

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In Learning Tools on December 1, 2008 at 10:59 am

Audio Textbooks: Listen and Learn

I didn’t really discover audio books until a couple of years ago. I never considered myself an auditory learner. Then I accidentally ordered a copy of Janet Evanovich’s book, Twelve Sharp, on CD from the library. I listened to it and I was hooked. Now, I always listen to a book on CD when I’m in the car, and I’ve been known to sit in the car long after I’m parked to hear the end of a chapter.

Since I teach learning styles, I am aware that many of my students prefer to learn by hearing. Now, I also realize that audio books are a real time saver for adult students. Adults who attend college are already juggling many responsibilities. They have families, jobs, church, and other activities, and they have to fit studying into already full lives.

Audio books could be a real time saver. Students could “read” their assignments as they do the laundry, mow the lawn, cook dinner, or drive. They could also save money, and textbook publishers could more quickly, easily and inexpensively update CD books. Unfortunately, few textbooks are available on CD. Some students have approached their school’s ADA office for access to audio versions of books for blind students.

Now the University of Phoenix is trying out audio books as an option for students in a few classes. Although these books feature the mechanical voice that reads everything on the page (“illustration here”) instead of the professional actors who record most popular CD books, the students love it and are clamoring for more. Let’s hope the textbook publishers are listening.

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