Call Number, Volume 70, Number 2, Fall 2011 Page: 10
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Department of Learning Technologies
How to Keep Learning
I was recently asked to make a presentation to
a student group. The assigned subject was "Things
I Have Learned About ...:' I suppose everyone
agrees that it is a good thing to continually
increase our learning and understanding. This
invitation caused me to reflect on some of the
Bill Elieson valuable things I have learned in just the last few
years, in a variety of topics. And that led me to
reflect about how to keep learning throughout one's life. I would like to pass
on a few of these thoughts to you. In the interest of space and time, I will
limit myself to just two aspects of this question.
Mechanics of brain maintenance.
I'll start with the mundane matter of trying to stay mentally sharp as
we age. It is always sad to see a loved one whose brain has aged, perhaps more
quickly than the rest of their body, to the point where they are no longer
independent or able to function as they once did. And "senior moments"
occur to all of us more often than we wish, and at a younger age than we
might expect. So what can we do about this normal ageing process? I will not
pretend that it can be halted and, of course, everybody has a different genetic
inheritance. But I do believe in the research that says it can be slowed down.
How? The research seems to say that mental games and puzzles help,
as do reading, writing, and conversations that involve higher-order thinking.
Building new neural connections and reinforcing existing ones seem to help
maintain good mental functioning in general.
I am also persuaded by the findings that say that physical exercise has
a beneficial impact on mental functioning. You might recognize the name
of Jack LaLanne, who was the first of the TV exercise gurus. He recently
died at the age of 96. He had strenuous 90 minute workouts until the very
end. Referring to his daily workout, he said,"I hate it. But I like the results.
Exercise is something you've got to do the rest of your life:' I confess that I
do not enjoy working out as much as I did when I was a teenager. But I am
convinced that I am both physically and mentally better off, and better able
to learn because of my exercise routines.
Some people are very independent-minded. They are content to study
alone, work in isolation, and do not seem to need socialization. But there
are benefits of interacting with others. Possible social benefits aside, certain
types of interactions can help us learn.
How does that work? The human mind is built for consistency, not for
truth. That is, once we get an idea about something, right or wrong, it is very
difficult to dislodge it. We tend to accept new information that is consistent
with that idea, and reject anything that is not consistent with it. That can box
us in and limit our ability to learn.
Likewise, we know that committees that are very homogeneous are
more likely to collectively follow a bad idea than a more heterogeneous
group. An acquaintance of mine has told the following story (slightly edited)
I was a relatively young and recent appointee to a major administrative
position at a university. I had great admiration for the university president
and was very anxious to please him. On major issues I would anticipate the
position that he was most likely to take and make my comments accordingly.
I began to notice that he didn't ask for my opinion very often.
Then an issue arose where the president and all the other members
of his council were united in how best to solve a particular problem. I felt
strongly that their position was wrong, and I mustered the courage to express
my contrary view. A sudden and very awkward silence fell over the room. The
president said, "Well, this apparently deserves more thought before we make
a decision:' I left the meeting only to have the president follow me to my
office, closing the door behind him after he entered. You can imagine what
I thought was coming. He said, "You may have noticed recently that I have
not asked for your opinion very often. You typically have accurately thought
out what my position is most likely to be on the issues before us, and then
you have taken that position. Not until today has your opinion been of real
value to me. I know what I think on issues. What I need in the decision-
making process is to know the contrary opinion. Only then can we make
knowledgeable and well-reasoned decisions. Thank you for your comments
today:' My position on that issue was adopted and is still in place 30 years
It is a pleasure to work with someone who welcomes a variety of
opinions, and with a group whose members can constructively and pleasantly
disagree while being in harmony over common purposes. And how valuable
it is to have friends who can help us recognize possible errors in our thinking,
or present different approaches to a problem, and thus help us continue to
I hope that each of us will choose activities and attitudes that will help
us have a long and productive life, and be continually helpful to those around
Interim Department Chair
Learning Technologies Department
Dr. Michael Spector Named
Learning Technologies Chair
S- . Dr. Michael Spector will begin his
responsibilities as chair of the Department of
Learning Technologies on January 2, 2012. Dr.
Spector, currently a professor in the Department
of Educational Psychology and Instructional
Technology at the University of Georgia, is
. k one of the leading figures in the field, nationally
Dr. Michael Spector and internationally. His impressive listing of
publications and presentations is some 20 pages
m 10 call number fall 2011
in length. He has just completed a term as president of the Association
for Educational Communication Technology (AECT), one of the leading
professional organizations in the field. He holds the PhD in Philosophy
from University of Texas at Austin, and the B.S. in International Affairs
from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has also served on the faculties at
Florida State University, Syracuse University, and University of Bergens
(Norway). We look forward to the arrival of Dr. Spector and will provide a
more substantial article about him in the Spring issue of Call Number.
EMg, ggg www.coi.unt.edu
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University of North Texas. College of Information. Call Number, Volume 70, Number 2, Fall 2011, periodical, Autumn 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc102308/m1/12/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Information.