Why books don't work

I very much enjoyed this longer essay from Andy Matuschak on people truly learn. He makes the case that lectures do not work for the transfer of knowledge. Lectures, as a medium, have no carefully-considered cognitive model at their foundation. Yet if we were aliens observing typical lectures from afar, we might notice the implicit model they appear to share: “the lecturer says words describing an idea; the class hears the words and maybe scribbles in a notebook; then the class understands the idea.” In learning sciences, we call this model “transmissionism.” It’s the notion that knowledge can be…

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Reading in the age of constant distraction

Mairead Small Staid shares a brilliant piece of writing all about reading and its apparent demise. She frames the problem well: The diminishment of literature—of sustained reading, of writing as the product of a single focused mind—would diminish the self in turn, rendering us less and less able to grasp both the breadth of our world and the depth of our own consciousness.So, what we write and what we read helps shape our thinking and our very being? I like that. But Staid goes further — a lot further — and claims that the attack on reading is tied…

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You’re probably using the wrong dictionary

Another excellent read I came across in a newsletter (Sarah Bray this time), James Somers talks about dictionaries. That may not sound enticing, but he does it really well! He first describes the problem: The way I thought you used a dictionary was that you looked up words you’ve never heard of, or whose sense you’re unsure of. You would never look up an ordinary word — like example, or sport, or magic — because all you’ll learn is what it means, and that you already know. Indeed, if you look up those particular words in the dictionary that…

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Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound

It’s one thing to write about how the internet has changed the way we read. It’s another thing to claim how that change in reading as affected us overall. This article from Maryanne Wolf opens with just that: When the reading brain skims texts, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings or to perceive beauty. We need a new literacy for the digital age.What are the problems? Well, the author states there are several: Multiple studies show that digital screen use may be causing a variety of troubling downstream effects on…

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Frontier Journal Issue #2

Isaac Smith released issue #2 of the Frontier Journal. Like issue #1, there are some great articles. But I most enjoyed the Fuel for the Frontier part — it reminds me a lot of a digest email (like this one). He covers a number of topics, but the portion at the end was the best. Issac shares how using analog tools has been a help, but he can still find himself slipping into reactive mode once he gets in front of the computer. A small change has helped: A subtle but significant difference. Instead of making my default work approach my…

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My favourite reads from 2017

As we got closer to the end of the year, I wanted to take a moment to share the articles that inspired me the most. They cover a few of my favorite topics, ones that are discussed here regularly but are worth revisiting often. Note: these are not all written in 2017, but it is when I read them How I got my attention backThe Daily Plan BarWhy walking helps us thinkThe Top 3 Most Effective Ways to Take Notes While ReadingThe magic of microcopyAlexa, make my kids more self-sufficientHow and why to keep a “commonplace book”Have Smartphones Destroyed…

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Why you should quit reading paper books

Ok, this title had me disagreeing right from the start. But although I love paper books, I also understand and appreciate some of the benefits of digital books. As such, I was curious to hear what the author had to say. And whether he could change my mind. Nope. Not even close. Yes, the ability to add highlights to books I read on a Kindle (or in the Kindle app) are nice to have. But due to the closed nature of the Amazon e-book ecosystem, I would never recommend anyone rely solely on Kindle for storing their reading notes. The…

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How and why to keep a “commonplace book”

This is something my friend Patrick Rhone talked about often over at The Cramped (at least, before he went nonline). He linked to this very post in fact. And I love the idea, even if it is one I have not adopted myself. What is a commonplace book? Holiday explains it this way: A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in…

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