How much time do you spend on the internet/day?

Sometimes it feels like our brains are wired to seek short-term stimulation. The internet, TV, and video games have all contributed to this constant need for people to have something “to do”. On an airplane we rely on our book, on the bus we rely on our ipod, even on the toilet we rely on our phones! When I work from home, I always want my television to be on, which probably cuts my attention span in half. But, if I don’t have this extra source of stimulation, I can’t even focus on my task on hand. So it is often a catch-22.

Endless stimulation (or often distractions) prevent us from feeling things like boredom and anxiety. Think of how much time you spend on the internet that isn’t 100% being used for productive work. For instance, if I spend an hour writing a paper, I’ll spend about 15 minutes signing onto Facebook or checking the news. In fact, before I do ANYTHING productive, I’ll hop on Facebook then the news to see what the headlines are for the day. This isn’t necessarily wasted time, but when done multiple times a day, isn’t conducive to a productive work environment.

Here are some questions I’ve thought of for anyone reading this post. I’m curious to see how others perceive their internet use. My answers are below.

  • How much time do you spend on the internet every day?
  • Do you have any habits/rituals of use while using the computer?
  • Do you think you use the internet too much?
  • Do you think internet use has a negative effect on your concentration and attention?
  • Have you ever gone a significant amount of time without technology or the internet and if so, what were the effects on you?

My answers:

  • How much time do you spend on the internet every day? This largely depends on my work schedule, but on average 6-8 hours a day.
  • Do you have any habits/rituals of use while using the computer? See what emails I need to respond to. Effectively avoid these emails. Sign on Facebook and check BBC news before doing anything productive. Finally start work.
  • Do you think you use the internet too much? Absolutely.
  • Do you think internet use has a negative effect on your concentration and attention? Absolutely.
  • Have you ever gone a significant amount of time without technology or the internet and if so, what were the effects on you? The longest time was probably two weeks, and I definitely remember being less stressed and more serene.

Do humans learn differently than animals?

This week’s posts made me wonder, are humans unique in their learning/teaching abilities, or do most (if not all) species exhibit some form of learning/teaching. This question kind of threw me through a loop, and I decided to dig into the literature to see what kinds of animal learning exists, and if there are any relevant examples that link back to our readings this week.

The field of ethology (the study of animal behavior and learning) reaches across many academic disciplines, including but not limited to psychology, computer science, and education. This field has the power to inform how we educate each other. To ensure successful evolution and survival, many animal species, including humans, must exhibit various levels of learning abilities. There seems to be three main animal learning mechanisms: Non-associative learning, associative learning, and social learning.

Non-Associative Learning

Adaptation is one of the most prevalent signs of an organism’s intelligence, and non-associative learning is a form of adaptation. This is the simplest, most natural form of learning, and is found in virtually every variety of organisms. It is considered a “low-level” learning mechanism, and often leads to other learning mechanisms such as associative learning. The two main types of non-associative learning are habituation and sensitization.

The primary type of non-associative learning is habituation, which is a decrease in response from a repeated stimulus. For example, if you hear loud bangs coming from a nearby building, you might initially wonder what the noise is for. If the banging persists over a span of a week, you will likely eventually tune out the sounds. Since the banging repeated over an extended amount of time, your response decreased during that time, and you have become habitualized to the noise. Habituation can last for an extended amount of time, or just a few minutes. Sensitization is the opposite of habituation, when irregularly repeated stimuli causes an increase in response. If during a thunderstorm the thunderclaps are at random intervals or have long gaps of time between them, you will be more prone to be startled by the noise.

Example: A relevant example of non-associative learning, specifically habituation, is continually using human presence to neutralize a wild animal’s natural response to escape or flee. When wild gorillas native to the mountains of Rwanda were continuously exposed to humans and over a period of time, they became tolerant of human presence, and learned that humans were not predators. Thus, these gorillas were used for primatological research where the gorillas could be observed at close quarters. This learning mechanism has been used as a method to domesticate animals, observe them for research purposes, and introduce them to captivity in zoos.

Human Context: Non-associative learning could be applied in a classroom focused on learning about construction by holding the class in a workspace where construction methods are actively being applied, such as a community makerspace focused on building construction. By repeatedly being exposed to members of a community who are practicing professionals, students would be habituated to this type of learning environment, breaking down the traditional barriers between the learners and the learnt. Through constant contact with such a space, students could observe basic construction methods and realize that they are attainable. This could have a domino effect, instilling a sense of self-efficacy and purpose for the students, aiding in their drive to be successful.

Associative Learning

This type of learning is considered mindless and does not enable a species to learn complex behaviors such as migration or foraging. It is commonly a result of two main types of conditioning: classical and operant conditioning.

Classical conditioning is a basic learning behavior that teaches an animal to learn a new behavior through association. This type of conditioning contributes to animal adaptation by enabling them to anticipate events, by associating an unconditional stimulus with a conditional stimulus. The most well-known example of associative learning is Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, who discovered the concept of classical conditioning. In his experiment with dogs, he used a repetitive tone and the natural response of salivating when presented with food. He then connected these two stimuli (tone and food) and observed that the tone alone could initiate a natural salivating response. The dog would eventually associate the tone with a reward, and would learn to perform specific behaviors with the purpose of hearing the tone.

Operant conditioning is a more complicated process than classical conditioning. It is the concept of strengthening behaviors through reinforcement from a desired response. Therefore, operant behavior is reflexive; there is both positive and negative reinforcement that affects behavior. This concept was first observed by B.F. Skinner in 1937, shortly following Pavlov’s discovery of classical conditioning. Skinner described operant conditioning as behavior “controlled by its consequences”. He put rats in a box that contained a lever, and as they moved around the box, they accidentally hit into the level, at which point a food pellet would be dispensed into a container next to the lever. Quickly, the rats learned to use the lever to receive food, and repeated this action whenever they were hungry.

Example: Endemic to southern Africa, pied-babblers are an avian species that exhibit associative teaching patterns. When a mother or father arrives at the nest, they make a “purr” call to their offspring. The offspring learn to associate this call with the arrival of food, and learn to be weary when the call is not made. This simple classical conditioning method helps ensures the survival of the offspring. 

Human Context: Associative learning is important in human culture by enabling humans to associate certain feelings with certain stimulus, such as positive feelings in response to learning environments. In a classroom setting, associative learning pertains more to the specific student and skill performance rather than the learning content itself. To create a healthy learning environment, especially in a classroom setting related to the built environment, positive reinforcement is key. Students can receive encouragement and approval, thus enabling their positive learning behaviors. Positive reinforcement can lead to a more open and collaborative learning environment.

Social Learning

To guide their learning, many species have adopted the ability to learn from others, which is the complex learning mechanism of social learning. The most commonly used definition of social learning is “learning that is influenced by observation of, or interaction with, another animal”. Social learning is an umbrella term that encompasses many types of learning. Social learning includes, but is not limited to, imitation, observational conditioning, social facilitation, emulation, and inadvertent coaching. Animal behaviorists, dating back to Charles Darwin, have long focused on the ability of an animal to learn valuable life skills by observing and imitating others. Typically, young members of a species learn from more experienced members– most often their parents. Most adult species interact with their offspring in the early stages of life, where their learning is most critical to achieve independence. Examples of behaviors in which young members could learn from more experienced members include foraging for food, learning to fly or swim, and creating shelter. Learned behaviors such as these are central to ensuring a species’ survival.

As previous studies have suggested, social learning “depends on social dynamics that govern the relationships among individuals”. Most often, the young learn from their parents. However, there are other instances of social learning, where the young learn from the successful (regardless of age), where the young learn from others because they are dissatisfied with their own performance, where the young copy another that is behaving more efficiently than they are, etc. If two members of the same species share the same environment, it is beneficial to the young and experienced to learn from another. These alternative approaches to the conventional offspring-parent social learning techniques help shape a more resilient and adaptable species.

Example: There are many of relevant biological examples that include the concept of social learning. Social learning methods have been found in a diverse number of animal species: mammals, insects, amphibians, birds, fish, and more. A noteworthy and proven example of social learning is the resilient learning methods of wild Norway rats. Ecologist Fritz Steiniger discovered that Norway rats taught their young what to eat, after his attempt to improve a rodent control poison. Steiniger repeatedly introduced poison bait to a single colony of rats, and although their numbers decreased at first, they eventually returned to their initial size after a few months. It turns out that the rats who survived the first few rounds of attempted pest control learned to associate the poison bait with illness and death. These survivors taught their young to avoid the poison bait, and eventually every rat in the colony rejected the poison bait. 

Human Context: An obvious and effective way to teach students about the built environment would be to bring a professional from industry in the classroom for a guest lecture or demonstration. Students could learn from the experiences of the professional, and share an open communication between them. Encounters like these are invaluable in educational environments.


This post isn’t completely relevant to our readings this week, but I think learning about these common animal behaviors is helpful to remember when discussing human learning and teaching mechanisms. There are many types of learning, and maybe it is worthwhile to further look at animal learning mechanisms and how they can inform our teaching methods. Afterall, we exhibit the same learning/teaching mechanisms as animals, so why not learn from them?


This week’s post prompt had me perplexed, given that we are to describe our “authentic teaching self,” and I have never formally taught a day in my life. However, after going through this week’s readings, I realized that teaching doesn’t necessarily have to be in a classroom. I’ve helped tutor students, helped run training programs, and consistently try to teach the students I manage at work to have proper workspace etiquette, etc. I thought it would be helpful for myself to write down what I consider some of my biggest personality traits, and try to align them with a “teaching voice”–

  1. Intuitive- I tend to make decisions based on my instincts, and what I feel is best at the given time. This is normally a mix of what is the most realistic option and what seems the most rational. This personality trait also eliminates time that I could be spending making decisions or dwelling on a decision. Instead, I go with my gut and stick with it. This could help in regards to teaching to a) make quick judgements, b) help others learn to listen to their inner voice, and c) be able to think more creatively.  This article provides a really neat perspective on intuition and how it can inform creative decisions.


  1. Independent- (A nice way of saying introverted.) I very much enjoy my alone time, am not the most outgoing of people, and like to make decisions on my own. I prefer to observe than engage ~but am happy to engage when need be~. Some people are naturally more outgoing and eager to be social, but for introverts like me, its often a very tiring process. As a teacher, this is probably one of the worst personality traits to have. However, I imagine there would be ways to deal with this effectively, such as scheduling one-on-one appointments with students so they could get valuable face-time, and allow them to feel known on a personal level by their teacher. Many students are independent/introverted as well, so this gives them the opportunity to ask the questions they might not otherwise ask in a large classroom setting.
  2. Personable- I consider myself to be an easily-approachable, personable person. I very much enjoy when someone comes up to me and tells me about themselves, asks me questions, and more. I always do my best to listen to my friends and peers, and make an effort to become engaged in what they are saying. I often ask questions and encourage others to elaborate, which I imagine would be a very effective tool in a classroom. For instance, you could pose an open-ended question to your class, and ask those who answer to elaborate on their yes-no answer. Key features to being personable is to have direct eye contact, minimize distractions like your phone, and have positive body language that reflects theirs. I also think its important to exude positive energy and do your best to make others feel good. I think this personality trait would enable students to approach me and ask questions, feel comfortable that I am engaged in our discussion, and feel positive about the feedback I provide.
  3. Empathetic- I believe that part of being personable (above) is being empathetic. (Often this is confused with sympathy, i.e. feeling bad for someone. Instead, empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes). This means I care about situations that others are in, good or bad, and try to identify with them. As a professor, this could be both a good and bad trait to have. You would be more willing to listen to a particular situation a student is in, such as why they are not prepared for a test, and possibly accommodate them. However, you could be perceived as a pushover or “too easy” on your students, so I’m not convinced its the best trait to have as an educator (especially in higher ed).

Now that I effectively confused myself on whether or not I have the attributes of an effective educator, I’m going to end here. I’m understanding now that any trait could be both a positive and negative in the teaching world, and it’s important to understand yourself as a person and how you work. Sarah Deel says it well: “I hadn’t considered that certain qualities described me (like my earnestness or attention to detail) could be a legitimate part of my teaching voice. Moreover, I could not construct my teaching voice from other people’s qualities, no matter how much I admired them. My encounter with Parker’s ideas freed me to try to become a teacher true to my own qualities of self.”


The Best Class I Ever Took

The best undergraduate class I ever took… had nothing to do with my major, but taught me more than any other class.

When reading Jean Lacoste’s Teaching Innovation Statement, I swear I was reading work from my previous professor, John Boyer, who taught World Regions in the Department of Geography. His infamous course, taken by ~2,000 others at the time, was designed in such a way that even given the massive class size, still felt very individualized. While I am not aiming for a career in academia, if I were to ever become a professor, I would consider adopting many of Boyer’s teaching methods– and they align with Jean Lacoste’s as well.

World Regions implemented a point system, so that you could pick and choose how you wanted to earn an A. This ranged from attending lectures to virtual lectures, and everything in between– news assessments, international films, readings, attending cultural shows/exhibits, and much more. Although there was a lot of work required to get an A, you had the opportunity to customize the course to best fit your needs, interests, and schedule. There were ample opportunities to receive credit, so the only excuse to not do well was simply laziness. Having the ability to customize the content of the course gave students, including myself, a sense of self-efficacy that I had never experienced in another college course. It forced me to be proactive about my assignments, which in turned inspired me to really be involved and engaged in the content I was learning. In fact, this course inspired me to actually pay attention and care about politics while thinking globally. Boyer was also very transparent about the way he assigned grades, and his courtesy for our schedules was very respectful.

Here’s the link to Boyer’s page about his course— it is a really interesting piece to read for those who want to learn more. It discusses specific content of his course, but also explains his reasonings for teaching in the way that he does.

Here are some highlights from this page that I find inspiring:

“My life mission is motivating, educating, and inspiring students to be fully engaged in the rapidly globalizing 21st century. In our increasingly connected and complex world, personal (and even our country’s) success depends upon a global awareness and global engagement to meet the challenges of our time…and the vehicle I use to forward this goal is a course called World Regions…”

“We need to have a public aware and empathetic (not sympathetic) of different peoples and diversities of cultures around the world.”

“Regardless of major, discipline, or future occupation, all of our students need greater understanding of global and international issues to develop a realistic perspective of where we fit in the global scheme. Student success in career, citizenship, and even their personal lives will increasingly hinge upon a deeper understanding of, and integration into, this wider world.”

“I am passionate about motivating, educating, and inspiring students to be engaged in the 21st century world and providing the highest quality learning experiences possible in multiple mediums that will produce global citizens and leaders as change agents for shaping the future of our planet.”

“All that, in a single course? Well, I do all I can, and I refuse to shy away from this formidable  challenge.”

“We all need greater understanding of the world around us, and we as educators must embrace our mission and calling to teach as many as we can about our now fully interconnected world.  If not us, who? If not now, when?”

If you need further proof of his awesome and inspiring teaching methods, check out one of his many lectures online.  I mean, how could you not be excited about this course with his enthusiasm?


I’m Not One Of Those Creative Types

We hear people say, “I’m just not the creative type” all the time. Probably all of us have said it at one time or another, unless you actually happen to be incredibly creative. But, this phrase creates a barrier to learning, especially at an early age. Being creative, or rather the act of creating, forces you to ask questions and think critically. In many ways, this has become a lost art in standard educational practices. This portion of Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon short book, Imagination First, resonated with me because while reading, I made the connection that imagination, creativity, and assessment are all interrelated concepts. Everyone has an innate sense of creativity, it just needs to be cultivated in different ways. Designing more creative ways of assessing students, as Alfie John suggests in The Case Against Grades, could give students the motivation to be curious learners and use their imagination more.


I grew up with very rudimentary methods of assessment used between elementary school and college. The standard A-B or 100% scales. And, admittedly, I fell subject to being one of those students who simply worked for a high grade, either through rote memorization or easy assignments that were guaranteed to be easy-A’s. In my senior year of high school, I took a college-level writing course for college credit. Our teacher gave us a detailed rubric for every writing piece that year. Which, in turn, led to mediocre pieces of writing that fit the bill of the rubric, but lacked any substance. In fact, I can’t even recall a single paper I wrote in that class, just the rubrics. Looking back, I’m angry at myself for not taking more advantage of the opportunities I had in such classes.

But, however much I regret focusing too much on numerical or alphabetical grades, that is how you have to play the game when you are a student. You have to live up to certain expectations to receive x-grade that you want, and if you receive the proper x-grades, you’ll get into a prestigious college. If you receive exceptional x-grades in colleges, you’ll get a job after graduation or even get admitted into graduate school. It’s just the game that students now learn.


But, as Kohn’s narrative suggests, there are many alternatives to standard assessment methods. This is an exciting concept for me, especially since I have had little exposure to such methods in my own schooling, and I have yet to teach myself. I really enjoyed reading the concept of collectively arriving at a grade between a teacher and student, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that most students pick the same grade the teacher would have given them otherwise. This creates a more democratic system within the classroom. It also leads us to the question of the quality of teachers– It would take a lot more time and effort for a teacher to sit down with every student to review a quarter/semester, especially when many teachers probably are overloaded as is. But, I hypothesize that if a teacher truly wanted to make a difference in the lives of his/her students, they would be more than willing to spend that extra time. At least in a perfect world.

These readings made me interested to learn more about grade-less education systems. However, after a quick Google search, I found a Wikipedia page (yes, I know, Wikipedia…) that listed the grading systems by country:

I didn’t see a single one that doesn’t use some type of numerical formatting (though I quickly skimmed through it so possibly missed something). Food for thought… what if an entire country became grade-less? Wouldn’t that be something…

Supporting our Teachers

This week’s readings reminded me of the value of teachers/educators, something that is often forgotten in today’s world. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have a mother who was an elementary and middle school teacher, so I witnessed second-hand many of the issues a modern teacher faces.

As Ken Robinson eloquently points out in his TED talk, teachers are “facilitators of learning”, rather than figures who simply deliver information to their students. This is a creative career, rather than a business-oriented one. It’s a career that requires teachers to “awaken the power” of their student’s creativity and empower them to learn and find their passion. But now, teachers often feel pressure from their administration to act and dress professionally– which, in my opinion, creates a further divide between teachers and students.

Robinson mentions that people are organic creatures. We are naturally diverse and unique. So, rather than focusing on standardized testing and conformity, why not shift our focus to educational systems that are personalized, offer strong support, provide diverse curriculums, and attract students from all backgrounds? In conversations with my mom, she always mentioned how she observed a shift in her students learning habits after standardized testing became the norm. Rather than mindfully learning, students began mindlessly reciting information that they expected to be on the next test.

Other countries greatly value professional development, put less focus on standardized testing, and hold educators in high esteem. Why is that not the case here? I’m sure this question has a very convoluted answer, and I am excited to learn more about America’s educational system and where it can be improved.

Not completely on topic with this week’s readings, but here’s something to keep in mind about Robinson’s TED talk: this was filmed in 2013, when No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was the standard, before Common Core Curriculum Standards (CCCS) became alive. Now, both ideas have merit, and both have many issues. For NCLB, the federal government did not give states enough financial support to make it as successful as it could have been. States began adopting CCCS because it had uniformity across state lines, but unfortunately had a huge focus on Standardized Testing. New Jersey, where my mom taught for a decade before her (welcoming) retirement, was one of the first states to jump on the bandwagon of CCCS. They expected their teachers, in a single year, to implement CCCS without proper transition time or training. It was pretty outrageous, IMO.

There are pros and cons to all educational approaches, NCLB and CCCS included. Who knows what will happen in terms of education with the new administration. More than likely they will try to fix everything including things that are not broken. Time will tell!


The Power of a Computer

[Background] I often question the effects that personal computers and the internet have on society. I am 23, so needless to say I do not remember the world before computers were the norm. However, I constantly wonder if computers are good or bad for society. The readings provided this week helped provide some insight on the value of computers in the learning environment. Regardless of your opinion on this topic, we all know that computers are powerful, life-altering machines.

[Discussion] In this post, I will look at the positives and negatives of computers on the educational, environmental, and societal scales. Since this is such an open-ended discussion, there will probably be lots of things I will miss, so I look forward to my peer’s feedback and ideas!

1. Educational

Pros: Without computers, we would be very far behind technologically. The internet was created to entertain collaboration, and that is key in advancing knowledge and technology, especially with all the unlimited resources available at the click of a mouse. If someone wants to know a specific piece of information, they just need to Google it. Computers are also powerful teaching tools at any educational level (ex. try out if you haven’t already, it really is neat).

Cons: While computers help us learn, what students learn in school often isn’t embedded into their memory because they know they can easily access it later on. Also, students learn to rely on computers to learn, rather than taking advantage of other resources such as textbooks and academic journals. Additionally, most students, especially at the high school and college level, are expected to have their own personal computer, which is an expensive expectation for many.

2. Environmental

Pros: Computers offer the service of online shopping, which reduces the amount of time spent in a car/gas spent to go shopping in person. Amazon Prime, ladies and gentlemen! They also reduce paper trails, since most things now are done virtually.

Cons: Environmentally, computers use a lot of resources and processes to make. Little to no materials used to make a computer are renewable, and many materials cannot be recycled. Once a computer is no longer needed, it is often thrown out instead of properly dismantled and recycled. Also, using a computer limits one to be within a few feet of an outlet, or within wifi range. This eliminates opportunities to spend time outdoors, enjoying what nature has to offer.

3. Societal

Pros: With the use of computers, folks can be more up-to-date on the happenings of the world, and be more quickly informed in case of an emergency such as a hurricane. Computers also enable friendships and communication that would otherwise not be possible (i.e. an Indian child can be pen pals with a Brazilian child, or you can easily keep up with your distant relative that lives in another country). Also, computers/the internet are typically available to those of any age, race, or income, and are becoming increasing affordable.

Cons: Computers often substitute for face-to-face contact. This could include classroom settings, customer service, bullying, etc. Computers often prevent humans from forming meaningful relationships with each other. For instance, think of yourself going out with friends for dinner. How many times do you and your friends check your phone throughout your outing? Computer use can also be addictive, and take the place of other activities such as exercising and working. For instance, I know when I come home from a long day at work, I prefer to parooz Facebook and other social media sites on my computer rather than biking or doing something active and healthy.

[Conclusion] I only touched on the surface of these issues, but it is obvious to me that computers are both good and bad for society. If used correctly and for the right purposes, they can be extremely beneficial and working towards further advancing our knowledge, technology, and more. I welcome any new ideas to this thought-provoking argument!