Sunday, June 24, 2012

Having trouble with writing this summer? Some try a little neuroenhancement.

It's been widely reported that illicit Adderall use is pervasive among many groups of students (here, here and here). I've also read that some academics occasionally take the drug to help them meet a deadline or to help them perform better during a presentation.  Here's an older article I found by the author of Moonwalking With Einstein, a book about his efforts to improve short term memory and the arcane world of memory championships, in which he discusses using Adderall to become a more productive journalist.  From Slate:

The Adderall Me: My Romance with ADHD Meds.

Depressives have Prozac, worrywarts have Valium, gym rats have steroids, and overachievers have Adderall. Usually prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (read Sydney Spiesel in Slate on the risks and benefits), the drug is a cocktail of amphetamines that increases alertness, concentration, and mental-processing speed and decreases fatigue. It's often called a cognitive steroid because it can make people better at whatever it is they're doing. When scientists administered amphetamines to college shot-putters, they were able to throw more than 4 percent farther. According to one recent study, as many as one in five college students have taken Adderall or its chemical cousin Ritalin as study buddies.

The drug also has a distinguished literary pedigree. During his most productive two decades, W.H. Auden began every morning with a fix of Benzedrine, an over-the-counter amphetamine similar to Adderall that was used to treat nasal congestion. James Agee, Graham Greene, and Philip K. Dick all took the drug to increase their output. Before the FDA made Benzedrine prescription-only in 1959, Jack Kerouac got hopped up on it and wrote On the Road in a three-week "kick-writing" session. "Amphetamines gave me a quickness of thought and writing that was at least three times my normal rhythm," another devotee, John-Paul Sartre, once remarked.

If stimulants worked for those writers, why not for me? Who wouldn't want to think faster, be less distracted, write more pages?

. . . .

As an experiment, I decided to take Adderall for a week. The results were miraculous. On a recent Tuesday, after whipping my brother in two out of three games of pingpong—a triumph that has occurred exactly once before in the history of our rivalry—I proceeded to best my previous high score by almost 10 percent in the online anagrams game that has been my recent procrastination tool of choice. Then I sat down and read 175 pages of Stephen Jay Gould's impenetrably dense book The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. It was like I'd been bitten by a radioactive spider.

. . . .

I tried writing on the drug, it was like I had a choir of angels sitting on my shoulders. I became almost mechanical in my ability to pump out sentences. The part of my brain that makes me curious about whether I have new e-mails in my inbox apparently shut down. Normally, I can only stare at my computer screen for about 20 minutes at a time. On Adderall, I was able to work in hourlong chunks. I didn't feel like I was becoming smarter or even like I was thinking more clearly. I just felt more directed, less distracted by rogue thoughts, less day-dreamy. I felt like I was clearing away underbrush that had been obscuring my true capabilities. At the same time, I felt less like myself. Though I could put more words to the page per hour on Adderall, I had a nagging suspicion that I was thinking with blinders on. This is a concern I've heard from other users of the drug. One writer friend who takes Adderall to read for long uninterrupted stretches told me that he uses it only rarely because he thinks it stifles his creativity. A musician told me he finds it harder to make mental leaps on the drug. "It's something I've heard consistently," says Eric Heiligenstein, clinical director of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin. "These medications allow you to be more structured and more rigid. That's the opposite of the impulsivity of creativity."

You can continue reading here.

Hat tip to DAM.


June 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Copyright Law Course Portfolio

Michael Madison has posted a course portfolio on copyright law on the ETL website.  He declares,

"My goal is to inspire students to learn, and to have the confidence to learn, long after they have left my classroom. I try to do that by demonstrating first-hand a passionate approach to the subject matter—as a lawyer, not just as a teacher—and by inviting students to explore their own passions, in roles that I help them create. I want students to feel not just the responsibility but the unease that comes with forming and expressing a professional judgment and having a client rely on that. Good judgment or poor, the client's perspective comes first. If students can use those feelings to start to build confidence in themselves, then they are on their way to professional success."

He emphasizes writing in his course:

"I have based student assessment on a series of three short written “open” memoranda, each of which is framed as a request for advice from a senior lawyer, or a client, to a junior lawyer. Legal analysis is required but is subordinated to the lawyer’s solving a client’s problem, which may have legal, business, practical, and ethical dimensions. . . .  The assignments consist of open-textured, often ambiguous problems."  He  provides "multi-page written feedback on each memo that covers composition, organization, syntax, and grammar."  In addition, "Classroom teaching supplements the assessment method by regularly shifting from lecture-plus-discussion into complex hypotheticals that cast as many as six or seven students into different roles during exploration of a single problem."

He concludes, "I believe that any subject is learned more effectively if it is learned as it is practiced. I am consciously adopting a “writing to learn” pedagogy."

Adding well-focused writing assignments, which are carefully critiqued, to a doctrinal course is a simple way to enrich the students' learning.  As I have said before, when students apply doctrine to a factual problem they learn more and remember more.  Finally, it is important to expose students to open textured, ambiguous problems because they will face these types of problems in practice.

(Scott Fruehwald)

June 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Every Presenter Should Know About People (Animated)

This from Brainpickings (June 20):

This great short animated teaser offers five of the most essential secrets to a great presentation, whatever your discipline or topic. (Not so great? The dishearteningly blatant RSA-style animation rip-off.)

    1.       People learn best in 20-minute chunks. There must be a reason for the successful TED-sized talk format.

2.    Multiple sensory channels compete. During a talk, you engage both the auditory and visual channels — because we’re visual creatures and the visual channel trumps the auditory, make sure your slides don’t require people to read much or otherwise distract from the talk.

3.    What you say is only one part of your presentation. Paralinguistics explores how information is communicated beyond words — be aware the audience is responding to your body language and tone. Record yourself presenting to get a feel for those and adjust accordingly.

4.    If you want people to act, you have to call them to action. At the end of your presentation, be very specific about exactly what you would like your audience to do.

5.    People imitate your emotions and feel your feelings. If you’re passionate about your topic, this excitement will be contagious for the audience. Don’t hold back.

The animation video is a bit long and oriented toward neurobiology.


June 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

More On The Baruch Business School (Zicklin) Cheating Scandal

According to the New York Post, "A culture of corruption at Baruch business school was so pervasive that grad students openly cheated and a professor gave out answers during an exam, claim four ex-students who intend to sue the city university. “Cheating is their bread and butter,” said Ezra Glaser, attorney for the four whistleblowers, who filed a notice of claim against CUNY and the Zicklin School of Business on June 14."

"The new charges come a week after The Post revealed that a Zicklin administrator was bounced after forging professors’ names to inflate grades for about 15 students to keep $45,000 to $75,000 tuition checks flowing."

"In the latest scandal, former grad students in the Class of 2012 — accountants Stacy Morton and Omo Isenalumhe, financier Daniel Carr, and studio manager Yana Nibelitsky — say they repeatedly complained to administrators about overt academic fraud."

"After students alerted administrators in November and warnings were issued, the deceit continued. Dishonest dunces taped test answers to backpacks, texted one another, and made trips to the restroom to access crib sheets, the ex-students said."  Moreover, “Professor Ghosh walked around the classroom reviewing the students’ work and informed them that they had the wrong answers, and then instructed them to correct them,” Morton wrote.  Morton’s classmates claim they also witnessed Ghosh giving out answers during the final, worth 70 percent of their grade."

"But Morton says Baruch officials did nothing. Her letter to President Mitchel Wallerstein, Vice President Ben Curtis and Provost John Brenkman went unanswered. “I don’t know anything about it,” Wallerstein said when asked by The Post Thursday. Brenkman later said the school is looking into the allegations."

"On Friday, another group of Zicklin graduates, from the Class of 2011, told The Post they are coming together to demand tuition refunds — saying the grade-changing scandal has made their sheepskins worthless."

(Scott Fruehwald)

June 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)