Bigger Pictures: Keep It Classy, Quakers

“Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers”   ~  Sana, Weston & Cepeda

Is it even possible to run a spoiler alert before the title of an academic paper?  Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers.  Talk about ruining the ending.

In any case, I’m not planning to rehash the paper – I trust you can read that for yourself, and I hope you do.  What I am going to talk about is something far more basic.

So, first, a question:  how many times have you yourself watched another student “multitasking” during class?  I’m not talking about watching someone type lecture notes, I mean watching somebody respond to their email, update their Facebook status, check out 21 Adorable Child Stars Who Grew Up Sooo Ugly?

Okay, now how many times has that been you?

Yeah, I know.  But don’t worry.  It’ll be our secret.  Not that you and I keeping our mouths shut about these multitasking indiscretions matters, because someone else knows, too.  Do you know who that is?

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That’s right, your professor.  More than likely, your TA as well.  Don’t think for one minute that the person tasked with operating the front of the house is somehow clueless about what’s going on out there in the rest of the room.  They see.  They know.  Some of them even keep tabs.

But even that’s not the bigger issue here.  Sure, it is bad if you don’t get the full 10% for class participation.  That piece of the final grade might make the difference between a B+ or an A-, and I always advise students to never leave points on the table.  The bigger issue here is that “multitasking” during class is, quite simply, rude.  Your actions tell your teacher that what’s going on in the front of the room is far less interesting and of far less import than what’s going on in social media.  So don’t do it.  It’s not nice to passively insult these people.

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Resources:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131512002254

Study Spot Feature: David Pottruck Health and Fitness Center

The Spring semester is progressing, and by now you are becoming increasingly aware of your own learning style. You may ask yourself, “How do I learn best, at which pace (or variation thereof), and under what conditions?”

In terms of study spaces – dorms, individual schools, libraries and even neighborhood cafes – are well utilized, and many offer a variety resources, such as lounges, study rooms (reservation required for most), tables, cubicles, cafes, kitchens, and restrooms.

Depending on your preferred study style, you may decide to mix things up a bit and alternate study spaces. For example, some people work best with a little activity and/or background noise around them. When considering alternative study spaces, you may consider factors such as familiarity, convenience, and proximity, including building time efficiencies, and fostering wellness and/or fitness.

If you are a member of the David Pottruck Health and Fitness Center, which is conveniently located at 3701 Walnut Street, you may have noticed that there is new furniture in the atrium space, as soon as you pass through the main entrance. For students who prefer to study and exercise right after or vice versa, the Penn fitness center (or your local gym) may provide an ideal alternative study-and-fitness hybrid space. Per Sarah Sarnocinski, Director of Programs, Penn Recreation, students are welcome to utilize the tables, chairs, and leather sofas to study, eat, relax and/or socialize.

 In addition, the Energy Zone café provides healthy nourishment:

Located in the atrium of the Pottruck Health and Fitness Center, the Energy Zone features a full selection of smoothies, sports drinks, energy bars, and fresh fruit. Our shakes are 100% natural with no preservatives, no refined sugars, no fat, and completely lactose free. The Energy Zone also sells locks for $5 that can be used with any day use locker at the Pottruck Center (PennRec website).   

In addition to the pre- or post-study fitness options (e.g., fitness machines, rock climbing) available at the Penn fitness center (or your preferred fitness space), there is a multi-purpose room, which is used for other fitness and wellness related functions that students can also take advantage of when available.

What is your favorite alternative study space? We would love to hear your ideas in the comments section!

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Staff Writer: Min Derry

3 Tips for Studying While Sick

It’s that time of the year again, the semester starts, you’re getting the hang of your course load, and them BOOM! You get sick. Below are 3 tips to help you get through your illness while ensuring you don’t fall behind on coursework.

  1. Get organized and prioritize: When you’re sick you don’t have time to waste on tasks that are not adding value. Write down all your assignments and readings and rank them in order of importance. You may not be able to fully read everything, so consider choosing certain readings to skim.
  2. Pace yourself: While completing the important items on your list, make sure you leave enough time to rest in between. Sometimes this means working for 30 minutes and resting for 30 minutes. Find a pace that works for you and do not get discouraged if you cannot study for long periods of time. If you take this disciplined approach, you will get through your list and stay on the road to recovery! If you find that you cannot complete your assignments due to your illness, reach out to your professors and request extensions.
  3. Rest and care for yourself: The goal is to get back to full health as soon as possible.image_jpg_0-img Do not overexert yourself by trying to keep the same pace you would otherwise have if you weren’t sick- this will only prolong your sickness. Think about other commitments that are not as pertinent, such as social and extracurricular activities, and minimize these until you are back to normal. Visit the Penn Health and Wellness site to see the options for medical care and to learn more about ways to stay healthy.

No one likes being sick, but prioritizing tasks, pacing yourself, and ensuring you get back to full health are three ways to mitigate falling behind in coursework.

Staff writer: Victoria Gill

Mindfulness

Welcome back to Spring ’17 @ UPenn! You’re planning your new academic semester. You have your new course schedule, you’ve just attended your first few days of classes, fresh syllabi have been collected, and books have been ordered. You’ll stop by the Weingarten Center to pick up your under-/graduate semester and weekly calendars, and you may choose to schedule an one-hour appointment or stop by for a 30-minute walk-in session with one of our Learning Instructors to discuss your time management and study strategies for the semester.

When planning your academic semester, in addition to your coursework, we also take into consideration your work-life balance. How about your other life priorities? These might include family and community connections, sports, fitness, wellness, and nutrition, rest and relaxation, the arts, spiritual devotions (as applicable), volunteering, and other on-campus and/or off-campus social commitments. A fruitful place to begin our daily commitments and practices, whatever they may be, is mindfulness. Empirical research has proven the benefits of mindfulness, including decreased rumination, improved focus, boosts to working memory, more cognitive flexibility, and stress reduction, among others (Davies & Hayes, 2012).

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Here are just a few of the UPenn campus wellness resources to help support your own mindfulness practice(s):

Announcements for Spring ‘17:

 

Citation:

Davis, D. and Hayes, J. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness? American Psychological Association. July/August, 43:7, p. 64.

Staff Writer: Min Derry

Research Writing: What’s Your Positionality?

Reflecting on, fleshing out, interrogating, and conveying your positionality relative to a research orientation is critical to ensuring the validity of your research stance. After all, no one can be 100% objective. The researcher’s beliefs, values systems, and moral stances are as fundamentally present and inseparable from the research process as the researcher’s physical, virtual, or metaphorical presence when facilitating, participating and/or leading the research project. In fact, even the most passive methods of data collection and quantitative analysis have some interactional aspects, and it is impossible to absolutely control for and ensure the unobtrusiveness of research applications and interventions. Power dynamics flow through every vein of the research process; therefore, it is our ethical duty to intentionally and mindfully attend to our role(s) in the contextual power interplay of the research process.

In addition to the technical qualitative and quantitative research methods for ensuring validity, a preemptive and fundamental step in attending to the ethics of the research process is to critically reflect on, flesh out, interrogate, and state one’s positionality. A great place to labor with and develop one’s positionality is in a researcher reflection memo, which provides a safe, brave, intentional, self-reflexive, and critical space to consider and respond to questions about one’s positionality:
  • How do my personal, professional and/or intellectual positionalities (identities, contexts, experiences, and perspectives) cohere with or diverge from my research inquiries?
  • What legacies (personal, communal, societal, national, transnational and/or global) inform the social constructedness of my positionality?
  • In what ways, or not, am I conscientiously, or not, reifying, resisting, disrupting, and/or changing the constructs of my positionality through this research process?
  • How has my own positionality changed, or not, over time, and why? In what ways has it remained static, and why? In what ways has it been dynamic, fluid, emerging and/or generative, and why?
  • How does my positionality recognize, honor, and/or problematize intersectional notions of difference (politics, economic class, race, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, legality, age, ability, education, sexuality, gender, and/or religion?) as a conceptual praxis of analysis for my research context?

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For more support come into Weingarten to meet with a learning instructor during an individual consultation on any and all undergraduate and graduate research or join our working group series called Dissertation Bootcamp.

 

Staff Writer: Min Derry

Making New Habits Stick

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January is the month of New Year’s resolutions and good intentions. Many of us strive to be a little bit better at something than we were before. Maybe we vow to be better at time management – to get and use a planner, to not procrastinate as much, or to start papers and projects early. The problem with resolutions, no matter how well intended, is that most of our behavior is based on unconscious habits. In order to really make a new habit stick or to change an old one, we have to make our behavior more conscious.

The brain likes to be efficient and thus repeated behaviors become automatic habits. This default towards efficiency means you can sail through your morning routine of showering and getting dressed on autopilot and still have brain capacity left over to think about your upcoming day. Bad habits are hard to break because we’ve stopped making conscious decisions about what we’re doing. We just automatically do it. For example, when our phone alarm goes off in the morning that noise serves as a cue to pick up the phone to turn off the alarm. If you, like me, then spend the next 30-40 minutes looking through your newsfeed, that is an automatic behavior triggered by the alarm. The reward for 30-40 minutes of scrolling is a sense of being informed about the day. Did anyone text overnight? What are the breaking news stories? I’m sure if I didn’t automatically scroll through my newsfeed every morning, I’d be out the door much earlier.

This cycle of cue, routine, and reward is what Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, calls the habit loop. Becoming consciously aware of these three elements can help you form new habits or change old ones. To form a new habit, first think of the benefits of changing your behavior. What is it that you want to start doing? What are the long-term pay offs? Then think of a cue that will capture your attention at the moment you are most likely to take action. A cue can take various forms. It can be something visual like seeing your planner on your desk or it can be an action like coming back to your room after a long day of classes. Then think of the reward you’ll get for doing the routine or behavior triggered by the cue. If seeing your planner on your desk triggers you to spend a few minutes prioritizing your tasks for the next day, the reward might be a sense of calm or a feeling of being in control. Eventually, you’ll start craving that sense of calm and control as soon as you see your planner and will automatically pick it up to organize your day.

To change a habit, keep your familiar cues and rewards but change your routine. For instance, for many of us, coming back home after a long day is often a cue to flop on the bed or couch and just relax “for a few minutes” before tackling something else. The reward is a feeling of relaxation. However, “just a few minutes” often expands into an hour or more and suddenly we wonder where all our time went. What if we kept the cue of coming home after a long day and the reward of relaxation but changed the routine? Other activities that aren’t such time sponges like taking a shower or making a cup of tea can be inserted into the habit loop and eventually make us more productive.

As this new semester gets underway, start paying attention to your cues and rewards to change your habits. Anticipate the rewards – a feeling of satisfaction after checking items off a to-do list, a smoothie after a workout – as these cravings will push you to get stuff done. Finally, believe that you can change your habits or make new ones stick. Because you can.

Staff Writer: Julianne Reynolds

 

Welcome Boot Campers

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“Writing begins when our fear of doing nothing at all outweighs our fear of doing it badly.”

     ~  Louis de Bernieres

So, how about a hearty shout-out to all the members of the Spring ’17 cohort of Dissertation Boot Camp.  Whether you are at the stage of proposing, or data crunching or actually dissertating, congratulations – you’ve made it this far, and like we’d say back in the day, that ain’t nuthin’.

For those not in the know, Dissertation Boot Camp is brought to you by your Graduate Student Center.  The boot campers resolve to arrive on-site every morning for two weeks, turn off their email/social media, and get right down to it and have at it until early afternoon.  They also get the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a Weingarten instructor to discuss their project, timelines and any unique challenges.  Dissertation Boot Camp has become a popular program, and has been running for more semesters than your blogger can count.  I mean, your humble blogger could count semesters, but that would require needless additional research, and procrastinating on the writing of this blog post by engaging in needless additional research would be setting a bad example.

For those of you who couldn’t do boot camp this semester, fret not, here are a few helpful hints from your learning center:

  • Inviolable Writing Time – Essential and non-negotiable, inviolable writing time is the basis for Dissertation Boot Camp and the “secret” to completing any writing project of considerable length. This means you set your weekly writing time and then you guard it ruthlessly.  Nothing and no one gets to intrude on this time.  If something comes up that needs time, steal the time from something else.
  • Log Off, Sign Out – Writing time can never be inviolable if you are obsessively checking email or social media. For three or four or five hours, you must remain out of the loop, away from everything that is not related to your project.  And let’s have none of that nonsense about multitasking; your project demands as much focus as you can muster.   Besides, in your blogger’s humble opinion multitasking is a sinister plot created by rogue elements in the human resources industry to make writers feel insecure about their “efficiency”.  Confirming this notion, however, would require additional needless research, and since we’ve already dismissed needless additional research, I’m moving on.
  • Visit Your Learning Center – Dissertation support is a popular service here at Weingarten. We can help you with managing the project or thinking through research strategies.  We provide you with a totally confidential, non-judgmental space.  Just think of us as the human embodiment of a hot bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich – soothing.

 

Pete Kimchuk

Senior Learning Instructor