Reflections on Education

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Einstellung Effect II - Task

Task - planning strategies.

Tackling the Einstellung Effect - Thinking outside the box

Google Microsoft Chrome Art oneblog ©Federico Fieni 2008

Thinking outside the box means approaching issues in new, creative ways; in ways you've never thought before.

Thinking outside the box gives you the opportunity to learn how to think on your feet while learning how to tackle challenging problems.

There are some awesome techniques such as the "mind maps", "SWOT analysis", "decisional balance", "Edward de Bono's six thinking hats", etc.

The Focus and the Diffuse modes are used by these techniques. First, they  focus on the situation -analyzing it, and then you become more creative -getting a wild idea. Let's see how to think outside the box.

Mind maps


Mind mapping is a powerful graphical technique for visualizing connections between several ideas or some information. It's a visual thinking tool where each idea or fact is written down and then linked by lines or curves to its following or previous idea or fact, thus creating a web of relationship. Its goal is to focus attention, and to capture and frame knowledge to facilitate learning and sharing of ideas and concepts. 


Mind maps keep you in whole brain thinking and let you see the big picture -how all the different thoughts are connected to one another. 

Mind maps help you to:
  • clarify new subjects, 
  • consolidate information from different research sources, 
  • simplify complex ideas, 
  • recall information and 
  • allow being creative.
Here's an example:

by Inspiration®
Planning and thinking. Start your learning with a mind map! 

For further information and inspiration, check out these mind map galleries and other resources, which illustrate the many ways you can use mind maps in your life:

Posts about "SWOT analysis" and "Edward de Bono's six thinking hats" are coming soon.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Bring your Presentations to Life with Storytelling

How to improve your presentations with storytelling.

The benefits of a bilingual brain

It’s obvious that knowing more than one language can make certain things easier — like traveling or watching movies without subtitles. But are there other advantages to having a bilingual (or multilingual) brain? Mia Nacamulli details the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged.

The Einstellung Effect I - Situation

Situation – identify relevant issues or problems.

If Einstellung is a German word that means an attitude to, the Einstellung Effect  is defined as the predisposition to solve an issue applying a strategy you already have in mind that has previously worked, but may not let you find out more appropriate methods of solving the current problem. This might happen because you believe you already know the best solution, even though you have not evaluated new tactics. Then, you get stuck in a particular approach.

Let's see an example: You have a 3 gallon and a 5-gallon jug that you can fill from a fountain of water. But the problem is how to get 4 gallons using the 3 gallons and the 5-gallon jug.

The trick is to realize that:

5-3 =2
5 - (3-2) = 4

That is:
Action                                 Amount After Action
                                             3 gallon jug               5 gallon jug

Fill 5 gallon jug                         0                               5

Fill up 3 gallon jug with
water from 5 gallon jug             3                              2

Pour out 3 gallon jug                 0                              2

Transfer water from 5 gallon
jug to 3 gallon jug                        2                              0

Fill up 5 gallon jug                       2                              5

Transfer water from 5 gallon
jug to 3 gallon jug                           3                           4

That's not the only way to do that. What's yours?

Happy learning!

Result – achieve your project, successfully.

Test yourself. Flash cards are effective tools to improve your learning. They help you to memorize facts quickly.

Once you've given your cards a good try, put them away. Wait and take them out again before you go to sleep. Remember that sleep consolidates memory. And bear in mind that material that you do not review is easier to forget.  

Achieving your results successfully requires spaced repetition, that is, spreading out your learning a little every day.

3 Practical Tips

Action - taking new actions. Step out of your comfort zone.

Don't be afraid of change. Cyclone Series

Your comfort zone is a state within you feel safe and in control. It includes any type of habit -everyday activities, that keeps you at gradually low anxiety level.

The learning zone is the area of innovation, exploration, and adventure. This zone is not a comfortable place, but it is a stimulating one. At your studies, it could be handing a project in a new way.

The panic zone is the area of discomfort and discouragement. You may be in your panic zone when you study something for an exam in the last minute. Like the comfort zone, you can't make progress in the panic zone.

We'll see 3 practical tips that are going to help you keeping in the learning zone, comfortably with no panic.

  • The Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro technique -twenty-five-minute timer- can be particularly useful in breaking up your response to cues. Focus intently for those twenty-five minutes and after the timer goes off, give yourself a small, fun reward. The Pomodoro technique avoids the potential distraction.
Don't miss the following absolutely amazing video on this technique.

  • Eat your frogs first in the morning. Do the hardest and most disliked tasks first, as soon as you wake up. Start with a task you dislike or one which you feel will be difficult. At the end of the day, you will be happy with how much you have achieved. This is an incredibly productive strategy. The reasons for it are a) you have more energy in the early morning, b) if you start with the task you enjoy, then you'll do the ones you dislike in a negative mood.
  • Clip art courtesy Microsoft Corporation
  • The importance of sleep in learning.  Sleep helps to renewal our brain and get rid of toxic products in it. It's like a housecleaning. Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory. Too little sleep seems to be the reason for not thinking very clearly the next day and not focusing attention and learn efficiently. Sleep has three functions: acquisition - the introduction of new information into the brain, consolidation -the process by which the memory gets stable and recall -the ability to access information after it has been stored.
 Brain during sleep animation © 2014 Kevin Mendez


Situation – identify relevant issues or problems.

Mindsets are beliefs. Beliefs about intelligence, talents, and personality. People think that intelligence, talents, and personality are inner and fixed qualities. Barbara Oakley says in her book, A mind for numbers: "Reshaping your brain is under your control. The key is patient persistence-working knowledgeable with your brain's strengths and weaknesses." That's what Carol Dweck calls "growth mindset", that is, your skills can be developed through dedication and effort. The message is: you can expand and improve your mind at any age.

Don't miss the following video on this subject. The power of believing that you can improve by Carol Dweck - TED Talks

Carol Dweck researches "growth mindset" - the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and to solve problems. Subtitles available in 15 languages TED talks.


Procrastination II - Task. Planning strategies

Tackling Procrastination

Procrastination is a habit, and like any other habitual action, it can be overcome. Let's see 4 steps to break the procrastination cycle.

  1. The Cue: That's what activates procrastination. It's like an "evil genius" who has directed his entire effort to get you away from your work. It can be a Facebook or a WhatsApp message, your favorite film on TV or whatever distracting factors.
  2. The Routine: It is the habitual response your brain is used to falling into when it receives the cue. Having a new system or a new habit is the best response. When you have a new system or a new habit, no willpower is needed -willpower uses a lot of neural resources. A system or a habit is something you do on a regular basis and getting new ones avoid procrastination and no willpower is required. Rewiring your old habits is the key to having a system. 
  3. The Reward: Finding ways to reward your good study habits is essential to escaping procrastination. Once your brain starts expecting the reward, the important rewiring takes place and that will allow you to create new habits.
  4. The Belief: The belief is the conviction that you can change your procrastination habit for a new system. The more you check out your new system works, the more you gain trust in your new system and the more it makes you feel good to do it again.

Power up your brain. ©

Procrastination I - Situation

Situation – identify relevant issues or problems. 

Procrastination is one of the most relevant problems for learners. Procrastination means postponing something that must be done, that is, deferring action. Undoubtedly, procrastination is "the thief of time."

Calvin and Hobbes. Procrastination

How does procrastination work?

Procrastination funneling ©Kevin Mendez, 2014.

What occurs when you procrastinate? You activate the areas of your brain associated with pain. Your stress level increases so you are not completing what you feel like an unpleasant task. That's a reaction that appears when you have to do something that you don't want to do, you don't enjoy doing it, or simply you are convinced you are not able to do it.

Are you familiar with the following tale? Think about it and identify why you constantly do things at the last minute.


This morning I got up and got ready quickly because I had to get a lot of stuff done. And sat down at my desk just started getting my stuff done and I spilled my coffee so I got a sponge to clean it up and I figured I’d take an extra minute to clean the whole desk because a clean desk could help me get my stuff done. 

When I was finished I realized I hadn’t eaten anything and I didn’t wanna be hungry while I got my stuff done. So I went into the kitchen and I was out of cereal. 

When I got to the grocery store I remembered a bunch of other crap I needed to get and I figured I was already there and so I did my shopping for the week so I didn’t have to worry about it while I got my stuff done.

 When I got home I didn’t feel like cereal anymore and so I made an omelette and  I did the dishes so I wouldn’t have to do them after I got my stuff done. And then, then I went out to get some oil from the hardware’s store because my desk chair is kind of squeaky and I didn’t wanna be distracted by a squeaky chair while I got my stuff done. 

When I got back it was getting kind of late and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get my stuff done today so I started watching "The Twilight Zone" marathon on TV.

 I just have to make sure I get to bed early because I want to be well-rested tomorrow so I can get my stuff done.

What's Learning?

"Learning is the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experience something."

Is learning a complicate process? We'll see it soon.

... Learning English? ©bernasconister

Our brain remains active while we are awake, sleeping, focused or daydream. Our brain can work on a situation, question or problem even while we are sleeping or not aware of anything. That's why our brain uses two different sorts of networks: the focused thinking and the diffuse thinking.

When we are solving problems in a rational, a sequential and an analytic way, that is the so-called, focused mode. However, when we relax our attention or we let our mind run free, then our brain is in the diffuse mode. Both modes don't work at the same time, but our mind needs to go back and forth between the two thinking modes. Focus and relax is essential to learn something new with "no pain," with no stress.

Focused and diffuse thinking, image © Kevin Mendez, 2014.

Focused mode:
Fixed neural pathway

Diffuse mode: 
Develop new neural pathway

No doubt, learning upgrades our brain. The following posts will show you how to develop a learning process, to hold your focus and embed the material more deeply and powerfully in your mind. For that, we'll use a special and useful acronym.

So, let's have a quick look to the acronym STAR

Situation – identify relevant issues or problems. 
Task – plan strategies.
Action – take new actions. Step out of your comfort zone.
Result – achieve your project, successfully.