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Friday, October 31. 2008
Surfing the Internet Boosts Aging Brains. That's what an article in The New York Times said.
Well, thank goodness.
Having just marked another year myself this month, I was interested in this NY Times article. It would be nice to know that while I'm working on a blog post and searching online something good was happening to those aging cells.
The research seems to show increased blood flow in certain areas of the brain when searching the web - IF you are an experienced web surfer. That is, all the participants show increased activity, but those who were Web-savvy showed some extra activity.
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have shown that searching the Internet triggers key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. The findings, to be published in the upcoming issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, suggest that searching the Web helps to stimulate and may even improve brain function.
Web 2.0 must be even better for my brain - all that extra interactivity and read/write. Working on my blogs has been the most regular writing I have done in many years. It's a daily activity for me to post on one blog or another. It's a lot more than just doing Google searches. When I look at the Serendipity35 log and see that this is post #617 for me, I am a bit incredulous. Of course, the old paper/print part of me thinks that if all that blogging had been focused on a book, I would have a finished manuscript by now. But, I know that honestly I wouldn't - because there is something about writing every day on a wide variety of topics and having an immediate publication and readership that can't be duplicated by the old print/publisher model.
Hopefully, you'll even get a little boost from reading these posts - especially if you follow our links and continue the journey after the post ends. Are you feeling a little blood rush? Crank up those voxels!
Thursday, October 30. 2008
A colleague and friend, Dana Maloney, is coordinating this year's NJ Council of Teachers of English High School Writing Contest. She would like to reach as many teachers and students in New Jersey as possible, so I offered to post about it on Serendipity35. Though it's an NJcentric contest, the personal essay portion sent me (and might possibly send you) back to a childhood memory.
The contest categories are: a poem, a short story (10-page max.), and a personal essay based on their prompt (5-page max.) More contest details at the end of this post.
All personal essay submissions must respond to this year’s prompt.
Where do you live? Use descriptive language to give the reader a virtual experience of your world. As you do this, let us hear your voice. Share the thoughts, feelings, questions and concerns that arise out of your view of the world around you. Bring your space – your town, your school, your home, your room, your web - to life for your reader. Where you live can be interpreted in many ways, including both literal and metaphorical ways, and we encourage you to take liberty with interpretation.As a model of a personal essay, Dana suggested an essay by another friend, teacher and poet BJ Ward. You might want to read his essay about his youthful home-away-from-home at his local library - it is available online. Escaping to books is probably something that many readers of this post can admit to from their youth.
"During the internet-less, video-game-less, and seemingly endless summers of my childhood, I could ride my bike to the Washington Borough Public Library and within one minute be transported to the world of Dr. Doolittle; The Hardy Boys; and Babe Ruth, All-American Hero. Each book was a planet with a spine. The librarian was an organizing star, keeping all those spheres in their places for future explorers to discover. The library itself was a universe—a macrocosm between paint-chipped walls, below a roof paid for by bake sales, sandwiched between a tattoo parlor and halfway house. It was the most fecund place I knew—a greenhouse for my imagination, where fluorescence had to do with my mind’s branches spreading. O the joyful fire in the astronaut’s skull when divination led to apprehension. "
I was one of those people who had a corner of the children's section of my public library that I considered to be mine. A big, fat, old leather chair in a corner with a dirty window and a wall of books for protection. When they built the new town library - a bigger, brighter, glass-walled version - I never found a special place there. (The modern chairs discouraged getting comfortable anyway.) Of course, by then I was out of the children's section which almost always is the more inviting part of a library anyway.
I had ventured a few times to the "big library" in my part of New Jersey - the Newark Public Library. It was impressive. Too impressive. I felt lost. Too many echoes in the halls, though I did like seeing in pop up in books like in Phillip Roth's Goodbye Columbus that I was reading. (My own hometown, Irvington, had shown up in some stories and in Portnoy's Complaint and I rode that same bus as Roth's character.)
BJ Ward's poem "Filling in the New Address Book" was featured on National Public Radio’s The Writer’s Almanac. (listen to Garrison Keillor reading it). His latest collection of poetry is Gravedigger's Birthday. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Warren County Community College in New Jersey.
Wednesday, October 29. 2008
Coworking is an emerging trend in the evolving nature of what we call the workplace. The term is new to me, but not all that new. It's an idea that first found favor with work-at-home professionals, independent contractors and people who travel frequently and so end up working in relative isolation. Let's say I run an consulting business from my home. Total freedom, right? Work when I want to, office in the basement, choose my start and stop time... Yes, telecommuting was going to be all the rage. We worked on some seminars and continuing education courses about it when I was at NJIT.
But, sometimes, you need to get out of the house. Have you seen those business people who seem to have set up an office in a coffee shop, Internet cafe or bookstore? Well, some entrepreneurs have decided there is a market for temporary office space. Enter coworking and the creation of workspaces where those people can go to work.
It seems more co-op, BarCamp and open source than business incubator or executive suite. These spaces offer both business hardware (desk, file cabinets, copiers, Internet etc.) and the softerware of the social, collaborative, and informal aspects of the workplace.
I first learned about all this from a Jumping Monkeys podcast which Megan Morrone does (with Leo Laporte) about parenting in this digital age.
They talked with Felicity Chapman, founder of Cubes&Crayons. That's a coworking company that has found a niche by offering both flexible office space (cubes) and onsite childcare (crayons). You can get office space and childcare services during regular business hours on a full–time, part–time or drop–in basis.
Chapman talks about providing infrastructure, but also a sense of community. Not everyone needs the childcare. Sometimes a small startup needs conference room space for a few days to get coworking employees together. A consultant might need an office for only 2 days each week. Right now Cubes&Crayons is only in Menlo Park, California, but they are looking to open other spaces in places like Austin and San Francisco. And they are not alone.
from "Redefining Coworking" by Dusty Reagan
If you're interested in creating or sharing space or want to learn more about this trend, check out this coworking community blog and this coworking wiki. Take a look at this video with some coworking folks.
So what effect might this have on education? The quick answer is to tap into any training this workforce might need as we tried with telecommuters. It might take a bit more imagination to see schools offering their own learning spaces as coworking spaces when classes are not in session. The larger idea might be envisioning what kind of education a workforce of coworkers (that doesn't work too well as a term - too close to co-worker) might demand in the coming years if this trend continues to grow.
Of course, a Coworking Institute has already emerged, so get started on your business plan.
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