Checking email. Photo ©, via flickr and Creative Commons

Photo ©

When he was younger and had more hair, Nature Boy often marked this time of year by resolving to break annoying habits. These included snacking between meals, spending too much time onscreen, sleeping until the last possible minute before getting up and getting ready for work, and so on.

Year after year, he resolved to get smarter, fitter, faster or just get up.

You could say he was beginning to develop a habit of making resolutions to break bad habits.

Alas, as with so many resolutions made by so many people, a resolution-making habit does little to squelch the habits prompting the resolutions….


Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….


Playing on beach. Photo © Wynand Strydom, via creative commons and flickr

Summer calls. Many youngsters stand at the leading edge of the season and anticipate two months of endless days, sunshine, mucking around and running about. Two whole months of playing!

However, many instead will endure a packed roster of prebooked, highly managed and directed activities. Many will take part in day camp after day camp, week after week. Many will have formal and informal learning activities thrust upon them. Most will be signed up for numerous and various pursuits that will keep them occupied and out of trouble until Mom and Dad or the grandparents can take their allotted summer vacations.

Few kids will have much time for play.

Many psychologists consider play an endangered activity. Today’s children experience little free time. They participate in activities, take lessons… even play dates must be scheduled and have unwritten agendas. So much of what kids do comes with explicit expectations, predetermined objectives, and the pressing, stress-inducing need to be somewhere at such and such a time, then off to somewhere else for something else, with little time between.

The danger in all this busy-ness, warn child-development experts, is that it comes at the cost of free, creative play. Researchers have long rooted around in the human mind to tease out how play affects kids in the moment, a few months down the road, and later on when they become adults.

Play, they’ve found, is essential for children’s social, physical, mental and emotional development and health. Scientists have found that play increases mental and emotional flexibility, creativity, and social skills, as well as increases kids’ abilities to find meaning in experiences, regulate their emotions and stress, express themselves creatively, coherently and spontaneously, and think laterally and divergently….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Dogs are attuned to their people, but who is in charge. Photo © Stefan Holodnick,, via creative commons.

Some dogs show more intelligence than most people. Or so their owners tell me.

Perhaps thinking of one’s four-legged best friend as brighter than one’s children—perhaps not one’s children, but possibly one’s in-laws—goes with the territory of being a dog owner. Much like people universally describing their driving skills or their children’s giftedness as better than average.

I don’t know if the “my dog is smarter than most people” phenomenon is universal to two-legged members of clan Canis. I do, however, know I am required by friends to adjust my vocabulary in certain canine company. Forbidden words include W-A-L-K, T-R-E-A-T, B-A-L-L and C-A-T.

According to University of B.C. psychologist and canine-intelligence expert Stanley Coren, dogs can learn about 160 words. Exceptionally bright pooches can attain a vocabulary of about 300 words….

Read the rest in the Victoria Times Colonist….


Shakespeare memorial at Southwark Cathedral, U.K. Photo © Duncan Harris.

William Shakespeare had a lot to say about the importance of sleep. His memorial at Southwark Cathedral, U.K.

We can sleep a little longer this weekend. Most of North America resets its clocks one hour back tonight, marking the end of daylight saving time.

If we choose to slumber through the hour gained, we’ll wake up slightly more rested and slightly better able to deal with the coming week’s events and obligations.

For some of us, that week includes attending Tuesday’s opening performance of the new show at Victoria’s Belfry Theatre. A Tender Thing, by British playwright Ben Power, re-imagines Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as lovers grown old together. It is the second of three Shakespeare-inspired shows the Belfry audiences will see this season.

Victoria's Belfry Theatre. Photo © Jason M Vanderhill,

Victoria’s Belfry Theatre presents Shakespeare three ways this season. A Tender Thing starts the week after clocks change back to Pacific Standard Time.

As with so many aspects of life, William Shakespeare had something to say about the importance of sleep. Four centuries ago, he described sleep as “sore labour’s bath / Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course / Chief nourisher in life’s feast” (MacBeth).

Sleep research, most of which has occurred only within the last few decades, confirms the accuracy of Shakespeare’s 400-year-old descriptions. …

Continue reading this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

classroom laptop use. Photo © Parker Knight, on flickr

Here’s good news for those of us trying to pick up new skills and information. Experts on how learning happens within the human brain have identified the two most reliable methods for transferring new information into our little grey cells.

One method requires that students revisit and build upon their study of a particular topic or problem over time, preferably at monthly intervals.

The other most effective technique requires students take repeated practice tests on the information—again, over periods of time. Students can administer the quizzes themselves, solo or with others, by using flash cards, study charts, practice sessions, or other study tools.

Both methods force students to repeatedly draw on and build upon their memories of the information, tasks or skills they’ve learned. The recurring engagement of memory consolidates the learning, and builds multiple neural pathways within the brain, so students can more easily access and retrieve the information from memory.

The techniques benefit students of all ages and abilities, and enhance performance in most areas of learning….

Read the rest of this editorial in the Victoria Times Colonist….


Additional sources:

Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers

Will Listening to Mozart Really Make Me Smarter?

Female College Students’ Media Use and Academic Outcomes: Results From a Longitudinal Cohort Study + a synopsis that you don’t have to pay for