Life by Design

Archive for November 2009

This is a mind map made on the open source software, Free Mind to display the myriad of ways that I locate and learn new information.  Please click on diagram to read more easily.


One of the most interesting discoveries that has come out of the past decade of research on the brain is the concept of plasticity.  Plasticity is the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize its neural pathways based on new experiences and learning.  The ability of the brain to change with learning is called neuroplasticity.

I located several websites and references to some interesting approaches to plasticity.

The first reference comes from the journal, Experimental Brain Research (2009).   The study is entitled:  Neuronal plasticity:  historical roots and evolution of meaning. (Berlucchi & Buchtel, 2009).

In their paper, the authors outline some important milestones in the history of the term ‘plasticity’ in references to the nervous system and brain.    The earliest reference to plasticity is credited to William James for first adopting the term to denote changes in nervous paths associated with the establishment of habits.  Evidence is provided that in the first twenty years of the twentieth century the theory was generally accepted that learning is based on a reduced resistance at exercized synapses, and that neural processes becomes associated by coactivation. (Berlucchi & Buchtel, 2009).  I thought it interesting that this term has been known and referred to for a long time, even though it is now gaining much more coverage in the media and research.  Please see:



The second  website is a site suited for teaching the concept to children.  “Neuroscience for Kids” introduces the concept of plasticity, synaptic pruning, plasticity of learning and memory, and plasticity and brain repair.  It reinforces the fact that the brain is ever changing, adapting and building and deconstructing itself to optimally adapt to the learner’s environment.    I liked this quote from the site:  “The principal activities of brains are making changes in themselves”.  (Minksy, 1986).  While this site is designed for kids, I can see by adapting it for adults it would provide a good introduction to this topic  as this information can quickly get very technical and dry.    Please see:



The next  site of interest is a review of a book by Dr. Norman Doidge,  “The Brain That changes Itself:  Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”. His research and claims disucss the importance of immersing ourselves in a completely new hobby every two years or so.  Just as our muscles adapt to lifting a heavy load over the span of a few weeks, continuing to do the same brain-taxing activites over a long period of time has diminishing returns when it comes to brain health.  The bottom line of this blog entry is:  “It’s one thing to learn out of curiosity.  It’s something else altogether to learn new skills because your mental health depends on it.”  Please see:



The last citation for this blog is a reference to a study conducted by The National Academy of Sciences in 2006.  The study entitled, “Memory enhancement in healthy older adults using a brain plasticity-based training program:  A randomized, controlled study”  (Mahncke et al, 2006), did find that intensive, plasticity-engaging training can result in an enhancement of cognitive function in normal mature adults.  Cognitive decline is a nearly universal aspect of the aging process.  Memory problems, for example, may begin as early as age 30 and, on the average, worse slowly but steadily thereafter. (Mahncke et al, 2006).  After reading this study, I began to think that as instructional designers this could become an intriguing niche for our work, combining neuroscience, learning theory and design skills to develop online training to minds sharp, agile and productive.  Please see:

Welcome to my blog,  Life by Design!  In this blog, I plan to offer community dialogue and resources for instructional design.  Here are three blogs I found that I believe will prove useful for an instructional designer.

(A) Instructional Design for the Workplace

Brandon Hall Research is an independent research firm that provides advice and insight on workforce development and talent management technologies, trends and issues.
Workplace Learning Today is a group effort by senior Brandon Hall Research analysts Janet Clarey, Richard Nantel, Tom Werner, and Gary Woodill to provide readers with a daily summary of news, events, commentary, and research on all aspects of workplace learning.

This is a group blog of daily news and research about all kinds of educational media for the workplace.  Some examples of ‘tags’ for this blog include:  e-learning, instructional design, mobile learning, Second Life (virtual worlds) and social media.  The articles cover a wide array of events and discoveries in the wide world of emerging technology and education.    I think it will prove valuable in providing a continual display of new techniques and comments on existing methods for education in the workplace.

(B)  Instructional Design for Graduate Online Education

This blog is written by an instructional designer, Cristy Tucker, who works for Performance Learning Systems.

This blog is  written by a designer in the field of online graduate courses for teachers.  I think it will be valuable to watch her blog as she posts the latest news she finds relevant to her field.  I think as industrial designers, we need awareness  of applications in many fields.  She has an educational sidebar with topics such as:  What does an Instructional Designer do?;   Instructional Design Skills;  Technology Skills for Instructional Designers and Getting Into Instructional Design.  Anyone of these areas provides valuable information for the new instructional designer.

(C)  Questions of Relevance for Instructional Designers

The Learning Circuits Blog is a community feature of Learning Circuits.  It is dedicated to sharing ideas and opinions about the state of learning and technology.


The main feature of the LC Blog is its Question of the Month, which hones in on a priority topic facing learning professionals.   The question posted currently is:  “Instructional Design – If – When – How Much”  The question became more elaborate in a later posting:  “For a given project, how do you determine if, when and how much an instructional designer and instructional design is needed?”  It raises other questions such as,  “What skills/knowledge do instructional designers bring to the table that is unique to our profession that other trades do not?”  This is a large community blog, where professional instructional designers from varied positions have the opportunity to sound off.  I think it will be valuable to read their posts and gain more perspective about the field.