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Over the years I have tried to reach some goals. Often the goal was quite easy like, “Get the lawn mowed before dark,” or “Don’t waste time on social media today,” or “Write more regularly in your blog.” These are worthy goals, but not life goals or even long-term goals. You will notice that this is a little longer than most my blog posts and not specifically about technology. That is because there is a lot behind the use of technology. This continues the thinking in my previous blog and relates to other former blog posts.

The other day a quote by Katherine Miracle caught my attention:

Your mindset will lead you to what you desire, if you are willing to work for what you dream of.

This is more of an inspiration than a goal, but it still relates to the process of achievement. Katherine Miracle knows about achievement. I was inspired by her work ethic several years ago when she was a senior in my class trying to graduate. You can read about her achievements over difficulties in her book, Discovering Your Dawn. And she started her own company that has become nationally recognized. Truly she is one who has a mindset and a willingness to work.

Soon after I read that quote, I saw an interesting report telling about combining psychology and typography in order to help in education. I found that quite interesting. This cooperative research and experiential learning project resulted in a new font that helps people to better remember what they read. Their research as they developed it showed a significant memory increase for those using this new font (see the details at Sans Forgetica).

The psychology of it, oversimplified, is that this font makes the reader fill in gaps and work harder than typical or traditional fonts. I knew of the concept of “perceptual completion” in nonverbal communication or “illusory contours” and even taught these concepts to my students. We complete what we don’t see by filling in what we typically see or expect to see – we complete the unfamiliar with what is familiar in order to understand it or make sense of it. The common fonts, those we have seen so many times in everything we read, are so common and familiar to us, we need less effort or thought to understand the words. Our brains are lazy, it seems. Similarly, you may have seen the memes that jumble letters in a sentence to show we don’t need fully accurate spelling to understand words, as long as the first and last letters are in place. (It is explained briefly at LifeHack, and the “original” research is attributed to Graham Rawlinston.)

up to meI do know that we have become lazy. Or, perhaps more fairly put, we have developed so many things to help us or make our lives easier that we have become less likely to work at things to get what we want. We don’t always have to. Take memory for instance. Know a phone number? We don’t have to because our phone saves it for us. More simply, remember anything? We don’t have to because we can look it up, or “Google it.” It began with the pencil and paper being readily available to us – we could write it down instead of remembering it – whatever “it” was.

Another popular discussion related to this is the concept of “grit” explained in a TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth. This, quite briefly, is the idea that it doesn’t matter how smart you are or your IQ as long as you have the “passion and perseverance for very long term goals,” or stamina, or sticking with your goals – the desire to keep trying. This goes for success in any category – school, work, sports, arts, etc.

So why don’t we have more of this (grit, effort, work, desire)? How do we get it? Perhaps more important for me as a teacher is, “How can I get it into my students?” I want them to learn. I want them to succeed. I know they need to work at it. Science has not come to an answer to this question yet.

So I try many things to spark that in my students. Sometimes it may be an encouraging comment that helps a student through a difficult semester and find their dawn, like Katherine Miracle. Or it may be grading tough, expecting the best so a student realizes that an A- is not good enough and works toward being the best, then goes on to win Emmy’s in a major market, like Michelle Molnar. Or it could be showing my love for the field and teaching that inspires a student to go on for a PhD and also enjoy teaching, like Anthony Esposito. Other times I am not sure what it is, but some students make a point to tell me that I helped them, like Micheal Fath and Paul Liberman. Or like many others that have been kind enough to mention it to me.

And there are the negative comments from students, too, usually on the anonymous course evaluations. I read them all. They tell me how I am bad. And I consider them. I try to figure them out so I can make it not so bad. I keep thinking about it, and technology usually comes into my plan.

Because I am still trying to reach that goal . . .