Christmas Gift Idea: Infinity Scarf in Less Than an Hour

In November, four master’s students of communication management at our Institute of Social Studies – Eliise Ott, Helena Hain, Liina Külv and Kai Reinfeldt – launched a campaign entitled “I’ll make Christmas gifts myself this year!” as a part of their E-marketing course. As part of the campaign, the girls try out a lot of do-it-yourself gift ideas and post the results on the campaign blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

“Buying Christmas gifts has become a somewhat nerve-wracking responsibility, when you oftentimes grab stuff from supermarket shelves that brings no joy to the gift receiver or the giver. We think that a thoughtful Christmas gift is a great sign to our close ones how much we care about them,” said Kai, one of the campaign initiators.

One of the most popular gift ideas that Kai tried making was the so-called infinity scarf, which took her 40 minutes to complete without knitting needles. All you need is 2–4 skeins of yarn and your own hands. For the best result, the yarn should be bulky, stiff, and non-stretchy.

The yarn that Kai used turned out to be a bit too soft and stretchy for this purpose — in fact, she unraveled her old scarf in order to make a new one. So, Kai’s new scarf got some holes in it as a result – one way to go if you don’t want your scarf to be too warm.

This is the video that Kai used to guide her:

And let’s follow Kai’s progress as she went through the steps:

step 1The start has been made…
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Why Speaking Languages Is Inspiring, Enjoyable, and Healthy

If you have heard something about languages and the brain, chances are that your knowledge is heavily biased towards the role of the left hemisphere of the human brain. It is amazing how this 19th-century model can still be found even in psychology textbooks.

Edna Andrews“Thank goodness the imaging technology has made it absolutely clear: Language is a bi-hemispheric phenomenon,” says Edna Andrews, Professor of Linguistics and Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, who navigates in the fascinating realm of linguistics, neurosciences, and semiotics. Language ability is much more distributed in the brain and is much more variable from person to person.

You may know that language is a grey matter phenomenon, but sub-cortical white matter fiber tracks are also extremely important for making connections in the brain. Those connections are made, unmade, and remade constantly. The faster you learn something — be it languages, playing a musical instrument, or something else — if you stop, the faster you lose it. “There is something to gradual and continuous learning as opposed to abrupt explosive moments which are not sustainable,” knows Andrews.

In addition to language acquisition, the multilingual professor works with a full range of issues that have to do with languages and the brain throughout the entire life cycle, including language maintenance and loss. And whenever you deal with brain and language, it is always about culture and identity as well. “Language is learned in a cultural context and it tells us who we are, who we see ourselves being,” points out Andrews. “If you don’t want to talk to people who speak that language, if you don’t like them, you are in big trouble. If you are forced to learn a language — and this happens a lot in school — you do terribly.”

So, the bottom line is: If you are not doing well in languages, it’s probably not your brain’s fault. It’s about so many things: motivation, goals, identity. Continue reading

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How I Learned Organisational Behaviour by Doing a Charity Project

Hello everyone! I am Kelly and I’m studying economics. This is my 3rd year in university.

This year we had to pass a course called Human Resources Management and Organisational Behaviour. On 17 September we found ourselves facing a charity project. Maaja Vadi, the professor who was going to give us lectures about organisational behaviour, told us that this year students had to participate in a charity project and would therefore get homework points. We were like, “OK, we can do it”, and started to form groups with friends. Then suddenly one of the coordinators of the project said, “Calm down, we have already put each and every one of you into a group”. Then there was a sudden silence. Someone said, “That’s not fair – we will never get this done with people we don’t know”. We had like 60 people participating in this project.

So, our first assignment was to go (with our team) and choose things ourselves which we wanted to collect. We were told that we must not buy any of them by ourselves, all had to be collected from someone else. My team chose to collect different games: board games, cards, etc. There were 6 different types of things in total which we could choose for ourselves: tea packs, socks, games, cooking ingredients (flour, oil), drawing and handicraft things, and sweets. Every type could be chosen by two teams. So we had a challenging moment too: who would be the first to contact bigger companies, because the probability was that when a big company (like Kalev, for example) donated to one group, the other would end up empty handed.

team members Kelly Saar and Kadri Kõivik

Kadri Kõivik and I (on the left) with the donated games at the Võru Street wood workshop. Image from a personal archive

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6 Tips To Survive Your Writing Assignments

Once you have entered the realm known as university, you are faced with a myriad of assignments. Many of these assignment involve you having to put your pen on paper (or your fingers on the keyboard) and produce text. This text is consequently used by your instructor to measure how well you know something by either giving you a grade, representing the ‘correctness’ of your text, or by providing you with feedback which either confirms or rejects your knowledge on the subject and might justify the amount of time you actually spent writing.

The problem with writing, and more specifically, writing at university, is that learning to write is exactly the same as learning to ride a bicycle. Most of us start at a very young age, first with the help of our parents, next with the help of training wheels, and before you know it, these have been removed and you’re off. Your horizon has just expanded, you’re skills have been updated, and you are likely not to forget ever again how to ride your bike. Although learning to write is a much more complex process, we do not seem to make the same early start as we do with riding a bike, right?

Come to think of it, even when attending high school, we are often not adequately trained or prepared for university writing. As a result, when most of us enter higher education, we struggle with the writing tasks, and nobody seems to offer us the training wheels we so desperately need to help us learn how to deal with and survive our (first) writing assignments.

The following guidelines are compiled to give you some support. Follow them and I guarantee that writing becomes tolerable and maybe even enjoyable.

quote on writing

Image credit: http://www.someecards.com.

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How To Become Rich with Semiotics?

commercial semioticsOkay, I did not ask Chris Arning if he has become rich with his Creative Semiotics boutique consultancy in the UK. Not rich enough yet, I’d suppose, if he is still in business — but then, running a semiotics consultancy and having clients pay you for doing what you love could be a great thing too. Especially when your clients include giants like BBC, Unilever, and Pepsico.

Last week Chris ran an intensive course on commercial semiotics for students at the University of Tartu — one of the few institutions in the entire world that teaches degree programmes in semiotics. At the end of the course, we sat down to talk about using semiotics commercially, selling the semiotic approach to clients, and setting up and promoting one’s consultancy business.

To start with, commercial semiotics operates in the field of branding and marketing. Usually clients turn to Chris with strategic brand management issues. They typically want to evaluate the performance of their brand, need to reposition their brand and take it to new markets, or they want to develop new products. Semiotics helps businesses understand the context that surrounds their brand and, more importantly, make decisions on the basis of this information. Continue reading

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University of Tartu Researchers on The Ukraine Crisis

This is a growing collection of the analyses and commentary on the ongoing Ukraine crisis by the University of Tartu researchers.

Last update: 26 November 2014.

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How to Prevent Risky Driving

Jaanus Harro is Professor of Psychophysiology at the University of Tartu. His research areas include pharmacology, psychology, health research, and neuroscience.

fast driving

Learning to notice one’s impulsive behaviour in traffic helps reduce accidents on the road. Image credit: Stuart Haury / Flickr Creative Commons.

Many traffic accidents happen due to drivers’ impulsive behaviour. Teaching drivers to acknowledge their own spur-of-the-moment decisions helps reduce risky driving.

In a recent study, we confirmed the efficacy of our novel technique targeting novice drivers’ risky behaviour in traffic. We divided nearly two thousand driving school students into an intervention group and a control group. The intervention consisted of a one-and-half-hour lecture and group work.

Participants in the intervention group answered a few questions that help to paint a simple and reliable picture of how impulsive their behavior tends to be. For example, students assessed how likely it is that in a complex situation they might act without considering the consequences.

Then through individual and group analysis, we lead driving students to recognize themselves in some typical traffic situations. Let’s say, you are driving on a narrow curvy road and a slow driver is crawling ahead of you. What do you do? Try to pass him, signal him, drive patiently behind him until you get a chance to pass safely? Continue reading

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