Monday, March 23, 2015

Importance of practice

Via various sources, a collection of links on the importance of practice. Many come from the literature and blogs of musical training and musicians. 

Here is a post from a sports psychologist, Kageyama, applying the learning of sports to the learning of music - providing a summary of how top musicians practice differently from others.

Another post from another musician on how many hours are optimum for practice. Plus another one here with perspectives from a cellist.

The business take on deliberate practice and expertise, as per learning from chess, is summarised in this blog.

So, still some work to do in contextualising the literature for application to trades learning. The challenge with trades work is its variability and complexity. For instance, in the craft I am most familiar with, baking and pastry cooking. There are tasks which require quite a bit of effort and time to master. Examples are the use of piping bags, moulding of bread and 'hand dropping' fillings and biscuit (cookie) dough. Then there is the learning required to perform tasks with fluidity and 'least effort' like loading /unloading ovens or tray racks, lining pastry tins, cutting out pastry or dough. The key is perhaps to identity tasks requiring aspects of deliberate practice and work towards the deliberate practice skills being applied across all other work tasks. Something to mull over for the next couple of weeks.


Monday, March 16, 2015

learning a trade resources - video, summary of video, poster and report

The resources produced to support the ‘learning a trade’ project’ are now available via the project website:

The resources were previewed at last year’s NZ vocational education research forum in October- day 2 of forum.

Resources include:
·         a video of just over a minute, pitched at apprentices to provide tips for making the most of work-based learning, 
·         a one page summary of the video, - as the videos is fast paced. I will need to gauge feedback and see if providing a transcript of the video's dialogue may also assist.
·         a poster to encourage workplace trainers and ‘coaches’ to feed up, feed back and feed forward and
·         the report - summarising recent literature on 'how vocational skills are learnt', connected to the data from apprentices' descriptions of 'how they think they learnt a trade' and recommendations to improve trades learning.

Both the video and the poster were developed by a NZ company Mohawk Media through research grant funding from CPIT and Ako Aotearoa Southern Hub

Monday, March 09, 2015

Educational neuroscience – some cause for critical evaluation

Educational neuroscience is a branch of psychology studying the application or relevance of recent neuroscience research to learning. The American Adult Education Research Association (AAER) has a website for their SIG on ‘brain, neurosciences andeducation. The British equivalent is bested at Cambridge University as the Centre for Neuroscience in Education. Various journals provide access to the work of educational neuroscientists including trends in neuroscience and education, mind brain and education and a more recent addition, neuroeducation. Conferences include this one for June 2015 and the annual AAER one. 

Of note are various publications, including this one from the Times, cautioning the direct match of neuroscience findings application to learning approaches or strategies. As per recent blog, the findings from various brain imagery systems tend to be patterns correlated from analyzing data, usually an ‘averaging’ out of various ‘spikes’ in the graphs measuring brain activity. 

The challenge is, as always, to try to consolidate the many (to teachers unfamiliar with the topic) disparate research themes and distill them to inform teaching practice. The recent book “visible learning and the science of how we learn” summarized on this blog, and websites like the one provided by the danafoundation and brain facts, go some way. However, there is so much coming along, it is hard to keep up.  The News site of the Dana foundation site, gathers newsfeeds from various general bulletins, pertinent to educational neuroscience with regular editorials, collating the latest findings including this one on neuro-myths and education. There is also a link to neuroethics – somewhat telling! 

Other articles of interest to follow up include:
Scientific and Pragmatic Challenges for Bridging Education and Neuroscience Sashank Varma, Bruce D. McCandliss, and Daniel L. Schwartz 

Can Cognitive Neuroscience Ground a Science of Learning?_702 17..23 (2011) Anthony E. Kelly

Neurosciencefor Educators: What Are They Seeking, and What Are They Finding? (2012) Cayce J. Hook & Martha J. Farah 

and a paper found on Ebsco host database -
Getting to the Heart of the Brain: Using Cognitive Neuroscience to Explore the Nature of Human Ability and Performance by  M. Layne Kalbfleisch

As always, a need to keep up with the play. There is much work pertinent to informing improvements in teaching and learning but always to approach with caution and a critical stance. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Surface RT – working with multiple accounts in education context

Back into the fray with project surface tablet. The 12 projects we started out with last year have morphed into 16 with 2 of last year’s 12 moving on to BYOD or to other types of tablets and several ‘new’ projects.

We have learnt much from experiences last year. Chiefly, capabilities of RT surfaces in the various classroom / workshop environments at CPIT, staff capabilities requiring support and limitations of the RT surface to allow the running of video annotation apps. Here is another blog cataloging experiences in the higher ed. sector.

One of our main challenges has been to work out how to best manage accounts on tablets. Although Surface RTs allow for several user accounts to be set up on each tablet there is still the challenge of ensuring the right students accesses the correct tablet with their account set up on it.

A work around has been to set up a class account for each intake of students. We then coach students to transfer, at the end of each session, all their data on to onedrive or a memory stick. So, classes with small numbers of tablets (up to 8) are set up with individual student accounts. Larger classes or programmes sharing tablets (20 plus) are set up with a generic ‘programme’ account and students download the data when they complete each session.

The RTs have only a limited range of apps and in our bid to move to BYOD in the next year, all our projects do not rely on apps. Instead, the main functions revolve around some use of office 365, the video/camera capabilities and accessing web-based platforms including our Moodle LMS, etextbooks and echo350/socratic. One of the projects is working with computing students to develop an app but this is a long range project as each component of the app is developed and tested.

The main objective of surface tablet is still to upskill students and tutors digital literacy. Once tutors (and students) realise the potentialities of using tablets in classrooms / workshops, our role is to support the introduction and deployment. Before full digital literacy occurs, there is still a need to be 'guide on the side' to ease programmes into introducing technology enhanced learning into programmes. 


Monday, February 23, 2015

Brain rules - book overview

Picked this one from the local library - Brain Rules :12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and school – by John Medina (2008).

References and resources on www.brainrules.net - worthwhile checking out with a bonus chapter on the role of music in assisting brain activity.

A layperson’s reference on understanding how the brain works and how to get the most out of the brain. Has evolutionary slant and reports on the salient points required to make the most of your brain. 

Chapters on evolutionary origins of the brain to anchor concepts (chapter 2)
Things to do to get the most out of your brain:
Exercise, sleep, eliminate stress.

 To improve learning realize not every brain is wired the same way, we don’t pay attention to boring things, we learn better when more than one sense is stimulated and vision trumps all other senses. Male and female brains are different.
To improve learning –

Short term memory – repeat to remember. Long term memory – remember to repeat, we are powerful and natural explorers, so constructivist learning works.

Not much new as per previous summary on this blog-  but well-written with concepts explained through examples. Recommended as a good introduction for those interested in a quick read and a comprehensive, up-to-date overview.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Jiro dreams of sushi - on obsession and craftsmanship

Watched during the summer break on a 30’C day. Trailer on vimeo here and review here. The documentary is about the famous sushi restaurant that has earned 3 michelin stars. The documentary focuses on the patriach and owner, now 85,Jiro has made sushi for 75 years

Summary and notes taken while watching the video:

Hard work to achieve craftsmanship. Talent helps but is hard work that gets you there.

Obsession and continual self-criticism are the hallmarks of achieving perfection.  

Not only making sushi but selecting the raw ingredients (tuna) and there is a segment of the video on the rituals associated with tuna auction

Continued learning even when working with 'one' menu item after 70 years or fishmonger selling fish 40 – 50 years. Summarised as shokunin in context of the video – the Japanese concept of being perfectionists.
10 years apprenticeship!  Beginning with preparing hot towels and only after 10 years, will you be allowed to prepare eggs for the omelet - used as a dessert item in the restaurant. 200 omelettes before success – with others binned. Path to perfectionism is not easy or fast!
Much cannot be described in words, just need to keep practicing. For example, sushi nigiri hand moulding. There is much that is tactile and sensory - smell and feel are all important.
Apprentice prepare the staff meals, as a way to learn, critique and evaluate senior apprentices work. Only master prepares sushi for customers.
Development of palate just as important as physical skills – sushi staff eat well to learn quality
Experts on fish (selection by working tuna flesh in hands while illuminating with a torch), rice – the best rice is difficult to prepare and cook.
Each ingredient brought to perfection through preparation, cooking technique, seasoning and treatment before assembly with rice.
Customers book one month ahead and pay minimum of 300,000 yen per sitting (NZ$370 - $390) – with service around 30 minutes. For about 16 - 20 pieces of sushi
Preparation is key, 95% of sushi making is in the preparation, not the assembly
At the end discusses issues of sustainability – of the seafood and of the apprenticeship system.

Overall, a gentle documentary, of one person's pursuit of excellence. The Japanese approach to work is well encapsulated and overall, provides an interesting study of how societies' expectations mould individual's responses. Also a good representation of how apprenticeship learning is perceived in some societies and the acceptance of both master and apprenticeship of their roles in the entire enterprise. Worth a watch just for the food photography but also as a record of a way of life, now perhaps less common. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

On looking - book review

A book I skimmed read last year towards the preparation of an article on ‘learning through observation’. As article development progressed, I took time to read the book in greater detail.

Horowitz, A. (2013). On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Book borrowed from the Christchurch public library. Positive review here and summary here.

Horowitz is an expert on dog psychology and this book came about through her observations of how her dog, ‘saw’ or rather smelled, a different world when out walking around the block. This book, with an introductory and 12 chapters, chronicles Horowitz’s walks with a collection of experts, to unravel the way experts view the world.

Walks are with an urban sociologist, artist, geologist, entomologist, physician, typographer and sound designer. There are also walks taken on her own to establish a base line  plus walks with Horowitz’s toddler son, her dog and a person with limited vision to provide diversity. Although the majority of the chapters are on how experts ‘see’ the world, there are also chapters studying other senses, notably sound and smell.

The writing style is conversational, allowing the complex ideas to be well communicated. The book has lists of references to follow up, in the form of an epigraph – a collection of references with pertinent headings. A comprehensive index is found at the end of the book.
The book is also a good example of the conduct of a form of ethnography and how to write up observations. The tempo of the book is well paced, with short chapters but each providing the salient overview of an aspect of ‘looking’. Overall, a good introduction to aspects of multimodality and a call to be more aware of how each individual sees the world.