Monday, May 24, 2010

Silicon Coach for studying trades based skills acquisition

Had a look at Silicon Coach with Andy Hearn, CPIT tutor in the school of science who teaches students on the sports and fitness programmes and the new Batchelor of Applied Science. This software is a specialised video analysis tool for sports to record sports activities, review and analyse the movements and then to share the findings.

The software includes a video format converter which is handy. Also nifty tools for drawing lines on to the video to compare angles of movement etc. There is also the ability to run two videos side by side and to superimpose videos one on top of each other to do comparative studies. The software seems to be easy and intuitive to use. Presentations may then be build from various analysis of sports peoples’ performances and exported via email, on to DVDs, or on to ipods.

I can see some use for Silicon Coach in our multimodal study of apprentices’ learning. This is especially if we are comparing, say the movement of the tutor and the students when learning discrete skills. This skill will need to be very specialised in order to make the most of the software. However, there is no facility to annotate the videos unless we transport the videos into another programme or to do thematic analysis on video clips.

So the choice video analysis software will be dependent on what our research goal are for each of our multimodal studies. It will be worthwhile to learn how to use Silicon Coach to do at least one in-depth study of skill based learning as this area does not seem to have received much attention. Something to think about as we embark on next semester’s project on studying apprentices learning in the areas of welding and building.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Comparing nVivo and alasti for video analysis

At present, the qualitative software analysis platform we use at CPIT is nVivo. I am now using nVivo with the ‘perspectives of first year apprentices’ project and the thematic analysis of interview data for the ‘perspectives of new trades tutors’ was completed using nVivo. I have discussed pros and cons of using Vivo before, Presently, I find it is easy to use and generally intuitive with regards to dealing with text analysis although I also take into account that nVivo does impose a certain way of thinking about qualitative analysis.

Discussions with a few other researchers who work with video data reveal several use atlasti. So I downloaded a free trial version of atlasti and have completed transcription of a short video clip with both sets of software. The free version of atlasti allows users to upload 10 primary documents, work with 50 codes, 100 quotations and 30 memos.

Here is a comparison of older versions of nVivo and Atlasti, As a comparison, of my own evaluation of the two, I have jotted down some notes.

The first task is to learn a whole set of new terms!! Atlasti – hermeneutic unit vs project on nvivo. Alasti quotes or quotations vs nodes in nVivo for themes. Networks in alasti vs models in nvivo etc etc.

Atlasti is more ‘windows like’ in layout but nVivo uses the concept of folders to store and navigate through the various layers of data. Atlasti is more intuitive to use for uploading ‘primary documents’ which are referred to as ‘sources’ in nVivo.

Importing videos into each programme meant we had to convert videos to the correct file format which could be read by each data analysis software package. We used any video converter which is a free download and easy to use. Converting between video formats using this tool is straightforward.

Time stamp on nVivo only allows for a minute intervals which are, at the moment, not fine enough with the transcripts we have been producing. Also only one column for timespan and another for comments. However, custom columns can be added.

Had to convert word table of transcripts into a rtf or txt file to upload as a ‘primary document’ in atlasti which mucked up the organisation of the word table. Assigning quotations (nodes in nVivo) was simple, similar to adding comments to a word document. Coding also straight forward using a drag and drop technique. Video coding using an editing technique to snip segments out of the video to code.

Coding video using nVivo also involves a snipping / selection process and then a drag and drop of the selected segment to the code required. The coding summary records the timespan or the transcript fragment.

On alasti, the coding is marked on the transcript on a side screen and the actual video clip comes up.

Will need to work with both nVivo and Atlasti for another couple of clips to become proficient at the technicalities of working with each tool. At the moment, they both complete similar tasks although for the moment, Atlasti provides a better method to access video segments which have been coded.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Using google books for research and teaching

Besides searching the web using Google, the google tool I use the most is Google books. I also have an iGoogle site which has usual calendar/weather plus links to RSS feeds for local NZ news, BBC news and Endgagets plus a few widgets which I use often including a currency converter, scrabble dictionary and a measurements converter. Google scholar also features high on my list of google tools to use as it augments the CPIT Proquest database for scholarly, peer-reviewed articles. I often use google scholar as a precursor to Proquest to get a feel for the researchers working in a pertinent field and then continue on with the Proquest databases.

However, I find myself using Google books at least a couple of times a day to look things up and to add to articles found on Google scholar or Proquests. Since starting the use of google books at the end of 2008, I now have over 500 books categorised into 47 bookshelves. 99% of these offer previews. Often the contents page and first introductory chapter contain enough information to follow through either with an interloan request to the library for a copy of the relevant chapter or a purchase request to the library. I am also now placing GB as a tag on to articles / books stored on Endnotes as a cross reference for me to access the relevant article or book easily.

Google books show up well on my ipod touch as well so with an ipad, the reading experience will be even better. It is really the convenience more than anything else which makes google books such a great resource. When I get the time in the future, I will contribute with reviews of books etc. as many of the books currently in my library tend to be focused on workplace learning, apprentice research, identity formation etc. which are not really books read by the general public.

I have found Google books to be a good way to ease adult education students into reading online.  I provide hyperlinks to pertinent and seminal books on Moodle as 'readings' the week before a scheduled f2f or online session. During the session we discuss a few main points I have asked the students to find out by reading a chapter in the book.  Almost always, when the class is introduced to Google books, there will be a discussion on how to read a book online, it's advantages/ disadvantages and how to later find the reading again. So using reading archived on Google books is one way to introduce tutors to the concept of ebooks. 

Digital literacy for tutors includes debates on the use of interactive white boards and mobile technology along with the availability and accessibility to digital information. These are all crucial components of the classroom of the future, whether f2f or online.  Google books is one way to introduce people to how technology has changed the way in which we are able to access information. From there, it becomes easier to springboard ideas about how to integrate technology into helping students learn better in different teaching contexts.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

CORE presentation from Lois Christmas on insights on learner experiences.

Attended to-day’s CORE session presented by Lois Christmas on her Graham Nuttall classroom research trust award . Lois presented on her study of a year 3 to 4 class studying numeracy. She probed the assumptions of how an effective teacher organises a class, provided suggestions as to how to take the pressure off teachers who want to do what they think they have to do, considered teaching as inquiry through a different lens and challenged school leaders to ensure that they allow teachers enough freedom to implement effective learning environments for their students.

A well attended presentation and Lois presented her study well with insightful observations of how children experienced numeracy learning in a primary school classroom. Data was collected mainly through the use of field notes. Photos were taken to assist with stimulating recall with students during one on one interview sessions. A puppet (Mr. Ed.) who took on the role of ‘someone who knew even less than the student’ was used to help illicit responses from children.

The study took place in a NZ classroom which had all the hallmarks of a great learning environment. The class was vibrant, exciting, positive, well organised and student contributions and talk was valued by an excellent teacher. The classroom was also well resourced with games, worksheets, computers etc. to be used as tools to assist the learning of basic numeracy facts.

The organisation of the class was a typical one used in numeracy teaching in NZ where the main objectives is the ‘create new knowledge’ through the learning of strategies and knowledge. Each session begins with a ‘hotspot’ session on the mat which is a whole class session to do learning and review concepts already learnt. Then the class is divided into two groups. As the teacher works with each group, the rest of the class practices, plays games or work in groups. Then the class meets again at the end for a ‘reflective’ session.

One of the findings of Lois’ study is that the teacher has very little time, using the above classroom organisational structure to actually work with individuals or to be able to gauge individual students’ understandings. Flexibility in school leadership to allow teachers to use other classroom organisational structures in tandem with the recommended approach is recommended. In Lois’ study, one student’s misconceptions about place values in adding and subtracting whole numbers was not addressed leading to deeper confusion as the curriculum moved on into more complex numbers.

This study is a good example of how much the private lives/ thought processes of learners are hidden from teachers, even in a classroom which is an exemplar of primary schools in NZ. There is much to learn from this form of research in the vocational education sector, so onwards with our multimodal project.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Learning welding #6 - coming to grips with video transcription

Flip and I collected a series of videos and voice recordings over the last couple of weeks and are busy transcribing the material. To begin, we are selecting portions of the videos and recordings to transcribe by first doing a preview of the entire recording. Time codes with pertinent notes are taken at key portions of the recordings. These are noted for follow up.

We then select the recordings which we will focus on studying and transcribe these. This is mainly for both of us to practice video and voice transcription. We then compare out transcriptions to find out the nuances of transcription which are different. For the moment, Flip, with his intimate knowledge of welding is content focused. I tend to be able to put my researcher’s hat on as I am an absolute novice to the welding trade. This provides a good model which I will need to think through when we extend the multimodal project to include other trades. Flip will need to hone his skills as a researcher when he works with other trades as there will perhaps only be the two of us to work with tutors from other trades. This ‘apprenticeship’ model has worked well for the project so far towards building capability for vocational education research focused on trades learning.

Studying the video recordings is providing good practice at honing observational skills. For instance, I now notice the differences in how students touch metal services they are filing down for macro testing of welds. There is touching to gauge smoothness, but also touching to clear the surface of debris. When the surface is being studied for smoothness the tilt of the head is an indication of this action. Whereas when clearing the surface of debris, there is no head tilt. This indicates the importance of being attuned to whole body movements and not to just concentrate on the actual activity. The stance with which the student approaches a filing task seems to also be significant in indicating their confidence at completing the task.

Analysis of voice recordings indicate students who have been learning welding for a term (8 weeks) to be comfortable with the use of technical language related to welding. When the tutor talks to them in small groups, there is general nodding of heads when specific welding procedures are mentioned. In a short recording of the tutor discussing the results of the ‘nick break’, three students other than the student whose work is being evaluated gather around the tutor. All students are focused on how the tutor dissects the results of the ‘nick break’. Through the course of the short conversation of only 4 minutes, at least 16 technical terms specific to welding is used.

The above is a good example of how deeply students have begun to be acculturated into the community of practice of welding, in particular, how the common understanding of welding terms allows them to discuss welding concepts with the tutor. This is a good example of how inter-subjective understanding (Hutchins and Klausen, 1998), as described in paper on airline cockpit communications,  is being learnt through the tutor modelling the use of these terms within the context of welding.