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 - 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. 

Monday, February 02, 2015

Stephen Billett - recent presentations on video

Managed to catch up with some videos, archived on vimeo of Professor Stephen Billett’s recent presentations. Had a couple of hot days just after the New Year and link of ipad mini to hearing aids improved connection to the presentations.

First up three videos from a conference at the OCE in Montreal - mid-2014.

1) Workplacelearning: challenges of the 21st century – 1 hour – watched to 23 minutes
Summarised seminal work on agency vs affordances

Summary of book on Vocational Education then moves on to discussing progress into the future.
Push for recognition of input from the people who actually do the work and people who teach vocational education.
Need to define what is vocation (personal) and what is occupation (social construct) – emphasis on occupation but vocation often neglected.
One objective of vocational education is therefore to assist people to find their vocation, not just be prepared for occupation.
Need to enhance enacted curriculum and find out students’ experienced curriculum rather than emphasis only on intended curriculum.

Reporting on project on continuing education and training -
Rationale for project presented, along with findings.

 Plus also found this one - a keynote from EAPRIL 2014 conference exploiting the potential of workplaces as learning environments for initial and ongoing occupational development.

All accessible ways towards understanding Billett's work.