Monday, July 16, 2018

Cork dork – book overview


This book, the Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker, came via GoodReads recommendation. There is a positive review from Decanter - wine industry magazine; overview from the NYTimes; and a less glowing report, here - which surmises the book encourages wine noobs to ignore the snobs, just drink cheap wine! 

I tracked the book down at the local library and read it over a wet weekend. One of the sub-projects from the recently completed e-assessment project, was to help cookery students learn how to taste. As tasting was deemed to be something ‘everyone is able to do’, the cookery teaching team did not place much emphasis on overtly teaching students how to taste. Learning how to taste like a chef, was therefore chiefly learnt through modelling from the chef tutors.

The chef tutors only realised that students were unable to articulate the sensory evaluation of dishes when students were required to reflect on the cooking process of dishes as part of the evidence gathering towards collating eportfolios. The researcher for this sub-project, is a food and beverage tutor, who had come from the tradition of being taught how to taste wine. Part of the project, was therefore to try to make overt and structured, the ways food tasting could be described. Mindmapping and notetaking apps were introduced to assist with learning the ‘language of tasting’. These apps were to facilitate the sharing of dish descriptions and evaluations to assist students to widen their sensory evaluation vocabulary.



Back to the book, which has 11 chapters, tracing the journey of the author, from novice / layperson to practicing sommelier. The author was able to make a head start using her contacts as a tech journalist and with the rationale of the book as a lever into the rarified world of professional wine tasters. Being a sommelier entailed not only being able to taste wine, but also to sell it, provide good service in fine dining restaurants and gain a foothold into a challenging but well-paid occupation (when compared to other hospitality work).

To begin, the author managed to gain an entry level job as a ‘cellar rat’, assisting with the storage and re-stocking of a wine cellar in a prestigious restaurant. She was able to make friends with several well-known sommeliers and join them for their tasting sessions. This led her to prepare for the first level of accreditation to become a sommelier through eligibility to take the Certification exams.
By the end of a hear, the author was working as a sommelier in a wine bar, had passed the first of a series of professional exams, and also established, through a fMRI scan, that her brain reaction to wine, was similar to experts. So the year of hard graft, tasting many wines and learning the esoteric knowledge components of wine making, had triggered a change in her brain structure.

The perceived method towards training the brain therefore, begins with training to smell. ‘Stocking the sense memory’ was essential to being able to connect the descriptive wine terminology, with tasting and identification of wine. The patterns of taste has to be organised, so the patterns connect with wine types, grape varieties, regions etc. Apart from learning how to taste wine, service of wine required skill training through repeated practice and an understanding of the psychology of people’s social relationships.  In short, sommeliers really have to work for their pay.

Overall, the book provides a good insight into how a novice, learns a complex set of skills, connects the sensory sensations to a large bank of knowledge, and utilises these in a demanding occupation. A sommelier, is the sum of all of these and each, brings into the job, their own personality and characteristics as well.

All in, a good read and a relaxed way to learn much about the world of wine.


Monday, July 09, 2018

Lightboards @ Ara


After several years of development, Ara is now able to make use of a lightboard for recording instructional videos for students. The team which constructed the lightboard, used a variety of resources to put together the lightboard. An example from here , here  and here on a one button lightboard studio.

Last week there a short presentation with Mark Kingston from engineering at trades, demonstrating how he used the lightboard to support his teaching.
The rationale was to engage trades engineering / fabricating students with trade calculations. These students are often very math phobic due to poor experiences at school. Using the lightboard provides a resource that can be used by learners to repeat contextualised maths to nut out the nuances of trades maths. He has now produced over 30 videos and they are posted on YouTube.

Reflections on the outcomes. Anytime learning and useful with students who are not keen to ask questions in class and it is difficult to work out if they have understood the concept. Moving away from unit standards allowed more time for competency to be built up. The videos allow for a contextualised resource to be built up quickly, sometimes to meet just in time learning needs that have come up during a f2f session. Challenges have mainly been with the software. Keeping the glass clean on the lightboard is crucial and requires some elbow grease.



The lightboard’s original intent is to allow videos to be recorded of the tutor’s board work as they explain a concept. It is particularly useful for disciplines which have a high visual / kinaesthetic focus exampled by maths, engineering and trades subjects. The app ‘explain everything’ is capable of similar but does not allow for the teacher / tutor, apart from their voice over, to also be included.
I am more interested in how the videos recorded with a lightboard will be useful for learners to record their learning as well. Using the Thayer method in a more learning focused fashion will likely provide dividends. The method requires learners to ‘teach’ a topic after they have learnt concepts presented to them in a lecture. Using ‘explain everything’ is the 21st version of using a chalkboard to write up equations. This approach, puts into practice, a concurrence of neuroeducation recommendations for learners to be able to 'teach' what they have learnt. See recently overviewed book on this blog, chapter on educating minds, for rationale.

For the current practice, tutors may record a ‘how to’ video using the lightboard. Learners use this resource to practice an attain fluency. Then they solve a slightly different problem and record their process on the app ‘explain everything’ (or similar). This provides a learning loop to be established, providing the tutor with evidence of students’ learning which may then also be archived in an eportfolio.



Monday, July 02, 2018

Matthew Crawford on satisfaction from trades work - ITF conference 2018

Last week, the annual Industry Training Federation (ITF) conference was held in Welllington. A range of invited speakers presented on a way ahead for NZ with regards to vocational education and workplace based training.

I was not able to get to the conference but the conference twitter feed provided photos and summaries of various presentations. The overall theme of the conference was 'Skills in a changing World'. Speakers concentrated on providing statistics on what the future might bring with regards to demographics in NZ, possible scenarios of work in the future, call for equity to ensure vocational education was availed to groups currently with high youth numbers (Maori and Pacifika) but poorly represented (women, range of ethnicities which have grown in numbers etc.)

One of the keynote speakers was Matthew Crawford, author of the book - Shop class as soul craft - see here for summary / overview on this blog. Matthew also summarised some of the concepts in the book on a Radio NZ interview. A short interview, giving more updated examples then in the book but reiterating the need to look beyond a degree for work preparation. Some 'white collar' work may not provide the job satisfaction or earning potential of trades work.

So although not able to be at the conference, the various social medii provided some opportunity to keep in touch with the overall tone of the conference. NZ has to address the need to ensure there is equity of access to all types of work for all its citizens. Otherwise, the replacement of the mainly pakeha (white) and male workforce in especially the vocational occupations, will be a continual challenge.