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Is it ever OK to spoon feed readers?

I wrote this and posted it February 2011 (my Open University) it was an open post.

At what point in e-learning design do you feel that by spoon-feeding learners that you are doing them a disservice?

That learning is better achieved as a result of effort, even through making mistakes.

How, with all these increasingly versatile and ‘easy’ tools therefore, do we ensure that effort is applied, that learners remain engaged?

We show, we test; they read, they write; they work alone, then as a group; they make mistakes and try again. They do something new, they see something in a different way.

The other day I was about to print off a recipe for a chocolate cake that my 12 year old son and a friend were willing to make.

Enlightened by a piece on the use of dreadful fonts in learning and how effective it can be to make information stick I printed out not in Arial or Callibri or Times Roman in 16 point, but in some swirly imitation of Edwardian handwriting in 10 point … beige.

They said nothing. The cake was a success.

Did it the lesson stick?

Perhaps I’ll try again today. Can they make the cake without referring to the recipe?

One aspect of this is slightly disingenuous, my son and I did make this cake together a couple of months ago in a more nurturing, assisting manner in which I played the role of ‘the talking recipe’ with demonstrations on how to melt the chocolate, split eggs, whisk egg-whites and fold the ingredients together.

It helped that my son could teach his friend.

How does this apply to the safe storage of Uranium Trioxide underground or dealing with an asthma patient? Or handling a customer who is complaining of the smell of sewage along their street? Or making a subject choice decision at A’ Level? And how about in the creative industries, as an art director or copywriter, even in Fine Art?

There are environments, clearly, where making mistakes is part of the learning process … but if you learning to fly commercial aircraft or reprocess spent rods in nuclear power, best to make the mistakes in a simulation.

To which I receive the following charming reply.

While learning a new language, some learners prefer to be spoon fed, and some would hide somewhere quietly and never surface to attend any tutorial, despite my persuasion, encouragement, nagging……but I haven’t resorted to threat so far.

I would love to know the chocolate recipe…………

In the cooking lesson in secondary school where I helped out, for example, making muffins, the teacher would demonstrate in the first lesson, and then in the same lesson, the students do some written work, eg, comparing muffin and cup cake, their ingredients, calories, and why A is healthier than B. They also wrote about the purposes of sugar, flour, butter……Students also need to design a box, with labels on, to sell their muffins.

The Students only get to cook it in the following lesson – if they remember to bring the ingredients at all.

I’m trying to say students do not get to cook in every single cooking lesson. There is an awful lot of writing, drawing, designing labels on computer, health and safety and planning involved.

Font – At first, I was wondering if the font was the school’s favourite — Comic Sans? And if so, why do so many men hate it?

OLD MOOC 2013 – Why Activity Theory needs to be seen, not itemised, to have any chance of being understood

Fig. 1. Durer’s Rhino.

I dutifully followed an OLD MOOC 2013 link to an article that pertained to offer a checklist for a would-be e-learning designer to get their head around the ‘context of learning.’ The article takes the model and theory of an Activity System and implies they will then offer this as a check list – I literally expected a set of questions and a check box set against the key concepts/issues of an Activity System:

  • Tools
  • Subject
  • Object
  • Rules
  • Community
  • Division of Labour

Though by doing so forgets crucial hidden issues such as the ‘action’ or activity between these points, the historicity of an activity system in a chronology of change, the interaction of more than one activity system to generate an alternative object  … and so on.

It has to be a matter of choice and working practice, but for me an Activity System drawn up as a triangle with interacting nodes on a large sheet of paper is a far better way to visualise and share the components involved. The very process of explaining what each node represents becomes a point of discussion, disagreement and compromise that forces ideas into the open.

Fig. 2. Engestrom’s Activity System in practice – addressing accessible e-learning

I have even gone so far as to take out chess pieces and put them at these nodes to represent ‘community’ for example … and have pieces of string to denote the activity and interactions.

Fig.3. Getting an Activity System visualised and closer to the real world – as interaction between people.

Then if people aren’t flummoxed to add a second activity system to represent separate communities or system with a common goal that through interaction will produce a valid, for different, new and unexpected outcome (or Object 3 if you follow Engeström closely). In this respect sharing how Activity Systems can help explain the context becomes a creative problem solving exercise and a crucial part of early learning design analysis.

Fig. 4. How Engeström takes Activity Theory to the next step and conceptualises the interactions between two systems. A meeting of minds or a meeting of institutions?

I found reading about Activity Theory without the classic equilateral triangle rather like trying to describe a rhinoceros without a picture.

Fig. 5. From ‘Methods & Tools’ (1999) Not a checklist so much as a table.

The above strikes me as rather like itemisizing the parts of a jelly-fish in an Excel Spreadsheet. This works for some people – a unique a tiny minority. The entire purpose of laying out an Activity System as a diagram is to help make the complex seem less so – Kaptelinin et al have done the exact opposite.

WHAT NEXT ?

Fig. 8. Third generation Activity Theory expressed using Lewis Chess pieces

I’ve used chess pieces on a front door sized board drawn up as a third generation set of two activity systems to visualise the interplay between systems.

Fig. 9. Twister Max

What I’d like to do is work with 20+ people with a set of Twister Max discs to walk through some ‘live’ activity system scenarios … like a piece of improvised theatre ala Mike Lee, with people role playing personas or ‘insurgents’ in the system.

Fig. 10. Career Guidance for Year 11

To create a Year 11 careers guidance video I did something like this with some 30 students from a local youth theatre. The dots were placed out on the floor in various configurations and the players invited to say what they were doing x years away from their current age i.e. at key life stages in training, employment, at college, or school … beyond at university and so on. So bringing personas to life. This was then translated into identifying and interviewing people at these life stages on the street.

REFERENCE

Engeström, Y (1999) ‘Activity theory and individual and social transformation’, in Y. Engeström, R, Miettinen and R.-L. Punamaki (eds) Perspectives on Activity Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kaptelinin, V.; Nardi, B. A. & Macaulay, C. (1999), ‘Methods & tools: The activity checklist: a tool for representing the “space” of context’, interactions 6 (4) , 27–39 .

 

E-learning needs to be ‘my learning’ – m-learning by another name.

‘Time to see the individual needs in a personal way’

This is relevant to all learners, so perhaps provision for disabled students can put them in the vanguard – this is in theory where e-learning is taking us, reading Littlejohn and Pegler (2007) ‘Preparing for blended e-learning’

The authors predict that the shift is towards putting the needs of the learner first – I feel however we are a long easy from that – not least the inertia of the physical infrastructure, but the traditions, habits and ways of our educators too.

Instead of seeing e-learning as a way to get one standardised module in front of 10,000 people it needs to be seen as a way of delivering 10,000 modules to 10,000 people with the vastness and complexity of their differing needs, interests, experiences, motivations, capacities, skills and so on.

 

How I see myself as an educator

I’m in this group. The cartoon/illustration was drawn in 1987. It was the idea a friend and I came up with to promoted the School of Communication Arts. It wasn’t used. Shame. Too generic perhaps?

The sentiment still holds true. Instead of being sprinkled upon (back row, three in from the right) I now, in several ways wield the watering-can.

Learn – Repeat – Learn

 

Fig. 1. Spaced education randomised trial. Kerfoot (2008)

‘The psychological conclusion demands a distribution of repetitions such that some of them should be produced at a later time, separated from the first repetition by a pause’. (Vygotsky, 1926:Location 2686)

So wrote the educational psychologist Lev Vygostsky over 80 years ago. Putting this into practice using email (and now Smart Phone apps and eventually Facebook), the team at Spaced-Ed have created a learning system that works.

SPACED EDUCATION – DR B PRICE KERFOOT

Interactive Spaced-Education to Teach the Physical Examination: A randomized Controlled Trial

BACKGROUND/PROBLEM

Several studies have documented that physical examination knowledge and skills are limited among medical trainees.

OBJECTIVES:

The objective of the study is to investigate the efficacy and acceptability of a novel online educational methodology termed ‘interactive spaced education’ (ISE) as a method to teach the physical examination.

DESIGN:

Randomized control trial.

PARTICIPANTS:

170 second year medical students.

MEASUREMENTS:

  • Spaced-education items (questions and explanations)
  • Validated by two experts
  • Piloted and 36 items selected for inclusion
  • 6 spaced-education e-mails each week for a 6 week cycle.
  • Students submitted answers to the questions online and received immediate feedback
  • An online end-of program survey was administered.

RESULTS: Successful 85% participants recommended the ISE programme for students the following year.

CONCLUSIONS: ISE can generate significant improvements in knowledge of the physical examination and is very well-accepted by students.

While many studies have documented the dearth of physical examination knowledge and skills among trainees, ISE has the potential to remediate these deficiencies across the spectrum of medical education’. (p977)

Why necessary?

Students do the training, but may still have poor recall a year later. Spacing works.

The spacing effect is the psychological finding that educational encounters that are spaced and repeated over time (spaced distribution) result in more efficient learning and improved learning retention, compared to massed distribution of the educational encounters (bolus education). (P973)

As Vygotsky expressed it 80 years previously:

‘It should also be emphasized that every person has his own customary rate of response, and that any change in this rate, either speeding it up or slowing it down, weakens the force of recall’. (Vygotsky, 1926:Location 2686)

And so here students can tailor the timing of questions they are fed – spacing them out or bunching them as they see fit and circumstances change. Go try it, there are courses you can do on topics that a far less demanding that second year physical examinations. Try world history in maps, for example, or getting the most out of your iPhone.

A distinct neurophysiologic basis for the spacing effect has been identified

‘Spaced education’ refers to online educational programs that are structured to take advantage of the pedagogical benefits of the ‘spacing effect’.

Interactive spaced-education (ISE) combines the pedagogical merits of both the ‘spacing effect’ and the ‘testing effect. (974)

Each spaced-education item consists of an evaluative component (a multiple choice question based on a clinical scenario) and an educational component (the answer and explanation)

Psychometric analysis of the questions was performed using the Integrity test analysis software (http://integrity.castlerockresearch.)

Based on item difficulty, point-biserial correlation, and Kuder–Richardson 20 score, 36 of the questions were selected for inclusion in the ISE program.

  • Students receive spaced-education e-mails at designated time intervals which contain a clinical scenario and question (evaluative component).
  • Upon clicking on a hyperlink in this e-mail, a web-page opens which displays pertinent images and allows the student to submit an answer to the question.
  • Upon downloading this answer to a central server, students are then immediately presented with a webpage displaying the correct answer to the question and an explanation of the curricular learning point (the educational component).
  • By having the provider submit a response before receiving the correct answer and an explanation, this process requires greater interactivity, which educational theory argues may improve learning outcomes.
  • The submitted answers of students were recorded using the MyCourses™ web-based education platform

The survey was constructed and administered online using the SurveyMonkey web-based platform.

Future developments and assimilation of spaced-education alongside traditional medial school teaching methods

For example, as ISE utilizes traditional web-pages for the submission of answers and for the presentation of learning points, it should be possible to use all of the functionalities of web-pages within the ISE program to meet the training needs of care providers. For example, physician trainees learning how to auscultate the heart can be presented with ISE items which contain an audio recording of an unknown heart sound, and then, trainees can be asked to identify the murmur.

LESSONS LEARNT

Micro-learning is favoured over more substantial time being given to this. I can imagine many applications.

This finding is in stark contrast to the strong resistance we encountered when conducting a recent trial of web-based teaching modules among 693 medical residents and students. In this trial focusing on systems based practice competency education, trainees were expected to spend 20 minutes per week over 9 weeks completing web-based teaching modules (interactive web-pages and online narrated slide presentations). (p977)

This high acceptability also likely reflects the ease of use of the spaced-education delivery system, the immediate relevance of the content, and the importance that students attribute to learning the physical examination. (p977)

Some items to cover if you are thinking of being a professional and thorough as the team at Harvard and Spaced-Ed:

  • · Conflict of Interest:
  • · Funding/Support:
  • · Financial Disclosures:
  • · Author Contributions:
  • · Conception and design:
  • · Acquisition of data:
  • · Analysis and interpretation of data:
  • · Drafting of the manuscript:
  • · Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content:
  • · Statistical analysis:
  • · Obtaining funding:
  • · Ethical Approval to Perform the Study:
  • · Corresponding Author:

And a finaly word from Lev Vygotsky.

‘Rhythm plays a decisive role in the learning process, unifying some of the material, conferring on it a sequential symmetry, and, finally, organizing the various elements into a unified whole’. (Vygotsky, 1926)

REFERENCE

Kerfoot . B. P (2006) SPACED EDUCATION. Interactive Spaced-Education to Teach the Physical Examination: A randomized Controlled Trial.

Kerfoot. B. P (2008) Interactive Spaced-Education to Teach the Physical Examination: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Armstrong,E.G., O’Sullivan,P.M., JOURNAL OF GENERAL INTERNAL MEDICINE Volume 23, Number 7 Harvard Medical International.

Vygotsky, L (1926) Educational Psychology

How to study

 

Elaborately Cautious Language

’In every day life we cheerfully use language as a blunt instrument for cudgelling our way through the cut and thrust of events around us. However, in academic writing language is meant to be used more like a scalpel, cutting precisely between closely related arguments, so that they can be prised apart and analysed in detail.’ Northridge (1990:29)

An academic text is not a narrative – it is an argument.

An academic text aims to be unemotional, detached and logical.

Whilst I can understand applying this to a TMA or ECA, this is surely not the required or desired approach in what is called a Blog? And for writing in a forum, should we reference everything? It doesn’t half interrupt the flow of ideas. If talking over coffee or a glass of wine would we cite references we knowingly made? The lines distinguishing the spoken word to text or TXT or blogging and messaging are blurred if not broken.

Manage Feelings 2.6 Northridge (1990:31)

Find ways of:

* building upon your enthusiasms
* avoiding sinking into despair
* making the topic interesting
* accepting specialist language
* accepting academic text styles
* constructing valid criticisms

My preferred approach to reaching:

* cafe
* walk
* pool
* while travelling (trains, planes, ferries and yachts)

Though surely not

* in bed
* on the kitchen table in the middle of the night
* in the pub
* on holiday

(though this can be exactly what I do/have done)

IDEALLY

* a room of my own

(married life, children and a modest home have left me with a cluttered shed or lock-up garage packed with the contents of our last house – we moved three years ago).

Approaches to Reading

Skim paragraph ahead, then read more slowly using the ‘mile stones’ to guide you.

Skimming – about the text
Reading – follow the argument

Lighting skim – very fast.

I typically ‘light skim’ the last chapters of a Stephen King novel, as the plot becomes ludicrous yet I feel an obligation to have glanced across the page in case at some stage sanity returns (it never does). Though the story will reach a resolution.

Intensive Study – very slow

Something new, something I don’t understand. Something I need to understand or want to understand. But never the small print of a bank overdraft facility. Probably the diaries of Anais Nin and the novels of Henry Miller. Probably the history of WWI, as I need to glean info from it for my own writing. And of course the books and papers I read for H807 (Innovations in E-Learning) and will read for H808 (The eLearning Professional).

Is it making me think?

Am I getting a better grasp of the subject?

‘The underlying purpose of reading is to develop your thoughts; to weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have and to give new angles to your thinking.’ Northridge, (1990:34)

My reading speed, 300 wpm? i.e. far to quick, but is a page a minute that fast? it does depend of course on the writing style and my familiarity or otherwise with the concepts.

The purpose of reading = ‘rethinking’ Northridge, (1990:34)

I like that ‘re-thinking.’ So building on what you now already, whether or not you think you know much at all … or know a great deal.

Rethinking:

* To develop your thoughts
* To weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have
* To give new angles to your thinking

The point of reading:

‘The point of reading is to be able to understand what you read and to be able to get back the ideas at some future point when you need them again.’ Northridge, (1990:38)

The point of taking notes:

‘Taking notes forces you to think; to ‘grapple’ with the ideas in the text as you read them, because you have to decide what to write down and how to say it.’ Northridge, (1990:44)

I don’t grapple at the note taking stage, I find it more mundane than that, I do desire a tussle at some stage, which is why I can find the manner in which we engage asynchronously (its nature) somewhat tame. I don’t recommend debating online either, or getting into an argument (or even a heavy discussion) … when in Elluminate, messaging or anything else.

This is why the face-to-face tutorial at least, fellow students over a beer in the MCR or in a formal debating chamber ideas gain a voice, that becomes your Word, and your Voice.

 

On Reading, Taking Notes, Thinking and reflecting. OU style 1990

On reading, taking notes and managing your feelings i.e how to study

There are notes, nothing more, which makes me wonder why I share them with the world. In this instance I am sharing notes on ‘hot to study.’ (I liked the typo so left it in.’

This 1990 OU’s guide came into my possession by the most circuitous of routes. My father-in-law, a long retired Oxford Don, sent it to his 12 year old grand-daughter on seeing her end of term report 🙁

Problem is, not that she has read the book at all, if it appealed in any way then she might shun what her immediate future offers: GCSEs then A’ Levels which requires a lot of learning, but not a great deal of thinking. (Or does it?)

Here are some notes for Chapter Two ‘Reading and Note Taking’

In relation to 900 words or so we were asked to read as an activity:

This takes, we are advised to:

  • Skim read – 9 minutes
  • Read – 15 minutes
  • Read with care (and taking notes) – 27 minutes.

I read it in 3 mins.

Did I speed read? Did I take anything in?

I managed to make notes afterwards, indeed having been asked to answer some questions even more information came to mind. Perhaps this is how I should do it … perhaps the important stuff is more likely to come to mind if I give it some thought rather than note taking at the same time. I may not have a photographic memory … do I skate over things? Would it help if I slowed it down? I’d have to read more strategically though, to trust the choices made for me.

An OU IDEA ‘Concept Cards’

To jot down concepts and ideas that you DON’T understand so that you can look them up at later, i.e. don’t only makes notes on the things that make sense.

Historically (last decade) I’ve used FileMaker Pro.

Whatever its short coming I am using the OU e-portfolio, expecting to be able to transfer/migrate the 500 pages of contents over to an off-the-shelf e-portfolio or anything new the OU comes up with in due course.

Taking the hint that notes should be taken of ideas of interest, and value, rather than taking notes on everything I picked out this:

Creating interest where there is none – when your enthusiasm for a topic wanes think how others think who have found something if interest.

That’s useful.

Like a child, too often if a topic or activities doesn’t appeal I make excuses and do something else, rather than finding a way to engage.

Questions make reading interesting.

You need to read with a couple of questions in the back of your mind so that you engage with the information.

My questions on the OU 1990 Study Guide?

  • What’s changed in 20 years?
  • How much is just the same?
  • How can I apply this in relation to e-learning in 2010?
  • What advice would others find useful that may be second nature to me? (That I take for granted).

I liken my approach to studying to the way I wandered across the South Downs for five hours yesterday.

I hadn’t even been sure if I’d walk a stretch of the South Downs Way from Newhaven when I dropped the car off for a service, but I had walking boots on and waterproofs in a rucksack. I had no map, but have walked half the route out of Newhaven towards Lewes, and half the route out of Lewes South. Having followed the River Ouse to Southease I then followed signs for the South Downs Way which took me way off any direct track to Lewes in a couple of huge loops. The mile along the road from Southease to Rodmell would have saved a three mile deviation up onto the Downs. But did I want to risk either the dog or me being run over?

I have a tendency to follow my nose (like the dog, her nose took her into a fresh cow pat). She rolled in it.

My reading takes me through a series of cascades as I pick first one reference to chase, then another in this article or essay and so on. Its as if, despite being given the road map through a Maize Maze I insist on looking down every avenue myself, so that I can find out for myself.

If I study in exactly the same way as my fellow students, reading strategically, only reading the course references as there isn’t apparently time to do much more … won’t we all come out the same? A goal for my studying is to have my own perspective eventually, not to project the opinions of another.

Elaborately Cautious Language

’In every day life we cheerfully use language as a blunt instrument for cudgelling our way through the cut and thrust of events around us. However, in academic writing language is meant to be used more like a scalpel, cutting precisely between closely related arguments, so that they can be prized apart and analysed in detail.’ Northridge (1990:29)

An academic text is not a narrative – it is an argument.

An academic text aims to be unemotional, detached and logical.

Whilst I can understand applying this to a TMA or ECA, this is surely not the required or desired approach in what is called a Blog? And for writing in a forum, should we reference everything? It doesn’t half interrupt the flow of ideas. If talking over coffee or a glass of wine would we cite references we knowingly made? The lines distinguishing the spoken word to text or TXT or blogging and messaging are blurred if not broken.

Manage Feelings 2.6 Northridge (1990:31)

Find ways of:

  • building upon your enthusiasms
  • avoiding sinking into despair
  • making the topic interesting
  • accepting specialist language
  • accepting academic text styles
  • constructing valid criticisms

My preferred approach to reaching:

  • cafe
  • walk
  • pool
  • while travelling (trains, planes, ferries and yachts)

Though surely not

  • in bed
  • on the kitchen table in the middle of the night
  • in the pub
  • on holiday

(though this can be exactly what I do/have done)

IDEALLY

  • a room of my own

(married life, children and a modest home have left me with a cluttered shed or lock-up garage packed with the contents of our last house – we moved three years ago).


Reading Approaches

Skim paragraph ahead, then read more slowly using the ‘mile stones’ to guide you.

Skimming – about the text
Reading – follow the argument

Lighting skim – very fast.

I typically ‘light skim’ the last chapters of a Stephen King novel, as the plot becomes ludicrous yet I feel an obligation to have glanced across the page in case at some stage sanity returns (it never does). Though the story will reach a resolution.

Intensive Study – very slow

Something new, something I don’t understand. Something I need to understand or want to understand. But never the small print of a bank overdraft facility. Probably the diaries of Anais Nin and the novels of Henry Miller. Probably the history of WWI, as I need to glean info from it for my own writing. And of course the books and papers I read for H807 (Innovations in E-Learning) and will read for H808 (The eLearning Professional).

Is it making me think?

Am I getting a better grasp of the subject?

‘The underlying purpose of reading is to develop your thoughts; to weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have and to give new angles to your thinking.’
Northridge, (1990:34)

My reading speed, 300 wpm? i.e. far to quick, but is a page a minute that fast? it does depend of course on the writing style and my familiarity or otherwise with the concepts.

The purpose of reading = ‘rethinking’ Northridge, (1990:34)

I like that ‘re-thinking.’ So building on what you now already, whether or not you think you know much at all … or know a great deal.

Rethinking:

  • To develop your thoughts
  • To weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have
  • To give new angles to your thinking

The point of reading:


‘The point of reading is to be able to understand what you read and to be able to get back the ideas at some future point when you need them again.’
Northridge, (1990:38)

The point of taking notes:

‘Taking notes forces you to think; to ‘grapple’ with the ideas in the text as you read them, because you have to decide what to write down and how to say it.’ Northridge, (1990:44)

I don’t grapple at the note taking stage, I find it more mundane than that, I do desire a tussle at some stage, which is why I can find the manner in which we engage asynchronously (its nature) somewhat tame. I don’t recommend debating online either, or getting into an argument (or even a heavy discussion) … when in Elluminate, messaging or anything else.

This is why the face-to-face tutorial at least, fellow students over a beer in the MCR or in a formal debating chamber ideas gain a voice, that becomes your Word, and your Voice.

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