Friday, January 29, 2010

cis339 (www2)

 I discovered an interesting power point presentation online this morning. The presentation describes a how a middle school in New York is using Google Apps to host various school functions. The presentation discusses how this school uses Google forms to create reviews, and Google email and chat for better communication with teachers and students. Students submit assignments using Google Documents, and teachers are able to post comments to the documents online. Take a look at this innovative presentation at:

cis339 (www2)

David Lloyd

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sleep and Memory

I read a blog this morning that was written by a teacher who has been helping a hard-working student who struggles with her mid-term exams. The student does well with daily work, but becomes overwhelmed when tests cover older material. (Cousins, 2010) 

The author laments that in an age when laptop computers are universally available that notes are not allowed in midterm exams. The student mentioned works hard, but in spite of long hours spent studying she is continually stressed by the requirement of recalling details during a test. The author says,  
"I wish I could spend my instructional time working on concepts, abstract reasoning and problem-solving. I would much rather explore why a formula works, or how the formula works, or when to use it in real-life applications. Instead, I spend way too much valuable tutoring time training students on mnemonic techniques."  (Cousins, 2010)
I don't have this problem. In fact I have noticed I seem to gain better recall of details about six weeks after I have studied a subject than I have when it is fresh in my mind. I have attributed this unusual gift to two things, a tendency to ruminate on new information, and that I get more sleep than many people. I don't allow myself to get less than eight hours of sleep each night, and I make a point of getting extra sleep when I am studying new material.
Recently the relationship between sleep and learning has been de-emphasized, and some appear to question its importance, but it is easy to find experts who give it the importance I was always taught to give it. I did a search on "sleep and learning." I found these articles:
In October of 2005, Robert Stickgold speaks of the importance to "memory reprocessing during sleep." (Stickgold, 2005)
In November of 2006, the published an article that covers much more than the value of sleep. It includes numerous techniques for managing one's own ability to retain and recall information. ("Hacking knowledge: 77 Ways to learn faster, deeper, and better")

Stickgold, R. (2005). Review Article sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Nature: International weekly journal of science, 437. Abstract retrieved from

Cousins, L.P. (2010, January 23). Always learning: Midterm exams and 21st century knowledge [blog]. Retrieved from

Hacking knowledge: 77 Ways to learn faster, deeper, and better. (2006). Online education database. oedb [blog]. Retrieved from

Monday, January 18, 2010

Homework for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The public schools in our area are closed today. Our home school generally follows the same pattern as the public schools so our children have free time at the same time as their public school counterparts. However before they start their free day, I have given them a homework assignment. They are to read "Quiet Strength" by Rosa Parks, a table-top book of reflections on the civil rights movement. The book will take them about a half-hour to read, and it will put a proper perspective on the sacrifices that were made and continue to be made to insure that Dr. King's dream will become reality.

Parks, R., & Reed, G. J. (1993). Quiet strength. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A lesson in humility: Passion and learning

This week I learned a lesson in humility.

At some point along the way, I made the mistake of equating knowledge of artificial neural networks with knowledge of the brain. At the beginning of the week, I had a critical attitude about our course text with regard to this subject, but online discussions with my professor and other students have given me a much-needed reality check. “All neural networks are created equal” is an unreasonable assumption. Artificial neural networks may provide a useful model for developing hypotheses about how the brain works, but the difference between the brain and artificial intelligence is significant, especially with regard to instructional design.

We don’t know a lot about how brains (biological neural networks) function. We can poke and prod at animal brains and make observations. We can create software simulations and try to build useful analogies. In a highly abstract sense, we can duplicate the structure of a biological neural network, but artificial neural networks differ from their biological counterparts in several important ways:
  1. Plasticity (flexibility to learn new concepts) can be exchanged for computational speed in biological networks. (Paplinski)
  2. Weighting of information depends on a rather simple indexing scheme in artificial networks, but the same function is complex and not well understood in biological networks and involves chemical “messages” and creation of new synapses. (Paplinski)
  3. Huge disparity in the number of neurons and the interconnections between them. (Paplinski)
In my opinion, the most significant difference between artificial learning and biological learning is the life-motivation of living things. Machines have programmed goals, but they do not have passions.

I have often made the claim that AI illustrates the fact that intelligence is not about the “equipment” we were given. If each of us have one head, two eyes, two ears, arms, legs, hands and feet, then it is reasonable to assume none of us have a significant advantage over others to accomplish whatever we set our minds to accomplish. The difference for those who appear to have an advantage is their passion and their self-confidence.

Diane Demee-Benoit, in her blog about “Expeditionary Learning,” talks about how the brain learns better when heart and hands are engaged (Demee-Benoit, 2007).

In her essay What motivates you? “Life-Long Scholar” (listed as the author’s name) discusses how her enjoyment of the process of learning was her motivation that got her through graduate school. I understand her perspective. As an undergraduate, that was my perspective too. I was not nearly so focused on my goals as I was on how my current experiences were expanding who I was (and am).

Now my perspective is different. I have raised a family. The job is not complete, but it’s mostly done. Life has limited my options somewhat. I have a vision impairment that allows me to work at a desk, but challenges my ability to drive a car to work each day. Now I see education as a way to re-tool my capabilities toward a specific goal, but that takes nothing away from my love for learning. It just adds another reason to apply myself and do the best I can do.


Demee-Benoit, D. (2007, June 25). A passion for knowledge: An introduction to expeditionary learning [blog]. Retrieved from

Paplinski, A.P. Artificial neural networks and their biological motivation. .

Scholar, L. L. (2008, October 21). What motivates you? [blog]. Retrieved from

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Resources for Instructional Design

I have explored a number of web resources that are new to me, but maybe not so new to others. Prior to this week I used Google Bookmarks for all of my internet research, but this week I am testing a social bookmarking site, The difference between an internet bookmark and a social bookmark is the ability to share favorites with others, and the ability to use popularity ratings with bookmarks.

This week I bookmarked three resources for instructional design. Here is what I found:

The Innovative Educator reviews how technological change provides new opportunities in education. Social Books Unlock Reader’s Voice and Provide Opportunity for Conversation is an article on how eBooks and software like the free Micrsoft Reader put a library of free books or inexpensive books in the hands. (I installed the program on my computer). The article highlights BookGlutton, a “social” book site that adds a social dimension to eBooks, enabling readers to share comments, discuss books and rate them. (Friday, January 8) Don't be illTwitterate or aTextual discusses educational applications for social networking. The author suggests allowing students to “tweet” on a field trip. (Wednesday, January 6)

Meredith’s Musings appears strikingly similar to this blog. It even starts with an entry titled Hello World. The similarity is obviously no accident. I’m creating my blog in fulfillment of a project for a class in instructional design. I did not notice the obvious similarity when I skimmed it and found fascinating topics like The Doorway to Professional Learning Communities, Neuroscience and Information Processing - Evaluating and Identifying Online Resources, and Connectivism. The last article, Reflection should have been an adequate clue to make me aware, but I did not realize the “coincidence” until I read the article that parallels my own! Regardless, the blog is well done, professional, and is an excellent plce to find articles on instructional design.

I was most impressed with the original ideas in The Usable Learning Blog. The first article that caught my attention was Best e-Learning Blog that isn’t an e-Learning Blog. The article discussed several blogs that were not published from an e-Learning perspective which have significant importance to e-learning and instructional design. One entry had a great video named BJ Fogg on Simplicity. The author defines simplicity as the minimally satisfying solution that you can give with the lowest cost. (2009) This principle is the key to writing good software also. The great temptation for software developers is to “show off” what cool things can be done, or to anticipate the features that will be requested and add them “now.” The mantra I repeat as I design software is “you aren’t gonna need it!” (Wikipedia, 2009) I repeat this to myself every time I’m tempted to make a project more complex than it needs to be. The same principle applies in all writing. The first “rule” of good grammar is “clear and concise.” The first rule of instructional design, is the same, but in this context, it means “make it easy and obvious.” “Simple” refers to the user’s experience not the developer’s experience!


Don't be illTwitterate or aTextual [blog]. (Wednesday, January 6, 2010). Retrieved from

Social books unlock reader’s voice and provide opportunity for conversation [blog]. (Friday, January 8, 2010). Retrieved from

Malvin, M. (2009, November 7). The doorway to professional learning communities [blog]. (2009). Retrieved from

Wikipedia contributors, (2009). You ain't gonna need it (7 September 2009 ed.). Wikipedia, The free encylopedia. Retrieved from

Fogg, B.J. (2009, December 6). B.J. Fogg on simplicity [Video file]. Retrieved from

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hello World

This is a setup. This is only a test. Should there be actual ideas, they will be signified by the following tone....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Revisiting "Week One" of my course in instructional design.

In January, I posted this note about my learning style in a private discussion log:

I have an unusual mix of strengths and weaknesses.

If I have a “gift,” it is hyper focusing. I have learned to find "that feeling" before I read. People have told me they get that feeling when they read a novel for fun. Some people call the feeling "flow."

Sometimes "flow" does not come easily. When I have a deadline and I must do a lot of quality reading in a short time, it is common for me to go for a long walk and wear myself out a little, eat light snacks, and take frequent naps between chapters. I will do whatever it takes to find that hyper-focused state of mind because once in that state of mind, I read quickly, and I retain what I read.

I have noticed that my ability to recall details improves over time. For me, something “gels” in the weeks following learning new information.

My learning works like the construction of a building. After the walls are in place, we put layers of material on top of those walls. Plaster, paint, paneling and wall paper all add to the strength of the wall. A wall that could have been pulled apart when it was just a framework has now become sturdy. I assume everyone learns the way I learn, but I could be wrong.

When I teach, I build a framework to which I add details that strengthen the initial construction. I try to find variety because “paint” doesn’t stick to some surfaces, but “paneling” might work well. My “paint” and “paneling” might be a video or a song or a painting, or architecture. Sometimes I think the learner needs to have a hand in building their own framework.

With my own home-schooled students, I have required them to teach others. My son taught a series of classes on web design and HTML at our local library. Both he and my older daughter helped me teach my ESL classes (I volunteer teaching English to immigrants).... [The rest of this paragraph was removed to protect the privacy of others.]

I liken helping a learner to build his own framework of understanding to Socrates’ idea of “discussion,” in which the learner is lead to a conclusion through a series of investigations rather than being fed information. I liken the “framework” itself to John Locke’s idea that learning happens step-by-step. I liken it to Skinner’s thoughts that learning must be reinforced and to Gagne’s conclusion that learning is a process that is brought about through a series of events. I liken learning through teaching to Vygotsky’s ideas about community learning.

I have enough experience with “seat of the pants” lesson planning that I know the value of well-considered lessons. I tend to think in terms of creating a goal, breaking it down and creating a variety of activities to construct and reinforce each concept, but my best work has always followed Gagne’s nine step outline. Unfortunately I tend to gloss over those steps. Having been reintroduced to his process, I intend to follow it. I look forward to learning more about the relationship between gaming and education.