kitchen table math, the sequel: 12/2/12 - 12/9/12

Saturday, December 8, 2012

today in College Composition

Avoiding the Difference Fixation: Identity Categories, Markers of Difference, and the Teaching of Writing
Stephanie L. Kerschbaum

Abstract: In order to show difference as a dynamic, relational, and emergent construct, this article introduces “markers of difference,” rhetorical cues that signal the presence of difference between one or more interlocutors, and suggests practical means by which teachers can engage this concept to improve their teaching practice.

College Composition and Communication | Vol. 63, No. 4, June 2012
These are the people running college writing programs.

Next Action:

a) teach your child to write before he/she gets to college (Susan S did it! ... I have some ideas; Katharine does, too)
b) check into the freshman composition program at the schools your child is considering
c) if the required freshman writing courses are run by a program called "Composition Studies," or taught by people with degrees in "Composition Studies," considering choosing another school
d) if that's not possible, move heaven and earth to get your child excused from all required writing course(s)
e) if exemption from a required writing course is not possible, make your child promise to visit the college's Writing Center for help with all assignments in the required course
f) also extract a promise from him/her to request frequent meetings with the instructor of the required course
g) plan on seeing a C on the transcript

south of the border

Ed was reading an article in The Economist this morning when he came across this:
He also announced plans to take on the teachers’ union, a fearsome organisation that long enjoyed a cosy relationship with the PRI. Mexico’s schools are the worst in the OECD, a club of mainly rich countries, largely because the union controls teacher recruitment and training. The president says he wants to professionalise training and to ban hereditary teaching jobs...
With a little help from my friends
The Economist | Dec 8th 2012 | MEXICO CITY
Hereditary teaching jobs.

That's a new one on me.

Something happened

I've been saying for a while now that 'something happened' in 1985. Things changed.

It hadn't occurred to me that Goldin and Katz's timeline in The Race between Education and Technology corresponds directly to mine.

Goldin and Katz find the schools somewhat abruptly ceasing to function as producers of greater equality via educational attainment in the early 1980s.

I find the composition journals abruptly ceasing to function as producers of useful observations re: teaching students how to write, also in the early 1980s.

I don't think that's a coincidence.

"this road is now closed"

A number of us, over the years, have observed that it no longer seems possible for US public schools to be the engines of social mobility they once were, what with the requirement that parents "help with homework" right up through AP Calculus senior year if their children are to succeed.

Actually, scratch that. "Help with homework" continues apace in Grade 13, sad to say. Ed was up 'til 2am Thursday night dealing with an indecipherable writing assignment C. was trying to complete--indecipherable to Ed, not just to C. I hear the same from other parents.

Anyway, back to K-12. Many decades ago, when schools grouped students according to what they knew, and teachers drilled, killed, chalked, and talked, immigrant children whose parents did not speak the language could learn to read, to write, and to do arithmetic at school. Ditto for working class children and children living in poverty.

As Goldin and Katz show in The Race between Education and Technology, the country's public schools directly increased economic equality until the 1980s.

Then things changed.

Goldin and Katz say essentially nothing about what changed or why, and reviews of the book have also tended to dance around the issue of just what exactly went wrong circa 1980.

Now Brad DeLong has written a post about Goldin and Katz's book that expresses the change in the starkest terms I've seen in any account of the book:
...My teachers Claudia Golden and Larry Katz make an impressive and largely convincing argument that the trends in inequality between the top twenty percent and the bottom eighty percent in the United States, at least, have been overwhelmingly driven by the race between technology and education. Technology has kept running at a more or less constant pace. Education has not. From, say, 1920 to 1980, the United States essentially followed the recipe of Berkeley chancellor Clark Kerr: the United States ought to provide as much education for free to its citizens as they wanted.

Devotees of the right approved of this policy....People on the left noted that if you make education free you get an awful lot of educated and well-trained people, so the return to human capital goes down, the education premium that those who have been to college and have been trained in the professions can demand becomes a lot lower. And as your accountants and lawyers and doctors facing competition in the labor market can demand lower salaries, that leaves more money for the assembly line workers and the janitors and the home health aids and the nurses and the waitresses.

Around 1980, this strategy of growth and equality through education in the United States breaks down. Since then the costs of higher education have been rising at an extraordinarily rapid pace in the United States, as government subsidies are withdrawn, and as private colleges react to rising sticker costs of public colleges by raising their own sticker prices. In addition the universal commitment to pre-college high quality education has been in decline. This has stuck. Thus, unless we see a major change in American political economy, this education road that appears to have been very effective at promoting equality between the 1920s and the 1970s is now closed to the United States.
I've never seen that before.

I've never seen someone say, simply, this road is closed.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"topic progression" in new and old history textbooks

I've just read Katharine's post comparing a 1914 history textbook to a textbook published in 2005. The difference is staggering.

What jumps out at me are the many distinct grammatical subjects in the modern text compared to the older book:
Published in 2005:
The German States Remain Separate 

German kings after Frederick, including his grandson Frederick II, continued their attempts to revive Charlemagne’s empire and his alliance with the Church. This policy led to wars with Italian cities and to further clashes with the Pope. Conflicts were one reason why the feudal states of Germany did not unify during the Middle Ages. Another reason was that the system of German princes electing the king weakened royal authority. German rulers controlled fewer royal lands to use as a base of power than French and English kings of the same period, who, as you will learn in Chapter 14, were establishing strong central authority. 
Five main clauses, 5 different grammatical subjects.

Compare to:
Published in 1914:
In his lifelong attempt to maintain what he thought to be his rights as emperor he met, quite naturally, with the three old difficulties. He had constantly to be fighting his rivals and rebellious vassals in Germany; he had to face the opposition of the popes, who never forgot the claims that Gregory VII had made to control the emperor as well as other rulers. Lastly, in trying to keep hold of northern Italy, which he believed to belong to his empire, he spent a great deal of time with but slight results. (1914)
Four main clauses, 1 grammatical subject.

I'm wondering whether I can improve the 2005 paragraph just by tinkering with the subjects...


OK, here's a rewrite:
Revision with "consistent grammatical subjects":
The German kings after Frederick, including his grandson Frederick II, continued Frederick's efforts to revive Charlemagne's empire and his alliance with the Church, but they did not succeed. Like Frederick, they incited fruitless wars with Italian cities and further clashes with the Pope, and the constant conflict undermined their ability to unify Germany's feudal states under one king. The kings were further weakened by the German political system, which allowed German princes to elect the king, and by their relative lack of royal lands compared to the large territories controlled by French and English kings of the same period, who, as you will learn in Chapter 14, were establishing strong central authority in their own countries. Frederick's successors succeeded neither in reviving the empire nor in unifying their country.
Six main clauses, only 2 different grammatical subjects, with 5 of the six subjects being the same ("German kings").

So I guess the lesson is: if you're going to engage in excessive summary, be sure to keep your sentence subjects consistent!

testing, testing

Grammar is sooooo slippery.

If anyone has advice on teaching the distinction between restrictive and nonrestrictive modifiers, I would love to hear.

Here's my latest stab at it. (Katharine told me about the "Pause Test.")

And here's the boyfriend who plays the piano, an example I learned from a graduate student and Fulbright scholar whose native language is Arabic.

She was the graduate assistant in an Applied Grammar course for English majors I was auditing, and she was gobsmacked by how little grammar American students know. One day she said (paraphrasing), "The reason to learn grammar is to appreciate your language. We study grammar because Arabic is a beautiful language."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

We need a Writing Renaissance, not a "Writing Renaissance"

Here is is! (Cross-posted from Out in Left Field.)

According to an article in this past week's Edweek, K12 writing instruction is undergoing a renaissance:
Teachers are focusing on writing instruction like never before. More and more, they're asking students to write about what they read, helping them think through and craft their work, and using such exercises as tools not only to build better writers, but to help students understand what they're studying.
This renaissance, the article claims, includes a shift towards explicit instruction:
The shift is still nascent, but people in the field are taking notice. It marks a departure from recent practice, which often includes little or no explicit writing instruction and only a modest amount of writing, typically in the form of stories, short summaries, or personal reflections, rather than essays or research projects on topics being studied.
In fact there appears to be little or no increase in explicit instruction, but simply a shift in quantity and genres. For example, rather than taking inspiration from Dr. Seuss to write their own whimsical stories:
First graders in South Strafford, Vt., are reading Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, for fun, then for greater understanding, and then to hunt for evidence. They look for events in the plot that illustrate how the whimsical protagonist tries to protect the Earth and assemble examples into a simple paragraph to support the theme of the story.
In keeping with the new Common Core standards for English and Language Arts, the article notes, "these kinds of projects are unusual for the way they connect writing and reading." But the ultimate goal seems not to be to improve writing, but reading:
"Now we're seeing a lot more attention to the idea that writing about a text can improve reading about that text," said literacy expert Timothy Shanahan, the chairman of the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The article cites a 2010 study:
a meta-analysis of 93 studies of writing interventions, which found that writing had consistently positive effects on students' reading skills and comprehension. Writing about what they read was particularly helpful to students' comprehension, but so were taking notes on what they read, answering questions about it, and simply writing more often.
In other words, despite the fact that ever since No Child Left Behind, as the article itself notes, concerns about reading comprehension have eclipsed concerns about writing, the ultimate goal of the "Writing Renaissance" continues to be reading.

Worse, this emphasis on writing for comprehension has become yet another excuse to water down math class:
A math teacher in Brighton, Mich., found that writing had a powerful effect on helping her 6th grade students understand algebra concepts. Julie Mallia and a colleague from the English department, Don Pawloski, teamed up in spring 2009 to have students write 10-page "how to" books for the next fall's 6th graders. Drawing both on math and on writing instruction, students had to explain concepts such as solving a problem with x.
What goals the article does mention that pertain specifically to writing are about quantity and argumentation rather than technique. Students should be writing more, and they should be writing pieces that shift from:
"opinion untethered to evidence" and "decontextualized" writing—writing not based on the reading of a text—in favor of writing that requires students to read, comprehend, and respond to text, grounding their interpretations in evidence found there.
As for writing strategies, we find nothing here about corrections and revisions. Instead of rewriting, there's rereading:
They read a text again and again, first to make sense of it and note their questions, as the teacher works the room to help,... A second round of annotating focuses on looking for elements of the genre and how it works. They read again to spot structural decisions the writer made to create meaning, she said. The students then use what they learned in their own writing.
There's something to be said for "spotting structural decisions" and trying to emulate these. Indeed, the one instance of direct writing instruction the article cite pertains to organization:
When Ms. Leddy teaches The Lorax, she walks through the text repeatedly with students, discussing it from a different angle each time. When they're through, students learn to write short "hand paragraphs," with the thumb as the topic sentence—the Lorax cares for the Earth—followed by three examples of how he does that and a "pinky sentence" restating the interpretation.
But none of this addresses a much more fundamental problem that affects all types of writing--no matter whether it's fiction, nonfiction, personal writing, summaries, or more involved, reading-connected writing assignments. This problem, which has become the talk of professors at campuses all around the country, is the problem that growing numbers of students have with the basic building blocks of all writing: phrases and sentences.

In none of the many Edweek articles on English and Language Arts do we find any mention of the steep decline in students' ability to write well-formed sentences. But this is arguably the greatest problem with today's writing, which, even at the college and graduate levels, is riddled with comma splices, dangling modifiers, subject-verb agreement problems, and the kind of garbling that results from a dearth of direct instruction and feedback from teachers and a failure by students to review and revise. Here are just a few examples from my growing collection:

1. Comma between subject and verb: Children who experience the world in a more rigid and narrow manner, will have difficulty with social inferences.

2. Comma splice: Generalization is a tough skill for ASD students to learn, teachers are sometimes baffled that they act a certain way in one subject and completely different in other.

3. Failed subject verb agreement: Two of the defining characteristics of autism includes impairments in social interactions and communication.

4. Failed preposition agreement: There are three types of aphasia to which a child can be diagnosed.

5. Dangling modifiers: In thinking about students transitioning from high school to college, the issues of accepting the disability and self-advocacy are crucial.

6. Wordiness: By providing direct instruction, this assists the students with improving their ability to give examples.

7. Awkwardness (and wordiness): Because of these results, it suggests that “object and subject relative sentences” need different amounts of working memory to be understood by the reader.

8. Displaced modifier: I first inquired about this young man’s high school experience, who I will call RC.

9. Incoherence (and wordiness): Due to the fact that these children with autism are unable to proper engage in social situations eliminates the knowledge base that they would normally acquire.

None of the above-described elements of the so-called "Writing Renaissance" will solve these problems. For this, we need direct, sentence-focused writing instruction. Yet, for all the empirical support there is for this kind of instruction, the tide shifted away from it long ago, and it will take a true Writing Renaissance to bring it back.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Daily, RIP

The Daily is gone.

I start every day with The Daily, which I read-slash-skim from beginning to end before doing anything else. I am a devoted fan.

Now I'm bereft.

Here's the LA Times on Why the Daily Failed.

"The untimely death of the Daily illustrates the perils of the app economy," etc.

The app economy! Right. A subset of the economy economy (scroll down for the L-chart).

A friend of mine was saying, the other day, that a recession can be a good time to start a business. I've heard that myself, and maybe it's true. But we're not in a recession. We're in an L-shaped depression (or an L-shaped recovery, take your pick.) Coming up on the 5-year anniversary of the crisis.


Googling "L-shaped recovery" I came across good news: Jan Hatzius predicts we'll have above-3% growth after 2013. That's still not a V, but it's better than the 2 to 2 1/2% growth we've been having. Maybe a lot better, I'm thinking.

Hatzius seems to have been right about everything else so far (not that I would know, necessarily), so: good to hear.

Too late for The Daily, though.

Monday, December 3, 2012

thumb paragraphs and other

When Katharine has time, she'll repost to ktm, but go read now!

It's time for me to re-read Robert Connors Erasure of the Sentence. (Katharine's post on Connors.)

"from literacy to electracy"

Stumbled upon "from literacy to electracy" in my travels. Haven't had time to get a sense of the site, but I did click on enough links to find this observation from Claude Lévi-Strauss:
My hypothesis, if correct, would oblige us to recognize the fact that the primary function of written communication is to facilitate slavery.
I wonder whether C's "Writing the Essay" instructor would like that.

I'm thinking Yes.

Laura Z on "Advanced"

Laura Z reacts to "Advanced" ("Me being the person I am..."):
Oh my... Me, being the person that I am, find this essay an argument for and against a LOT of things. Not the least of which is to continue to homeschool my daughter! LOL

Seriously? This was considered "advanced?" It's horrible! I expect better from my 8th grade daughter with Asperger's.
I'm laughing!

Here are the two charts from the NAEP report:

I was talking to Katharine about this a little while ago. She said the prompt is so uninspiring she didn't know how much she could have done with it, either.

Good point.

Even so, the "Advanced" essay lacks both topic sentences (another way of saying 'lacks analysis') and evidence (evidence as opposed to detail)...

Without being able to support my own argument (sigh), I'm taking it on faith that an Advanced student in his or her final year of high school should be able to come up with topic sentences and evidence no matter how lousy the prompt. If he or she is making an argument, and this student is making an argument, then he or she should be able to produce supporting arguments and evidence.

I'm pretty sure.

Here's the prompt, by the way:

Write an essay for a college admissions committee about one kind of information or communications technology you use. Describe what it is and explain why the technology is important to you. Develop your essay with details so the admissions committee can understand the value of technology. You may use information from the presentation in the essay.
Pretty dreary.

I would love to see that 'presentation.'
    Average scores in eighth- and twelfth-grade NAEP writing, by race/ethnicity: 2011 
    Characteristic Grade 8 Grade 12
    White 158 159
    Black 132 130
    Hispanic 136 134
    Asian 165 158
    Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 141 144
    American Indian/Alaska Native 145 145
    Two or more races 155 158
    NOTE: Black includes African American, and Hispanic includes Latino. Race categories exclude Hispanic origin.
    SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2011 Writing Assessment.

    Average scores in eighth- and twelfth-grade NAEP writing, by gender: 2011 
    Characteristic Grade 8 Grade 12
    Male 140 143
    Female 160 157
    SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2011 Writing Assessment.

    Average scores in eighth- and twelfth-grade NAEP writing, by school location: 2011 
    Characteristic Grade 8 Grade 12
    City 144 146
    Suburb 155 154
    Town 148 149
    Rural 150 149
    SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2011 Writing Assessment.

    advanced writing in the 12th grade as assessed by NAEP

    According to NAEP, in 2011 only 3% of high school seniors were able to write an essay as good as the one below, which is considered "Advanced."

    % scoring "Advanced":
    4% of white students
    5% of Asian students
    0% of black students
    1% of Hispanic students.

    5% of students whose parents had college degrees scored in the Advanced range.

    5% scoring Advanced would be fine if "Advanced" meant Advanced. But it doesn't. "Advanced" on NAEP means 3% of high school seniors are able to write a coherent statement on the subject of:
    • Story or personal narrative about real/imagined difficult choice
    • Essay about technology important to student
    • Letter persuading council to build/not build convenience store
    All 3 of these prompts call for opinion and the marshaling of evidence strictly (or nearly so) from the student's personal experience, and that is not at all what college writing is about. Nor is it the kind of writing one does in business or the professions.

    From The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011:
    Sample Task: Writing to explain
    When writing to explain, the task of the writer is to bring together relevant information and to present this information with focus and clarity so that the topic becomes understandable to a reader. The sequence of ideas, and how ideas are arranged, must cohere and contribute to the communicative purpose.

    One of the writing tasks from the twelfth-grade assessment asked students to write about a type of technology that they use in their lives and why they value that technology. The Value of Technology task began with a short video about young people’s use of technology. This video included animation and statistics about technology use. The written part of the task then specified an audience for students to address in explaining the value of a particular technology. Responses were rated using a scoring guide ranging from “Little or no skill” to “Effective.”

    The sample student response shown below was rated as “Effective” in responding to the task about the value of technology. After an opening paragraph that defines video games and introduces the ideas to be developed throughout, the writer constructs the explanation primarily through use of personal experience. This approach skillfully communicates the value of video games through the use of detailed descriptions of specific games and what the writer has learned from them. Ideas are fully developed, and the rich use of explanatory details establishes a distinct voice speaking intelligently from experience. This response demonstrates skills associated with performance at the Advanced level. Twelfth-grade students at this level are able to craft responses that strategically accomplish the communicative purpose.

    Student response - Grade 12 - Advanced
    Videogames are a primary source of entertainment for people of all ages. Videogames are discs or cartridges that hold data; once a disc or cartridege is inserted into a gaming console, the data is read and displayed on the screen along with prompts that allow the game to be played. Games have many genres ranging from fighting to educational and can be used for than just mere entertainment. I personally have been experiencing what videogames have to offer for over five years now. Gaming is not just something that people do for fun, people can play videogames for many reasons. Videogames are an important factor in many peoples lives including mine and are a valuable type of technology.

    I have been playing videogames from a very young age. Mario was the first game I was ever introduced to and it was not through playing; through sheer coincidence my mother realized that the theme music to Mario put me to sleep as a baby. Once I was old enough to hold a controller I began playing the game. Ever since that moment I have been playing videogames. Games are multi-purposed; to some it is merely a form of entertainment, but to others it could be their job. Some people argue that games are a waste of time and that they are not product. I beg to differ; games are important to me because not only do they give me something to do to pass time but they are also educational. A prime example of this is a game I was introduced to by my cousins, Runescape. When I was about thirteen I had went to see my cousins up state and I saw them playing this browser game called Runescape (a browser game is a game that can be played within an internet browser without the need to download or upload information from a disc or cartridge). Me being the person I am, I was curious as to what it was so I began to ask questions. By the end of the day I learned two things about that game, two things that to some gamers, were their favorite word. It was a MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) that was free; in essence it was a free gamethat I didn’t have to download and I could do basically whatever I wanted that was allowed in the game. Within the game you could do any of the various skills offered, quests, and even fight against other players from around the world with you’re avatar. Once I got home, I of course signed up and began to play. Throughout the few years I played that game I realized it was set in Medieval times and I learned many things about that age. I learned the process it takes to turn ore into metal, what smelting is, how leather is crafted into clothing, how clay is used, and some of the politics of Medieval civilizations throughout the quests of the game. Although I would spend hours on this game and it seemed like I was doing nothing, I infact was actually learning.

    Another game my cousins introduced to me was Age of Mythology. The game was a PC game(which means it had to be bought and it contained disc which had to upload the game onto you’re computer or device and then the game could be played) and I had played it at my cousins and eventually went on to buy it. If mythology was a subject in school, this game could be the teacher. This game focuses around Greek, Egyptian and Norse mythology. You follow the antagonists (which you name) through all three civilizations chasing an evil minotaur that is attempting to end the world. You begin in a fictional Greek city and eventually move throughout the world. This game teaches any of it’s players not only how armies from all three civilazations worked but those civilazations major Gods, minor Gods, demigods and mythological creatures. Stories based on mythology or fact are also told and experienced throughout the game; such as the Trojan Horse and Ragnorak. I have never picked up a book based on mythology or ancient Gods but because of this game I have an extensive knowledge of the mythology of those three cultures. Games are important in society; they give people a hobby and peace of mind. They can also be used for educational purposes. Toddlers no longer read books to learn how to read, write, and spell, they are given toys and games to play. Games hold a high position in society and can be beneficial to those who use them if they wish to use them in that way.
    This student, who is certainly a competent "personal" writer, has advanced a thesis: video games are valuable for more than entertainment.

    In support of his thesis (I'm assuming the writer is male), he tells us that he learned "the process it takes to turn ore into metal, what smelting is, how leather is crafted into clothing, how clay is used, and some of the politics of Medieval civilizations" from a video game. This knowledge he acquired over a number of years and many hours of play.

    In the next paragraph he tells us that although he has "never picked up a book based on mythology or ancient Gods" he nonetheless possesses "an extensive knowledge of the mythology of [Greek, Egyptian, and Norse] cultures" thanks to another video game. He provides no further detail as to what this knowledge consists of, or how long it took him to acquire it.

    Essentially, the evidence this writer offers in support of his thesis boils down to: I remember stuff I saw in my video games.

    The essay concludes with the assertion that "toddlers no longer read books to learn how to read, write, and spell." The writer offers no evidence to support this claim and seems not to know the meaning of the word "toddler." Toddlers have never read books, now or in the past, because toddlers are too young to read. They can't play video games, either, for that matter.

    For my money, this essay is pretty much the exact opposite of what an Advanced high school senior should be able to produce in timed writing.

    Very worrisome.

    Blackboard Math

    Allan Folz left a Comment pointing us to his new website: Blackboard Math. Have just this moment headed over there -----
    Practice arithmetic just like Abe Lincoln. Updated for the 21st century. Coming in one week.
    I love it!

    "How to learn things automatically"

    More on the Matrix-type memory downloads

    Video here

    As I understand it, in Shibata & c.'s experiment subjects learned 'X' not by seeing 'X' or being told about 'X' but instead by generating the brain activation pattern of a person who knows 'X' and who learned 'X' in the customary way.

    To generate the brain activation pattern of a person who knows 'X', subjects reacted to 'neurofeedback': a green circle indicating how close the subject's activation pattern was to the pattern produced by people who know 'X.' Subjects were able to change their brain firing by changing the green circle, and once their brains were firing the way brains fire when brains know 'X,' the subjects knew 'X,' too.

    Without ever having seen or been told about 'X.'


    For the record, I have experienced neurofeedback myself, and I can tell you that it works. Back in college, as the T.A. for a Learning and Memory course, I was once hooked up to electrodes and directed to produce alpha waves with my eyes open instead of closed (which is when we normally produce alpha waves). I was the demonstration project.

    Obviously I had no idea how to produce an alpha wave on purpose, but after just a few minutes of neural feedback in the form of a tone that sounded every time my brain randomly produced an alpha wave, I was able to produce alpha waves intentionally.

    I was able to turn the tone on and keep it on.

    (Producing alpha waves with my eyes open, by the way, was not a particularly pleasant sensation. Producing alpha waves with my eyes closed was relaxing; producing alpha waves with my eyes open made me feel sleepy and semi-blind. Very strange.)

    Ever since that day I've wondered why biofeedback, which is what it was called back then, never took off.

    Articles & excerpts:
    How to learn things automatically
    From the study:
    With an online-feedback method that uses decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals, we induced activity patterns only in early visual cortex corresponding to an orientation without stimulus presentation or participants’ awareness of what was to be learned.


    [W]e developed a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) onlinefeedback method, by which activation patterns corresponding to the pattern evoked by the presentation of a real and specific target orientation stimulus were repeatedly induced without the participants’ knowledge of what is being learned and without external stimulus presentation [see supporting online materials (SOM) and methods]. The mere induction of the activation patterns resulted in significant behavioral performance improvement on the target stimulus orientation, but not on other orientations.


    Although previous fMRI online feedback training is a promising technique for influencing human behaviors (10–13), as in lesion or TMS studies, it could at best reveal influences of the entire extent of an area/region on learning/memory, which is a certain limitation for neuroscientific research (20). In contrast, the present decoded fMRI neurofeedback method induces highly selective activity patterns within a brain region, thus allowing the investigator to influence specific functions. It can “incept” a person to acquire new learning, skills, or memory, or possibly to restore skills or knowledge that has been damaged through accident, disease, or aging, without a person’s awareness of what is learned or memorized.
    Perceptual Learning Incepted by Decoded fMRI Neurofeedback Without Stimulus Presentation by Kazuhisa Shibata,* Takeo Watanabe,*† Yuka Sasaki,‡ Mitsuo Kawato
    In this study, we have shown that it is possible to directly condition neural activity using reward feedback derived from fMRI. Subjects were able to discriminate between two cues and respond to each by activating the appropriate region of their left sensorimotor cortex, while suppressing activity in a second region.
    Direct Instrumental Conditioning of Neural Activity Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Derived Reward Feedback

    Signe Bray,1 Shinsuke Shimojo,1,2 and John P. O’Doherty1,3

    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Walter Ong predicts Powerpoint in 1970

    I've been thinking about talking versus writing, and about how thinking-in-writing is different from thinking-in-speech, and I'd forgotten that I'd pulled this article by Walter Ong a couple of years ago.

    Ong's argument is that although thinking-in-speech is different from thinking-in-writing, the invention of the alphabet changes the nature of thinking. People develop new ways of thinking, which depend upon writing, and they transfer their new habits back to the medium of oral speech.

    Then thinking changes again with the invention of print.

    And again, with the invention of electronic communication.

    (Ed told me something interesting re: the invention of print. There is a school of thought that nations don't come into being until the invention of print. Without print  -- print per se, not just writing -- you can't have countries.)

    Ong's argument makes sense to me, but I'm wondering whether it can be true of students who've essentially never read serious expository prose.

    What happens if all you do in 13 years of formal education is sort through packets and Google things?

    I don't know the answer to that, and this passage from Ong doesn't address the question, but I'm posting it because I think it's cool.
    The effects of [the invention of] print on narrative have never been worked out, but they were massive. Early narrative can be beautifully organized, but so far as I know, nowhere in the world before print was there any lengthy narrative with the tight sequential plotting (build-up, climax, denouement) which has matured everywhere since print, perhaps most typically in the detective story, although such tight plotting has been known outside narrative, in drama, for some two thousand years. There is no narration in drama, but actors. With print, but not without it, James Joyce could produce Finnegans Wake. It is humanly impossible to produce two handwritten copies of Finnegans Wake which are exactly the same. In this large book, as you know, thousands of words have their own idiosyncratic spellings. Every single letter has to be supervised individually. This means, of course, that the final composition of the work--as of most works in print today--is done in the printer's proofs. (Balzac used to strike out whole galleys and rewrite everything on the other side of the proof sheets--an extreme example which, in my friendship for publishers and printers, I do not recommend any of you follow.) But once you know the sort of things that can be put into print, the feeling for such things influences your writing, even such things as your personal. correspondence. You can tell that Alexander Pope's letters were written by a man who knew the printed book and that Cicero's were not. Cicero's sound far more oratorical, for one thing, and the audience is felt in a different way....

    And so in the present and the future, when we live with the electronic media. These have not wiped out anything, but simply complicated everything endlessly. We still talk face-to-face and write and print. The electronic media have massively reinforced print.


    And so the future is already here. We have entered into a world of communication which we are only beginning to understand. Aristotle said that in his day the Greeks had no word for "literature." (If they had no word for it, don't ask me how he said that.) Today we have no word for this new thing. I would suggest that it might be called a "presentation."

    The End of the Age of Literacy by Walter J Ong, S.J.
    St. Louis University
    Revision of April 10, 1972
    Original draft completed November 1960 (taped for Opinion Institute, Omaha, Nebraska, developed out of article done for St. Louis Post-Dispatch and published April 4, 1959)

    get the party started

    My sister called earlier today to say the revolution has begun:
    Horizon Charter Schools will not reopen a school it closed a month ago in Rocklin because it lacks community support, school officials announced this week.

    The school had included an accelerated learning academy for third- through eighth-grade students and a science, math and engineering academy for high school students.

    On Tuesday, Horizon officials confirmed they are closing their entire accelerated learning program, which also includes kindergarten through second-grade classes housed at a site in Lincoln. The program will end Dec. 21.

    "It became clear that the program, in its current form, is largely unwelcome to the community upon whose support the program itself depends," Horizon said in a prepared statement.


    The announcement came after a month of acrimony between school officials and parents that started when the closure of the Rocklin school site was announced.
    Parents were upset about the change, which came with less than a week's notice.


    The Rocklin school – which had 390 students – was shuttered after Placer County officials said only 75 students were allowed under current permitting rules to be in the facility being leased in an industrial park. School officials also cited traffic safety problems for the closure.


    In October, Horizon CEO Craig Heimbichner asked parents to be patient while school leaders sought a new site and to remain with the charter in a home-school program.

    Since then, more than a third of the program's 200 students have left the program, according to parents. Many of those still with Horizon are meeting at homes, libraries or public meeting rooms in an attempt to keep classes together or to accommodate parents unable to home-school their children.

    Keiko Chang said her son's class of 20 third-graders met at a library a few times, but had to split into two groups to hold classes at family homes. Her son's group moved from house to house on whatever days or times worked for the homeowners.

    The group recently found a permanent home to use from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each school day. Each family pays $3 a day to cover insurance, Chang said.

    But the children may not be nomads for long; teachers are attempting to open a private school, while parents are working with another charter school organization to start a program in the Roseville area, according to parents.

    The program is expected to use the same Core Knowledge and project-based instruction that Horizon had used in its accelerated academy, said parent Laura Daggett.
    She said her first-grade daughter has made huge gains in the program. "You can't imagine the difference between August and now," Daggett said.

    The only school that teaches with the Core Knowledge program is Rocklin Academy, which has a lengthy waiting list, she said.

    Horizon has put administrator Dennis Craft in charge of helping families transition their students to their home school option or to help them find another school, Clark said.

    Horizon Charter Schools won't reopen in Rocklin
    By Diana Lambert
    Published: Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2B