2018 Goals: To Learn!

It’s been about three weeks since my last blog! I’m sorry to my readers. I had set out some goals for myself as I approached this new year. Yes, blogging was one of them, but even more significant, is my desire to pursue learning.

Starting last week, I began taking a graduate class at the University of Washington within their school of education: Developmental Foundations of Early Learning. I’m not an official student. I was accepted as a non-matriculated student, which means I can earn credit, but currently, it won’t get applied to any program at the University yet. My hope is with this class and other activities I will be doing this year, I can put together a stellar application and enroll in their PhD program in Learning Sciences and Human Development. As it stands, I will be preparing for a group case study on the topic, Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood, and my final will be a poster presentation on an existing form of curriculum designed for those between birth and fifth grade. I already have an idea for my final project, but it hasn’t been approved yet, so I will keep it to myself for the moment.

A second thing I started last week is music lessons. I purchased for myself basically a toddler’s melodica, and I’m intent on learning how to play. I found a private instructor, and I’m taking classes that take place immediately after my university class. I don’t play the piano, so these lessons are actually both teaching me how to play the melodica and the piano. I am having a wonderful time and proving to myself that even forty isn’t too old to learn a musical instrument.

Next, I’m working on my leadership skills. As a member of Toastmasters International (specifically “Leading Ladies Toastmasters Club“), I competed as my division’s finalist in the District 2 conference. Sadly, I didn’t place, but I certainly made an impression upon the leadership in my division. Now, I have accepted the request to chair an officer’s training workshop that will take place this next weekend. While I have had the help of fellow toastmasters, a lot of it was up to my creativity, and this Saturday, I hope to see a successful workshop of over 70 people!

Finally, I’m looking forward to attending the next National Association for Music Education conference in March 2018. This one will be better suited for me as it is focussed on research. One exciting thing I can share with my readers is that NAfME contacted me shortly after their November conference and requested to reprint three of my blogs about their conference. I eagerly agreed. I hope to produce similar blogs when I attend their next conference, and I’m very happy that they liked what I wrote.

For anyone who has completed a PhD program, even though I tried to complete one prior to now, I would love to hear your thoughts or tips on the application process. There is a lot to do, but fortunately, the deadline for applying is January 2019!

Advocacy and Littles (2017 National NAfME in-service Conference, Day 2)

Today, I participated in two sessions on advocacy and two sessions in music education and littles — littles being the youngest kids from birth to grade 3.

I loved the presentations on making music with young children.

Profile image from http://www.twitter.com/docstrong26
Image from http://www.twitter.com/docstrong26

Missy Strong, who has worked in music education involving Pre-K through 8th grade, introduced me to the concept of proprioceptive sense. This was a new term for me. She defined it as “body awareness from signals sent by muscles and joints in the brain” and “the sense of body position, motion, and equilibrium in space and time”. By the time, she finished her talk on this one area, I almost felt that I was suffering from a lack of proprioceptive sense! However, the most important part of this discussion was how music, participation in music, from an early age can help develop the proprioceptive sense, which while an innate ability, sometimes does not develop normally in some children. For these young students, music can be an incredible resource to help them gain at least some proprioceptive mastery.

Dr. Strong added that music is instrumental (yes, pun intended) for developing a child’s fine and gross motor skills and the ability to self-regulate. She uses a combination of resources to incorporate into three simple steps for movement in music. Her inspiration is Dr. John Feierabend who developed the movement component of his First Steps in Music curriculum from the important work of Rudolf Laban. These three steps include movement exploration and warm up, movement for form and expression, and beat motions. At the end of the session, she provided links to  learn more about Dr. Feierabend’s work from the Feierabend Fundamentals Facebook page and a membership opportunity to join others who utilize this method.

While I have had some experience in advocacy, NAfME has educated me even more. Another influential seminar for me was about working with administration. While the seminar was directed at teachers, I still found it useful. Brian Bubach,

Image from https://ndhsaa.com/about/staff
Image taken from https://ndhsaa.com/about/staff

the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Speech Committee Chair, instructed us to begin every negotiation with administrators the same way — present the number one reason for your program and list three things you already do to achieve that reason. Finally, name one thing that would improve your program. For me, reflecting on my goal of research of music cognition within education, I see my number one reason as “Music has application to every other academic area”. I realized that I haven’t taken as much action as I should be. For example, in addition to continuing research, I should be reaching out to schools that do and don’t currently have music programs; I should get active in all music associations; I should join my local PTAs; and I should network with local teachers. The thing I need is collaboration with my current network to create a proposal demonstrating the need for music education (for those schools that don’t have music programs) and advocating for the current needs of music teachers. Right now, that is my current short-term project.

Tomorrow, I will take additional courses focused on the variety available for children’s music classes and how PTAs (and me being a part of one) can best serve music programs.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference.

Lindamood-Bell and the Dual Coding Theory

dual coding quote

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Paivio’s theory of dual coding is used extensively at Lindamood-Bell, and the practices of Lindamood-Bell — primarily the benefits to the students — have been published in various peer-reviewed journals.

For students first learning words, or even letters, a clinician will show a letter, tell what the letter is and what sound it makes. The clinician then asks the student to repeat the name of the letter and the sound it makes. And as a final step, the clinician will ask the student to draw the letter in the air right in front of his eyes. So, here we have the combination of visual and auditory learning. The goal is for students to first see words and then concepts in their minds. English, of course, doesn’t play fair, so while the program might start very similar to “Hooked on Phonics”, it progresses to teach students common endings, the schwa, flexing vowels, and other instances when words don’t follow the general rules.

http://lindamoodbell.com
http://lindamoodbell.com

Lindamood-Bell, along with many respected psychologists and educators, recognizes that even when students can recognize words and pronounce them correctly, they still might not be able to comprehend what they’re reading. It could be something simple like the particular text has a lot of vocabulary with which the student is not familiar. The simple solution, then, is to increase his vocabulary. Or, it could be a more complicated issue, such as a learning disorder known as hyperlexia, where students can read, but they can’t form concepts in their mind about what they’re reading. Using the dual coding theory, once again, Lindamood-Bell will either instruct the clinician or the student to read a story out loud (auditory). Then, the clinician will ask the students to act as though they are the directors and what they have just read is a script (visual). “What kind of setting do you see?” “What do the people look like?” “What is the mood of the people in the scene?” Lindamood-Bell wants the students to have such a solid movie in their brains so that when the reading is taken away from them, they can easily recall the facts of the story and be prepared for higher order thinking questions. Depending on the age or grade level, Lindamood-Bell has seen students’ reading levels increased by at least two levels, and at most (from my experience as a clinician), five levels. I am always amazed to see the progress students have made as they near the end of their program.

So, great! I’ve told you how using both auditory cues and visual cues can increase learning when it comes to the basics of word recognition and reading comprehension – speaking, drawing letters, creating images in your mind. How does the dual coding theory work with music education or music cognition?

You’ll have to read my next blog to find out!

Paivio and the Dual Coding Theory

There must be something about McGill University. Daniel Levitin, who I’ve referenced several times in my blogs, is a professor there, and the next cognitive psychologist I’m about to introduce is an alum of the school!

Dr. Allan Urho Paivio
Dr. Allan Urho Paivio

I’d like you all to meet Dr Allan Urho Paivio, at least on paper. He was born in 1925 and passed last year in Ontario, Canada. He earned his PhD in Psychology from McGill University in 1959. Before delving into psychology, his passion was exercise. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Physical Education, also at McGill, and went so far as wining the bodybuilding title, “Mr. Canada”. While McGill University conferred Dr. Paivio’s degrees, it wasn’t the school where he would teach. Instead, Dr. Paivio, found his place at the Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario. I regret not learning about him while he was still alive. I’m sure he would have responded to at least one of my emails about his dual coding theory!

Ok, so dual coding theory. Where did I first hear about it? And, what is it?

I’ve been a clinician at Lindamood-Bell for over a year now. In our intensive training on teaching literacy and reading comprehension, Dr. Paivio’s name comes up quite a bit. Daily, we use both visual and auditory teaching methods to help our students recognize and spell words and later to create an image of something they have read which helps them to better comprehend what they have read.

If you’re familiar with the terms “learning styles”, “cognitive overload”, “AVK”, “TIPP”, or “Learning-Character Profile”, you have a good foundation to understand the dual coding theory.

While Dr. Paivio asserts that such a concept was known as early as 500BC, the term did not exist as a psychological or learning construct until the late 1950s when Dr. Paivio began to deconstruct its ideas. To put it plainly, the dual coding theory explains that learning happens best in the presence of both auditory and visual cues.

Continue reading about the dual code theory in my next blog.

Loving Life

It’s been a while, once again, since I last posted, and things in my life have been simply amazing both professionally and personally. I’ll keep the “personally” to myself as a constant reminder to be grateful for all the changes in my life, but for you readers, I wanted to share all my amazing professional actions from the last twelve months!

http://lindamoodbell.com
http://lindamoodbell.com

A year ago, I finished working as a behavioral aide, one-on-one with a third grader and began working as a learning clinician at a learning center. The learning center, Lindamood-Bell, focuses mainly on word recognition and reading comprehension, but it also works on math for some students. Their foundation for teaching/learning is based on the dual coding theory. I’ll be writing about that in another blog. For me, though, I have loved every moment. I have instructed several students from age 5 all the way up to 25. Their improvement has been dramatic. To provide a few examples, I worked a few students who started by recognizing the letters of the alphabet. When they finished their programs, they were reading at a minimum of two grades higher than when they initially tested. I’ve had other students who could read just fine, but had no idea what they were reading. This type of learning disability is called “hyperlexia”. With these students we start with simple descriptions of pictures and move on to sentences, then paragraphs, then stories. It always amazes me the progress students can make in just a few weeks and how their confidence levels completely change. I’m only working a few hours a week there while managing my epilepsy, but every child I’ve met there has impacted me.

Second, in November of last year, I began an unpaid internship/volunteer position as a research assistant at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. I assisted a post-doctoral fellow with a study she was completing on how the brain stem responds to sounds. Throughout the study, I learned how to schedule participants, run tests written in MathLab, and set up MEG sessions. It was a very steep learning curve for me.

http://ilabs.washington.edu/
http://ilabs.washington.edu/

Whenever I’m involved in something that fulfills my passion, I turn into a perfectionist, and I catch every single thing I did wrong. So, I was a bit hard on myself. The preliminary study finished at the end of April, and the post-doctoral fellow presented her findings at a conference in Texas. Of course, I’ll not be credited in any part of the study, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I assisted in a successful Brain Sciences research, and my work mattered.

Finally, I attended the Infant and Early Childhood Conference, held in May of this year in Tacoma, Washington. I didn’t know what to expect, but I assumed some of the sessions would be helpful to education advocates as well as educators. My favorite session was with Jocelyn Manzanarez of Musically Minded.

http://www.musicallyminded.net/
http://www.musicallyminded.net/

She taught us, mostly educators, the importance of rhyme, rhythm, surprise, and music starting from infancy through kindergarten. And, she provided us with copies of some of the songs she uses with children and other early childhood educators. It brought to mind the dual coding theory followed by Lindamood-Bell, which again, I’ll focus on in a follow up blog. I have since followed her on her mailing list, Facebook, and Twitter. Her staff includes those who have completed degrees in music and/or music education, but their work is based on sound peer-reviewed research. She happily sent me the research she is currently following as she continues to craft her career. I highly recommend parents of young children and early educators to check out her website. If you’re not local to the Puget Sound, I am confident she can recommend organizations that are similar to hers.

So, that has been my last twelve months. I’m still living in the Seattle area and finding more ways to hone my career, and I hope to share more excitement as 2017 continues. Thanks for reading, and keep coming back for updates!