Presidio Brass (2017 National NAfME in-service Conference, Day 1)

I just walked upstairs after watching the 5-member Presidio Brass perform at the conference. That was our nightcap, and it was amazing! Presidio Brass (Image taken from the Press Kit page of their website)

They playfully reprised some of the songs from their album, Sounds of the Cinema, which consisted of music from Star Wars, The Magnificent Seven, Mission Impossible, Bond, West Side Story, An American in Paris, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Bohemian Rhapsody).

Each member took a moment to introduce himself – Yes, it was a “boy-band” of sorts! And, each took a moment to be featured. My favorite part of the show was Presidio Brass’ Mike Frasier featured in the group’s performance of “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story. I’ve provided a video below.

Presidio Brass performing “I Feel Pretty”.

Performances such as “I Feel Pretty” and others demonstrate they can be an excellent way to showcase the fun of band music to all ages! And, in fact, that is their mission. Their website states part of their founding came about due to a cut in funding for the arts in California. Of course, Frasier might not wiggle his butt at a children’s performance!

I look forward to following their music on Facebook and Twitter, and I hope to have a copy of their album soon!

NAfME In-Service Conference is Here!

I arrived last night in Grapevine, Texas (just outside of Dallas) to settle in, but today, I’m registered and ready to go. nafme badge

Not much going on today except for a networking opportunity tonight and a concert by Presidio Brass to end the evening. I’m so glad I’m able to stay at the same hotel as this conference. The resort is huge, and I’m afraid I would be lost if I had stayed at a different hotel and tried to commute back and forth.

I’ve already found a few people from the Puget Sound area through the conference application, so I hope to make contact tonight. I’ll update tomorrow evening when I decide whether I should pursue a micro-credential in assessment and measurements, or if I should just choose a myriad of different workshops and not worry about the different types of credentials here. There are so many different workshops over the next few days!

How Can I Help You?

I’m thinking as I prepare to go to the NAfME conference this next week, I should probably put something on my website to help other attendees understand what I do – aside from calling myself a researcher.

Currently, I’m looking for projects — whether that be assisting on a research project or helping a teacher write up a proposal that connects music cognition to education.

I had hoped to work with ILABS again this fall, but instead I’m working about 8 hours a week at Lindamood-Bell Learning Services. It’s a great way to continue to explore sensory learning and keeps me in the education field. It also keeps me sane in my epileptic world!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

Update: Exciting news for me

I actually started working with University of Washington’s Institute for Language and Brain Sciences (ILABS), starting in November. It took awhile to get things going, and I was out of town for much of October.

In November, though, we finally started working. I met the student with whom I would be working – she was a sophomore at the school with currently no confirmed major. The two of us would take charge of the upcoming study from recruitment through second session of the study. I was also hoping to take a look at the findings once the post-doc has compiled them.

To date, we’ve finished typing our protocol and have advertised for participants. Today, my post-doc had me be the participant in the second session of the study which involves an MEG. I had already practiced the set up for this portion, but it is important to understand what the participant will be experiencing. On a side note, as an epileptic, I now feel much more educated about EEGs!

And, now we wait for participants to start calling or emailing. I’m not sure if anything will get done before the end of the year, but I hope so!

Exciting news for me!

I received my MS in educational psychology back in 2005, and after a failed attempt toward earning my PhD in the same subject matter, I had all but resigned myself to “some day I’ll be a researcher, but I don’t know when or how”. A lot has changed since 2012 when I was forced to abandon my PhD studies, specifically in the past year.

In September of last year, the parents of a child with mild learning and behavioral difficulties offered me the opportunity to be a one-on-one aide for that child during the entire school year. It was a tremendous experience and one that I really felt unprepared for on a daily basis. But, I learned a lot from the “trial by fire”. And, once the school year ended, I began working at an organization that emphasizes sensory learning. I truly believe that my one year of intense in-school work prepared me for this new role. I now worked with up to 8 kids a day using sensory teaching techniques to improve their literacy skills. It was terrifying to be working full time after not having done so for five years, and luckily, I was able to reduce to significant part-time hours after only about a month! But, I was working with kids in an educational environment. This is something I didn’t think would ever happen because I saw myself as over-educated and under-experienced.

Since I finished my MS degree, I had a desire to work with researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Language and Brain Sciences. Of course, I wasn’t known to the University. I didn’t earn my degree there and had never taken even one course there. So, presenting myself with just a degree did not make me a likely candidate for a research assistant position. My only opportunity was as a volunteer but financial difficulties had never made that possible, until now.

At the end of September, I will start volunteering with a post-doc at UW’s ILABS for, what I hope, will be long-term or at least until I’m able to restart a PhD program. The post-doc student informed me I will start with the basics – participant recruitment – and move up through developing research protocols and eventually learning how to do an EEG. This is incredibly exciting for me, and I really hope I will continue to have back up financial resources so that I continue volunteering without anxiety over my financial responsibilities.

Booklet Review: Starting smart: How early experiences affect brain development (1)

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, and I’ve realized it’s been even longer since I’ve talked about some of the research I’ve saved and have been meaning to read. Now that I’ve switched to a new laptop and backed up a lot of the research articles I’ve saved, I’m taking the opportunity to finally go through them. These aren’t in any particular chronological order. I’m choosing them in the order they appear in my google drive, so I hope my readers will find these research articles or research summaries as fascinating as I have. My goal is to keep these blogs to approximately 750 words, so if my reviews are more extensive, they may extend through two or more blogs.

The first is Starting smart: How early experiences affect brain development. This booklet was put together by Zero to Three and The Ounce of Prevention Fund, and it was published in 2000. While it is 16 years old, I feel it is still very relevant to early childhood education.

First, this booklet discusses the importance or blend of genetics and environment. While genetics are largely important, it is the environment in which the infant and young child grows which will determine when and how certain genetic traits will develop. This is a recent discovery as there had previously been a debate as to which was the primary factor in human development. B.F. Skinner stressed that development, particularly language, was behavioral, based on the behaviors an infant sees as he is growing. Others, such as Noam Chomsky, argued that growth was innate, and it was this innateness that was the precursor to anything else that could cause development within an infant.

Zero to Three and Ounce of Prevention Fund argue that the combination is in fact the why and the how a person develops. And it is not simply observed behavior that influences development. Rather, it is nutrition, medical care, nurturing or the lack thereof, and observed behavior which will influence development, and of course as I mentioned above, how/when any innate traits contributed by the parents will develop. In other words, a child may have the innate ability to be bilingual, but unless that child has the all-around complete environmental contributors, that innate quality will either never be expressed or will be expressed to a lesser degree than it might have had the ability to do.

Further, it is important to note that the argument nature versus nurture takes on a greater significance. Nurture, in this article, isn’t just the environmental factors in general, but rather whether a child will be nurtured by his parents or neglected. Even a child with healthy genetics can develop into an adult that has severe mental or emotional disabilities.

My primary background before entering the world of general human development was in bilingual education. I had taken several bilingual education courses at the graduate level before deciding I wanted to pursue psychology and then educational psychology. So, I understood primarily how language and dual languages develop and the importance of exposure at a young age. I mention this simply because it’s important to note that the brain has a greater ability to learn when it is “new”. I have recently learned that the brain development or formation allows for so much more than language learning.

The author of Starting smart: How early experiences affect brain development explains, “In most regions of the brain, no new neurons are formed after birth. Instead, brain development consists of an ongoing process of wiring and re-wiring the connections among neurons” (p. 3). The brain can make new connections from one nerve to another, but it is essentially complete at birth. It has everything a child needs (or rather everything his parents could have possibly given him) to survive or thrive. Whether the child is able to use everything he is given is next dependent on that nutrition, medical care, education, etc. Once that brain formation period ends, at approximately as late as 10 years of age for some genetic expressions, very little can be done to retrieve those unexpressed genetic traits.

So, what does this all mean? Certainly most parents are aware that healthy development leads to success, but can all parents offer the quality of “healthy development”. Of course not. Socioeconomic factors play a role. The so-called exceptions to this rule are those that achieved some aspect of proper childhood medical care, nutrition, etc.

I will continue this discussion of socioeconomic background and brain development tomorrow.

Animaniacs: Mayhem and Mindfulness!

It’s 1996. Internet means AOL or maybe compuserve. Youtube? It’s ten years away from development.

So, if you’re looking for any type of educational videos/songs, your only option is Sesame Street….. or is it?

Between 1993 and 1998, kids had an alternative to Sesame Street which gave a bit more grown up feel. Rather than puppets and humans, Stephen Spielberg introduced animation as a form to educate kids.

Now, first a disclaimer – yes, this is a typical cartoon. IMDB explains, “Yakko and Wakko, and their sister, Dot — three inseparable siblings — … have a great time creating havoc and mayhem …” Education was simply one aspect of the show.

Rather than describe the various lessons the Warner brothers and sister “inadvertently” taught while creating their havoc, I thought I would share some of the videos which are now on youtube:

Obviously, this is missing a few presidents. It should be updated, but at least for those kids who need to know the first of many presidents, this is excellent!


How many adults can name all these countries? Maybe if you watch this video a few times, you might know half of them!


I’m not ashamed to say I used this video in high school to help me learn the states and capitals!


Do you have any aspiring doctors, nurses, or medical assistants in your family?


And finally… two other characters on Animaniacs, Pinky and Brain, give a lesson on the brain (a subject very near to my heart!):