Expository Lessons

It’s only find it fair that I attempt the same writing assignments as my students. Not only does it model a good example, but it supports the notion that we are learning together. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed completing this assignment. I intend to share it with the students so that I can demonstrate the importance of hitting deadlines. Thus, my post this weekend will be the expository essay that I just wrote. Perhaps you can learn something by reading it, as I hope my students do:

Takes Notes

Historically, humans have been taking notes to record information for thousands of years. Note-taking is a complex human behavior that organizes, and restructures input into referential symbols. Academics and students have been taking notes since the days of the Ancient Greeks; it is ingrained in education. Note-taking is a beneficial skill that can help students recall and retain information for academic and practical purposes.

First, it is essential to explain the cognitive functions that occur when someone is taking notes. First, the note-taker receives information through an encoded channel such as language or symbols. Next, the note-taker decodes that message as they interpret it. Then, the note-taker encodes a message through symbols through inscribing. Finally, the note-taker can recall that message by decoding their recorded message. External factors such as psychological noise play a massive role in disrupting the encoding process. Provided is an image to visualize the concept:

Next, it is vital to assess the effectiveness of note-taking. There have been several psychological studies that have investigated the effectiveness of note-taking. The results so far have been mixed and inconclusive. There was little data to support that note-taking will improve test scores. However, there were significant implications that note-taking did increase overall retention. According to a 2016 article by NPR, “The first idea is called the encoding hypothesis, which says that when a person is taking notes, “the processing that occurs” will improve “learning and retention.” The study in the article concluded that hand taking notes was more conducive to learning retention than notes taken on electronic devices.

Lastly, it is necessary to dive deeper into the encoding hypothesis according to a psychological study conducted on college students who were assessed on a short reading passage. According to the hypothesis, “The students took notes on 31% of the passage sentences, and such notes were of high structural importance value. Most importantly, note-taking seemed to serve as both an encoding device and an external storage mechanism, with the latter being the more important function. The external storage function not only led to enhanced recall of the notes but also facilitated the reconstruction of other parts of the passage.”

This hypothesis is a demonstration of the encoding specificity principle, which suggests that encoding information such as writing, speaking, or gesturing relates to memory and the ability to recall that information. Evidence suggests that this principle plays a significant role in context and concept-oriented memory.

In summation, note-taking is a skill that humans have used for centuries to record and recall information. The cognitive process that occurs when recording information requires a decoding-encoding cycle that is stated by the encoding specificity principle to aid memory retention and recall. Finally, it is essential to acknowledge that many of the psychological studies on the effectiveness of note-taking, including studies that were refuting the encoding specificity principle, yielded inconclusive or mixed results. Perhaps this concept is particularly challenging to analyze and quantify scientifically.

Note-taking requires focus and keeps the note-taker engaged with the lesson that is being taught. One more thing needs to be factored in; If the alternative to note-taking is being subjected to a range of distractions and external stimuli that tear the student away from the lesson. Then the students who take notes and remains engaged will retain more information and perform better academically. 

I hope this was informative.

-Nobody

Recalibrating

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Yesterday I got my first guitar lesson from an experienced tutor. He showed me some finger exercises, major and minor scales, and taught an introductory lesson into music theory. Up until this point, I have learned everything that I know about music from informal experiences. A friend was showing me a chord here and there, the occasional YouTube tutorial, and whatever I picked up from learning new songs. I underestimated the importance of learning music theory because it seemed like such a daunting task. First, learning the vocabulary that is necessary to communicate, that jargon can become overwhelming. Next, determining the underlying mathematics and science. It was incredible to watch my tutor break down the scales that we had just played into this calculus of seven letters. Lastly, the timing of it all, tapping my foot to the click of a metronome while playing along rhythmically. After the lesson, I felt like an impostor.

I have so much to learn…

I am fortunate enough to be learning from a real musician. Someone who understands the intricacies of music and the underlying science. Someone who has been educated in theory and applied it to songwriting. Someone who is offering me free lessons because he wants to see me improve. I would be foolish to turn the opportunity down, so I offered to make dinner in exchange for the lesson. This is the kind of bartering that I can get behind, reciprocity at its finest. I can’t overstate how meaningful it is to learn music the right way. Learning the building blocks that create a foundation for songwriting and comprehension. I’m incredibly grateful to have this opportunity.

Every shortcut in music leads to a dead end.

I feel energized at the prospect of expanding my musical knowledge. Pushing past the plateau of mediocrity into the tier of professionalism. This will be an arduous task, but a journey that I am excited to embark on. I will continue to resume my lessons and practice throughout the week. I am stretching myself thin with all my projects, but I feel compelled to learn more, grow more, to experience more. Suffice to say, I have more to give.

You can always be doing more…

These lessons shouldn’t detract from my current goals. I still intend to purchase and learn some video editing software so that I can begin making short documentaries. I’m estimating that I should be able to make the purchase in December. I’m eager to see where that will take me and how I can apply my developing musical skills to the process. I have a long break coming up from work, and I cannot afford to squander that time. I need to remain focused on my goals, I need to document the steps that I am taking so that I can monitor my progress. I can only hope that one day I will reflect on these years and recall my efforts and ambitions. I never want to lose this spark, the thing that keeps my lofty hopes alive.

Failure would still taste sweeter than bitter regret.

I think that I’m hitting a groove at work, I have learned the routines and the deadlines, I have made efforts to stay ahead and on time. My outlook on the job is improving, and I am feeling more comfortable with my students and coworkers. I had been struggling with imposter syndrome for months. The significance of the job is still burdensome, but I am adapting to carrying that heavy load. I’m feeling emotionally stronger and more resilient. I am anticipating a productive fall and winter break. I’m looking forward to spending time with family, writing more, and learning more. Self-improvement is a difficult undertaking. It leaves you vulnerable to reflection and directs you to question your own motives. It is a process that takes time and effort. It is invigorating and exhausting. 

There are no shortcuts because they all lead to dead ends. 

-Nobody

Recycling the Writing Cycle

Sunday, October 27, 2019

I’m teaching a lesson on the writing cycle tomorrow. Having to layout the process in a specific order made me think about the sequence that I follow. I do most of the brainstorming in my head at this point and collect my thoughts and ideas about a topic before I sit down to write. Sometimes, I just start typing. Those drafts typically remain unfinished and uninteresting. To express my thoughts or feelings about a topic, I need to ruminate on the subject for some time. Fortunately, I spend a lot of time in my own head. This is the process that works for me, but I need to differentiate for all my students. They all learn differently and appealing to their individual learning styles is a challenge for me. The fact is, some of my students will never become expressive writers. At least I can teach them how to write coherently.

Writing fiction is more difficult for me. Although I have an active imagination, structuring dialogue, and developing characters is not my forte. Over the summer, I intend to work on my creative writing through roleplaying games. I have listened to several sessions of D&D through podcasts and even sat in on a few games. The thing that seems so appealing about roleplaying games is the world-building. Crafting unique characters and intricate settings, with some improvisation, sprinkled over the top looks like an exciting way to learn how to write fiction. I hope that the time I spend practicing and playing D&D this summer will enhance my creative writing and improve a few skills that I have neglected.

Becoming a better writer is only one thing that I am trying to improve on. I also am interested in developing skills with video editing software so that I can create short documentaries. It may seem like a dull field of interest for most people, but I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate documentaries. The thing that is so appealing to me about curating documentaries is the variety of subjects that I can focus my attention on. Not only do I get to research and learn about something that I am interested in, but I also get to create something informative and share that knowledge with the world. Maybe my experience with teaching will aid me in my efforts. Reading and recoding scripts sound tedious but extremely rewarding when the finished product is something that I can be proud of.

Learning to edit and orchestrate videos is going to be a complicated process. I need to familiarize myself with the software and the tools that will be necessary to produce something coherent. This skill may seem unremarkable, but it is essential to create meaningful, quality content. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this project and learn more about the process. The only way to learn the craft is to start doing it. I’m planning on purchasing some editing software and around Christmas. I will learn to navigate the software and expedite my editing time by the summer so that I can spend my time creating content and growing my network. I already have several topics in mind that I can begin to research and collect ideas for. If I follow through on this plan, I can start working on a portfolio that is marketable for my passion. The big dream would be to do this professionally, but I will need to take baby steps to reach my goals.  

I want to build a career around compelling work. I can see documentary curation as an amalgamation of all of my current skills and interests. For me, it is quite literally a dream job. I’m not expecting to make much money pursuing this career. Monetization is the last thing on my mind, I may never see a cent for my efforts, but that’s not what this is all about. It is about my personal growth and development. Something that people neglect when they find a secure job or get tied down by their obligations. Perhaps my tendency to shy away from relationships and long-term commitments have a silver lining. I am free to make mistakes and fail, I am open to taking necessary risks, and I am free to dream big. 

In the meantime, I will have to stay focused on my current occupation. Teaching is more than a full-time job; it is an all-consuming lifestyle. I need to be spending time honing the skills necessary for this job, as well. Becoming a better teacher will also help me become a better documentary maker and ultimately help me become a better person. After all, If I can teach a bunch of apathetic teenagers about a writing cycle, I will be able to inform curious people about the subjects that I indent to discuss. I can be a journalist, a writer, an editor, a filmmaker, and a teacher. Hopefully, that will translate into a career that I can be proud of. Mostly, I want to do it for myself, so that I can become somebody that I can be proud of. 

-Nobody