Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing

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(Lif)e-portfolio: listening and sharing

I am reading lots of blogs at the moment.

Students on the Sport Coaching Pedagogy unit at the University of Canberra have submitted their blogs as part of the assessment for their course.

It has been fascinating seeing their take on the unit and on their experiences as teachers and coaches.

It was very timely, therefore, that Stephen Downes pointed to Lee Ballantyne’s post about (lif)e-learning and Jenny Mackness’s post about the First Steps in Higher Education MOOC.

Another link, shared with me by my wife Sue, alerted to me Anna Salleh’s post about listening. Anna reports work by Imran Dhamani that indicates that:

Some children find it hard to listen to conversations in a noisy environment because they are slow at switching their attention between different speakers.

… such children can fail to understand instructions, perform badly in subjects where class noise levels are high and quickly become the “black sheep” of the class.

Imran’s colleague Pia Gyldenkaerne has investigated the brain activity of children with listening difficulties, Auditory Processing Disorders (APD). These children had different brain activity when compared to children with no listening difficulties.

I was interested to read a summary of Lee’s conclusions about e-portfolios:

e-portfolio adoption must form part of a strategic approach and requires new practice due to their disruptive nature. Implementation has been planned for and with continued management should realise tangible benefits although it is acknowledged that this is a slow, iterative process and understanding will develop with experience and over time.

I am profoundly interested in the use of e-portfolios as a way of sharing life experiences as well as being an exciting assessment option. Today’s feeds have reminded me that listening is a fundamental issue I must address particularly if I use lecture theatres and SlideCasts as fora to share information and experience.

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Listening to Mystery

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Seeing and Enhancing?

I spend a lot of time thinking about observation.

This week news of a paper written by Christopher Chambers, Christopher Allen, Leah Maizey, and Mark Williams has added to my contemplation.

The paper published in Cortex is titled ‘Is delayed foveal feedback critical for extra-foveal perception?‘. The abstract is:

Recent neuroimaging evidence suggests that visual inputs arising beyond the fovea can be ‘fed back’ to foveal visual cortex to construct a new retinotopic representation. However, whether these representations are critical for extra-foveal perception remains unclear. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation we found that relatively late (350–400 msec) disruption of foveal retinotopic cortex impaired perceptual discrimination of objects in the periphery. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that feedback to the foveal retinotopic cortex is crucial for extra-foveal perception, and provide additional evidence for ‘constructive’ feedback in human vision.

In an ABC Science News post about the paper, Anna Salleh points out that this research encourages conjecture about the peripheral vision system :

  • Feeding back information to the foveal region to give extra information to the central vision.
  • Using the extra processing power of the foveal region as a kind of “scratch pad” to improve itself.

Mark Williams points out in his conversation with Anna that “Peripheral vision is best at picking up things in the dark and detecting movement. Our central vision, on the other hand, is best for focusing and detecting colour”.

Chris Chambers (the first author of the paper) has posted about the paper too. In his post he writes:

Peripheral vision is useful. Whether you’re an astronomer who practices ‘averted vision’, or a footballer monitoring for defenders, or even just attending covertly to a weirdo on the Tube – in each situation, looking directly at what you’re attending to may not be the best course of action.

Evidence is now mounting that when we attend to objects in the periphery, critical information about them is transmitted, or ‘fed back’, to an unexpected part of the brain: a region that neuroscientists have traditionally believed represents only the ‘fovea’, our central visual field.
Exactly why this feedback of information occurs isn’t yet clear. But one possibility is that the visual system harnesses the resolving power of the foveal cortex to enhance our peripheral vision, much like a small-town police force sending important CCTV footage to the ‘big city’ for analysis.
Chris provides a detailed account of his work with Mark Williams and has a copy of the paper available for download. I think his post as a briefing is an outstanding example of sharing insight into a research question and its investigation.
The research used two experiments. There were eighteen neurologically healthy, right-handed volunteers in Experiment 1 (nine females; mean age = 26.2 years). All participants had normal or corrected- to-normal vision and were initially screened for medical contraindications to TMS and MRI. There were ten volunteers were in Experiment 2 (six females; mean age = 23.9 years), one of whom had participated in Experiment 1.
The paper prompted me to think about individual variation in peripheral vision and how the construction of learning environments might stimulate this extra-foveal perception. I wondered too about how we are able to discuss what we have seen when each of us may have different peripheral feedback potential.
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