Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Online Education

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

This is a longer than normal post.  It is a review of the only book I have found to deal well with on-line education.  While not of the quality of EricSotto’s When Teaching Becomes Learning on classroom teaching it is still very good.  The book is:

Lessons in Learning, e-Learning and Training: perspectives and guidance for the enlightened trainer by Roger C. Schank. John Wiley and Sons.  2005  280pp+index+xvii


This is an easy to read book on the important topic of training and addresses online training in particular.  Roger Schank writes well and uses lots of illustrations (sometimes these are a little forced or stretched).  Many of the chapters end with a section, called “Jump Start Your Thinking” or “Jump Start Your Training” where the question, “So What?” is answered.

It is not a how-to manual,
which would take you through the steps of designing a curriculum, but is about how to approach writing a good curriculum.

Quibbles and Problems
(skip this part if you just want the positives to take from it)

1. There is a particular kind of intellectually nimble yet down to earth style that comes from American academics.  This book is written in that style.  It has its virtues: clear argument, a solid research base and accessible writing.  My only problem is that the tone gets on my nerves after a while.

Part of the agenda is to promote the virtues of his own approach and so is partly a very sophisticated marketing leaflet for his company.

2. It is written for corporations and universities.  If you are a small business person like me and want to use this book it will take some adapting.  We can’t just go out and employ experts as consultants.

3. If this didn’t start out as a collection of pieces it certainly reads like it.  This leads to some repetition and left me wanting something more systematic and detailed at times.

The Big Ideas

1. Never tell anyone anything: people learn by doing.

He tells a nice story about when he fell into this trap and was surprised that the students weren’t able to do what he told them.

There is a major qualification to this rule.  Once someone is an expert then telling them something about their area of expertise is pretty fine.  For beginners it is disastrous.

2. Make the curriculum a story made up of stories.

He calls his approach “story centred curriculum” abbreviated to SCC.

The curriculum as a whole is to be structured as a story which will take the student from where they are to where they are functioning in a new way in their situation (whether workplace, academia or private life).

The curriculum, itself a story, is also effectively a collection of well chosen stories, sequenced to lead people to learn how to do a particular action.  Each of the stories has a point – something that tells how an expert addressed a problem or what to do in a particular situation.

Each story should be chosen to fit a role in the situation that the student will eventually function in.  For example: if the role to be learned is a teaching role then stories from teachers, students and supervisors will be relevant; if a salesperson then stories from other sales people, managers and customers would be included.

3. If it’s not about telling; then its mostly about practise.

This isn’t as true for experts but it is very true for beginners.  People learn by doing and get better by reflecting on their doing and then doing again.  Imagine trying to learn to drive by reading a book!  And there are many areas that are far more complicated than driving a car in which we train people.

This requires not only time.  It also requires structured activities which allow people to learn the component parts of any complex activity and that lets people discover what they are doing – correctly and incorrectly.

Nice Aspects

1. He realises that e-learning (or learning or training) won’t solve every problem for everyone.  He tells some quite pointed and funny stories about what online learning or training in general won’t fix.

2. He does provide the relevant theory that his approach is based on.

This means that you can follow up on stuff that interests you and, if you wish, think about how else this could affect your online education.

3. He does recognise that high quality computer simulations and programs can be incredibly expensive – sometimes even beyond the resources of universities and corporations.

This is a nice touch of realism if you are devising an online education course.  His response, briefly put, is that a story-centred curriculum can be almost as good and far cheaper.

In Summary

  • This is a great book for helping you think about how to start designing an online education course.  It is thorough, readable, stimulating and practical.
  • As long as you aren’t looking for a how-to manual then it is very worthwhile and will reward you with a wealth of insight and should lead to a very high quality piece of online education.

Learning Acupuncture

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

Learning acupuncture can seem daunting.

 There seem to be many details and lots to do all at once.  This is mostly because the courses that teach acupuncture are badly organised (yes, I am in the midst of writing a better one.  That is part of what this blog is about).  This article is about finding your way of learning if you are studying acupuncture somewhere else.

To find your own individual way of learning there is only one way.

That is to remember how you have learned things in the past.  Make a list of ten things you have learned  – a variety is best, (things that took a long while or  were quick, things that were easy or were hard, different areas of your life – sport, friendship, speaking your native language etc).  Examine these things to find out what helped you learn and what didn’t.  Then look for common elements about how you learn best.  You will then have a list describing your own way of learning that you can apply to learning acupuncture.

When I do this I find that what helps me learn best is clear and simple instructions: just do this, just keep doing that.  So with acupuncture I look for the vital skills and concepts.  The details that I use I’ll remember and anything else I can look up.  Others of course are the opposite.  A friend of mine at acupuncture college loved the details – all the ins and outs of the different points were what he loved.  My approach to learning was completely useless for him.

I’d also like to give you some general approaches to learning.  The most useful I have found is three styles of learning:



and hand.

  • Head means ideas and abstractions,
  • heart means people and feelings,
  • hand means moving and doing.

All of these will usually be part of learning.  However each of us usually has a preference.  The more we can use this preference the easier our learning will be.  Because acupuncture has ideas, it is about healing people and the concepts refer directly to our experience it can be learned pretty easily by a person with any of these preferences.

If you are a head person like me it will help to organise the concepts.  My way of doing this is: health, sickness, treatment.  Health consists of the channels (and their organs) and vital fluids, sickness is what interferes with health (the devils and thieves) and treatment is diagnosis, point selection and needle technique.  There are only about 40 ideas you need to know (yin and yang, the five elements, the 12 channels and organs, the six devils, the six thieves, the four examinations plus a few miscellaneous).

Forty can seem like a lot but it is only one idea a week for less than a year.  It can also help to write a brief bit about the idea and stick it up where you see it frequently – above the sink, on the back of the toilet door, wherever.  In this way it becomes part of your life and not something you have to sit down and focus on – it can be a lot easier.

If you are a heart person it will help to learn with and about people.  Talking over the ideas with others can help (as long as you just don’t confuse each other).  It will help to think about how the ideas affect people, how you can use them to understand people, and how you can use them to help people.  You can imagine helping someone reorganise their life or imagine saving someone’s health by using this acupuncture point (or combination of points), you can imagine saving someone’s life with you diagnostic skills.  The more you can practice on people or think of how it affects your friends and people you know the easier it will be for you to learn.

If you are a hand person you will understand by moving and doing.  Unlike much western schooling acupuncture lends itself to this style of learning (though this isn’t understood by those who organise the colleges).  Acupuncture speaks about our experience, of hot, cold, dry etc of qi (that feeling of liveliness) and the organs with their command of the different parts of our lives.

Here are some examples, yin and yang can be experienced by opening and stretching and then curling up.  The five elements pertain to different movements and senses.  In acupuncture even these very abstract parts of the theory refer to our experience.  You can learn the channel pathways by tracing them on yourself and others – there is even a qi gong routine that follows these pathways.  Learning diagnosis and treatment probably won’t be hard for you.

Learning acupuncture can be easy for anyone if they can find their best way of learning.

I hope this has given you some ideas about how learning acupuncture can be easy for you