# The order of learning, or does it matter in what order you learn things?

As a newbie to textbook authoring I am confronting the issue of the order of learning. Should you learn about a student t-test before an F-test? Pearson's product moment correlation co-efficient before Simple Linear regression? Perhaps it doesn’t matter in these cases but I am currently dealing with contradictory pieces of feedback regarding the chapter on presentation of data.

Initially I put it early on the book. I reasoned that things like bar graphs and scatterplots would be pretty familiar to students, and that the main aims of the chapter would be concerned with choosing appropriate ways to display data. After all my seven year-old knows about bar graphs. However, the risks of producing confusing, misleading or inappropriate graphs and charts is a real one. Moreover, bad graphics are highly entertaining.

Two people who saw early drafts felt that chapter 3 was too early for this chapter. After all, how you present statistical data if you don’t understand the statistics referenced?

Having moved it towards the end of the book, the latest feedback has been to move back to about chapter 3. In defence of early inclusion most of the material does not reference any particular statistical test, but is focused on principles of presenting data as clearly and unambiguously as possible.  Items such as boxplots which use medians and quartiles can be forward referenced.

Of course the learner can read the chapters in any order they like (or the teacher can assign chapter 20 to be read before Chapter 3). Yet at the same time I like the idea of book where the chapters build on each other. This is my ‘baby’ and I’m pretty precious about it all. “Could students go straight into the chapter on the t-test without having to read the other stuff?”,  I have been asked. I suppose they might be able to, but it depends on what they already know, and what they actually expect to learn from the process. None of the language learning books I have come across open with “Lesson 1: Forming the subjunctive.”

One of my aspirations for the book is writing something that fits together well as a learning journey. The journey is not just being able to ‘do’ something, but hopefully being able to understand and appreciate why you are doing it.

But back to the subject of order not everybody learns the same things in the same. I’m not a child development expert, but know from my own boys (n=2) (and their friends) that they do not reach the same milestones in the same order. On the other hand when the time comes for them to learn to drive (still a long way off…) I’m pretty confident that they will learn to drive forwards before they learn to drive backwards.

Either way the question of whether this particular chapter should come near the beginning or near the end (or indeed in the middle) is one I wish to ponder further.

# CFP: LLAS 9th e-learning symposium, 23-24 January 2014

The Future is Now! So come and tell us about it…

Do you make innovative use of technology in language teaching and learning? Have you been experimenting with MOOCs and wish to share your experiences? Do you use social networking sites, virtual worlds or mobile technology with your language students? Are you engaging students in the creation or use of open educational resources? If so, then the LLAS community would like to hear from you!

LLAS, Centre for Languages, Linguistics, and Area Studies welcomes proposals for presentations, workshops and posters at the 9th annual e-learning symposium, on 23/24 January, 2014. Abstracts for proposed presentations or workshops should be no more than 400 words.

Topics may include but are not limited to, the use in language teaching or research of:

• social networking sites
• mobile technology
• MOOCs and open learning
• blogs or wikis
• open educational resources
• virtual worlds, such as Second Life
• virtual learning environments
• online tools or courses
• innovative online learning designs or environments
• autonomous learning
• blended learning
• social media, e.g. micro-blogging (e.g. Twitter)
• student-generated digital content

Submissions deadline: Friday, 4th October, 2013

# I am not an accident: Battling and/or living with depression.

I’ve not written about my experiences of depression for a while, and have my reasons for doing so. Recently I have been asking myself if my depression is something which I should battle with, or something I have to learn to live with.

I can only speak of my own experience of depression.  The only thing I know for certain about depression is that it affects everyone differently.

Although I’ve only recently  ‘come out’, I have experienced depression for a long time.  Although I didn’t realise at the time, my first bout may have come when I was as young as 11. At that age I didn’t realise that there was such thing as depression. I felt constantly ill, even though there was nothing wrong with me. The doctor gave me some tablets eventually.  I’ve no idea whether they were some sort of anti-depressant, anti-anxiety pills, sugar pills or indigestion tablets. Whatever they were they seemed to do the trick for a while.  A few months later the symptoms came back.  The doctor I saw on that occasion ‘prescribed’ putting Vaseline up my nose.

I suffered my first identifiable bout of depression in the summer after my first year of university, but it would still be (at least) another 12 years before I started to seek answers in the medical profession. Other periods of depression have followed. Many people talk about identifying triggers for depression. For me, my experiences have mostly been routed in some sort of human relationship experience (e.g. romance, bereavement, dispute).  In my own mind my life can be divided up into encountering certain individuals and events associated with them.  Not all these people are people I feel have wronged me in any way, but their own way they were central to my depression experiences.

Over the years I have met many people with depression or other kinds of mental health problems. Mental health problems do not discriminate by gender, religion, sexual preferences, educational background or wealth.

In the downtimes I think about what could fix my depression. A couple of years ago, when we were going through some reorganisation and possible redundancy, a career coach was bought in to help us. She asked a question along the lines of, “What would you do if you if won the lottery or had enough money you did not have to work or could do any job you liked, without having to worry about the salary?”. In the lowest points of my depression, such a question is impossible to answer.

I went to church this morning where Andrew Page  was preaching on Colossians 1vv.15-23

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Andrew said a lot about the passage, but the phrase which will stick with me most was:

“You are not an accident”.

# New resource: Critical values and random numbers tables under CC licence

I have put together an excel spreadsheet with critical values of Chi, F, R T, U, and Z.

I've also added some random numbers.

This document is made available under a Creative Commons licence.

# New resource: Excel to help with statistics involving pre-decimal UK currency.

Until 1971 the UK used pounds (£), shillings (s) and pence (d).

There were 12 pence in shilling.

20 shillings in a pound

240 pence in a pound.

More about decimalisation can be found on Wikipedia

If basic arithmetic wasn't enough of a problem, statistics must have been a nightmare. This excel spreadsheet enables the input of up to 300 prices in pounds, shillings and pence and calculates:

1. The Total sum
2. Mean average
3. Standard Deviation
4. Maximum
5. Minimum
6. Upper quartile
7. Lower Quartile
8. Median

It also converts all the pounds, shillings and pence data into (today’s) decimal currency. This makes pre-1971 and post-1971 comparisons possible. (Full details of the mathematics behind this are in the Wikipedia article cited above).