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windows 7 certification PREP SESSION from Microsoft March 4, 2010

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Microsoft is hosting a LIVE meeting on W7 certification preparation.  It’s being offered at two different times on 3/11.


Understanding understanding February 9, 2010

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I recently came across a ten-year old study that explores the significance of “understanding” in learning.  Here’s a list of their key findings:

1.       Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.

2.       To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must: (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.

3.       A “metacognitive” approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them.

The study confirmed some important tactics that I have found useful in the classroom.  For example, I’ve been having my students share with me key facts that they have learned– key facts that they want to remember.  I’ve been using this approach rather than doing a more traditional review where I ask the students questions and the one who knows shouts out an answer.   According to this study, an important part of learning is what is called “meta-cognition”– which I’ll describe here as a kind of “learning awarenesss.”  In short, it’s the dialog students have with themselves about what they have learned and about what they still yet don’t know.  This dialog, according to this study, is an essential part of a student coming to a full understanding of the subject.  By me asking students to think about their learning, I’m encouraging this process as well as exposing what facts may still be missing.

The other key point for me  in this study was the significance of FACT.  I thoroughly appreciate the web with all it’s “wikis” and “blogs” and “learning snacks” but what  I’ve come to appreciate even more is a need to keep challenging myself and my students to dig deeper.  In-depth isn’t a waste of time!   Here’s an excerpt:

In one of the most famous early studies comparing the effects of learning a procedure with learning with understanding, two groups of children practiced throwing darts at a target under water (described in Judd, 1908; see a conceptual replication by Hendrickson and Schroeder, 1941). One group received an explanation of the refraction of light, which causes the apparent location of the target to be deceptive. The other group only practiced dart throwing, without the explanation. Both groups did equally well on the practice task, which involved a target 12 inches under water. But the group that had been instructed about the abstract principle did much better when they had to transfer to a situation in which the target was under only 4 inches of water. Because they understood what they were doing, the group that had received instruction about the refraction of light could adjust their behavior to the new task.

 You can read more of the study for yourself here.  If you’re a fellow teacher \ trainer, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

4xdown January 5, 2010

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Years ago a friend shared with me his method of studying and passing tests.  This is one of those methods that probably will work for some but not for all.  It’s an attempt to soldify concepts by making 4 passes over the material.  Here’s his formula:

1) Read the documentation \ coursebook \ study guide all the way through with the goal of just getting through it all

2) Read the materials again– this time use highlighter and mark up key concepts and areas for memorization.

3) Review the materials but this time WRITE down in a notepad all the sections you highlighted in pass #2.

4) Just before the test, review your notes

The only thing missing from this (and it’s a big missing) is the HANDS-ON.  If you’re taking a concept-heavy test then the above is a good approach– but for those more product-specific exams, you’ll need to KNOW the product too and there’s only one way to do that– USE THE PRODUCT! 

Nevertheless, I love pass #3 on account that WRITING engages the brain at deeper levels than just passively reading.   You may never read what you wrote but the very act improves retention.