Monday, August 27, 2012

Schemas and Adult Learning

Recently I had was telling some of my Facebook friends about my plans for school. Christine Pence, whom I met at a conference a few years ago, asked me this:
Clare Shappee Dygert Christine -- I'm hoping my thesis will be on using ASL as a schema to reduce cognitive load in asynchronous e-learning. Whatcha think?
Christine Pence Hmm..could you expand a little on this? Are you thinking about the approaches to learning ASL as in your blog article? Or, are you thinking about generalizing the design of asynchronous learning content? Do you have a specific academic content environment in mind?

Once I got over the thrill that someone A) read my blog and B)actually thought about it and remembered I had written, I thought about Christine's question.

Schemas (or schemata), as they are discussed in the Memory and Mind chapter, by John P Clapper ("Category Learning as Schema Induction") that I mention in my ASL Hand Shapes and Schema Learning blog post are a little different than what I am considering for my research. They are related, though. Schemas, as John Clapper uses the term, refers to categories of information. Students learn the characteristics of the category and are able to sort new information, determining if the new information is in or out of the category. This corresponds to the "concept" type in my instructional design model. (You can read more than you probably want to know about my model here:

What I would like to investigate in my research is whether or not the structures and grammar of ASL  -- use of signing space, time line, for example -- can be utilized by the graphical presentation of content in asynchronous e-learning as a schema, and would using it as a schema reduce cognitive load and make learning difficult content easier for signing learners.

To get to that question, there are a lot of other questions that have to be answered. How should I measure cognitive load? There seems to be some controversy about that topic. What features of ASL would be most useful to be used as part of a schema? How would that schema translate to graphical presentation of content?

The Chair of the Psychology Department warned me that my research question is more like a dissertation than a thesis.  It does probably have a life-time of work in it. But I think that is a good thing, don't you? If, in the next two years,  I can get the questions listed and understand what work has already been done on this topic, and find an ASL linguist who is willing to work with me, then I will consider the next two years well spent.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Thoughts About Losing My Job

Last Wednesday, July 31, was my last day at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Because of budget reductions, NTID was forced to make budget reductions, and that meant that about half of my team was let go. I was sorry that the Institute decided that 7 of the 9 folks let go had to be from my department, but I wasn't consulted, and it doesn't matter now anyway. What's done is done. Now I will turn my thoughts and energy to the future.

By happy accident, I was just matriculated into a program at RIT -- Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology. What's that? Well, here's what they say on the website:
Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology is the application of psychological principles, knowledge, and research to improve the ability of humans to operate more effectively in a technological society. [Its] research focuses on people's interaction with or involvement with communication, decision making, and computer information systems, work places, energy and transportation systems, medical and health care settings, consumer product design, living environments, etc. The goal is safer, more effective, and more reliable systems through improved understanding of the user's requirements and performance capabilities'
 So, the good news is that, as part of my severance package, I get to go to school for a year on RIT's dime! So, I'm pretty thrilled about that that, as you can imagine. In addition, I can have $1000 for "retraining".  I'm mulling over a few choices. Should I take one of ASTD's certificate programs? And how to choose -- they have many yummy choices! Or should I get the training for PMI and take a shot at a project management certificate? Or maybe Lean Six Sigma? the choices are all tempting. Lucky for me, I get 4 months of career counseling from my friend Deb Koen. I'll be looking to her for some good advice on this choice.

My biggest concern is that I will loose my very hard won sign language skills. Hopefully, I'll be able to volunteer at the RIT American Sign Language and Deaf Culture Center.  I've volunteered, and now am waiting with fingers crossed to see what they might have for me to do.

I'm also looking forward to doing a little more work for the Amitabha Foundation, the non-profit that I serve. We'd like to grow our social media presence, and give more people the opportunity to interact with the good works the Foundation accomplishes. We also are very aware that there are a lot of people who'd like to practice with a Buddhist group, but are living in small towns or far from one of Ayang Rinpoche's practice groups. We'd like to give those folks a way to practice and benefit from teaching retreats. And I'm going to help make that happen.

So, while I would have never quit my job at NTID, and I deeply miss both my team and our clients, I'm excited and energized as I look to the future. I'm sure only good things are ahead, and I can't wait to see what they are!