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Friday, 1 February 2008
Moving this blog
Mood:  a-ok
I've just moved this blog over to - because the blog system is nice there :). Here is the new address:

Posted by prejudice at 3:25 PM GMT
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
Literature Review
Mood:  rushed
Now Playing: Little Old Wine Drinker, Me (Dean Martin)
Topic: Literature Review
Right, I've been trying to get my head around my literature review and have to say it has not worked! I have no idea what I'm writing or where to start. It seems like a bunch of words with no story with nothing really ... wish literature writing were much easier and it came naturally to making a story etc. Oh well, think I'm going to give it a go again and see if I can tell it as a story - I tend to work well that way. I know it sounds a bit too narrative but I think only in that way I can feel as if I'm creating climaxes and anticlimaxes (i.e. gaps and arguments) - anyway, would see how this proceeds.

Posted by prejudice at 11:37 AM GMT
Monday, 21 January 2008
Back to work ...
Mood:  cool
Now Playing: White Christmas (Dean Martin)
Topic: Data Collection

Well, after my Christmas break I'm back at the OU ... whilst the Christmas break may seem long - I seemed to be occupied after New Years doing mostly my PhD work unfortunately (or fortunately). I collected two more observations - so got four more - but have decided to do back any observations where students scored less than 5 - because it's skewing my data - so that is an additional 2 observations! Oh well, they would have to get done. Also, Allison have put me in touch with 2 students from Cambridge who would be willing to participate in the study - so that's good. Although Amalia was suggesting that I collect data for the additional 2 persons who were UK students so, that might mean that I need 8 more observations - but would see what happens. I think what I could do for the 2 persons from the UK do the additional 2 observations (that will work as well since I wanted the additional students to do back glass-box and I'm missing glass-box observations for UK students) and let Amalia get me the other 4 and then proceed from there. That might be more useful.

Anyway, analyse my data for 32 students (although 1 will have to drop when I do my final analysis as I lost the voice data for him - got three additional from Trinidad but dropped J. from this analysis because her results were skewing my data) - but analysed it thoroughly - didn't find any difference however - but will figure what to do about that at some later stage but did write some preliminary analysis and thoughts about it for my PME paper - not sure if it was enough - but will see the comments from the reviewers and see what happens.

Posted by prejudice at 3:19 PM GMT
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Meeting with John Mason
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Meetings

So John and I met for lunch on Thursday last week together with Safiya (??) to talk a bit about my work. So, carried along my preliminary analysis to see if he has any ideas and whether he can point me in some direction and he has given me some leads.

 He indicated he was interested in the relationships, details and properties of problems (i.e. these are the things that students are looking for - or rather when a student sees a problem this is what they try to do particularly when there is an example which they can follow).

John suggested that I look at how the students see the worked examples and how they compare what they have in their problem to the worked example. Also, check and see what they're saying or looking at to check whether their worked example mirrors their own problem.

John suggested I look at what the students are doing when watching the screen or problem - that is check their sense making (i.e. levels of sense-making - this is way the relationships, properties and details come in). Suggested I look at the times when the students are gazing, when they're going between things (on the screen, the paper etc.) and when there is a language shift such as "This is like" to things like "this is an example of". Reckon the students who are sense-making more are the deep explainers and better students.

Connected to this, he suggested check and see which group looks at the materials and who don't and check these against their claims of confidence in mathematics (can't remember why exactly - but reckon because these will be sense-making more or perhaps students who are not confident will check the paper more often?).

With respect to the relationships, details and properties ... students would gaze at the problem as a whole and then should start looking the details and they then look at the relationships which are related to the properties of the problem. Ok - think I've sort of lost this thread of thought - I perhaps got to get John's paper on this and see how he explains it exactly - hopefully this is his research when he was talking about it.

He also mention some guy call Sen Campbell at Simon Fraser University was setting up a lab for eye-tracking and testing ECG for students doing maths and science (wants to check their anxiety etc.) - sounds interesting might check him out.

Posted by prejudice at 9:46 AM GMT
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Argghh ... Thesis Writing
Mood:  lazy
Topic: Thesis writing

Well ... I got my comments back from my methodology chapter ... not entirely favorably ... hopefully it gets better as I rewrite it. I need to put a whole section into the validity and reliability of qualitative and quantitative data and how these two differ from each other. And also make clearer statements on how my methods relate to my research questions and why I rejected one methodology against the other ... now that's interesting as I really can't recall rejecting one against the other - I must have because I remember reading all the different methods and still going back to cognitive load ... ahh yes now I remember ... I had the choice of instrumentalization from Trouche which I didn't quite like since a lot more attention was placed on what the student was doing with the artifact - i.e. the strategies involved with using the computer rather than trying to determine the learning. There is also Tall's procept thing which I really never did get but it was more about thinking about mathematics symbolically and whilst that is perhaps a good way to help students learning mathematics such as calculus which has a lot of symbols I think what I wanted to answer whether the steps in software made any difference to learning (procedural and conceptual) rather than whether it help students to have better symbolic learning.

Hmm ... what else did I read about and reject. I did read about distributed cognition - and I only rejected it because I didn't feel like it ... but need some more research-like reason :). I guess again it is because there was so much emphasis on the instrument in distributed cognition and community - although I just read from Wikipedia it is not necessarily so it can be individually as well. Because as I quote from Wikipedia:

Distributed cognition is seen when doing an arithmetic problem. We use both our mind and hand movements (writing down the problem) as a way to answer the question. The steps of Distributed Cognition are seen when: a) setting up the problem, b) doing the correct manipulation/arithmetic procedure, and c) writing down the correct answer for every 2 digits we have manipulated.

I can very well use this in my research to explain the qualitative side of the research - I have absolutely no reason to reject this right now - so would keep it in mind ... Gill is also reading some stuff on it - so might ask her to give me a summary of it.

Right there is also activity theory ... and I got discouraged from using it because of Gill's hatred for the triangles but again I think in activity theory the emphasis is on the instrument and what people are doing with it rather than the cognitive learning involved - I think my research questions has to talk about cognitive learning in order to make this clear why we are rejecting the learning as described by activity theory. I think because is is more socially and culturally motivated present day Engestrom activity theory - and I am not concern how the society and culture shape the learning rather again just their conceptual and procedural learning and everything here is always about the instrument being important ... although to come to think about it the real-life comments made by the students might be society and culturally motivated? Nah! I can't seem to swing that by myself and be comfortable with it.

Right ... then there is also the situated abstraction theory by Noss and Hoyles which I'm still looking at - but so far haven't seen anything really happening in that region ... and I think this wouldn't be something I would've even considered but again here it is all about the instrument rather than the learning - I'm concerned with not only how the students learn with the instruments but what they are doing with the questions (well now I am!) - I mean there is nothing in the programmes that would show a great amount of situated abstraction playing a role in their learning ... right?

I think so far I've confused myself more - I know instinctively I don't like some of these methods because they just rub me the wrong way - but don't think that would be a really good explanation in a thesis :).

Posted by prejudice at 10:50 AM GMT
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Data Collection woes continue
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: Thru my eyes (Phil Collins)
Topic: Data Collection

I'm off to a seminar in about 10 mins ... so making a quick entry into this blog - since I have to :) ... anyway, bit frustrated last night as I lost one of my data collection - all because the broadband wasn't working well and Skype decided to freeze my whole computer ... so, had to manually turn my computer and in so doing losing all my data .... although just now I discovered the answers the participant placed into the Excel file is save - so in some sense that is great - but lost all the audio and video data and these are essential for the research - so I would just keep that extra data just in case there is something interesting in it. Anyway, last night thought I should 'celebrate' a bit - because no true PhD student should go through their research without at least losing one bit of data - and now I've done that - hopefully it would not happen again - or if it does - I can just take it as nonchalantly as I can.

I think I might be getting less and less undergrad students to participate as it is coming up to exams time ... I just need 12 more ... one dozen sounds a lot less than 36 ... hopefully it would dwindle ... got to call up the contacts here in the UK and see if I can get some students - because Allison said she could get some and probably I could send a link around the PGSS emailing list ... anyway - taking it easy right now - since I got to analyse some of the data qualitatively and send of a report on Monday - haven't even begun to transcribe as yet  ... by some miracle it would get done by Monday ... guess no cinema this week ... well maybe one movie won't kill me :D. 

Anyhow ... having a problem with memory space in that computer - so needing to transfer stuff and share the around. I was trying to get it on the back-up server but it seems as if you are only allocated a certain amount of space (7GB) - my videos are alone about 27 GB ... so, got to sort that storage problem out soon. Anyway, off to the seminar by Matthew Riddle who is doing something on methodology - hopefully it is interesting.

Posted by prejudice at 1:57 PM GMT
Monday, 19 November 2007
BSRLM Conference
Mood:  special
Now Playing: Ghost (Bananarama)
Topic: Seminars

Well, I went to the Cambridge seminar on Tuesday - which was fun getting the students' feedback - I think the things I've gained from that has mostly been in the preparation of the materials and doing some preliminary qualitative analysis. Fatin suggested that I probably could let students who did the black-box software do it again sometime later on the glass-box to see if there were any effects ... hmm ... interesting - don't think I'll have any time for that in this PhD but something to think about for future research perhaps?

I also went to the BSRLM conference on Saturday - I was hoping to get more feedback from it - unfortunately my audience was really low (I think perhaps because the people who were interesting in my talk were mostly Cambridge students who had already seen it and I was clashing with a workshop of Geogebra). I was hoping to get some feedback on my videos.  One person (Nicole) suggested I might looks at Hoyles and Noss concept of situated cognition ... and I've been doing some browsing on the concept and it might be useful but not sure how it actually fits in with the data I have ... well as I understood it situated abstraction is where students make sense of what is given to them in the situation in which they're. Noss (2002) in his paper of mathematical epistemologies that students in these abstracted situations should be able to transfer their knowledge and not be wholly confined to the situation as suggested by Resnick (1991).

Hopefully, I've looked at this correctly and I've interpreted it correctly. What was interesting when I was reading Noss's work and all other stuff on situated abstraction I was trying to figure where students were sense-making based on the software - and based on the bits of video data I've browsed through I can't say whether there was actually any abstraction based on the software perhaps in the open-box in the choice of the the variables in which students chose any variable wildly ... however, what did strike me is this notion of moving from the situated abstract and applying it in a different situation. So, I went and did an ANOVA (or rather a comparison of means) to check whether students were doing badly when they had to do the abstract problem in comparison to the real life problems.

Of course I found no difference in the 20 students (I removed the 2 outliers)! However, the means suggest that students who were doing the abstract problem (interpretive and constructive) last were students who were doing worse at it - I do have to check whether the problems that students were doing last in general - that students were doing bad in it. Because students who were doing problem 1 last also did very badly for both the interpretive and the constructive. I'm not sure whether that student's energies peter off to the last and weren't able to think ... looking at problem 2 - students also did bad when it was the last question but only for the constructive problem ... did students reach their cognitive limits? Was the time they were taking a strain on them - or were students generally couldn't handle the abstract problems? (I don't think it is the latter - I have a feeling students just do badly for the last problem!). So, much for my brief stint in checking out situative abstraction - but it still might come in useful so would keep it in mind.

Interestingly, at the BSRLM spoke about someone (I think it was on Schonfeld) who said that if students cannot work out a problem in less than 7 mins they think it is impossible - so, I need to check this out more carefully.

Posted by prejudice at 11:57 AM GMT
Thursday, 8 November 2007
Interesting update to the LP software :)
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: Heart and Soul (The Monkees)
Topic: LP Software

So, I bumped into Shannon and Joanna from Geography during lunch today and I was telling them about my research and the problem I was having with the students who are not recognising that some constraints are binding ... i.e. for example when the labour hours has finished but lumber feet has increased that students still think they can build chairs because they're not looking at the whole problem and connecting it but rather just part and then relating it to real life. Joanna then said this reminded her of the machine in the museum which was used to teach capital flows etc. in economics by using pumps and water tubes, and checking to see what happens if they put a pressure (such as increase taxes) what would happen to the capital flow.

This got me thinking that perhaps students might benefit (but obviously not something for me to do in this study but perhaps as a recommendation) - an animation or graph that shows how much resources they have remaining - i think an interactive graph/animation might be interesting - one where the resources are being increased and what happens to production etc. Just a thought :D.

Posted by prejudice at 1:34 PM GMT
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
Data analysis
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: Incessant noise of the Jennie Lee Building
Topic: Data Analysis

Well, I've done some preliminary data analysis with the 22 participants I have, there seems to be two outliers (J&E) which seems to be influencing the data unduly so I may have to remove them in the final analysis - but we shall see what happens.

With the Latin square design, thankfully it seems as if the order does not make a difference to how the problems are answered, however, problem 2 is being done significantly better by students than problem 1 and 3. There is no clear indication that any of the boxes are actually helping the students unfortunately - although I am still hoping something will happen in the next 14 data collection which would show something ... so far the things that I'm looking out for it seems that the students are doing better in the constructive problems using the black-box than the open and glass box ... but this is only in the marks they're receiving - I still have to see what is happening in terms of self-explanations ... hopefully there is something there which might be able to help. Further, in high conceptual stuff, the glass box seems to be doing the worse, but in general everyone is doing worse with this stuff, so it might be as Doug's say a glass-bottom effect. I think the reason why students are getting the high conceptual parts wrong in the LP is because they're drawing from real life experience which is interesting as this usually helps people in getting the answer correctly in most problems but as James' says it is because they're not seeing or formulating it as a linear programming problem in their minds.

However, I think for the high conceptual it is dependent on part on some low conceptual in the interpretive questions and the procedural in the constructive questions, probably should look when they get the 1st part correct, do they go on and do the high conceptual part right ... which I think might be more interesting. 

Hopefully, when I come to the self-explanations I can see something happening which might explain the differences between the boxes (hopefully!)

Posted by prejudice at 11:48 AM GMT
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
14 participants!
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: Noise of the OU
Topic: Data Collection

Well, things are getting better on the data collection front. I have 14 participants so far .... still need another 22 ... but let's worry about that a little bit later.

Here are the bigger worries - is trying to transcribe all of the data which I haven't started but I think that'll be a huge headache - but got to start sometime soon otherwise I'll never do it.

On the other front - got my writing to get done which I'm never keen on ... but in three weeks time got to submit my methodology chapter - which when I think about it ... is quite long - and needs a lot of literature which I don't quite have at the moment ... so, got to work on that whilst transcribing and collecting data.

Posted by prejudice at 11:04 AM BST

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