Thursday, March 25, 2010

Week #12: Recognizing the Japanese Zero, Slide Rules & Other "Learning Objects"

Okay, Gary - I beat you to the punch this week (But I notice Julye was before any of us - missed you tonight Julye!)

For tonight I will only put up this video, similar to the Ma and Pa Kettle (enjoy, Ben!) More to come later!


OK, back again...

Japanese Zero was an interesting film, for many reasons. The methods used for teaching was the main one, however, I also found it interesting for its historical value. Here is a photo of a P-40 (this was at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo in Michigan - used in air shows) and a Zero (taken at the RAF Museum in London, UK) from my collection (aircraft, and in particular WW II aircraft is a interest/hobby of mine, I routinely drag my wife to air museums). Can you recognize them?

The film used a number of features to get the important point of the instruction across, from repetition to animation and the entertainment element was added in so the repetition could be put into a real context. It even used multiple learning styles, using visual and aural. As I watched, I thought about all the ways we use for getting information across. In this case, it was really rote learning, yet it was a matter of life and death so the message had to be made so it was automatic. In many skills like this, we know that ‘practice makes perfect’. Anyone who coaches a sport knows this well (as do musicians, dancers, etc), certain skills are practiced over and over, perhaps in different drills, so the skill becomes routine or automatic. Using mathematics as an example, if the goal is to learn to factor a trinomial, we of course want the student to understand the concept, however, if one wants to be proficient in factoring, then the old ‘drill and kill’ does work. Constructivist learning theories are in vogue, and I do believe they work; yet I wonder if all the various theories of learning have merit. Does the method really depend on what is to be learned, the reason for learning it and the nature of the concept to be learned?
Part of looking back is to see what these artifacts can teach us about our practice now. This also applied to the ‘podcast’ Denis showed us in the form of the large vinyl record. I really was struck by Denis’ comments (my recollection of this!) that many of these ideas are not anything new, that we have always experimented and made use of the media of the day in creative ways. The question, as Denis put in his comments about the presentations (about mine in particular) is which of these technologies will be around in 5, 10  or 15 years? Will they become like the old vinyl records – unusable and lost? Or will they withstand the test of time?

Our TED talks:
A few quick comments on the presentations, all were every interesting, I feel fortunate to be in such company & look forward to the rest next class!

Paul’s slide rule brought back many memories; I even remembered how to do some of the operations. As soon as Paul started I recalled the scene in Apollo 13 that he mentioned where the engineers all grabbed their slide rules to verify the orbital burn calculations. The technology and engineering skill used in making this calculation device is amazing – again illustrating how old technology does not mean it was ‘primitive’. It speaks to the ingenuity of humans when so many successful moon landings were carried out with such ‘primitive’ technology! Modern graphing calculators can be wonderful tools that allow us to skip some of the drudgery and examine concepts, yet to use the slide rule you REALLY had to know place value & estimation, skills we try to get across today.

Lana’s holographs was interesting, just like Star Wars in 1977! The interesting thing was that CNN (Wolf Blitzer) spent most of the time cooing about the technology and not about the point of the broadcast – the election results! So much for seemless, but I guess there has to be a first for everything (although it wasn’t there as Lana pointed out!).

Young Mike’s look back was interesting. It looks like his course back in ‘96 (ha!) was a good one, but more interesting is the changes from then to now. It also shows why we shouldn’t just throw all our artifacts away – they have value even 15 years later!  

Gary’s look at learning objects was well done (especially considering his illness the last week - many good sites to go back and look at, Gary). The Ma and Pa Kettle clip, although old, could still have value as a teaching object. It is amusing, but a math teacher could show this and ask students to explain the errors or find another example that would work in Ma and Pa’s methodology. The discussion about the use of the learning objects was also interesting.

My presentation is here, if you are interested. Once you get to slide 2, just go to the next and the intro video will play!The images that appeared and disappeared on certain slides are a jumble… sorry!

Finally – Denis talked about standards and used the ISTE standards to illustrate some of the concerns. We have considered them before so in the course, as well.  This video of Sir Ken Robinson on the Bonnie Hunt show is a good one about the shortcomings of standardized tests! Enjoy!


  1. Hey Mike. Just "slid" in not long ago. I hadn't seen that video - exactly like Ma & Pa Kettle. Thanks! Talk again soon.

  2. I wonder what video was made first?

  3. Second life in the comment space! Pleasurable read, Mike. First, do you have a pilot's license? What a collection of planes. Thanks for the pics of the P-40 & J-0; they look like scale models.

    I didn't analyze Jap Zero like you did here, just said that it embodied the best techniques of the time, which as Denis pointed out, were the behavioural techniques. Repetition, I think, will always be a cornerstone of proficiency. Practice makes perfect is more than just a saying, it's a truth. Constructivism is a great technique for building understanding, but it is as much about deconstruction as construction, as you know. If we think of the trinomial, it is important to be able to factor it, but a good teacher should signal the relationship between the multiplication of binomials (construction of a tri) and the factoring of the trinomial (deconstruction). To do that well, one really needs to know/understand the math.

    What will endure in technology? The car! The basic concept survives because there has yet been something better to come along. But when the internal combustion engine was made, the horse and buggy became one of those best of the time artifacts that we pull out once in a while for fun (or nostalgia). Everything will pass so long as it can be improved upon, but once we hit the limit of improvement, what has been then produced will endure. Can pens be made any better? Not really. They can't get faster.

    Nice comments on the TEDs. Interesting how the linear representation of the sqrt on the slide rule is the root curve when mapped against the y-axis. Same with the square. I haven't deconstructed it all, but I imagine the mappings are similar.

    I watched Sir Ken's TED. That guy is great. I really like what he said about gymnast Bart Conner; I like to think I do things that way. We need to be observant and nurture what has been presented (presenced in Heidegger language) to us. If we feed kids well, who knows what they might do with their lives. Instead, we choose to shackle them so they only see shadows (Plato). We do have standards to uphold, right? I didn't say anything about the ISTE doc on my blog, but was going to. I'll say more on it later. Thanks again - another post conforming to the Mike standard!

  4. Watch until the ipod becomes an artifact. Afterall, it overtook the sony walkman, and that preceded the boombox and the megaphone. The ipad may not be the ultimate. I dont see people queuing up for it like they did the ipod when it was first released. But going with, "nothing new under the sun", on demand entertainment will take different forms and medium in the near future. One thing for sure, there is no obsolesce with it.

  5. Paul, it appears that Abbot & Costello was first, 1941, and comes from the film In the Navy (see Ma & Pa Kettle began appearing in 1947 in a film called The Egg and I (see, but it was apparently the film Ma and Pa Kettle, 1949, from where the clip came (see


    The above links reveals the technology that will replace the ipod

  7. Thanks for the pictures of the P40 and Zero. I wonder what they have to say about them today and what kind of information is posted alongside them in the museums?