Statistics Education Application for the iPhone

At the Digiday:APPS conference in New York City last August, Teaque Lenahan, an Associate Partner, at Gravitytank presented the results of some of their recent research. He showed a clip of some of the people that they had spoken with, including a principal talking about giving kids iPhones instead of text books. I really liked this idea. While I am leaning more towards other mobile devices as the best development environment, iPhones do have a lot of appeal, and I could imagine some students really enjoying doing their studies on an iPhone instead of from a textbook.

So, it was with great interest that I received a press release last month from Michael Mayrath of GetYaLearnOn. They had just launched a pilot test of an application for learning statistics on the iPhone at Abilene Christian University. I corresponded with Dr. Mayrath to get a better understanding of what they were doing. It seems there is no dearth of educational apps for iPhones. What makes their app stand out?

What makes GetYaLearnOn’s approach exemplary is that Dr. Mayarth has his PhD in Educational Psychology and their director of Research and Development, is finishing up her doctorate in Educational Psychology as well. Dr. Mayarth did post-doc work at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on Virtual Performance Assessment under Dr. Chris Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies. Besides his work on virtual performance assessment, Dr. Dede is working on Developing Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE)-based ecosystems science curriculum modules for middle school. I have long been a fan of multiuser virtual environments for education and would love to see such an environment eventually available at the school my daughter goes to.

Dr. Mayarth also suggested checking out The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia as another good starting place for information on instructional design in multimedia learning environments. He also noted that his Masters was an evaluation of a two year pilot program that examined best practices for using Second Life in the classroom.

The focus on assessment of learning tools, I believe to be critical, and I was very interested to hear about their focus on this as part of developing their application.

I must admit that I’m not an iPhone user and have not had a chance to kick around GetYaLearnOn’s Statistics Application for the iPhone. However based on the discussions I’ve had with Dr. Mayarth, it seems like they are approaching using mobile devices in education in ways that the principal in the Gravitytank presentation could only dream of. Hopefully, it will help establish a new standard on how educational applications will be developed.

Carol: I will remember you

Carol and Dani, originally uploaded by Aldon.

I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don’t let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories

In the nineties, I was working as a technology manager for a large international bank. I often found myself flying to Zurich to negotiate technology strategy. New York and Zurich were more than four thousand miles and a six hour flight apart. They were cultures apart. I was working with a group of open source gunslingers committed to Unix and writing their own special programs and I was flying to a very staid Microsoft worshipping community.

To help me better navigate these waters, I hired a management consultant who had her Ph.D is psychoanalysis and specialized in a psychoanalytic understanding of groups, especially as they formed in the workplace. This appealed to my natural curiosity and I learned a lot, not only from our meetings but from so much reading that I did on the subject on the side.

I started reading the work of Wilfred Bion and attending Group Relations conferences where I participated in experiential learning in large groups. I became fascinated with how this worked itself out online.

This led me to joining several mailing lists of people working with groups, including a group psychotherapy mailing list. Many of the people on this list became close friends whom I would meet from time to time.

I often brought up aspects of online groups on the list, including discussing Second Life from time to time. It seems to me as if Second Life and related virtual worlds have the potential to be great platforms for psychodrama. As a general rule, I met opposition on these topics. However, a few people were very interested, and one actually joined Second Life and started exploring the possibilities.

We met in Second Life and explored the possibilities. I introduced her to friends in Second Life with similar interests. Then, at the 2008 American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) Annual Conference, I had the opportunity to meet her face to face and have a wonderful dinner with her talking about not only Second Life and psychotherapy, but many other issues as well. We both participated in the large group at the AGPA and she encouraged my full participation, even though I was a blogger there to write, instead of a group psychotherapist honing their skills.

Then, early this year, there was the bombshell. On January 23rd, Carol checked into St. John's Mercy hospital with severe anemia. A visit to an Oncologist and some bone marrow tests revealed Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In the message, it was predicted that the treatment would take about eight months.

Look out of any window
any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
birds are winging or
rain is falling from a heavy sky -
What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?
this is all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago

I wrote my initial reactions in a blog post, The Great Dance back in February, and then again in Random Stuff about a week later. The following month there was a drive to sign up bone marrow donors in Connecticut. I realized that it was unlikely that I would be a match for Carol, or for Manny who the drive was for, but I thought I should sign up in case I could be a match for someone.

It was also during this time that Irv Stolberg died from leukemia. There was a wonderful memorial for Irv where his son singing Ben Harper’s “with my own two hands”.

I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make a better place
With my own two hands
Make a kinder place

In many ways, it seems like Irv and Carol would have been good friends and kindred spirits if they ever met.

Carol eventually found a donor, and we were optimistic. There was progress and there were set backs. In August she was back in the hospital and wrote about Graft Versus Host disease. In September, she wrote about celebrating her 63rd birthday. Then at the beginning of this week came more bad news. The leukemia was back. There were messages on CaringBridge and emails to the Group Psychotherapy mailing list. She was at home with her family and with Hospice. She was fading fast. I wrote some of my reactions on Monday.

I am standing on the edge of the water,
And I am watching the wild birds fill the sky.
And I am longing to be lifted up among them.
I am not dying, I’m getting ready to fly

The words of a great song “Getting Ready to Fly” by Calaveros comes mind. Yesterday, Carol was lifted up among the wild birds and she is flying.

During the final hours as we all waited, Peter Howie posted a wonderful collection of YouTube videos that he had watched as he processed his own anticipatory grief.

He started with Free Hugs Campaign - Official Page (music by Sick ) and moved on through the AMV Final Fantasy - Snow Patrol Run, a clip from Blade Runner, The Last Day On Earth Lyrics- Kate Miller-Heidke and Fortress – Dala.

To this, I add sarah mclachlan - i will remember you and Grateful Dead - Box of Rain - March 24 1986.

As I was thinking about all of this, I found A thousand words writing prompt number thirty-eight. The emptiness, looking out of a window to a box of rain captured many of the feelings I am going through right now.

Today is another beautiful sunny autumn day in Connecticut. I have a lot of work to do, but I need to take time to remember. Carol, I will remember you.

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Have you ever watched an elected official on television and gotten so mad that you could throw a shoe at him? Have you ever disagreed so strongly with an elected official that you wanted to shout out “You Lie!” at them? Have you ever felt so strongly about an awards show that you wished you could rush up on the stage and try to tell everyone why your favorite musician is so much better? Have you ever watched a sporting match and wanted to give the referee a piece of your mind? Have you ever wanted something so badly, you could kill for it? Have you ever wanted to just scream, WTF?

Today will be a long day of meetings. It is five thirty in the morning as I arrive at the local train station. On the radio, NPR is doing a tribute to Mary Travers, who just died of leukemia. Earlier this year, Irv Stohlberg, a noted local politician and good friend, died of leukemia. Another friend is currently fighting a difficult battle with leukemia and all of this, together with the beauty of Peter, Paul and Mary’s music puts me into a pensive mood.

The sky is turning from the dark of night to the deep dark blue of early morning. Across the street from the train station is the New Haven Police Department. The area is lit up brighter than day with portable lights and white or blue camera trucks and their crew crowd the area.

Even here you see the pecking order. Closest to the steps to the police station is a CNN truck. It is flanked by trucks from NBC and CBS news. Then are the affiliate trucks up from New York, further out are trucks from the Connecticut affiliates, and off to the side is a truck from a local news outlet.

Burly men are going through the motions of setting up tripods and running wires. Attractive young women talk dispassionately near the trucks about the segment they will soon be taping. They are all waiting to go live with the latest breaking news in the case of Annie Le, the graduate student who was murdered a week and a half ago. If it bleeds, it leads.

Mary Travers voice, singing, “It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, to be so in love with you and so alone” rattles in my mind. I think of Jonathan Widawsky, the fiancé of the murdered graduate student. What must he be going through his mind right now? What about the murderer? What led him to kill Annie? What must he be feeling right now? Did he ever read Crime and Punishment? Did he want something so badly, he killed for it? I fight back a tear for all of this, for the friends of the victim, even for the killer, and perhaps especially for everyone who covers this as just another story, something to boost the ratings.

Yet all of this causes me to take a step back. Are there more outbursts these days, or have things gotten that much worse? If they have gotten worse, why is it? Is there something more stressful about living in this Post 9/11 world struggling through an economic meltdown? Have we simply lost our ability to moderate our emotions and the ability to react appropriately in difficult times? If so, why is it? Has the loss of inhibition as we anonymously scream at one another online added to the problem? Have the cable news shows which have replaced informed discourse with pundits yelling at one another added to the problem?

I leave the media circus as I head to the train. I just want to scream, WTF?! Yet I know that it wouldn’t do any good, and would perhaps just add to the problem.

Follow Up – Aging without Makeup

On Tuesday, I wrote a blog post entitled Blogging without Makeup discussing some emails from a mailing list of Group Psychotherapists that I read. On Thursday, I celebrated my fiftieth birthday and wrote about turning fifty. Both blog posts have received a lot of comment and I would like to try and combine some of my reactions to this in a single, somewhat coherent blog post.

Anthropology Professor Dave Jacobson of Brandeis wrote about the question of what is the ‘real self’. Who is the self real to? Ourselves? Others? Some combination? How does it change based on context or time? To me, it seems as ‘self’ is a function of both our own experiences of ourselves and the experiences others have of ourselves and that it is constantly changing as we grow and have new interactions and experiences.

One experience that a friend from the mailing list suggested is blogging with makeup; that is presenting ourselves as something other than how we currently see ourselves. It seems to me that this is a valuable insight in how we might change ourselves into something we would like to be.

Another person brought up the image of Pygmalion and the modern musical version, My Fair Lady. It seems like this is a very powerful idea for therapy. To the mailing list, I wrote:

Your comment about Pygmalion particularly jumped out at me. In Pygmalion, like My Fair Lady, the hero creates someone else. Yet isn't that, in a certain way, what we do in therapy?

When I was younger, I resisted therapy because I was pretty happy with who I was, in spite of my own issues that I really needed to work out. At one point, however, I came to realize that these issues where impeding me and making me unhappy, and that I needed to, shall we say, recreate myself into an image closer to what I would like to be. In short, I was my own Pygmalion.

Isn't that what we want from people entering therapy, an exploration into who they could be if they addressed their insecurities, their inabilities to properly control anger, drinking or drugs, their need to be in the spotlight, their difficulties finding joy and happiness, etc? Yet doesn't this also bring up interesting issues of where transference and counter transference come in? Who is the patient trying to recreate themselves as? Their own vision? The vision of their therapist? A vision they gain from a group or society around them?

To return to My Fair Lady, perhaps we can change one of the songs just a little bit to
"The gain in pain is helpful to obtain"

In a discussion where myself and another person were being wished happy birthday, one person noted that so many of the birthday wishes focused on youthfulness. To this, I wrote:

It seems like we live in a culture that values youthfulness more than it values wisdom. Why is that?

Perhaps some of it is the fear of our own mortality. Each year the older we get, we are a year closer to death. As we get older, various parts of the body stop working as well as they used to, which can result in the loss of some pleasures and an introduction of new displeasures. I seem to recall Yalom talking about that in one of his novels and about how if he ever got to a particular difficult impasse, he would ask the patient how the patient would want to be remembered at a funeral. As an aside, this fits nicely into the Pygmalion thread, how do we choose to envision what we would like to be?

So, what about wisdom, or perhaps to use the words from another email, "being old in spirit"? I must admit, it is the wisdom of this group as opposed to any youthful spriteliness that I find so attractive.

Perhaps I am sensitive to this because here in Connecticut a reporter has brought an age discrimination suit against a local television station. The station is alleged to have repeated demoted women when they have gotten into their thirties to have younger, more nubile reporters. Personally, I think our news would be much better with the wisdom of older reporters.

With that, let me return to the emails and again thank everyone who shared birthday wishes. What a wonderful world it would be if we could aspire to the wisdom of older members of this list instead of youthfulness of the 23-year-old female reporters.

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Blogging without Makeup

They say that to be a great writer, you need to be a voracious reader, which may explain why my online nonfiction seems to be better than my efforts at novels, short stories or poetry. I spend a lot of time reading blogs, emails, tweets, op-eds and so on. What I like best is raw authenticity, and not the carefully packaged media we too often find.

This was brought to mind by an email I recently received on a mailing list of Group Psychotherapists. There had been a discussion of some group and a dear friend suggested it would be interesting for members of the group to remove their makeup during the session and talk about the feelings that emerged and how it affected their opinions of one another.

This prompted a fascinating reply by Marvin N. Kaphan, LCSW, CGP, Past President of the Group Psychotherapy Association of Southern California.

In his keynote address to their 53rd annual conference, he spoke about The Changing Face of Group Psychotherapy: Adventures in Fifty Years of Practice

He mentioned how many years ago some groups included nudity. Psychotherapist Paul Bindrim’s used this to explore the possibility that “a man's ‘tower of clothes’ is not only a safeguard for his privacy, but also a self-imposed constraint to keep out people he fears”.

On the mailing list, Marv related this story of one group

Many, many years ago when we experimented with nude groups, one woman in one of my groups said: I will take my clothes off, but you will never see me without my makeup. After weeks of the group enquiring about what her fear was, she grudgingly agreed to take her make up off. She went to the bath room and was gone for over a half hour. Finally, the group became concerned and someone went after her. They found her struggling with her fear of facing the group. When she finally appeared without her makeup, no one could detect a difference.

It seems like this applies well to all aspects of life, including blogging. How many of us are afraid that we just aren’t good enough and have to hide behind some sort of makeup designed to make us look a little better? As bloggers, that might be the carefully chosen words, the frequently changing templates of our blogs, or even some sort of counter or demonstration of our page rank to validate our existence as bloggers. The idea that someone might see us as we really are, instead of as who we would like to be and how we would like to be seen, can produce a lot of fear and anxiety.

Yet there is something that might be even more fear invoking, the idea or realization that all our efforts to make ourselves up really don’t matter, that when we appear without our makeup, no one would know the difference. There may be some gender aspects to this as well. When I get a hair cut, very few people ever notice. More women than men tend to notice, and the same thing applies the other way around. I am much less likely to notice when someone else gets a haircut than my wife is.

Marv sums up the experience this way, “It illustrates the tendency of people to undervalue themselves and give the credit to something else (clothes, makeup, etc) for people being impressed with them. One of the great values of group is facing the contrast between our version of ourselves and what others see.”

On the group psychotherapy mailing list, I often try to explore the nature of group interactions online. I’ve learned a lot from the group of group psychotherapists there and have been fascinated by applying the lessons to online communities.

Many of us bloggers are members of informal groups that read each other’s blogs. We may find each other through BlogExplosion, MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog, EntreCard, CMF Ads, Adgitize, or a host of other ways of connecting. When we comment on each other’s blogs and when we send emails back and forth, we can also experience some of that great value of groups in learning more about the contrast between our version of ourselves and what others see. With that, I want to encourage my fellow bloggers try blogging without makeup.

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