Sunday, February 27, 2011

Biopoetry and "Haptic Listening"

In the following by avant guarde poet, Eduardo Kac, one type of haptic listening is defined: " . . . Haptic listening: Implant a self-powered microchip that emits a sound poem upon contact (via pressure). The sound is not amplified enough to be heard through the skin. The listener must make physical contact with the poet in order for the sound to travel from the microchip inside the poet's body into the listener's body. The listener becomes the medium through which the sound is transmitted. The poem enters the listener's body not through the ears, but from inside, through the body itself . . . " Although the particular technological application Kac is considering is difficult to get a "feel" for, the concept of the felt sense of the poem being learned or experienced-- being transmitted through the skin (versus just through the "air") is strikingly similar to aspects of the unique, haptic focus of HIPoeces methodology. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ichabod's Fallacy: Don't move the body

"Investigating a crime scene at Sleepy Hollow, Constable Ichabod Crane becomes agitated: "You have moved the body?" he inquires, with accusatory presumption of an affirmative answer, which the guilty party sheepishly supplies: "I did." "You must never move the body!" Ichabod snaps, with great severity."Why not?" ventures the tremulous lecturee. "Be-cause," intones Ichabod, with high seriousness and finality."

The very notion of explicitly controlling learner body movement during pronunciation instruction to the extent that HIPoeces requires strikes many instructors as over the top, disconcerting--or at least  unnecessary. There are any number of reasons for that: cultural, psychological, and pedagogical. However, the general state of pronunciation instruction today does suggest an analogous crime scene: one where the body is missing--with many authorities (so to speak) riding around with their heads cut off . . . from the problem and the solution!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Class Conducting

Earlier in the development of HIPoeces we did make extensive use of batons. The "problem," of course, with a stick as used by a conductor is that it literally doesn't touch anything on the beat except the occasional, accidental encounter with the music stand. Kinesthetically, however, baton use in pronunciation work is still a very valuable technique, one used by many instructors either consciously or unconsciously. It just does not meet "haptic" criteria, especially in terms of providing a way to ensure consistent placement of anchors.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why learning pronunciation with "just" video generally doesn't work!

This article, from PC Magazine, makes the case that something is missing in video-centered learning systems. In the first paragraph, as a matter of fact--from a HIPoeces perspective, the source of the problem is evident: "If babies can't learn a language—something their brains do automatically—when technology is in the way or "when the human touch is missing," that says a lot about what we don't know when it comes to learning and technology." The solution, of course, is to bring directed movement and touch (haptic) into the system. We can do that. The Essentials of English Pronunciation (for Other/extended English Speakers) (EEPOS) program of haptically-integrated video instruction with student workbook that we are developing should do precisely that. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dance your way to rhythm and grammar?

John Sutton explores in dance how patterns become integrated into practice: "These investigations offer a unique opportunity to track the literal incorporation over time of idea-patterns as they are embodied into movement-patterns and gradually inhabited and then actively lived out to the full in performance." HIPoeces work involves conscious attention to linguistic form, accompanied by overt speech and haptic anchoring--with similar goals.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How to make practicing in front of a mirror less painful . . .

According to this study, all you have to do is just stand a bit further away from the mirror if what you see there is "painful!" Well, that may not be a valid application of the research, but in HIPoeces work it is essential that, at least in the beginning, learners do practice in front of a mirror. Just as it is important that the learners become comfortable with the felt sense of their "new" voice in English, the same applies for developing a somewhat detached, objective perspective on how accurately your body is performing its part in the process.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Movement training and "homework"

The article linked above is a review "Constraint-induced Movement Therapy," a process developed for working with loss of body movement due to stroke or injury. Two features of the extensive review are of interest to us: (a) focus on the impaired hand or limb intensively (while constraining the appendage that is normal or less impaired), and (b) importance of patients doing their homework consistently--and accurate reporting. In HIPoeces work not infrequently, a learner may be able to produce a sound or phrase initially but have difficulty with producing the haptic anchor--or vice versa. It is important to focus first on all the haptic anchors (the sign-language-like strokes across the visual field); the "correct" sounds will come soon enough. The importance of homework should go without saying but there is virtually no credible published research on learner pronunciation homework. Rapid acquisition of haptically-integrated language is only possible with very carefully designed and monitored practice outside of the classroom.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Haptic Rhythm and Melody

In this study, it was discovered that rhythm, as opposed to melodic overlay, had more impact on haptic anchoring. The implications of that research for our work are that rhythm associated with a haptically anchored word, for instance, should strengthen the "memorability" of that word more than had the word been in a distinct prosodic phrase, anchored only by a haptic connection such as a hand clap on the stressed syllable. In other words, to get the maximum impact add to a sound/visual schema strong haptic anchoring, along with rhythm and a memorable "melody."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Poetry as haptic; haptic defined

Thorpe and Farrell in "ekleksographia" explore poetry as haptic experience. Haptic-based procedures in pronunciation work easily become either poetic or musical. The felt sense of HIPoeces has much in common with contemporary "altermodern" poetry: "The word haptic is a modern vintage (1890) and is derived from the Greek aptikos, to come into contact with, which is itself taken from the verb aptein, to fasten. It designates a privileging of the sense of touch in preference to that of sight and to communications based on touch. I hear in haptic not only its Greek origin but also an echo of the Old English "haep" designating chance, good fortune, or an event. The word haptic defines three conditions for poetry, fusing together poetry's material existence in three-dimensional space, its coming to presence as an event, and the pleasure of the poetic encounter."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Read aloud!

In both second language and native language reading teaching, in early phases of instruction, the role or value of students being required to read aloud (or even speak in public for that matter) continues to be controversial. In HIPoeces work learners do extensive oral practice from the beginning--usually accompanied by "choreographed" body movement. One critical objective is get the learner to begin enjoying the "felt sense" of his or her voice, perhaps for the first time finding oral practice pleasurable and relaxing. Good models of that "state of voice" to emulate can often be found in the commentary of professional writers, such as the one linked above and this one by Justin Graykin. In the Christian tradition, the Lectio Divina practice centers on reading Scripture aloud both in individual meditations and in groups.

Virtual (reality) Talking Head(s)

Although the ultimate goal of HIPoeces work is to do pronunciation work in virtual reality, the thought of coordinating your sound system with that of a talking, virtual head just doesn't sound all that motivating at this point. The "head" project is headed in the right direction, however. (The researchers do consider the general problem of mapping phonological constructs into virtual space.) Actually, that is not a bad analogy for where much pronunciation methodology is today: disembodied. (To get a quick survey or link to some of the "heady" software systems now available, check this CALL site.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Changing motor patterns

And we sometimes wonder why changing a fossilized speech pattern can take time: (From Mark Bull) "In my experience some small improvements can be almost immediate but it takes about 30,000 quality repetitions (shots and simulated swings) during practice and competitive golf to consolidate a motor-pattern change. Since this is a swing change, it needs to be monitored by your golf coach and physio [sic] during the evolution cycle. It also needs to be evaluated for every club and shot-making skill (preferably using 3D-biomechanical technology for accurate feedback)."
   Fortunately, gaining functional control of the HIPoeces "matrix" and the arm and hand movements that anchor it doesn't take quite that long, but it does take consistent practice. For example, to establish a good base for the intonation contours (strokes across the visual field) of English takes most students about two hours (30 minute introduction and 6, 15-minute daily practice sessions.) Once established, that skill set is then employed frequently in the classroom or in individualized work, whenever the intonation or emotional loading of an utterance needs to be attended to, focusing on the form and feeling of the structure in question. (For a few students, it is, indeed, a "one shot" deal, but for most it takes a while to get into the swing of it . . . )

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Group learning styles

This from Simon (2000), linked above: "The behavior modeling method—developed in the 1970s for building an individual's skills—is a combination of  the exploration and instruction methods that concentrates on the idea of observing and doing while following a role model . . . Trainees then imitate the role model’s behavior in practice.  The technique emphasizes learning points in the instruction mode and modeling, practice, and feedback in the exploration or hands-on mode.  Learning points are simply guidelines to lead an individual to a desired objective." As opposed to creating different systems for learners of different cognitive styles, that "one size fits all" framework did successfully accommodate equally well both "instructional" learners (highly visual/cognitive) and "exploratory" learners (kinesthetic/experiential) learners. Although used by the US Navy in the research reported on comparing three computer training methods, that is actually a pretty good characterization of much of HIPoeces instruction. Contrast that with the usual approach of agonizing over adapting instruction to the distinct styles of individual learners, as in this informal piece.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Handy study, eh.

Another study confirming that systematic use of gesture has a place in formal education--at least physics. The fact that the research focuses on problem solving, rather than memory/recall is important pedagogically. Ultimately, HIPoeces work should enhance listening, the "problem" of aural comprehension in real time. As reported in an earlier blog post, we have at this point only "off hand," anecdotal evidence in that direction from student reports, but a good empirical exploration of that consistent observation should not be too difficult to conduct.

Moving and touching about the mouth

This piece by Adrian Underhill does a good job of illustrating the typical use of movement and touch close in,  in several  mouth-centered (vowel and consonant) techniques. Although there are (better) HIPoeces alternatives in most cases, the perspective on  movement presented is excellent, and the "tricks" are certainly worth keeping handy!