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Knit East – Day Two November 6, 2015

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I slept in on Sunday until 8 am. It was so nice. We slowly woke up and when we got downstairs the others had coffee made. Such a treat! We barely got to say good morning and they were off. I did not have to anywhere until my class at 1:30 so had some breakfast, and settled in with a tea and my reversible cable project. What a beautiful way to start the day.

Sunday brunch special made specially for me

We cleaned up the cottage and checked out before heading up to the Algonquin for Brunch. We met Moria and our “lucky baby” and went to the dining room. The soup and sandwich both had things I could not eat, so the chef made me a special salad and a gluten free smoked pork sandwich. I am not always one for pictures of my food but I did for this. It was so good.

Then I went to “Knitting for Speed and Efficiency” by Stephanie Pearl-MacPhee. I could listen to Stephanie for days. She’d make anything fun which was good because changing 37 years of bad habits was going to be hard and she only had one afternoon. I know she said we had to be kind to ourselves, but it is so slow learning to be fast.

The slides were great. Following the history of knitting was very interesting and made me really think about how I sat and held my needles. I absolutely loved her “Aura of Confidence” pictures. “If they are knitting with only one needle. They can’t knit.” Uh Duh! It was a fun way to review how we held our needles and bodies while we knit. It was a great pairing with the Yoga I did the day before.

After showing us the world’s fastest knitters, three of whom where lever knitters, we tried doing it ourselves with one long needle tucked under our arm. Here is a video of the Yarn Harlot demonstrating Irish Cottage Knitting. I am still doing it daily though but am nowhere near my top speed let alone how fast Stephanie is here. It may be coming but man is it frustrating. It made me feel for my own students. Probably a good thing for us professors to do something completely different so we have more empathy for our poor students.

Day One at Knit East 2015 October 27, 2015

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I just returned from an amazing weekend in St. Andrew’s NB for Knit East. Everyone said that it was an amazing weekend so I had high hopes. It exceeded my expectations.

We arrived on Friday night and went to the Algonquin Resort right away. I relaxed as soon as I stepped into the lobby. I have always loved this resort but ever since we got storm-stayed there last winter it has become my favorite place to stay. The staff are like family and I feel at home when I am there. I love sitting by the fire in the evening knitting with a glass of cider.

First we went to the The Seaside Beach ResortIMG_0208 right on the water. We were in the Spruce cabin. I loved the view from our deck. check out the marketplace. Wow. The choice was overwhelming. I did not know where to start. Eventually, I picked up some project bags and a few items from my must have list prepared for the trip. Then we registered for the conference. They handed out little goodie bags with our tickets for Yoga and the Fashion show. We ate a late supper at The Lobster Bay Pub. It was yummy. I had the ribs and was so stuffed when I finished.

Day 1

My first class was Yoga for knitters at 7:30 am on Saturday. I got up early and walked up the hill from the waterfront. It was a small class but very informative. There were a number of stretches shown especially for knitters, so we all started the day very relaxed and ready to  knit.

I was so excited to move to Reversible Cables with Fiona Alice. I have been watching her designs for awhile and really wanted to meet her. Of course I cruised in to class just as it was starting. There was only one seat left in the room. We learned a provisional cast on with croch12045427_10156078039070411_6402647231677830366_oet hooks. It works so well! She was so patient with us. I love Fiona’s teaching style. She is very relaxed but manages to work the room really well. I loved hearing her stories about working in London while we worked on the project. Fiona even took the time to show the beginners in the class how to read the pattern. Her patience and knowledge both where very satisfying. I finished the class with a small section of my headband completed choosing to just watch the grafting process so I could finish the entire project later. I love the effect of the reversible cables!

After lunch my class was with Fiona Ellis, this was my Fiona day. She was teaching trims and edges. I rushed to class and sat down to finish my homework. Yes I am as bad as the students I have compIMG_0212lained about once or twice. Fiona handed out a sheet of edges we were going to look at and then we got to choose what to work on. What a great concept. The class is all at different places so we get to choose which one is best for us. As we were working, Fiona showed us her sweaters and swatches of various techniques for merging your collar with the patterns used in the sweater creating the little extras that really make a project amazing. I got so many pictures of ideas. My favorite was the continuation of the pattern by just using half of it in the collar. It was so simple but really added to the finished project. Wow.

By this point, I am fried but I did go back over to the market. Then Michelle and I walked back for supper at our cottage. I needed some quiet time before the fashion show. It is amazing how tiring sitting in a class all day becomes.

The fashion show was great. So fun and so many prizes. We sat in the front row and passed the baby around. For the rest of the weekend he became known as the “lucky baby” because of the four of us holding him periodically three won prizes. Guess who did not. That is right me. The person who never wins anything. I loved seeing all the completed projects, but my favorite part was that the models were used to us knitters needing to feel the fabrics and would walk right up to you so you could. It was the perfect end to the first day of knitting.

Teaching Stats Yet Again May 22, 2015

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My first summer session statistics course is rushing by. This time I am incorporating clickers into each class. I am hoping that this informal testing and take-home assignments can take the stress out of the course and allow my class to really learn the material. They can make mistakes and learn the math without feeling pressure of maintaining their GPA. I have shifted away from all the online tools moved back to basics. We work on the concepts in class, students to problems after class, and we review at the start of the next class using the clicker from Turning Technologies. We focus on the theories and ideas without becoming distracted by all the available information or the multitude of software packages available. I think it is working well. Essentials-of-Statistics-for-the-Behavioral-Sciences-8th-Edition-Textbooks-Hardcover-65x85

I also changed to Gravetter and Wallnau’s Essential of Statistics for the Behavioural Sciences 8th Ed. This book presents the material as a concept (i.e. why was the procedure developed and how is it used effectively). It does not shy away from the math, but it does give an appendix where students can take a Math Assessment and review material they may need to brush up on before starting the course. This is invaluable as an instructor because I can assume a common ground to start discussions. The book allows students to explore statistical concepts building confidence as they go. The class is almost finished with section 2 and I feel they are ready to start inferential statistics.

Incorporating Practice Tests in Classroom Teaching May 13, 2014

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Cognitive psychology has developed numerous effective teaching techniques. The overwhelming abundance of approaches to classroom teaching means that educators cannot always take the time to sift through relevant research to determine what is feasible for their situation. One technique that has been shown to improve student success but is not always incorporated in classroom teaching is practice testing.

Informal testing that is not linked to assessment takes away the anxiety some students’ feel during a midterm or final exam. Less anxiety has been shown to facilitate learning and give a truer indication of what a student understands rather than just what has been memorize. Also, by requiring students to practice what they have at the end of each section, proactive interference can be diminished. Retrieval practice has also been shown to improve conceptual organization or the practiced material as well as related materials, a phenomenon known as retrieval-induced facilitation. Numerous testing phases also forces students to come to class more often and better prepared to discuss class materials. Finally, it a test after learning a section of material allows students to better understand what was learned during each lecture, which in turn allows better allocation of study time.

Creating dialogue in the classroom allows students to become comfortable with being questioned and questioning material. Each semester it takes a few classes for students to realize that they cannot sit passively absorbing material in my classroom. I have used full slide shows of questions to review material covered in a previous class, a single question at the end of presenting a new concept, or even just an informal discussion during class to test students in the classroom. Students develop confidence with material when they realize that they can answer many of the questions asked in class. Taking time to ask about material covered, gives me a better indication of what exactly students have understood. Ultimately, creating a better environment for learning.

Textbooks and Teaching March 18, 2014

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It is that time of year again where I question my choices and review student assessments of my teaching. Ultimately to choose the status quo or a new book for my next course.

I have been using “The Basic Practice of Statistics 6th edition” by Moore, Notz, and Fligner. It is a wonderful reference and covers all the basics. However, it is a math stats book and can be a bit intimidating for my students, some of whom have managed to avoid math and are dreading their statistics course. Once we learn the language of statistics, this book is wonderful. Originally, I chose it for the learning curve exercises that accompanied the textbook on its StatsPortal. I love that they can work through their material and have questions about their issues when they come to class. The facilitation of class discussion works for my teaching style.

Now a number of other publishers offer similar online supports in textbooks that are not quite so dense for the beginner. I also worked with a team on an online book that will be available for free to students. I had hoped to implement it this summer, but my student feedback indicates that the preference is having a hardcopy of their textbook. Back to the publishers I go to review what is available. It is such a balancing act, to make sure they get what they need in a readable format. Ultimately, I will make a choice and life goes on, but the decision usually takes time, and as with any good compromise none of use get exactly what we want.

Free Textbook for my Introductory Statistics Class December 9, 2013

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I have been working with a great team on an Introductory Statistics textbook that is now available for free through OpenStax College. It offers students free textbooks that are peer-reviewed texts written by professional content developers. I am really excited to try this with my next class.

Check out Introductory Statistics

Research time vs. blogging time July 10, 2013

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As all can see by my posts, I am not getting the balance of my research time and writing time quite right. I am amazed by my clients. You are all doing such exciting things. It is such a great way for me to work, being involved in diverse projects and doing research on so many things. I love the work. However, I have not been balancing out my writing time. I am not getting time to work on my own books, or on blogging about research. Today, I am again supposed to be doing research but felt that I must take a couple of minutes to talk about research.

I had an opportunity to attend a public lecture this week, which reminded me that research is not just about doing the work. It is about getting out there and talking about what you have found, why it is interesting, and having spirited debates with colleagues. The best researchers are so good at getting up and explaining the details of their work to the public without talking down to them. It made me excited to be a researcher, and reminded me that one of the things I am really good at is taking complex information and disseminating it. I need hone this skill, so for my next series of posts I am going to get out more to see what is going on locally, nationally, and internationally, and then share it with all of you.

Talk to you again soon.

Getting kids excited about research April 17, 2013

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Chris Hadfield, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut, is doing it right when it comes to getting us all excited about space. I follow him on twitter, where he updates us on what is going on. I love that we can follow what he is doing, and that he takes time out from his research and other work to speak with school children When a school from PEI had their turn, it was on the news here for days. Even the kids that were not part of that school, my own included, were talking about space exploration. Now he has taken it a step further by performing a simple science experiment designed by grade 10 students, Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner. It is an amazing way to get people excited about experiments.

My Favourite Personal Research – February Trip South March 7, 2013

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February flew by, but better late then never here is what I was wrapped up in researching. My husband and I have taken a southern vacation ten times in the last eleven years. Usually we go in February so I spend the months prior searching for a great vacation spot.

My first discussion determined the plan (what we need in a spot), and of course the budget. Once you determine these two factors, you can cut a number of options. For example, this year Tim wanted to go back to Jamaica, but we needed to keep the total cost after taxes near the $3,000 mark. However, we knew we wanted a nice place but were not worried about being near any particular spot. The rest of the crew travelling with us had some stipulations too. 

Lists (must haves and would be nice) in hand, I started to look for spots. There were not too many within budget and meeting requirements. First timers may become discouraged at this point, but I know that the prices generally drop a bit after Christmas. You need patience. There is that balance of meeting budget requirements and having the relief of being booked.

When you find an option, then we go to the review sites to see what others think. After this many years, I have learned to read the reviews with critical eye by searching for general themes rather than relying on one or two reports. It is also helpful to check nationality of reviewer. I find that different expectations shine through in reviews. Years ago you had to dig a bit more to get beyond promotional materials. We started with Debbie’s Dominican Travel, which has now expanded to Debbie’s Caribbean Resort Reviews. However, now the travel sites have the reviews linked right on their websites. I tend to still go to a second site to double check themes of a resort. (Again, checking my list to ensure the “must haves” are up to snuff).

Finally at some point you have to just “roll the dice” by booking. It is an educated guess. I determine the probability that the trip price will drop, and compare it to the availability of spaces leaving from your airport. It usually comes down for me to a great price at a great spot and the need to get on to some other work.

This year we booked a Sunquest trip, flying with WestJet to the Gran Bahia Principe Runaway Bay. It was amazing. We even took the Cool Runnings tour to Dunn’s River Falls on my friend Kelly’s 40th Birthday. The hotel even let us book a birthday cake with supper that night. Great relaxation on the beach, and fun at night.

Now that I am home, I am screening spots for next year.

Supercritical Fluid Extraction — Commercial Use January 16, 2013

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Thanks to the PEI BioAlliance. I got to review a process from my past, Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE). SFE uses temperature and pressure to move a fluid beyond its “critical point”, thus creating a supercritical fluid. Supercritical fluids are somewhere between a fluid and a gas which allows for specificity in separation and increased yields when extracted. The added benefit is instead of using toxic solvents, we generally use CO2, so it is a greener process.

My training, by the manufacturer, consisted of extracting oils from a potato chip. Wow… I did not eat chips for a long time after that. The lab was using SFE to assist in the determination of the causes of sediment toxicity.  My work planned to use aqueous sample extraction onto C18 Empore disks and subsequent elution with supercritical CO2 to isolate and concentrate analytes of interest. I won’t get into the scientific details of what we were doing. Suffice to say that SFE was one of my fav methods.

Commercially SFE is used to make decaf coffee, refine hops for beer, and isolate natural compounds. Tuesday, January 15, 2013, Jerry King, from University of Arkansas, came to PEI to make a presentation entitled “Trends and Key Aspects in Commercializing (Super) Critical Fluid Extraction & Technology”. His university bio states that his research is to develop environmentally-benign methodology using compressed carbon dioxide and/or water as media for conducting extractions and reactions of natural/agricultural products, CO2 – based cleaning technology, as well as application to materials modification. What I really loved about him was that he took the process and made it accessible to the company and government reps, as well as the scientists in the audience. It was so nice to see all the different products that use SFE today. There are so many PEI applications of this technology.


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