Thursday, 24 January 2013


Blog about my studies today, skip if not interested. This is more notes to myself than anything else.

I did REALLY badly on my first Genetics and Evolution test - 40%. I actually thought I had done better, but I struggled through it, knowing I wasn't really clear on some of the calculations. So there was a lesson there. I should have spent more time practising examples until I felt comfortable with them. Do you remember when  you were a child and were given a page of repetitive arithmetic to do? By the time you got to the end you were ready to scream, but you had GOT IT. Well, I need to get to that point.

On the other hand I got 92% on my second history test. I am rather proud of this because almost half of it was on the American Revolution, which I knew virtually nothing about before this course, so I really packed a lot in. But you see, history comes easily to me, and math doesn't, so I expected to find this course much plainer sailing than the other one. Really, the history course is a breeze. I am well-suited to it, it is my type of learning. I am just enjoying the ride.

HOWEVER - I am actually getting more satisfaction from the harder course. I keep having lightbulb moments as a concept not only sinks in, but suddenly and spectacularly. When you consider that this sort of thing is being taught:

Lecture 5: Mapping “simple” genetic traits in crosses/ pedigrees

Video 1: Introduction to genetic mapping of traits

  • Even with human genome sequenced, don’t immediately know which genes cause disease-- they don’t come labeled!
  • Using SNPs as genetic markers: analogous to “A” and “a”
  • Resources available
    • Assembled human genome sequence
    • Computer predictions of “genes”
    • “HapMap” showing which nucleotide sites are variable
  • Look for association of genotype at marker and phenotype-- those markers associated with phenotype are “close” to gene affecting trait/ disease

Video 2: Mapping a simple genetic trait relative to genetic markers in a cross

  • Using SNPs as markers, and third “marker” being the unknown disease gene
    • Can do this to localize disease gene relative to other markers
    • Application with sickle cell anemia fictional example
  • Recap: association of genotype at markers to phenotype is essence of mapping

Well, perhaps you see why I'm so pleased with myself when I "get it". It's a real workout for the ol' grey matter.

I've had a couple of people ask me why I'm doing this. Especially when they see what a challenge certain aspects of this course are. Well, there are all sorts of reasons, but mostly it's just for the simple pleasure of learning.

I love learning. No, wait...I thrive on it. I love UNDERSTANDING. That's the key. So just being taught isn't enough. It has to go to the next step where I can explain it to somebody else. That, to me, is a sure sign that I understand it.

Some years ago, I got a note home from school that my son James was having difficulty with phonemic awareness. I think he was about 10. There were some examples shown, and basically he wasn't "getting" the concept of rhyming words. I didn't know what phonemic awareness was. To be frank, I didn't even know what a phoneme was, and when I looked it up, the information from the definition just didn't sink in.

So I searched online for more information, and over the course of a week or so I think I read the equivalent of a textbook, from articles here are there, mostly at the linguistic departments of several universities. It was certainly not like taking a linguistics course, but it was a lot of information, and it was only really after I'd investigated it at that level, that I could go back and "get" what a phoneme was.

No wonder my kid was struggling.

I then talked to the teacher about all of this. She gasped. "I could have explained very quickly and easily for you, what a phoneme is!" So I asked her if she had offered that to James. No, she said, it was too complex, it was a term used in reference to what they were learning, but not one taught to the students.

I was angry about this whole situation, about the way it was approached. I was able to explain it to James in a matter of minutes, and so she could have, if she'd made the effort. If she could explain it to me, she could explain it to him. But no, they taught the concept without any definitions.

I have wondered about that ever since. Double-talk in education. Assumptions. Assuming kids wouldn't understand something. Assuming parents already do. Communication seems to be the issue here.

People learn differently. People have different levels of intellect. People have different interests. People have different natural aptitudes. People have different attention spans. Teachers have different approaches. Teachers have different abilities. And so on. But in all cases better communication leads to better results. And communication involves the speaker and the listener.

So I'm wondering why, when something is explained and not understood, we don't just all immediately recognize that the problem is communication straight away. Sometimes all that's necessary is repetition - practice. Sometimes it needs a new angle - "let me put it another way". When I watch a new video in my course, sometimes I feel really challenged, it makes no sense. But after I go through it carefully, look a few things up, try a few exercises out, gradually it comes together, and then DING!

It all involves thinking though. Can't do any of it without thinking.

Guess which course I start on Monday. Go on, guess.


  1. There are few things more satisfying than a DING moment.

    1. You know how they say "the penny drops"? Well I swear at that moment I feel something happen in my brain. And I smile, even though nobody is watching. Braingasm.

  2. :-)
    Lightbulb moments, I call them.
    It's part of what I love about homeschooling. Like Cole with the whole history thing the other day. The realization that history is actually interesting? WOW! LOL

    1. Oh he's done now! Once you find it interesting it becomes an addiction!

    2. That's what I was aiming for! LOL
      All of the older four take an interest in history, just in different ways. Raistlin likes knights and castles, Bowen is all over the place, Delaney likes learning the way it was for women and home life and Coles current fascination is with figuring out why people like Hitler were able to take power and do the things they did. Pretty deep for an almost 10 year old.

    3. Ah yes, the "chosen" tyrant. That's a very interesting idea. Stories meant for kids always skip that bit, doing the black and white thing - "good" people and "bad" people. The earlier they notice it's not as simple as that the better!

  3. I remember genetics from college. All I remember 20 years later is how to look at corn and figure out who its parents were. Not sure if that even works now with GMOs. Communication seems to be the problem with nearly everything. You are unusual because you want to communicate and you want to learn.

    1. Yes, the basic Mendelian cross is a vital aspect, I remember being taught that in school, but we never went any further. It meant that when I saw F1 written on a seed packet I knew what that meant, but no more really. GMO doesn't change it much, it's just an interference in the process really. I still don't approve of it.

      But here's the thing, WHY is it unusual to want to communicate and learn? That's rather sad, isn't it?

  4. A little late catching up with comments on your post(s), but for some whatever reason they stopped coming to my inbox the way they were. :(

    Nice to see how you're doing. I began my nutrition course the other day and made the huge and stupid mistake of "not" taking the little check mark out of the box in the introduction forum. Shame on me, big time! I've spent the better part of the past few days eliminating over 1,000 emails from my inbox, and they are still arriving. Popular class, huh? Of course, I've tried to return and uncheck/stop the madness without any luck. Sigh. I'm supposed to be tracking four days of food intake, and getting a quiz done before Tuesday. Yes, I can see where getting back into the swing of things takes some adjustment. I have the second (world studies) class starting Monday. HAHAHAHAHAHA! The madness ensues.....

    As to the communication part of things, too many of us, unfortunately, do not subscribe to the KISS method. I know I learn better from a variety of methods, and even with variety I much prefer to choose which is most effective rather than being forced to do each type. If I understand, I can soar and excel; if I don't get it, then let me keep asking and trying different ways. I think that's true for just about everyone, really. However, when it comes to school, learning, and getting salient points across, we are subject to the whim(s) of the communicator. ~ Blessings!

  5. Love your enthousiasm. Please, do not curb it. I keep planning to learn some basic chemistry and just do not have the energy at this moment. Who knows. You are so right about the exercises. And the communication.