Using GoodNotes in the classroom

Recently I have been upgrading in the apps department to match my needs for English language teaching. By far the iPad is the best thing for presentation of teaching material on the big screen (the classroom projector screen, that is).

Having held back on forking out money for apps which do similar work to free ones I thought it was high time I tried some to see what all the hype is about.

One apps which I heard recommended over and over again is GoodNotes. Particularly it is the handwriting input system which has caught all the attention. And low and behold I wasn’t disappointed. The implementation of the handwriting by zoom input and auto-shifting (or auto-scrolling, call it what you like) is fantastic. And this works really well with its Presentation Mode which hides all your actions from the students makes it ideal as a teaching tool.

For me I mostly use the projector to show the textbook and teaching material (in PDF format) while we go through it. So being able to annotate there and then is all but crucial. My students love watching the action and it certainly has made my teaching much easier to follow since I use only English to my non-native students. So any instruction tend to be lost or difficult to follow for them.

Checking the answers with students has also made it much easier and more understandable since I can show students exactly where a problem might be for them. By filling in the answers in together as if directly into their textbooks or handouts students tend to respond much better than if checking the answers verbally only.

Ironically it is this aspect of my research about the importance of embodiment which has enhanced and informed my overall teaching skills.


remembrance of
seen smile
heard cries
come to nought
without input
into this vast machine

detach the lines
vanished functionality
love & hate –
a memory
with no outlet
for your emotion

Interaction of Color


We are the embodied.

As humans we can nothing other. If we are then are deficient in some way. And as such we have the ability to see three colours. We have red, blue and green receptors in our eyes to interpret light which is abundant in the space around us (compare our eyes to the Mantis Shrimp).

At the same time our eyes have limits we do not notice. They are enough for what we need. Nonetheless they have deficiencies which do not hinder us much but let us get along fine in daily life.

Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color highlights the way our eyes perceives colours. The flaws are shown (as only we know how to do so well) to point out just how much we rely on them, how little we notice our visual and other perceptual systems.

This reprinted 50th Anniversary Edition is a must-read for all interested in cognition.

the embodied

when exactly
does one
come to understand
the embodied mind?

concepts wholly
spaces blend
in ways possible

the very thing
reality is not –
that is, the word

put simply,
your metaphors
no longer fool

Exposure to Language

“Reading is more important than writing.”

— Roberto Bolaño

Without exposure to a language one will never master it. That exposure can come in many forms but the best form is culture. Culture and language are essentially the same thing. There will be no language if there is no culture the opposite is also true. So to understand a language, its nuances, meaning and usage one needs to be in contact with the very space of it. Otherwise it will ring false, be inauthentic.

Words and Experience

“We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.”

— Vladimir Nabokov

The importance of evolutionary embodiment – clues from the fingertips

2uipial8Western philosophy has a tough time in dealing with the relationship between the body and the mind. In particular, identity has been all too often separated from the physical, all characteristic of ‘being’ invested in the soul. So it is no surprise that we have ignored the function of the fingerprint as part of our evolutionary makeup.

Fingerprints have served, so far, as an identity marker only in terms of criminality. But in reality the grip factor of fingertips are a trait for nothing greater than survival and advantage.

What is interesting in this article about a recent paper is that orientation of the friction plays a role in real terms for natural materials in nature, not for the artificial materials tested in labs and in human habitats.

Every trait, in short, has an evolutionary purpose. We are not above all other species or special in anyway. But we are unique, though, in our ability to delude ourselves and ignore important indicators such as this.

The alphabet as object

In a novel study of baboons it has been found it is possible for the animals to recognise ‘words’ (real word letter sequences) as opposed to jumbled letter sequences. This may indicate we may need to rethink our understanding of symbols as abstractions to a simpler concrete interpretation as if they are plain objects.

I do think our belief that we, human beings, are something ‘better’ than animals is complacent. Afterall we still live in a physical world just like any other animal. The ability for abstraction has its limits still confined by the physical.

That’s one point for the theory of embodiment.

Three things Tokyo University students have in common

I was reminded by Stephen Krashen’s post on reading, access to books, and school performance about the three things Tokyo University students have that help them get into the University – bookshelves (with books of course, and the more the better), a globe (to help them see the world differently (or is it correctly)), and a piano (music is softens the mind for original and abstract thinking).

I don’t remember where the source for this is but it was in conversation with my wife and friends.