Reflections on how the functioning of the brain influences learning and education - connections and perspective.
This week has been really exciting for me, going back to my roots in Neuroscience and trying to connect all that information that I have coursing around my neurons from the perspective of education - and I think that perspective may well be a key word for everything that I have seen this week.
The first task with the brain myths surprised me - I got at least 5 wrong. The most surprising, as has been widely commented in Edmodo and in other reflections, is that we don't necessarily learn best through our particular 'learning style'. When I sat back and thought about this two things struck me. Firstly, it is so important to question and critically analyse everything that we read. Experts may be experts but they are also pushing their individual opinions or perspective. We need to keep our own perspective and reality very clearly in mind when we are learning in a new field. Secondly, when it comes to neuroscience things are very rarely black and white. A large part or learning involves the inredible plasticity that the brain displays in making connections between information. If one connection is altered, other connections are also altered at the same time, a bit like 'give and take'. I am not suggesting that something is lost, rather that in connecting new information into the web of knowledge we will change our understanding of existing information, and it is important to re-analyse this information from this new perspective.
For me, this can all be summarised by saying that everything learnt needs to be connected to something else, and that we need to analyse these connections from every possible perspective in order to utilise new information in our particular realities.
This is not something that others can do for us! However, listening to other opinions and seeking new connections and perspectives through a forum like this is invaluable for improving our information uptake.
As an aside, I think it is interesting that environmental enrichment although not proven in humans is being more or less labelled as a myth. I understand that enrichment involves any stimulus and am certainly not saying that the children of today do not recieve enough enrichment, on the contrary I think that the overstimulus that they recieve from computers and video games is having a serious consequences in our classrooms, but there is evidence that bilingual children have increased cognitive abilities with regard to attention, problem solving and assessing information. This article was posted on Edmodo (thank you to Ms Green-Studer), and I have read similar studies recently, most notablely in Scientific American (preview of article http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-bilingual-advantage). I think this points to a different type of 'environmental enrichment' enhancing cognitive abilities, and for this I am not sure if we can label this fact as a myth, rather one of those facts that falls into the grey area of 'it depends'.