Exploring Life After Life


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Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic Learning

The brain uses the five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell in processing new information. Smell and taste play a lesser role, while the three senses normally involved in learning are:

Sight – Visual

Sound – Hearing or Auditory

Touch – Movement or Kinesthetic

Concentrating on only one sense ignores development in other areas of the brain. Engaging as much of the brain as possible enhances its development. Even though the brain has over 100 million neurons, the number of cells is less significant than the number of connections between the cells. Involving different parts of the brain creates connections. Using all of our senses makes us smarter.

Despite the need to encourage all senses, we each have a way that is easiest for us to process new information. Auditory learners prefer spoken words. Visual learners prefer written material or images, and kinesthetic learners prefer ‘hands-on” experiences.

We each have one sense that tends to dominate. Knowing that dominant sense facilitates learning in any environment. Some people want to read first. Some want to hear first, and some prefer to do it first. While most of us use a combination, depending on the situation, one sense is usually strongest. In processing new information, or learning, do you usually prefer to:

Read, Listen or Act?

Below is a description of the three styles.

Visual: read, graphics, prefer written material

Auditory: listen, talk, remember what is said

Kinesthetic: move, can’t sit still, learn best by doing

The kinesthetic learner is often the one at the most disadvantage. Classes at school and work are dominated with words, with the emphasis on listening and reading. We rarely help the kinesthetic learner. Without training and practice, many kinesthetic learners do not have strong visual or auditory abilities. The brain of this learner needs movement to facilitate learning. This is not a learning disability any more than a visual learner may need printed material. Brains function differently. Reading and writing, however, are the skills that are usually stressed and honored today. Rarely are movement and activity emphasized as valid ways to learn except in lower elementary grades, sports and technical training.

We need to develop all senses. Auditory learners need to improve their reading. Visual learners need to listen better. Both need to further develop their coordination through activities. Kinesthetic people need to improve reading and listening. Many adults have naturally strengthened their weaker senses; many have not.

Helping our youth learn better requires that we provide the tools they need. Understanding the three types of learners: visual, auditory and kinesthetic is one of those tools.

 

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Communication

93% of communication is nonverbal. We learn:

7% by words
38% by voice
55% by nonverbal actions

If only 7% of our kids’ learning depends on words, the remaining 93% is very significant. This is an area often ignored. Our children are strongly impacted by the gestures, tone of voice, movement and facial expression of teachers and others.

Credibility depends on the perception of a person as competent, trustworthy, sincere and dynamic. These characteristics are primarily conveyed through nonverbal aspects. If there is a conflict between verbal and nonverbal messages, we believe the nonverbal and reject the words. We trust actions rather than words. So do our kids.

Others read our nonverbal actions. What we say and what we project may be two different messages. If we are bored or angry, our actions convey those thoughts. People pick up any negativity. We must be aware of how we feel, and we must realize that our actions broadcast those feelings. If we want a different relationship, we must convey a different nonverbal message. We can assist our youth by being aware of our nonverbal communication and helping them be aware of theirs.

Communication includes reading, writing, listening and speaking. Learning to read should be a priority. Studies show that students who aren’t capable of reading by the end of the third grade may never catch up. We must help all kids achieve the early goal of reading. The repercussions are alarming. According to the Department of Justice, there is a significant link between crime and illiteracy. According to begintoread.com, “One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.”

Experts claim we need to add to our definition of literacy. Peter Drucker, a business writer and visionary, claimed that:

Literacy is reading, writing, and arithmetic. As well as a basic understanding of science and technology, acquaintance with foreign languages, and knowledge of how to be an effective member of an organization.

Our needs have changed. We are a global village, no longer an isolated country. Today, without some business training, high school graduates have a smaller chance of being hired in positions of advancement and promise. Liz Schorr in Common Purpose: Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild America cites a study that shows six essential skills that companies look for in beginning employees.

These include the ability to:

Do math
Read at the 9th grade level
Solve problems
Work in groups
Communicate clearly

Half of our nation’s high school graduates do not have these abilities. If we want our youth to succeed and aim for a better life, these are necessary skills for them to learn.

 

This material is revised from Chapter 7 of my book, Don’t Fall Off the Bicycle: Balancing Chaos and Order in our Lives (2002).

 

 

 


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The Female and Male Brain

One reason that men and women do not talk and act the same is their brains operate differently. Our youth may benefit from this understanding.

Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors and Educators Can Do To Shape Boys Into Exceptional Men presents an excellent presentation of how young boys react compared to young girls. The dissimilar reactions are partially caused by actual brain functions, not societal influence. In infants, the female brain develops faster than the male brain. In both genders, the left hemisphere develops later than the right. In males, the lag is greater. When the right side of the male brain is ready to hook up with the left side, the left side is not ready. This results in an even stronger right brain for boys, or an even stronger spatial development. In girls, the left brain is ready to be connected sooner, which leads to their earlier linguistic development.

Little boys are stronger spatially, located in the right brain, and little girls are stronger linguistically, located in the left brain. Most girls have a larger vocabulary by two years of age. Most boys are better at activities involving space. Boys often need more space in which to play while girls may be happier in a small area. These are generalizations and may not be true in all youngsters.  Most children in early grades need more physical activity and should not be confined to the classroom all day. Too often discipline problems are simply the result of ignoring basic needs.  

There are other female/male brain differences pointed out in Gurian’s book:

The dominance of testosterone in males makes them more aggressive. They are not more violent, simply more aggressive.

The male brain weighs more and has a greater volume than the female brain.

Females have a larger corpus callosum that separates the left brain from the right brain and is responsible for the connections between the two sides of the brain.

The larger corpus callosum in the female brain results in more connections in a female brain. Since the two sides connect sooner in girls, there is an earlier balance of their brain functions.

In adults, more sections of the female brain are at work more often than in the male brain. The male brain tends to turn on and off. In contrast, the female brain tends to be active most of the time.

The female brain is considered nonlinear because of seeing the whole picture while the male brain is described as linear because of the on-off tendency.

None of the above statements makes males or females victims of their brain functions. Research indicates that activities such as spatial awareness can be taught. No one can claim inability. Men are capable of nonlinear thinking, even though this type of thinking comes more naturally to women. Activities are needed to develop skills for all students, with special notice being given to the needs of each gender. These notes are not always gender-specific. Many women are very good at linear, spatial activities and many men think holistically. Often this reflects some training on the part of that individual. We can help our youth with this understanding and training.

 

This material is revised from Chapter 7 of my book, Don’t Fall Off the Bicycle: Balancing Chaos and Order in our Lives (2002).

 

 


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Chaos and Order in Our Lives

What if we accepted chaos as natural and beneficial at times? What if we understood order as not always desirable? What if we imparted those ideas to our youth? Might that help their lives.

Science tells us that within the boundaries of any complex system, such as our bodies, there can be random disorder and chaos. In fact, this chaos is essential to the life of that system. In the human body, our heart beats in a steady and orderly fashion. An irregular beat means trouble. We cannot survive without this order. Our brain, however, has a chaotic pattern. Only in dysfunctional brains is the pattern orderly. This is the opposite of how the heart behaves. Within our bodies, chaos and order exist.

We usually try to quell any disruption in our daily routine. If that happened in our brain, the result would be disastrous.  Since both chaos and order exist in our bodies, can they coexist in our lives?

Perhaps life requires the balance of riding a bicycle, a dynamic balance of constantly shifting weight and attention from chaos to order and back again. This includes measuring future advancement with current survival. This means viewing the bigger picture of the future while also seeing the smaller concerns of daily life.

Three activities help us do this: Thinking, Deciding and Doing.

Thinking is developing possible solutions before choosing any course of action.  Looking at our current environment or our homes, we can observe issues from a bigger picture and longer term perspective. Honoring creativity and chaos, we can view information in a new way.

Deciding is a conscious assessment of all possible options. We can teach kids to understand and accept their role as decision-maker. Refusing to make a decision is a choice, a choice of denial. To make better decisions, they can look at their resources of money, time and people to help. The seemingly quick fix so highly regarded today has convinced us that money, not time, is the answer. Sometimes we have to take as long as possible to make a decision, judging when this is possible and when it is not. Another challenge for kids is to ask the right people for help, people they know they can trust.

Doing is acting on a decision. Choices, once made, must be implemented. Making a decision will not solve anything. Carrying out that decision may. Once kids act, they must be taught to accept the consequences. Too often they wallow in a pool of victimhood, conveniently forgetting the choices that caused their dilemma.

These three activities of Thinking, Deciding and Doing bring us from the chaos in gathering data to the order of enacting decisions. They require continual knowledge or learning.

Our lives and those of our youth are a work in progress. In a rapidly changing environment, we can only be assured of change. As knowledge transforms, so must decisions. The challenge is similar to that of staying on a bicycle, constantly shifting to maintain our balance. Expecting a better tomorrow requires continuous, conscious and creative choices that balance chaos and order in our lives and those of our children.

 

This material is revised from the Introduction of my book, Don’t Fall Off the Bicycle: Balancing Chaos and Order in our Lives (2002).

 


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Does Ability or Effort Limit Us?

Are we born with a certain ability that limits us? Or are we able to increase our ability through effort?

This is the controversy of nature versus nurture. The underlying philosophy of our society tends to favor ability, even if it is not consciously stated or openly acknowledged. The prevailing thought, however, is not accurate. Research provides evidence that we are not victims of our birth. 50% of our ability is determined at birth by genetic make up. What influences the other half is somewhat questionable.

The answer used to be that parents accounted for this other half. James Comer’s book, Waiting for a Miracle: Why Schools Can’t Solve Our Problems — And We Can, shows that parents can help their kids’ intelligence by providing the right educational atmosphere. If children are exposed to the importance and value of learning early, the impact is significant. In an interview, William Raspberry, Pulitzer Prize winner and educational correspondent for The Washington Post, reinforced this idea. He suggested that learning ability isn’t a problem of race or income. Students not doing well in school often come from families where the value of education is missing.

Recent studies show that the role of parents, however, is not the sole factor after genetics. Judith Rich Harris in The Nurture Assumption: Why Kids Turn Out The Way They Do cites numerous studies that suggest a more total environment affects us.

A University of Chicago study shows that schooling can significantly affect how smart we become. The study, that involved nearly 8000 children in kindergarten and first grade nationwide, concentrated on language and spatial skills. Education impacts both. Basic ability does not limit us, but kids need the opportunity to learn.

Another study proves that IQ can be raised through education and is not an innate intelligence score unaffected by learning. This same study shows that a student’s IQ goes down during prolonged school vacations. While we might not like the idea of year-round schooling, such an approach is beneficial. Perhaps this fact might encourage students to read or study during the summer.

All of these studies strengthen the same idea. Our kids are not at the mercy of their parents or nature. Their ability can be improved through effort. Education can significantly impact the future of all children.

This material is revised from Chapter 7 of my book, Don’t Fall Off the Bicycle: Balancing Chaos and Order in our Lives (2002).


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Creativity

If the next generation is go face the future with zest and self-confidence, we must educate them to be original as well as competent.           Csikszenthmihalyi

Too often we think of creativity as the same thing as genius. Creativity, unlike genius, can be encouraged, and a process can be taught. We are all creative. We are not all geniuses. Mihaly Csikszenthmihalyi in Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention studied over 80 contemporary people in all disciplines from the arts, humanities, sciences, business, politics, and inventions.

He shows that creativity is not confined to the arts. We are all creative even if we can’t draw, act or write a poem. Creativity involves a new way of looking at old information. What if we helped our kids be more creative?

Genuine creativity is rarely the result of a sudden insight and usually comes after much hard work. Creativity is not the one sudden thought that changes the world. Inspiration happens after we immerse ourselves in a particular study or problem.

Three elements in the creative process:

Immersion

Study everything about the subject and look at the data in as many ways as possible.

Incubation

Pull back from the study, work on some other activity and do not consciously think about the problem. This allows the mind to relax and provides a chance for new ideas to germinate.

Illumination

Wait for the inspiration or clarity. This may be a sudden “aha moment” or just a fresh way to view the information after taking a break from it. This step cannot be forced. If the problem is particularly challenging, days may pass before any illumination occurs. Being aware of surroundings, dreams, things others say, or some event may provide a clue to the solution. An answer will present itself if given the chance. This may not happen without the two steps of immersion and incubation. Creativity doesn’t happen on demand. It will just occur.

There are certain characteristics of creativity that can be developed:

An insatiable curiosity means always wondering about everything and enjoying learning. Schools and the workplace can squelch this curiosity if studying or work is boring. Many who do poorly in school or at routine jobs are some of our most curious and imaginative people.

A willingness for ambiguity is a good characteristic to learn since our world does not pose clear-cut problems.  Most issues have many sides and are complex. Things may seem unclear at times and that is acceptable. Creativity is living with ambiguity while trying to find a solution instead of forcing a solution too early.

A willingness to learn from mistakes is crucial. Problems can arise when people are too stubborn to admit ever making an error. We can’t learn from mistakes without acknowledging them. Society doesn’t seem to encourage people to take responsibility for their actions. This leads to blaming others. Creativity needs an ability to admit defeat. Failure is a strong teacher. Fear of it is unnecessary and counterproductive.

Encouraging creativity in our youth may assist them in aspiring to be better people.

This material is revised from Chapter  5 of my book, Don’t Fall Off the Bicycle: Balancing Chaos and Order in our Lives (2002).