"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Learning Styles vs. Hemispheric Dominance (Part 3 of 3 Part Post)

Learning styles and hemispheric dominance are not unrelated.  One just needs to be aware of both.  The following table gives an overview of learning styles and hemispheric dominance.   Understanding both will help significantly in putting together all the pieces of the learning puzzle.

Learning Styles
(Learning Modalities and Personal Interaction)
Hemispheric Dominance
 (Left Brain vs. Right Brain)
Research shows that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn. Researchers using brain-imaging technologies have been able to find out the key areas of the brain responsible for each learning style.
In general the left and right hemispheres of your brain process information in different ways. We tend to process information using our dominant side. However, the learning process is enhanced when all of our senses are used. This includes using your less dominate hemisphere. Listed below are information processing styles that are characteristically used by the right or left brain.
Visual - Prefers using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.  The occipital lobes at the back of the brain manage the visual sense. Both the occipital and parietal lobes manage spatial orientation.
Linear vs. Holistic Processing - The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner. It process from part to whole. It takes pieces, lines them up, and arranges them in a logical order; then it draws conclusions. The right brain, however, processes from whole to part, holistically. It starts with the answer. It sees the big picture first, not the details.
Auditory – Processing information received from the ear or expressed with the voice.  There are two sub-modalities:
Aural - Prefers using sound and music.  The temporal lobes handle aural content. The right temporal lobe is especially important for music.
Verbal - Prefers using words, both in speech and writing.  The temporal and frontal lobes, especially two specialized areas called Brocca’s and Wernicke’s areas in the left hemisphere of these two lobes.
Sequential vs. Random Processing - In addition to thinking in a linear manner, the left brain processes in sequence -- in order. The left-brained person is a list maker. If you are left-brained, you would enjoy making a master schedule and doing daily planning. You complete tasks in order and take pleasure in checking them off when they are accomplished. Likewise, learning things in sequence is relatively easy for you. For example, spelling involves sequencing; if you are left-brained, you are probably a good speller. The left brain is also at work in the linear and sequential processing of math and in following directions.
By contrast, the approach of the right-brained student is random. If you are right-brained, you may flit from one task to another. You will get just as much done but perhaps without having addressed priorities. An assignment may be late or incomplete, not because you weren't working, but because you were working on something else. You are ready to rebel when asked to make schedules.  But because of the random nature of your dominant side, you must make lists, and you must make schedules in order to survive and meet deadlines.
Symbolic vs. Concrete Processing - The left brain has no trouble processing symbols. Many academic pursuits deal with symbols such as letters, words, and mathematical notations. The left-brained person tends to be comfortable with linguistic and mathematical endeavors. Left-brained students will probably just memorize vocabulary words or math formulas. The right brain, on the other hand, wants things to be concrete. The right-brained person wants to see, feel, or touch the real object. Right-brained students may have had trouble learning to read using phonics. They prefer to see words in context and to see how the formula works. To use your right brain, create opportunities for hands-on activities. 
Physical - Prefers using body, hands and sense of touch.  The cerebellum and the motor cortex (at the back of the frontal lobe) handle much of our physical movement.
There are two subtypes:
Kinesthetic (large motor) - prefers large movement while learning
Tactile (small motor) - likes to twiddle with things in their hands or squish things - immerses themselves in the "senses" of learning
Logical vs. Intuitive Processing - The left brain processes in a linear, sequential, logical manner. When you process on the left side, you use information piece by piece to solve a math problem or work out a science experiment. When you read and listen, you look for the pieces so that you can draw logical conclusions. Your decisions are made on logic--proof. If you process primarily on the right side of the brain, you use intuition. You may know the right answer to a math problem but not be sure how you got it. You may have to start with the answer and work backwards. On a quiz, you have a gut feeling as to which answers are correct, and you are usually right. In writing, it is the left brain that pays attention to mechanics such as spelling, agreement, and punctuation. But the right side pays attention to coherence and meaning; that is, your right brain tells you it "feels" right. Your decisions will be based on feelings.
Social - Prefers to learn in groups or with other people.  The frontal and temporal lobes handle much of our social activities. The limbic system also influences both the social and solitary styles. The limbic system has a lot to do with emotions, moods and aggression.
Verbal vs. Non-verbal Processing - Left-brained students have little trouble expressing themselves in words. Right-brained students may know what they mean but often have trouble finding the right words. The best illustration of this is to listen to people give directions. The left-brained person will say something like "From here, go west three blocks and turn north on Vine Street. Go three or four miles and then turn east onto Broad Street." The right-brained person will sound something like this: "Turn right (pointing right) by the church over there (pointing again). Then you will pass a McDonald's and a Walmart. At the next light, turn right toward the BP station." So how is this relevant to planning learning strategies? Right-brained students need to back up everything visually. If it's not written down, they probably won't remember it. And it would be even better for right-brained students to illustrate it. They need to get into the habit of making a mental video of things as they hear or read them. Right-brained students need to know that it may take them longer to write a paper, and the paper may need more revision before it says what they want it to say. This means allowing extra time when a writing assignment is due.
Solitary - Prefers to work alone and use self-study.  The frontal and parietal lobes, and the limbic system, are also active with this style.
Reality-Based vs. Fantasy-Oriented Processing - The left side of the brain deals with things the way they are--with reality. Let's look at what school situations would look like for both types of brains.  When left-brained students are affected by the environment, they usually adjust to it. Not so with right-brained students; they try to change the environment! Left-brained people want to know the rules and follow them. In fact, if there are no rules for situations, they will probably make up rules to follow! Left-brained students know the consequences of not turning in papers on time or of failing a test, but right-brained students are sometimes not aware that there is anything wrong. So, if you are right-brained, make sure you constantly ask for feedback and reality checks. It's too late the day before finals to ask if you can do extra credit. Keep a careful record of your assignments and tests. Right-brained students need to check in with the teacher often! While this fantasy orientation may seem a disadvantage, in some cases it is an advantage. The right-brained person is creative. In order to learn about the digestive system, you may decide to become a piece of food! And since emotion is processed on the right side of the brain, you will probably remember well anything you become emotionally involved in as you are trying to learn.
Conclusion:  Many people recognize that each person prefers different learning styles and techniques. Learning styles group common ways that people learn. Everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominant style of learning, with far less use of the other styles. Others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. There is no right mix. Nor are your styles fixed. You can develop ability in less dominant styles, as well as further develop styles that you already use well.
Conclusion:  These are just some of the differences that exist between the left and right hemispheres, but you can see a pattern. Because left-brained strategies are the ones used most often in the classroom, right-brained students sometimes feel inadequate. However, teachers can be flexible and adapt material to the left or right side of the brain.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Learning Styles vs. Hemispheric Dominance (Part 2 of a 3 Part Post)

This is a continuation of my previous post on "Learning Styles vs. Hemispheric Dominance (3 Part Post)"

There are two ways you can address learning styles – looking at classic “learning styles” as defined by these books: Discover Your Child's Learning Style by Mariaemma Willis or Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom by Thomas Armstrong  which includes learning modalities and personal interaction OR looking at whether a student is a left-brained learner or right-brained learner (hemispheric dominance).  See Teaching for theTwo Sided Mind by Linda Verlee Williams if you are interested in hemispheric dominance. 

I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of work looking at the latter the last year after spending many years learning about the former!  While learning styles are mostly about how we take in information (using both our preferred and auxiliary modes), hemispheric dominance is about how we process information once the information has been obtained.  Because we have a bi-lobal brain, we process all modalities on both sides of the brain.  However, we may process that information more on one side than the other.  So, it’s really a dance and we have to look at both.  Addressing one or the other may allow a child to make significant progress toward better learning and retention.  

How does that look teaching a subject like reading?  Right brain kids are better with a whole word approach (horror of horrors!) and left brain kids are better learning phonics.  However, because of the global and creative development coming first in a right brain child, they instead will focus and learn best on creative outlets (Legos, imaginative play) and a visual 3-D world (picture books with few words, creative outlets, subjects that can be primarily visual like Science, History, Geography and Social Studies). Left brain learners prefer symbolic and word development (2-D) and excel at reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling early on (ages 5-7).   Right brain children learn symbolic development at age 8-10, meaning they may not learn to read and do basic arithmetic at the same age as the left brain child.  However, because of our left brain centric world, they are looked upon as not as smart, having learning difficulties or somehow broken.  Left brain children develop their creative edge at ages 8-10 and begin to enjoy Social Studies and Geography.  By age 11, the left brain child starts to acquire global development and masters Science and History.  Right brain kids often aren’t able to fully grasp spelling and arithmetic well until age 11. 

On the whole, there is no difference in the IQ of someone who is left brain versus someone who is right brain.  However, school performance often tells a different story.  Schools and most homeschool curricula are designed for left brain learning and right brain learners suffer.  The left brain kids see success in a typical-school setting immediately – reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, memorization which can then be translated to those subjects not necessarily considered “core curriculum”.  Right brain kids learn so differently they often feel demoralized, while just as intelligent as the left brain kid, because they don’t learn in the same sequence.

 Leonid Ponomerev, In Quest of the Quantum:
"You can devote yourself completely to science [left brain] or live exclusively in your art [right brain]. Both points of view are equally valid, but, taken separately, are incomplete. The backbone of science is logic and experiment. The basis of art is intuition and insight. But the art of ballet requires mathematical accuracy and, as Pushkin wrote, Inspiration in geometry is just as necessary as in poetry.' They complement rather than contradict each other.  True science is akin to art, in the same way as real art always includes elements of science. They reflect different, complementary aspects of human experience and give us a complete idea of the world only when taken together...."

 I found this very interesting table that lays out the way the left and right brain work from Edudemic's website  Posted by Jeff Dunn - Executive Editor:

How we interact with left and right brain functions
Turns data from the external world into language. This requires sequential processing wherein data is processed one bit at a time. This is time consuming.* When I began typing this list out, I had to verbalize it in my mind and logically decide how best to present it here. Often, we can see in our mind what we want to say (right brain), but it can become difficult to put it down on paper (left brain).
Processes information very quickly as images or pictures:* When I started thinking about building this list, all that I know about left and right brain function flooded through my mind in microseconds in the form of images, experiences, music, feelings, etc. The chore is putting it in a form you can understand - that's where the left brain comes in!
Continuously dumps old information to make room for new.* Unless I "feel" or "see" in my mind what people ask me to do, I often forget the requests and need several reminders. (remember the saying, "In one ear and out the other"?)
Stores every memory*. Whatever you've experienced: Seen, smelled, felt, heard, tasted, etc. is stored in the cells of your brain, which can be accessed. It's a super-recorder that doesn't require conscious effort. Read this article for more.
Prefers study notes written line upon line of text.** Common note taking.
Likes a pictorial or diagrammatic format when taking notes during study.** Heard of mind maps? Learn a great accelerated learning method for taking notes. Click here for more info about mind maps.
Makes us think in logical ways. Take this quiz: You have a blue ball, red ball and yellow ball sitting in front you. You need to pick up two of them. But, if you pick up the blue ball, you can't pick up the red ball. If you pick up the red ball you can't pick up the yellow. So, which two balls can you pick up?
To solve this, you'll need to access your logical left brain functions.
Makes us think intuitively. A lady friend of mine was a passenger in a car traveling one a hot summer day with the windows down. She told me they pulled up to a stop sign and she immediately got the prompting to roll up her window. So she did, for no apparent logical reason. Just then a bunch of tomatoes came smashing against her window, thrown by some kids out of nowhere. They disappeared just as fast as they appeared. She was startled but soon realized what would have happened had she not acted on her intuition. Go here to find out more about how intuition works.
Is verbal. My wife's cousin has the gift of telling stories in great detail and can talk for hours on end. He has a solid grasp of left brain verbal communication skills - putting thoughts and experiences to speech in a logical sequence.
Is visual. I've had a few conversations with my friend's adolescent son. He's always had great difficulty talking in full sentences to describe anything but as I observe him, I can tell he clearly sees in his mind exactly what he's attempting to communicate. His verbal (left brain) skills are not developed. Ever seen someone staring off somewhere when talking? Ever been on a vacation in your mind?
Is rational. One night our son got sharp pains in his stomach that didn't seem to subside so we decided to take him to the hospital. I didn't feel panic or concern. My thinking was, "There's no use freaking out. That won't help him through the pain."(He turned out ok - only had some gas stuck in his intestines.)
Is non-rational. Adding to the story from the "rational" left brain column: My wife got very upset and concerned in seeing our son in so much pain. It seems her emotions took over and she couldn't calm down until we found out he was going to be fine. The right brain makes us "feel" and "intuit" situations and people but we need the balance of the left brain rational side to govern our emotions.
Is analytic. When I put together kit furniture, I have to follow the directions step-by-step and when I don't, I often have pieces left over that I forgot to insert in one of the steps.
Is synthetic. In the 1400's, Leonardo da Vinci saw in his mind whole new inventions like the helicopter and single span bridge, which he illustrated in detail. It was not until modern times that these marvels were built. Sci-fi writers have visionary right brain thought. They don't allow their logical left brain to tell them what they're thinking is impossible.
Has numbering skills. Know any accountants? Left brain all the way!
Has computer-like math calculation abilities. Sometimes I can add, subtract, multiply or divide large numbers together without thinking. The answer just pops into my mind. Many times, in doubt, I check my answer with a calculator and it's always correct. Read our article about computer-like math calculation.
Is logical and conscious. Takes in information slowly. Presenting information slowly and repetitiously stimulates the left-brain.
Is intuitive and subconscious. Takes in information quickly. Presenting large amounts of information at a fast pace exercises the right brain. See our article about rapid flashing or play our rapid flashing games. Also, read about our subconscious and intuition, a right brain function.
Is capable of scanning book pages. Most "speed reading" courses I've seen train us to scan pages in blocks in which the subject is committed to memory. This does work but not at nearly the speed of training the right brain and subconscious mind.
Is capable of speed-reading. Well, it's not technically speed-reading although it may look like it. When properly trained, we are able to take snapshots of pages, store them in the subconscious mind then instantly retrieve the information from each page in the form of images.* This is taught at the Shichida Child Academies. See our article on right brain training for speed reading ability. Also, check out our right-brain speed reading training cards, games and software!
Is practical. Works well under stress.
Is emotional. Works well when fully relaxed. See our article on how our well our brain functions operate when relaxed. Also check out our info and products that help you get in the best relaxed state of mind for accelerated learning.

Has perfect pitch. Watch a professional orchestra sometime. How do they all merge their instruments together with such perfection? Thank the senses of the right brain. See our article all about perfect pitch, where it comes from and how to develop it.

Is linked to photographic memory. Has the ability to access information in the brain's subconscious memory files on the instant. See our article on what photographic memory is all about and how to develop it.

Is able to acquire multiple languages. Patterns, rhythm, frequencies, tonal sounds, pitch and accents are absorbed and recorded naturally. I know a family whose mother is Swedish and the father is American. At home, they both speak in their native languages. Just by speaking both Swedish and English languages daily, all five of their children can speak these languages fluently at any given time without any confusion or mixing of languages. See our article on how we acquire multiple languages.

*Dr. Makato Shichida, President of Shichida Child Academies, Japan.
**Professor Chen Lung-an, Director of the Creative Thinking Educational Center, Taiwan.

My next post will be a table showing the  relationship between learning styles and hemispheric learning.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Learning Styles vs. Hemispheric Dominance (3 Part Post)

I've been doing a lot of reading on how kids learn lately, since half of my kids are "different learners" and, while I was one growing up, I just figured they had some "disability" like I felt I had.  I no longer think that is the case.  I think our education system has (long) determined there is one way, a right way, to learn.  When teachers (yes, and sometimes parents) run up against this, they label the kids as broken.  They become - Dyslexic, Dysgraphic, ADD, ADHD, slow, unmotivated...you get the drift.  While I don't disagree that those terms are valid medical terms, I think we've missed the mark.  I think kids learn differently.  One of my  favorite talks to give is "How to Get Your Kid to See the Light" which is about learning modalities.

When we take in information, we have a preferred input modality.  So, as a student is learning a new topic, they may learn more, faster or better using that preferred modality.  In fact, in 1994, there was a study that showed that kids that were taught to their preferred modality scored in or above the 70 percentile.  When a teacher or student (or preferably both) understands and teaches to a student’s preferred modality better learning is achieved.  

Once the information is received however, how it is processed depends largely on the hemispheric dominance of the student.  Our brains are made up of two hemispheres – the right and left sides.  Both sides contain identical sections (lobes) which perform specific functions.  However, fMRI studies show that each side processes things differently and we use both sides.  However, we typically have a preferred side.  The right side of the brain functions in a “whole to parts” method.  The left side learns things “parts to whole.”

A beautiful ad from the Mercedes Benz company showing a visualization of the difference between left and right brain hemispheres. 
The ad above has great descriptions.  They are hard to read, so I will transpose them here:
I am the left brain.  
I am a scientist. A mathematician.  
I love the familiar.  I categorize.  I am accurate. Linear. 
Accurate.  Strategic. I am practical.  
Always in control. A master of words and language.
Realistic.  I calculate equations and play with numbers. 
I am order.  I am logic.  
I know who I am.

I am the right brain.
I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion.
Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter.
I am taste.  The feeling of sand beneath bare feet.
I am movement.  Vivid colors.
I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas.
I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel.
I am everything I wanted to be.

Depending on your preferred side, you may store data in your brain differently.  Left brain learners store information in stacks (nicely organized).  Right brain learners store information all across the brain, building global connections (spread out, yet still connected.)  As someone learns something, depending on their preference, the web related to that learning experience either builds vertically (left brain) or horizontally (right brain). 

A visual left brain thinker needs to see details building up to a whole and visual right brain thinkers need to see the big picture and then have it broken down.  Think left brain thinkers need pieces to build up to “whole” understanding and right brain thinkers need to see the “whole” picture and take it apart to understand something.   So while both are visual, how the information is given must be considered also: Whole to parts (right brain) or parts to whole (left brain.) 

Here is an example.  Perhaps you want a child to work on math facts .  Right brain children need manipulatives, starting with the end in mind, dissecting the math process to arrive at the equation.  For example, if you want the right brain child to learn their addition facts, start with the answer (10) using manipulatives.  Then, have them see all the different ways they can make the answer (10 -> 0+10, 1+9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5).  Whole to parts, not parts to whole.  It doesn’t make sense to a right brain child to learn all the 1+ math facts.  Whereas a left brain child learns math facts best focusing on a part at a time (1+ facts, 2+ facts, 3+ facts, etc.)  Or in learning place value, a left brain child builds on learning each set of numbers in the units, then learn about tens, then hundreds, etc.  A right brain child might need a set of blocks with a “100’s” cube, “10’s” sticks and single cubes.  Giving them a bunch of blocks, you then break it down into how many 100’s, 10’s and singles there are instead of starting from the singles and back up again.

Left brain and right brain kids also develop so completely different from one another.  Left brain kids understand two-dimensional thinkers focusing on symbolic and word concepts first, then learn three dimensional thinking, focusing on creative and global concepts later.   Right brain kids are, in contrast, three-dimensional thinkers first learning the world through creative and global concepts, then evolving their two-dimensional thinking skills much later learning things first symbolically, then word development follows last.

Next, we'll look at how this affects reading...stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer School Bleg

I'm curious what others  are doing during the summer.  Do you 1) shut down, do you 2) keep up with math facts and reading, do you 3) do fun stuff like camps and projects OR do you 4) keep going all year round?

This year, we are doing a combination of 2, 3 and 4.

My #2 - My first and third graders are struggling with fact memorization right now.  The third grader is definitely a right-brain learner, so memorizing facts is not an easy task for her.  We've adapted our method to her needs and we are seeing much progress.  One of the things that has helped is Times Alive by City Creek PressHomeschoolbuyersco-op.org is offering 50% off right now, so we decided to try it.  It's been a great help, but she really needs more work.  The first grader is just resistant :-).  They will also have some assigned reading and read alouds this summer.

My #3 - For fun, I'm hosting a Writing Club for Reluctant Boy Writers, some Engineering Camps and some AHG Badge clinics (Space Explorer, History's Canvas, Our Feathered Friends, Dawn of our Country and Archery).  My summer is filling up!  We'll also do Catholic VBS, Schoenstatt Camp for Girls, Boy Scouts Camp, our church's family camp and a couple of camping trips with the family.

My #4 - I will be still teaching Latin (Lingua Latina is our chosen curriculum), via Skype to my group of middle-schoolers at least once a week, at their request.  One of my young gents will be out of the country and plans to participate, taking his mom's iPad2 to Skype with us while he's gone an entire month.  He cracks me up because he was deeply disappointed we were going from 3x a week to 1x a week.  Love that love-of-learning!

So here's my bleg - what will you do this summer?  Your comments will be helpful for me to share with the group at the Beginning Homeschooling talk at MCHEC.  Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On Meaning and Learning

I was checking out TED.org again and found another great talk.  The speaker is a teacher from Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  Her style of teaching is to give kids a project and let them go.  I've moved more toward this model the longer I've homeschooled my kids.  This summer is full of project based learning, as next year will be, too.  Here's her talk:

Diana Laufenberg:  How to Learn? From Mistakes

One example of  what we're doing here this summer is a project based learning experience with lasers.  The kids will be given a mission "to protect valuable relics from being stolen."  They will learn about lasers and then design and build a laser security system.  I can't wait to do it.  I'd written my own laser class in the past, but it lacked an element of true meaning for the kids.  Sure, it was fun, but this give them a real purpose and show a real application of a technology they have only perhaps toyed with or dreamed about in the past.  They will have their hands on lasers, optics and sensors and produce a real, tangible working system.   I came across this at TeachEngineering.org  which is a fabulous site full of Science and Engineering curriculum from a wide range of grades.

My big take-away from co-schooling with so many other kids this year is the importance of "meaning" for kids, especially middle-school kids, in doing school work.  They want to see that they can accomplish something, that they can do something that has meaning.  How exciting is it to actually learn about something like lasers, then actually put them to a real, good use?  I'll be looking for more classes to do next year, with the help of the other moms and kids with whom we co-school.  I'll keep you posted on what I find.