Saturday, September 09, 2006

Yesterday, I mentioned that there are some authorities in the hand/brain learning system investigation. I was pleased that the first comment composed and left on my site was from Frank R. Wilson, MD. Frank is the author of a significant book, The Hand: How its use shapes the brain, language and human culture. I began corresponding with Frank when I read his book and realized that my observations of my own process of hands-on learning weren't unique in my own life, but actually described humanity in the largest sense. Friendship with Frank has been a uniquely rewarding experience, helping me to realize that despite my lack of academic status, my own observations were valid, and that gave me courage to lend my voice to an international debate on education.

Through Frank's kindness and encouragement, I have been introduced to a wide range of educators and hands-on learning enthusiasts all of whom might be regarded as authorities in their fields. During the months or years of my future involvement in this blog, I hope to introduce you to them. It is my hope, however, that you will find greatest authority in the examination of your own learning and the diligent and conscious study of your own hands.

Before I close for the day I want to share something from Frank that clearly explains the significance of the hands in our lives. You can see these same concepts present in the comment left by Frank in yesterday's blog describing the hands-on intellectual growth of his first grandchild.

“No one knows precisely when our ancestors started handling textiles and manufacturing thread, but our ability to do this, along with many other tasks, was made possible because of two critical and parallel changes in upper limb and brain structure. Biomechanical changes in the hand permitted a greatly enlarged range of grips and movements of the hand and fingers; the brain provided new control mechanisms for more complex and refined hand movements. These changes took place over millions of years, and because of the mutual interdependence of hand and brain it is appropriate to say that the human hand and brain co-evolved as a behavioral system.

The entire open-ended repertoire of human manipulative skill rests upon a history of countless interactions between individuals and their environments, natural materials and objects. The hand brain system, or partnership, that came into being over the course of millions of years is responsible for the distinctive life and culture of human society. This same hand-brain partnership exists genetically as a developmental instruction program for every living human. Each of us, beginning at birth, is predisposed to engage our world and to develop our intelligence primarily through the agency of our hands."

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