Monday, July 12, 2010

serial processing vs. gestalt

First a word of warning. It is very easy to oversimplify the workings of the brain and many of the early generalizations about the left and right sides of the brain are oversimplifications.

Still, one of the ways the two sides of the brain differ is that the left side tends to work serially, in order and sequence and for children being in school, being there, present, everyday is important to keeping within the sequence in which curriculum is offered. If a child skips a day, to return to the pattern of learning is an additional challenge. For instance, try to read a pattern of text with key paragraphs removed, then try to find meaning in it. The right side of the brain takes a larger view.

Jill Bolte Taylor, author of My Stroke of Insight, using a computer analogy for examining the way the brain works, describes the left side as a serial processor, the right a parallel processor. The right side looks for larger patterns, creating a sense of the whole from what it perceives. It's engagement is therefore necessary for the child to find a place of comfort within education. The right side of the brain alone can contend with the creation and use of metaphor through which the mind can use one thing to understand another. The ability to use metaphor is the foundation of creative problem solving and creative leaps of intuition.

If you want a system of education that is dead to exploration and fails a large proportion of students of all levels of capability, keep things exactly as they are now. If you want something better, then make learning more friendly to the right brain. The strategic engagement of the hands is the key, and over the next few days, as I am involved in the class at ESSA, I'll be attempting to explain why.

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