Saturday, February 27, 2016

this is your brain on jazz

Design them as you like.
In response to a question I received from a woodworking teacher via email I began looking back into the blog for the kinds of research that reinforce my position... that the hands are essential to learning and that what is true for one applies to others as well. Some of the most notable research in this area comes from Susan Goldin-Meadow and her researchers associated with her institute for the study of gesture at the University of Chicago.

If you use the search block at upper left and type in the word "gesture," you will find a number of interesting blog posts referring to the study of gesture ranging from the memorization of lines in theater, to mathematics. If there was no connection between the hands and learning (even having been given nothing more than your own experience you'd have to be an ignoramus to assert there is none) then gesture research nails the concept of hands-on learning where we can take a better look at it.

A piezo hidden in the bridge turns this one electric
The other area in which the use of the hands and their connection to the functioning of the brain has been explored is in music. An interesting piece of research was published in 2008 by Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Deafness and other Communications Disorders (NIDCD), a research arm of the US government. They wanted to know how the brain functions when jazz is played by musicians as compared with those same musicians playing pre-composed structured music. They even developed their own non-magnetic keyboard and headphones to function in the fMRI intense magnetic fields. The results showed that a whole different part of the brain was utilized when musicians were allowed to participate in improvisational and innovative performance.
The scientists found that a region of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a broad portion of the front of the brain that extends to the sides, showed a slowdown in activity during improvisation. This area has been linked to planned actions and self-censoring, such as carefully deciding what words you might say at a job interview. Shutting down this area could lead to lowered inhibitions, Limb suggests.

The researchers also saw increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which sits in the center of the brain’s frontal lobe. This area has been linked with self-expression and activities that convey individuality, such as telling a story about yourself.
And so, if that's the case, and most particularly for those schools that would choose to attempt to educate the whole child, the kinds of activities in which children have the opportunity to improvise, whether in music or in wood, are essential to learning. To leave part of the child's brain undeveloped and to knowingly do so should be regarded as irresponsible. This bit of research can be found here: This is your brain on jazz.

One writer has suggested that Donald Trump's success in the Republican presidential race has been his reliance on a 3rd-to 5th grade level of speech to better entice  poorly educated voters to support him in presidential primaries. If you mastered the Dick and Jane books as a kid in first and second grades, you'd be ready for Trump. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade-Level Index can be used to measure the sophistication of written language. Applied to Trump's speeches and compared to the language used by other candidates in the field, Trump has been called out for conducting a "Captain Underpants" campaign in which he is deliberately targeting the stupid and inept. The other candidates target their speeches to the 5th to 8th grade levels.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Index measures such things as the number of characters in words, the number of syllables in words, and the number of words in sentences as an indication of the complexity of the language used.

You can test your own writing level using this free site. I used one paragraph of this blog post to measure its readability level and it measured at the grade 13.8 grade level which means that if you graduated from high school and endured almost two years of college, you would likely understand what I'm talking about. Will you do something about it?

Trump's success illustrates, there is some advantage to stating things clearly, cleanly and at a grade level the widest possible audience can understand, regardless of whether anything you say is truthful or not. One of the challenges I have in my own writing is that I use too many big words and too many long sentences, but I hope you know that what I say is true, as it can be tested in your own hands (if you've a willingness to do so).

I've been playing my box guitars and find that while I'm not good at it, I do feel a sense of meditative calm from it. I've also been applying another coat of Danish oil to boxes so that they can be sold.

Make, fix, create, and extend the love of learning likewise.

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