Welcome to a collection of thoughts, questions and interesting links relating to giftedness ..............
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Monday, January 31, 2011

New ways of interacting

Another school year is just beginning. This year for the first time since 1995 we haven’t had a ‘back to school’ routine happening in our house at the end of January. While I wont be seeing anyone off to school this week, last week I still found myself holding my breathe when my youngest started school half a world away in Turin in northern Italy. Not only is she on the other side of the world, she is coping with school and learning in a language she barely knows and with coming and going in the snow and cold. What ever her motivation, she has spread her wings and this will no doubt be a year of amazing experiences.

The world is a much smaller place than it was when I was her age. Technology allows us to keep in touch with ease, to talk to her and even see the world she sees via Skype, email, FaceBook, Photo Bucket and a whole host of others services so familiar to our children born squarely in the land of Digital Natives. I am not expecting to find a hand written letter in the mail any time this year…………..

Having recently become the owner of an iPad (something that I hope my children wont ‘out know’ me on, at least for a little while), I have been discovering all manner of new ways to become immersed in a digital world. The array of apps is quite astounding and amongst the frivolous are some great opportunities, particularly for young learners. But how do you identify the good amongst the less good?

Some searching turned up Planet App: Kid’s Book apps are everywhere. But are they any good? . This article suggests some possible criteria for selecting picture book apps and includes some pointers which look useful. It is worth a look if you have young children and are interested in ways smart technology can provide opportunities for parent child interaction and immersion in literature.

Over the past few year I have observed young children happily occupying themselves with their parent’s Smart Phone while the adults talked during consultations. One 4 year old boy I met a couple of years ago stands out in my memory. He was busy typing and sending emails to his grandmother while we talked, checking on spelling now and then and contributing to our conversation as well. Up to that point I had been impressed by my young niece who had inadvertently phoned me while her mother was driving…….

Clearly I am a bit of a late comer to the world where there is an app for just about anything you can think of. I knew this for sure this morning when I came across an article titled  Preschoolers better at navigating iPhone than tying their shoes.

That made me think. Maybe we need an app for learning to tie shoe laces............

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I did it in my head..........

About 6 or 7 years ago my daughter insisted she had done her music practice. We were discussing the issue because as far as I could see her guitar had not come out of its case for days. She insisted that she had done her practice in her head. Although she still seemed to be making progress in her music learning, perhaps you can understand my scepticism!

Not long afterwards when I was talking to my brother in California I mentioned the discussion about the music practice which my daughter insisted she had done in her head. I know my brother and my daughter share a very similar visual approach to the world and learning but I was puzzled to hear him reply ‘Of course, I did it that way too.’

Over the years as I have watched and listened I have come to appreciate the great benefits strong visual spatial skills can bring to learning but I still hadn’t quite come to terms with mental music practice.

A few years ago I read about a study which showed the brain activity of a monkey watching another peel and eat a banana (or something along those lines) was very similar to the monkey performing the task. At this point I began to wonder whether watching her teacher demonstrate a new skill was actually a form of ‘practice’ which might explain the continued learning with so little evident practice…….. I had also read about elite gymnastics and their coaches who used visualisation to assist them in mastering new and complicated skills, but didnt link this to learning music.

Just recently I read of another study in which brain scanning techniques have demonstrated that mental rehearsal or practice does actually have a learning effect on neuronal pathways in the brain. Although the ‘learning’ was not quite as marked as in those who had done actual physical practice, it was quite a bit better than no practice at all. It also seemed to have a priming effect so that a practical session or lesson following mental rehearsal resulted in almost the same degree of learning overall as continual physical practice.

The mental music practice has come up for discussion again recently and I now have to conceded that perhaps the practice I had been sceptical about had actually been done and that the value of this visual, mental rehearsal was something that my daughter instinctively knew about years ago.

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