A Transdisciplinary Inter-hemispheric Teaching & Learning Experience

Montoya C. P. & Jonson G.

Abstract: High Touch versus High Tech… Sometimes we need to counter and sometimes we need to work in cooperation with the dehumanizing aspects of an overly high tech world. Engaging students in brain building and hemispheric cooperation exercises allows students to experience reality from a new vista and fresh perspective. One aspect of the demonstration uses a strictly hands on low tech methodology to experience, feel, and build inter-hemispheric cooperation. From another parallax the students engage a high tech bi-aural auditory signal to achieve a similar result by engaging both hemispheres electronically. You decide who rules – touch or technology. The demonstration permits sufficient variety to relieve stress, engage cultural differences, and promote creative thought and dialogue.

Introduction: Following a Naperville model that physical activity promotes better mental function we tested the hypothesis that by combining both physical bilateral and electronic bilateral engagement of the brain a neural synergy may be created. This poster embraces the “Passion to Learn” by allowing participants to feel their brains engaged from two very different perspectives. Low tech high touch methodologies are contrasted with high tech low touch (low interaction) technologies. Although both techniques lead to similar inter-hemispheric co-operation and re-wiring of the neural net, the journeys to get there are classically and instrumentally disparate.

Using similar techniques many educators have noted positive changes in a variety of areas including hand-eye coordination, ambidexterity, reaction time, understanding patterns and sequences, learning from mistakes, and practice makes you a better processor. This is truly an endeavor where those who practice not only get faster, but they can see the results of their efforts in a relatively short time & over time. Lewis Terman, at Stanford University, profiled better functioning brains and found that they excelled both socially and academically. Those with better functioning brains became more successful in their careers. They also suffered lower divorce rates. Professor Ian Deary of Edinburgh University found evidence that both health and life-expectancy improved along with higher IQ. A similar conclusion was drawn in a 2009 scientific study by David Batty. Batty and his colleagues found that a higher IQ in a million Swedish men who had been conscripted at the age of 18 was strongly linked to a lower risk of death from causes such as accidents, coronary heart disease and suicide.

Neurokinesiology: re-tooling the body/brain connection during learning. New learning branches off established motor patterns as info is stored in Hebb/paleo type reverberating circuits. New memories are best stored bi-laterally and across a variety of sensory modalities. All parts of the brain piggyback information processing so that brains that are active because of physical activity have more neurotransmitters and more synaptic connections per cubic millimeter to use.

Therefore, if we teach our students to move better, better thinkers they will become. The brain seeks out and creates patterns. Motor movements are built on similar patterns. Information that is arranged in established patterns is more easily processed, encoded, stored, and retrieved.

Cross lateralization training occurs when we force information to be processed across the corpus callosum/midline. When signals cross the midline, the brain begins to make new mirrored connections and the right and left hemispheres begin to work together and build thicker/faster pathways. This parallel communication process also organizes the brain for better future mental health, concentration and problem solving skills. Crossing the midline integrates the brain hemispheres and enables the brain to reach self criticality empowering the passion to learn.

TRU Teaching Practices Colloquium 2011

Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, BC

The reorganization of the neural net is based in chaos and emergence theory. When students perform cross lateral activities, auditory, visual, or motor, blood flow in many parts of the brain increases, neurotransmitter activity increases, and the size, shape, and function of the synapses changes. These changes help make the brain more alert and energized for more potentiated, and more cohesive learning. Movements that cross the midline bilaterally unify the cognitive-motor regions of the brain: the cerebrum, cerebellum, and corpus callosum while stimulating the production of neurotrophins that increase the number and viability of synaptic connections (Hannaford, 2005). Eye-tracking exercises and peripheral vision development help reading. One of the reasons students have trouble with reading is because of the lack of eye fitness. When students watch computer screens, their eyes lock in a constant distance. Muscles that control eye movement atrophy. Physical education curriculum including juggling and cup stacking provides an avenue for strengthening and coordinating eye muscles. Tracking exercises, manipulatives, navigation activities, and target games exercise the eye muscles, making the eyes better able to read rapidly. The brain loves novelty. The brain learns best when more senses are involved. Color, sound, music, smell, and movement all work together to enhance memory. Learning environments filled with enriched sensory input enhance cognition and neural repatterning. Brain compatible learning techniques perceived as FUN increase success. Research suggests the best learning occurs when students learn a new content for 10-15 minutes and break for at least 2 minutes – a perfect time for a movement activity to occur. The structure in the brain that encodes new information can encode only about 10-20 minutes of learning at a time. Cup stacking is a sport played in over 6600 physical education and after school programs in the United States. The leading manufacturer, Speed Stacks, Inc., claims that cup stacking promotes hand-eye coordination, ambidexterity, quickness, concentration, and bilateral proficiency. Since the sport is still fairly new, there have only been a few scientific studies that have investigated the influence of cup stacking (Conn, 2003; Hart, Smith, & DeChant, 2003; Udermann, Murray, Mayer, & Sagendorf, 2003) on psychomotor parameters.

“It would be folly to suggest that anyone can literally do or become anything. But the new science tells us that it’s equally foolish to think that mediocrity is built into most of us, or that any of us can know our true limits before we’ve applied enormous resources and invested vast amounts of time. Our abilities are not set in genetic stone. They are soft and sculptable, far into adulthood. With humility, with hope, and with extraordinary determination, greatness is something to which any person – of any age – can aspire”. David Shenk

Bruno Nettl, the distinguished ethnomusicologist defined music as “human sound communication outside the scope of language.” Perhaps the same could be said of mathematics perhaps because math and music are so closely and spatially related. However, while the evolutionary origins of language have provoked much debate, the role music played in the neural organization of the cerebrum has been largely overlooked until recently. We need to liberate the pure hominid that resides within us and rediscover the passion to learn!

Mithen (2005) The Singing Neanderthals

Area of Expertise Transdisciplinary Psychology