Saturday, February 15, 2014

TBBB Chapter 7: Four Cognitive Modes

“First, it’s important to realize that although the predictions we just summarized flow naturally from the theory, we have not directly tested them [the cognitive modes.]” 

This is where I start to become skeptical and a little unsure of the book. Why do you publish something before you have tested your theory? Can you call it a theory without having tested it? You derived your theory by looking at a bunch of other peoples research, did the authors do any of their own research to back up their theory? Is this just another pop culture phenomena about how to classify people? 


The summarized the four cognitive modes in this chapter: mover, perceiver, stimulator, adaptor.

Here is chart they used in the book to allow you to see where the modes stem from:

Highly Utilized Top
Minimally Utilized Top
Highly Utilized Bottom
Mover ModePerceiver Mode
Minimally Utilized Bottom
Stimulator Mode
Adaptor Mode

As I read through the different descriptions of the modes I found that I best identified with the mover mode. They describe people who operate in the mover mode as people who are inclined to implement plans (top brain) and also register the consequences (bottom brain). I find this an accurate description of my personality. They also say people who operate in the Mover Mode are often leaders. I find myself comfortable in leadership roles and my role as department chair at school serves as evidence of this.

TBBB Chapter 6: Interacting Systems

My favorite part of this chapter was reading the story about Phineas Gage. It is crazy that he was able to survive a tamping iron shooting through his brain and destroying the top and bottom part of the front side of his left brain. With this type of distraction is makes sense to me that he was no longer the same person after the accident. The book talks about how the accident damaged and alter how the top and bottom brain communicated together. And it was the change in how the parts of his brain now interacted that altered much of the way he behaved. As I was reading, I kept thinking I couldn’t imagine being a whole different person. I also wonder if he was aware that he changed so much? Did he want to return to who he used to be? Was he frustrated because he couldn’t?


If we as a campus applied what I read about how the is always connecting new patterns and information to the patterns we have stored in our brain and that our brain is always creating associations with previous information then as teachers we should first be concerned with revealing what our students already know and think. If we can only learn something new by connecting it to something old then we must always consider what our students bring to the classroom.


This idea also connects to the chapter Quinton and Holly has us read for staff development about the theory of the world. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

TBBB Chapter 5: Sweeping Claims

The author uses the concrete idea of how a bicycle works to describe the abstract way the brain works. The idea is that a bicycle is made up of many different parts, but all of these parts work together to help the bike move forward and a person get from one place to another. The connection to the brain is that the brain also has many different parts but that the brain has to work together to accomplish the goal. This could be the right and left brain or the top and bottom brain. The parts of the brain were designed to work together. 


Much of this chapter was spent debunking the popular of the division between the left brain and the right brain. Here is a recent pod cast that asking a similar the question: "Does the story of two hemispheres stand up?"


One of my favorite parts of this chapter was when the talked about that the fine print matters. There are generalizations that get made and science turns in to popular lore when the fine print is ignored. It also talked about how we simplify the story. This isn't always bad to simplify things if done in the right way but can lead to problems.

These ideas of ignoring the fine print and simplifying information wrongly makes me think about two other stories that people want to simplify, ignore the fine print, or believe pop culture over science. The two stories that come to mind are climate change and the new resistance to vaccinating children.

I like this response by Joe Hanson on his blog It's Okay to Be Smart about how to respond to someone that doesn't acknowledge climate change. I think he brings up an important point that the person has some deeper reason why not to believe the science and that you might figure that out before you will be able to change their mind. 

This is an important connection to teaching. We must first uncover students misconceptions before we will be able to have them grasp new content. People want to hold onto their stories and beliefs.

The second idea of people being resistance to vaccinating their children is really sad to me. It is also scary. There have been a rise in preventable diseases that had once been very rare in the developed world. You can see it here in the map from NPR that has been floating around on social media. 

TBBB Chapter 4: Reasoning Systems

In this chapter I learned that there are two different types of metal imagery, spatial imagery and object imagery. I learned that they are different because spatial mental imagery relies on the top-brain system and object metal imagery relies on the bottom-brain system.  I also learned that you can be good at one but not good at the other type. I like how in this chapter they went into some of the statistical analysis about how you cannot predict about one of the types by knowing about the other. What I mean by this is that if you good at spatial imagery, you are not necessarily bad at object imagery. This statement could be true but it does not have to be. You could be good at both spatial and object imagery. I think this is important because I think we tend to think a lot in either/or's. This does not always have to be the case. I also like that this chapter spent the time to explain some of the basics of statistical analysis and what it means. I think that statistics are an important thing for people to be aware of. 


I think the following quote could have an implication for classrooms.

Artists and scientists "were also shown a graph that charted the position of an object over time... The scientists tended to see it as an abstract representation of changes in position over time. By contrast, the artists understood the graph 'as a literal pictorial illustration of a situation or was the path of the actual motion and did not attempt to interpret the graph as an abstract schematic representation.' ...The artist and scientists clearly visualized differently."

I think the quote has big implication in the classroom. We often use visuals to illustrate abstract concepts in the science classroom. What I did not know until was that students have different ways in how they see visual images. They can look at the image in different ways because the process the visual with a different part of the brain. This makes me think that if teachers were more knowledgable about how the brain process information we would understand student responses more in-depth. Or understand why certain types of thinkers have trouble with certain concepts. We would be able to say, "Some of you may see the image this way... Some of you may look at it like this..." And be explain the visual concepts through different points of view.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TBBB Chapter 3: The Duplex Brain

In the chapter the author is essentially saying that it is important that they brain is divided into two separate systems- top and bottom- separated by the Sylvian fissure. The long-range connections between the different parts of the brain determine whether the brain is in the top-brain system or the bottom brain-system. The author is also very clear to communicate that the top system and bottom system are in constant communication with each other even though they may serve different functions.


A computer program, created in the 1980s, that can recognize shape and location of objects teaches us that a system operates much more effectively when the labor is divided and organized into specific top and bottom parts that communicate with each other instead of one single system.

I find it interesting that they are using computers that simulate neural networks to support brain theory. But I understand the challenge of studying and manipulating a human brain. It is fascinating though that the computers did prove that it is much better better to divide the tasks of shape recognition and location into two different systems than just have one system try to do both tasks.

This computer simulation supported the research done by Ungerleider and Mishkin when they actually cut the top and bottom parts out to monkey's brains. This experiment showed that the top part of the brain determines location and the bottom part of the brain determines that shape. 


The idea of the top and bottom brain is supported mostly by a meta-analysis done by a team of researchers in 2011. It makes me a little bit skeptical that this book seems to rely heavily on one meta-analysis. They say it is the only one done of its kind about this type of brain research. I know by the term meta-analysis a ton of different research was looked at to find the patterns they talk about in the book, but wouldn't you want more than just want study to be done to back up your book?


Friday, January 24, 2014

TBBB Chapter 2: Roots of the Theory

The main idea of chapter 2 was to present the history and evolution of brain theory. 

One of the early theories about the brain was the idea of phrenology. Phrenology is the idea that examining a person's skull was a way to assess the nature of his or her brain. This theory was developed by Fraz Joseph Gall in the early 19th century. 


Something that concerns me in this chapter is that phrenology was never really accepted by the scientific community "because certain of its fundamental assumptions are incorrect" yet it gained huge popularity among the public (Kosslyn and Miller 23). Phrenology was disproven by scientific research yet people still held onto the idea and believed it as truth until late in the 20th century. Makes me wonder why people seem to be skeptical of science. Why don't people seem to trust scientific evidence?

As a science teacher, I feel like I need to be better at helping students learn how to be skeptical of popular science. What does the scientific research actually say? What is research that is being generalized too much? What research and answers should I actually trust? How can I get my students to start asking, "I see that they are making a claim. Is that claim backed up by good scientific evidence? Does their reasoning for their claim make sense?"


I find this quote to be important. "Phrenology proved false, but not without value." (Kosslyn and Miller 24). Even though it bothers me that people hold on to false ideas for far to long, I like the fact that the scientist still found value in the false idea. By proving a theory wrong they were able to develop a better more sound theory. They were able to build on the idea that phrenology broke "the mind down into components" (Kossly and Miller 24). Phrenology became the start of the idea that functions in the brain are localized. Pierre Paul Broca conducted several studies on patients will brain damage to help give evidence to the idea of localization of brain functions.


*Fun Fact: The brain doesn't have any pain receptors.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TBBB Chapter 1: A New Way of Looking At What Your Brain Says About You

After reading chapter 1,  I created a graphic to organized the general information they gave about the brain. I am sure they will go into more detail as the book goes on, but creating this got me oriented and ready for information to come. 


The following quote stood out to me as I read the first chapter.

“If you were expecting to see your friend in the crowd, this would actually be easier than noticing her without warning. The expectation (vis the top brain) “primes” the recognition machinery in the bottom brain” (Kosslyn and Miller 14).

This passage made me think of Frank Smith’s ideas about prediction and our theory of the world in Reading Without Nonsense. It makes me wonder, “If students are predicting and asking questions about what is to come will this “prime” their brain for the new information? Will this help them to recognize what they are looking for easier?”

Top Brain, Bottom Brain Pre Reading Reflection

What are three things you know to be important to teaching and learning?  Why are they important?  How do you ensure that your students experience them?

Three things I know to be important to teaching and learning is forming relationships with students, accessing prior knowledge and presenting materials in multiple ways. They are important because students want to feel known and feel safe in order to learn and be honest about their learning. Learning is a vulnerable process and happens more when you are learning from someone you trust. Because I believe this I work hard to establish relationships with my students and show them I care. To teach students something knew effectively you have to know what they know. By doing this you can connect the new learning to the old learning and help to clarify misconceptions. Because I believe this to be true I try to ask questions at the beginning of a new unit or class to figure out what they know and think. Finally, I try to present information through readings, student listen, visuals, on-line simulations and labs so students have different ways to gain the same information. Students also draw, complete math problems, write, read, color code, diagram in order to learn chemistry.

Make a prediction regarding what you hope to learn from reading and interacting with your book of choice.

Base on what I have read about this book, I expect to learn more about how they brain works. I have grown up hearing about left brain and right brain individuals. In the summary for this book it says it will show how this is not a correct theory. I look forward to learning more about how they brain works and how I can apply that to my teaching. I am curious to know how the top of my brain works differently but I bet in conjunction with the bottom of my brain. 

Top Brain, Bottom Brain Independent Book Study

I have decided to engage in an independent reading project with my colleagues at Northbrook High School. Together will be reflecting on independent books and learning from each other through our posts. You can follow the progress of all involved on the blog I will be reading and reflecting on the book, Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights into How You Think by Kosslyn and Miller. They also have a blog:

I have decided to post my reflections on my personal blog but I will keep a link to all of my posts on the community blog so people are able to follow my journey. I feel that this is another way to honor the motto and title of this blog: I am still learning. 

The reflections will consists of a pre-reading reflection, reflections after each chapter and then an overall reflection after finishing the book. I hope you are able to learn along with me as I learn more about the brain and how it is connect to learning.