Fig. 1 New Scientist 9 February 2013 Mind Maths by Colin Barras
Fig. 1. Looks a like a good read
I'm starting to read papers on neuroscience that result on my starting to use my hands and fingers as I read, even reading and re-reading phrases and sentences. What is going on here?
If I understand it correctly there is, because of the complexity of connections between neurones, a relationship with many parts of the brain simultaneously, some common to us all, some, amongst the millions of links, unique to us. Each neuron is connected to 10,000 others. To form a memory some 15 parts of the brain are involved. It is situated, much of it we are not aware of. Come to think of it, while I was concentrating I got cramp in my bum and right thigh perched as I am on a hard kitchen chair, and the lingering after taste of the cup of coffee I drank 45 minutes ago. I can hear the kitchen clock ticking - though most of the time it is silent (to my mind), and the dog just sighed.
Does it matter that my fingers are tapping away at a keyboard?
Though second-nature, touch-typing it still occupies my arms and hands and fingers which may otherwise be animated were I talking. I am talking, in my head. The stream of consciousness is almost audible.
What would happen where I to use a voice recorder and speak my thoughts instead?
By engaging my limbs and voice would my thinking process improve and would the creation of something to remember be all the stronger.
I'm getting pins and needles/cramp in my right leg. Aaaaaaaaaaagh! Party over.
The question posed is often 'what's going on in there?' refering to the brain. Should the question simpley be 'what's going on?'
My eyesight is shifting. In the space of six months of moved to reading glasses. Now my normal glasses are no good either for reading or distance. Contacts are no use either. As a consequence I'm getting new glasses for middle distance and driving. The solution with the contact lenses is more intriguing.
To correct for astigmatism and near or short sightedness I am going to have a one lens in one eye to deal with the astigmatism and a different lens to deal with the short sightedness in the other. My mind will take the information from both and ... eventually, create something that is sharp close up and at a distance. This has me thinking about what it is that we see, NOT a movie or video playing out on our retina, but rather an assemblage of meaning and associations formed in the brain.
I will try these lenses and hang around, wander the shops, then return. I am advised that I may feel and appear drunk. I can understand why. I could well describe being drunk as trying to navigate down a path with a microscope in one hand and a telescope in the other while looking through both. I feel nauseous just thinking about it.
So 'stuff' is going on in the brain. These days the activity resulting in the brain finguring something out can, in some instance and to some degree, be seen. Might I have an fMRI scan before the appointment with the optician? Might I then have a series of further scans to follow this 're-wiring' process.
I need to be careful here, the wrong metaphor, however much it helps with understanding may also lead to misunderstanding. Our brain is organic, there are electro-chemical processes going on, but if I am correct there is no 're-wiring' as such, the connections have largely existed since birth and are simply activated and reinforced?
Any neuroscientists out there willing to engage with a lay person?
What would observing this process of unconscious learning tells us about the process of learning? And is it that unconscious if am I am aware of the sensations that have to be overcome to set me right?
And if real learning occurs, is it no longer 'virtual?'
Where does reality end?
What part of your subconscious is real?
It happens after all, if yo think it or dream it. We distinguish between learning and e-learning; should we ? Did we distinguish a different reality after the train, after the telephone, after television or a man on the moon?
I am often online, I speak to people through Skype and Elluminate.
Yesterday I likened an Elluminate 'tutorial' with seven or eight fellow students as wearing a blindfold in a meeting; yo have to be alert to the presence of others, be sensitive to their interest (or lack of), their hand going up, or not. You are dependent on your only sighted person present - the tutor or moderator.
Over the last month I have been interviewed for a job on Skype. Producers have discussed my work on Skype.
I have been set task to show what I can do, somehow my body of work, the videos and scripts not real enough. Can I still fill a blank sheet of paper with pertinent and persuasive ideas; that's what they want to know.
My blend of learning uses the conscious and subconscious.
I consciously go to bed with a book, now on Kindle, currently reading through my extensive highlights and notes on two books: Education Psychology (Vygotsky 1926) and 'Rethinking Pedagogy for the Digital age (Helen Beetham & Rhona Sharpe eds. 2007). As I drift away I may close the Kindle, may slip it safely to one side .. may not. I matters not a jot. I'tll look after itself.
No wonder I find myself dwelling on all matter of things.
Earlier I woke thinking about one of these job interviews: it may be to work on contrast, it may be to work freelance, there are even a couple of full-time posts. All want to know what I have done recently. What they really need to know is what can I do for them next week or month. Or now.
As I return to consciousness I reflect on the interview that was on my mind, only to realise that it is highly unlikely that my future boss Is Johnny Depp. I've been duped by my own mind. No worries. The thoughts relate to the real opportunities, not this peculiar mash-up in a virtual world.
I have multiple presences in cyberspace with 'faces on' that may be anything from a week to 15 years old. Indeed, I ought to attach an image of the six year old me to a collection of 'earliest memories.'
I have a couple of existences in Second Life too, though I've yet to run with these.
Would I not get more confused over where reality ends?
If it is becoming less easy to distinguish reality from the virtual, how are we supposed to differentiate between learning and e-learning? Is it not the case that both could be going on ... but a student, or the students are doing no learning in either situation? That they are elsewhere? That they are not engaged? Yet hours later, consciously or otherwise, a recollection of a 'lesson' may produce a learning moment, may generate 'stuff' a learning object in that person's consciousness?
So I blogged three months ago when considering the merits and demerits of keeping a learning journal and reflective writing.
It transpires that sleep really does sort the ‘memory wheat from the chaff’ according to a report in the Journal of Neuroscience, DOI, 10,1,1523.jneuorsci.3575-10.2011) referred to in the current New Scientist. This Week. 5 FEB 2011.
‘It turns out that during sleep the brain specifically preserves nuggets of thought it previously tagged as important.’ Ferris Jabr says.
I have always used sleep to reflect on ideas.
If I expect or wish to actively dwell on something I will go to sleep with the final thought on my mind, a pen and pad of paper by my side. Cat naps are good for this too. I will position myself with pillows and a book, or article and drift off as I finish. Waking up ten or twenty minutes later I glance straight back at the page and will feel a greater connection with it.
I wonder if there is commercial value in working from home and doing so up 'til the point you need to fall asleep? It's how my wife works when she is compiling a hefty report. It's how I work when I have an assignment, or a script to deliver ... or a producton to complete. The work never stops and it doesn't stop me sleeping.
Going back to tagging.
How does the mind do this? In curious ways. We all know how a memory can be tagged with a smell or a sound. For me how mothballs remind me of my Granny’s cupboard (an image of it immediately in my mind). A Kenwood blender will always remind me of my mother grings biscuits to put on the basae of a cheesecake. And a sherbert dip the Caravan Shop, Beadnell, Northumberland. Often when a random recollection enters my consciousness I try to think what has triggered it: the way the light falls on a tree, the exhaust from a car or even a slight discomfort in my stomach. It is random. Indeed, is a random thought not impossible?
There has to be a trigger, surely?
Can any of these be used?
Perhaps I could categorise content here, or in an eportfolio by taste. So chocolate digestive biscuits might be used to recall anecdotes. Toothpaste might be used to recall statistics. Varieties of Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts might be associated with people I have got to know (a bit) during the MAODE.
The mind boggles; or at least mine does.
Colour and images (Still or moving) is as much as we can do so far.
I’m intrigued by memory games. I like the journey around a familiar setting where you place objects you need to remember in familiar places so that you can recall a list of things. Here the tag is somewhere familiar juxtaposed with the fresh information.
Are there better ways to tag?
Look at my ridiculously long list of tags here. Am I being obtuse? When I think of a tag do I come up with a word I've not yet used? How conducive is that to recalling this entry, or grouping similar entries to do the job?
I like the way some blogs (Wordpress/EduBlogs) prompt you to use a tag you’ve applied before; it offers some order to it all. I long ago lost track of the 17000 entries in my blog. Would I want to categorise them all anyhow? I think I managed 37. I prefer the 'enter@random' button I installed.
Going back to this idea of tagging by taste/smell, might a word (the category) be given division by taste/smell, texture and colour? How though would such categories work in a digital form? Am all I doing here recreating a person’s shed, stuff shoved under their bed or stacked in a garage, or put in a trunk or tuck box in the attic?
In the test reported in the Neuroscientist those who went to bed in the knowledge that they would be tested on the information they had looked at that day had a 12% better recall.
It doesn’t happen in MAODE, if at all. When are we put on the spot? When are we expected ever to playback a definition under ‘duress’?
‘There is an active memory process during sleep that selects certain memories and puts them in long-term storage.’
Like an e-portfolio?
Is the amount of sleep I've had, the 350 or so nights since I started the MAODE ... part of the learning environment required?
Sleep Selectively Enhances Memory Expected to Be of Future Relevance
Wilhelm et al. J. Neurosci..2011; 31: 1563-1569
‘The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters, meetings, introductions which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a great amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision.
My obsession of the last decade has been my life on-line. My life in words. My life with people I have never met and will never meet.
I found the above in a journal entry I wrote in 1992; I am regurgitating it on-line, in bite-size form, elsewhere - the 2,000 words or more I would write not right for this on-line sheet of OU soft paper on a roll that tears about where people get bored with my say and want to get a word in edge ways.
Nin, A. (1946) Vol 4, Journals, May 1946.
So here's the edge of the paper -
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