febrero 25, 2017

Interview to Anna Forés author of ‘Neuromitos en Educación’

Anna Forés-1

Anna Forés proposes an activity to inter-relate both hemispheres in the student. To drive the left hemisphere, we should instil in ourselves an open and positive attitude through which we can continually foster self belief, hope, and confidence in the students. We should be very careful with how we use our language here, turning over limited phrases like “I can’t” or “it’s too difficult”.

Along these lines, integrating the right hemisphere, it’s interesting to propose activities that inspire the imagination as a tool we can use to improve learning and the carrying out of objectives.

Imaginative exercises can be developed in class, in which, for some minutes, the students can imagine themselves reaching their objectives, and feeling satisfaction, assimilating and memorizing with great ease, with great self-esteem, confidence, and self-assuredness in their personal capacities.

Dismantling false beliefs about how the brain acts during the process of learning… This is the object of the book Neuromitos en Educación (Neuro-myths in Education), written by Anna Forés, amongst other authors. Doctor in Philosophy and professor of the Postgraduate course in Neuro-education at the University of Barcelona (UB), Fores gives us more details about these neuro-myths that have been dismantled by recent findings in neurology.

How has neuroscience been having an influence of Education in recent years?

We are trying to bring the latest scientific studies of neuroscience to see if they can have an impact in creating small changes in the classroom. Up until quite recently, it was impossible for a living brain to be examined. The great advance in neuroscience came about when technology gave us the necessary tools to know and facilitate what is actually going on in the brain.

Can you give us an example of something this technology has enabled us to discover about the brain?

For example, a belief that is widely accepted around the world is that we only use 10% of our brain. If we do an MRI scan on an individual while they carry out a simple mental task, it´s certain that this brain will show a relatively small amount of activity, but if the individual is required to perform a more complicated task, we will observe that a greater part of the brain will be activated in the brain. This can be proved, for example, if we are reading a Harry Potter book, then surely a large part of the brain will be activated, because when imagination, creativity, and fantasy come in it is shown that a much larger percentage of the brain is used.

How far can the brain reach?

The brain can reach the limits we set for it. What the brain does is conserve energy, by limiting energy use for that which we already know. The brain economizes, but if we ask more sophisticated tasks it will follow orders.

Why is it so widely accepted that only 10% of the brain is used?

Because these were conclusions based on discoveries from several years ago. Science has made many advancements, it´s even possible that tomorrow a study will be published that nullifies everything we have discovered up until now. Nowadays we know that we use the necessary percentage for the task required.

We have also dismantled the idea that each hemisphere works independently of the other.

What has been shown is that one aspect is the channel by which a piece of information enters the brain, and another is the functioning for which this information comes into play. This is very pertinent information for the teacher, in the sense that the more stimulus we require of the students, the more they will be using both hemispheres, resulting in a more effective Education. For example, we could be performing more logical or creative activity, and in this case, the channel from which the information enters the brian would be the left or right respectively. But what we now see is that the other side is also being activated during each of these activities. Therefore, one hemisphere is not an isolated compartment, both hemispheres are very much related to another. A good Education should use both hemispheres at the same time through a more vigorous, stimulating teaching style that uses varied resources.

Do men and women have different brains? Do we have different abilities?

We don’t touch upon gender in our book, but what our latest studies in neurogenesis show us is the great plasticity of the human brain. This plasticity makes it so that those people who lack a predisposition for certain abilities can be worked with to improve their respective strengths. As with everything, one must be careful with one’s beliefs and the Pygmalion effect, as we can see that often we expect something from a child, but in the end achieve the opposite effect.

I suppose that the development of this plasticity has something to do with multiple intelligences.

It’s good to work with the student in those areas where they feel more confident. If a person shows expertise in music, one should use this potential as a launch pad for developing the other areas of the brain. Neuroscience tells us that these eight types of intelligences are not separate, but very much related to one another. The richer the interaction between these sectors, the better the education will be. For this reason it’s important to take into account these strengths, but at the same time to develop the different abilities through the interdisciplinary approach.

What should the teacher keep in mind in respect to neuroscience in terms of improving education for their students?

The teacher should understand that the students are co-responsible for their learning process, and that their unique interests should be taken into account, if the students are asking questions, this will foster the true spirit of Education. If the teacher can awaken their curiosity and their imagination, they will use the larger part of their brains and this Education can be considered far superior.

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