Thursday, November 15, 2007

Remembering to Learn and Learning to Remember (Dr. Mel Levine)

I'm currently reading two books by author Dr. Mel Levine (well, it's actually more like 4 by various authors. I can't seem to do one thing at a time). I was introduced to his work by a former supervisor where I taught school to deaf kids. I still stay in contact with many of my co-workers and get helpful information about different areas of interest.

Most of the research I've done or the information I have been given has been one-dimensional. It's either from a doctor's point of view or an educator's point of view. Both pieces are very important, but I have learned so much in the few chapters I've read so far. Dr. Levine is a learning expert and also a pediatrician. So he's coming at the topic from two angles. In his book "A Mind at a Time" he discusses different learning patterns in children and how the current public school system still holds to the one-size-fits-all philosophy. In many of the children whose stories he shares, I can see my own son. I've never been able to pinpoint exactly how his mind works. In all the testing that's been done or the diagnoses we've received, I always felt like we didn't have a full circle view of his learning patterns.

One of Holland's main learning issues is his working memory. This is explained beautifully by Dr. Levine: "Active working memory accomplishes four specific duties: 1- providing mind space for the combining or developing of ideas; 2-offering a mechanism for holding together the parts of a task while engaged in that task; 3- making available a meeting place where short-term memory can get together with long-term memory; and 4- serving as a place to hold multiple immediate plans and intentions." So it's easy to see why kids with working memory difficulties cannot complete a task while holding on to additional information. It's like asking Holland to retrieve something upstairs, but on the way, his attention is diverted by the toy in the hall. Suddenly, he's consumed with playing with that toy and he forgets the original goal. This is very useful information to have - I rarely give him more than one job to complete.

Many kids probably look like they are day-dreaming when they are actually trying to retrieve information and holding on to what the teacher just said. It explains why Holland has difficulty reading and writing. He cannot string sounds together because that involves storing that first sound while reading the remaining sounds. It's incredible to think that any of us can complete a task when you imagine all the parts of our brains that are engaged. Another issue related to working memory is sequential processing. There is a never-ending requirement for sequences in short-term memory everyday.

I'm so blessed that I have people around me who are supportive and share information that I can apply to my own situation. So now, I'm passing on what I've learned to you! And hopefully you can use some of the bits of wisdom here and continue on your own information-gathering journey. Check out the books listed in my educational links.

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