Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina
Brain Rule #3 Every brain is wired differently.
Medina begins his discussion on Rule # 3 using the example of an excellent basketball player who tried and failed at baseball and then returned to basketball to revive an excellent career. While Michael Jordan demonstrated how specific athletic ability could be, Ken Griffey Jr. made records as a home run king and outfielder.
Dr. Medina goes on to use a fried egg to describe the nucleus of brain cells and DNA. In our tiny neurons much genetic material differentiates individuals. Some studies have identified specific brain cells activating as photos of famous people are shown to the individuals. Brain mapping has revolutionized our understanding of how the brain works. Though Medina does not mention the need for a Designer he does marvel at the design. Again, I am reminded that we “are fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139)
In the 18th century, studies by Italian scientist, Vincenzo Malacarne, demonstrated that brains of birds that had learned complex tricks “had more extensive folding patterns in specific regions of their brains than his untrained brains (of birds).” (p. 57-58) Later, Eric Kandel’s work gave us much more of an understanding of how we learn on a cellular level, sharing the Nobel Prize in 2000 (p. 56-57). We understand now that our brain acts like a muscle and we develop it by learning. Newborns have about as many neural connections as adults; however in specific areas the number doubles or triples. Later, many of the connections are pruned and the process repeats at puberty.
Psychologist, author and educator, Howard Gardner, developed the Multiple Intelligences model of learning styles. He has identified 7-9 ways of how people differ in the learning process. This model is hotly debated within the educational community. Whether we take it to the extent that many of his followers have or not, he did help us think about how we learn and that people are different. Brain mapping has demonstrated, Medina explains, that bilingual individuals store the two languages in different parts of the brain. However, other authors indicate that if a child learns multiple languages early on, that the different languages are stored in the same place by overlapping.
John Medina offers his concerns regarding our school system:
1) Schools structure the learning environment with the expectation that children of the same age learn in the same way and at the same pace.
2) Difference in the students’ ability and learning styles “profoundly influence classroom performance.” P. 67
He goes on to suggest “smaller class sizes” and “customized instruction” which are hardly new ideas but, in many cases, will never exist in our current schools because of budget and staffing concerns. As an individual who has the privilege of working with homeschoolers, I see that these goals do exist in many homeschool settings.
Final thoughts: “
- “What you do and learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like – it literally rewires it.“
- “The various regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people.”
- “No two people’s brains store the same information in the same way in the same place.”
- “We have a great number of ways of being intelligent, many of which don’t show up on IQ tests.” P. 70