THE SPATIAL MEMORY SYSTEM AND 'MAP LEARNING'
theme: Education can be upgraded by teaching which is based on the recognition of the power of the brain's spatial memory system for creative learning of content in context i.e. 'map learning'.
TWO TYPES OF LEARNING: IMPLICIT AND EXPLICIT All life experience takes place in the context of a given physical, social and space or 'cultural context'. The brain naturally makes meaning of the events of life or 'learns' in mental space. There are two types of learning - learning which does not require conscious participation - 'reflexive' or 'implicit learning - and learning which requires conscious participation - 'declarative' or 'explicit learning'. Implicit learning which does not require conscious participation involves the learning of skilled movements or 'motor skills'. Implicit learning is studied in various animal reflex systems... expressed through activation of the sensory and motor neurons which are engaged in the learning task. Implicit learning is slow and requires many trials involving the association of sequential stimuli... 'conditioned learning' or 'conditioning'. Conditioning allows for storage of information about predictable events. Adaptation to the non-predictability of life events depends on learning which does require conscious participation involving the creation of concepts for understanding or 'cognition'. Cognition is a function of the brain's innate capacity to make sense of unfamiliar stimuli, a capacity which is necessary for adaptation which depends on the brain's constant monitoring and comparing of present conditions and surroundings with memories of past experience... a function of the 'prefontal lobes'. The prefrontal lobes are the source of the individual's motivation for behavioural adaptation.
COGNITIVE LEARNING FOR ADAPTATION AND SURVIVAL 'Cognitive learning' is quick and requires only one trial involving the association of simultaneous experiences. It is a creative process which is inherently challenging and absorbing because it engages the imagination which is deep involvment of natural inquiry or 'curiosity' derived from the instinct for 'self-preservation'. It is the driving force of motivation which is intrinsic to the organism i.e. intrinsic motivation. Cognitive learning allows for storage of information about a single event. It represents the major vehicle for behavioural adaptation to a continually changing social environment i.e. 'adaptability'. Adaptability is only possible with the retention and retrieval of learning or 'memory'. Memory of cognition or 'cognitive memory' is the basis for human 'awareness' or 'consciousness'.
'MENTAL SPACE' IN COGNITIVE LEARNING: SPATIAL MEMORY SYSTEM AND THE SEARCH FOR MEANING OR 'NATURAL LEARNING' The moment-to-moment events of conscious life are processed or 'remembered' in the 'temporal lobes' of the 'limbic system' - a region of the brain known as the 'hippocampus'. The hippocampus is the location of the brain's 'spatial memory system' which functions in the storage of new memories. The spatial memory system allows for the immediate consolidation of memory of experience. New information is processed and stored in the 'short-term memory'. (Information in the short term memory is stored for ... and then it is transferred to the cerebral cortex where it can be expressed as the cognitive memory - 'long term memory' or 'working memory' - which is required for contemplation or 'thinking' for understanding or 'cognition'). The spatial memory system drives the search for meaning or 'understanding' i.e. 'natural learning'. The power of the spatial memory system is based on its activation by novelty. In a process of 'experiential learning' new information about the environment is processed in the context of previous life experience and in this way is related to knowledge already acquired. New learning patterns are embedded in the old ones producing a perceptual knowledge which provides meaning to the individual's personal world and purpose i.e. 'natural knowledge'. With continued experiential learning for natural knowledge, the spatial memory system is enriched over time.
NATURAL KNOWLEDGE IS BASED ON THE CREATION OF MIND MAPS: 'MIND MAPPING' OR 'MAP LEARNING' The acquisition of natural knowledge involves the creation and testing of interactive relationships in mental space i.e. 'spatial maps'. A spatial map is a pictorial representation of ideas and how they are related to each other i.e. 'mental map' or 'mind map'. In the creation of mind maps the mind focuses on a unifying idea or 'theme'. Themes are the organizers of meaning in the creative process of 'mind mapping' i.e. 'map learning'. Map learning is a creative process which involves the use of unifying themes in order to understand relationships. Memorization or learning as 'conditoning' is utilised as part of the creative process. As a creative process map learning is a source of joy and excitement and allows for intellectual freedom. In the context of freedom the 'mindmapping technique' is a powerful way to stimulate the brain to understand relationships and generate new ideas. Map learning is an efficient and effective use of the brain depends on its harmonious functioning and its potential for engaging a wide range of neurons in different areas. The brain is capable of conceptual thinking with little stress on any specific group of 'nerve cells' or 'neurons'.
TEACHING FOR MAP LEARNING: 'THEMATIC TEACHING' The most effective learning experiences are connected with real life experience which involves the functioning of the hippocampus. Teaching to the hippocampus is teaching for map learning... 'thematic teaching'. Methodologies of thematic teaching teach according are based on the natural function of the brain make meaning or 'learn'... They teach to the brain as a meaning-maker with its own rules for learning based on physiological 'brain functions' i.e. 'brain-based learning'. The brain has the innate capacity to detect patterns and see connections - to construct mental maps - in the context of specific life experience. The importance of content in context is the basis for thematic teaching. Specific content - items, events, concepts, issues, topics, subjects etc. - are studied within the context of organizing themes. New content is presented in its appropriate context... 'embedded' in previously learned experience. Material to be learned is related to material already learned ('embeddedness'). In order to facilitate understanding of different subject areas the boundaries between them are crossed. Learners are encouraged to be actively involved with their own learning. In this way they make efficient use of the brain's natural capacity to make connections.
IMPORTANCE OF APPROPRIATE SOCIALISATION: TEACHER BECOMES A 'FACILITATOR OF LEARNING' Natural learning is enhanced when integrated with social interaction of real life experience. Classroom learning experiences are meaningful when they are connected with real life experience and so provide content in meaningful context... when they are based on the learner's active engagement in communication and collaboration with others... when they utilise methods of cooperative learning and real life activities such as field trips, record taking, problem solving, drama, discussions, projects, talks and presentations. Teaching methodologies are effective when they are based on the practice of person-centered teaching in a growth promoting climate which is emotionally supportive and intellectually challenging... when they aim to orchestrate complex learning experiences or 'lessons' with the appropriate use of 'lesson plans'. Meaningful 'lessons' stimulate learner motivation by facilitating map learning and the understanding of concepts in terms of unifying themes, patterns and connections in a global perception of reality i.e. 'holistic perception'. In this holistic paradigm of education, the teacher's role is defined in terms of the facilitation of learning i.e. 'facilitator of learning'.
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