In The Road to Character, David Brooks encourages developing good behaviors in children because we become what we do. Everything that we do, experience, see, and think changes our brains, either making new connections or reinforcing established connections. The specific techniques of optometric vision therapy to enhance visual function have been shown to make corresponding changes in the brain.
Scanning is used to find an object, a person, or a word. This is usually simple for most adults, but not always (such as men looking into a refrigerator). As is true for many skills that have become automatic, it is easy to overlook the complexity involved and how difficult it is to learn.
Scanning requires sequential eye movements and fixations. It requires visualizing the desired object and maintaining that image while looking at other objects. This is particularly challenging if the other objects are either distracting or similar to the object in question. When this is the case, the load on working memory increases and it becomes more difficult. If we are looking for our sneakers, that is one level of challenge. If we are looking for tomato soup amongst other soups or a phrase on a page, that is very different. It can be like singing one song while listening to another. If the eye movements are random, the fixations too brief, or if the visualized image fades, we will not succeed. Scanning requires sustained vigilance.
The inability to scan efficiently wastes time and is frustrating. The quality of scanning reflects a person’s organization. They are both disciplined, sequential, and require working memory. Academically, scanning is important when we are copying so we can find our place when looking back-and-forth. It is important when finding information, such as answers to a question in a passage that has been read. If a child needs to start to read a passage over, it will be time-consuming and they will inevitably forget what is was that they were looking for. Scanning requires the integration of top-down processing (keeping the image in working memory and filtering everything else that is seen) and bottom-up processing (directing the eyes with a goal-oriented priority). Scanning is one of the skills developed in optometric vision therapy.
After writing his first book which was about the Johnstown flood, David McCullough decided that the stories that he wanted to research and share were about character. His books have shown what is good in people and what can be accomplished especially when people work together, while making sure that we can identify with them by showing that they were also human and, like all of us, had flaws.
He emphasizes that they did not live in the past; they lived in their present. The American Spirit is a selection of his speeches. Because they were spoken and because they were brief, the messages are explicit. The following are some of his words that caused me to stop and ponder. I hope that they have the same effect on you. Continue reading
What it Means to be Alive
By, Brian Christian
This is truly an unusual book written by an author who could be considered a young Renaissance Man or polymath. Brian Christian has a dual degree from Brown University in computer science and philosophy. He also has a MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. Alan Turing stated in 1950, that computers would be thinking one day. The impetus for Christian’s research and the book is the Turing test in which judges are challenged to distinguish who is human and “who” is a computer. An annual competition commenced in 1991, and the computers almost won in 2008. Brian Christian was chosen to be one of the humans competing in 2009. In trying to prepare to prove that he is more human than the computers, his preparation takes him into the area of language and also into the question of what it is that makes us human. The book is informative, insightful, and entertaining. Continue reading
Memory Book by Howard Engel is the most recent of his Benny Cooperman detective novels. In addition to being a good mystery, the protagonist solves the mystery after suffering a head injury which creates alexia sine agraphia, i.e., he can write but he cannot read. The stimulus for Engel writing this book is his own stroke which produced the symptoms of his protagonist and the rehabilitation experience. Continue reading
I have blogged previously about Dyslexia, Fluency, and the Brain which was edited by Maryanne Wolf. She has been a leading researcher on the processes of reading in the brain for decades. I have chosen the following excerpts from this book for their appreciation for how reading develops which provides insights into how reading readiness and reading instruction can be improved…. Continue reading
How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education
Susan Wise Bauer
Susan Wise Bauer is qualified to write about school and education. She is the author of 13 previous books and co-author of another, all on learning and education. She was home-schooled and home-schooled her children. She has practical experience on how educational systems work. If you and your child are struggling within the system, Susan Wise Bauer has practical recommendations to improve the fit between your child and the system. As she states: “Schools exist to serve children, not the other way around.” She also shares recommendations on homeschooling if that is your choice. Continue reading