Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Can Puppetry With Musical Choral Speech Serve as a Tool to Enhance Memory and Intelligence?"

Today, there are many brain exercise programs, and most expect the client to have the motivation and interest to stay with a new, often tedious program. Many are random exercises without a specific goal in mind, and are no more than mere visual memory improvement of some sort. The various types of memory are not completely pre tested or delineated, and if they do, they are with the pretests primarily visual in nature and deliberately made difficult so the applicant performs poorly.

What is obviously missing from this paradigm is the crucial "listening-auditory memory" facet. Researchers have long written that auditory memory must couple with visual memory for comprehension to ensue. But how to teach auditory memory and the various subcategories of it?

My program has always used recognized nationally standardized cognitive skills tests. We did pretests and posttests to see and compare the improvement after twenty-four hours of intensive cognitive skills brain-skill practice. The results always showed improvement, and yet, every person's profile was different; pre- to posttest. That was most interesting to me and the client, and remains to be so, even today.

None of us have perfect profiles, although we would like to think that we do have them.

To teach rapid auditory-visual memory, and to make the training palatable and exciting, we used a family of ventriloquist puppets, speaking in tonal sequences.

Puppet characters have the following qualities: 1) they offer a non-threatening, stress free presence. The student remains in an abstract "one-up" position. Puppets do not challenge or intimidate you.

2) Their messages are rapidly understood. For example, they are used in political cartoons and comic strips.

3) With the recent surge of ventriloquist puppets as entertainment (America's Got Talent), they are now, and have been accepted for a long time, as a sophisticated arts medium for adults (remember Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy? and puppetry in the Czech Republic and India?).

Now, we can learn from them, too. They can improve our cognitive skills, which include visual and auditory memories. And, if puppet characters do give us "guff," we really do not mind!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jan on: Those Who Have Improved Intelligence

Can Intelligence Be Improved?

Many eminent psychologists and brain scientists have worked on improving intelligence - making people smarter, and success was obtained! Even teacher practitioners, like myself, have created effective applications, with much effort, of course. 

Most research conducted through university research institutions find that with constant rotating doctoral staffs, and difficulty in obtaining longitudinal measurement in schools that can not always furnish this important data tracking, discover creating intelligence enhancement programs is a difficult undertaking. This, coupled with the 1997 federal privacy act of students’ records, plus checking with each individual student for annual outcomes, makes continual monitoring difficult, if not impossible.

Additionally, learning institutions of higher education are focused on their own system capacity building by creating a long series of research with their applications. Therefore, faced with disconnects, they can lack the capability of developing innovations of raising cognitive intelligence, and taking a new system to the marketplace. 

Robert Sternberg, formerly of Yale University, now Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, has long given technical discourse about raising intelligence in the classroom. Howard Gardner, Harvard University, offered a directed design of “Seven Intelligences” modules for classroom application. 

The University of Kansas, my alma mater, and number one school internationally for learning disabilities, offers a series of learning strategies for secondary school students. The success of these strategies requires the student’s selective application, which can not always be determined or measured. All of these intelligence building programs, which are comprised of study skills, are most beneficial, but unfortunately give just measured steps toward desired elevated and permanent intellectual change. 

However, in 1965, J. P. Guilford, professor of psychology at the University of South California (USC), and then president of The American Psychological Association, (APA) defined an intelligence cube, or model, of 128 components, which evolved into a program that did increase intelligence successfully. 

His doctoral student, Mary Meeker, applied it to a workable program in 1967 called “Bridges Learning.” It operated successfully in many school districts until recently, when Bob and Mary Meeker passed away. Their problem, however, was not only the cumbersome teacher training and lengthy teaching aspects, but the testing, evaluation, and tracking; as they used Meeker’s own designed set of assessments, which were not nationally standardized. But,there was success in this construct. Children's intellectual abilities improved. 

Based upon the Guilford Intelligence Model, but not interested in applying Meeker’s lengthy, labor-intensive applications, in 1981, I created a creative cognitive skills training program which included the fine arts of prosody, rhythm and music using filmed, media-driven historical vaudevillian puppets. It became Edutainment for the classroom, called "The Bridge To Achievement." 

Twelve national locations served as initial test sites, featuring a short 15-day, 1 ½ hrs per day, small group intervention, (based upon age and pre-tested cognitive ability levels). It consisted of 24 hours of intensive media based verbal repetition, called "The Bridge To Achievement." (The BTA) This time format was based on the earlier 1960s findings of biophysicist, Marian Diamond, University of California - Berkeley, who revealed that brain dendrites in rats could be developed in just 24 hours of treatment. 

The bottom line is longitudinal practice and research development success over time. Any program should be researh-based with years of field testing and publications. That is why it takes twenty-five or more years to realize whether any particular system really works and how effective it is in the long run. Long-term outcomes become overly evident. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jan's Insight

Commentary: "Rewiring the Under-wired Brain - Avoiding Constant Problems and Corrections" 

The other day, our electrician came over to rewire the under-wired aluminum wiring needed for our new stove. The wiring, installed years ago, should have been copper. At that time, the builder was cutting corners to save money, and it is a miracle our house has not burned down. 

Visiting with the electrician, I commented that "I rewired brains." Of course, he thought that comment very strange. How can anyone do that? And, why would you want to? Staying average seems just fine. 

I continued, "in order to know what the person's shortcomings are, I have to do in-depth diagnostics and evaluations. Do you do that?" He replied, "No, I can tell by just looking at a bunch of tangled wires what is wrong, and what to do to correct the problem." 

With his years of experience, like mine, I secretly envied that he did not have to do extensive diagnostics like I have to do. He simply looks and repairs. 

Unfortunately, there are many brain-building programs on the market place that "just guess, and give cognitive skills deficiencies a "general try, or remedy." They sell training lessons that are merely random, hit and miss exercise, and not programmed to correct a particular deficiency. 

They promise -- "these exercises or training will keep you sharp and improve your memory." The inference is: you have the abilities, just keep them. My question is, what if you were born with undetected, unidentified deficiencies in the first place? You can not correct memory and thinking skills randomly. It would be like taking a car in with a flat tire, having the oil changed, and then expect the tire to be repaired. An incorrect solution was applied. 

The electrician was proved wrong. When the installers came out to install our new stove, he had selected the wrong adapter for the wires. The three installers stood in our kitchen patiently waiting for forty-five minutes, while the frantic electrician returned after picking up a replacement part at a moment's notice, and worked feverishly to correct his error. The afternoon had been ruined for several people, with several other jobs delayed, because of incomplete and incorrect diagnostics. 

I receive many queries from those needing memory and thinking adjustments. They hope they will "qualify" with the ADHD label, and then can solve their problems by taking a stimulant pill. Even though this solution will cost them between $60 and $160 a month (depending upon insurance back-up) this "quick-fix" attempt is like a poor rewiring of the stove. 

You simply end up the same problem. You have lost both time and money. There are no short-cuts around skillful diagnostics and evaluations to find out what the problem is and what solution is required. And, whether the training will work in the long run.