Friday, February 1, 2013

How Imagination Changes the Brain

I was reading Mental Floss the other day and I came across this article:

Is it possible to get better at playing the piano by simply thinking about playing the piano? Oddly, the answer is yes. (Now, it's better in the long run to actually play the piano -- and that "thinking" activity must be very focused and directed -- but still, that's crazy, right?) It turns out that this phenomenon is actually quite common: by exercising the brain, humans can improve coordination skills (and even strength) in physical tasks.
This actually happened to me when I was learning to type. When I was a pre-teen, I got a job as a typist, transcribing printed magazine articles into text format for posting on a CompuServe bulletin board. Now, I'd had lessons on typing for years in school by that point -- but it never really stuck, and I remained a rapid hunt-and-peck typist, not very sure of where the keys were or how to type quickly. When I had to type page after page of text in, I was suddenly motivated to get better at the task. I began to imagine the keyboard at all times -- when I'd "speak" a thought in my mind, I'd imagine the feeling of typing it. I would not allow myself to think-speak faster than I could t-y-p-e t-h-e l-e-t-t-e-r-s o-n a k-e-y-b-o-a-r-d in my mind. (I was a weird kid, yes.) While this is arguably a little nutty and compulsive, it worked -- I got better at typing largely by thinking about typing.
If you can spare two minutes, check out this video discussing a few good examples of this phenomenon. And if you've experienced something similar to my in-brain typing tutoring, let me know in the comments!

--brought to you by mental_floss! 

I thought this might be an interesting video to show my students. I feel as if imagination has been put on the back burner with all the new technology our kids have access to. 

Whenever we read a new story/novel the kids ask if it is a movie. They want to see it acted out for them because they can't use their imaginations to visualize the words that were presented to them. 

When I do artistic activities in class the students always ask me to show them a picture of this or that so they can copy/trace it rather than imagine their own images. 

Cheating has run rampant the last few years because they all want to copy one another rather than have original thoughts. 

Essays and descriptive writing have been going downhill as well because of this lack of imagination. 

 I talk to them all the time about the importance of imagination and how much fun it can be!

Now I can show them that using your imagination can be scientifically proven to help you improve. 

I have a lot of after school sport players so maybe I can also tie in the idea that coaches always tell them to visualize their games before they play and the same can be done with studying/assignments/quizzes!

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