Monday, 11 April 2011

The Subtleties of Human Interaction

When I lived in Fiji my house girl would often baffle me. When I asked if she would like a cup of tea she would reply, "Vinaka".
Vinaka means both yes thank you and no thank you. Nancy explained that it was the manner in which you said vinaka that indicated what you meant. After three years I could still not pick the difference and Nancy had no doubt drank enough tea to last her a lifetime.
The subtleties of body language and facial expression is something we learn over time from face to face interaction with real people. It is widely believed and backed up by current research that if you don't use neural pathways you lose them. Teenagers need to spend face to face time with real people to develop an understanding of the emotional experiences of others. They need to be able to understand and share the feelings of another. This takes practice and can not be learnt without real interactions with real people, in real settings. Constant use of digital devices for entertainment and communication threatens to weaken the neural pathways and development of areas of the brain that recent brain research shows are set down during childhood and the teenage years. Areas and pathways that relate to social and reasoning abilities.
I never developed the correct neural pathways to identify the difference between vinaka and vinaka and as a result Nancy drank far too much tea. One hopes that we do not fail in allowing our students of today to develop an understand of the subtilise of another. Such a failure could have devastating results if those students become the negotiators of the future.
So what does this mean to the school of today. Consider ensuring students have time to learn together from each other. Break times need to be a time to tool down and learn to interact with real people. Don't close the computer labs where students have to share and interact but do put away students' personal devices.
The one to one computer environment needs to be mixed with a one to one people environment.

Read the following books to find out more about current brain research:
iBrain - Small and Vorgan
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, - John J. Medina
iPhone App: 3D Brain

1 comment:

  1. I find that this also takes a toll in the work place. I work in a building with about 30-40 other staff members. I can spend an entire day working with someone upstairs without actually talking to them let alone having face time with them. We live in a world that is dominated by email and forget that the person that you are emailing is sitting in the office next to you. By way of getting work done it is not practical to go upstairs everytime you need to talk to someone however sometimes it wouldn't hurt. The relationships that are built in work places now are allot less personal and I believe that this is partially caused by the ability to go an entire day without stepping out of your office.