Perspectives

For twenty-five years I have been teaching with and about computers, and they never cease to amaze me. Yes, the technology sometimes has glitches, but the mere fact that computers do what they do at all is quite impressive. Just think of ALL the functions made possible by computing technology. Indeed, this very blog is a perfect example!

Wanting to finally read something by Robert Sylwester, who has been quoted in several of the brain books to which I refer, I recently purchased a used copy of A Celebration of Neurons – An Educator’s Guide to the Human Brain. Sylwester begins by celebrating the human brain via a list of some accomplishments done by “human brains”. Yes, the human brain sometimes has glitches but it is as amazing in its functions as the computer is with its functions. They are surely not the same as entities go, but their complexity and performance are equally amazing.

Sylwester, emeritus professor of education at the University of Oregon, also writes a monthly column published at brainConnection “that explores scientific and technological developments that pose problems and possibilities for educational policy and practice”.

Continuing along the thought lines of computers and brains, Jeff Hawkins, developer of mobile computing systems such as the Palm and Treo, in a recent Ted Talks discusses brain science and computing and makes an interesting case for developing a theory of the brain using memory, sequences, and prediction. “… the human neocortex doesn’t work like a processor; rather, it relies on a memory system that stores and plays back experiences to help us predict, intelligently, what will happen next.” Putting his money where his ideas are, Hawkins is also a founder of the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience.

For another perspective on the brain, sit back and listen to an interview on NPR with Steven Johnson, author of Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life.

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