Thursday, November 29, 2007

Necessity of attachment

This is video for early childhood workers but covers some of the points in the previous posts quite well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More on brainwaves and human development

Following on from my previous posting Brainwaves and human development.
This is an excellent article Grey Matters from a seminar by Sir David Winkley which covers the points made here and much more.
I will now discuss this further and identify how this might influence my practice.

Babies are born with some pre-existing neurological connections, which expand rapidly through interaction with people and the environment. Babies are born with the ability to see at a distance from the mothers breast to her face. Nathan suggested this proves that the infant is born with the need to interact with others. He said that 30% of neurological development occurs through independent learning and the other 70% is through interaction with people. Babies are born with an affinity for the human face. They are drawn to face shapes and even have a preference to look and two circles representing eyes.

Learning occurs with the development of neurological pathways and myelination of these pathways. This process is enabled in the presence of endorphins and is disabled by the presence of cortisol. There are several things which promote an endorphin response. Anything which makes the child happy will promote endorphins, certain types of food, notably breastmilk produce an endorphin response. Singing, holding, massage etc promote this type of response. In addition to establish a neurological pathway the item being learned needs to be repeated at least 90 times. If a cortisol response is experienced during learning the connection will be destroyed and the pathway has to be developed again from the beginning.

Cortisol response is produced by stress. Not meeting the needs of the child creates a stress response and therefore reduces the child's ability to learn. Leaving a child to cry will create this type of response.

Photo Asleep in the sling
Babies need to be close to their parents, early sensitive and responsive care promotes future language development as described in this article and in this posting . There are critical periods which have been identified for different aspects of human development. attachment and bonding are important in children under one year. Children who do not have their needs met in this time will have more difficulty in forming warm and loving relationships.

Photo: Maya wrap baby sling.

Nathan pointed out that we can still learn some things later however they will be learned in a different way and are not naturally acquired skills. He likened this to learning another language later in life, no matter how fluent the language is always spoken with a foreign accent, unlike native speakers.

If exposure is not provided within the critical period neurological pathways can not be developed . For example a child might be born with congenital cataracts. If this is recognised and surgery is performed within the critical period of around 3 months the child will develop normal sight. If this does not happen until later the child will be permanently blind as the neurological pathways have not been developed during the critical period.

The body always has some endorphins and some cortisols in circulation. It is the balance of these that is important. If a child is learning something and is scolded, this may be enough raise the cortisol level and destroy the learning connections being developed. Rather than correcting the child it is better to model the correct way of doing the skill, as it is through repetition and modeling that new skills are learned.

Photo: Breast is best

I is also difficult to 'unlearn' an established behaviour. If an adult is quiting smoking the learned behaviour of smoking is very strong. They may have been progressing well and developing new neurological pathways for this new non smoking behaviour. If they then have one cigarette all the new pathways are destroyed and the previous smoker pathways are immediately reinforced. This illustrates the difficulty of overwriting previous learned behaviour.

Lessons from this for me as a midwife are;
*More evidence about the importance and benefits of breast feeding.
*Babies need to have their needs met.
*Leaving a baby to cry is not teaching it anything, rather it is impairing learning.
*We all learn best when we have more endorphins circulating in our circulation.
*In the classroom promoting a happy and jovial atmosphere will facilitate the learning experience.
*For adults things that promote endorphins are, exercise, music and laughter amongst other things.
*Modeling the correct way to do things will result in better learning than correcting errors.
*We all need opportunities to repeat new skills many times before we reach the "Ah ha" moment when all the connections are made and we finally have the skill fixed in our learned experience.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Brainwaves and human development

Today I attended an interesting lecture presented by Nathan Mikaere-Wallis. Nathan was presenting the latest information from the Brainwave trust. The information in this presentation was relevant to my role as a midwife and supporting women with parenting skills. It also is relevant to my role a midwifery lecturer and finally it has potential to influence my own personal learning. Following is my interpretation of the important points I remember.(I have tried several times to embed video in this post but it continually messes up the format of my entire blog. I have tried everything I can think of to overcome this but nothing worked. If anyone has any idea why this is happening can you please leave me a comment to let me know, thanks).

Since the 1990s knowledge of brain activity has grown in leaps and bounds due to the ability to identify brain activity while undertaking tasks with the use of technology. This has confirmed some beliefs about brain development and caused revaluation of other beliefs.

The brain stem controls reflexive needs such as breathing and heart rate. The cerebellum controls functions associated with movement, however it appears that the cerebellum my have more association with higher brain activity than had previously been thought. As humans we share three basic needs with other mammals.These are the need for survival, to procreate and to care for our young. these basic instincts are controlled in the Limbic system.

Human babies are born with some neurological pathways already in place, however many fewer than is the case for other mammals. This allows us to develop pathways after birth and adapt to our environment.

This occurs in response to a stimulus where branches reach out to each other and connections, or synapses occur.

Over the first three years of life these neurological pathways are established. Connections are made in response to stimuli. For these to become established the stimulus needs to be repeated about 90 times. Each time it is repeated the connection is strengthened with a layer of myelin sheath, an fatty insulating layer. One of the functions of breastmilk is to provide this the necessary omega fatty acids for this sheath. The stronger the sheath the stronger the connection.

Connections are created in the presence of Endorphins .
If the connections are being made and there is stress or fright Cortisol is produced. This produces the flight or fight response and causes any neural connections being made at the time to be destroyed to allow the individuals survival mechanism to kick in. Destruction of the myelin causes destruction of the neural connection.

Once a child is three year old she has the most neurological connections she will ever have. At that time the brain starts to select the connections which are being used to their potential and the others are lost.

The cerebral cortex is the centre of reasoning but this does not reach its maximum capacity until around 26 years (hence the risk taking behaviour of youth).

I have more to write on this but it is late. I am tired, I will add more or might edit this tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Learning communities online.

This post is in response to a blogpost by Sarah Stewart. We have recently been investigating how to use online resources to provide students with a sense of connection and a sense of being a learning community. I think this is what the facilitating online learning communities course we have been working on is all about really. Learning is definitely enhanced through community interaction and I think face to face will always be optimal,how can we help people feel that sense of connection and shared learning when they cannot physically be together in the same space. Do you think we have that sense of community in our facilitating online course? I think it has happened to a degree, but perhaps the sense of a learning community might be greater when the learning goals are also shared to a greater extent. Our course participants have come form a variety of practice areas representing a variety of professional groups and have been participating in the course for a variety of reasons, so perhaps it is quite astonishing that we have managed to achieve a sense of community at all. When we are working with distance students who are working together to learn specific skills towards a shared learning goal perhaps there will be a greater opportunity to develop an online sense of community. I wonder what others feel about this?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Teaching or facilitating learning

Regarding facilitation and teaching. I am still trying to get my head around this topic . I have written the following to clarify for myself what my thoughts are. I would love some comments if anyone feels they have anything to add or any comments they would like to make.

I am working with adult learners. Women enter the Bachelor of Midwifery program with a variety of life experiences and most have some prior knowledge of what it means to be a midwife. Some have personal lived experience of their own or close friends or families birthing experiences. So we are not starting with a blank slate but building on previous knowledge and experience.

As with most professions knowledge in midwifery is constantly changing and growing. Some things we 'knew' in the recent past we now know not to be the case. Midwives cannot learn all that there is to being a midwife and then stand still. Learning is continuous, developing new skills, further developing skills which have been gained previously or identifying new evidence for practice decisions. I believe our greatest role is to stimulate curiosity, and provide students with the ability to continue their learning journey as professionals in the field. Students learn through inquiry and investigation, not through lecturers delivering material or being repositories of knowledge. If lecturers have all the answers, where do you go when this knowledge font is no longer there? I believe that this is the skill of facilitation, supporting and guiding others through a learning experience while making sure they have access to the necessary resources to accomplish their task. My thoughts on what can be learned in this way are changing all the time.

We have just completed our first year integration week where students work together in groups, researching material around a clinical scenario and then presenting this to the class at the end of the week. As lecturers we facilitate their learning through this process, meeting with them each day, offering suggestions for material they might want to check, making sure they keep focussed on the necessary aspects of the task. The learning that occurs during this week is enormous. Much greater than all the lectures I could deliver. I wonder how much more could be achieved if more of our course content was delivered in this way.

Having said that there are some things that just have to be taught, students will not learn the correct technique for taking a blood pressure, dressing a wound, maneuvers for assisting with a birth if they are not taught how to do so. Or am I wrong, could they also learn this through facilitated group work? As with my students, I am on life's learning journey and my thoughts on these matters are constantly changing. I think the really important thing is that we reflect on what we are doing, evaluate it and gather evidence on the effectiveness of our facilitation or teaching. We will then have some basis to state that something works or does not work and identify what produces the best outcomes for those with whom we are working.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Midirs webinar

I just checked out the midirs webinars. Midirs is a UK published midwifery digest. I have not manage to get the webinar software working properly yet however i was able to open a presentation in real player which was pretty good. I am surprised I have not been to this before as it is totally free and some interesting topics have been discussed including tongue tie, writing for publication, normal newborn behaviour etc.

It is really exciting to see this type of resource available for midwives I found the tongue tie presentation very interesting. I have not found it particularly easy to get the software loaded on my computer to view these properly and, until I do I will not be able to participate in a live webinar, however it was very easy to view the slides and auditory recording in real player.

My confidence in trying out these things has grown enormously with all the learning I have been doing recently. I would highly recommend these to any midwives who are reading this blog. I do think that the elluminate software is a bit easier to work with and also has more options for presenting accompanying material, but this may just be my beginning familiarity with elluminate.

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