In an intriguing blog post titled Wired to Read, that summarizes scientific research relating to the brain function and literacy, Peter Wood notes that the scientific research has revealed intriguing evidence that individuals ability to read comes at the cost of other brain functions. According to Wood, the research, based on a comparison of the brains of individuals who learned to read as children, as adults and not at all, revealed differences in brain function among them. Wood, an anthropologist, posits that this means that some brain functions are sacrificed so that others can work better.
I’m not a scientist, so I cannot speak directly to the validity of the view, but I can use anecdotes from my own life as examples that confirm Wood’s unconfirmed speculation. I love to read and read a lot. My husband doesn’t. My husband and I both love music. However, my husband’s musical skill and talent; his ability to hear music and replicate that music with his voice and/or with musical instruments is far surpasses mine.
My own experience also supports Wood’s hypothesis that other skills may be weaker because of the emphasis on, for example, literacy. I am one of the most unobservant people my husband has ever encountered. We’ll walk or drive somewhere and I will be completely oblivious to something that my husband sees as so obvious. I tell him I’m the typical “absent minded professor” but he is unconvinced-he can’t understand why I can’t see something that is so obvious [to him]. And he says, on occasion, “I don’t understand how you can study law, but you can’t see ….[something that is in front of my face]. I laugh, because I don’t understand it either. Now, though I can tell him that it’s because my brain is wired differently.
What implication does that have for teaching and learning? I don’t know yet; I haven’t thought about it sufficiently. It does confirm that application of Universal Design for Learning principles is a useful way to develop learning activities.