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While looking at my Device, I was transported to an alternate universe about inventing and transmitting new technology across generations, and reshaping the environment of each generation. In this case, my Device is a “book” I recently received from my daughter. The story of the Device called a book has only been around about a thousand years, along with the reading brain. Yet, now we know so much more about the science of the reading brain that we are more perceptive about how our nervous systems and brains are interacting with media today.

PSA explores in many posts the elements of understanding media today as well as applying the brain research to learning.

In the book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, Alison Gopnik, explains how parents and grandparents should be more like gardeners and less like carpenters in their role as a parent based on the new science of learning. The author describes how children learn traditions from previous generations as well as take it all for granted to pursue their own discoveries.

There is a tension between tradition and innovation resulting in how a parent perceives learning. Adults pass on the discoveries, traditions, skills, and values. Children need a world to re-create and transform the past into values for their time. Children have a large brain and a long childhood and learning abilities that are designed to contribute to invention and mastery of physical tools as well as manipulation of other humans. Children can learn to read with flexible brains since the release of cholinergic transmitters that help us learn is more widespread in the young brain.

Adults learn by planned, deliberate attention since the chemical transmitters are not widespread in the adult brain. The author suggests that deploying attention for children is a messy, free form approach since children are now “digital natives” and will have other ways to “pay attention”. As adults, we will always be challenged to figure out how to use our smart phones or other new media devices.

For example, the author describes the transformative difference in the number of  people we interact with using the web today. To do a Google search, we aggregate information acquired by millions of people. Yet we rely on the psychology designed for aquiring information from a village. The digital natives will pay attention to learning skills to navigate and communicate on the web.

The author is a grandparent, as I am, so I appreciated learning how we now have the ability to see our adult selves in both a long historical perspective and in a more scientific way. In describing our awareness of our ancestors, and other spirits of the past, The author suggests the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as a compelling image of our relationship with our past as we move forward in time and leave our ghosts behind. We try to look back through memory, storytelling, photos, videos and the past seems further behind us. With parenting, the author sees the experience of Orphesus in reverse. Now, we watch our children glide into a future we can never reach or imagine. It is a hopeful story as parents give their children the past and hand them the future.