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The impact of science on learning theory:

Brain science is in a huge growth phase.  That is because we can now view every part of the living brain and even see it while it works.  Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging might be compared to making a movie of the working brain.  With that development, we know a lot about what the brain and its various parts do in various situations.  Because music is an activity that causes the brain to work in unique ways, scientists often use music performance as a target area for their work.  As a result, we know that musicians' brains develop unique characteristics and abilities that do not occur in brains of non-musicians.  Those characteristics include growth and improvement in those brain areas that are also used for reading and math skills.  Furthermore, we have learned that the brain changes developed through music performance activities are permanent and that they can occur throughout life.  That is, the brain is almost infinitely plastic (changeable) in response to the music performance skills that a person of any age acquires.

Only a few years ago, we believed that the brain reached its growth maturity at about the age of ten.  We thought that the development potential of the brain was complete at that point, and that the only additions from there on were cognitive (adding more facts) rather than developmental (adding more brain power).  So the newest scientific work has changed the way we think about the brain and will surely have huge ramifications for education of all varieties.

About RhythmBee:

Using the scientific information described above, RhythmBee became a unique product that looks toward future directions in music education and perhaps education itself.  With the advent of easily produced animation, teachers can place students in an environment that allows them to learn any skill exactly like we learn to walk and talk.  That is, they get to try until they get it right.  What a strategy!  No wonder almost everyone can walk and talk.  The wonderful thing about this process is that those students who "get it" quickly have plenty to do while skill development is soaking deep into the class population.

So how can the slower students continue to get the repetitions they need while the class progresses to more difficult material?  It is very simple.  With the patent pending RhythmBee format, students cannot get lost on even the most difficult material.  That means that the students who need music most get unlimited chances to succeed without being sent out with another teacher or spending hours of outside time in tutoring.  Every student has hundreds - even thousands - of opportunities to see the images at exactly the moment that the class leaders and other successful class members perform them successfully.  Eventually, every student acquires enough repetitions to make the connections and to begin to participate successfully.

In the process of developing successful performance in every student, RhythmBee assumes responsibility for both cognitive and developmental progress.  That is, we build every unit with two ideas in mind.  We want to offer new information and reinforce already learned facts, concepts, and skills.  We also want to guide the brain through activities similar to those that are known to develop unique mental capabilities in performing musicians (see paragraph 1).  In that regard, we are leading the education establishment toward a new method of developing and presenting educational material.

About the Future of Education:

Like all large communities, education - and especially public education - has become a static organization that has an immense vested interest in its current practices.  An example of this unhealthy tie to the status quo is how we serve the immigrant students who have come to our schools in the past decades.  Although volumes of evidence support immersion as the most effective method of teaching a new language and integrating students into a learning environment, the bilingual method continues to be the predominant instructional model to introduce immigrant students to our schools.  Bilingual education is supported by a certain line of logic or learning theory, and many argue that it is the more respectful way to offer education services to non-English speakers.  But it is not even close to the most effective method.  In fact, in many situations, it simply does not work.

Like many educational programs, bilingual education assumes that the brain can be "thought" into improving itself.  The line of logic might go something like this:

An immigrant student becomes frustrated the first day - perhaps even the first week or month - that he is in an American school.  So let's help him feel more comfortable and allow him to learn in his native language while he gets up to speed in English.  He will be grateful for the opportunity to participate in his native tongue, and progress will be consistent throughout his studies, including his study of the English language.  In time, he will transition into a program that uses English exclusively.

The logic is certainly there, and it makes a nice sounding theory.  But the brain does not behave logically.  I would be taking a similar approach if I reasoned with my legs, lungs, and heart that they must get stronger because I have to run a 10K race in three months.  I might reason, wish, and even talk to my legs, lungs, and heart about getting stronger.  I could even threaten, cajole, and ridicule.  But until I introduce vigorous exercise into my plan, my physical body - like all natural organisms - will take the path of least resistance.  It will not stay in its current state, it will atrophy (get weaker).  The brain is no less an organism.  Unless there is strong intrinsic motivation to learn English, the student's brain will avoid the hard work of learning a second language as long as he can get by without it.  Furthermore, his value system will dictate the meaning of "getting by."  For the brain to change, we must put it in a situation which requires more than it can currently do, allowing it to feel the stress of inadequacy - just like a muscle feels the stress of weight that it cannot lift easily.  When the human brain is consistently placed in that situation, it responds to "loading" by creating the capabilites required.

When research concerning the brain's unlimited plasticity seeps into the consciousness of the public education culture, education professionals may (should) begin to assume responsibility for the cerebral development of every student.  The logical development is that we realize that we are not only responsible for filling the bucket, we are also responsible for developing that bucket into a massive tank that can hold huge quantities of information and concepts as it also produces original and creative ideas of its own.  Developing music reading and performance skills may be the best-known way to develop that impressive capacity.