Transforming Learning | The Learning Code Institute

Metaphor – The Power of Associative Thinking for HomeSchool Learning

“Genes Change Slowly, Your Brain Changes Quickly”

What is one of the fastest ways for you and your children to learn? Through Associations. Understanding associative learning is an important key to unlocking learning, creativity, and memory formation as part of a natural process. Using metaphor is a powerful approach to associative thinking. As a parent in the homeschool learning process, you will discover other powerful tools relating to The Hebbian Learning Rule, simultaneous firing of neurons, and the power of emotions.  Our focus here is on why it is essential to learn concepts before details and how to use it for fast and lasting learning.
Your brain can’t think in isolation. Virtually every mind scientist and philosopher, has examined the role association plays in the learning process. In Cracking the Learning Code we will share detailed scientific research and the results of these studies.

Over the last century a great body of research has clarified how the numerous associations that your brain forms associations in every hour of every day. You’ll discover how associations between diverse brain cells allow you to increase your Individual Adaptability/Intelligence Factor. Associative learning supports accelerated long-term memory, new concept construction, creativity, and metaphor formation. It also forces you to hold onto traumatic memories you’d prefer not to remember, and it is vital to understand how it works. The use of metaphors is a powerful tool in the creation of associative learning.

What Does Metaphor Mean?
Metaphor is an expression used to describes a person, object or situation by referring to something that is different but possessing similar characteristics to that person or object. As we will describe in detail later, metaphors are a very powerful tool for your brain to learn new knowledge by connecting to information you are familiar with.
Why Are Metaphors Used?
In terms of learning, metaphors are an effective way to trigger your brain’s learning code by increasing connections with similar but different information that is already resides in your long-term memory. 
Metaphors – Examples and Meanings

You have likely heard and read many examples of metaphors perhaps without giving a second thought as how or why they are being used. Something as simple as “he was an early bird” delivers a message of getting up at an early hour but clearly has nothing to do with being able to fly. “Life is like a roller coaster” allows us to easily identify with the ups and downs we face even if we have never set foot inside an amusement park. For parents and children, metaphors help us understand and learn new information by creating an association with knowledge that already resides in our long-term memory, this accessing and activating our learning code.

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What is the Frontal Lobe Responsible For?
The important shift from simply adapting our behaviors to fit changing environments to powerfully manipulating our environment to fit us is guided by our more complex prefrontal lobe.

The frontal lobe has been instrumental in human development innovations that include the plow, the city, medicine, the automobile, the computer, the internet, and space travel.

Think about this. Before the development of a prefrontal lobe, humans were learning how to add a chip to sharpen a tool at the incredibly slow rate of one chip every 21,000 years—certainly not an indication of learning society.

Prefrontal lobe function is instrumental in the process of rational thinking and the control of impulsive behaviors.
Launching The Program That Will Forever Transform Homeschool Learning!
The Learning Code Institute is considered the world leader in understanding the scientific bases of how we learn and remember. We are launching the first online program in the world that uses the latest neuroscience to help homeschool parents like you, more effectively and joyfully support your child to learn and remember. It is called, Cracking The Learning Code For Homeschool Parents; How To Use Neuroscience To Have Your Child Love Learning Forever! 
What is The Frontal Load Function?

Prefrontal lobe function is instrumental in the process of rational thinking and the control of impulsive behaviors.

While your whole prefrontal lobe has been identified in the process of emotional marking and refinement, the ventromedial prefrontal area has been singled out for particular attention. Your innate emotional responses are housed in your lower limbic structures, and the mediation of these instinctual emotional responses is controlled by the prefrontal lobe. Better control of your emotional responses are observed to be an important component of wisdom.

Your Brain Seeks Association, Not Isolation synonym 

Your brain—with an excess of 100 billion neurons and 1,500 trillion connections creates the perfect environment for associations to flourish. Try this experiment and share it with your homeschool student(s). It’s a simple and impactful way to make a point. Close your eyes and take fifteen seconds and try visualizing only the nose on your mother’s face. Now take fifteen seconds and try to visualize only the stove in your kitchen. You’ll see that you can’t do it. Why? Because as soon as you try to imagine your mom’s nose, up comes her eyes, cheeks, and chin. And as soon as you try to think of only your stove, up pop the countertops and cupboards that surround it. You just experienced the innate power of association.

There are three primary reasons your brain has difficulty thinking of things in isolation and why it has a tendency to make associations—even when you don’t want it to!

  • Memory isn’t held in a single cell, as the grandmother theory of learning once proposed, but instead in widely distributed groups of interconnected neurons.
  • One neuron in a network that holds a single memory can be part of hundreds, if not thousands of other memory networks.
  • “Neurons that wire together fire together”: This phrase, which we’ll cover in more detail in the book, means that when a neuron that’s part of one memory network is activated, it can automatically fire up other neurons in other memory networks with which it’s been previously linked.
This is why in our example firing neurons in the memory network holding your mother’s nose automatically stimulates neurons in the networks holding the memory of her entire face, and yes – also your feelings about her. In this complex system, each of your 100 billion neurons is directly or indirectly connected to every other neuron in a memory network and automatically fires up neurons in other memory networks. Associations become the rule, not the exception.
Your Concepts of the World are Formed through Association 
To get a picture of how a single concept network is composed of many different associations in your brain, think of something simple like a lemon. It may surprise you to learn that the conceptual memory you hold of a lemon isn’t held in one isolated place in your brain, rather as a survival mechanism (so that damage to one brain area won’t completely destroy memories), the lemon is encoded by association between millions upon millions of neurons, and these are extensively dispersed throughout your brain.

When you think of a lemon, the shape, color, taste and smell associated with it are activated in different parts of your brain. In addition to all of this sensory association, neurons in your prefrontal lobe are processing your emotions about whether you love or hate lemons! Research from Ohio State University found that sniffing lemon improved people’s moods and raised levels of norepinephrine, a brain chemical linked to executive decision-making and motivation. As science writers Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield state that “Every neuronal map, every part of the brain is dynamically… connected with every other, evolving and integrating itself in continuous cross talk.”

The key to concept activation is the simultaneous firing of neurons. Cracking The Learning Code will provide strategies to accomplish this. For now we want you to understand it’s essential that we not only build memories through the simultaneous firing of diverse neural groups; we also access memories the same way.

Simultaneous Firing Creates Associations
The “Hebbian Learning Rule” defines the result of scientific research determining that associative learning can be created only when large groups of neural networks are fired at the same time – that associations are made, learning is created, and memory is cemented when large groups of neurons fire simultaneously in your brain. When neurons fire in unison, memory is heightened because the possibility is increased than a single neuron will be stimulated at more than one location on its dendrite branches. In other words, the memory process commences when a receiving neuron is provoked by other neurons at more than one location. When a neuron is stimulated in this manner, it leads to the neurochemical–genetic conditions that produce long-term memory.
The Hebbian Learning Rule, one of the most important findings in the field of learning neuroscience, is often described as “neurons that wire together fire together or, neurons that fire together wire together”.
This important concept provides an understanding of how new memories can be easily formed by the corresponding firing of concept networks that haven’t been previously linked. Previously independent or weakly connected concept networks that are fired at the same time will be linked in the phase sequence. This is how a child learns to fear bees. When stung, his/her pain, fear, and bee networks all fire concurrently.
This is the foundation of the conditioned response, which has fascinated behaviorists for many years. “Pavlov’s dogs” learned to salivate at something that had no food value— the ringing of a bell. He caused the dogs’ previously unconnected neural networks for bells and food to fire at the same time. Once linked by simultaneous firing, every time Pavlov rang a bell, his dogs would salivate. Without realizing it, Pavlov confirmed the modern neuroscientific maxim, “neurons that fire together wire together”.
Metaphor: A Key to Accelerating Learning
The simultaneous firing of previously unconnected concept networks is how your mind creates and understands metaphors. So the use of metaphors is a powerful tool in the use of Associative Thinking. The word comes from the Greek word metapherien, which means “to transfer,” and that’s what metaphoric teaching accomplishes. Metaphors, analogies, similes, and parables are some of the most powerful tools to transfer knowledge to someone else. Learning is accelerated by allowing your brain to assemble various concept networks and connect them under one new banner.
Metaphors and similes have interested great thinkers for hundreds of years. The ability to create metaphors was seen as the mark of a genius. Great spiritual teachers such as Buddha (“I shall show you how the Dhamma is similar to a raft”), and Jesus (“I am the bread of life”) used metaphors and similes in their teachings to speed up understanding among their disciples.  In his book The Cerebral Code, neuroscientist William Calvin states that metaphoric teaching accelerates the association of information between diverse neural groups.
For example, to teach the Bohr Model of atomic structure to someone who understands the concept of the solar system, you can use metaphoric teaching to explain the nucleus of the atom is like the sun at the center, with the electrons like the planets orbiting it. This metaphor simultaneously fires up pre-existing networks that include concepts for mass, center, orbit, and attraction. The learner’s brain then can naturally and effortlessly attach the new details of atoms to these existing networks previously held for the solar system. For those who are engaged in homeschooling, this strategy is powerfully effective in teaching your children new information.
Association can forever alter the view we hold of a concept. Many believe that alcoholism was a choice of freewill. When exposed to information that made the analogy between alcoholism and disease, pointing out that, a tremendous shift takes place. (Search YouTube to see “Cracking the Addiction Code” an update on this disease model). Once a person is able to shed their prejudiced thought association, much better solutions to obtain the help needed become apparent. The piggyback effect of metaphoric teaching is so powerful that Howard Gardner once considered making metaphoric capacity one of his multiple intelligences (see Chapter 10 of Cracking the Learning Code).
Teaching with an emphasis on metaphor has produced extremely positive results. A school program in Lawrence, Massachusetts, implemented metaphoric thinking and teaching programs. One year after the program started, first graders showed a 363 percent increase in knowledge of letters and sounds, a 286 percent increase in oral comprehension, and a 1,038 percent increase in word reading.
Metaphors provide pre-established sets of relationships and positive emotional experiences with rich sensory memories in which new knowledge can be embedded. They become a powerful vehicle to engage all the systems of the brain/mind.
Teaching with an emphasis on metaphor has produced extremely positive results. A school program in Lawrence, Massachusetts, implemented metaphoric thinking and teaching programs. One year after the program started, first graders showed a 363 percent increase in knowledge of letters and sounds, a 286 percent increase in oral comprehension, and a 1,038 percent increase in word reading.
The Waldorf Schools are perhaps the only educational system that incorporates metaphoric teaching as an integral part of its curriculum. Metaphors are used to enrich the teaching of the alphabet by attaching a parable to each letter, which in turn, helps connect each symbol to the next, forming a profoundly rich basis of symbolic language in the mind of the young first grader. They bring the alphabet to life by telling a story where M is for the mountains the P (for prince) has to climb.
There’s anecdotal evidence that this form of teaching translates to a more lavish writing style in the middle grades, high school, and college. For parents participating in homeschooling, metaphors are one of the most powerful tools available to transform the effectiveness, joy and satisfaction of learning for both parents and their children.

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