Monday, June 24, 2013

The Three Phases of Genius


I find it amazing just how big computers used to be. Considering all the advances that have occurred, it is even more fascinating to consider just how complex the human brain is. The process by which our brains operate is so elegantly described in the Three Phases of Genius. I just love the way that sounds. In a nutshell, these phases are a simple way for us to look at the needs of our students (and ourselves) in order to help develop the cognitive assets needed to succeed. The best part is that this applies to ALL learners. It doesn't matter if they struggle coping with their special needs (like my littles ones with FASD) or if they are tackling advanced academic challenges...it all works this way.

I learned about this principal during my study of brain based learning in the BrainSMART program of study created by Dr. Marcus Conyers and Dr. Donna Wilson (two of the most brilliant people in the field of applied neuroscience in education). The flow of information, whether through a computer the size of a factory or through our own amazing brain, is broken down into three segments. Having worked with such a variety of children, I have found this principle to be a simple yet insightful way to look at each of the children I serve individually, especially my own children with special needs.

The Three Phases of Genius:

1. Input – Gathering Necessary Information
Just think of the variety of ways that we take in information. There is an old saying about computers and their limitations. Basically it's garbage in, garbage out. If the information we are taking in is flawed, every other domino is unable to fall the way we intend. This goes beyond just our five senses. Consider the following:

  • When directions are given through verbal, audio, or print
  • When you are interacting with someone and it is necessary for you to be able to receive accurate information, stay attentive, and remain engaged
  • When a task has many parts and seems overwhelming, instead of “doable” and we literally feel as if we are overloaded

2. Processing – Understanding Information
So the info got into your noggin...now what? It's not enough to think that once the information is in your head, the hard work is over. Many things come into play. One aspect that I constantly repeat to anyone willing to listen is meaning. The brain works on a save and delete system. If it is important to you, you're far more likely to remember and be able to apply it. If you could care less...well, your brain will flush that away for you momentarily without a second thought...literally! Just think back to when you've been reading something you were very interested in. How enthralled were you? Your brain soaked it up like a sponge! Okay, now try that same trick with a 2,000 page book on the intricacies of the IRS tax code and let me know how you enjoy it. Think about these questions that define processing:

  • Why should I bother learning this?
  • How does what I am learning relate to me and my life?
  • How in the world will I ever be able to use this information?
  • Is this similar in any way to something I already know?
  • How could I explain this to someone else if I had to?


3. Output – Communicating Learned Information
This is where my daughter often struggles. I can see the light in her eyes...she's got a thought that she desperately wants to share, but due to her brain damage the words take such a frustratingly long time for her to form. Communication is a word that seems simple to define, but is actually quite complex. It's not just a matter of talking, writing, singing, dancing (That's right! I tell a STORY with my dance moves...at least I think I do). Some many things go into communication. Consider these facets:

  • Who am I communicating with?
  • Am I communicating with a single individual or a group?
  • How should I explain what I want to share so that they can understand me best?
  • Who has been the role model that I pattern my methods of communication on and has shown me how to best communicate when the situation can be difficult?

There is nothing better, in my estimation as an educator, than to provide others with insight and information that gets them thinking...looking at the same picture in a different way. I hope this simple summary of the Three Phases of Genius will do just that for you, the way it has for me. 

PS: If you ever get the chance to grab pretty much ANY book by Dr. Marcus Conyers or Dr. Donna Wilson, I HIGHLY recommend it! I've had the pleasure of meeting Donna once and hope to someday meet Marcus. They truly are amazing folks with amazing knowledge to share. They have inspired me to do the same in my work with parents.