Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Uncharted Neurology of Writing

Presentation Slides for the 2019 CTLT Teaching and Learning Symposium.


 In neurology, imaging studies have shown specific locations in the brain associated with creativity, word recall, and the physical act of placing symbols upon the page. With these insights, we could theoretically come up with ways to better “coach” the brain to maximize student writing abilities. Neurologically speaking, variations in access to the digital world “wire” our students in different ways, and these differences may both enhance and limit their abilities to convey thinking through writing. But if we draw too heavily from neurology, there is an inherent ethical risk of imposing unfounded biological assumptions about the “normal” brain upon the unique skills and personalities of individual students.

In this presentation, I will discuss recovering from a wrist injury in Afghanistan, and how the physical limitations of that injury affected not only my ability to place words on the page, but the capacity to express thoughts. From there, I’ll look at the ways in which emotional investments have further affected my capacities to process and compose ideas. I will contemplate how my experiences may apply to our students, particularly in light of contemporary concerns surrounding “digital natives,” trigger warnings, and disability studies.

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