Part 3: Integration
You’re motivated. You’ve immersed yourself in content in different forms. Now you’re approaching the upper threshold of your cognitive load. You can’t cram any more new information in until you find a way to organize the information you’ve been ingesting. Now you need to digest and synthesize, according to Gilman.
Before you can finish with the last few pieces of this learning puzzle, you must make sense of the pieces you’ve already turned over and begun to put together. Your brain needs to make associations with the absorbed information and what you already know. In some cases, you will need to find new places for the information to exist, or assimilate it. These connections and compartmentalizations can most easily happen if your brain is not fully focused on all of the information you’ve been taking in until now. That is the source of the overload. Less cognitively stressing activities will help to free and relax your mind and help it make associations where it may not have originally looked. General exercise, like going for a walk, or experiencing something new can trigger associations and connections in your mind.
As the process of association progresses, you begin to ask questions about the final pieces of the puzzle you know are missing in a continued effort to understand the concept/problem as a whole. According to Gilman, this is a subtle transition from right-brained to left-brained activity. The results of the shift, such as asking questions and organizing the information even more rigorously, are more important, I think, than the concept of which half of the brain you use. While there is some credibility to each half of the brain having certain cognitive characteristics, that may be all they are. You can find out more about the left and right brain and their use in the classroom here. For some perspective on the lack of scientific validity held by the concept of left-brained versus right-brained people, read this article from Psychology Today.
In all of this, you must still be sufficiently motivated to step outside of the flood of information and let your mind wander. You must be motivated to continue once you’ve made connections. It isn’t enough for students to read books, watch videos, and check online sources. They must make connections between that material and what they already know. Without the associations, the information will fall by the wayside and become a footnote in their learning. How can we make sure they are integrating the information into their thinking and understanding? DISCUSSION. I apologize for the caps, but I believe they are needed here. Students acting as silos of information will become overwhelmed and lose motivation. They will stop because it is too much to handle. They will need others — students and teachers — for asking a questions and to be sound boards for their ideas. Discussions will have to happen. Relying on just your ideas and thinking will only get you so far. Even Albert Einstein created The Olympia Academy to discuss ideas with fellow scientists leading up to his great theories. If Einstein needed it, then we certainly do! We all need to discuss issues. Turn on the faucet and let the ideas flow and the connections begin. As they do, we’ll be more prepared for the next stage of learning.