We covered the basics of the of the Trivium in Part 1 and in this article we are going to dive into Corss Discipline Learning for Optimal Education.  We will extend the former discussion a bit, but first a little more about your brain. Your brain’s memory is like computer memory. If you were not aware, computers have access to two basic types of memory. Random access memory allows computers to jump to any point in memory and beginning reading. This would be akin to how we can open a book to a page and begin reading. Linear access means that a base memory location has to be read and then an offset followed to get to the relevant piece of data – think of the old reel-to-reel tapes you saw in the old 1950s spy movies. This would be akin to a scroll, such that wherever you are, you have to move in a linear fashion to the point in memory, I mean, the text, you want to read.Cross Discipline Learning: Part IIHuman Memory is Like All the Types of Computer Memory in One

Memory in the human brain is accessed both linearly and randomly. As a child (or an adult, for that matter), as facts are memorized in the grammar stage of learning, engrams are put into the brain, likes hooks, for us to randomly access that data at any point. From that point, we can access a linear train of thought. Cross Discipline learning allows your brain to integrate the linear with the random.

Then, as we move to the begin thinking dialectically, networking those points together, the data (reasoning) is accessed linearly. We have to ‘layout’ a logical argument, for instance. At least, laying out a logical argument is simpler than jumping to a point. Here, the lines begin to blur, as people and the brains are very complex and unique, and some people have very good recall, where others just do not. Some linear access points can become random access points, if that set of neurons are used frequently enough, or are coded with intense emotion, etc….

Not an Exact Science … Not Really

This is, at best, however, more of just a guideline to understand why I believe Subject Integration is very beneficial to learning. As we learn grammatically, common grammars between subjects can be used to hook into the deeper understanding of each subjects. I like the overly simple and convenient example of “variables” used in Algebra and computer programming. They are called “variables” because they can contain any value, and they are used in nearly the exact same way between both disciplines. So, by teaching, say, Algebra alongside a beginning programming course, students get double application (double dialectic?) of the grammar “variable”.

This kind of parallel can be found in many subjects, though not always so easy or convenient for a blogger to contrive. Still, another example does come to mind. I like language, and I want my seven-year-old to learn Hebrew. My seven-year-old likes to watercolor, and she has no interest in learning Hebrew. Surprise. The compromise, then, is the cross-disciplined application of both: I have her watercolor each letter the Hebrew Aleph-Bet. The consequence is that she still does not quite have them memorize yet, but she can fuddle her way through them pretty well, and she paints well.

Ergo …

Other applications of cross-discipline learning include the old-fashioned, but never outmoded, copying of scripture. Probably one of the best historical examples of Subject Integration: reading, writing, and divinity. 😊 The human brain “enjoys” cross-linking neural connections in new ways, and that is what subject integration is all about. Starting with grammar points, anchored into the psyche through rote memorization, the understanding of those various points, and the cross-linking of understanding, bring revelation, awareness, and sudden epiphanies of subject matter, which can create a sense of euphoria as well (yeah, some kids are literally addicted to learning). This is just how the brain works.

On a more serious note, have you ever wondered why jokes are funny (says the engineering looking at his own shoe laces while writing this)? Because the punch line forces your neural pathways in the brain to fire in a way that they likely never have fired before. Which is to say, you are forced to think different, even just for a moment. It’s funny, you know?

Mack Gammeter STEM Teacher

Mack Gammeter graduated from the University of Colorado at Denver with a Masters in Computer Science, a minor in Math, and nearly a minor in Chemistry. He has 15 years of industry experience programming C, C++, C#, OpenGL, DirectX, JS, CSS, HTML, .NET, MVC, CORE, SQL. He has taught STEM to university, high school, and junior-high level students – public, charter, or home schooled.

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