Power On Self Test and Learning

When you start a computer, a regular and predictable sequence occurs. It happens this way, all the time, every time you turn it on.

First, the power goes on (in people, either the power is on, or off, you can’t really toggle it). The next thing that happens is the Power On Self Test, or POST. This is a ‘system level’ test that checks the fundamental power and data input/output functions. Without a positive POST result, something will go wrong: Maybe there will be a garbled image or no display at all;  you might not be able to read the DVD drive; the internal memory might be defective so programs don’t run well, or they ‘freeze’. If everything is in order, the ‘machine’ or ‘hardware’ passes control to the ‘operating system’, that is, your Windows or Macintosh system. Once the operating system is loaded into memory, it can finally run the programs you like, like word processors, internet browsers, photo editors, communications tools, and so on. At each step, the thing becomes more and more complex but very much more useful. All of this is built on a solid foundation at the machine level.

Humans operate in a similar way, but they are always ‘on’. Our senses exist on the machine level. If one of the senses or something it is connected to is not working well, there will be a problem in running programs. Some senses are more important for some tasks. Vision especially is very important as it is tied to 65% of what our brains do. In school, vision is the most important sense, accounting for 80% of what children do, by some estimates. So, if some aspect of vision is not working, learning will be impaired or will simply not work.

You don’t need to wait until the programs are having trouble running to find out if a computer has a problem. You don’t have to wait to find out a child will have trouble learning to know there is a problem with how things are working. There are different ways of doing this to consider different parts of the ‘machine’, and even in very young children, how vision is working can tell us a lot about how he is likely to fare in school.

With computers, if a certain part of the machine is not working well, we only have one option: Replace that part. With children, like adults but more so, we cannot replace parts, but we can change how the machine works. What’s more, by looking at how vision works in some detail, we can predict many likely behaviours that children will show when they start to read and learn at school. It’s really quite simple, but complex at the same time. In fact, for as difficult the visual nervous system is to explain, visual impediments to learning are the easiest thing to demonstrate, well, most of the important ones anyway. It’s one of those things: You have to see it to understand it.

Be sure your child is ready for school. Check their basic machinery of learning: Have their visual function and health checked BEFORE you try to ‘run any programs’. If a child is having trouble learning or reading, consider the most basic elements first.

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