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Mabel Sieh

'Braindance' workshops are teaching students to map out their minds

Mabel Sieh |

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Dilip Mukerjea gets the brain cells moving at Law Ting Pong Secondary School.
Our brain is powerful - and it can dance, says Dilip Mukerjea, a workshop presenter who, through his company Braindancing International, aims to advance human thinking and learning. For more than 15 years, Mukerjea has been teaching people how to optimise their brain power.

Mukerjea, who is based in Singapore, was a marine engineer for more than 20 years until 1995 when he decided to quit his job and pursue his interest in studying how the brain works.

"I was fascinated by how we used our brains so differently, and how some people became experts and others only achieved mediocrity. I began to wonder what was behind it. I wanted to know the source of genius through the behaviour of our brains," says Mukerjea, 60.

So he read as much as he could, then got inside information from a brain surgeon and even watched a brain operation. In 1996, he published Superbrain, the first of 15 books in The Creative Brain Series. He also started running workshops in Singapore, then in other parts of the world, including Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the United States and Europe.

"Our brain is powerful, yet most of us use only 0.1 per cent or less of its capacity because we don't know how [to use more]," he says.

"Today, knowledge doubles every year. We're receiving a lot more information [now than before]. We need to learn how to read and comprehend a large range of materials, at a much faster speed, and how to retain it as long as possible. We need to boost our brain capacity and memory power. Memory power is money power."

And the tool to do that, he believes, is mind mapping, a visual technique which helps to connect things and present ideas with clarity. "Our brain is structured in such a way that pictures, graphics and images are registered fastest and best," he says.

Mukerjea has tailored mind mapping, the brainchild of British psychology author Tony Buzan, to tackle areas such as personal development and school subjects. He hopes to help people better understand how to learn.

"What I teach is the value of 'mapping' not just 'mind mapping'. It is how a person can see, think about and interpret connections, relationships and patterns of interaction, locally and globally."

Last month, he held a series of workshops for students and teachers at Law Ting Pong Secondary School, in Tai Po, and taught them how to create visual maps for different topics.

Form Two student Tintin Ip, 13, used the process to improve his language skills and get to grips with elements of sentence structure. "It's very useful. We used to just write down sentences in class, which didn't help me to understand," he says. "By dividing the parts in a sentence visually, I can see their relationship so much more easily."

Wong Wing-gi, 12, says it helps her to clear her thoughts. "I have so many ideas in my head. Mapping them clears my head and helps me to organise all my ideas," says the Form One student.

Vice-principal Sydney Wong Chun-kuen agrees it is a valuable teaching and learning tool. "It's not a new idea, but very effective when it's put to good use, such as consolidating a concept or summarising an article," he says.

"What I found most interesting was that I could see, literally, the thought processes of my students through the visual maps they drew in my history class. I wouldn't be able to see that by just looking at their writing," Wong adds.