In response to a debate on whether the internet leads children astray - and in particular, astray from embodied learning - here are some pointers to the design of future research on synaesthesia, based on the question:

What, exactly, are the important affordances of synaesthesia, and what should be done about it, in education?

Instead of trying to blame the ills of society on the internet (it isn't going to go away, any more than television, which was once blamed for much the same thing), what are the interesting questions about embodied learning and synaesthesia that could usefully be researched? In the process we might arrive at some answers about how best to balance children's virtual and material interaction).

For starters, we might look at these kinds of questions, applied to people in general, and to children in particular:

1. What role does embodied, rich synaesthetic learning play in people's lives - what difference does it make when it is present?

2. What difference does it make when it is not present, and who, specifically does it make a difference for? (The working assumption is that it will not necessarily make a difference for everyone, particularly if they have the benefit of embodied, rich synaesthetic learning in other areas of their lives).

3. What happens when learning shifts from embodied, rich synaesthetic to disembodied, abstract learning? What benefits and what problems follow from the detailed changes, transcriptions, transformations along this spectrum? And what kind of remedies are available when this is a problem? (Working hypothesis: it's not a problem for everyone).

4. In terms of social policy and educational policy, would the evidence from answering the above three questions point to the need for educational policy to incorporate embodied, rich synaesthetic learning for all children (following the principles and many of the practices implicit in Montessori's approach)?

I would say yes, for three reasons:
i) - I think there is, in principle, a benefit applicable to all (or close enough to just about 'all' for it to be a good working assumption) - that arises from establishing a foundation for learning in embodied interaction - specifically, using 'synaesthetic scaffolding' in place of 'linguistic/instructional scaffolding', which should be designed OUT to begin with, as far as possible. This resonates with the Suzuki method of teaching music, firstly, without any written 'text' - just the music/patterns.

ii) (Possibly even more importantly) because I think there is a huge benefit to be gained from the diagnostic affordances that accompany such an approach. If done systematically, it should enable you to identify problems that arise on each of the many micro-steps and micro-transformations across the embodied/material < > disembodied/abstract spectrum, and to find remedies for them.

iii) Because synasethesia provides the basis for imaginative engagement with the world - through creativity, openness, metaphor, and the wonderful affordances of speech (as in 'parole').

5. This is based on an implicit model of neurological and physical development of the body, mind, perception, synaesthesic cross-modal 'enactive perception', etc, etc - which in many ways incorporates large amounts of what Montessori was doing (from her own empirical work, as well as from the theories and practices of Froebel and Piaget), Suszuki's approach to music, and also in a more general sense from Steiner (who I think had more in common with Montessori's underlying principles and implicit neuro-physiological model than most people are willing to admit).

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And ... (24th March 2014) ...

Great example from Al Filreis on Stephen Vincent's 'haptic drawings' of poems.