As people are given the unrestricted space to speak their minds through dialogue, so do they learn to think for themselves.

Teachers in all levels hold responsibilities for facilitating conversation alongside the parents of young children. Their common work is to ensure that healthy linguistic environments exist to provide young learners the chance to express their minds, while also listening deeply to the meanings unfolding through their exploratory expressions.

In his Sociocultural Theory, the prominent Russian Psychologist Lev Vygotsky trail-blazed our initial ideas on how conversations play developmental roles in the minds of toddlers acquiring the foundations for their eventual grown-up language.

When they learn to speak for the first time, children require immersive periods in their mother tongue and then other language cultures present in the social environment (many Filipino children are multilingual and can speak Tagalog, Visayan, and other dialects besides English).

According to Vygotsky, language acquisition initiates a person’s growth stages, granting the space to link up voicing and thinking together during the early formation of mind. When children especially begin to talk in solitary monologue in what is called egocentric speech, the foundations for a conceptual self bears formative relationships with objects, places and people within the surrounding environment.

When young children first listen to adults speak, and then are given their turn to respond and synthesise their own thoughts, a mind attaches cultural representations onto internal thought structures. This pioneering view of language eventually helped educators understand speech’s role in formulating time and space in the mind of a child, where words bear semantic placeholders for important meanings stored in one’s mental library.

Between the ages of 2 to 7, the child’s nervous system undergoes some essential stages of mental growth through talking. Noam Chomsky observes how cognitive functions begin when language comprehension (receiving information) leads to language production (sending messages). Especially when children first experiment with new word combinations they did not hear their moms and dads speak before, a personality is scaffolded.


The Philippine Dialogue

In the Philosophy of Education, knowledge is either self-constructed or transmitted between teacher and student. In developing countries, language formation (and therefore cognitive development) can be arrested by lack of spaces, resources and support. Rural and Urban public schools in the Philippines struggle to deliver knowledge within basic rooms where one teacher facilitates as many as thirty to forty students at a time. In such rooms, teachers speak mostly and children are rarely given the chance to synthesise their thoughts through their interactive voicing.

Jose Rizal’s first instructions were with his mother, who taught him how to read and write. He also had private tutors who ensured he had one-to-one education prior to schooling in Manila where he readily excelled as a sobrasaliente (excellent) student, and then throughout his higher education and other endeavours in Europe.

Our early thoughts need a chance to listen and speak, for them to extend inwards and outwards our evolving minds. Teachers who understand this, conduct continuous exchanges with young students, using techniques to facilitate rather than just to teach children. Their goal is to inspire students how to think, rather than just what to think, a skill first exteriorised through speech and then interiorised through writing. When digital technology arrived, these internal and external aspects of communication are sped up exponentially, pushing learners to adapt to modes of expression at a much faster pace.

In the last decades, Youtube gave everyday people a chance at filmmaking while Wikipedia is handing millions of contributors the chance to co-author the knowledge compendiums of our time. In the 21st century, Facebook grants its billions of users an extremely powerful identity process. The more we use these tools, the human brain is given the mirror to externally understand its intricate neural functions, which were once perceived as just a mysterious network of electrical wirings internally embedded in blood and human tissue.

Walter Ong wrote, “without writing, the literate mind would not and could not think as it does, not only when engaged in writing but normally even when it is composing its thoughts in oral form. More than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness.” If he was still alive now now, Ong would see writing and speaking coming together in ways he could not have predicted, editing his wordings and insights on the deeper senses afforded by electronic typography, either on cellphone, tablet or laptop. Without question, digital interventions to human thought have shifted consciousness in ways fast, big and extensive.


The Brain on Facebook

The Philippines is one of the first countries where Facebook for most folks is synonymous with the internet. In 2015, Facebook launched Free Basics, bringing the world wide web to the majority of the nation’s internet users.

Social media holds an omnipotent ability to intersperse the individualised interiority of writing, within the conversational tone of speech. From a developmental paradigm, social media holds incredible opportunities and challenges for our vulnerable cognitive functions: attention, memory, emotions, relationships and social interactions.

Facebook’s success depends upon what co-founder Sean Parker himself calls “a loop of social validation.” Though the creation of likes, sharing and comment mechanisms, Facebook takes advantage of how the sensitive psyche is reshaped by its deep calling to be heard.

Current studies show alterations in how young minds learn, memorise, and conduct logic through their sudden exposure to Facebook. The fast flow of impermanent messages are especially modifying people’s ability to concentrate and rationalise.

The digital age brings many creative opportunities for repressed voices to speak out, yet it should also challenge users on how to listen wisely. The Philippines is traditionally a shy and collectivist society. Facebook creates a nation of individuals searching for identity, whose members long-waited for expressive ways to to be listened to.

Metacognition describes a person’s awareness and understanding of one’s own thought. As technology provides tools for self-awareness, so must we observe how we are all changing fast within its strong surges.