7 intriguing facts about the brain
When it comes to student learning, many stakeholders focus on important learning supports, such as classroom technology, reliable high-speed internet access in schools, and educators who use technology as a tool to increase student achievement. But there's another important component that is sometimes overlooked--the human brain, and how learning impacts brain structure and function.
During Brain Awareness Week (March 10-14), a number of organizations are shedding light on how brain research informs education theory and practice.
Following are important and intriguing facts about the brain, along with Brain Awareness Week Resources, to help you learn more about how brain research can fit into teaching and learning.
Students often have one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. “Fixed” means students often don’t seem to realize the value of effort, and “growth” refers to the students who are determined to progress.
Engaging in critical thinking expands activity in brain regions outside of those responsible for "executive function," and includes activity in areas used for physical activity. Close reading activates areas of the brain that are used for very cognitively complex challenges, such as complicated math problems or computing coding.
Stress, fear of failing, and anxiety all lead the brain to believe there is a "perceived threat," which causes the brain to lose its ability to perform higher-order thinking skills. This perceived threat can inhibit learning in class.
Headsets that include a sensor that make contact with the wearer's frontal lobe can read the user's brain wave signals and gauge student attentiveness. Brain wave patterns for signatures according to what an individual is thinking, and the headset software learns an individual's unique signature pattern and can measure how engaged that user is with the concept or material being taught.
"Good" stress, including deadlines and challenges, causes the brain to release norepinephrine, which is necessary to create new memories. It also encourages creative thinking and stimulates the growth of new connections within the brain.
Embrace the power of learning communities
During my second year of teaching, I learned an invaluable lesson: learning communities have the power to enrich our professional and personal lives. I learned this lesson firsthand when I participated in a “critical friends” workshop sponsored by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.
Initially, I was excited for this opportunity. I was also intimidated, and that intimidation grew when, during one of the sessions, I had to share a “sample of work.”
My sample, a 20-question science quiz, could be described as lousy when compared to the work of veteran teachers. My anxiety grew as my turn to share approached. I wanted to go hide in the corner.
However, when it was my turn, my peers, who could probably tell how I was feeling, gave me incredibly insightful and productive feedback. They asked really thoughtful questions like “What are you really trying to assess?” and “Is there a better way to measure what you expect from your students?”
That was the first time I remember truly reflecting on my practice. Until that point, I spent my days doing the best I knew how under everyone’s assumption that I was a “certified” expert who should have it all figured out by now. The reality is that classrooms, despite the ever-present energy of the students within them, can sometimes be lonely places for teachers.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
We have so many opportunities at our fingertips to engage with other educators and enrich our learning experiences. For me, active participation in learning communities, the most meaningful of which enrich both our professional and personal lives, is essential for several key reasons.
The iPad as a hammer: Moving from goals to tools
Every year, Kristen Wideen creates a project and invites other classes to join in. This year, her third-grade classroom is using the Book Creator app to create a global community book. Here is a video that her students made about the project.
What’s really amazing is that her students came up with the idea for this book, based on Kristen’s question, “What should we do?”
The path to students doing great things with iPads is understanding what the device is and what it isn’t.
When a carpenter starts a project, he does not pick up his hammer to get inspired, engaged, or motivated. What motivates him is the concept, the vision, of what he might be able to do—and the knowledge that he eventually can create something that can be shared with others.
What do hammers have to do with iPads? iPads, like hammers, are tools. While the screen might shine, the apps might glisten, and the device might impress, iPads are fundamentally tools that can be used—well, or not so well—in the classroom.
If the iPad is not being used as an “object to think with,” to construct understanding and support purposeful learning (like connecting students to the world around them), then it’s a tool that is not being used to its full potential.
Ultimately, it’s impossible to separate the device from the user. The iPad is what you make of it, so start dreaming of what you’d like students to do! As Greg Kulowiec of EdTechTeacher puts it:
“Start with the end goal in mind—the inspiration, the challenge—and then determine if an iPad can be used not to teach new content to students, but to help them achieve this end goal. To demonstrate their learning and share this understanding with their peers, a broader audience, and even potentially the world.”
What you should know about personalized education
We’ve seen or heard about it all over the internet. Blogs and forums discussing the future of education. Learning gurus all over the world making predictions about social engagement, massive open online courses (MOOCs), informal learning, cloud-base technology, and much more.
The “personalization” approach is another eLearning trend that appears to be one of the most significant concepts in education today. What is behind this approach and why do education institutions strive to adapt it in the eLearning practice?
Personalized learning is a method of customizing the right type of learning for the right type of audience. A student is given a chance to engage in the eLearning process on his own, deciding what, when, and how to absorb information.
The push towards personalization is a natural phenomenon and is based on people’s individuality and desire to be the masters of their own lives. Personalized learning allows students to enjoy the educational process at their own pace, which is beneficial because people have different abilities, goals, needs, and approaches towards education.
The personalization concept is still new and there are many debates concerning its implementation. Despite advancements in technology and internet technology, the traditional education system prefers a “one-size-fits-all” model.
Now you can learn from leading ed-tech experts!
On Feb. 20, eSchool News hosted a Google-sponsored webinar about classroom technology integration, which focused on the benefits of using Google for Education products. Read the recap here.
On March 4, eSchool News featured experts discussing the latest trends in student mobility and how you can save money bringing connectivity to economically disadvantaged students. Read the summary here. Stay tuned for our recap on today's webinar about one district's unique one-to-one learning experience.
Join us for a special event on March 18 at 2:00 p.m. EST, to learn how campuses can leverage cloud-based storage solutions to cut costs and protect their database. What are the essential elements of ed-tech leadership? Join the winners of eSchool Media’s 2014 Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards on March 19 for part one in this free webinar series and learn the secrets of their success. Register now here. Register for part two here which will take place on March 26.
And we conclude this month's final webinar on March 27 with a panel of experts sharing tips for deploying a mobile learning initiative. Register now here.
For questions or concerns, please eMail Marketing Communications Manager Liz Glomb at LizGlomb@eschoolmedia.com.
Looking forward to your participation!