Learning and the Brain Redux

4fingersFriday 4: September 13

For this week’s edition of the Friday 4, I would like to share a few more brain-related links and articles that I have run across in the past week or so. The topics of cognitive science and brain research informed teaching and learning have certainly been hot of late. My Twitter feed has been loaded with links to articles and blog posts about neuroscience since the start of the summer and has not seemed to wane in recent days.

The last piece is not quite a learning and the brain piece directly but does relate to the topics we have been discussing in faculty meetings of late.

If you are at all interested in the neuroscience of learning, this has certainly been a stretch with plenty to add to your reading list! Keep passing along any items you find and enjoy!


Teacher Appreciation Week Finale

Friday Four – May 10

I hope that you had a wonderful Teacher Appreciation Week and never forget that despite how it may feel at times, you do make a difference. I can think of no more important profession than the education of young people. THANK YOU!

  • An exciting collaboration was launched this week between two favorites in the education world – TED Talks and PBS. They produced a one-hour special “TED Talks Education” that was aired on PBS on Tuesday. You can read a NYT article on the project here and watch the actual show here.
  • The TeachThought website is a great resource that I recommend to all teachers who are looking for inspiration on just about any topic related to education. “TeachThought is a fluid platform that explores the best in learning innovation. We connect K-20 educators not only with resources and ideas, but modelsframeworks and curricula. Many blogs cover progressive education and trending topics, but TeachThought also seeks to support the implementation of innovative learning.” A few of the current blog posts trending on the site are: “The Definition of Digital Citizenship” and “How 21st Century Thinking Is Just Different.”
  • A must read for this week has to be the article written by Annie Murphy Paul (@anniemurphypaul) that appeared on the  KQED education blog titled “How Does Multitasking Change the Way Kids Learn?” The piece was so interesting that I  sent it along to all of my students to read. Annie posted a followup to the article that can be found on her blog here that is titled “Reaction To My Multitasking Article: The Teenagers Speak.”
  • A final piece for the week is a provocative blog post written by Grant Wiggins (@grantwiggins) “Dereliction of duty by HS teachers.” The piece itself and the extensive comments posted by readers have made me challenge some of my complacency in the courses I am teaching…a good thing to continue to ruminate about over the summer.


“Preseason” for my class this year

I recently read a post on Grant Wiggins blog that inspired me to try something new with my classes this fall that I have not done quite so extensively in the past. The basic idea in a nutshell is to do a serious “pre-assessment” of my students early on before we dive into the content of the course. Grant uses the analogy of pre-season athletic practices when coaches do far less coaching and way more watching and assessing of the potential players. Coaches collect a lot of information about the strengths and weaknesses of the players as they watch them scrimmage and perform drills before they begin “teaching” their sport.

I have always asked kids to write a brief paragraph or two describing why they were taking the class (an elective) and what they were most looking forward to in the class. After reading Grant’s post, I plan on expanding my pre-assessment and adding a few more questions that will help me design/adjust the curriculum for the course based on the strengths and weaknesses of my students. Some questions I am contemplating adding to the initial writing assignment are as follows:

  • What are your strengths as a student/learner?
  • What are your weaknesses as a student/learner?
  • What aspect of previous science classes did you most/least enjoy? Be specific.
  • What makes you the most anxious as a student/learner?
  • What teacher behaviors most annoy/frustrate you?
  • What are you most proud of as a student/learner?

What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or suggestions.