Thursday, August 25, 2011

Brain Rules by John Medina (Rules 9-12)

Here are the final four rules:

9.      Sensory integration
a.      Stimulate multiple senses (multimodal reinforcement) at once to increase learning.
                                                    i.     Multimedia – kids learn better from words and pictures than words alone.
                                                   ii.     Temporal contiguity – kids learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented at the same time
                                                 iii.     Spatial contiguity – kids learn best when corresponding words and pictures are presented near each other on the page/screen
                                                 iv.     Coherence – kids learn better when extra material is left out
                                                   v.     Modality – kids learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text – Watch those PowerPoint slides! (153-154)
b.      Smell can stimulate emotions and impact memory.
10.      Vision
a.      The more visual the input, the more likely to be recognized and recalled. (170)
b.      Text is less capable than pictures because the brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures. (170)
c.      In using visuals, pay attention to: color, orientation, size and motion.
d.      Less text, more pictures – graphics/visuals are a more efficient way of delivering information than text. (175)
11.      Gender
a.      Females use both hemispheres of the brain when speaking and processing.  Males use only one side.
b.      Emotions are useful, but males and females process some emotions differently. (187)  Single gender classrooms, anyone?
c.      Males and females respond differently to stress.
12.      Exploration
a.      We are constantly learning – we discover and explore our whole lives.
b.      We learn to imitate and recognize as infants.
c.      Some regions of our brain are always changing – growing new connections, strengthening existing connections, etc. (197)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brain Rules by John Medina (Rules 5-8)

Here are the next four rules - with lots of classroom instructional implications.

5.      Short-term memory
a.      Lengthen short-term memory by repeating information at timed intervals.  “Spaced learning is greatly superior to massed learning.” (76)
b.      “Content is stored separately from its context/container.” (80)
c.      The way you code information as it enters the brain has a great deal to do with how you remember it later.
d.      Memory works best if the environmental conditions at retrieval are the same as they were at encoding.
e.      To improve learning – “liberal use of relevant real-world examples embedded in the information, constantly peppering main learning points with meaningful experiences.” (87)
6.      Long-term memory
a.      Working memory includes
                                                    i.     Auditory – linguistic, phonological
                                                   ii.     Visual – images, spatial input
                                                 iii.     Executive – keeps track of activities
b.      We have different types of retrieval systems and we what we use depends on the type of information and how long ago we learned it.
c.      Elaborative rehearsal (repetition) creates robust retrieval.  Thinking and processing immediately after learning occurs enhances memory.
d.      Deliberately re-expose yourself to information in fixed, spaced intervals if you want the best retrieval. (99)
7.      Sleep
a.      Larks (morning people) and owls (night people) – everyone varies in how much sleep he needs.
b.      If you get more sleep, you learn better, particularly procedural learning. (119)
c.      One night’s loss of sleep can result in 30% loss in overall cognitive skill.
d.      Even when you sleep, your brain is still processing.  So loss of sleep hurts focus and brain function.
8.      Stress
a.      Stress affects our immune response.
b.      Stress harms declarative memory (things you can declare) and executive function (the type of thinking that involves problem-solving). (131)
c.      “Stressed brains don’t learn the same way as non-stressed brains.” (136)
d.      Conflict impacts performance.  So, if students are in a stressful, conflict-filled home, they are unable to concentrate in school. (136)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brain Rules by John Medina (Rules 1-4)

I've had this book on my to-read list for a while and when Barnes and Noble offered it on the Nook for $2.99, I purchased it.  Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and explains in plain English how our brain works.  I've summarized each rule here and included a little about impact for teachers/schools.  The post was too long, so I divvied it up into three posts.

1.      Exercise
a.      Exercise can elevate cognitive performance compared to those who are sedentary.
b.      Adolescents who are fit give more cognitive resources to a task and do so for a longer period of time.  (All the more reason to NOT cut P.E. classes!)
c.      Exercise twice a week decreases risk of Alzheimer’s by 60%
2.      Survival
a.      Fighting, feeding, fleeing and reproductive behavior
b.      Over time, we have had to adapt.
c.      “If a teacher can’t hold a student’s interest, knowledge will not be richly encoded in the brain’s database.” (40)
3.      Wiring
a.      When people learn, the wiring in the brain changes. 
b.      The brain is a muscle.  The more you work it, the larger and more complex it will become. (47)
c.      “Students of the same age show a great deal of intellectual variability.” (54)
d.      Smaller schools create better learning environments.
4.      Attention
a.      Our previous experience predicts what we should pay attention to now.  We match patterns/similarities to what we think we’ve seen before. (64)
b.      “Different environments create different expectations.” (58)
c.      Events that create emotion are better remembered than neutral events. (62)
d.      Memory is enhanced by creating associations between concepts.  Help students make connections.
e.      Vocabulary instruction alert:  “Words presented in a logically organized, hierarchical structure are much better remembered than words placed randomly-typically 40% better.” (66)
f.       The brain can’t multitask.  Interruptions lead to errors or make it longer to complete a task.
g.      Our attention span is about ten minutes, so follow the 10-2 rule.  For every ten minutes of lecture, allow two minutes of processing time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

High school is supposed to be fun and filled with great memories.  Not so for Garvin High Class of 2009.  In May of their junior year, a classmate opens fire in the Commons area, killing six students and a teacher.  Then, Nick Levil turns the gun on himself.  What Nick leaves behind is much pain and a long road to recovery for these students.

Nick and his girlfriend, Valerie, were bullied by other students.  As a way to cope, they created a ‘Hate List’ with the names of those who hurt or made fun of them.  What started as a way to vent their frustrations turned into a hit list for Nick.

Was Valerie privy to Nick’s plan?  If not, has she missed signs that could have prevented Nick from carrying out this awful tragedy?  Is Valerie partially to blame?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

A few years ago, I read A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink and was quite intrigued by cultivating my right-brain, creative side.  It’s hard to outsource creativity.  (Read my posts here about that book.)  So, when Pink published Drive, of course I wanted to read it!  What motivates people?  According to Pink, in most cases money isn’t the motivator!  How can we use these studies to motivate ourselves and our students? 
  • Work these days is heuristic and not algorithmic; meaning it’s less routine and more creative.
  • People want to direct their own work and be more self-direct rather than rely on a management hierarchy.
  • Rewarding work (the carrot and the stick)
    • Contingent rewards (if-then), yield poor results
      • For the short term, you might see a boost, but for the long term it worsens
      • Contingent rewards are not for creative work; it actually stifles creativity by narrowing the focus
      • Giving a reward may signal the task is undesirable
      • If you reward a task once, you have to reward always and may even have to increase reward
    • Now-that rewards keep creativity because you aren’t telling people up front that there’s a reward
      • Non-tangible rewards are best in a now-that scenario. 
      • Consider praise and/or specific feedback as a reward.
  • Employees (and students?) want autonomy over the Four Ts (Chapter 4)
    • Task – What to do
    • Time – How/when to spend time
    • Technique – How to complete task
    • Team – With whom to work
    • This would be pretty easy to do in a classroom – Can we say Readers’-Writers’ Workshop?!
  • Consider a Results Only Work Environment (R.O.W.E.) a la` Best Buy.  Doesn’t matter how/when you do it, as long as it gets done well.
  • 20% time a la` Google – Employees choose how to spend 20% of their work time.  They choose which work-related projects to pursue.  This 20% time at Google led to Gmail, Google Talk and Google News, among others.  If 20% is too big a place to start, think about 10% or one afternoon per month.  I can definitely see classroom implications for this!
  • Mastery is a mindset (Carol Dweck) (Chapter 5)
    • When setting goals, set learning goals instead of achievement goals.  Achievement goals tend to be too narrow and folks could do more.
    • Mastery is hard and takes grit/determination/perseverance.
    • Mastery takes deliberate practice, but most people want to get better.
  • Purpose versus profit. (Chapter 6)
    • People are more motivated by having a purpose.
    • People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
    • Am I better today than I was yesterday?

 I see some educational implications of this book, like allowing students choice of assignments, choice of groups/team, etc.  I was also glad to see Dweck’s growth mindset cited.  Intelligence isn’t fixed and with hard work and dedication, one can grow.  We can hold ALL students to high standards.  While I don’t think this book is the end-all, be-all, he does make some good points to consider.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reflections on Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ TEDxNYED talk

  • What are we preparing our students for?
  • Strategic replacements/upgrades of outdated curriculum
    • Updates are replacements of outdated content, skills and assessments
  • Media, global and digital literacy – what is it and what does it look like?
  • Students are processing information differently.
  • Most learning isn’t linear.
  • Every school should have at least 3 benchmark assessments where students get to “be” a futurist and/or practice new genre(s).
  • Have student develop the rubrics – What does a quality __________ (blog, podcast, wiki, etc.) look like?
  • New School Versions
    • Schedule – What types of schedules would best help kids?
    • Student grouping – Why do we always need 3rd graders together?
    • Personnel grouping – Why are we only meeting with our content area/department?
    • Space (virtual and physical) – Virtual Learning Magnets (Tom Welsh)
Quite a bit to think about here.  I'm particularly struck by asking students to define quality work!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Write Fifteen Minutes A Day

What a great challenge!  I was just talking with a colleague (and part of my PLN) last week.  I was lamenting about how I have not done much writing since school was out.  Best laid plans and all…when WHAM!  This blog post comes to my feed reader:  Write Fifteen Minutes A Day, from none other than Laurie Halse Anderson.  Squee!

I’m in, are you?