Ginny Washburne: Brain-Friendly Learning at #DENSI2012

What does the latest brain research reveal about teaching and learning? Ginny Washburne will present the latest in neuroscience and explore how implementing a few simple brain friendly teaching strategies can assist in fostering a successful learning environment. Ginny’s goal is discussion, so our virtual audience will use the chat feature on LiveStream. Our session’s objectives: see right image.

Exercise sparks brain activity; an active brain learns better. Ginny welcomes sharing what we collectively know about brain research. The brain is plastic in nature, can change, improve over time. It’s called neuroplasticity, but there’s a downside. You can reduce brain function, if you do not know what you are doing.

Technology impacts the brain. The average student interacts with technology for 8.5 hours a day. Some of that time is passive, but actively connecting with peers is what dominates students tech use, and they multi-task, making the 8.5 a larger number. How does that impact neuropathways? Be careful to enhance learning experiences with technology.

The greater exposure to technology, the greater the brain expansion, changing what goes on inside your brain. To promote divergent thinking, you need to be careful in your harnessing of technology. In a student brain using technology, that brain looks different from, for example, someone who does not engage in technology, or not engage in multi-tasking technology.

Impactful learning experiences are remembered because your endorphins are amped up. When your emotions are engaged in learning, you tend to remember what you learn. So, students need to feel safe and secure or their “flight or fight” response kicks in and they will not learn and/or remember. Focused learning is memorable learning. Emotion is a huge part of learning so we need to pay attention to emotional intelligence. Students need a growth mindset.

But students also need to buy in. Tapping into David Warlick‘s keynote, native learners need to see the value in what they do. Students will achieve if they understand why they are learning what we put before them. When it comes to long-term memory, meaning trumps sense. If learning has relevance and application in the real world, it will stay with students. If they cannot USE what they learn, it just becomes test fodder. Ginny recommends Diana Laufenberg’s blog, World of 100.

Movement and brain breaks are important for effective learning. Guidelines for direct instruction always require a brain break; get them up and moving. Because we are into this presentation for approximately 20 minutes, Ginny gave her live audience a break, doing rock, scissors, paper, math. A brain break. Definitely appreciated. Ginny noted that some teachers say they have difficulty getting students “back” after a brain break, but she says to choose them at a proper time, be consistent, make it part of their day, be persistent, and it will pay off.

Play. Both sides of our brain need play. How can we be more playful with learning? It’s not about memorizing, but about playing with that information. Think about Dr. Lodge McCammon’s paper slide videos. Playful learning. Memorable learning. If you want to develop a passion for learning, it needs to be relevant but it also needs to be fun.

Ginny offers examples of meaningful playful learning. Learning that plays with the information, makes it fun, meaningful, memorable. The live audience brainstormed additional ways to make learning playful, but the virtual audience was relatively quiet. The beauty of streaming: we are all together in the same “room.”

The most important element of brain learning is feedback–in the moment, within and outside of the community, 24/7 feedback. How can we create ways to deliver feedback while students are learning? Discovery Builders are a great way to incorporate feedback, as well as blogs. Peer editing before submission, “Ask 3 before me” if you are asking the teacher a question were live audience shares. Additional sharing out included a clever use of clicker systems.

A special thank you to Ginny Washburne for taking what could be a complex subject and making it relevant, timely, interactive, and a thoroughly sound wonderfully practical presentation. Teachers love being able to take a presentation and go with it right back to the classroom with meaning and applicability. This presentation was just that, making me wish I were back in the classroom.

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