Brain Friendly Learning

I was starting to get concerned about my gray matter after reading this article; so was very interested in Ginny Washburne’s Brain Friendly ideas.

In a nutshell, our brains absorb information better when we’re happy and active. Our brains are resilient and are all different, however there are many strategies included from Ginny’s DENSI2012 talk that you can use to use to activate those 50-200+ brains you work with daily.

My notes from July below:


positive = endorphins —     negative = cortisol
emotional intelligence is equally important to IQ
strategies – goal setting; create a culture of learning, give hope, empathic listening, growth mindset, “you matter”, choice, at my school we Capturing Kids Hearts as a way to build positive relationships.
Angela Myers “You Matter” look up Ted Talk
use paper slide videos for goal setting

Establish “Buy in” with students

Start with Why – look for Ted Talk – Simon Sinek
to get learning into long term memory – meaning always trumps sense (we’ll memorize, but it has to mean something to remember)
Diana Laufenberg – world of 100 – blog activity
use framing (hook, story), enthusiasm, build mystery in a topic, “bigger kid” challenge, meaning (use authentic problems)

Movement & Brain BreaksBDNF – look into this
Eric Jensen – learning with the brain in mind – 12-15 min in middle school most time without movement   loved! rock paper scissors math
kinesthetic lectures – let students move around and then reflect after the thoughts processed during movement

Play – using the right side of the brain

“What we describe in ‘A New Culture of ]Learning’ is learning driven by the relentless pace of change. It takes place without books, without teachers, and without classrooms, and it requires environments that are bounded yet provide complete freedom of action within those boundaries. This familiar dynamic, in fact, structures all our contemporary notions of play, games, and imagination. Play can be defined as the tension between the rules of the game and the freedom to act within those rules. But when play happens within a medium for learning—much like a culture in a petri dish—it creates a context in which information, ideas, and passions grow. Play, questioning, and imagination lie at the very heart of arc-of-life learning. They have a tremendous effect on, and resonance with, learning today. And where imaginations play, learning happens.”
—Douglas Thomas, co-author (with John Seely Brown), “A New Culture of Learning”; associate professor, University of Southern California in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
teach with tournaments – look up
use: gaming, virtual labs, experiments, stations, project based learning, digital storytelling (paper slide videos)

Feedback – during the learning process, is the single most powerful tool to enhance learning.
teacher, self, peer, community (****ask 3 then me – great idea)

Thank you Ginny!

Programming in the Classroom

At the DENSI2012 conference, David Warlick opened on July 23rd with many thought provoking topics. The main points ruminating afterward are that education needs to be:

  • responsive
  • provoke questions and curiosity
  • open ended with opportunities for conversation
  • make it possible to safely make mistakes

Sounds easy enough (and fun for teachers & students). Are there great tools to allow students to ask questions, problem solve creatively, and safely make mistakes?

During the keynote, David introduced Scratch. Scratch is a programming language made by MIT which makes programming accessible to anyone. Chris Betchler says in his blog that students,

“really seem to engage with the big ideas of programming – problem solving, thinking mathematically and using logic and reasoning. It’s the practical application of those ideas and the creative thinking required to solve authentic problems that forms the basis of a truly engaging learning experience. While I don’t believe that everyone necessarily needs to become a computer programmer, I do think that everyone would benefit from learning the basic skills and mental gymnastics required to write simple computer programs. I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful skill”.

Alice is another programming game. “Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web.”1

Making a programming activity a part of your weekly classroom routine will provide valuable collateral learning that can be applied in the curriculum and will motivate students while they are learning.

Storm Chasing

The DENSI2012 Summer Institute opened with Reed Timmer (@reedtimmerTVN) of Storm Chasers fame.  Be sure to look through his website as he has set up so you and your students are able to track storms live or view the live video weather cams.

If you look up exuberant in a thesaurus, all the adjectives describe Reed and his passion for meteorology.  He is such a good sport, shown at the right posing with Kathy Schrock before his presentation.

Reed TImmer & Kathy Schrock

In his presentation, titled The Science of Extreme Storm Chasing, we got a glimpse of the excitement and seriousness of his work.  His true passion is what inspires me most.  While working with teachers and students, being able to find ways to light a fire of passion about a subject is the ultimate goal.  Children love to wonder, this naturally connects to the STEM subjects.  Give them access to inspired people and their research and chances to experiment to find their own passion.





Thank you for inspiring me and others!

What will you chase?!?!

Allegiance to the DEN

This year I was honored to attend the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute (#DENSI2012).  DENSI2012 was hosted at Montana State University in beautiful Bozeman, MT.  I have long known Discovery Education’s dedication to education and have seen their heart in my eight months as a DEN Star educator but the intensity of the DEN spirit at DENSI2012 is awe inspiring.

The uplifting enthusiasm of the DEN members and Discovery team buoys everyone in the group.  We were treated as professionals and motivated to share our talents.  The Discovery  staff are dedicated to providing content to the DEN which in turn encourages members to provide community service to both lift the community and recruit new members.

The experience has changed me and I’m left indebted to the new friends I have made as a result of DENSI. There are too many people to thank in one post.  Thank you to the entire Discovery Education team, to the wonderful featured speakers, and to the DEN community.  Thank you for:

  • the inspiration
  • providing high quality, relevant sessions
  • giving access to renown speakers and passionate people interested in improving education
  • treating me as a professional with talents to offer
  • making me really understand what it is to be part of the DEN community
  • finding time for so much fun and geekery

I will follow with posts to share session content.