Brainstorming in Arkansas

Live Blogged, so please excuse typos and awkward wording.

Pat Wolfe speaking at ASBA
Pat Wolfe speaking at Brainstorm for the Arkansas School Boards Association
Today, I’m presenting with brain research guru, Patricia Wolfe for a school boards staff development day — dubbed Brainstorm. Pat talks this morning about what’s happening inside the brains of our students. I’ll be talking this afternoon about what’s happening outside their brains.

I enjoyed a fascinating breakfast with Pat, and hope upon hope that I’ve got the energy and curiosity twenty hears from now.

Powers on high have written prescriptions for our students learning, and they are not working!

She says that she remembers who sat behind her when she took high school chemistry and that is all — and she made an “A.” We have the false assumption that if kids can give back what we’ve taught at the prescribed time, they’ve learned. Her very school-successful son, who is now 44, recently told her that he had a very high HTI — High Trivia Index. B.F. Skinner actually worked with pigeons. This is where the learning theories that I was schooled under, and that I was taught to school, comes from.

We are moving from a behaviorist mode of education to a biological mode of education.

This doesn’t mean that teachers have not done a good job. Good teachers are intuitive, but the problem with that is that you can teach it to other teachers.

I don’t care what test scores are!

Is teaching going to have to change. On the whole we are in a very inarticulate profession. We need to move from being a folklore profession to being a scientific profession (cringing a bit here, but listening).

Brain Activity
Upper left, seeing words; upper right, listening to words; lower left, speaking words; lower right, generating verbs
The brain runs on glucose that is processed in the liver and carried by the cardiovascular system. It’s why when she hears about schools that are cutting back on recess and PE for the sake of academics, then they’re shooting themselves in the heart and the brain.

She’s now showing MRI reading of brains when the subject is passively viewing words, listening to words, speaking words, generating verbs. Fascinating!

Every one of the 100 billion brain cells we have have about 6,000 dendrites.

Learning is the act of making and strengthening connections.

You don’t grow brain cells. What grows are dendrites, and “Dittos don’t grow dendrites!”

The two most useless questions:

  1. Do you understand?
  2. Are their any questions?

The brain is the only organ in the body that changes as a result of its experience. If someone is born blind, then the parts of the brain used for vision, get aligned to auditory and tactile. Researchers found that if people are blindfolded for days, brain cells that were processing visual information starts to handles auditory information. I’m paraphrasing a good bit here, so I hope I’m getting it right.

The brain seeks meaningful patterns

We have our brains to survive, so it is not good at working information that has no meaning to their experience. Yet this is what and how we teach.

Pat Wolfe learned to fly during her second year of teaching. She thought, if she’d been taught to fly the same way she was taght to teach, she would have learned the philosophy, pshychology, and history of flying, and all she’d be able to do is taxi her plane — which is what most first year teachers are doing.

Talking about History Alive, a very brain compatible (her term) way of learning history. I’m not aware of History Alive, though I found a paper at ERIC (History Alive! Six Powerful Constructivist Strategies, that is not downloadable. If you have anything to add about History Alive, please share in the comments.

Two kinds of memory:

  1. Procedural Memory: Skills and habits that have been practiced to a point where they are automatic and unconscious.
  2. Declarative Memory: Our general knowledge and our live experiences that we can declare or recall consciously.

We should use rote rehearsal to learn things that are appropriate for procedural memory. But we tend to use rote rehearsal to learn things that are more appropriate for declarative memory, but it’s not the best way to learn what’s to be declared.

Wow, she just got us to say, “tot tot,” but tapping into our procedural memory.

The human brain loves anything that can but put to rhyme rhythm, or rap.

Technorati Tags:

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.