It ranks right up there with the Holiday season, KC Chiefs football, and the first weekend of the college basketball tournament. It’s National Council for the Social Studies conference week. I’m lucky enough to get front row seats and am trying to live blog my way through it.
Dr. Phil Gersmehl is rocking the room with brain science and maps. His basic point:
“Kids like pretty maps. But they usually don’t learn from them.”
He’s using brain research to show how our brains unconsciously encode maps differently. What we remember depends on how we encode it. He highlighted some ways that this works and my mind is officially blown. I’ve always been a huge map fan. And I’ve always known that maps can lie. They can be used incorrectly and be confusing.
But I’ve never really thought about the reasons why. This is why he says:
Kids don’t just learn stuff from maps on their own.
Need an example?
I’ve never tried it but people I know who have done the escape room thing say the experience is awesome. If you’re not familiar with the concept, head over and take a quick peek at one example from the TV show The Big Bang Theory.
The idea is that you are “locked” into a room with a time limit. There are clues scattered around that you must find and figure out. These clues eventually lead to a key or passcode that you can use to escape from the room and win the challenge.
Escape rooms are great examples of the research that suggests the brain loves solving problems and novelty. When we experience new and intriguing tasks, reward chemicals are released – cementing learning and retention.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that a couple of teachers adapted the escape room idea to their classrooms. James Sanders and Mark Hammons developed an activity that they titled BreakoutEDU. But instead of escaping from an actual room, BreakoutEDU players solve clues to open a series of locks and boxes with the ultimate goal of getting into the final Breakout box.
And the cool thing? Read more
Video games and simulations have always been part of my instructional DNA. I started out with a basic but powerfully engaging archeology simulation during my first month in the classroom, used text-based games to teach medieval Japan, added PC based simulations to highlight economic impacts, integrated cutscenes into instruction, encouraged the use of game specific wikis for building content knowledge and have watched first person shooter console games used to embed students into World War II.
I’ve also had the chance to work with a variety of software developers to pilot several different computer and online based simulations. So . . . yes. A firm believer in the use of video games and gaming theory as part of teaching and learning.
But not until recently have I given much thought to using board games in the same way as video games and sims. Most social studies teachers have incorporated some sort of paper-based or board game-based simulation as part of they do. But there is a whole different level of board game out there. This is more than just Monopoly or the simple roll the dice to see what happens to your Gold Rush bound wagon train. Read more
During an extensive spring cleaning binge over the weekend, I had the chance to sort through a ton of memories and personal primary sources. And I ran across some ancient artifacts. Yup. Five and quarter floppy disks.
Actual floppy disks.
Yes, I am that old.
I know many of you have never seen such a thing. So a quick overview. Think of an app that you install on your phone. Same basic idea. Except the size of the file on the floppy is smaller than most of the images in your phone’s camera roll, it has minimal graphics or none at all, you have to reinstall it every time you want to use it, and you need a special disk drive attached to your computer to access the software.
I’m not sure why I saved them. Obviously I can’t use them. Even if I could find a 5 1/4 disk drive, there’s not an operating system around that would run the program. Part of it, I’m sure, is that the history nerd in me wanted to save them for . . . I don’t know. It’s just cool saving old stuff.
But the teacher in me flashed back to a couple of classrooms when those floppies did some pretty amazing things. Read more
I think we sometimes forget that every time we step in front of a room full of students, we are performers. I’ve heard some make the comment:
“I’m here to teach. Not to entertain.”
I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. But I’m not talking about entertainment here, simply trying to keep all the cats in a herd by doing a song and a dance without any real purpose. Think the last day of school around 1:30.
I’m talking about performing. The idea that I have information and knowledge and wisdom to transfer. And the way to get all of that stuff across is through a performance – the act of emotionally grabbing a group of people and sucking them into your world. There’s a difference. And there’s also tons of brain research out there that can help us make our performances as effective as possible. Find some of that research here, here, here, and here.
It’s not just educators who use this research to connect with others. A recent article over at Entrepreneur highlights what this can look like in the world outside of the classroom. The article describes the presentations of Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, and how he uses specific brain-based strategies to suck audiences into his world.
You need to head over to get the full details but I like how the article highlights five specific presentation techniques that Federighi does very effectively, techniques that you can — and should — use in your classroom: Read more