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Posts from the ‘brain research’ Category

Wayback Wednesday: It puts kids to sleep. And just so ya know . . . that’s a bad thing. (Plus 18 ways to keep them awake)

School looks different today than it did back in 2017 when I first wrote this. But I think in many ways it applies more now than three years ago.

Why? Because it’s easy right now to revert back to the familiar. To what’s comfortable for us. But the situation teachers and students and families are in right now lends itself to innovation and change and problem based learning. To exploration and virtual reality and primary sources and datasets and all sorts of things that we know are good for kids.

So here it is. A Wayback Wednesday History Tech re-do.

And I know you may not be in the right place for this right now. I get that. If that’s you, I’m good. File this away then for next fall – it’ll still be here.

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Shocker. Lecturing to students puts them to sleep.

Who could have guessed?

Well . . . I should have. But I didn’t. During my first few years as a middle school teacher and later, during some time I spent teaching in a college social science department, I lectured.

A lot.

Early on, I didn’t know better. I was taught that way in both K-12 and in my college content courses. There were no real alternatives provided in my ed classes. And I started teaching long before established mentor programs got cranked up. Lecturing in a social studies class was just the way things were done.

By the time I had moved on to higher ed, Read more

7 tools that can help your kids work and think distraction free. (Feel free to jump on these yourself.)

I was reminded this morning of a post I wrote several years ago about the distraction caused by our use of tech tools. So . . . a quick update with few new tools designed to help all of us wrangle back our focus.

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I’m torn.

Is social media, cell phone use, and technology really good for us? Or can it be so distracting that we (and our students) are unable to focus long enough to think and deliberate on important issues?

Can we use mobile devices and Google and Twitter and all sorts of other tech tools to encourage learning, collaboration, and creativity? If we really can’t multitask but switch quickly between tasks instead, is back-channeling and Tweeting and texting and other forms of social media just encouraging less comprehension and more confusion?

Researcher Maggie Johnson wrote a book several years ago titled Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. Her research seems especially appropriate for social studies teachers:

If we forget how to use our powers of deep focus, we’ll depend more on black-and-white thinking, on surface ideas, on surface relationships. That breeds a tremendous potential for tyranny and misunderstanding.

Let me be clear . . . I strongly support the use of social networks and technology as learning tools. But I’m beginning to believe that we’re not really sure how to use these tools appropriately as part of instruction. We’re not asking enough questions about the best ways to integrate tech into what we do every day.

Can students and instructors really use technology/media/social networks in ways that engage and keep students focused on the truly important?

I think so. But Read more

History Nerdfest 2018: Spatial Analogies and Learning Geography

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.

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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?

Read more

Tip of the Week: BreakoutEDU and student engagement

Escape rooms.

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

Tip of the Week: Using board games for teaching and learning

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

The Game Believes in You – Using video games as instructional tools

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