Brain-Based Learning in the Digital Age

So, as you, my dear readers, have all probably noticed, I hate the modern school system. Forcing budding minds into a one-size-fits-all model and growing bodies into a sterile, prison-like environment creates nothing but abject misery and the desperation for freedom. This is not good for student’s brains. Indeed, this is not good for anyone’s brain. In light of this revelation, scientists and educators have begun asking, “What is good for the brain? How does the brain like to learn?” These studies have revealed what common sense has dictated for years: that mildly stimulating environments full of light, color and sound, combined with individual private and public discussion time, allow natural learning to commence (Wilson 2013). People need music, art and even aromatherapy in order to learn (Brain-Based Learning Strategies, Wilson 2013). Studies have proven that being in a “natural setting” with “natural lighting” enhances brain activity (Hardiman). What a novel thought! did you catch the sarcasm? aha  Every sense should be engaged, creating lasting memories that stick. On top of all these old-yet-new ideas lies a flood of new technology. The question now becomes, “How can brain-based learning be translated into the digital/technological environment?”

In my mind, it isn’t simply enough to apply some of the principles of brain-based learning with just working on the computer. When I observed Christina Dorn’s classroom at Shoal Creek Adventist School for an assignment, students used iPads as only one of several ways to complete an assignment. No, what I’m looking for are in-depth, “immersive,” technologically-based activities that stimulate the senses and make learning memorable. Based on my research, here is a perfect example of such an activity:

Create a Student-Driven “Newsroom”

The edutopia video, “Building a Better School with Brain-Based Learning,” reminded me of an activity my old elementary school used to offer for certain students. Every morning, a few selected students would arrive at school early to prepare for the live video stream of the morning announcements. Some students prepared scripted teleprompts for the announcers to read on-camera, while others were in charge of sound, video and lighting. I was on-air at least once a week as one of the main “announcers.” I read my assigned parts from the teleprompter with gusto, belting out, “Good morning Tyrone! You’re watching WTYR, home of the Tyrone Tornados!” This experience was repeated in middle school when I joined the “media” class which video taped the announcements in advance. From these experiences, I gather that creating a “broadcast” of any sort, for any class and by the whole class integrates every element of brain-based learning. The activity completely immerses the class in the world of newscasting. Students are assigned tasks according to their talents; some might have several tasks while others only one, according to their desires as well as their capabilities. It is a lesson in trust, also, as the student must trust the teacher to place them in the right position, since the teacher has been observing them during the year. Further, the activity forces students to be creative in every area in order to produce an attractive final product. Digital graphics, attractively designed sets, appropriately chosen music, a well-written script, excellent sound quality and careful video editing are all needed for a successful project. Students should be up and moving around, never still for longer than necessary and consistently collaborating. While individual time is needed, the brain grows best when surrounded by and engaging with other brains. Again, this project can be used with any concept and, since it is such a memorable activity, students will at least come away with newfound experience in art, music or technology. Who knows? Maybe a student might be introduced into the career of their choice: broadcasting! Anything is possible when one breaks from the norm and creates new, exciting experiences for students.

I must admit, this assignment was a challenge. How do you incorporate brain-based learning into this digital age? The more I researched brain-based learning, the more I realized that, while technology has its place, real brain-based learning happens when technology is used only as the vehicle for collaboration and research rather than as the main driver. Too often, we replace real communication and relationships with shallow ones online, real adventures with video games, real learning with quiz taking. For me, brain-based learning is returning to the heart of learning, where community thrives, individuals shine, and humanity is connected with nature, our real home. Regardless of what one believes, humanity is deeply connected with the Earth, and when we remove ourselves from it and steep ourselves in artificial environments, we suffer. Technology can never replace true reality. I believe we must always keep this in mind when we, as teachers, pair brain-based learning with technology.


Sources:

Building a Better School with Brain-Based Learning. (2003, February 25). Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/brain-based-learning-key-largo-school-video

Hardiman, M. (n.d.). The Brain Targeted Teaching Model. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/Journals/spring2010/thebraintargetedteachingmodel/index.html

Jensen, E. (n.d.). Brain-Based Learning Strategies. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://feaweb.org/brain-based-learning-strategies

The Twelve Principles for Brain-Based Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://www.talkingpage.org/artic011.html

Wilson, L. (2013, January 1). Brainbased Education – An Overview. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://thesecondprinciple.com/optimal-learning/brainbased-education-an-overview/

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