Education and Neuroscience should be working together because without the brain their wouldn’t be any knowledge or schooling required. Students and teachers rely on this piece of anatomy to be successful so why wouldn’t we want to know more about the functions and processes of this complex organ. Neuroscience can give teachers insight into the effects of boredom, the benefits of formative assessment and the different areas of the brain that are responsible for different intelligences, all of which can help teachers better meet the needs of their student’s brains.
First, In the presentation, “Big Thinkers: Judy Willis on the Science of Learning,” she states that “boredom activates the amygdala in the same way that the flight or flight instinct is activated in the animal kingdom.” This reveals that the stress of survival in the animal world does the same thing to our brains as a bored student. This is beneficial to education because when your brain is in this state of stress it is unable to learn new things. Engagement is an ongoing conversation amongst educators but because there is a lack of knowledge about the brain and what happens to the brain during a state of boredom, teachers don’t understand the stakes of engagement. For example, in my classroom when students say that something is boring, my pride gets hurt but also I think that it is rude. I worked hard on planning whatever it is that I had asked students to do and I don’t appreciate them telling me that they are bored. After this presentation I couldn’t help but think about those students telling me they are bored and really reaching out for help. If their brain is in a state of stress due to an activity in the classroom, as a teacher, shouldn’t I do something about that. I will be viewing boredom differently from this point forward.
Next, In the presentation, “Big Thinkers: Judy Willis on the Science of Learning, “ she states the importance of participation in every question, every time.” This revealed that letting shyer students sit back and not come up to the board is doing them a disservice in the classroom. In my classroom there are times when everyone has to do things but during whole-group lessons, students volunteer to answer questions and come up to the board. I sometimes choose randomly but students are always given the option to pass. Teachers are aware of the importance of creating a safe space for students to make mistakes in front of their peers, but there is something to be considered about providing opportunities for every student to answer every question and receive feedback privately. The school that I will be teaching at this coming fall is going to have chromebooks. I just went to a two day training, that has given me some ideas that would help in making sure that each student is always participating in private and receiving prompt feedback about everything that is assigned through google classroom. I will still allow students the opportunity to pass on things but there will be so much that they can’t pass on, in the form of formative assessments using forms through google drive. Considering the neuroscience aspect, I realize now that I need to take advantage of the neuroplasticity of the brain make sure that my students are making plenty of mistakes to learn from in an emotionally safe way. This idea is by Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher (2016) when it was stated “Providing students more frequent, non threatening, or low stakes, feedback on their understanding is critical to memory consolidation (pg.21).” This statement encourages me to give students opportunities to use knowledge immediately after encountering it so they are able to store this information in their long term memory.
Lastly, in the book. Neuro Teach, Brain Science and the Future of Education, by Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher (2016) states “schools put too much of their emphasis on psychometric intelligence at the expense of the others, and it is time to redress that imbalance (pg.17) “ A person/student has multiple intelligences, which means that measuring one's intelligence isn’t found in one place in the brain. Additionally, the different intelligences in the brain are networking and working together. As an educator, I feel like considering all of the different intelligences like creativity, social intelligence, and psychometric should all be considered in the classroom. It is easy to forget about someone's motivation, curiosity and social cognitive abilities when there is so much weight in standardized testing, but we as educators need to stop feeding that beast. Just because someone is intelligent in one area, it doesn’t mean that they are intelligent in all areas. I think it is important to teach the whole child and I think that means we consider the different areas of intelligence, in order to help foster well rounded people. By teaching to the whole child an educator is likely to better meet the needs of Tony Wagner’s list of seven critical competencies;
Big Thinkers: Judy Willis on the Science of Learning | Edutopia. (2018). Edutopia. Retrieved 28 May 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/video/big-thinkers-judy-willis-science-learning
Whitman, G., Kelleher, I. (2016). Neuro teach, brain science and the future of education.
By: Andrea Blackerby & Amanda Young
University of San Diego
“We believe that to be literate in the twenty-first century, students must become composers and readers of hypermedia,” (Wilhelm, Friedemann, and Erickson 1998, p. 20)
The world in which we live is vastly different from the world in which most of us as educators grew up in. When we were going to school, the existence of technology was obviously not as it is today. Today’s kids are beyond proficient when it comes to technology and all that is has to offer. It is their second language, and a place where they are innately comfortable to exist. The way in which I teach has changed to embrace the developments we see in the field of technology. According to Peter Elbow, students are learning (or should be learning) how to create texts that are different than the traditional five-paragraph essay of yesterday (2000, p. 30). One of my jobs as an educator is to prepare my students to be productive and positively contributing citizens of the world. One way to do this is through 21st century skills like creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, and collaboration.
In a 4th-grade classroom in the Santa Ynez Valley, a group of students are being given as many opportunities to work on these 21st century skills throughout the year. One way this is accomplished is through blogging. At the beginning of the year the teacher, Mrs. Young, shows her students how to use the platform Kidblog.org to write their weekly reading responses. Mrs. Young began this form of response because she was tired of the traditional, “how many did you read this week?” and “have your parents sign it” format. The kids needed something fresh and new to share what they read with a more meaningful audience. Scott Gibbons’ article (2010) on using a Wiki to collaborate through writing, reinforces this idea of writing with a purpose and an audience in mind to increase student engagement and achievement. The teacher also began using Twitter to find other schools who are using Kidblog.org for blogging to see if her students could make some connections with 4th-graders from across the country. Another way in which collaboration is used through writing is with the CA Native American unit. Every year Mrs. Young assigns partners to do a research project on a specific CA Native American tribe. These partnerships have to collaborate through reading, researching, taking notes, and creating a slideshow presentation for their peers and parents. Students work together to make a digitally enhanced (Hicks, 2013) web-based project by incorporating images, videos, various fonts and colors, and text into their slideshows. They learn how to use the animations to change from slide to slide, and they learn how to record the narration of their slideshow.
A lot of work goes into creating a positive learning environment in this 4th-grade classroom before collaboration can even take place. The students start at the beginning of the year talking about respect and what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like. They use Kate Kinsella's 4 L’s to create a feeling of positivity when interacting with each other. These students learn that talking and collaborating with a partner isn’t just about what you are saying, it is also about how you are saying it. A lot of time and effort is spent working on these principles. Another thing that helps collaboration to be more successful with her students is to make sure learning is relevant to them. The goal is for them to be excited about what they will be collaborating on. Finding topics that interest them as well as playing to their learning styles, makes them more willing to work. There is also a lot of talk about conduct and what is okay versus what is not okay in terms of behavior. Students are given multiple opportunities for role playing so they can see what examples of cooperating versus non-cooperation actually looks like.. Finally, when collaboration is in effect, there is a lot of reinforcement of positive behaviors and celebrating when they are working well together. When problems do arise (and they do) students try to attack the problem in a positive way, emphasizing that they need to be careful with their language and how they talk to each other. Needless to say, collaboration with 4th-graders is not perfect, but it is so valuable to their learning process.
Collaboration is valuable at all ages and stages. In a first grade classroom in Albuquerque, New Mexico, students are working together to analyze and create media. First, students watched popular advertisements that are geared towards them as consumers and analyze the different aspects or techniques that the producers used. Students as a whole class discussed their ideas and explained their thinking. After, a complete analysis was completed students were put into groups and were expected to become the producers of similar print media. The final product was to create a print advertisement of classroom supplies. Two groups chose to advertise crayola crayons and one group chose to promote books and reading. The students were responsible for assigning a photographer, models, director and illustrator. All of the groups added writing to their photos and additional pictures to make their add more visually appealing.
With this in mind, critical media literacy theory is geared towards revamping the traditional educational framework; students are not receptacles where teachers can dump knowledge and facts into, with all of the information and facts available to students, memorization is no longer the key to academic success. Students need to have the ability to think critically about media and work towards producing a variety of media as well. By choosing this lesson, students were given the opportunity to think about the construction of the media and then were able to take what they know about the media and produce their own advertisement. This is supported in the components shared in Critical Media Pedagogy (2013) “learning must be active, authentic, participatory and empowering” (pg.16). This kind of framework translates into students as producers and critical consumers of the world around them instead of the traditional banking model. Students in the past needed to learn everything because they didn’t have access to the knowledge the way that students today do. Students today need to create and analyze as presented in Literacy for the 21st Century (2003) “navigating their lives through multi-media culture, being fluent in “reading” and “writing” the language of images and sounds…in addition to the language of printed communications”.
In addition to the collaborative process that first graders experience when producing their own media, collaboration is also present in many of the traditional activities of the classroom. Primary teachers rely on the power of collaboration during small group rotations, mainly because the teacher is with a small group and the rest of the class needs to be able to work amongst themselves without the teacher’s help cue collaboration techniques. Students in Ms. Blackerby’s first grade class collaborate with one another when rotating from one group to another during Mathematics and Language Arts Rotations. The students are grouped in order to make sure that students have models in each group that can help and support their classmates. Students are making interactive notebooks in both subjects which takes teamwork because each group is making one notebook. Traditionally, students are making individual notebooks but not this year. This year each group is preparing a notebook and although groups change throughout the year as abilities and needs change the group identifications stay the same and students are expected to join a new group and pick up where they need to. So far, this group project has been successful in establishing teamwork skills in the classroom and I think it is a great collaborative foundational exercise.
To conclude, collaboration is an important skill for students to develop to be successful in today's 21st century careers and academics. Educators are responsible for facilitating different collaborative techniques at all ages in order to prepare students for the integrated/interconnected world of today. With that said, it is important to consider all of the digital platforms and applications available to today’s classroom to support students in collaboration. If you are an educator or student looking to branch out into some collaborative online platforms consider looking into Wikis, Google docs and Edmodo; these media tools can be used to produce digital writing pieces.
Elbow, P. (2000). Using the collage for collaborative writing. In Everyone can write: Essays toward a hopeful theory of writing and teaching writing (p. 397). New York: Oxford University Press.
Gibbons, S. (2010). Collaborating like never before: reading and writing through a wiki. National Council of Teachers of English, 99(5), 35-39. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27807189
Hicks, T. (2013). Crafting digital writing: composing texts across media and genres. Portsmouth, NH: Heinneman
Morrell, E., Duenas, R., Garcia, V., Lopez, J. (2013). Critical Media Pedagogy: Teaching for Achievement in City Schools.
Toffler, A. (2003). Literacy for the 21st Century: The Challenge of Teaching In a Global Media Culture.
As a first-grade teacher, I find it difficult to teach writing. I was always a student who attacked any writing task in front of me, not saying I thought it was easy but I definitely tried. I have found that writing is the hardest thing to teach to my first graders and I am hoping to gain some new insight into writing instruction. I would say right now, I teach writing in a traditional manner, which is so boring. The kids are not motivated and neither am I. I am hoping that working towards my masters with a specialization in teaching digital learners will give me a fresh perspective into the multimodal writing world. I would like to be able to teach through technology and different contexts. I don’t know much about digital writers as of yet but I am excited to learn. I really want to be a good writing teacher because the stakes are so high for our kids because so much of what they write is reflection of themselves now, displayed for the world on social media platforms.