Brain Friendly Learning

I was starting to get concerned about my gray matter after reading this article; so was very interested in Ginny Washburne’s Brain Friendly ideas.

In a nutshell, our brains absorb information better when we’re happy and active. Our brains are resilient and are all different, however there are many strategies included from Ginny’s DENSI2012 talk that you can use to use to activate those 50-200+ brains you work with daily.

My notes from July below:


positive = endorphins — negative = cortisol
emotional intelligence is equally important to IQ
strategies – goal setting; create a culture of learning, give hope, empathic listening, growth mindset, “you matter”, choice, at my school we Capturing Kids Hearts as a way to build positive relationships.
Angela Myers “You Matter” look up Ted Talk
use paper slide videos for goal setting

Establish “Buy in” with students

Start with Why – look for Ted Talk – Simon Sinek
to get learning into long term memory – meaning always trumps sense (we’ll memorize, but it has to mean something to remember)
Diana Laufenberg – world of 100 – blog activity
use framing (hook, story), enthusiasm, build mystery in a topic, “bigger kid” challenge, meaning (use authentic problems)

Movement & Brain BreaksBDNF – look into this
Eric Jensen – learning with the brain in mind – 12-15 min in middle school most time without movement loved! rock paper scissors math
kinesthetic lectures – let students move around and then reflect after the thoughts processed during movement

Play – using the right side of the brain

“What we describe in ‘A New Culture of ]Learning’ is learning driven by the relentless pace of change. It takes place without books, without teachers, and without classrooms, and it requires environments that are bounded yet provide complete freedom of action within those boundaries. This familiar dynamic, in fact, structures all our contemporary notions of play, games, and imagination. Play can be defined as the tension between the rules of the game and the freedom to act within those rules. But when play happens within a medium for learning—much like a culture in a petri dish—it creates a context in which information, ideas, and passions grow. Play, questioning, and imagination lie at the very heart of arc-of-life learning. They have a tremendous effect on, and resonance with, learning today. And where imaginations play, learning happens.”
—Douglas Thomas, co-author (with John Seely Brown), “A New Culture of Learning”; associate professor, University of Southern California in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
teach with tournaments – look up
use: gaming, virtual labs, experiments, stations, project based learning, digital storytelling (paper slide videos)

Feedback – during the learning process, is the single most powerful tool to enhance learning.
teacher, self, peer, community (****ask 3 then me – great idea)

Thank you Ginny!


Programming in the Classroom

At the DENSI2012 conference, David Warlick opened on July 23rd with many thought provoking topics. The main points ruminating afterward are that education needs to be:

  • responsive
  • provoke questions and curiosity
  • open ended with opportunities for conversation
  • make it possible to safely make mistakes

Sounds easy enough (and fun for teachers & students).  Are there great tools to allow students to ask questions, problem solve creatively, and safely make mistakes?

During the keynote, David introduced Scratch.  Scratch is a programming language made by MIT which makes programming accessible to anyone. Chris Betchler says in his blog that students,

“really seem to engage with the big ideas of programming – problem solving, thinking mathematically and using logic and reasoning. It’s the practical application of those ideas and the creative thinking required to solve authentic problems that forms the basis of a truly engaging learning experience.  While I don’t believe that everyone necessarily needs to become a computer programmer, I do think that everyone would benefit from learning the basic skills and mental gymnastics required to write simple computer programs.  I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful skill”.

Alice is another programming game.  “Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web.”1

Making a programming activity a part of your weekly classroom routine will provide valuable collateral learning that can be applied in the curriculum and will motivate students while they are learning.