Saturday, February 19, 2011

Learning and the Brain 2011 - Jane M. Healy

Keynote II: Different Brains, Different Learners: Rethinking "Intelligence" and "Learning Disability" for the 21st Century
Jane M. Healy, PhD

Author of Different Learners - Identifying, Preventing, and Helping your Children's Learning Problems

Learning and the Brain Conference
San Francisco, CA
Saturday, February 19, 2011

There is a misfit between the learning style of the child and the evaluation of the student's learning. (i.e. standardized testing)

Points to Ponder:
Brain Crisis: Culture, kids and schools - the mismatch

Learning Difference the pain, the potential

The Educator's Response

Are we teaching kids to be masters of their tools or tools of their tools?

We need to put students in the position where they can rise above computer intelligence and in control - master of tools or tools of tools?

But some things don't change:
-Physical health issues
-Developmental stages (waves) - is it right for every age group for the cognitive development stage that they are at? How do we know?
-Individual differences - collaborative problem solving needs of future careers - there needs to be room to allow for individuals to work by themselves if they work better that way. (Behavioural needs)
(Learning style, temperament, rate of maturation)
-Need for human connections (F2F, teacher as leader, mentor, etc)

Brain crisis - a child being born today in the US has a 30% chance of being diagnosed with some type of learning problem.

Learning problems may include:
academic skills - reading, math
behavioural skills - ADHD
Social-emotional skills - Asperger's, NVLD, etc.

Pop Quiz -
1. 60% of the most popular educational apps for the iPhone are for preschoolers - what kind of effects will they have on them when they reach school - how will it change their brain?

2. Kids 8-18 spend 8.5-23.5 hrs/day with some sort of media, of which are .5 hrs with books (Kaisers Foundation stat)

3. New research shows that background TV in preschoolers' home impairs their own inner-speech (that helps them speak) and to manage and plan their own play activities and manage their own behaviours.

4. A new and fast-growing learning disorder diagnosis is executive function (hint: think frontal lobes)

Who's brain is really in charge? This child's or the programmers? (Cover of the New Yorker)

5. A recent study of highly successful entrepreneurs found that close to 50% of them were dyslexics.

6. Michael Barry, the financial whiz who read the financial statements and sold short the sub-prime mortgage market has Aspbergers.

Take-away - the environment of childhood has changed, and it has significant effects on growing brains. These effects may exacerbate certain learning challenges.

Human evolution may have preserved certain neurobilogical differences for reasons that are as yet unknown.

Our challenge: Honour the talents but ease the learning process.

All students need reflective teaching to become masters of their teaching to become the tools of their tools.
  • Learning difference
  • The pain
  • The potential
Cerebrodiversity - No two brains are alike and no one has a perfect brain

The Brain Thinking - If everybody was the same and someone had a thought and it was wrong then everybody would be wrong. Isn't it better to have different thoughts? - A disproportionate number of CEOs are dyslexic. Thinking differently creates opportunities.

Dyslexia - Talent or Liability?

The ability of Dyslexics to interpret impossible figures makes them good at visual requirements for future careers.

A.S.D. - Talent or Liability?
-we see a different reaction of young children's exposure to electronic faces (which don't react the same as a human face)- this could exacerbate A.S.D. because they lacked the ability to see details in human contact (facial features and details that show human emotion)

A.D.H.D. - Talent or Liability?
Impulsive response - not being able to manage their own mind, they are just stimulus bound - some video games train this kind of response.

It is not nature or nurture but it is nature and nurture.

Epigenetics changes to the genome as a result of experience - environments shape genes and brains.

The dance of nature and nurture.

Culture Changes Brains - The Dyslexic Brain Changed by Teaching (showed brain scans)

Brain Disruptor - Stress - We need balance between technology and playing in the environment with others face to face.

Intelligence for a digital age - an educator's response
-time uninterrupted, concentrated thought may prove to be most important skill that one can hone - John Brockman
Are we doing this in school? It might be the only place to get it.

What is worth preserving?
  • life in the real world
  • nature
  • interpersonal skills
  • childhood

intelligence for a digital age
symbolic reaction

Tools of the Mind - self regulation that needs to be taught or implemented in schools

What is right for a 16 year old is probably not right for a 6 year old. Consider that difference can be an asset so don't neglect the brain builders...

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