The Six Principles That Move Mind, Brain, Education #MBE #edchat #techchat #education via @PatFurstenberg

What are the limits of the human brain? How do we learn best? How can we aid and support our children in reaching their full potential as students?

Throughout the centuries, great teachers have been guided by their intuition as to what method of teaching works best. Modern brain imaging techniques have brought into plain view why certain methods work as the workings of the brain has never been as thoroughly demonstrated.  Today we have a clear understanding of which methods work. The latest research in the science of Mind, Brain and Education (MBE) are available to help 21st Century teachers and learners achieve success. MBE is a young science started at Harvard University 25 years ago by uniting the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and education.

Here are the 6 principles MBE is based on:

#1: Each brain is unique and uniquely organized.

Our brains are as unique as our faces or our fingerprints. Although the basic structure and patters of learning remain the same, each brain is unique.

Each human being has unique DNA. Our blueprint is further influenced and shaped by our lifetime experiences, as the age old nature versus nurture argument goes. Even if identical twins share very similar genes (each human being has 24 000), the latest genetic studies prove that their phenotype or physical manifestation will differ as a result of life experiences and epigenetic factors (the way in which environmental factors alter behaviour and development.

Humans share general physical and neurodevelopmental stages (yet not in the same way or at the same rate) that establish the parameters for learning. Since each brain is unique and develops in its own way, students will learn and develop at their own pace. This is why a “one size fits all” method of teaching is ineffective.

#2: All brains are not equal because context and ability influence learning

He has a gift for words, she has a mathematician’s brain, some of us resent change while others welcome it – why is it so? We know that the different stages of brain development impact our comprehension and the development of our skills by influencing our brain’s physiology. Not only are our brains different, but our genetic predisposition, our “abilities” differ. There is no predefined frame for success as a learner.

The human brain is wired for studying and experimenting and is constantly changing.  With the right support, motivation and an appropriate learning environment, a modest background (genetic or not) can be maximized beyond expectation; while individuals born with great potential or under the right circumstances may not reach their potential if they do not live up to it.

An interesting example is that of dyslexia and astronomy. Research shows that dyslexia is the result of an atypical cortical organization. However, the dyslexic brain’s visual field is wired differently, allowing for a wider spatial attention. Because dyslexic students favor the peripheral visual field, with the necessary support and training, they’ll have a greater advantage as astronomers (Schneps, “Dyslexia and Astronomy”, 2007).

#3: The brain is changed by experience

Our genetic codes, the circumstances of our birth and our social experiences make us who we are, each with our own set of strengths and weaknesses.

Since learning is “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught” (Oxford Dictionary), it is impossible for the brain not to learn and change through daily experiences. Previous positive experiences will empower learning, while negative ones will hinder the learning process.

The human brain is not detached from the body during the learning process so the stimuli affecting the human body (taste, smell, touch, sight) will impact upon the brain. A repetitive stimulus will, in time, create a permanent change; more stimuli exciting a wider area of the brain will, in time, strengthen that area. The reverse is also true; the lack of stimulation will, eventually, cause an area to atrophy – How the Brain Works. All these changes are unseen, but the effects thereof are clearly visible.

#4: The brain is highly plastic

Your brain will be different than it was before you read this article in response to your thoughts; your brain constantly prunes and strengthens its neural pathways. This is neuroplasticity, derived from neuron (a nerve cell) and plastic (mouldable). The human brain is most malleable at a young age, yet throughout our lives the brain is capable of neurogenesis (creation of new neurons), reorganizing old pathways and creating new neural connections that improve its capabilities. We can learn at any age, as our brain constantly rewires itself and changes its physical structure (functional plasticity) or recuperates a lost skill, if the usual route is damaged or blocked (structural plasticity).

Neuroplasticity goes beyond, confronting the belief that certain brain areas are responsible for a specific function. Antonio Battro, neuroscientist and educationalist, documents the extraordinary life of a child living with only half a brain in “Half a Brain is Enough: The Story of Nico”. The brain works as a system; when parts of brain are missing other parts take over and learn new functions.

The brain’s plasticity is also associated with the growth mind-set concept: by being told that intelligence is not fixed, but changeable; a group of schoolchildren were able to raise their IQ’s.

Neuroplasticity means that anybody can learn or develop a skill at any stage throughout their life, if context (support, environment, motivation, prior knowledge and enough practice) and ability are present.

#5: The brain connects new information to old

We all thrive to make sense of the world around us, no matter our age. Mouthing is part of normal infant development; teenagers need to belong to a group and as grown-ups confronted with a new situation we felt that the world made no sense – until we found a familiar pattern to relate to. This is part of foundational knowledge, using what we already know from different disciplines to make sense of something knew.

The human brain is designed to find and generate patterns.

Our mind learns and makes sense of experiences by finding old patterns to relate to before creating new ones. Patterns can be a thinking principle, a category, or diagrams. It is much like following directions to an unknown location by looking for familiar landmarks. At the same time, very much like connecting the dots to create an image, the human brain will use the understanding of small details to comprehend the big picture (such as a project, a meaningful story or a history lesson).

By connecting the new information with the old information; new neural connections will appear, that will anchor the new concepts to the already existing ones.

This is why teaching in a vacuum fails. Students need to connect new information to old information in order to understand it.  And the new information that relies on old information can not be absorbed if the old information is missing, or not completely understood.

#6: Attention + Memory = Learning

Our brains are not made to download the information presented to them, but to first analyse it visually, auditory and tacitly.

Our experiences are first lived, then learned.

Attention is needed during the learning process; first to make sense of what is being taught and then to connect new ideas to the existing knowledge by noticing similarities between the two. Yet the information presented to us will compete with the overall stimuli our body is exposed to. At the same time; learning is influenced by our emotional state, as emotions convey meaningfulness to the subject at hand.

When a new concept is being taught; we first commit it to the working memory. After revision, it is stored in the long term memory. Overloading the working memory will reduce the amount of information we can move to long term memory. Practice and meaning are crucial to committing the information to long term memory. Therefore, the way information is presented needs to reduce the cognitive load and facilitate learning.

As our brains are unique; each student will better assimilate the information through a different channel. Using a variety of methods while teaching (reading, videos, debates, discussion, projects, slides, etc.) will benefit a larger number of students, as the input information enters through different neural pathways ensuring a greater possibility of maximizing student learning, often through the overlapping of information.

(Written by Patricia Furstenberg for ITSI_SA – April 2018)

Please follow and share:
0

How Mobile Libraries Can Boost Education In South Africa

the key factors to achieve a high literacy level in a country – Patricia Furstenberg

How Mobile Libraries Can Boost Education In South Africa

Some of my most cherished memories involve books. Being read to, excited to hear my father mimicking different characters in the story; later on, thrilled to read on my own. Books, the touch and feel of them. Cradling the book you thoroughly enjoy and that sunken feeling when it’s over.

Most of this world’s amazing people were thirsty readers, drawing inspiration and strength from books. Oscar Wilde, Nelson Mandela, Agatha Christie. What would they have become if it wasn’t for the books they were fortunate to read? Where would you be now without the books that made you?

“Be a lifelong student, read as many books as possible.” Nelson Mandela

For us, books are within easy access; a library down the road or at school, online book retailers or the mall’s bookshop and second hand bookshops. We’re lucky, although we probably take it for granted, to have been brought up in a culture of reading. Because reading is linked to academic achievement, emotional intelligence and self-esteem.

South African learners still have limited access to libraries

And the two main reasons are: lack of infrastructure and the bad management of funds.

My previous article: “Does school attendance guarantee literacy?” concluded that access to reading material from an early age, together with school attendance and government funds for learners are key factors in attaining a high literacy level in a country.

There aren’t enough libraries

Learners in primary schools with a library fulfilling minimum standards (which can be as little as a box of books in one classroom, as decided by the South African Department of Basic Education):

Provinces ranked according to schools supplied with a library, with one being the highest extent and nine the lowest extent:

The 2009 UNICEF report stated that 53 percent of SA learners were in non-fee schools, completely dependent on funds from the government. The funds are allocated per learner, depending on the poverty of the area around the school and are amended annually.

Schools that have acquired the full set of funds, by province:

Schools that have acquired the full set of funds by province

Where do we stand, worldwide? The World’s Most Literate Nations (WMLN) ranks countries on their populace’s literate behaviours and their supporting resources. They use five categories as indicators of the literate health of nations: libraries, newspapers, education inputs and outputs, computer availability. “This multidimensional approach to literacy speaks to the social, economic, and governmental powers of nations around the globe.” On Libraries ranking South Africa scored 51.5, with position one as best and 61 last.

To paraphrase Francis Bacon, if children can’t have access to books, then let the books come to the children.

Clever Solutions

1. Mobile libraries and librarians

This is exactly what SAPESI (South African Primary Education Support Initiative) does. With the support of the SAPESI Japan offices they source and export mobile libraries (MBs) to SA. These facilities are contained in medium-sized busses and will travel around provinces providing poor communities with free access to books and a librarian. Each bus carries 2,500 books in all 11 official languages, catering for children between the ages of six and 11.

Japan, a country with an area three times smaller than South Africa, has 530 MBs. In 2016 South Africa had approximately 50 MBs visiting 885 schools across the country. SAPESI aims to have 100 MBs that will serve 2,500 schools by 2025: at least one in operation in each of the 96 education districts across South Africa. SAPESI hopes that the learners’ families will be encouraged by these efforts and support the children’s reading efforts as “reading is the basis of all learning.”

Since 2008 SAPESI is also supported by Sony companies from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States. The total number of English children’s books donated so far is 170,000. Sony Corporation in Tokyo contributed funds to SAPESI in order to purchase a further 13,200 children’s books in languages indigenous to South Africa.

In addition to supplying books Sony also supports the “VAIO Bakkie”, an IT training project using Sony’s VAIO laptop computer, whereby pupils enjoy learning practical computer skills, even at schools without computer facilities.

2. Improvise and reuse refurbished containers

The South African Mobile Library Association (SAMLA) together with EDSA (Education for Democracy in South Africa) have joined forces to bring the knowledge and love of reading, story-telling and drama to townships and squatter camps of the Western Cape. A children’s library has been set up in three refurbished containers in a central location in Gugulethu Township.

3. Wooden mobile bookshelves

Mobile Library Solutions, “Masixhasane”, is another mobile library initiative doing their bit at eradicating illiteracy in SA schools. They build mobile libraries that fit through a door and are ready to use: wooden mobile bookshelves stocked up with books sponsored by worldwide organisations.

Percentage of learners with library access as presented in the 2014 report for basic education:

Provincial indicator values for library access in South Africa as presented in the 2014 report for basic education.

Mobile libraries, early results

In 2014 research done by the University of Free State on schools in the rural areas proved that primary children from schools serviced by mobile libraries showed a significant improvement in their English reading and speaking capabilities.

The use of Mobile Libraries helps on multiple levels, study proves. Patricia Furstenberg

The children were able to converse comfortably with us in English and also read from their library books with ease and comprehension. By contrast, children from some schools that have not had access to the mobile libraries had very little understanding or use of English.” says Dr. Lynette Jacobs, Head of the School of Education Studies.


Sony Group employees send books to children in South Africa.

There are many other organisations supporting the mobile library initiative with the same vital purpose: to instil a love of reading thus improving literacy and overall academic performance of the children of South Africa.

Written for and published on Huffington Post SA on 4 May 2017

You might also like to read:

Does School Attendance Guarantee Literacy?

How To Raise A Child With A High IQ

Please follow and share:
0

Left Or Right Brain? How Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style Can Help You Help Them via @PatFurstenberg

Left Or Right Brain? How Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style Can Help You Help Them

Your child is a left-brain; he’s got a logical mind, he understands numbers and sequence, that’s why he’s so good with mathematics and sciences. My daughter is no good at mathematics, but she’s a right-brain, she’s creative and imaginative.

Is it correct to label our children based on common beliefs? Left-brain and right-brain, there is so much more to it than aptitudes towards the science or the arts.

Karl Lashley was the first neuropsychologist to map the human brain, especially those areas of the brain responsible for specific functions and to research the way people study and learn new facts. Based on his initial findings, further studies have established that the left hemisphere is in charge of language (vocabulary), memorizing and recalling, following instructions. The right hemisphere is in charge with visualization, imagining, comparison, as well as comprehension and interpretation.

The right-side, left-side dominance becomes evident from an early age. The older we become, the more evident it is, except that grown-ups also learn to compensate and, if they are lucky, they will choose a career path that aligns with their dominant hemisphere.

On a school level, the situation is different. There is no choice, thinker or dreamer, they are all crammed in the same classroom, following the same curriculum. And the curriculum seems to favour the left-brain students.

Left-brain academic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy.

Right-brained subjects focus on aesthetics, emotions, and creativity.

Until the day that the education department will embrace and support this natural, dual way of thinking it lies in our hands as parents to support our children.

Often right-brain students will appear as under-achievers as the educational curriculum might not be challenging enough for the way their brain is wired to think.

Mathematics and science require the learning and use of formulas, of a specific sequence of facts. Languages and Social Sciences require students to memorize vocabulary and grammar rules as well as lists of facts and numerous dates. Furthermore, mathematics or maths literacy are listed among the compulsory subjects required for all degrees offered by the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Humanities or Faculty of Theology.

Wonderful news for left-brain pupils, but what about the right-brain ones? The dreamers and the thinkers that see the big picture, yet tend to struggle remembering small details? The David Karp (founder of Tumbler), Evan Williams (Blogger creator and former Twitter CEO) or Simon Cowell (Britain’s Got Talent)?

These right-brain dominant students, although just as gifted and as clever as their left-brain fellows, are often seen as under-achievers because they struggle to remember a formula or a historical date. Few right-brain pupils might just be able to expand their natural brain functioning, thus over-compensating the restraints of their brain design — by applying themselves to the extreme.

It is important to understand that a pupil’s cerebral inclination will play a role not only in the type of information he or she is more likely to absorb but also in the way he or she will best absorb that information.

Although left-brain students can absorb the details and the numbers, they might struggle to step back and “get” the big picture. These students may need to know from the beginning what is the end goal, what is expected of them before the study process even begins.

Right-brain pupils benefit from the use of images and colours when studying. Using simple drawings when learning is highly beneficial as it involves their dominant right-brain, the creative hemisphere in the process, thus supporting their left-brain.

Until the day that the education department will embrace and support this natural, dual way of thinking it lies in our hands as parents to understand our children’s hemispheric dominance and distinctive brain wiring and to support them, as all children are gifted and unique, whole individuals.

Curious about your brain dominance? Take the hemispheric dominance test.

This article was first published on the Huffington Post SA on 14 November 2017.

You might also enjoy reading:

How Mind-Brain-Education Can Aid the South African Education

Here’s How To Get Boys To Read In 5 Easy Steps

Please follow and share:
0

5 Facts About The Baby’s Brain Parents Must Know via @PatFurstenberg

5 Facts About The Baby’s Brain Parents Must Know

A baby’s arrival is welcomed with excitement and apprehension. We prepare for it by buying tiny clothes, a mountain of nappies, furniture to fill an entire room and the boot of our cars — and this is just the beginning. Between antenatal classes and parenting books, no wonder there isn’t any time left for extra information.

Neuroscientists, with the aid of brain-imaging tools, can study the changes that take place in the human brain when we think, read or learn. Their findings shine a new light on how the human brain actually works and how parents can help enhance their children’s educational experiences and life achievements.

Baby Brain Fact #1: First Three Month Of Life Are Crucial For The Baby’s Brain

Full-term babies

The brain of a newborn baby birthed at full term is only a quarter of the total size of an adult brain. Therefore specialists consider the first three months of life as the fourth trimester of pregnancy. It is during these first three months of the newborn’s life that his brain develops enough for the baby to become mature enough to adapt to his surroundings and to begin to socialise.

When infants are born before full term

Inductions were regarded as highly fashionable between the Eighties and until the end of the 20th century. As soon as a pregnancy reached its 37th week (with 40 weeks being full term), it was considered “close enough” and inductions and C-sections were being scheduled. It was the increased number of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) that made obstetricians reconsider the meaning of “term pregnancy“.

Researchers noted that the brains of the infants born at 37 weeks were 5 percent smaller than the average. By the third months of life, the difference between the preterm babies and the full-term babies became smaller, but the preterm babies hadn’t fully caught up — their brain size remaining “2 percent smaller than the average” a neurology study showed.

Newborn baby MRI

Image above: The brain scan on the left is taken from a newborn, and the one on the right is taken 90 days later. Credit: Dominic Holland et al., University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Baby Brain Fact #2: Talking To A Baby Stimulates Its Brain

Talking to babies and even reading to them helps boost their brain power, researchers say, and the differences begin to show as early as two years of age. Chatting with infants helps them pick up the rhythm and the rules of language, and repetition helps them learn vocabulary.

The same principles apply to using facial expressions to communicate with an infant, as this will help them decipher and understand human emotions. At such a young age the prefrontal cortex (implicated in behaviour and personality expression) is not fully developed, so the fear of “spoiling” an infant by giving them too much attention is unjustified.

Baby Brain Fact #3: The Brain Develops During Our Entire Life

The first birthday is an important milestone for the toddler’s brain as well, as it would have reached 60 percent of its adult size. The circumference of the human head will reach 90 percent of its adult size by the age of six, yet the brain will only be fully matured at the age of 25.

Neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain continues to develop — forming new neural pathways and pruning old, weak ones throughout our lives. Also, due to the brain’s plasticity, if an area of the human brain is lost the remaining brain area will, in time, develop to compensate for the missing sector.

Our genetic package provides the basic blueprint for brain development, but the stimulation an infant and child experiences provide the foundation for future learning.

Baby Brain Fact #4: Lantern vs Flashlight Awareness

Although a baby’s brain has many more neural connections compared to the adult brain, to protect them in a harsh world their brain has less inhibitory neurotransmitters.

As a result, they perceive the main picture, but focus less on details, just like a lantern that illuminates the entire room in a diffuse way. By comparison, the adult brain will focus on details, very much like a flashlight that focuses its light on specific details.

Baby Brain Fact #5: DVDs Out, Experiences In

From birth, babies respond to some stimuli and ignore others. DVDs, flashcards — these leave baby unresponsive. What babies love is human interaction, and later on, first-hand experiences.

Keep in mind that babies get bored quickly, as they have a short attention span, so parents need to vary the games. Also, too much stimulation will soon tire the baby.

Interesting to notice is that babies don’t hear as well as we do, which explains why crying is not bothering them!

Also, babies can’t distinguish voices from background noise as well as adults do — so if you want your infant to pay attention to you, it is advised to switch off the TV.

And music? Yes, babies do love music, but this should be approached as an activity, limited by time and cued to baby’s attention span.

* The information in this article is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article was initially published on Huffington Post SA on 9 May 2018

You might also like to read:

5 Medical Symptoms Named After Literary Characters

5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Boys into Bookworms

 

 

Please follow and share:
0

Children And Screen Time: 3 Myths Exposed via @PatFurstenberg

What is that one valuable item you never leave home without? The one, if you are anything like me, you carry around with you from one room to the next as you move around through your own home? The one you keep within ear reach, even as you sleep.

Yes, it is the smartphone. If you would have only two minutes to leave your home, what would you take with you? What are your most valuable items, except for your immediate family? Is your phone included on the emergency list? Yes? Why so? Because it is a necessity.

The number of smartphone users in South Africa more than doubled between 2014 and 2018 and it is estimated that it will increase by an extra 5 percent by 2022, statistics show. However, the number of times Americans look at their phones each day remained constant during the past three years: 47 times.

The exception is the 18-24 years age group, that checks their phones 86 times per day. Only 16 percent of Americans check their phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning, a 2017 Deloitte U.S. consumer survey shows. Let’s face it; it is hard to resist a device that adds so much value to our daily lives in a way that no single device ever has been able to. Smartphones allow us, almost anytime and anyplace, to call, text, watch, listen, browse, shop and read!

Now think of your young child handling your smartphone; in a safe place where it can’t be dropped … Is the thought of making you anxious? Why so? Is it because your child can damage your mobile device, or because the smartphone can unsettle your youngster? What if we would turn around the image of a kid holding a smartphone and look at its positive side? Will it excite us to see how quickly our young children learn to use the latest technology? What if we shift our focus and look at digital technology as a tool to promote individual growth?

Not all digital media is great, and as parents, it is our duty to constantly monitor the quality of screen time our children are exposed to.

Let’s try to understand the three myths concerning children and their screen time exposure.

1. Screens are forcing children to live a passive life

So many TV shows and games to get kids up and moving, especially shows focusing on animals, friends sharing an adventure and providing learning opportunities. Emerging research shows that children enjoy taking part in active video games more than playing traditional games during physical education. Active screen time during preschool years also helps improves children’s cognitive skills and school readiness, increases their vocabulary and promotes social interaction, research shows.

2. Playing games distracts children from their education

A research conducted in 2018 “found changes in brain activity and increased performance on tests of visual selective activity in subjects who had spent one hour playing the League of Legends video game”. The research team assessed the participants’ visual selective attention before and after playing the game. The conclusion was that the expert game players had more brain activity associated with attention than the non-experts. The expert game players also scored better on the initial visual selective attention assessment.

What if we look at video games from an education perspective? What if video games can teach educators and parents more about our children’s cognitive learning? What if video games can be used to reduce exam stress and the time spent doing tests as well as the time used by the school in assessing the children? What if video games can help teachers focus on individualised learning? Can this be a new paradigm for education? Video games are well suited for individual learning, allowing students to learn at their own pace, under parental control. Games bridge the in-school and out-of-school learning and put the fun back in the study.

For example, the Mathematics Fluency Data Collaborative is a project is a G4LI project led by Carnegie Learning and in collaboration with Game2Learn at the University of North Carolina, the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and PlayPower. Experts in mathematical education, cognitive skills, game design and data mining have created a platform for high-quality mathematics games to help students acquire the skills to succeed in mathematical problem solving through gaming.

3. Screens form a barrier between parents and their kids

The greatest benefit of screen time comes only when parents talk to their children about what they watch or the games they played. Screen time can be used as a tool to promote meaningful discussions, a springboard for teaching kids empathy. Empathy and compassion are the foundation of a happy, meaningful life, but they cannot be learned from a book; they must come from emotional situations, and this is where supervised screen time can help.

Not all digital media is great, and as parents, it is our duty to constantly monitor the quality of screen time our children are exposed to. Having a balance is also important, but we must acknowledge that we share the same world with our children, and information technology is a part of our lives.

As parents and teachers, we can raise our expectations about digital media, choose to talk to our children about its content, and show them why it matters and how to use it to their advantage.

First published on Huffington Post SA, 29 June 2018

You might also like to read:

Here’s How To Get Boys To Read In 5 Easy Steps

Please follow and share:
0

Mind-Brain-Education Secrets: Strategies to Benefit Students and Teachers #MBE #mind #brain #education #educhat #knowledge #strategy #students via @PatFurstenberg

Mind-Brain-Education Secrets:  Strategies to Benefit Students and Teachers

1. What is Mind-Brain-Education (MBE)?

MBE is a young science started at Harvard University 25 years ago by uniting the fields of neuroscience, psychology and education. MBE brings together cognitive neuroscience (studying of the mind and its processes), behavioral science (studying the interactions among different organisms in the world) and professionals in the education field. MBE takes the latest discoveries in brain science and applies them in education, revealing new, more appropriate teaching methods lined up with the latest studies and the demands of the 21st century.

2. Why is MBE important to me, a parent, teacher or student?

The human brain, the most complex organ in the human body, is the centre of our nervous system. We need our not only brain to move, make use of our senses or regulate the functions of our body but also to speak, think, learn, and interact with the world around us.

Let’s think of the brain as the engine of a car. By understanding the basic aspects of engineering we can reduce its fuel consumption, saving money and lengthening the life of our car.

Understanding how the brain develops and functions we can learn how to better make use of its massive power.

The development of the human brain follows a natural, biological process yet it constantly changes, developing and adapting to our experiences, be it emotional, physical or educational. So not only does the educator needs to teach content, but he also has to be mindful of the ways in which he teaches and use subject-tailored methods to ensure a better educational outcome.

Understanding why each individual’s brain is unique means that we understand that each one’s brain develops at its own pace and that teaching can and should be tailored to individual needs.

The concept of brain plasticity is vital to grasp as well. The brain’s plasticity means that our brains are permanently remodeling themselves by cutting old, unused neural pathways and strengthening new ones, reinforced through practice. This is a fantastic trait of our brains; understanding its mechanism and how to make the most of it can have positive, long lasting effects on individual’s education and long term life goals.

Understanding how the human brain evolves from birth through childhood, teen years and going on throughout our lives, allow teachers to prioritize and plan the educational curriculum accordingly. This is crucial in aiding students to focus in class and in developing effective, intelligent methods that help them remember more information, easier.

Analogical reasoning, or considering the ways in which two ideas are related, is the way in which our brains make sense of new concepts, by explaining them based on what we already know, connecting and comparing new information to old one. A classic example of analogy reasoning is comparing the structure of an atom with the solar system:

“The nucleus is the sun and electrons are the planets revolving around their sun.”

Relational thinking means finding meaningful patterns in new situations and using this to make a decision, for example a physician correcting his diagnosis by taking into consideration the abnormal symptoms displayed by his patient. The bases and neural pathways for analogical and relational thinking are laid during childhood and until adolescence and they are crucial skills needed by the 21st century work force.

3. How do I use the MBE knowledge?

Understanding how our brains differ from one person to another based on our genes, personal abilities and the context of our upbringing is an important factor to consider in the 21st century educational field.

Although MBE is still a very young science, it is vital to understand that brain science, psychology and education are strongly interrelated and that modern, 21st century education cannot happen without 21st century psychology on one side and 21st century brain science on the other side. MBE shines a spotlight on the uniqueness of each individual’s brain, on how its biological mechanisms influence how we learn and that our past experiences and the environment also affect our brain’s development and learning. MBE helps us understand how powerful our brain is, how much we can actually do with it and how we can better use it to our advantage.

Using the MBE knowledge might not bring a change or show improvement overnight. As with any cognitive skill, it takes time and practice as well as a clear idea of the desired outcome.

The knowledge MBE reveals can be used in:

  • helping to develop the critical cognitive skills needed by Generation Z;
  • understanding the brain-based causes of different learning disabilities such as dyslexia and how to apply the latest research in identifying these children at an early stage and helping them achieve their best in school by providing them with the necessary cognitive and educational support ;
  • understanding that, although we all have genetic predispositions and abilities, these have little to do with our success as a learner. With the right support, stimulation and a suitable learning environment even a modest background can be maximized beyond expectations;
  • preparing graduates in this new work field, with US Universities already offering master’s degrees and a doctoral programme in MBE. There are also short term study alternatives available. In Africa, the First Mind-Brain and Education Seminar already took place.

4. How is MBE different than what we knew about education before?

We know that the best time to learn is when the brain and the nervous system are still maturing during childhood and through the teenage years. MBE shines a light on the importance of the school curriculum as well as the methods of teaching. MBE explains why laying down the physical wiring (neural connections) during the formative years will only benefit the young generation later on when such neural connections, already in place, need only be reinforced. For example in the relational thinking field when the neural pathways and connections formed in the brain are laid out during the formative years, before adolescence.

21st century jobs require novel skills. We work less with our hands and more with our brains while being required to learn and remember more and more information. MBE can help us better accumulate this information, integrating it and manage its volume, filtering and remembering it. Here is where we understand why good analogical and relational thinking skills play such an important role, more than ever before in the history of human education.

5. How can MBE help you acquire a 21st century job?

We all agree that in order to succeed in the 21st century student’s knowledge must now go beyond the “three Rs” (“reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic”.and basic computer literacy. No student in the history of education has ever needed to cover such a multifaceted array of topics.

Chances are that in your family or at your office there are at least four generations present, working side-by-side. But different generations of employees will have different motivations and would have required different skills when they first entered the workforce.

Mind brain education - Comparison of qualities, values, qualifications of different generations, Patricia Furstenberg
Mind brain education – Comparison of qualities, values, qualifications of different generations, Patricia Furstenberg

According to Global Digital Citizen and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, the most important 21st-century skills students will need are:

  • Problem Solving
  • Creativity / Innovation
  • Analytic Thinking
  • Collaboration / Team work
  • Oral and Written Communication
  • Ethics, Action, and Accountability
  • Diversity (global thinking and global citizens)
  • Information Technology Application
  • Leadership
  • Lifelong learning / Self Direction
  • Social Responsibility

Only innovation in the classroom will help students gain these 21st century skills and MBE can provide educators, parents and students with the knowledge and the tools on how to acquire them. There is still a huge gap between the skills required by 21st century companies and the skills taught in schools. This gap exists because technology evolves in leaps, becoming challenging to keep up with while incorporating it in the school curriculum. This is why teaching students how to learn, how to accumulate information in a proficient way and how to make the most of the power that the human brain has will equip them with the basics needed to face the challenges of a 21st century work field.

Please follow and share:
0

How Mind-Brain-Education Can Aid the South African Education #MBE @ITSI_SA via @PatFurstenberg

What do a pianist and a London taxi driver have in common?

Brain Science studies on the plasticity of the brain discovered that, in both cases, an area of the subject’s brain was enlarged. The area of the somatosensory cortex representing the fingers is more enlarged in pianists than in non-musicians. London Taxi drivers (that need to learn how to navigate the twists and turns of the city’s streets) showed an enlarged hippocampus (an area of the brain responsible for special navigation) – the degree of enlargement reflects the amount of time spent as a taxi driver.

In both cases, an area of the brain become enlarged as a result of mastering a certain skill, as this sustained activity produces new neuronal connections that in time were strengthened. Over time this accounted for an enlarged cortex area.

Perhaps the most extraordinary case study is that of a student who had half of his brain removed during preschool due to severe epilepsy and it revealed the incredible plasticity of the human brain (Immordino-Yang 2008, A Tale of Two Cases). The student received extensive educational support, tailored to his needs, while his abilities were reinforced. During time, the remaining brain hemisphere developed to compensate for the missing one to a significant degree. Now in high school, this student is cognitively normal, performs above average, has a normal social life and is an aspiring artist.

These Brain Science observations are proof to the human brain’s plasticity and its ability to constantly develop.

Good to know as the Anthropocene era has high expectations of its students. The youth today needs to acquire, apart from foundational knowledge, computational thinking and a community and global level ethic of care. They have to develop the six C’s considered the core skills of the 21st century:  critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, citizenship and character.

Can teaching alone prepare our youth for the 21st century’s requirements?

21st century genetics has researched how the environment affects our hereditary structure.

Something as abstract as the learning process is re-analyzed using innovative cognitive methods as neuroscientists have been able to study the brain in action, with brain imaging tools.

This is a PET (Positron-emission tomography) scan of a child listening to a story read from a book.
This is a PET (Positron-emission tomography) scan of a child listening to a story read from a book.

The top two images show parts of his brain lighting up when he hears and sees the words. The bottom two images show how his brain reacts when he talks and processes the information from the book.

For a favourable learning experience we want many different parts of the brain to light up. This can be achieved through active teaching, when different techniques encompassing hearing, seeing, speaking, thinking, both auditory and visually, are used. Teaching, as well as learning (a rigorous discipline in itself) need to be fun, engaging, stimulating.

A collaboration between Brain Science and education is paramount. For this inter-disciplinary partnership to become viable and productive educators need to understand how the brain works and scientists need to learn what tools a 21st century educator needs in his classroom.

Mind, Brain, Education (MBE) can help 21st century educators.

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

MBE studies discovered that children absorb information in different ways, depending on the subject at hand. Therefor educators need to adjust their teaching style to suit each subject. Furthermore, MBE studies show that multiple factors influence the continuous development of the human brain. These factors are: our DNA, life experiences, formal learning, work experiences, informal learning (comprised of extra murals, community experiences, the cyberspace, etc) – How the Brain Works.

Our emotions also play a vital role in moulding the human brain as our emotions filter the formal learning acquired through study, a positive situation motivating us to achieve. Humans tend to gravitate towards such positive situations. The academic content is not the sole purpose of education anymore. Due to the brain’s plasticity and the factors influencing it, the learning experience is equally important in aiding students through their learning process.

Today, MBE can help educators comprehend how people with reading disabilities such as dyslexia actually use their brain when reading so that educators can understand how to adjust their teaching methods to better suit each student.

MBE research suggests that, while active content is important, students learn best through active learning experiences, in a flexible educational environment. This is where, by the use of technology, the instruction can be differentiated, thus offering varied and comprehensive content that will benefit a wider audience. This approach is beneficial as each pupil is different, has different needs and requires a different teaching technique – and therefor a flexible teaching method.

Education is the building brick for a better lifestyle
Education is the building brick for a better lifestyle

MBE advocates a student-centred approach to learning. This approach will prove beneficial in underprivileged communities where pupils have less educational support at home and therefore can thrive when various teaching techniques are used in the classroom.

Education is the building brick for a better lifestyle,

a better job, better health care and a better future for one’s children, thus a prosperous community and nation. Education is also the much needed tool to improve the life of women, to reduce pregnancy rate and infant mortality, to empower women and afford them equal rights to men. An empowered woman is a positive force in her community. She will contribute towards improving the lives of her children, of her community and of her nation.

https://www.it.si/
https://www.it.si/

The first MBE seminar in Africa is organised by ITSI.

ITSI is the MBE pioneer in South Africa. It aims at providing educators with the knowledge needed to use the Brain-Science discoveries in their classrooms. The seminar is facilitate by Glenn Whitman and Dr. Ian Kelleher, leaders of The Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning, the only Mind, Brain, and Education science research centre located in a pre-collegiate school in the United States and co-authors of “Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education”.

Please follow and share:
0

ITSI and the First Mind-Brain and Education Seminar in Africa #MBE #MBEafrica18 @ITSI_SA via @PatFurstenberg

Mind-Brain and Education (MBE) uses emerging research in cognitive and behavioral sciences to better understand how the human brain works and to uncover new methods needed by a 21st century active-style teaching. The student of the Anthropocene era (current geological age) must acquire, apart from foundational knowledge, computational thinking and a community and global level ethic of care. In a technology-driven future educators need to extend their professional skills further, beyond what the industrial era called for. The time is now for MBE to step in and step up in transforming the educational process. South Africa takes the lead in implementing the principles of MBE in its educational system via ITSI and hosts the first seminar in Africa on MBE.

How the Brain Works

Imagine walking through a field of grass. You’ve reached its middle and glimpse behind. You can hardly see where you came from; to make a path that lasts you have to walk the same route many times. And then you would have formed only one path.

The same happens in the human brain when we learn.

Neurons are the specific cells forming the nervous system. What makes them unique is their ability to transmit chemical and electrical information through the body. But unlike other types of cells, neurons stop reproducing after birth. The good news is that neurons are capable of forming new connections, thus new pathways, any time in life and can maintain them as long as we use them.

When we use our brain, be it to study or listen to the news, new pathways of neurons are formed and older pathways brought back to life – one neuron can connect itself with several others. Over time, the active connections become more prevalent while non-used ones weaken or are eliminated.

Neural pathways for in the brain and old ones are strengthened during reading. Patricia Furstenberg for ITSI #MBEafrica18
Neural pathways for in the brain and old ones are strengthened during reading. Patricia Furstenberg for ITSI, #MBEafrica18

When a web of neural pathways is formed, that information is stored in our long-term memory. For this to happen learning must be active: to stimulate visually and auditory, not only cognitive (passive study). Brain-Science shows that an active learning process involves a wider area of brain, new neural connections are made, old ones are strengthened, as opposed to the passive study where few cortical changes register.

Mind-Brain and Education – Why the Time for South Africa is Now

South Africa’s Educational System faces a reading crisis, with 78% of grade 4 pupils failing to read for meaning, while private schools are under pressure to produce critical and computational thinkers. Moreover, learning became a social activity and the Anthropocene students are expected to master skills needed in a global tech-driven future.

Brain-Science speaks of the plasticity of the human brain, its ability to adapt, especially when it involves learning new skills. Their studies show that children learn along specific pathways, defined by the content they focus on (different for mathematics than history). Due to the brain’s plasticity the learning experience is equally important in aiding students through their learning process.

Factors influencing the continuous development of the human brain. Patricia Furstenberg for ITSI #MBEafrica18
Factors influencing the continuous development of the human brain. Patricia Furstenberg for ITSI #MBEafrica18

MBE takes into consideration all components of education. MBE transforms the learning process into an enhanced experience, while simplifying it and adapting it to the needs of each student and the requirements of each subject. Pupils can reach the standard of a basic level of education while empowered to be responsible for their own learning and still receive guidance from a classroom teacher. MBE can give the educational system the much needed boost and support, regardless of the social and educational background of its learners.

Who is ITSI and its South African Platform

ISTI is the first-mover in the South African market working with over 200 educational institutions and 80 000 users. 2018 will add over 25 institutions and 20 000 learners. ITSI breached into the rest of Africa by opening ITSI Solution in Namibia and has offices in the UK and the Middle East.

ITSI’s platform is accessible “anytime, anywhere”. Their e-books combine foundational learning with computational thinking. ITSI makes available digital lessons that follow the CAPS curriculum, enhancing the learning experience. As an added value, educators can personalise their teaching by adding resources and adapting the app to suit individual needs.

MBE Seminar, ITSI and Educator’s Skills

A vital part of MBE success is the teacher’s involvement and their level of knowledge on how the human brain works, as well as their extensive professional skills supported by a solid platform.

The first MBE seminar in Africa aims to provide educators with the knowledge needed to use the Brain-Science discoveries in their classrooms. The seminar is facilitate by Glenn Whitman and Dr. Ian Kelleher, leaders of The Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning, the only Mind, Brain, and Education science research centre located in a pre-collegiate school in the United States and co-authors of “Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education”.

Please follow and share:
0

How To Raise A Child With A High IQ by @PatFurstenberg

Raising a child is the most difficult job in the world. The decisions made by parents will model and impact upon the child’s emotional and intellectual well-being.

Parenting is a full-time job on its own, without the added pressure of medical literature, in-law advice or trying to keep up with that perfect family always posting on Facebook.

“Once upon a time I was a perfect parent. Then I had children. The End.”

In his book “Brain Rules For Baby“, developmental molecular biologist and dad Dr John Medina, bridges the gap between what scientists know and what parents practise.

  1. Baby’s IQ during the 1st trimester of pregnancy

An adult human brain contains about 100-billion neurons formed before we are born. The embryo’s brain produces approximately 250,000 cells per minute, most generated as early as week three and during the first four months of gestation.

Take an BMI Certified IQ test here.

All throughout your pregnancy, stay away from potentially harmful substances like smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs – even over-the-counter drugs. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Scientists studying human evolution attest that morning sickness kicked in as an ancestral mechanism forcing the mother to stay away from toxic, potentially spoiled or exotic foods that might harm the embryo. One of the hormones inducing morning sickness is also a stimulant for the development of neurons in the embryo’s brain.

  1. Baby’s IQ throughout the pregnancy

A mother’s weight gain during pregnancy is vital to the well-being of her unborn baby. A study shows that a foetus’ IQ grows in proportion to its weight gain while inside the mother’s womb. A pregnant woman with healthy weight gain, good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle will influence the weight of her newborn positively.

A pregnancy vitamin supplement rich in folic acid and omega 3 is indicated.

And food cravings?

Studies have proved that food cravings are stress related, not pointing towards a vitamin deficiency. An anxious woman used to giving in to chocolate during stressful times will most probably go on craving chocolate whenever she hits a stressful time during pregnancy.

  1. A stressful pregnancy and baby’s IQ

If a pregnant woman is stressed, anxious or depressed, this can affect how the baby’s brain will develop. Research shows that the child will be at greater risk of slow learning or behavioural problems such as ADHD.

Severe stress suffered by mothers during pregnancy can have the following consequences for the baby:

  • Change the foetus’ body temperature, making the baby more irritable in the womb;
  • Reduce the baby’s IQ (by up to eight points);
  • Affect the baby’s motor skills, attention span and concentration – visible from six years of age;
  • Affect the baby’s own response to stressful situations; and
  • Even reduce the baby’s brain size.

“Researchers at Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University followed more than 150 families after a severe storm, and found specific markers on the DNA of children whose mothers were pregnant or became pregnant soon after the disaster, providing rare evidence of how maternal hardships can have long-term genetic consequences.”

A good solution to reduce stress is being active.

Staying active during pregnancy

Women who have an active lifestyle and engage in regular physical activities during pregnancy have an easier birthing experience – shorter and less painful.

Pregnant women are advised to stay active and do mild exercise, without pushing it too hard.

During the third trimester, the best sport for a pregnant woman is swimming. It is a low-impact sport and keeps the pregnant woman’s body temperature constant, so her uterus does not overheat.

Attention!

  • Intense physical activity will reduce the blood supply to the uterus, which will decrease the oxygen supply to the foetus.
  • If the pregnant woman’s body temperature is raised by more than two degrees Celsius, this can negatively affect the cerebral and visual development of the foetus during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Family relationships during pregnancy

Dr John Medina points out that during the first year of the baby’s life, the number of hostile interactions between the new parents is often on the rise. Specialists believe that this can be harmful to the baby, which is very sensitive to external factors at the beginning of its life.

A prolonged exposure to hostility can have a negative impact on the baby, lowering its IQ and its ability to manage stress later in life.

During the first year of life, a baby’s main cognitive focus is on survival. Once the baby forms an attachment with its main caregiver, its brain can develop normally, resulting in a happy, sociable baby able to manage stressful situations.

If the baby cannot feel this trust and safety, then the genetic code tells its brain to develop in a different way – with a negative impact on its social, emotional and educational prospects.

The ingredients that contribute towards the making of a clever child:

  • Breastfeeding can raise a baby’s IQ by up to eight points;
  • Talking to a baby and a child about various topics will expose the child to a wider vocabulary;
  • Playing games with your child will stimulate the child’s mind;
  • As will engaging your child in music and sports.

Raising a child is the most difficult job in the world. The decisions made by parents will model and impact upon the child’s emotional and intellectual well-being, the character of the future adult. Yet it is good to acknowledge that these decisions are unique to each family, and each parent can adjust their parenting skills at any time throughout this roller-coaster journey.

* The information in this article is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article was written for Huffington Post SA.

Huffington Post SA
HuffPostSA

You might also be interested in:

5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Boys into Bookworms

Here’s How To Get Boys To Read In 5 Easy Steps 

 

Please follow and share:
0

We Need A Multicultural Children’s Book Day In South Africa

We Need A Multicultural Children’s Book Day In South Africa – Reading expands children’s levels of empathy and broadens their minds.

U.S. readers of all ages will celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day on Saturday, January 27.

In 2014, teachers and educators from Jump Into A Book and PragmaticMom presented their very first January 27 Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books.

The result was overwhelming, as authors, publishers, parents, teachers, bloggers and librarians joined forces to present an online event designed to shine the spotlight on diversity in children’s literature.

Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.

Thanks to their sponsors, book review bloggers and thousands of readers, Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2014 achieved its goal of highlighting all of the amazing multicultural children’s books available to young readers, teachers, librarians and parents worldwide.

What is a multicultural book?

Multicultural children’s books are:

  • Books that contain characters of colour, as well as characters that represent a minority point of view;
  • Books that share ideas, stories, and information about cultures, race, religion, language, and traditions;
  • Books that embrace our world and offer children new ways to connect to a diverse and richer world.

Our total social media shares for three days of our 2017 event (on the day before, day of and day after Multicultural Children’s Book Day) were an astounding 3.6-billion!

Watch for the #ReadYourWorld hashtag on social media.

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” Maya Angelou.

Reading puts us in touch with our humanity

Reading and access to diverse books offer children a safe door towards real life; towards what life is or how it could be; towards the lives of people from different nations and cultures. Towards different kinds of struggles, emotions and ideals; how and why are they like or unlike our own.

Reading expands children’s levels of empathy and broadens their minds.

Diversity and its meaning today in the book industry

The fact that different kinds of people – poor or rich, men and women, white and black – can write books is often a revelation for many young readers. “If they can do it, so can I!”

The book monopoly is a thing of the past. Today access to books and their creative journeys belongs to the young as well, and to women equally. The knowledge of this variety is undoubtedly empowering for many young minds.

Why diversity in children’s books is a win-win situation

The more children are exposed to different cultures and emotions through books, the more empowered they feel, as these books reflect their own race or inter-race, religion, sex or physical health, and home upbringing (including divorced families, immigrants, and single-parent families). Children feel good about themselves when they read about characters like them.

You can find free diversity book lists and activities here for teachers and parents.

The more we are exposed to different cultures, the more we gain in variety and humanity. By telling the same story in different languages, each time it becomes a new narration with a new lesson to pass on.

We live in a world that’s confronted, more than ever, with a wide variety of issues that impact directly on our lives and those of our children: global warming and social migration, terrorism and out-of-control political spectacles.

Access to diverse books offer our children the best tools to comprehend and deal with the worldwide chaos they have to live in. A diversity of books will hopefully empower our children and grant them the wisdom to understand themselves and their world . It will help them discover the power needed to stand on their own two feet and lead a life of humanity and empathy.

10 diverse books to enjoy (or find your own at your local library):

Who Was Nelson Mandela – As a child, he dreamed of changing South Africa; as a man, he changed the world.

Malala’s Magic Pencil – As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil that she could use to redraw reality.

The Cheetah And The Dog – Inspired by the true story of Kasi, the orphaned male cheetah, and Mtani, the female labrador, who struck up a remarkable friendship and remained lifelong friends.

They All Saw A Cat – The many lives of one cat – and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?

A Long Walk To Water, Based On A True Story – The New York Times bestsellerbegins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two 11-year-olds in Sudan: a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985.

Home Of The Brave – Kek comes from Africa, where he lived with his mother, father and brother.

Little Suns – “There are many suns,” he said. “Each day has its own. Some are small, some are big. I’m named after the small ones.”

Giant Steps – Elephants have long been targeted by humans: not only are they killed for their ivory, but their extraordinary strength, intelligence and charisma have seen some of them captured, chained and effectively jailed for life.

We’re All Wonders – The unforgettable story of August Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face.

Wishtree – Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories…

Until South Africa hosts its first Multicultural Book Day, you can join the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Twitter Partyon Saturday, January 27, from 9:00pm to 10pm; U.S. Eastern Standard Time.

This article was initially published on the Huffington Post SA on 26 January 2018, here.

Huffington Post SA
HuffPostSA
Please follow and share:
0