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”.

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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”.

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