Brain Development Basics – A Teacher’s Guide
Brain Development: Easy ways to gain optimal learning in the 21st century classroom by activating different parts of the brain using technology by Jatin Patel, MSc CFA, July 12, 2011
Brain Development. Over the last 40 years we have learned more about the human brain than in the previous 400 years. Educators and neuroscientists have been trying to put this knowledge to work by transforming the information of basic and clinical neurosciences into practical insights for the classroom. Today we will be looking at how the brain works and what this can tell us about your teaching for optimal learning.
First, however, it is important to remember that all learning is brain-based. Through the process of education, we are trying literally to change the brain — not the pancreas, spleen, or lungs. Indeed, education is practical neuroscience. That does not mean that every teacher needs to become a neuroscientist or memorize 100 neurotransmitters and 50 brain areas responsible for cognition. But it does mean that teachers can become more effective with some knowledge of how the brain senses, processes, stores, and retrieves information.
Neural System Fatigue
Learning requires attention. And attention is mediated by specific parts of the brain. Yet, neural systems fatigue quickly, actually within minutes. With three to five minutes of sustained activity, neurons become “less responsive”; they need a rest (not unlike your muscles when you lift weights). They can recover within minutes too, but when they are stimulated in a sustained way, they just are not as efficient. Think about the piano and the organ; if you put your finger on the organ key and hold it down it will keep making noise, but the piano key makes one short note, and keeping your finger there produces no more sound. Neurons are like pianos, not organs. They respond to patterned and repetitive, rather than to sustained, continuous stimulation. Why is this important for a teacher?
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