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Bringing Together Learning Science and Technology to Envision “Education 3.0”

by Kelly Walsh on March 30, 2014

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Sharing Reflections and Fun Takeaways from Dr. Jeff Borden’s Inspiring Keynote Presentation at NERCOMP 2014.

Have you ever stumbled across an insight into how people learn that makes you stop and think, “Why don’t educators incorporate that into how we teach”?

When educators come across unexpected information about how the learning mind, these revelations typically strike us with a sharper impact than those who work in other fields. For a few hours, sometimes days, your world is slightly rocked, and you frequently reflect back on your new found knowledge wondering, “How can the way I teach embrace this idea”?

I had the good fortune of listening to Dr. Jeff Borden deliver a Keynote address at last week’s NERCOMP Conference that was ripe with these types of insights.

Education 3.0 Jeff Borden Nercomp Keynote

NERCOMP (short for “NorthEast Regional Computing Program”) is an EDUCAUSE Partner. This was my first time attending the NERCOMP conference, but not the first time I was inspired by a top notch key note presentation (check out Mark Milliron’s Sobering, Honest, and Inspiring Keynote Address at CT2012 or Steven Laster’s 8 Factors for Successful IT Management for a couple other examples).

I highly recommend that professionals of all stripes get out from time to time and attend events like these – not only do you make connections and learn new things, it also provides a fresh perspective and stimulates new thinking.

Dr. Borden is Vice President of Instruction & Academic Strategies at Pearson eCollege, as well as a speaker, teacher, and education consultant (and these are just some of the hats he wears). His writing on the relationship between what we know about how the brain works, today’s evolving technologies, and how we teach and learn can be found scattered across the Internet. In his article, “Education 3.0 (Part 3): How Caring, Contextually Informing, and Slowing Down Really Matter”, recently published on Wired.com he writes, “John Medina, one of the most compelling neuroscientists to read, explains that while we know very little about the brain, what we do know should be exploited vigorously. Yet, because neuroscientists never have lunch with education specialists, almost zero of what we know about brain-based learning actually makes its way into the classroom.” In his Keynote address he used various visuals and a few physical techniques to demonstrate some of these “things we know about the brain”.

Dr Jeff BordenDr. Jeff Borden

Mind Games

One of the observations he shared that really struck me was about how pattern recognition effects the brain. He showed some pictures with many images subtly hidden in them and noted that when you suddenly see a pattern that you didn’t see before, your brain simultaneously releases endorphins and dopamine, rendering you excited and relaxed at the same time! At this point, your mind is primed for learning. What a great way to jostle our students into full “learning absorption” mode.

On the humorous side, Borden explained that there are two types of extremists in the ed tech world – on one end there are the “E-Vangelists”, who spout that technology is going to fix all of the world’s problems, and at the other extreme are the “CAVE” people … Colleagues Against Virtually Everything (I’d heard this one before, but it’s too funny not to share again).

At one point during his talk, he had the audience get up and march in step while repeating a slightly modified set of steps for Constructivism – “Do, Tell, Show, Review, Ask”. The point of marching in place was to illustrate that we learn better when our bodies are active. The point of the words chosen was to reinforce that Constructivism works, and he suggests placing the “Do” before the “Tell” for reasons related to how the mind learns.

Another little mental trick he used to teach and stimulate thought among the audience members was with words, memory, and association. He showed us a list of 10 or 12 words for a short time (about 10 seconds or so), which included words like “Chocolate”, “Bitter”, and “Sugar” and asked us to try to remember as many as we could. Four minutes or so later, he asked us some questions about these words. What was surprising was that when he asked if the word “Sweet” was in the list, the vast majority 0f audience members recalled it being there, but it actually wasn’t. Our minds had played a little trick on us.

Dr. Borden also got us thinking about the way the mind works with this classic test. Try to say the colors of these words as fast as you can:

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Red
  • Blue

It’s hard isn’t it? Many of you have probably seen this before, but it really does remind us that our mind is wired to work a certain way.

Now, I have not been formally educated to teach, so I don’t really know if these sorts of considerations are covered in schools of education or not. Surely some of the many teachers who read this blog can weigh in – is cognitive psychology and neuroscience covered in today’s educational degree programs? Dr. Borden makes a good case for striving harder to incorporate what we know about how the brain learns into how we teach (reading that sentence back, it really seems like such a “no brainer”!). So why aren’t we doing it?

Exploring Further

I have shared just a few of the many thought provoking ideas and funny asides Borden delivered in his keynote address. I wholeheartedly encourage exploring more of Dr. Borden’s work. Here’s a couple of places to do so:

So, do you recall an inspiring Keynote address? Who presented it and where did you see it? Was there a key take away or two that stuck with you? It’s fun to remember these moments of feeling excited to do what you do for a living and wanting to rush back to your school and put these ideas into action, isn’t it?

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Mark Milliron’s Sobering, Honest, and Inspiring Keynote Address at CT2012
Do Video Lessons Reinforce Learning, or Just Reinforce Pre-existing Incorrect Understanding?
Steven Laster’s 8 Factors for Successful IT Management

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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