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Education, Brain Research, And Being Bilingual Presented by Pat Wolfe, Ed.D. 18th Annual CABE TWBI Conference July 8, 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Education, Brain Research, And Being Bilingual Presented by Pat Wolfe, Ed.D. 18th Annual CABE TWBI Conference July 8, 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Education, Brain Research, And Being Bilingual Presented by Pat Wolfe, Ed.D. 18th Annual CABE TWBI Conference July 8, 2010

2 Traditional Education The emphasis has been on the acquisition and manipulation of content. Students are asked to memorize facts, figures, names, dates, places and events. Subjects are studied in isolation from one another seldom within the context in which they will be used.

3 A False Assumption We have assumed that if students concentrate on mastering content, they will retain substantive information about the subject and will be able to apply this information. Yet Howard Gardner states that the majority of our best students cannot apply what they’ve learned when faced with new unanticipated situations.

4 Why Should Educators Become Informed About Brain Research? We’ve been working with brains that we’ve not understood. Our theoretical base has been the behavioral sciences. We’ve operated intuitively and have not been able to articulate our craft to others. We need to become a scientific profession that understands the structure and functioning of the human brain.

5 How the Brain Works What are some of the common neuromyths concerning the brain?

6 The brain is covered with a thin layer of cells called the neocortex. (Latin for “new bark”)

7 Vascular System of the Brain You can go 30 days without food, a week without water but only 4 or 5 minutes without oxygen!

8 Brain imaging techniques allow us to see which areas of the brain control various functions. PET Scan

9 The Lobes of the Brain Each lobe is covered with cortex…visual cortex, auditory sensory cortex and association cortex.

10 The brain is composed of over 100 billion brain cells (neurons) which communicate at junctures called synapses.

11 What is Learning & Memory? Learning is the act of making, strengthening, and pruning connections between thousand of neurons forming neural networks or maps. Memory is the ability to reconstruct or reactivate the previously-made connections. Neurons that fire together, wire together!

12 Growth of Connections

13 What have we learned from current brain research? There are five major findings that have application to the classroom.

14 1. Experience sculpts the brain. (Neuroplasticity) When children are born, they can hear the sounds of 6000 languages. However, very early the neural connections representing the sounds that have been reinforced remain and the others wither away. What do you think would happen in the brain of a person born blind? Plasticity is a feature of the brain throughout an individual’s lifetime, however, young brains are much more plastic than adult brains. Experience literally changes the brain!

15 2. The Brain is Pattern-seeking Device Our species has not evolved by taking in meaningless information! Every encounter with new information requires the brain to find an existing network of neurons in which this particular information fits. If it can find a network (if it doesn’t make sense) it will probably not be stored over the long term (i.e., after the test.)

16 What do You See?

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18 Making Information Meaningful… If we want to make information meaningful we have two choices. Find the experience they’ve already had and hook the new information to it. (Hook information to an existing network of neurons.) Create the experience with them. (Create a new network of neurons.)

19 The Montillation of Traxoline It is very important that you learn about traxoline. Traxoline is a new form of zionter. It is montilled in Ceristanna. The Ceristannians gristeriate large amounts of fevon and then bracter it to quasel traxoline. Traxoline may well be one of our most lukized snezlaus in the future because of our zionter lescelidge. Attributed to Judy Lanier

20 3. Emotions are a primary catalyst in the learning process. Emotion can play either a negative or a positive role in the learning process. If a student perceives a situation to be threatening, the thinking part of the brain shuts down and learning is impeded. However, if the emotion generated by a learning experience is pleasant, learning is enhanced.

21 4. There are two distinct types of memory. Procedural Memory Skills and habits that have been practiced to the point where they are automatic and unconscious. Declarative Memory Our general knowledge and our life experiences that we can declare or recall consciously.

22 Rehearsal Strategies to Match the Two Types of Memory Rote Rehearsal works best for Procedural Memory o Much repetition is needed Elaborative rehearsal works best for Declarative Memory o Reciprocal or peer teaching o Metaphor and analogy o Problem-based learning o Visuals and graphics o Simulations o Hands-on activities o Rhythm, rhyme and rap

23 5. Consolidation is essential for transfer of learning Definition – The process of stabilizing a memory trace over time, moving it from working memory to long-term memory. New information is not “fixed” the moment it is processed. It takes time to become “gelled” or consolidated. Learning occurs best when new information is incorporated gradually into memory store rather than being jammed in all at one time! Consolidation is enhanced by spaced intervals of appropriate elaborative rehearsal!

24 Effective Rehearsal The more elaboratively information is rehearsed at the moment of learning, the stronger the memory. The more modalities used to rehearse, the more paths you have for retrieval. The more real-world examples given, the more likely the concept will be understood and remembered. The more information is linked to previous learning, the stronger the memory.

25 What are the common myths regarding bilingualism? Cerebral confusion Split personality Brain can only handle one language One language will out-balance the other Languages are isolated in different parts of the brain You have to learn all skills twice

26 What does research say about being bilingual? The research is based on fluency in both languages, called “balanced bilingualism.” A certain level of competence must be reached in both languages for benefits to occur. Children must have the capacity to comprehend the school curriculum & take part in classroom activities in either language.

27 What are the cognitive benefits of learning a second language in childhood? Positive cognitive gains in: Concept formation Classification skills Analogical reasoning Visual-spatial skills Story-telling skills Ability to focus Creativity In addition, bilingualism may delay the onset of age-related dementia!

28 The better we understand the brain, the better we’ll be able to educate it.


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