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LEARNING AND COGNITION
DESIGN OF EFFECTIVE LEARNING FOR THE BRAIN / MIND:
Thoughts and Research on Neuroeducation Science

Curated by Huey O'Brien
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The Science of Practice: What Happens When You Learn a New Skill

The Science of Practice: What Happens When You Learn a New Skill | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it
You've heard the expression “practice makes perfect” a million times, and you've probably read Malcolm Gladwell's popular “10,000 hours” theory. But how does practice actually affect the brain?

 

Learning Rewires Our Brains

 

When we learn a new skill, whether it’s programming in Ruby on Rails, providing customer support over the phone, playing chess, or doing a cartwheel, we're changing how our brain is wired on a deep level. Science has shown us that the brain is incredibly plastic–meaning it does not “harden” at age 25 and stay solid for the rest of our lives. While certain things, especially language, are more easily learned by children than adults, we have plenty of evidence that even older adults can see real transformations in their neurocircuitry. 

 

But how does that really work? Well, in order to perform any kind of task, we have to activate various portions of our brain. We've talked about this before in the context of language learning, experiencing happiness, and exercising and food. Our brains coordinate a complex set of actions involving motor function, visual and audio processing, verbal language skills, and more. At first, the new skill might feel stiff and awkward. But as we practice, it gets smoother and feels more natural and comfortable. What practice is actually doing is helping the brain optimize for this set of coordinated activities, through a process called myelination.

 

Practice Makes Myelin, So Practice Carefully

 

Understanding the role of myelin means not only understanding why quantity of practice is important to improving your skill (as it takes repetition of the same nerve impulses again and again to activate the two glial cells that myelinate axons), but also the quality of practice. Similar to how the science of creativity speaks about idle time and not crushing through one task after the other, practicing with a focus on quality is equally important.

Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION: Lesson Design, Memory, Practice

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Language is in our biology

Language is in our biology | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

A good working memory is perhaps the brain's most important system when it comes to learning a new language. But it appears that working memory is first and foremost determined by our genes.Whether you struggle to learn a new language, or find it relatively easy to learn, may be largely determined by "nature."  That's the conclusion of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), who have studied language skills in Norwegian elementary school students.

 

Tested on ten-year-old students


Mila Vulchanova, a professor at NTNU's Department of Modern Foreign Languages, led a study of approximately one hundred ten-year-old elementary school students from Norway. Her research suggests that a good working memory is a decisive factor in developing good language skills and competency.

 

"Our results show a clear statistical correlation between a high level of language competence and a good working memory in the students we tested," she says.

While Vulchanova is a linguist, her team included colleagues and students from the university's Department of Psychology and the Department of Scandinavian Studies and Comparative Literature to help with the research.

 

Brain training can help


When we learn a new language, information that is stored in the brain's memory storage space must be constantly maintained. The brain does this by taking in new linguistic information in the form of new words and auditory strings, and then integrating this with information that is already stored in the "mental lexicon."

 

This might not sound like good news for people who struggle with their working memory, but Vulchanova says not to give up hope.

"It is possible to train the working memory system, but it is not easy -- especially since the capacity of our working memory is inherited. Mind exercises such as word games or practicing saying numbers in the opposite direction are useful and simple ways to train your working memory," she says.

Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION: Working Memory

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Education, the Brain and Common Core State Standards

Education, the Brain and Common Core State Standards | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

Understanding even the basics of how the brain learns -- how people perceive, process and remember information -- can help teachers and students successfully meet the requirements of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This initiative aims to establish a relatively standardized knowledge base among all students, alleviating the background knowledge gap. It's designed to promote critical, divergent thinking, equipping students with information relevant to the real world and the ability to use it.

 

Sounds great. But what does that really mean, in practice, for teachers? How do you teach someone to think critically?

 

Dr. Mariale Hardiman, co-founder and director of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education's Neuro-Education Initiative, recommends starting at the top: with the brain. "It seems rather obvious -- after all, learning does occur in the brain, but all teaching does not result in learning, so while all learning is brain-based, all teaching is not," clarifies Hardiman. The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model, developed by Hardiman, organizes key educational theories into a single framework, combining neuroscience research with teachers' and students' feedback.

 

Check out the article for 6 Brain Targets...

 
Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION: Learning Design

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17 Tips To Motivate Adult Learners

17 Tips To Motivate Adult Learners | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it
The introduction of learning technology and the changing workplace recently increased the importance of adult learning. However, there comes the problem of motivating adult learners.
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8 Important Characteristics Of Adult Learners

8 Important Characteristics Of Adult Learners | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it
A tough crowd, a challenging clan or a smooth instructional ride? Before answering that, we need to see adulthood’s general traits and then link them to the process of learning.
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Students can't resist distraction for two minutes ... and neither can you

Students can't resist distraction for two minutes ... and neither can you | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

Are gadgets making us dumber?

 

Two new studies suggest they might be. One found that people who are interrupted by technology score 20 percent lower on a standard cognition test. A second demonstrated that some students, even when on their best behavior, can't concentrate on homework for more than two minutes without distracting themselves by using social media or writing an email.  Interruptions are the scourge of modern life. Our days and nights are full of gadgets that ping, buzz and beep their way into our attention, taking us away from whatever we are doing.

 

We've known for a while that distractions hurt productivity at work. Depressing research by Gloria Mark at the University of California, Irvine, says that typical office workers only get 11 continuous minutes to work on a task before interruption. With smartphones reaching near ubiquity, the problem of tech-driven multitasking — juggling daily tasks with email, text messages, social media etc — is coming to a head.

 

Multitasking has been  the subject of popular debate, but among neuroscientists, there is very little of that. Brain researchers say that what many people call multitasking should really be called “rapid toggling” between tasks, as the brain focuses quickly on one topic, then switches to another, and another.  As all economics students know, switching is not free. It involves "switching costs" — in this case, the time it takes to re-immerse your mind in one topic or another.

 

Researchers say only the simplest of tasks are candidates for multitasking, and all but one of those tasks must involve automaticity. If you are good at folding laundry, you can probably fold laundry and watch TV at the same time, for example.

 

Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION:  Attention, Memory, Working Memory

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How Course Design Puts the Focus on Learning Not Teaching

How Course Design Puts the Focus on Learning Not Teaching | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it
Instructional design, also known as learning design, appears to be making a comeback. Massive open online courses [MOOCs] that mimic the classroom model where the learner is passive and the instructor is not, highlights the need for fresh, new approach to course design. And it’s not just MOOCs that need help, but numerous courses currently offered online; many are in need an overhaul to create an environment focused on learning, rather than one that focuses on instruction.
Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION:  Learning Design

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RSA Animate - The Divided Brain

In this RSA Animate, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our 'divided brain' has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society.

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Emotional Fuel and the Power to Motivate Students

Emotional Fuel and the Power to Motivate Students | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

Most people think raw intellectual talent is the primary marker for academic success among children. But new insights are proving that motivation is perhaps even more important to learning than innate intelligence.

 

One widely cited study, recently published in the journal Child Development, supports the view that motivation and cognitive learning strategies outweigh intelligence as the top factors driving long-term achievement, particularly in math. Led by Kou Murayama, a post-doctoral psychology researcher at the University of Munich, the study measured gains in math proficiency over a five-year period among 3,500 German students in grades five through ten. The study also asked the participants about their attitudes toward math.

 

For purposes of the study, Murayama and his team defined motivation as having three distinct components: intrinsic motivation, or the willingness to engage in a task for its inherent pleasure and satisfaction; extrinsic motivation, driven by expected short-term benefits (e.g., good grades); and perceived control, or the level of expectation that one's efforts will produce a desired outcome.

 

While the study acknowledged that initial levels of achievement among children in the study were related to intelligence, the level of motivation and the use of cognitive strategies were better predictors of growth over time for academic success. The researchers concluded that intrinsic motivation, in particular, was key, stating that the trait "seems ideally suited to benefit enduring, long-term learning."

 

Classroom innovators are also discovering how programs that foster intrinsic motivation can make a huge difference in academic success. Select schools in the northeastern U.S. are engaging in what is known as "deeper learning," wherein normal classroom studies are supplemented with group projects that elaborate on current curriculum, often spanning multiple subject areas

Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION: Motivation

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Why Older Minds Make Better Decisions

Why Older Minds Make Better Decisions | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

The decisions we make throughout our lives about money, work, health and relationships have a tremendous influence on how we age. And as the number of older people increases, not only in the United States but around the world, the decisions seniors make and how they make them will have a significant impact on global economies and societies.

 

Decision neuroscience is a new field that combines ideas from a range of disciplines — including economics, finance, marketing, psychology, neuroscience, computer science and public policy — to study just how people make decisions. The methods employed and the expertise of the scholars involved have already produced some important discoveries.

 

The Scientific Research Network on Decision Neuroscience and Aging, based at the Stanford Center on Longevity, was launched with funding from the federal National Institute on Aging in 2010. The purpose of our network is to stimulate the novel research we need to understand how and why decision-making influences aging and support a new generation of researchers collaborating to uncover the mechanisms that shape our decisions as we age.

 

Recent research has already challenged what we thought we knew about the capability of the brain. What has become clear, says Dr. Gregory Samanez-Larkin of Vanderbilt University, one of the network’s co-directors, is that despite a decline in some types of cognitive function, “older people often make better decisions than younger people."  It appears that as we age, we may become better able to differentiate between important and less important information. While memory tends to decline as we get older, it seems that older adults selectively remember more important information.  

 

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Training the brain to improve on new tasks

Training the brain to improve on new tasks | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

A brain-training task that increases the number of items an individual can remember over a short period of time may boost performance in other problem-solving tasks by enhancing communication between different brain areas. The new study being presented this week in San Francisco is one of a growing number of experiments on how working-memory training can measurably improve a range of skills -- from multiplying in your head to reading a complex paragraph.

 

"Working memory is believed to be a core cognitive function on which many types of high-level cognition rely, including language comprehension and production, problem solving, and decision making," says Brad Postle of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who is co-chairing a session on working-memory training at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) annual meeting today in San Francisco. Work by various neuroscientists to document the brain's "plasticity" -- changes brought about by experience -- along with technical advances in using electromagnetic techniques to stimulate the brain and measure changes, have enabled researchers to explore the potential for working-memory training like never before, he says.

 

The cornerstone brain-training exercise in this field has been the "n-back" task, a challenging working memory task that requires an individual to mentally juggle several items simultaneously. Participants must remember both the recent stimuli and an increasing number of stimuli before it (e.g., the stimulus "1-back," "2-back," etc). These tasks can be adapted to also include an audio component or to remember more than one trait about the stimuli over time -- for example, both the color and location of a shape.

 

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Donald A. Coutu's curator insight, September 1, 2013 11:55 AM

Taking the first step towards thinking about thinking adds insight to the task at hand. Staying engaged with the activities that excite and motivate us is more than just curiosity. That's one more reason to spend capital on cretive ways to learn.

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Self-affirmation improves problem-solving under stress

Self-affirmation improves problem-solving under stress | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it
New research provides the first evidence that self-affirmation can protect against the damaging effects of stress on problem-solving performance.
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IMPLICATION: Metacognition

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Subconscious mental categories help brain sort through everyday experiences

Subconscious mental categories help brain sort through everyday experiences | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it
Researchers found that the brain breaks experiences into the "events," or related groups that help us mentally organize the day's many situations, using subconscious mental categories it creates. These categories are based on how the brain considers people, objects and actions are related in terms of how they tend to — or tend not to — pop up near one another at specific times.
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IMPLICATION:  Lesson Design

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Neuroscientists discover new phase of synaptic development

Neuroscientists discover new phase of synaptic development | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

It's well known that synapses in the brain, the connections between neurons and other cells that allow for the transmission of information, grow when they're exposed to a stimulus. New research from the lab of Carnegie Mellon Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Alison L. Barth has shown that in the short term, synapses get even stronger than previously thought, but then quickly go through a transitional phase where they weaken.

 

"When you think of learning, you think that it's cumulative. We thought that synapses started small and then got bigger and bigger. This isn't the case," said Barth, who also is a member of the joint Carnegie Mellon/University of Pittsburgh Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. "Based on our data, it seems like synapses that have recently been strengthened are peculiarly vulnerable -- more stimulation can actually wipe out the effects of learning.

 

"Psychologists know that for long-lasting memory, spaced training -- like studying for your classes after very lecture, all semester long -- is superior to cramming all night before the exam," Barth said. "This study shows why. Right after plasticity, synapses are almost fragile -- more training during this labile phases is actually counterproductive."

Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION:  Spacing, Memory

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Google Glass May Be Hands-Free, But Not Brain-Free

Google Glass May Be Hands-Free, But Not Brain-Free | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

Google Glass may allow users to do amazing things, but it does not abolish the limits on the human ability to pay attention. Intuitions about attention lead to wrong assumptions about what we’re likely to see; we are especially unaware of how completely our attention can be absorbed by the continual availability of compelling and useful information. Only by understanding the science of attention and the limits of the human mind and brain can we design new interfaces that are both revolutionary and safe.

Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION:  Working Memory, Attention

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70:20:10 by Charles Jennings

Charles Jennings introduces the concept of the 70 20 10 learning guideline, explaining how it can provide a new way to think. See it in practice http://goo.g...
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IMPLICATION: Informal Learning

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Memory: Types, Facts, and Myths

Memory: Types, Facts, and Myths | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it
Would you like to know the types of memory? What are the characteristics and operations of short-term and long-term memory? What is working memory? Sure you do if you are involved at the eLearning field!
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IMPLICATION:  Memory, Learning Design

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What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

Most of us are on the Internet on a daily basis and whether we like it or not, the Internet is affecting us. It changes how we think, how we work, and it even changes our brains.

Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION: Attention, Working Memory, Long Term Memory

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Thought experiment: build a supercomputer replica of the human brain

Thought experiment: build a supercomputer replica of the human brain | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

Henry Markram’s Human Brain Project (HBP), backed by 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) funding Jan. 2013 from the European Commission, plans to integrate findings from the Allen Brain Atlas, the National Institutes of Health-funded Human Connectome Project, and the Brain (“Brain Activity Map”) project, Wired reports.

 

The HBP is an ambitious attempt to build a complete model of a human brain using predictive reverse-engineering and simulate it on an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer. Markram plans to give the EU an early working prototype of this system within just 18 months.

 

According to Brown University neuroscientist John Donoghue, one of the key figures in the Brain project, the HBP provides a means to test ideas that would emerge from Brain Activity Map data, and Brain Activity Map data would inform the models simulated in the Human Brain Project.

 

Markram is simultaneously doing four things: running a wet lab that amasses data through experiments on brain tissue, building a small-scale model and simulation of the rat neocortex (his initial Blue Brain project), running the Human Brain Project, and managing the simulation aspects of the HBP, building a virtual human brain from all the incoming data.

 

Markram thinks that the greatest potential achievement of his sim would be to determine the causes of the approximately 600 known brain disorders. He’ll achieve this by connecting his model brain to sensor-laden robotics and simultaneously recording what the robot is sensing and “thinking” as it explores physical environments, correlating audiovisual signals with simulated brain activity as the machine learns about the world.

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A boost for brain training: Lumosity can help lift ‘chemo fog,’ study finds

A boost for brain training: Lumosity can help lift ‘chemo fog,’ study finds | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

Brain training – that booming yet much-debated business – just got another feather in its cap.

 

In a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Breast Cancer, Stanford researchers demonstrated that breast cancer patients who had been treated with chemotherapy improved their cognitive function after using exercises developed by brain training startup Lumosity. Created by neuroscientists, Lumosity offers dozens of games (to paying subscribers around the world) that claim to improve their memory, attention and creativity.

In the last few years, several studies have demonstrated that up to 75 percent of cancer patients can experience cognitive impairment and mental dullness, that can last five years or longer, after undergoing chemotherapy.

 

But research led by Shelli Kesler, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, found that breast cancer survivors who trained with Lumosity four times a week for 12 weeks significantly improved in measures of executive function, word finding and processing speed.

“For [breast cancer] patients, it suggests that this could be one possible avenue for helping to improve their cognitive function,” said Kesler, who did not accept money from Lumosity for the study. “Even if they’ve been suffering with this for years, they can still show improvement.”

 

Improving cognitive function has long been a subject of fascination among psychologists. But interest among academics and entrepreneurs seems to have intensified in the last decade. Since 2000, companies including Lumosity, Posit Science, Dakim and Cogmed have launched, promising to improve cognitive abilities like memory and attention through mental workouts. And they’ve not only attracted interest from investors, but eager consumers, including pro-active parents, aging adults and others looking to boost their brainpower.

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The Difference Between Instructivism, Constructivism, And Connectivism

The Difference Between Instructivism, Constructivism, And Connectivism | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

The Difference Between Instructivism, Constructivism, And Connectivism

 

Instructivism is definitely more teacher and institutionally centered, where policy-makers and “power-holders” create processes, resource-pools, and conditions for success.

 

Constructivism sees the teacher step aside to a new role as facilitator, pairing students with peers, learning processes, and another another at key moments based on data and observation while the students create their own knowledge and even early learning pathways.

 

Connectivism is similar to constructivism–in fact, a learner participating in connectivism would likely do so at times with an constructivist approach. The difference here lies in the central role of relationships and networks in connectivism. Rather than supplemental, they are primary sources.

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IMPLICATION:  Learning Design

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Why Mind, Brain, and Education Science is the "New" Brain-Based Education

Why Mind, Brain, and Education Science is the "New" Brain-Based Education | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it
This article explains how Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) science combines perspectives from neuroscience, psychology and pedagogy that contribute to a better understanding of how humans learn, and consequently, how we should teach.
Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION: Learning Content Design

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Dr Charles Parker's curator insight, January 23, 3:52 AM

This is where we're headed,-- interesting piece.

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Want to slow mental decay? Play a video game

Want to slow mental decay? Play a video game | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it
A new study shows that older people can put off the aging of their minds by playing a simple game that primes their processing speed skills.

 

The study comes amidst a burst of research examining why, as we age, our minds gradually lose "executive function," generally considered mission control for critical mental activities, such as memory, attention, perception and problem solving. Studies show loss of executive function occurs as people reach middle age; other studies say our cognitive decline begins as soon as 28 years of age. Either way, our mental capacities do diminish, and medical and public health experts are keen to understand why in an effort to stem the inexorable tide as much as possible.

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Revision tips: why sleep and repetition will boost your brain power

Revision tips: why sleep and repetition will boost your brain power | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it
When it comes to revising, how do you know which techniques work? We chat to students and experts to find out what methods really help you remember
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IMPLICATION:  Repetition, Metacognition

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Why do we make mistakes? Researchers discover 'noisy information' and not our brain is to blame

Why do we make mistakes? Researchers discover 'noisy information' and not our brain is to blame | LEARNING AND COGNITION | Scoop.it

We make mistakes because of flawed 'noisy' information going into the brain, rather than because of miscalculations by the brain itself.The brain is able to process information it receives correctly, but struggles when that input contains errors. While the inputs may be 'noisy', the internal mental process is ‘remarkably silent'. 

 

Experts from Princeton University, U.S., have discovered that the brain is able to process information it receives correctly, but struggles when that input contains errors, or 'noise'.  Neuroscientists have long debated whether bad decisions result from noise in the external information - or sensory input - or because the brain made mistakes when tallying that information.

 

For example, when choosing a university a person may make a poor choice because of misleading or confusing course descriptions, or because the brain failed to remember which college had the best ratings

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Huey O'Brien's insight:

IMPLICATION:  Selective Perception, Content Selection

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