Neuroscience of Learning 4 – What a week!

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My notes during Mirela Ramacciotti’s brilliant Mind, Brain, and Education course

Hello, folks!

Hope you’re all doing well and getting ready to start another great semester. I can tell you that I am! I apologize for not writing anything earlier this week, but I think I have the perfect excuse. I’ve been teaching and learning about neuroscience, psychology, and education. Here’s what I did:

-Went to Fortaleza to talk about the Neuroscience behind Second Language Acquisition at the National Geographic Learning Conference side by side with Katherine Stannett, one of the authors of Impact.

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-Went to São Paulo to take the Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) course given by Mirela Ramacciotti, my bright partner and head of the Braz-Tesol MBE SIG.

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-Came back home to teach the Neuroscience and Learning course to nine teachers.

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WHAT A WEEK!

The purpose of this entry is to share some of the highlights and five more tips about neuroscience (psychology, and education are also included).

HIGHLIGHT #1: Mirela Ramacciotti is the best teacher I’ve ever had!

WOW! That’s how I would describe having class with the one and only Mirela Ramacciotti. The reason I say that is because of the way I felt after I left the course: inspired, with the sensation I had learned so much, even though I’m familiar with the topic, and longing for more after 8 hours of intense studying. Also, we (the other participants and I) couldn’t stop talking about it for a second.

Mirela not only talks about some key concepts of this young and exciting science, but she also walks the talk. She is funny, incredibly knowledgeable, affectionate, and delighting. We couldn’t take our eyes off of her! The way she moved in the classroom, sat by the door to tell us stories, came closer to establish eye contact and really listened to our comments and questions… well, I can only say everyone would learn much more if they had teachers like Mirela. Based on my experience, here are the two first tips:

  1. Showing and telling is better than just showing or just telling: Mirela walked the talk when she could’ve just talked. Use the principle of Dual Coding to make your lessons more memorable, that is, give practical examples and apply them in class instead of just telling the theory. Use both images and sound.

This video might help with the concept:

2. Don’t label your students, even when they have “learning difficulties/problems”. If there’s one thing neuroscience knows it’s that our brains are incredibly plastic and can change the wiring as they go. Mirela showed us the case of Nico and Brooke, two boys who underwent a hemispherectomy – THEY HAD HALF OF THEIR BRAINS REMOVED! But, despite some movement impairment, they have developed as normal kids (now grown-ups) with all their cognitive functions. Read their story here.

Don’t forget to attend one of Mirela’s lectures or courses if you happen to be in the area. Here’s her website with more information: http://neuroeducamente.com.br/

HIGHLIGHT #2: Most of us, teachers, have very little information about how our memories work!

If you are an engineer and want to build something, you must know how much weight the materials you are going to use can take, right? If you’re a baker and want to bake a cake, you must know how many ingredients you are going to use and how much of each you need, correct? If you’re a personal trainer and want to help someone get fit, you must know how much they can take in each training session, mustn’t you? Why isn’t the same principle applied to teaching/learning? I realize my analogies differ on many levels, but why do we teach much more than what our students can handle? Is it because there’s too much to cover or because we simply don’t know how learning occurs? Here are two more tips to think about that:

3. There’s a limit to the amount of information we can take in. Sweller et al. discussed that in 1988 and came up with the concept of Cognitive Load Theory. There are ways we, teachers, can reduce the load and help our students make the transition between working memory and long-term memory. Here’s a video to help you grasp the concept:

4. Our memory can be improved. Trying to recall things we did a long time ago, creating associations with bizarre images and solving puzzles are great ways to make our memory better. Watch this wonderful TED video with Joshua Foer:

HIGHLIGHT #3: Understanding how our brains work is a fascinating subject to basically everyone!

“What a fascinating talk!” – These were Katherine Stannett’s words to me after my presentation at the Nat Geo Learning Conference in Fortaleza. Back in Goiânia WONDERFUL, GREAT, AMAZING, INTERESTING, INCREDIBLE and other similar words were predominant in my attendees’ comments after my Neuroscience of Learning course. It is fascinating to learn about the brain indeed, but as Mirela mentioned in her amazing course, quoting an expert in neuroscience:

“How far have we gone into discovering how our brains work? If the distance were 1 meter, we’ve only covered 3cm so far”

However, the little we already know can make a huge difference in the way we teach. So here’s my last tip of the day:

5. Learn about how we learn: Don’t replicate ideas, ideologies, and methods in the classroom if they don’t make sense from an MBE perspective. Learn the basic concepts and share them with everybody. This is the only way we can make education even more lasting and powerful. Here are some online courses, websites, and texts you can try:

https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/smg/Website/braincourse/brainlearning/unit2_home.html

https://www.edx.org/course/science-learning-what-every-teacher-teacherscollegex-edsci1x-0

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/good-brain-bad-brain-basics

http://www.dana.org/News/NeuroEducation/

https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/brain-and-cognitive-sciences/

https://www.learner.org/courses/neuroscience/

http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/Journals/Winter2011/Tokuhama2

http://thelearningmind.com/mind-brain-education

As I mentioned before, WHAT A WEEK! But it gave me more energy to carry on with my mission of spreading the word about this exciting new science. I can’t wait to deliver more talks, take more courses (hopefully with Mirela again) and teach more people. Why don’t you join me in this education revolution? I could really use your help!

Check out my other blog entries about neuroscience here, here, and here.

Don’t forget to leave your comments here! After all, with interaction, we can create more memorable moments and make learning even more effective!

 

Manifesto à Educação de Qualidade – Escrita Científica

Compartilhem esse post ou baixem o documento word e divulguem Manifesto à Educação

Resultado de imagem para escrever artigo

Prezados professores(as), orientadores(as) e alunos(as),

É com muito pesar que escrevo neste texto duas constatações de organismos internacionais: a primeira diz respeito à capacidade dos alunos nas habilidades de leitura, ciências e matemática. O Brasil ocupa o 59ª em leitura, 63ª em ciências e 66ª em matemática, de acordo com o índice internacional de PISA, que avalia jovens de 15 anos em 72 países:

http://www.cartaeducacao.com.br/reportagens/brasil-mantem-ultimas-colocacoes-no-pisa/

A segunda é que a nossa melhor universidade, a USP, está entre as posições 251ª e 300ª no ranking mundial das melhores universidades do mundo, o Times Higher Education (THE):  http://g1.globo.com/educacao/noticia/usp-perde-quase-100-posicoes-em-ranking-de-universidades-desde-2012.ghtml

Eu poderia continuar com índices desanimadores, como a posição em relação à proficiência no inglês, língua franca e, portanto, da comunicação científica, ou falar sobre a porcentagem de alunos matriculados nos cursos de graduação e pós-graduação. Porém, prefiro tentar ajudar com motivação positiva e inspiração, pois acredito que seja possível mudar, pouco a pouco, esse cenário.

Nos últimos dois anos, tenho dedicado minha vida à missão de propagar o que eu venho aprendendo sobre educação, metodologia e ensino de inglês pelo país e afora. Meu objetivo é alcançar o maior número de pessoas e plantar a semente da mudança, que será demorada, sem dúvida, mas muito necessária.

Então, se você é professor ou professora, lembre-se da sua missão e da nossa posição no mundo. Alguma coisa não está funcionando bem e todos sabemos que a estrutura, as instituições, o sistema e as condições de trabalho não facilitam nosso trabalho. No entanto, peço que se perguntem o seguinte: o que eu posso fazer que dependa somente de mim para melhorar esse quadro?

Se você é aluno ou aluna, meu pedido é simples, porém de concretização muito difícil. Perceba o quão privilegiado você é pelo fato de estar na educação superior de um país no qual a educação não é valorizada. Perceba que os professores, muitas vezes, não tem a formação adequada e, que mesmo assim, tentam ajudá-los da melhor maneira possível. Percebam que dar o seu melhor em um país com esses índices tão baixos ainda está muito aquém da qualidade mundial. E, finalmente, percebam que a educação é libertadora e o único caminho para resolver os problemas dos quais tanto reclamamos no nosso país. Agarrem essa oportunidade e sejam as melhores versões de si mesmos.

Para ajudar, coloco abaixo links que pretendem resolver um dos principais problemas gerados pela má qualidade do ensino brasileiro e que tem impacto direto na qualidade e no alcance das nossas universidades: a escrita. Contudo, peço que se dediquem no estudo de pelo menos dois dos links que disponibilizo e que procurem outras maneiras de sanar suas deficiências com a escrita acadêmica/científica. Sugiro que façam um dos cursos online e que comprem o livro que recomendo ou que baixem a apostila em PDF.

Não tenho a pretensão de dizer que isso será o suficiente para resolver todos os problemas, mas o primeiro passo é o mais importante. O resto é com vocês e sei que vocês têm capacidade. Ajudem os professores a ajudar vocês e corram atrás da resolução das dificuldades adquiridas. Sejam mais proativos!

Com esse pequeno esforço meu, um esforço maior do corpo docente das instituições de ensino e um esforço maior ainda de você, aluno ou aluna de qualquer nível do sistema educacional, tenho certeza que a qualidade da educação no nosso país melhorará pelo menos um pouco. Esse é o meu sonho e espero que a partir desse estímulo também seja o seu.

Vídeo aulas e cursos online de redação científica:

http://porvir.org/videoaulas-gratuitas-ensinam-fazer-de-tcc-tese/20130813/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg_xpd-xk9c&list=PL838A236D33BA042E

http://zucoescrita.com/

https://unieducar.org.br/catalogo/curso-gratis/elaboracao-de-trabalho-cientifico-da-pesquisa-a-redacao-final-gratuito

Livros e manuais sobre redação científica:

http://www.bestwriting.com.br/Guia-Pratico-para-Redacao-Cientifica.htm

http://www.bestwriting.com.br/Dicas-para-Redacao-Cientifica-4-Edicao.htm

http://www.redacaocientifica.com/images/pedroreiz/manual-de-tecnicas-de-redacao-cientifica.pdf

http://www.infoteca.cnptia.embrapa.br/bitstream/doc/7511/1/doc68.pdf

http://www.escritacientifica.sc.usp.br/livros-e-outros-materiais/

 

 

Sharing to multiply: the unbeatable old formula of life, and just about anything, including Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

CPD.pngI’m a science addict. Everything, really. You know what’s one of my favorite books? The Illustrated Version of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. His eloquence and simplicity make such a dense topic flow so easily inside our brains that it is a delight to discover the depths of the universe as one of the most brilliant minds unravels it. Charles Darwin is another idol of mine, and I absolutely love the theory of evolution and the scientific method. And if there’s one thing I learned from science and my irreverent high school Biology teacher is that life will find a way. Or, as said by one of Jurassic Park’s characters: “Life will out”

Do you know how life “outs”? By sharing, and, obviously, multiplying. See, a cell’s life expectancy is really very short, and it spends most of its lifetime preparing to multiply. It first duplicates its genetic material, shares it with what’s about to become a new, however identical, cell, and it finally multiplies itself.

I’m discussing Biology here because the analogy seemed to fit this week. I will be sharing my knowledge and that of my peers at two exciting events. The first will take place in Belo Horizonte, MG, and I’ll lecture about the Neuroscience of Bilingualism for National Geographic. My highly-skilled peer Claire Venables will also be there discussing Professional Development. The second will be the Braz-Tesol Conference in Goiânia, from which I borrow the title of this entry: Sharing to Multiply. I will talk about how sharing made me realize my life’s purpose and attending this conference is certainly a type of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

The purpose of this writing piece is exactly that: to share. And in sharing, to discuss CPD. In order to do so, I’d like to introduce the epitome of sharing nowadays: a hashtag. How about #isharetomultiply? The idea is to share something you produced, are proud of, have heard about or anything worth sharing. What I’m sharing with you is my precious   Chapter II of my still unborn book about education. At the end of the chapter’s intro, there’s a list of some wonderful online courses you can do for free or for very little money. I cannot forget to mention that this epiphany came to me because of my recently completed British Council Teaching for Success: Learning and Learners course. The intense sharing with FutureLearners and educators was simply phenomenal and the sense of accomplishment throughout this four-week, objective and extremely useful course was wonderful.future.png

CHAPTER II

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection”.

Mark Twain

The vital role of professional development

One of these days, quite unpretentiously I must say, while browsing through my LinkedIn profile, I came across a quote by a man named Peter Baeklund who’s been working as a Professional Trainer and Coach, owns a leadership company and consults for a number of executives and businesses in Denmark. It goes like this:

“CFO asks CEO: What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?

CEO: What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

Credits to one of my former colleague Hulgo Freitas, whom I follow on LinkedIn and always posts interesting quotes and tips. I naturally had to repost it and try to get this out to as many people as I could. I suppose what drove me to do that was a sense that in many situations it is exactly what happens. Companies, schools, and universities will, especially in my country (at least that’s the feeling), prioritize saving money rather than developing their staff. It is a widespread notion that spending money that is not for paying the salary or benefits is not worth spending (we’ll talk about the exceptions too). Was it always like this? Has anything changed over the years?

To illustrate what has changed, allow me to share one experience I had. I remember when I was an undergrad International Relations student in São Paulo and my university brought in an expert who coached young entrepreneurs for a workshop. He showed us two intriguing charts with the following patterns:

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After asking a group of give or take 20 students and getting nothing but silence for an answer, he told us the first chart represented a worker’s life in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s (perhaps even the 70’s). A person would get a job and work for the same company for basically the rest of their lives, starting from below in production (let’s use a factory as an example), moving up one degree in the ladder and taking over the mentor position, then supervisor, manager of the department moving up little by little toward, who knows, even presidency. It was a steady line to the top. This was surely my father’s case, who started out as a junior electrical engineer and ended up as chief of his section and international liaison reporting back to Sweden at Asea Brown Bovery (ABB). He worked at the same company for over 40 years. He was the guy they looked for when they couldn’t solve something. He was what we call an “expert”. A few people could do his job. I’m taking a bold guess here and assuming your dad or even granddad followed similar paths (and, depending on the year you were born, maybe you too).

What about the second chart with many ups and downs? Well, that represents my generation. The babies of the baby boomers. Generation Y or Millennials, if you may. Born in the late 70’s or 80’s – some authors will even consider the 90’s – into a world of technology and abundance, at the peak of capitalism and the blossom of hundreds of new fields. According to the “expert” lecturing in my university, these workers have a totally different profile. They work a couple of years (sometimes even less than a year) here and then move to another company there, always seeking satisfaction, personal and professional growth. Now, the funny fact about my generation’s erratic movement to the top is that satisfaction doesn’t always mean more money or a higher position. It’s OK for this worker to start at the bottom in a different company as long as it fulfills a certain need and offers a perspective of learning (and growth). And, since technology and professional development are widely available, a “multipotentialite” (a person with many interests and great adaptability skills, according to career coach Emilie Wapnik) is preferred on many occasions.

What I intend to discuss in this chapter is how the fast-moving world has been demanding professionals with expertise in the area they are working and, simultaneously, workers with skills that can add value to the company – a differential. Being both an “expert” and a “multipotentialite” seems to be a reality anyone in the job market has faced, faces or will face. And to make matters worse, we have to achieve those on our own many times as companies may be reluctant to offer professional development opportunities. That is exactly why my focus here will be on how teachers/educators can keep investing in their own careers without relying solely on their school’s, university’s or any other institution’s initiatives. I will offer tips and discuss ways in which we can improve through online courses, conferences, conventions and symposia, lectures and workshops and, the best part, most of which we can do free of charge. I will share with you my journey in 2016 and what I learned from the professionals I met with and interviewed. At the end of this chapter, you will have precious pointers and a list of courses and other professional development activities you can embark on. Also, since it never hurts to ask, I will teach you how to be more persuasive with your boss and get him/her to help you develop since being static doesn’t really benefit anyone.

END of the intro.

Let’s start with my online course list:

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/english-language-teaching
https://www.edx.org/course/classroom-strategies-inquiry-based-utaustinx-ut-iitl-11-02x
https://www.coursera.org/learn/being-a-teacher
http://eltjam.academy/p/elt-in-the-digital-age
https://www.linkedin.com/learning/teacher-tips

As for the conferences, symposia, and other events, I have only two tips for now. Become a member of your local Tesol committee, and check out this website:

https://www.tesol.org/attend-and-learn/calendar-of-events

Sorry about the long post, but sharing has these things. How about sharing a little? Use the space below and don’t forget the hashtag: #isharetomultiply

Life is all about sharing. And, in my opinion, we’re not sharing enough.