The folks over at mindflash developed this infographic about how and where the brain stores it’s information. While much of the brain’s information storage system remains a mystery, it is important to remember (see what we did there?) that memory is varied, nuanced, and often associative. Working memory is different than short or long term memory and what students take away from an experience or recall about it later, cannot be dictated by anyone else. They construct knowledge and memory themselves. It is why, as educators, we must be conscientious of providing environments and experiences that are meaningful, relevant, and engaging to them.
Humor is generally regarded as an important and valuable tool for sustaining engagement with students (in moderation, of course). But what is really going on in the brain when it comes to humor?
In an article in New Scientist magazine, Daniel Elkan writes,
Yet humour is a far more complex process than primeval pleasures like sex or food. In addition to the two core processes of getting the joke and feeling good about it, jokes also activate regions of the frontal and cingulate cortex, which are linked with association formation, learning and decision-making. The team (led by Dean Mobbs of Stanford) also found heightened activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and the frontoinsular cortex – regions that are only present in humans and, in a less developed form, great apes. Indeed, the fact that these regions are involved suggests that humour is an advanced ability which may have only evolved in early humans, says Watson, who conducted the research.
He goes on to write,
More than anything, the recent research confirms the fact that humour, an oft-neglected trait when considering our cognitive skills, requires a tremendous amount of brain power. “Getting a joke would seem – on the surface – to be a very trivial, intuitive process. But brain imaging is showing us that there is more going on than we might think,” says (Andrea) Samson (of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland).
Below is the accompanying graphic for that article, showing the parts of the brain activated when under the influence of humor:
Below is an image from a Time Magazine article on the “Anatomy of Anxiety” from a few years ago. While the article is a bit dated, the relevance remains, especially for educators.
Students need to feel relaxed, safe, and welcome in order to learn effectively. If we focus only on content and raise the stakes of assessments, we increase some students’ anxiety and make it more difficult for them to learn. A reminder that our job in working with students begins, and is sustained, through relationship building and trust.
Image: Joel Ertola via Time
Here is a short video from Southern California Public Radio station KPCC on the science behind bilingual learning. The site, Bilingual Learning, explores “the science, options, and dilemmas of dual language education.”
The below TEDx Talk by surgeon, researcher, and musician Charles Limb, unpacks some of his emerging hypotheses about the brain during improv, and how those might translate into understanding creativity. Or at least one small slice of it.
If he is correct, there are probably a broad range of implications for education. How might improv be used in the classroom to help students construct meaning, brainstorm, and build communication skills? What might educators do to help students develop skills at improv and can those skills help students as adults?
You can view the original on the TED Talks website.
Want to know more about the brain on improv?
- Study: Neural Correlates of Lyrical Improvisation: An fMRI Study of Freestyle Rap
- In Scientific American: The Neuroscience Lessons of Freestyle Rap
- On The Dana Foundation’s blog: The Neuroscience of Improvisation
As with most things, “gaming” (or being engaged in video games) has both positives and negatives when it comes to developing minds. Too much gaming, and the positive effects are overshadowed by the negative.
Yet, the right balance can add another avenue for pursuing educational goals and achievement. As a result, more and more programs are using gaming to reach and teach students in ways they never could before. Therapy programs, schools, and even research scientists have all benefitted from the strategic use of games to increase successes.
Below is an infographic from Online Universities looking at the brain on games. What do you think? How have you used games in your work with students? What might we need to be cautious of in incorporating gaming in our learning environments? Share your thoughts and any resources you find valuable in the comments.
Image: Online University