At ISTE: Opening Keynote

Brain imageThe 2011 ISTE Conference started with a keynote presentation by Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist who has studied the function of the brain. Dr. Medina highlighted what science has learned – the brain works best in uncertain environments moving trying to survive. What does that mean for education? Most importantly we must rethink learning spaces and learning tasks.

Dr. Medina also highlighted how people learn. Learning is a continuos process that requires a database of facts that then applies facts to new situations. As I listened I thought about the the principles of Universal Design for Learning. Good teaching helps students overcome learning barriers. It’s imperative for a good teacher to analyze the learning needs for each child and scaffold learning tasks.

Dr. Medina kept repeating the mantra that each brain is wired differently. He used a transportation metaphor. All human have identical interstate highways, but as you leave the 4 lane highways differences start to take place. The real differences happen in the city alleys.

ISTE just released its links and comments:

Brain researcher and bestselling author Dr. John J. Medina, delivered the opening keynote address for an overflow crowd of more than 6,000 educators at ISTE 2011. Medina shared his “theory of mind” and how it applies to teaching. “If you can penetrate inside someone’s psychological interior, you will know when you’ve bewildered or inspired them.”

If teachers have the ability to recognize gaps in student knowledge, then they can develop lessons that address these gaps. Medina’s presentation offered provocative ideas about how the brain sciences might influence the way we educate children and how we use technology today and into the future.

ISTE president Holly Jobe underscored the idea that educators “need to tap into the interests of the students. Many educators today teach the way they were taught,” she continued. “But we are obligated to change our classroom practices and meet students in their world.”

Both presenters challenged the audience to rethink how our children learn and how the education system must transform if we are to truly unlock every learner’s potential.

To view all of the Sunday opening presentations, visit ISTE’s YouTube channel.

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