TDLC Webinar - March 12, 2013
How to Learn More Deeply and Creatively: Concrete Tools from Neuroscience and from Zombies
About the Event
This fascinating presentation was sponsored by TDLC and TDLC's Educator Network (coordinated by Doris Alvarez) in celebration of Brain Awareness Week (BAW) -- the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. Over 215 people registered for the Webinar, with 150 attending in person. The audience consisted of TDLC researchers and over 75 high school students and their teachers. The Webinar streamed to over 100 participants from states such as Colorado and New York, and to countries as far away as Poland, Canada, Australia, and Portugual. The Distinguished Educator Advisory panel was primarily responsible for the large number of students, educators and members of the community in attendance.
Barbara Oakley captivated the packed auditorium with her discussion of the brain and different ways of thinking about thinking. She discussed the two modes of thinking -- focused mode and diffuse mode. She elaborated on an evolutionary conflict in which animals need careful, focused intent (searching for food) but also depend on diffuse intent (looking for danger) to survive.
"What did evolution come up with to solve this problem?" We have separate lobes of our brain, with left being more focused, and right showing more visual-spatial diffuse attention. Recent research finds neurological differences between the modes of thinking, and shows evidence that both modes of processing in the brain are very important.
Since it is difficult to think in both modes simultaneously, a person usually works in one mode at a time. Barbara Oakley then used fascinating examples -- Salvador Dali, a famous artist, and Thomas Edison, a famous inventor -- to show how successful people through history have developed creative ways to "switch attention" -- to change from focused to diffuse mode thinking. Both Dali and Edison created situations where they were forced to drop an object when in a deep state of relaxation, causing a sudden switch of attention.
Barbara Oakley was able to engross the audience in her ideas by sharing information, then asking the audience to discuss in small groups. This encouraged recall and practice of information - essentially "practicing what she preaches" and doing exactly what she was teaching us to do! Using the latest research about how the brain works, she shared priceless strategies on how to learn optimally, improve test-taking, combat procrastination, and better retain information. Some of these ideas include:
In essence, Barbara Oakley helped us more effectively "learn how to learn!"
Summing It Up
Alternate focused attention with relaxation