Friday, May 9, 2008

Collective Brains Building a Community for Learning

Katie Baxter, Library director of Noble and Greenough School in Dedham Ma.
Other experts present:
Judith Anne Sykes, Author of Brain Friendly Libraries
Dr. Leslie Farmer, California State University

Are you wondering why teenagers do the things that they do? Well, simply put their minds are much different than adult minds. Of course we know that their minds are still developing. But this moment in time is so unique because we can study how the brain works. This understanding allows us as educators and librarians to react to their actions in appropriate ways. And to design our lessons in order to meet the needs of our students.

The sessions began with some group sharing. This helped to invigorate our brains and begin thinking about the teens we serve.
We were then asked to write one word on a brightly colored piece of paper that represents what working with teens means to us.

Some answers: knowledge, understanding, behavior, learning, mindfulness, empathy, change.

Then we were directed to set up our learning space. Chairs were moved and energy was heightened. This not only allowed us to share better but increased our energy level (which has been waning on the last day of our conference).

The point of these exercises was to understand that students (and all people) need a change in routine to keep them from becoming bored and to re-energize learning.

Research shows that teens are social and need collaboration in order to learn.

Key concepts:
They experience increasing input of information
They need hands-on activities to learn
They need feed back from many different sources
We need to reduce threat and increase comfort level
We need to involve students in decisions about their space
We need to make content interdisciplinary and inquiry based
We need to meet all learning styles
We must account for emotions

Students are pushed and pulled through out their school day. As librarian were have a unique opportunity to create a safe social space where students can work with their peers and access necessary information for their education. It rests on our shoulders to make both students and administration happy.

How might you handle finding a student using computer time to play hangman? When you ask what he is doing. The answer may be learning about words. Challenge that. Ask if they know the origin of the word they just guessed. If they don't show them where to find that information.

The main point of this first session was to build an awareness about the differences between teens brains and adult brains. And to stress our responsibilities to work with students appropriately.

Some helpful websites:

Caine and Caine

Eric Chudler and Brain Awareness Week

Ken Wesson

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