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Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections

This video course for K-12 educators acquaints teachers with current neuroscience research that they can apply in their own classrooms.

A video course for grades K-12 teachers and school counselors. 42 video modules of varying lengths, course guide, online text and website.

Exciting developments in the field of neuroscience are leading to a new understanding of how the brain works that is beginning to transform teaching in the classroom. Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections brings together researchers and educators in a dialog about how insights into brain function can be harnessed by teachers for use in their own classrooms to address their own particular challenges. Course components include 42 video segments interwoven with an online text and other useful resources on a comprehensive Web site. The web also includes interactive simulations of neuroscience research tools, glossary, and course guide for teachers to use all the materials for sustained professional development. (NOTE: Interactives no longer function due to Flash discontinuation.)

Insights drawn from neuroscience not only provide educators with a scientific basis for understanding some of the best practices in teaching, but also offer a new lens through which to look at the problems teachers grapple with every day. By gaining insights into how the brain works—and how students actually learn—teachers will be able to create their own solutions to the classroom challenges they face and improve their practice.

About This Course

Course Goals

Exciting new developments in the field of neuroscience are leading to a new understanding of how the brain works that is beginning to transform how we teach in the classroom. Teachers are aware of these developments and are hungry for information that they can apply to their practice. One of the central goals of Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections is to help teachers learn to use research to create their own solutions to their particular classroom challenges. Another important goal is to provide new and useful metaphors that we all can use to describe teaching and learning and that are grounded in modern neuroscience. Through this course, teachers learn to think critically about the field of Mind, Brain, and Education and thus learn to be informed consumers of information about brain science, better able to separate science from myth and misinterpretation.

Course Audience

Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections was designed for K–12 teachers, other educators, researchers, and adult learners who want to learn more about current issues in education. College or graduate students—especially those considering careers in education—will find this course useful. We welcome their use of these materials.

Course Components

Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections is a self-contained distance-learning course distributed free of charge on the Web. The course is designed by Kurt Fischer, director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program at Harvard University Graduate School of Education; Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, assistant professor of education at the Rossier School of Education and assistant professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California; and Matthew H. Schneps, George E. Burch Fellow in Theoretic Medicine and Affiliated Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution and director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

The multimedia course consists of six units, with an introduction and a conclusion. Each unit contains many integrated videos and sidebars of additional information, as well as a list of resources. The website provides access to all the course components, plus additional materials, which include:

  • Two Interactive Lab Activities
  • Visuals: A Compilation of Images Used in the Units
  • A Course Guide
  • A Glossary
  • Three Site-wide Search Features: Traditional, Visual (Dynamic Content Map), and by “Top Teaching Issues”
  • Teacher Talk: A Moderated Discussion List

How to Use This Course

The materials are designed for various uses. Some individuals may want to learn about a single topic and study parts of one unit on their own. Some may want to join facilitator-led groups, such as professional development workshops or in-service sessions. Information on how to use these materials to facilitate a professional development workshop is available in the PDF downloadable Course Guide.

Each unit of the course is composed of text with integrated videos, visuals, and sidebars. However, each component of the course is also designed to stand alone. You do not need to use all of the materials or access them in any particular order. If you are interested in a particular topic, you can jump in at your point of interest. Users can search the site for topics of interest in three ways: a traditional key word search, a visual search engine (Dynamic Content Map), and by “Top Teaching Issues.” Users are also encouraged to “chat” with other participants by utilizing the Teacher Talk section of the site. For the fullest experience with all the components, use the Course Guide to set learning goals and to explore your understanding of the course concepts.

Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections is available beginning in the fall of 2011. You may watch the videos free on demand via broadband streaming at www.beta.learner.org, with Course Guides available as downloadable PDFs on this website, or you may purchase DVDs and Course Guides from the Annenberg Learner online catalog.

Content Contributors

photo of Denny Blodgett

Alden S. Blodget, Writer.

Denny Blodget is director of Heads Up Collaborative, bringing teachers and neuroscientists together to explore the implications of research for classroom practices and school designs. He was a teacher and an administrator for 38 years. He taught theater and English, created and chaired the arts department at Taft School (Connecticut), chaired the arts department at Packer Collegiate Institute (New York), and was assistant head of school for 18 years at Lawrence Academy (Massachusetts). Since 2000, he has worked with Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang creating workshops for teachers. He has written several articles for Independent School magazine (National Association of Independent Schools publication) and other publications. Denny has spent his life in the educational reform movement and has led schools in making significant changes in classrooms and in school designs. He serves on the Board of Trustees for The Long Trail School in Vermont and is a guardian ad litem for the Family and Criminal Courts of Rutland County (Vermont), working with abused and delinquent children.

Photo of Kurt Fischer

Kurt Fischer, Content Developer.

Director for the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Kurt Fischer studies cognitive and emotional development and learning from birth through adulthood, combining analysis of the commonalities across people with the diversity of pathways of learning and development. His work focuses on the organization of behavior and the ways it changes, especially with development, learning, emotion, and culture. In dynamic skill theory, he provides a single framework to analyze how organismic and environmental factors contribute to the rich variety of developmental change and learning across and within people. His research includes students’ learning and problem-solving, brain development, concepts of self in relationships, cultural contributions to social-cognitive development, early reading skills, emotions, child abuse, and brain development. One product of his research is a single scale for measuring learning, teaching, and curriculum across domains, which is being used to assess and coordinate key aspects of pedagogy and assessment in schools. Fischer has been a visiting professor or visiting scholar at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Groningen (The Netherlands), Nanjing Normal University (China), and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford University). He is the author of “Dynamic Development of Action, Thought, and Emotion” in the Handbook of Child Psychology (Volume 1); Human Behavior and the Developing Brain; Mind, Brain, and Education in Reading Disorders; and a dozen other books, as well as over 200 scientific articles. Leading an international movement to connect biology and cognitive science to education, he is founding president of the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society and founding editor of the new journal Mind, Brain, and Education.

Photo of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Content Developer.

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, EdD, is an affective neuroscientist and human development psychologist who studies the neural, psychophysiological, and psychological bases of emotion, social interaction, and culture and their implications for development and schools. She is an assistant professor of education at the Rossier School of Education, an assistant professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute, and a member of the neuroscience graduate program faculty at the University of Southern California, where she was formerly a joint postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Antonio Damasio and Robert Rueda. A former junior high school teacher, she earned her doctorate at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, where she was the recipient of grants from the Spencer Foundation and the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. She is the associate editor for North America for the award-winning journal Mind, Brain and Education, and the inaugural recipient of the Award for Transforming Education through Neuroscience, co-sponsored by International Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES) and the Learning and the Brain Conference. She and her co-authors received the 2010 Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences for the most distinguished paper of the year in the behavioral and social sciences category, for the paper, “Neural correlates of admiration and compassion.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(19), 8021–8026. In 2011, she was named a “Rising Star” by the Association for Psychological Science. She lectures nationally and abroad on the neural and psychosocial implications of brain and cognitive science research for curriculum and pedagogy.

Photo of Matthew Schneps

Matthew H. Schneps, Course Developer.

Matthew H. Schneps is the George E. Burch Fellow in Theoretic Medicine and Affiliated Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), and executive director of the Science Media Group at CfA. His diverse research interests include astrophysics, cognition and learning, science education, learning disabilities and dyslexia, television media, eye-tracking and vision, computer image processing, and K-12 science learning. As executive director of the Science Media Group, Schneps is responsible for producing over 200 hours of nationally broadcast television programming on science learning, much of it in collaboration with the Annenberg Foundation. Matthew Schneps produced (with Phil Sadler) the award-winning videos on science learning A Private Universe and Minds of Our Own, both well known for their depictions of Harvard and MIT graduates who are unable to answer grade-school problems in science (such as the causes of the seasons). Prior to his involvement in science education, Schneps was co-director of the Wolbach Image Processing Laboratory (WIPL) at CfA, where he created capabilities for computer animation. Before WIPL, Schneps carried out research in astrophysics (star formation and galactic distance scales) with James Moran and Mark Reid, using aperture synthesis techniques.

Using this Site

Introduction

Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections consists of six units, with an introduction and a conclusion. Each unit contains many integrated videos—more than 40 in total—and sidebars of additional information, as well as a list of resources. Additionally, there are two interactive lab activities that give users a flavor of what it is like to participate in a neuroscience experiment. Participants are encouraged to “talk to each other” through the Teacher Talk portal—a moderated discussion board where teachers can post messages about course concepts and how they can be applied to classroom practices. A Course Guide, with discussion questions and exercises, is provided in a downloadable PDF document.

Website

In keeping with the philosophy of learning being advocated in the course, the Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections website allows individuals access to content from a variety of directions. The main content is delivered through an online textbook, which includes embedded links to videos, sidebars, visuals, graphics, and glossary terms. Users can navigate the course in a traditional manner, approaching the text one unit at a time and working their way through the content systematically. However, each component of the course is also designed to stand alone. You do not need to use all of the materials or access the materials in any particular order. If you are interested in a particular topic, you can jump in at your point of interest. Users can search the site for topics of interest in three ways: a traditional key word search, a visual search (Dynamic Content Map), and by “Top Teaching Issues.”

Content Descriptions

Units

The units provide core content reading. A downloadable PDF of the text is also available.

Videos

There are more than 40 videos embedded in the text throughout the site. The videos delve into core content areas and extend and deepen content that is explored in the unit text, challenging the viewer’s preconceived ideas.

Visuals

Photographs and other graphics from the text and videos are compiled separately and can be searched by unit or visual type.

Glossary

The glossary includes important terms and concepts from the text. It is searchable alphabetically or by unit.

Interactive Activities

Two activities allow users to participate in actual neuroscience research.

Course Guide

The Course Guide is a companion to the online text, and is intended to be used by a facilitator running an on-site professional development course for teachers.

Teacher Talk

Participants are encouraged to “talk to one another” through the Teacher Talk portal, where they can share ideas, discuss course concepts, and talk about best practices.

Search

Users can search the site for topics of interest in three ways: a traditional key word search, a visual search (Dynamic Content Map), and by “Top Teaching Issues.”

Credits

The Science Media Group (SMG) was founded by Dr. Matthew H. Schneps at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) to investigate new ways to use television and computer media to communicate science to the public at large. A part of the CfA’s Science Education Department, the SMG has grounded its work in state-of-the-art science education research.

One of the most recent SMG productions was Physics for the 21st Century—a course for high school physics teachers and undergraduate students exploring the frontiers of physics. Another recent SMG production was The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science—a course for high school teachers and undergraduate students in environmental science. Created in partnership with the Harvard University Center for the Environment and Annenberg Media, The Habitable Planet received the 2010 AAAS Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE). Other pioneering works created by the SMG are videos, such as A Private Universe, influential in shaping education reform worldwide; television programs, such as the PBS series Minds of Our Own, designed to alert the public to issues of science learning; and television, museum, Internet, and computer materials for children, parents, and teachers.

Project Development

Executive Director
Matthew H. Schneps
Executive Producer
Alex Griswold
Project Manager
Kelly E. Cramer
Project Administrator
Linda P. Williamson

Series Credits

Course Content Developers
Dr. Kurt Fischer
Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang
Dr. Matthew H. Schneps
Writers
Alden S. Blodget
Dr. Matthew H. Schneps, Unit 4
Sidebar Contributing Writers
Dr. Joanna A. Christodoulou
Dr. M. Diane Clark
Dr. Kurt Fischer
Catherine Glennon
Dr. Matthew H. Schneps
Lysandra Sinclaire-Harding
Zachary Stein
Julia Volkman
Course Evaluation
Eric Baylin
Karen Brody
Buffy Cushman-Patz
Andrea Darby
Tara Emery
Leigh Jenkins
Michael Kennedy
Christine Martin
Brain Mulvehill
Bernadine Okoro
Staci Richard
Nancy Spillane
Timothy Spuck
Michelle Sullivan
Meg Town
Julia Volkman
Sue Whitsett
David Youngblut
Coleman Zeigan
Project Advisors
Nancy Finkelstein
Bruce Gregory
Amanda Heffner-Wong
Michelle Sullivan
Julia Volkman

Website/Interactive Labs

Designer
Michelle Hardy Kennedy
Programmer
Aladdin Ibrahim
Developers
Shira Fruchtman
Michelle Hardy Kennedy
Copy Editor
Linda Walsh
Production Assistant
Chandana Jasti
Interactive Development
Don Button, Programmer
Juliet Jacobson, Designer
Reaction Time
Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Advisor
Measuring Learning
Esben R. Thomasen Baek, Production Assistant
Chen Chen, Production Assistant
Dr. Marc Pomplun, Advisor
Dr. Matthew H. Schneps, Advisor
Photo Credits: NASA, Daniel Pickar, Nada Attar, Chen Chen

Course Guide

Writer
Alden S. Blodget
Teacher Review
Nancy Finkelstein
Copy Editor
Linda Walsh

Video Production (see individual video credits for more detailed roles in each production)

Senior Producer, Videographer
Clive Grainger
Producer, Videographer
Tobias McElheny
Senior Editor, Producer, Videographer
Steven J. Allardi
Editors
Oren Bendavid-Val
Neal Duffy
Keri Green
Assistant Editor, Sound Mixer
Molly Wasser
Online Editor
Maria Kobrina
Animator
Clayton Ellis
Music
Ben Cosgrove
Additional Music
Caleb Epps
Alison Plante/Treble Cove Music
Narrator
Margaret Somody
Interns
Grace Hewett
Ruthann Hewett

Videos

Introduction:
It Has to Make Sense
Mind, Brain, and Education
Collaboration
Unit 1:
A Brief History of Neuroscience
Tools of Neuroscience: MRI/FMRI; EEG; MEG
Reading a Word
Brooke’s Story
Nico’s Story
A Tale of Two Cases: Brooke and Nico
Unit 2:
Measuring Emotional Response to Physics
Good Idea?
Emotion in Math
Depth of Field
Emotion and Cognition: A Neuroscientist’s Perspective
Unit 3:
Music and Emotion; Peer Mentoring
Using Emotional Content in the History Classroom
Empathy
Unit 4:
Warm Jackets Generate Heat?
Turning Tables at Gallaudet University: What is “Normal”?
Success Story: Dr. Stephen Shore
Attention and Magic
Working Memory and Attention
Implicit Learning
Success Story: Dr. Alexander Goldowsky
Success Story: Dr. Todd Rose
Success Story: Kent Sinclair
Success Story: Dr. Temple Grandin
Reading with Half a Brain
Unit 5:
Dynamic Skill Development
DiscoTests: A New Approach to Assessment
Johanna and Her Mother; Scaffolding: Johanna and Her Mother with Commentary
Unit 6:
Emotional Connections in Math and Science
Engaging Native Alaskan Students
The Montessori Approach; Montessori and Dynamic Skill Theory
Technology for Every Student?
Perspective Shifting in Math
Students Think for Themselves

Series Directory

Neuroscience & the Classroom: Making Connections

Credits

Produced by Science Media Group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in association with the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard GSE; and the Brain and Creativity Institute and Rossier SOE at the University of Southern California. 2012.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-894-7

Related Materials

Units