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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

How the Brain Learns Best: Strategies to Make Learning Stick -- Keep the Discussion Going

Thank you to all who joined us during our lively webinar about how the brain learns, part of our special report on multiple intelligences. We hope you walked away from it with ideas and inspiration to bring the very best to your classroom, your school district, or your community.

As is often the case, the number of questions from our community far exceeded our allotted time, but we've put together the following resources to help you get the most out of our Edutopia webinars:

About the Panelists

Grace Rubenstein

Grace Rubenstein is a staff writer and multimedia producer with Edutopia magazine and Edutopia.org. Prior to joining The George Lucas Educational Foundation in 2005, she was an education reporter at the Lawrence, Massachusetts, Eagle-Tribune and a Boston Globe correspondent. She has won awards from the New England Press Association and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association.

Judy Willis

Dr. Judy Willis, a board-certified neurologist and a middle school teacher in Santa Barbara, California, combined her training in neuroscience and neuroimaging with her teacher-education training and years of classroom experience and became an authority in learning-centered brain research and classroom strategies derived from this research. Visit RADTeach.com for a list of books and articles she has written.

Useful Web Sites for Parents and Educators

Neuroscience for Kids

This site is for all students and teachers who would like to learn about the nervous system. Discover the exciting world of the brain, the spinal cord, neurons, and the senses. Use the experiments, activities, and games to help you learn about the nervous system. For example, on Sounds of Neuroscience, watch and hear feedback from the electricity of information transmission through brain cells. Check out news briefs, an e-newsletter, and a television program, as well; there are also plenty of links to other Web sites for you to explore.

The Hawn Foundation

I am on the Hawn Foundation's board of directors, and I consulted with the organization on the curriculum for its classroom and home program, designed to enhance students' self-awareness, focused attention, problem-solving abilities, self-regulation, stress reduction, and pro-social behaviors.

GreatSchools: Your Child with Learning Difficulties

This section of GreatSchools is for parents and teachers about practical strategies for strategies for academic and social success and to inform about children's learning difficulties, including those that can be diagnosed -- learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism and Asperger's syndrome -- and other difficulties without a diagnosis. The home page links to resources by grade; these materials cover topics such as Media and Your Child.

Discovery Channel

The Discovery Channel's Web site, which demonstrates the learning strategies I discussed in the webinar, has games, videos, text, and photos featuring science organized by topic and age. For example, Volcano Explorer takes you inside a volcano and is interactive so you control the viscosity and gas settings and see the effect on the shape and explosiveness of the volcano.

Unit Conversion

In the simple but effective game on this site, the visitor fills in missing numbers in metric unit-conversion equations; correct answers place a stick figure into a seat of a Ferris wheel, and the wheel moves smoothly and music plays when all the seats are filled.

Comments (27)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Dr. Judy Willis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Until the PowerPoint presentation for this webinar is available from Edutopia, you may find a PowerPoint presentation I did a few years ago at a conference about brain health and learning to be useful.

Dr. Judy Willis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

You'll find lots of classroom-ready ways to put the concepts I presented in the Edutopia webinar on my Web site and in its links to my articles.

Dr. Judy Willis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Because many "teach to the test" classes are so unengaging due to one directional teaching from teacher to student, without inquiry, active learning, or personal relevance, children who stare and blink are misdiagnosed as having petit mal seizures. However, the diagnosis is neurologically made with EEG studies and once confirmed is best treated with appropriate medication by a specialist. This type of seizure disorder often resolves during adolescence or young adulthood so be sure to have follow-up to see if the medication can be discontinued.

Dr. Judy Willis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Because the brain filters give priority to information the brain connects with pleasurable past experiences, sensory input that is most appealing to a child's learning strength and interests will get priority passage through the filters.

Grace Rubenstein's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Staff comment:

Hi Mr. Fair,

You can find lots of great examples of project learning and Web 2.0 integration in our Video Library. Showing faculty how these practices look on video can really help show their value.

Grace Rubenstein

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Staff comment:

This came from an attendee - It's worth taking a look at.


Online Membership Coordinator, Edutopia

Hi Judy,

I had the good fortune of participating in Edutopia webinar you presented last week. Very nicely done. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Your presentation crystallized my understanding of RAS function.

I've become a student of the brain, so to speak, by way of the emerging social neuroscience field that I stumbled into during studies on the effects of mindfulness in school curriculum.

I am also a middle school teacher (love the age group). I teach yoga in the Psycho-Physical Ed Dept at New Roads Middle School. Our yoga program encompasses many social and emotional learning components.

Your presentation inspired me and I wanted to let you know that I am applying your suggestions. I am "advertising" a new learning opportunity now on student's online portal pages. It says "Attention Yoga Students: Did you know one of your BEST FRIENDS lives in your BRAIN? In about a week, you will be introduced to this new friend and find out how COOL he or she is!"

My plan is to have students research different areas of the brain and report back to class. At that point, we will "build" a brain with our bodies and enact the learning process. (I am also researching to find some songs that might allude to the topic.)

In the past, I have shared my limited knowledge on the brain and how mindful movement helps students learn. I am always amazed at how receptive and interested my students are in the topic.

Do you ever visit middle schools with a presentation? If so, what would be the proper channel to request a visit and find out about your rates? If not, would you consider it?

I would so love to share this insightful information with my students.

In Appreciation,

Abby Wills

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Staff comment:

This came from another attendee.


Online Membership Coordinator, Edutopia

Greetings Dr Willis,

I just took part in the edutopia webinar, and became facinated by your conversation on how visualizing increases synaptic activation. I am a doctoral student at Walden University [www.waldenu.edu] and study neuroscience as it relates to visual art education, as well as the neuroscience of thinking and creating.

I would be thrilled if you would send me peer reviewed studies relating to these interests. My dissertation will have to do with what happens when an artist creats abstract artwork, and isn't this a pattern of the artists thinking. Perhaps you could enlighten me on this topic as well, I would be so very grateful. I also will attending the Learning and the Brain conference in Washington DC on creativity [learningandthebrain.com]. Learning and the Brain conferences are very good. Perhaps you may wish to present at one of them if you have not already done so.

I very much look forward to hearing from you,

John Krenik

Michelle D. vonRosenberg's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I appreciate the information about how the brain learns. I work with Kids and adults one on one based on your information. I myself grew up with dyslexia and ended up with ADD as well. I see how brilliant each client is. They may be diagnosed with a learning disability but I describe it as a learning difference. After working with the idea of rhythm and timing and helping the child build self-esteem, these kids humble me greatly. They are truely the "Gifted and Talented". The learning disadvantage these clients have end up being the very advantage they have in every part of their life. Thank you for your validation and support with How the Brain Learns. Sincerely...Michelle vonRosenberg

Jean W.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been doing a lot of reading in the last year or so about the brain and how we learn best, but I picked up much more in this presentation than from all that reading (maybe it's my learning style ). Thank you for taking the time to share your insights and strategies.

I wasn't able to make it to the actual webinar so it's wonderful to have it recorded. Thank you Edutopia!

Heather Stephens's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Can I get a copy of the presentation on power point. During the webinar, I could not figure out how to down load and I assumed that it would be sent to us later but this far, it has not.

Thank you,

Heather Stehens

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