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The Joy of Learning

Problem solving is instinctive and joyful. The role of educators is to provide opportunity and support.

NPR Carswell

on 6 April 2011

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Transcript of The Joy of Learning

The Joy of

In the process of
making meaning,
we employ
3 neural networks.
All learning is
triggered by an
innate sense
of error
or dissonance.
<Rose & Meyer>
The recognition network
identifies and interprets sensory data through comparison as it
constructs mental maps.
Using feedback, our
strategic network
plans and executes
learning activities.
The learning process begins
with dissonance but
produces a distinctive joy.
"For me, happiness is the joy we feel
striving after our potential."
Grades and rewards dilute the joy of learning. They derail the experience and are ultimately punitive, rupture relationships, mask problems, reduce autonomy, and
undermine interest.
After survival, all our behaviour is
directed towards meeting our
imagined needs for love and
belonging, freedom,
fun, and power.
Autonomy supplies us
the freedom and power
to choose relevant
and daring challenges.
We make our choices
based on perceived feared
and/or desired consequences with the
choice of altruism hard-wired into our brains.
In pursuit of our chosen
challenge, we are
motivated to use
perserverance and
We learn best
when given choice, opportunities,
support, and
To establish superior habits and
habits of mind, we can lower the activation energy required for desired behaviours and raise this energy for undesired behaviours.
Children, ex-children, and
scientists participate
as learners and teachers
in any learning experience.
We must be vigilant as erroneous
ideas can be transmitted long after
they have been disproved and ideas
that cannot be disproved can
be transmitted forever.
Caring is the
foundation of the greatest learning
Ideally, learning is a collaborative effort
honouring equality and diversity
and directed towards consensus.
Great learning, like great improv, demands openness. We practice openness by turning towards each other. Avoid turning against or away from
each other with defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and/or contempt.
As we can be programmed to believe and do anything, we must be cautious about teaching obedience.
"No person should ever feel that they are not qualified to question the prevailing wisdom of the times."
Transmission requires
social interaction
with someone
more knowledgeable.
Another primary form of learning
is play, imitation and practice.
Play has been formalized into
science's observation and experiment.
Research is teaching us the paradox
of neuroplasticity. The brain is both
amazingly flexible and stubbornly rigid.
"Neurons that fire together, wire together,
Neurons that fire apart, wire apart."
Some aspects of our
early flexibility appear
controlled by a
biological clock.
As we construct neural networks and
shift to more effective adult
networks, flexibility appears
to diminish but there is evidence
that we retain great neuroplasticity.
Our brain is generously supplied with
mirror neurons that instinctively
imitate the actions
and emotions of others.
We can modify our own
undesirable programmed
responses by priming ourselves
with positive examples.
Sleep is essential to learning as we
need to be awake to attend to dissonance and we need to be
asleep to consolidate memories.
Like our brain's problem solving process, the
scientific method begins with noticing
a dissonance, followed by exploration,
prediction, and experimentation,
before drawing a conclusion.
When we discuss, compare
and apply theories, we must
never forget to question
their validity and inclusion.
After the affective
network engages, it
interacts with
the recognition and
strategic networks.
We are driven to resolve dissonance between our
existing neural networks
and any new awareness
by making meaning.
We build our sense of
mastery when experiencing
moments of optimum flow.
Our survival, a basic
need, depends
on the transmission
of culture, beginning
with language.
Empirical evidence
is always
superior to
abstract theory.
Stories are ideal for our brain networks.
They engage us emotionally, help us recognize conflict, and
show us resolution strategies.
The more powerful
the emotion,
the more enduring
the neural connection.
Necessarily first is the
affective network as it assigns
emotional significance so we care.
Like all our brains, babies' brains experience joy when solving
the challenge of language during
the initimate social activity of play.
Babies' brains have
the greatest amount
of neuroplasticity.
The greatest educational
harm we can do is dictating
specific content
while eliminating
collaboration and joy.
The greatest educational
good we can do is offering
choice of challenge
while facilitating
collaboration and joy.
Expecting peer groups
to teach each other
essential social skills
like collaboration
is absurd.
Afterword: As complex as learning is, its components have been identified. I recommend you embrace Katherine H. Greenberg's "Cognitive Enrichment Advantage" (CEA) program. It gives us a vocabulary to discuss the activities of our recognition, strategic, and most importantly, our affective networks.
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