Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How do we get kid's BRAINS involved, not just their minds.

The way our brains function has not changed much over the years. Our brains may still think we are living in a cave, trying to find food, and the only things that can keep our interest have to be important for survival.

Our minds have changed, most definitely, over the years. We know what is important, what is required,... and it no longer thinks of rabbits as dinner. But, how can we get our brains and minds to communicate better?

Have you ever been studying for a test, and your mind really wants to study for the test, but your brain did not seem to get the message? Even if the topic is interesting, the textbook is dry and you keep reading the same pages over and over again. Your mind may be motivated, but the brain is thinking that it is boring. Your brain and your mind are in an epic battle.

In a recent conference I went to at SXSW, I listened to very interesting talk on how we can help to engage the brain in our lessons. Here are some of my notes:

Chemistry - make the brain know what matters - that which you feel is what the brain senses is important. Anything that causes a chemical signal to go to the brain, helps the brain latch onto the thoughts.

Things that are novel, strange, or a little weird, last longer in your memory. Even extreme emotions of any type help to concrete the memory. Faces really help the brain wake up!
Mystery, things that are not fully formed, the brain is tuned to figure it out.

Brain does not care about cliche', code, boring...

Talk to the BRAIN NOT the mind... they are in an epic battle.

This really got me thinking. As an educational game designer, I have the benefit of having pictures and animations to entice the brain, but am I using them to their best ability? This has challenged me to try to incorporate some of the chemistry of the brain into my future games. I would love to create a mystery, where the student is actually working through the process of solving a proof, but in a way that he/she does not even realize it until the end.

Would engaging the brain make my games different or is that the basic difference already between game-teaching and book-teaching? I know many teachers who are great at engaging the brain in the classroom. My daughter is a definite tactile learner, and she has found ways to engage her brain when it comes to learning boring information.

So, I guess that is my challenge of today,... let's engage the BRAIN, not just the mind!


  1. Natasha:

    Thanks so much for all your hard work on these games that you have developed! I had no idea they existed until 2 days ago when I googled "Multiplication Games" and your games came up under Multiplication.com.

    They have definitely come in handy with the students I have been remediating this week! The kids love the little alien game and I love that they are actually having fun working on MATH!!!

    I am not a regular classroom teacher - but this valuable resource has really helped me consider all the possibilities that I could have if I were a classroom teacher.

    Thanks again!

    I did want to suggest some possible content that you could plug in to your current designs or create new designs for. These are some of the curriculum area that I have noticed students lagging behind in:
    Telling Time
    Reading Temperature
    Place Value
    Counting Money

    Hope you can use some of these ideas! Thanks again for all your work!!!

  2. I appreciate your kind words. I have had several requests for those same subject matters. I think telling time and counting money will be somewhere in the next few games. Thanks again for the ideas!

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