Teach Like a Rockstar... and Comedian, TV presenter & a Sculptor of minds
Freakinomic Lesson: Make it New & Exciting
When you think back to your favourite college class, there's a good chance the lecturer you most enjoyed injected a fair amount of humour into his or her presentations. Economics and accounting is probably not the class that comes to mind for most people when they're asked about their most humourous professors. They didn't have teachers like CJ Skender... or Juan Enriquez
Enriquez has given 4 Ted Talks and takes the complexity out of economics by adding humour, usually in the form of photographs. His subjects are complex, and humour makes the topics easier to grasp because the photos place the topic in a context that everyone can understand.
Martha Burns is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University who believes neurosience is helping educators to become better teachers. Her insights also explain why we get a buzz out of learning. Learning something new activates the same reward areas of the brain as drugs and gambling.
"A big part of the answer to why some of your students hold onto information you teach and others do not has to do with a little chemical in the brain that has to be present for a child (or adult) to retain information. That chemical is called dopamine" Martha Burns via Talk Like Ted
Dopamine is a powerful chemical. A new relationship can trigger a dose of it. Advancing to the next level of a video game can trigger dopamine, as can hearing the clanging of coins in a slot machine, or a hit of cocaine.
Drugs and gambling are artificial triggers and lead to serious consequences. Isn't there a less harmful means of achieving that mental high? There sure is. According to Burns, dopamine is also released when people learn something new and exciting - a much healthier way to feel good!
"For many of your students and many of us adults, learning about new new things is an adventure and very rewarding, and dopamine levels increase in the brain to help us retain new information. I like to refer to dopamine as the 'save button' in the brain. When Dopamine is present during an event or experience, we remember it; when it is absent, nothing seems to stick" Martha Burns via Talk Like Ted
Burns says the best teachers are always thinking of new ways of delivering information. "That is why you love it when your schoolhas new textbook adoptions - the novelty allows you to teach the information in a new way - which generates enthusiasm on your part and the students... increase novelty in a classroom and you increase the dopamine levels of your students... dopamine can be addictive - our goal as teachers is to get our students addicted to learning. Dopamine is addictive.
Joining up the Dots... Connected Educators and EdTech
There are regular comments on Twitter and blog posts about the value of institutions and individuals being "connected" and exploring new ways of doing this with technology Vs those that prefer to stick with traditional methods.
I wonder if these three examples demonstrate that there is something in this... not as a result of Technology per se but because the culture that they establish is one of "What if," such an attitude is sure to mean that you'll make mistakes that mean you'll look a little foolish.
If Steve Jobs was delivering this message maybe he would end it with something like
"Stay hungry for new ideas to try in class and stay foolish, don't be afraid to make mistakes... this kind of attitude just might just rub off on your students and inspire the next generation of knowledge junkies who are addicted to learning"
Now, if you liked this post go out and get the 3 books that are mentioned: Talk Like Ted, Give and Take and The World is Flat. A playlist of the Ted Talks that feature in Gallo's books can be found here: Talk Like Ted Featured Videos