Headagogy 9 - Brain Based Classroom pt2
Thu, Oct 20, 2022 8:56AM • 41:10
child, brain, students, teachers, educators, classroom, learning, thinking, critical thinking, kids, long term potentiation, class, question, tasking, resilient, build, talking, attention, teaching, steve
Steve Pearlman, Kieran O'Mahony
Steve Pearlman 00:00
I don't have much to say today in preface to the continuing conversation with Kieran O'Mahony on his book, The brain based classroom accessing every child's potential through educational neuroscience. But just a quick note before that resumes, if you're an educator who's been to my website, and who has requested a preview of the online program, but you have not received the link and pass code, it's probably because it ended up in your spam folder. So please check your spam folder for it or email me directly at info at the critical thinking initiative.org. Let me know that you haven't received it. And I'll reply to that email with the code for you. Now back to Kieran. How do we do that then? So that we're also to voice the concern? I hear so many of my listeners screaming sort of right now internally, which is, that sounds really nice. We're making learning fun and engaging, and we're paying attention to effect. When does the substance of learning occur? When do we get to the material things that need to be learned in that process?
Kieran O'Mahony 01:05
Yeah. And so the answer, again, is very simple. And it's an it's another a over a thing, appetite over aptitude. And I didn't come up with this. I wish I did. Because it's a very brilliant piece of work. It comes from Clomid, and plomin did a book on genetics. He is the man who's way out in front with genetics. Look at when children are born, these infants are born. They are absolute hardware learning machines. And so why would they say at age seven school sucks. I hate school. It's not because there's they're still not learning machines. It's because school is not designed for their brains. When we design school for their brains, they will be the learning machines are supposed to be the men, we are Homo sapiens, we made it. And so we did it because we were able to learn. And we were able to survive in a world that was not easy. I call it the jaws and claws world. Well, it's still jaws and claws in the classroom, if I feel bad about something, or if you think that I'm not good enough, and you prove it every day with bad red marks, and you put me in the corner and isolate me and tell me stop talking and all that. That's not who I am. And I want
Steve Pearlman 02:10
to interrupt you there. Because while I guess I want to say two things. The first is thank you for saying that we have to model our schooling around the brain because it's exactly what had to go Geez messages. It's what my books messages that we have done just the opposite. And just about every regard that we could find, with all the best of intentions. So thank you for reinforcing that message. Because I think we're learning enough about the brain now where we can start to reverse engineer schooling accordingly. Right. But the second thing is, I think that based on the way you're describing this, a lot of listeners are going to hear that you're saying something to the effect of we just have to keep students happy. And that means that we're not challenging them. And that means that there's no rigor. And we're just keeping a happy classroom. And I know from your text, in fact that you're saying very much the opposite. But I want to make sure that message gets out because you do talk a great deal about building resilience in kids and how that's so much of an important part of what we do as educators and learning and confronting hard things. But from way you described what you just described, I want to safeguard you against that perception. So how is it not that?
Kieran O'Mahony 03:17
Yeah, thank you so much. Because yes, it's in a short time space to try and get, you know, 40 years of research into one hour is always hard. So we could come out saying the wrong thing and giving the impression that we don't expect rigor Are you kidding me, when I work with students, we get the most amazing results. Because we create, we co create a space where they can use their brains, as opposed to fill out these worksheets, or do things that are just boring and not meaningful. And this is really critical. I want to talk about the most important thing that every parent and every teacher should know first about themselves, and then about their students. And this has to do with NS reactivity. It comes from the work of Thomas Boies, who's now at San Francisco. He did most of his research, first of all up at UBC, across the Canadian border, because that's where he grew up. And he was trying to solve a crisis that most of us already see in our own lives. And that is, how come and my family that I had a fabulous life. And you know, Mom and Dad were happy. We had everything we needed. And yet my sister had an incredibly hard life. And she didn't do well at school, she did really bad on University, and had all kinds of bad things happen and eventually committed suicide. How could this happen in our family? And his question was, Is this endemic to we'll say socioeconomic status is it got to do with high aces as it got to do what which part? Which zip codes you come from? Why would certain families have difficulties like this and there and certain schools get children who are just hard to deal with? And then one night he had this breakthrough, because all the data showed noise that you couldn't get a clear answer. And then one night he said to himself, I'm asking the wrong One question, the noise is not noise, the noise is actually the music. And what he ended up doing was, instead of looking at children's behavior and socio economic and opt out, outside influences, he was looking then at autonomic nervous system reactivity. We all have autonomic nervous system, it's involuntary things. And and some people are very sensitive. Some people are very resilient, and are easy to measure this. And we already know these children, the child that says, Mom, I want to play tennis, and mom says, Oh, great, and they buy the tennis rackets and the clothes and they spend $2,000. And the child's out there playing tennis. And the coach says, That was a bad shot. And the kid says to mom, I don't wanna play tennis anymore. I hate tennis. And Mom, we spent all this money, you go, No, I'm never playing tennis again. And they don't. And then she says, I want to go swim. And now mom says well spend $2,000 on swim gear, is this going to happen again, and it does, because that child is so sensitive, that when somebody says something negative to them, they just get shut down. And so we have in any society in any population, 25% of people, our high autonomic nervous system reactive, they will be shut down. If you don't open up that effective emotional space for them. It's so easy to do that. And then there are 50% of people who are so resilient, it doesn't matter what you do with them. And that's why school seems to work for Skinner. Because even if you punish them or reward them, it doesn't matter. And then there's 25% in the middle, and I'm an in between her. And here's how we, we know this information. Think about the serotonin transporter gene, serotonin is the happy gene, when you have serotonin, life is good. And when when when you when the infant is born, mom can give a short expression of that gene, and dad can give a short expression. So the child gets a short short, that's going to be a very sensitive child. On the other side, mom gets along, and that gives a long, you got a resilient child, that child could breeze to life, no problem. And then like me, I got along in a short one from mom, one from dad. And so I'm in between, I tend towards the sensitive, but if I can self regulate, I can go the other way. Now, if I don't know this, I'm a victim of all my life. But once I know it, I can do things. And so when teachers know about themselves, they say, Wow, that explains why I'm so sensitive about what the what the principal set me or why I got these students or whatever, why I'm in the traffic jam again this morning. And we that's, that's our genetic makeup. And our epigenetic, environmental stuff can impacted negatively or positively every day. And so when we know information like this, and it's easy to know this information, we already kind of know it. And now it's a matter of putting words on it and accepting it, then we can change how we approach children in the classroom,
Steve Pearlman 07:52
I'm struck by the magnitude of the things that you're talking about with respect to Skinner and with respect to an effect and effect. But also with respect to this in the sense that the magnitude of how much we've structured schooling around that percentage of students who are resilient to negative reward, or only will be responsive to that, but it's a very small segment of the population, yet we've built so much infrastructure around those students. And it's really amazing how impactful these small little movements in science or social science were, that changed our entire perception. Often, ill gotten ways for how to go about educating. They're nearing the end of the podcast a little bit here. I can't go out of this without talking about Marian diamond. If we want to talk about something that's had an impact, and we're seeing the consequences of it from something that was a little bit misunderstood. I think this is probably by far the most striking example. For me personally, I don't know if it's the most impactful one overall. But you're talking about Marian diamond. And the studies that were done on rats on in being an intellectually rich environments with things for them to do or just in plain cages and how they were able to eventually measure cognitive development or brain growth in these rats in terms of these different environments. And that got translated into education and you write the following, and it's good. I'm gonna read a little bit here, but I'll turn it back over to you. Teachers excitedly hung colorful educational posters, charts, stickers, mobiles, maps, and more. classrooms were filled with science and math, charts, engineering and technological gadgets. Classrooms took on an unmistakable aura of reading, writing and stem through very encouraging and supportive teachers. Beginning in the 1970s 1980s. Right through the turn of the century, classrooms were busy places with color and stimulation. Expectations were high, but something was wrong. Improvements and learning were not panning out as anticipated. academic outcomes didn't shine. Kids were as disrupted as ever, and maybe even more so. Though classrooms became scary places, and today, teachers have to have very specific language installed in their contracts that protects them from the children safety for teachers. This was unheard of before 1963. So what happened? It seems that accompanying the shift to make classrooms more engaging and more enriched came the epidemic of inattention. Suddenly, teachers were complaining about children who were not able to focus, not able to pay attention. These children had a DD and ADHD, we want to be cautious, of course, about drawing one single direct line between ADHD and this, I don't think that's what you're saying, but I'll let you speak to that. But this goes to something I'm saying so often on the podcast, we need to focus on less. Students don't need these artificial stimulations that can in fact be distracting to the mind when a real problem of any kind, something really genuinely to think about is all the stimulation that the human mind needs in order to get engaged. It doesn't need smart boards, and Wizzy Wang's and all these other things to get students to try to pay attention to school. If we genuinely engage the mind in a cognitive way that's interesting to the mind, they will get engaged and they will enjoy that process. We don't need all these other things to try to make education fun and exciting for them. Is my interpretation of your words, relatively sound or my way off base here?
Kieran O'Mahony 11:24
No, no, you're pretty good. I'd like to add a few things. And this, of course, is is the big shift that happens for teachers who are neural educators, as opposed to with say, Skinner educators. And I'm not saying I'm not labeling teachers, I'm just saying, Once you begin to shift from that old model into the cognitive world, you start thinking in terms of neurotransmitters, and so on, instead of having more bells and dangling stuff. I'm thinking about, Oh, my God, synaptogenesis. While synaptogenesis is happening at a million million pieces a second for those children, or for you and me, it's not because we've pruned, we're already matured, and our brains have calmed down, while when you're 789 1011 12, you got synaptogenesis every second. And so your your brain is like, Well, look, I think that look at that, whoa. And that's what's happening. And so why would I punish your child for synaptogenesis, it's supposed to happen. And so the child can sit still can focus, pay attention. So I say, Hey, I have to tell you pay attention once more, I'm sending it to the principal's office, which happens and the child's leg, something is wrong with me. And I'm so used to going to the principal's office, it doesn't matter anyway, that's my lot in life. And so we're labeling is terrifying these children based on not understanding the science of what's happening in the child's brain. When a teacher spends a lot of time and effort and money to get their classrooms so beautiful. It's their classroom, or it shouldn't be their class, which of the children's classroom. So yeah, if you want to build a classroom with all kinds of beautiful color stuff, then wait on the children show up and say, Look at whoever wants to be in this group over here, self select and come into my office and grab all the stuff you want and build your own corner. That'll be your safe place. psychological safety. When I go into the class, I see myself in there, and I feel proud of, well, now I'm engaged in my class as opposed to come in, oh, my god, see, if I move that, I mean, how many how many students get punished because they, they upset the teachers class the way it's made. And they they mark the wall, or they they pull something off and say, it's not mine, it was the teachers? Well, if I built it myself, it's mine. And so that's the beautiful part about CO creating learning spaces. When you do that, you've got the child's reticular activating system, you got their attention, you got their focus. When I talk about focus and attention, people think that's something you must do right? Now, it's white matter structure you must build. And so a child is not born with white matter structure that they have for focus and attention. So we have to give them practice to make mistakes in that space. So they can build those white matter tracks in the onset for cyclists and all the other places, and they're connecting the different lobes, the parietal to the PFC. And when they do that, now they know what focus is. And a simple way to do it might be okay. In the next four minutes, the children will be drawing something and I'd like to have John be the observer. John, will you please watch the children and tell me what they're doing when they focus? And John says, While Mary does this when she focuses, and then she does this, and then she picks up her pen, and he's talking, he's articulating what he thinks focus is, and as he's doing that he's building structures in his brain to understand focus, and the next time he has to focus, he knows how to do it now. And he can. And so it's a different thing to say, pay attention and focus or else you go to the principal's office.
Steve Pearlman 14:46
And you've always used the word attention. But attention is very different in terms of what we seek in education from focus very often. For example, I'm sure you know this right that our perception as educators is that students are paying the most Attention and doing the most processing of what we're saying when they're staring at us looking at us when we're lecturing or speaking with them, when in fact, it's when they look away that their brain really can turn on, right? While they're looking at us. They might be absorbing an idea. But when they really go to think about it, they can't maintain attention on us and focus on what we're thinking about at the same time, because we become the distraction. And it's not to say that every time a student looks away, if we're teaching, that they aren't necessarily thinking about what we were teaching, that's certainly not the case. But we also know that the idea of trying to obsessively keep their attention is actually a very misguided idea. And I think that plays into what you're describing here as well.
Kieran O'Mahony 15:41
Absolutely, I thank you for bringing that up. The interesting thing is that the children who typically have the most problem in schools, and they're, they're already labeled as people who can pay attention, when they find something they really want to do, they can be the most attentive. And because again, it comes from appetite, not aptitude. And when you follow the appetite, you figure out how to train their attention, and to help them to develop attention so that they can actually achieve and accomplish. And here's something a lot of children think because of technology. And because of all the devices they have that they can multitask. While in fact, most kids are just switch tasking fast. And when they switch tasking like that, they're basically losing all their connection to attention. And so when we give them exercises that show them what attention is, and it's very easy to do that we can give them exercises that show them switch tasking. And we can give them exercises that show them attention. And they can see the data, they can see their own data and have fun with it. And then they realize that I know what attention is. And I know what switch tasking is. And teachers actually, if they haven't thought about that, they need to figure out what attention is versus which tasking.
Steve Pearlman 16:53
And to explain to them what that distinction is, what is how did they look for it? And how do they teach it.
So here's a very simple thing to do. If you if you think about a write down your own name, let's say Steve Pearlman, and count the number of letters in it, and maybe there's 16, or 18, or something I'm just jumping in right now. And so you write down Steve, and you write it down on a piece of paper. And then underneath that, you write down one to 18 as numbers, and then you do the same and you time yourself, you do it about 14 seconds, and then time yourself and do s for Steve, and then one T for Steve, and then two, and you switch tasks between writing and normal numeracy, literacy and numeracy, and it'll take you 50 or 60 seconds, and you'll have real difficulty doing it. And so there's a switch tasking versus multitasking idea. And you'll find that maybe one child out of 100 can actually multitask and can do it in the same time, they can do the exercise in 10 or 15 seconds, and everybody else will either not finish it or do it in 60 or 70 seconds. And that's a big, big discussion that you can have in class. And then what was going on? Why did it take me so long to do this switch tasking, exercise? And what happens in your brain when you're switch tasking all day between your computer and your phone and your friend and your whatever else?
Steve Pearlman 18:09
So help me understand a little more. If I'm an educator, and I'm listening to this, what do I do differently? What am I supposed to do in the classroom? Let's say I willing to give up a mia culpa, or several Mia culpas and make some concessions about notions I had reflecting Skinner ism, and Thorndyke. And that I'm not activating the reticular activating system in constructive ways. I'm listening to his podcast, and I'm feeling guilty on a lot of different levels. Right, I'm willing to fess up. What do I do then? What's the paradigm shift I need to make intellectually? And what are some examples of things that I can actually do with students differently? That would help to tap the brain better the way you're describing?
Kieran O'Mahony 18:53
It's actually very simple. And I get this question all the time I
Steve Pearlman 18:57
had to go G will resume in just a moment. But first, if you're a high school, college or graduate school educator, then I'd like to offer you a full free preview of my online level one critical thinking program for students. I actually developed this program because so many educators have asked me for a way to jumpstart their students critical thinking skills. This program, which is approximately a three hour student experience does the following. It teaches your students three essential mindsets for thinking critically, it teaches them a copyrighted neurobiological process for thinking critically about any subject in any discipline. And then it does something particularly distinct. It prompts students through a step by step process in which they actually compose a very short essay entirely driven by their own critical thinking. Students can complete this program outside of class with no impact on your class time and you can see the final product when they're done. I think you'll find this to be an exceptional program for your students. But what Whether you assign it or not, I'm confident that it will be an asset to you in terms of infusing critical thinking in your own approach to teaching. So provided you're an educator, I'd be excited to grant you a free preview of this program, please just come to the critical thinking initiative.org/podcasts, sign up with a.edu email address. Or if you don't have a.edu email address, just email info at the critical thinking initiative.org. With confirmation that you're an educator, again, please just come to the critical thinking initiative.org/podcasts and sign up for a free preview of the entire program. Please make sure you either sign up with a.edu email address, or email me at info at the critical thinking initiative.org with other confirmation that you're an educator and I'd be excited to grant you free access to a program preview. And for everyone who's listening. Please remember to like and share pedagogy. Find the critical thinking initiative on Facebook and LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter at at Steve J. Perlman. That's at Steve J. Perlman. Now back to pedagogy.
Kieran O'Mahony 21:14
It's actually very simple. And I get this question all the time, because a lot of teachers will say, Well, my school is the PBIS school, my school has stripping, I have to do I mean, that's my job. And so how do I actually do both in the same class and, and shift ever so slightly? And eventually, then the administrators and the and the superintendents figure out, oh, let's get rid of this stuff? And let's focus on this. The answer is, believe it or not words. And this was my first research paper out of this project with the nurses that time we did five years, 150 teachers over five years. And I realized as they began to shift their vocabulary, they were shifting their mental models, and then they shifted their practice. So when you start looking at a child as good or bad, you're already in the Skinner world. When you say to yourself, all communication is actually an indication of mental substrate. In other words, we're now back in Donald Hubbs world where he was looking at autopsies of we'll say, monkeys, and he was saying the lesion in here was causing this monkey not to be able to walk properly. This child's, if you could see their brain, if they don't have the fusiform gyrus, they're not going to be able to recognize my face. If they don't have a connection between the internet and the T Pfc. They won't be able to pick up a pencil and write down their name and say that this is what I do. And other words, I'm not looking at them as good or bad. I'm looking at them from an from a vocabulary and neuroscience point of view. This child is showing up and amygdala hijack, because he's living in a car with his mom and dad and his dad is out is just out of prison. This child is living in very serious, hypervigilant. And so I need to make a safe psychological space for him by giving him emotional support for his reticular activating system. Now we're talking neuroscience, I'm going to give oxytocin serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in my classroom, not math and science and punishment and reward, I'm going to give neurotransmitters now I'm talking language that is real for education. And that's easy to do, by the way, and say, how do you give oxytocin bring in a picture of your puppy? Or may are better still bring in the puppy? Or ask them? What's your favorite animal? Oh, I've got a little carried over a rabbit. And now you've got oxytocin. And how did you do that? Words, and you didn't say, hey, put that pen down. I told you stop spinning that thing. Now we've got here's the bad news. If I've got 10 kids in my class, who are high in reactivity, and I have got 20 kids who are just normal will say, well, they're just resilient, and they can handle all kinds of stresses. And I say to Mary one day, Mary, I told you not to wear your miniskirt that short. I told you, and over in the corner, you've got Michael and he's saying he's she's attacking Mary today, she's gonna attack me tomorrow, Michael shuts down for the whole week, maybe for the whole season, because she doesn't trust he doesn't trust you anymore. When you break that emotional connection. It's all over for those sensitive children. If we don't teach the sensitive child, we lose the classroom from day one.
Steve Pearlman 24:21
That's clearly so important and doesn't miss a lot come back to a distinction in teaching. And it's one I try to frame very often between the idea of and I'm certainly not the first one to make this distinction, of course, but we emphasize so much the teaching of subject matter when really what we should be our people mentoring other people. We're older and and maybe more advanced humans in certain knowledge areas and behavioral ways, then our younger humans that are in our care as educators, but we're really modeling human behavior, human learning humanity on all of its levels, instead of thinking that we're teaching a subject matter. Is that a good day distillation.
Kieran O'Mahony 25:00
I love that you bring that up. And thank you so much for that. And here's the interesting thing. Our teachers are the same, our teachers also have 25% are gonna be reactive hi, hi NS reactivity, 50%, will be so resilient, they can't even see this. The bad news is that the resilient teachers can see the sense of teachers, they can't even see the sensitive kids. And so they say there must be consequences, there will be repercussions. And there will be punishments, it's easy to do that if you're a sensitive person, or if you're a resilient person, because you've already breezed through every crisis you could have come across. Now the sensitive person says, I know exactly what that child is feeling because I struggled all the way through my life as well. And now that I know that I'm high as reactivity, I can easily change my approach to school that'll bring in my sensitive kids, the data is clear. And this is the piece that absolutely blew me away. When we when we saw the the child that was sensitive. We didn't realize that we were bringing them into the world of we'll say resilience. It actually was the past these kids out, they became the best kids. In other words, the Steve Jobs and the Bill Gates's, these people are very, very sensitive people, Steve Jobs is the most sensitive man. And so was Bill Gates and had a really rough childhood. However, he was greenhouse by really great diet and really great teachers. And so therefore, they managed to get through all of our homeless kids, all of our dropout kids, all of our in prison kids, the juvenile detention, these kids are kids who can survive in that resilient world. And sense the world is always what teaching is mostly towards resilient children to compliant children, they get pushed out. And they they will find their greenhouse, and it might be on the streets and drugs and gangs and violence, all that stuff. Are it's safer if it's at home with mom or dad, or in a school with the teacher. So that's the bad news is that if we don't do it, somebody else will do it. And we use a lot of kids every year to drop out because we are teaching to the compliant child.
Steve Pearlman 27:06
Yes. And that reinforces something I always say it's so important, which is that when we find students not learning Well, when we find them resistant to learning, when we find them saying that they don't like school, we should be listening and understanding that because that is a form of cognitive reaction that is them thinking that is them being human. And so then we have to ask ourselves much more than we do, I think, why? What are we doing that's provoking that reaction? What are we doing individually? What are we doing structurally and systemically, that is provoking so much of this dislike of education in our students, it's not just because it's not because they're Generation Z. It's not that they're different in terms of their brain structure that hasn't changed in 20,000 years, and it's not going to change in the next 10, because we get a new kind of phone for them. So what are we doing structurally that is creating this and I think your text starts to speak to some of that.
Kieran O'Mahony 28:00
Yeah, and let me let me just say one, because I love what you just said about going back 20,000 years, they haven't changed. I believe that fundamentally, since the 1970s, or 80s, that we have changed, I believe that this child is a different child. And because they grew up in that technology. And these kids are processing in four dimensions. I was at a sitting down with five or six kids at a table one that I thought I should bring up dimension just to see if they understood the concept. Now I assume there'd be a lot of pushback. And I said, Okay, do you understand, like, the one dimension is the string segment, and then the to them? And they say, Yeah, we get that. And a cube would be three dimensions. And I said, Okay, how would you conceptualize four dimensions? And I thought this would be a real struggle for them. And the kid immediately says, Oh, that's easy. And I said, why? I said, Yeah, it's it's a donut. And I thought, Donut might've even thought of that. And so I said nothing. Because you know, I thought, well, that's, that's interesting. I love the fact that you come up straight away with a donor, and they're all the doughnuts are good. And then when they were gone, I was on Google and I, I typed in representation of four dimensions in the Google search. And I ended up with the word Taurus. To us, I'd never seen it before. It's a mathematic expression with sines and cosines. And then when I wanted to visualization that it was the cube moving over time, and to do that it became a donor. And I'm thinking, Oh, my God, these kids are processing way beyond me already at age 12, and 11, and two and 13. And so it's like, these kids are already out there because of technology. And they are in a school system that's not caught up to them yet. So that's why they're bored. And boredom is worse than stress for a child as the brain does the same for boredom or stress. And so
Steve Pearlman 29:44
it equates them both are painful, very, yes, yeah.
Kieran O'Mahony 29:49
And pain is a thing and boredom is a thing and and it can be processed over time, but boy, we need to know how to be basically, in the cognitive role of brain For we can handle much of what's happening for our children today.
Steve Pearlman 30:03
Do you think we're moving in the right direction?
Kieran O'Mahony 30:06
The teachers that I work with are the teachers who haven't heard about this yet are really struggling. And they should be struggling because that world is not going to survive. I mean, when especially in the post pandemic place where we're on with screens and cameras turned off and all that kids can sit now with a camera turned off and play at the forum, Dhoni and the teacher is like, completely frustrated by that. And yet, if we're going to focus on content, and not a fact, we're going to always fight that battle.
Steve Pearlman 30:35
Or give you the last word, what happened, I asked you that I should have what's the thing I missed in the interview? What should we have talked about? The one
Kieran O'Mahony 30:41
thing that I was thinking that I'd love to spend more time on is the pedagogical model that I use causes critical thinking and original thinking. And the reason it works is that we we tie the first question to the survival part of the brain. The second question we tie to the limbic emotional part of the brain. And the third question, we tied to the, the prefrontal cording, rational brain. And when we bring the three parts of the brain together, we emerge a critical thinking skills with the children, I know, this is your passion. And so I was hoping we'd spend more time on that. But when you think about how we do that, and with three very simple questions, and they're in the book, the questions are always surprising, because surprising is easy. And it connects the survival thing. I'm surprised about this. And then we go into the next question was the metacognitive. Forest thing forcing, which says, I knew this, but now I see it differently. I'm making visible my thinking. And I'm seeing the shift and thinking, conceptual change. And the third one is, I need help with this very hard for a child to say I need help, because I don't want to look stupid, it's very hard. But when I do, I open up that entire brain for all the possibilities. And then I realized that what I was talking about helped him or her and what she was talking about helped me and I can reflect, I can revise my thinking, and I can actually contribute huge way to do a critical thinking.
Steve Pearlman 32:06
Well, let's talk about that for another moment, then, because that is, it seems really on track with what we want to get to with the podcast. And I like the way that you build from the limbic up. In terms of those questions. Do you ask those questions repeatedly in different educational constructs? Are there variations of those questions? And what do we do with the answers? Is it about discussing them with other students? Is it about exploring them individually? How do we build on that pedagogy even further,
Kieran O'Mahony 32:34
so when you think about it, and we already talked about mirrors law being the three plus or minus two, so we talked about one construct, so we've talked about, let's say, adding seven plus seven, and we do with children, some are using their fingers are using blocks, I'm using total somewhere on the whiteboard, whatever you're doing. And then at the end, you say, Okay, we'll get seven plus seven, we got 14. Good. So what was surprising about that, I was surprised that you can deal with blocks or fingers, or, you know, and they're talking, they're articulating their thinking. And another child says, Oh, I didn't think about that. That's interesting that you were surprised, I was surprised by this. And just the fact that they're talking and articulating is now having cognitive rehearsal about the construct of seven plus seven. And then you say, what did you know, but now see differently. And the children will say, Well, I knew that if you use your toes, you could get, you know, and but I didn't know you could do with blocks. And that's surprising. And I'm surprised and I'm, and I see it now differently. So they're looking at their thinking shift, which is amazing for a child to be in a metacognitive space, you can only be in your PFC in a metacognitive space. And so imagine the child says, I'm no good at math, I can't do this while he's in his amygdala, or she's in the back of her brain, while the other kids are up here saying I knew this. But now I see it here. So I'm guaranteeing the child's in the right part of the brain. And while the child is in that frontal part of the brain, I'm growing strokes from the occipital temporal parietal to that section, I'm building the structure, the architecture of the child's brain so that they can do problem solving and an articulation and thinking later on. And then the last question is, what do you need help with? Well, I was thinking, if we want to add 17 and 17, what would I have to do? I mean, isn't that just it's my question. So I want to learn. And so that's how critical thinking happens. And what zoafia Beautiful about is that not only those critical thinking happened, but original thinking happenings. And when you have a you know, so much received opinion from cell phones and from Twitter and from Facebook. And suddenly a child's beginning to come up with their own questions. Now you've got a new brain that's out in the world with with so much potential, you're muted again,
Steve Pearlman 34:44
I like your questions very much. And I use a similar set that also get into what biases might I have? Or how might my upbringing or what are my initial reactions emotionally to this source things to move us out of that limbic state into the cognitive state when we're working with students? How do we We integrate this curricularly. Is it something that we're doing at the end of every class? Is it something that we're doing as part of a presentation or writing assignment? How are we integrating it into our curricula? So that it's playing a more defined role rather than just this one isolated example you gave, which, of course, in itself is excellent.
Kieran O'Mahony 35:17
So great, great question. And let's talk about the end of every class just after this, because that's the biggest of all, that's the hugest thing we forgot to talk about. But first of all, how are we going to integrate it in the classroom, when we think about our classroom, as educators, we better know, as a teacher walking in what I want my child to walk away with, it shouldn't be 50 things, it should be one thing, I want to know that if I, if I add a SEVEN and a SEVEN, that this is how I do it, that's all I want. And then that class is done, and I can shut down their working memory space and close it up. If I don't, if I have too many things in there, then the child doesn't know what they learned. So we're helping them to structure their brain based on working memory and encoding into long term memory. The second thing is that once we these are just scaffolds, the questions or scaffolds, after a while, the scaffolds are taken away, and the child just is see something new and says, Oh, that's surprising. Now they're beginning to question and think. And that's already installed, because you've built the structure for critical thinking in the brain. And that's, that's a big deal. And so the final thing is, at the end of every class, we always stop early. And we say, we're going to look at long term potentiation. This is this was discovered in 1947. And I stumbled across it in 2019. Now, that's 70 years of sitting in some white coat lab that was sitting. And you know what they said, when they discovered it, it was discovered by, you know, scientists in Sweden, and they said, Wow, this is this long term. potentiation is probably the most important thing for educators and learning. And in 40 years later, there was a big meeting at the London Science Science gathering towards the Royal Society in London, bow ties, and suits, and all these neuroscientists and they were celebrating 40 years of the most exciting thing for learning, no teachers, and I stumbled across it by accident when I'm talking to a neuroscientist at the University of Washington in 2019. And I think, and oh my god, how come I didn't know this all my years teaching, this is the most exciting thing for learning ever. And what it does is, if you understand how to create will say a tetanus of excitatory activation at the presynaptic side, and there is a postsynaptic feedback loop, then you can build a stronger connection for any concept in the brain. In other words, you can increase the child's capacity for learning every minute of every day. And if you've got 100 billion neurons, you've got 100 billion synapses, you can have amazing things happen, if you understand long term potentiation. At the end of our class, we say to the students, okay, draw me a little sketch, or write down one word or phrase that summarizes what we did today. And so if I gave you that task, right now, you might say, mind blowing, or it might be, I don't know, you know, depending on what you're thinking, and you and that said, you, you nailed it. And then the next part is, tonight, your sleep, REM and non REM, six or seven cycles. And in that time, the brain is consolidating what receive cognitive rehearsal, and it's throwing out the stuff that was not cognitive rehearse during class or whatever. It's at nighttime that the learning really happens. And the next day, we wake up, and you come back to class, and I started off the class by saying, Okay, our LTP board, and I give you your word, mind blowing, and I say to you, why did you choose the word mind blowing? And you say, well, because you told me about this rabbit thing, and, and this long term potentiation. And it just blew my mind. And here's the interesting thing, the fact that you articulated that has now caused your synapses to be as strong as they were when we left yesterday. But now they're myelinating more. And now you've you've doubled and triple, maybe quadruple your processing speed, and power and memory and all that working memory, everything. And so now you got that forever, you'll never forget it. Well, here's the here's the best part about it. Imagine sitting back and looking at your class, and you've had an amazing class and you're teaching math, it doesn't matter what you're teaching, you had a great class, and you look at those beautiful children. And you see every one is the light bulb, and you see like a Christmas tree. And you think, man, I had a great class today. Well, the next day after Steve, when you come back, and you start off by asking Steve, why did you choose that word, Steve. And as Steve begins to talk, all the lights and all the kids light up the same way. They're brought back to the same space with their activated pre and post synaptic connections, all myelinating too. And then Steve says, and I'm going to choose the next word. And the next word was, you know, we'll say it was brain and Mary says that's my word and Eric stands up and says, I chose brain because and as he talks, and it's only 10 seconds, the class is electrified and everybody is engaged. And suddenly, we're not now in a in a in a space where Skinner anymore, we're now in a brain space where everybody's ready in their PFCs all excited about learning. So we finish up with long term potentiation today,
Steve Pearlman 40:22
and you're building this linguistic neural connection between what happened at the end on the previous day in the beginning of the next day, and creating that continuum.
Kieran O'Mahony 40:31
Yeah. And it might be you might only meet them once a week, it doesn't matter. If I'm making them once a week, you have to help the children with the memory because they won't be able to remember all the words so you might you might have to, you know, send an email to the mom or something, show them their word because tomorrow they're gonna be using it and prime them but yeah, if you know what you're doing with the brain, you can have amazing classes and phenomenal learning.
Steve Pearlman 40:57
Karen has been a true pleasure thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.
Kieran O'Mahony 41:01
I'm so I'm so glad to meet you Steve and, and the best of luck with with your amazing work as well.
Steve Pearlman 41:07
Thank you so much. Thank you