Superintendents are Taught How to “Build-A-Brain” by Neuroscientist and Visual Learning Expert
Los Angeles, CA, Feb 22, 2013 Today, more than 50 superintendents and school district personnel from across the U.S. gathered in Los Angeles to attend the Neuroscience Symposium: The Neural Foundation for Learning Math. Hosted by the education non-profit MIND Research Institute, the event featured Dr. Matthew Peterson, a neuroscientist and co-founder of MIND. Peterson shared insights into how our brains process information, and how we can use these insights to create the most effective and engaging instructional materials, methods and tools for today’s learners.
Tom Vander Ark, author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World, and founder of Getting Smart, opened the event and introduced Peterson. “Using technology to reach today’s students is only effective when the programs developed are based on sound, well-researched principles,” said Vander Ark. “Dr. Peterson is challenging educators to put neuroscience at the forefront of how we think about instructional materials, particularly those that capitalize on technology.”
Attendees of the Neuroscience Symposium, which was held at the Sheraton Los Angeles, engaged in several hands-on, neuroscience-focused activities. Dr. Peterson conducted a walk-through of the parts of the brain, having attendees actually construct the organ with a “Build-A-Brain” kit provided to them. Puzzles exercising spatial-temporal abilities - the ability to think ahead in space and time – were also given out to test attendees’ problem-solving skills. Another activity, designed to challenge pre-conceptions, otherwise known as schemas, involved experiencing what it is like to learn to read Braille.
“Dr. Peterson has some of the strongest conclusions that I’ve seen about research-based learning,” said Dr. Jeanice Swift, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction of Colorado Springs School District 11. “What I learned from him today will help me make more informed decisions about how to design professional learning to build effective instructional practice, as well as how to select math instructional materials for improved learning outcomes.”
Peterson said he hoped that increased understanding of how the brain works would have far-reaching implications for participants back at their schools. “Models of the underlying neural mechanisms of how we learn and reason provide important insight into how to build effective learning environments,” said Peterson. “We have been refining these neuroscience-based models for the last 18 years, applying them to the design of visual instructional software. We are now seeing remarkable results at scale, and this is only the beginning of what is achievable!”
Peterson is the creator of the ST Math® instructional software, a visually-based program that teaches mathematical concepts through animated, language-independent puzzles. ST Math incorporates the latest findings from neuroscience, motivation and game-based research. Peterson, who struggled with dyslexia as a child, developed the Spatial-Temporal (ST) Math software because he saw the inherent value of teaching math the way we are wired to learn – visually. With a Ph.D. in neuroscience from University of California, Berkeley, and bachelor degrees in engineering, biology and Chinese language and literature from University of California, Irvine, Peterson has spoken extensively, including at a 2011 TEDx talk, and was recently featured in Forbes.com.