Tag Archives: T4

Medina’s 12 Brain Rules

Taken from his book Brain Rules.  All content is Copyright © 2008 by John Medina.  You may also want to check out http://www.brainrules.net [although at this current moment it is down for me]


Brain Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power (Medina, 2008)

· Our brains were built for walking—12 miles a day!

· To improve your thinking skills, move.

· Exercise gets blood to your brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen to soak up the toxic electrons that are left over. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting.

· Aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of general dementia. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent.

Brain Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too. (Medina, 2008)

· We don’t have one brain in our heads, we have three. We started with a “lizard brain” to keep us breathing, then added a brain like a cat’s, and then topped those with a thin layer of Jell-O known as the cortex—the third, and powerful, “human” brain.

· We took over the Earth by adapting to change itself, after we were forced from the trees to the savannah when climate swings disrupted our food supply.

· Going from four legs to two to walk on the savannah freed up energy to develop a complex brain.

· Symbolic reasoning is a uniquely human talent. It may have arisen from our need to understand one another’s intentions and motivations, allowing us to coordinate within a group.

Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently (Medina, 2008)

· What you do and learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like—it literally rewires it.

· The various regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people.

· No two people’s brains store the same information in the same way in the same place.

· We have a great number of ways of being intelligent, many of which don’t show up on IQ tests.

Rule #4: People don’t pay attention to boring things. (Medina, 2008)

· The brain’s attentional “spotlight” can focus on only one thing at a time: no multitasking.

· We are better at seeing patters and abstracting the meaning of an event than we are at recording detail.

· Emotional arousal helps the brain learn.

· Audiences check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion

Rule #5: Repeat to remember. (Medina, 2008)

· The brain has many types of memory systems. One type follows four stages of processing: encoding, storing, retrieving and forgetting.

· Information coming into your brain is immediately split into fragments that are sent to different regions of the cortex for storage.

· Most of the events that predict whether something learned also will be remembered occur in the first few seconds of learning. The more elaborately we encode a memory during its initial moments, the stronger it will be.

· You can improve your chances of remembering something if you reproduce the environment in which you first put it into your brain.

Rule #6: Remember to repeat. (Medina, 2008)

· Most memories disappear within minutes, but those that survive the fragile period strengthen with time.

· Long-term memories are formed in a two-way conversation between the hippocampus and the cortex, until the hippocampus breaks the connection and the memory is fixed in the cortex—which can take years.

· Our brains give us only an approximate view of reality, because they mix new knowledge with past memories and store them together as one.

· The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and then repeat it in timed intervals.

Rule #7: Sleep well, think well. (Medina, 2008)

· The brain is in a constant state of tension between cells and chemicals that try to put you to sleep and cells and chemicals that try to keep you awake.

· The neurons of your brain show vigorous rhythmical activity when you are asleep—perhaps replaying what you learned that day.

· People vary in how much sleep they need and when they prefer to get it, but the biological drive for an afternoon nap is universal.

· Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.

Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way. (Medina, 2008)

· Your body’s defense system—the release of adrenaline and cortisol—is built for an immediate response to a serious but passing danger; such as a saber-toothed tiger. Chronic stress, such as hostility at home, dangerously deregulates a system built only to deal with short-term responses.

· Under chronic stress, adrenaline creates scars in your blood vessels that can cause a heart attack or stroke, and cortisol damages the cells of the hippocampus, crippling your ability to learn and remember.

· Individually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem—you are helpless.

· Emotional stress has huge impacts across society, on children’s ability to learn in school and on employees’ productivity at work.

Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses at the same time. (Medina, 2008)

· We absorb information about an event through our senses, translate it into electrical signals (some for sight, others from sound, etc.) disperse those signals to separate parts of the brain, then reconstruct what happened, eventually perceiving the event as a whole.

· The brain seems to rely partly on past experience in deciding how to combine these signals, so two people can perceive the same event very differently.

· Our senses evolved to work together—vision influencing hearing, for example—which means that we learn best if we stimulate several senses at once.

· Smells have an unusual power to bring back memories, maybe because smell signals bypass the thalamus and head straight to their destinations, which include that supervisor of emotions known as the amygdala.

Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses. (Medina, 2008)

· Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources.

· What we see is only what our brain tells us we see and it’s not 100 percent accurate.

· The visual analysis we do has many steps. The retina assembles photons into little movie-like streams of information. The visual cortex process these streams, some areas registering motion, others registering color, etc. Finally, we combine that information back together so we can see.

· We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.

Rule #11: Male and Female brains are different. (Medina, 2008)

· The X chromosome that males have one of and females have two of—though on acts as a backup—is a cognitive “hot spot”, carrying an unusually large percentage of genes involved in brain manufacture.

· Women are genetically more complex, because the active X chromosomes in their cells are a mix of Mom’s and Dad’s. Men’s X chromosomes all come from Mom, and their Y chromosome carries less than 100 genes, compared with about 1,500 for the X chromosome.

· Men’s and women’s brains are different structurally and biochemically—men have bigger amygdala and produce serotonin faster, for example—but we don’t know if those differences have significance.

· Men and women respond differently to acute stress: Women activate the left hemisphere’s amygdala and remember the emotional details. Men use the right amygdala and get the gist.

Rule #12: We are powerful natural explorers.  (Medina, 2008)

· Babies are the model of how we learn—not by passive reaction to the environment but by active testing through observation, hypothesis, experiment and conclusion.

· Specific parts of the brain allow this scientific approach. The right prefrontal cortex looks for errors in our hypothesis (“The saber-toothed tiger is not harmless.”), and an adjoining region tells us to change behavior (“Run!”).

· We can recognize and imitate behavior because of “mirror neurons” scattered across the brain.

· Some part of our adult brains stay as malleable as a baby’s, so we can create neurons and learn new things throughout our lives.

eBooks: I think I understand now.

The first e-book I bought was last week, by John Mighton called The Myth of Ability.  I bought it on the NOOK for PC, since I think I may be moving to electronic textbooks from here on out, and I think most of my books for SPU are on the NOOK.  Then I tried Adobe Digital Editions, and stuck all the PDFs floating around on my PC into that.  I have to say that getting free electronic editions of many classic books is pretty powerful, and may get me to go back and read some.  However, I am seriously impressed by the Kindle for PC.  The second e-book I have purchased is by Rafe Esquith entitled There Are No Shortcuts

A few things I like about the Kindle for PC application are:

  1. Besides just the size of the text and the color of the text and background, you can change the number of words per line.  Think about that for a second.  Suppose you like a magazine format, thin columns of text whizzing past you.  You can have it.  You can also have a more traditional book format, with ponderous lines full of words.
  2. I like the built in dictionary.
  3. I like the highlighting, notes and bookmarks.
  4. I like the “you are 75% percent through with this book” a good way to keep chugging along.
  5. I like the “report this error to our redactors”, since it cuts me free to criticize all the typos I see in the book, guilt free.
  6. I was amazed to see that when you highlight a line you see how many other people have highlighted a given line as well, pretty amazing to think that my notes and comments are becoming part of the community of readers of a certain book.
  7. I love that the search feature shows you where you are (your current page) relative to the search results, duh!
  8. I am reading a textbook now (Meece & Daniels, 2008) that has horrible glare under most desktop lighting conditions, I would gladly forego that with electronic editions of books.

I was a little irked that e-books cost more, sometimes twice as much as the cheap paperback or hardback edition.  However, I realize now how inert those paperbacks are (you can’t search them) and they are chains around your neck next time you want to move house.  Get digital, get useful!

Full disclosure, I don’t like:

  • That somehow all books aren’t digital now.  (Thus proving I’m typically techie in my impatience.)
  • That I have no idea (for sure) if my digital textbook I plan to purchase will really work on this laptop with the software I will be using.
  • Kindle for PC seems to have a bug that every time it gets focus again it doesn’t respond for a few seconds.
  • Kindle for PC has another bug that it sometimes can’t find the network.


Also see:  Consumers Now Buying More Amazon Kindle Books Than Print Books

Check out the Best Evidence Encyclopedia from Johns Hopkins School of Education



2010 Taxpayer Receipt


Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder

Suppose you are using your Windows 7 machine and experience a problem.  Or suppose you are going through a sequence of steps that you want to relay to someone else.

Why not give the Windows 7 Problem Recorder a try?

You run it by clicking on the Windows button, and typing “record steps”


That will run a process called “psr.exe” which looks like this:


It works rather simply, you click “Start Record” and the program will start capturing screenshots every time you click the mouse, or move a window.

You can Add Comment to what you are doing at any time.

Finally you can click Stop Record and an MHTML file is saved in a zipped folder on your desktop.  Send that file to show what steps you were doing.

April 06 Journalizing

A new quarter has begun and although I wasn’t ready in time for the first class, this is my catch-up journalizing for week 1.  Here’s what the syllabus says:



Issue 1:  Is it Time for National Standards in Education?

Chester E. Finn Jr.,
Liam Julian,
Michael J. Perilli, from
”To Dream the Impossible Dream:  Four Approaches to National Standards and Tests for America’s Schools”.  The Thomas B. Fordham Institute (August 2006)

Lawrence Uzzell, from
”No Child Left Behind:  The Dangers of Centralized Education Policy”.  Cato Institute (May 31, 2005)

The authors make a claim that there are only really 4 approaches that can be taken once you assume that we need national standards.

1.  “The whole enchilada”  the fed controls all
2.  “If you build it they will come”  the fed sets the standards, and provides incentives.
3.  “Let’s all hold hands”  The states build the standards and tests together.
4.  “Sunshine and shame”  Current state standards and tests need to be comparable to the NAEP.

The author compares centrally-controlled education to a soviet command economy.  The author’s solution is to enable parents to exercise more choice in where their children attend school. 

Personal Opinion (before reading):  It is probably naïve to think this way, but I regard national standards as merely an attempt to optimize the planning of what must be done for every student in this whole country for 180 days each school year.  Likewise when it comes to testing, I start from the position that tests are unavoidable for most careers and we should be helping students with test-taking skills.  I have zero faith in other assessments that are not individual, time-based, and summative.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  The argument around unconstitutionality of Federal control of education has some pull on me.  Fundamentally I do not believe that Federal oversight will translate into better standards or more quality instruction in our schools.  I also am not opposed to NCLB especially as it is a driving function of getting data on student performance.  I think the Fed needs to set a high bar, and then enforce methods of measuring AYP or percent of students passing and failing and then empower parents to act on that information.  I think dollar-for-dollar states need to be independent of federal funding so as to drive accountability and efficiency.  That means the DOE probably needs to scale back its presence so that the states end their dependence on federal education dollars.

Issue 16:  Will Increased Use of Computer Technology and Games Be Beneficial to Students?

Shaffer, D., Squire, K. R., Halverson, R., & Gee, J. P. (2005). Video Games and The Future of Learning. (cover story). Phi Delta Kappan, 87(2), 105-111. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Lowell W. Monke, from “The Overdominance of Computers,” Educational Leadership (December 2005 / January 2006)

Argues that schools have to catch up with corporations, the government, and the military in recognizing and harnessing the tremendous educative power of video games. Role of video games in providing a glimpse into how we might create new and more powerful ways to learn in schools, communities, and workplaces; Use of video games because they can create new social and cultural worlds; Warning that video games are inherently simplifications of reality and can be based on violent and sometimes misogynistic themes; Question as to how to use the power of video games as a constructive force in schools, homes, and workplaces; Importance of viewing games as activities that are most powerful when they are personally meaningful, experiential, social, and epistemological all at the same time.

Skeptical of the quick and unexamined adoption of computers in education, Monke writes:

“But we don’t prepare children for an automobile-dependent society by finding ways for 10-year-olds to drive cars, or prepare people to use alcohol responsibly by teaching them how to drink when they are 6. My point is that preparation does not necessarily warrant early participation.”

Monke also fears that computers stunt the growth of moral development and the experience of authentic situations.  He writes: 

“Indeed, as advanced technology increasingly draws us toward a mechanical way of thinking and acting, it becomes crucial that schools help students develop their distinctly human capacities. What we need from schools is not balance in using high technology, but an effort to balance children’s machine-dominated lives.”

Monke describes how computer use should be phased in gradually and *after* elementary school and concludes thus:

“I am not suggesting that we indiscriminately throw computers out of classrooms. But I do believe it’s time to rethink the past decision to indiscriminately throw them in. The result of that rethinking would be, I hope, some much-needed technological modesty, both in school and eventually in society in general. By compensating for the dominance of technology in students’ everyday lives, schools might help restore the balance we need to create a more humane society.”

Personal Opinion (before reading):  As a firm believer in the power of technology.  I was mostly interested in what the CON side would have to say to this question.  I was also interested in seeing how much evidence the PRO side could bring to bear on proving the point in question.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  It has been very interesting researching some other publications by Gee and Shaffer.  Their focus is primarily on what they call Epistemic Games, i.e. games that teach thinking and reasoning, not just faster hand-eye coordination.  Of course, neither side would dispute that there are games that are wholly inappropriate for the classroom due to graphic violence or adult themes.  However, Epistemic games on the other hand have a component of realism and use simulated situations that build a players confidence and knowledge which then transfers to other subjects.  And most of all, play as a route to learning, is a powerful thing, I don’t think Monke would disagree with that, he would just caution against using computers all day instead of kicking a soccer ball around in the sun.

For further reading see “Epistemic Frames for Epistemic Games” by Shaffer, and then see their web site for examples of games that they have been testing on students for at least the past 5 years.

I also would like to refer the reader to a New York Times article “Learning by Playing Video Games in the Classroom” which is actually more than just playing games, but students actually learn by designing and building the games first.  That I think is incredibly powerful and would like to see the results for their students.

Evans, D. (2008).  Taking sides:  Clashing views in teaching and educational practice.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.



Teaching to Change the World

Note:  see the web resources for students on this book (chapter by chapter) here

Part I:  The Foundations of American Schooling

Chapter 1:  The American Schooling Dilemma:  Diversity, Inequality, and Democratic Values

Personal Observations:  I am looking forward to following Judy Smith through the book as she has a similar background,i.e. having switched to teaching from a high tech job.

Chapter 3:  Philosophy and Politics:  The Struggle for the American Curriculum

Personal Observations: 


Oakes, J. and Lipton, M. (2008).  Teaching to change the world.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.

Textbook for Spring Quarter: Brain Rules by John Medina

Taking some time here before the quarter begins to get ahead on some reading.  As I was doing so I found the web site for the book which has some great video summarizing some of the chapters.  Check it out!  Here’s the video snippet for the chapter on Stress.

Stress from Pear Press on Vimeo.

Some Final Items for EDU6133

Here are links to my Sample Lesson Plan Packet, and the Powerpoint for my Presentation in fulfillment of classroom requirements for EDU6133.

Showcase Lesson Packet (Lesson Justification, Lesson Plan, Unit Plan, Classroom and Student Characteristics)

Class Presentation (120 MB PowerPoint, has the movie in it)

Tuesday, January 28, 1986, 8:39am PST, +75 Seconds

We weren’t too far into that morning’s Calculus lesson in Mr. Robinson’s class at Olympia High School when the PA interrupted to report that the Challenger had exploded shortly after launch.  I can remember looking up at the industrial clock next to the speaker in that classroom in Building 3;  I was incredulous.  Our teacher being visibly shaken—as were we all.  That was 25 years ago tomorrow.  RIP Challenger crew. 

Check out Math Worksheet Generator

From Microsoft Education Labs, download it free here.

It installs as a stand-alone application.  It is easy to use:

1. give it a problem


2. it opens a worksheet in Microsoft Word, with problems generated from yours, and also includes the answers!


This is not to say that more mindless homework is what students today need, but this shouldn’t be such a battle…

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