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UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM

On-line course development can demonstrate some new and unique ways to increase student achievement by using brain compatible approaches. This occurs when material and approaches are based on a theory of human learning which views the brain as the organ for learning, and says that the brain learns through the anchor method. The anchor method theorizes that instead of learning by a logical, scheduled curriculum, the brain learns in a random order to fulfill the need of the individual for the immediate or near future. This calls into question a lot of our assumptions about prerequisites and program/text structure, and helps explain the appeal of being able to choose which topic to select on web pages. This selection can also provide filtering for learning style preferences and prior experience. [Italics and emphasis, mine] The theory also states that teaching in ways that do not follow the brain's natural way of learning will produce very little learning, and we need to seek ways to teach that are brain compatible.

For example, asking questions in class can sometimes be more harmful than helpful. Many classes have only a few students who answer questions, and that questioning often falsely gives teachers permission to move on to the next subject when most of the students still do not understand the concept. Proster/Anchor Theory posits that most traditional questioning wastes time and that questions should be rhetorical and answered later by the teacher.
Anchor math : the brain-compatible approach to learning math

Essential questions, which I have built my online courses around, allow students to sustain focus and return when needed to these key questions. In this light, questioning becomes more brain and mind compatible than classrooms allow.

A further assumption needing reexamination is our sense of the requirement for expertise. Almost all developing countries have educational programs based on replicating the "traditional" model of schooling at a time when experience in the so-called developed countries is showing that this model is inappropriate in a digital world. It is widely believed in developing countries that "under qualified" teachers are unable to handle technological thinking. However, our experience for the past 20 years working in Developing Nations and more recently our work in Costa Rica and in Thailand has shown that the number of years spent in teacher training institutions has little positive (and perhaps some negative) correlation with effectiveness as tutors for constructivist learning. Because content delivered through web sites reflects multiple sources of expertise, a moderator or feedback structure, rather than teacher-expert is needed to assist the learning process. This may be a source of threat to teachers who do not value empowerment of learners, or to administrators who oppose the freeing of teachers to work individually with students, sponsor research, and conduct field studies related to their courses. Lastly, in American schools there is an epidemic of "learning disabilities." The traditional treatment is to prescribe easier work. However the adaptation of powerful technologies for use by children allows many of these children to engage with highly challenging activities. Success comes from work that is harder, not easier.
The Future of Learning Group Mission {M.I.T.}

  • Powerful learning requires a "bodybrain partnership" - an integrated process.
  • Both students and adults require a bodybrain-compatible environment to work and learn, i.e.
    1. Absence of Threat
    2. Meaningful Content - Any place, any time format and selection of sites and emphasis give safety, choices, movement, time, and enrichment to on-line courses
    3. Choices
    4. Movement to Enhance Learning
    5. Adequate Time
    6. Enriched Environment
    7. Collaboration
    8. Immediate Feedback - Discussion Board, email, and Shared Inquiry group tasks provide Collaboration, Feedback and Mastery
    9. Mastery (application level)
    Brain Research Concepts -- 12 findings that correlate to online learning

Taken together, all these factors help explain why students learn 20% more in online courses.

Web Based Courses: Research Abstracts