Tag: learning

How space affects learning

South Africa faces a particularly challenging teaching environment with often overcrowded classrooms, distracted learners and hard working but sometimes under-qualified teachers.

And another, more subtle challenge is that traditional teaching classroom experiences are often not aligned with how the brain works, particularly as it relates to attention.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says that learning institutions in South Africa can achieve far better results by better understanding how learning works.

“There are so many things vying for student attention today it makes it harder to get attention and therefore engagement but there are five things that can be done to dramatically improve results:

Seat location impacts attention

A study by Kennesaw State University revealed that where students sit in the classroom impacts focus. Says Andrews: “Students in the front and middle of the classroom stayed on task, while those in the back were more distracted. An active learning classroom where students easily moved and rearrange their seating enables them to stay attentive.”

Classrooms configured with no fixed position where the instructor must stand and mobile seating create better results. Here an teacher or student can address the class, lead a discussion and share content from anywhere in the classroom. There’s no front or back of the classroom, and since the seating allows students to change posture and position easily, every seat is the best seat in the room.

Active learning

Research by Diane M. Bunce, et. al. on “How Long Can Students Pay Attention in Class?”, compared a passive lecture approach and active learning methods. Researchers noted fewer attention lapses during times of active learning. They also found fewer lapses in attention during a lecture that immediately followed a demonstration or after a question was asked, compared to lectures that preceded active learning methods. This suggests active learning may have dual benefits: engaging student attention and refreshing attention immediately afterward.

Physical movement fuels the brain

Schools are starting to incorporate more physical activity in the classroom, such as Delaney Connective, a high school in Sydney, Australia, where students do “brain pushups” each morning: five-minute, Tai Chi-like exercises that get the blood flowing and help students focus.
“Physical movement increases alertness and helps encode and trigger memory. Yet schools and teachers traditionally train students to be sedentary, and equate sitting still with greater attention and focus,” noted Andrews.
Simply allowing students to get out of their seats to move while learning provides the brain with much-needed novelty and change.

Novelty and change get attention

Our brains naturally seek out what’s new and different. Therefore varying materials and breaks facilitate attention. A study by Kennesaw State University found that students paid more attention when the professor reviewed quiz answers, presented new information or shared videos, essentially by changing things up.
Novelty and change facilitate learning in another way too. Repeating important points by engaging multiple senses helps to reinforce learning. There is a greater likelihood that learning will generalise outside the classroom if it is organised across sensory, physical, emotional and cognitive networks.

Learning has a natural rhythm

The need for periods of both quiet focus and healthy distraction finds its parallel in learning.
Our brain can focus on a task for only so long, after which it needs a break for renewal to achieve high performance on the next task. Ignore this rhythm and we tend to lose focus.
“Researchers have found that people who respect this natural rhythm are more productive,” says Andrews. Breaks for rest and renewal are critical to the body and brain, as well as to attention span. The work of education is similarly organic, changing at different times of the term, week, even during a single class period.

For the fifth consecutive year, BIC is visiting schools across Gauteng on its educational roadshow. This year, the stationery brand continues its efforts towards improving the quality of education in our schools with the message: ‘If You Can Dream It, You Can Be It’. The aim is to motivate pupils to strive for greatness regardless of their circumstances.

The activation, presented by the brand character ‘BIC Boy’ and a team of brand activators from Zinto Marketing Group who have partnered with BIC since the outset of these national educational roadshows, imparts key educational messages ‒ emphasising the importance of making good career choices and planning for the future from a young age. The format engages learners to interact with the brand which encourages pupils to strive towards creating and leaving their own legacy.

BIC has also launched a colouring-in competition being run concurrently with the roadshow, which inspires learners to get creative. It brings excitement to schools and awards cash prizes to the winners as well as the teachers and schools with the most entries.
The winning school will select an under-resourced school of their choosing as the recipient of a cash donation. In addition, BIC will refurbish one other school in need of maintenance and repair.

Launched in 2011, the ‘Buy a pen. Donate a pen’ initiative has donated over five million pens that assist under-privileged learners across South Africa by contributing a pen for every one purchased. The aim to ensure that our future learners are able to change opinions through education with the notion: ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’.

Students in Emily Lehne’s sixth grade science class have been charged with the task of building structures to demonstrate motion. To do so, the Beacon Middle School students are using technology not many have heard of: a 3D pen.

The technology is similar to a 3D printer, but on a much smaller and handheld scale.

Lehne wrote a grant to get two pens, which she received in December. By the end of January, the school had bought a dozen more for the students to use.

The pens allow the students to create something tangible to show how a concept works.

3d pens

“Every single kid was actively engaged and is participating which, when it comes to middle school students, can sometimes be a challenge in itself,” Lehne says.

To use the pen, one must insert a strand of plastic filament into the unit, which heats it up. The user then controls how quickly the plastic is dispersed. The pen can be used on paper and the user can then take what’s drawn off it.

As Riley Neall and Hanna Kozach were trying to build a house for the person Zoe Robinson and Keandra Dunning were creating, they were able to use the pen to build up the base of the structure. Then they welded a green roof they had already created on top.

Neall thinks more classrooms ought to have the technology.

“This is something to make learning fun,” he says.

Other students used the 3D pens to create an airplane and the Eiffel Tower, a car and a stoplight and a shark and a piece of coral. After creating the objects, the students will explain the motion theories by using what they’ve created.

“It gets them demonstrating their knowledge they need to know but in an interesting and unique way,” Lehne says.
“(It) keeps them creative and gives them a chance to express themselves.”

By Jon Bleiweis for www.delmarvanow.com

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