Although it was disappointing we couldn’t view his slides, Eagleman’s presentation was a big lift for those of entirely enthusiastic about the new age of information we live in, and what it means for empowering our students to be digitally savvy, connected critical thinkers.   Eagleman calls himself a “cyber-optimist,” just as I am, and he offers valuable, neurologically founded, evidence and perspective on where learning needs to be going.

As an optimist, he is anything but gloomy about the way students brains are changing, but rather embracing this moment to change up what we are doing: to take learning online, to take it toward active, engaged, decisionmaking, critical thinking, mistake making and retooling, rich environments for our student.

Let’s not be daunted, let’s be inspired.   This is genuinely the most exciting moment to be an educator, and most exciting moment to be a learner, since Socrates was in taking inquiry more deeply with his fellow Athenians, and each and every day let’s ask ourselves: what can we do to realign what we are doing to take advantage of this moment?

Key Ideas

The conscious I is the smallest part of the mind: the conscious aware I is like a broom closet of the mansion that is the brain.

“In each of us, there is another who we do not know.” Jung.

We have to understand the conscious mind to help understand how to better steer kids toward the learning that matters.

Think though problems, synthesis, come up with solutions, creatively: what we need most for teaching and learning.

What does the unconscious mind have to do with creativity? 

The key to neural networks is that they make associations: everything is tied to something else.   The problem of the path of least resistance.  The unconscious mind is incredibly efficient: It seeks the swiftest, straightest, path to the answer, the path of least resistance, the simplest and plainest result that it can.

How do we get people off the path of least resistance?

The brain is constantly rewriting its own software.   The brain is so plastic and malleable.

We want to send people back to re-think things, to push back past the path of least resistance.   To be creative, you need to practice creativity.

“A man is a product of his thoughts”  Gandhi

There are several types of creativity: convergent and divergent thinking.

How many different uses can you come up for a brick?

Guided teaching: Example: Picture and apple in your head, think about what kind of apple, think about the texture of the skin, think about the stem, think about its size: I am guiding your thinking to enhance creativity.

Errors are the portal of discovery.   Guide your students to be wrong, multiple times, so they see

Help student make error and be OK about making errors.

Learning is an event.   Make decisions, touch things, teach others, practical, lived experience of learning.

Kids are growing up very differently today than they used to.

“They are different than we are.”

Because a generation y digital native is used to this new kind of world, online, connected, networked, multi-tasking– that’s what wires up their brain– does this make a child struggle to concentrate?    This is not ADHD– this is a normal response to a student who is used to multi-tasking/connectivity, and struggles to settle into a single, narrow focal point in our classrooms.

The pressure is on us to make more engaging, interactive, classrooms, where students make decisions and chart more of their own course with relevance and salience evident.

The onus is on us to figure out how to ask the question which encourages student to use google but not exclusively rely upon google.

Links and resources

Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, and her website on Brainology education for students.   Great resources.

Jennifer Lockett’s post on Eagleman’s talk.

My post on Open Computer Testing, using google  and wolfram-alpha on tests and assessments.


Teach students metacognition: start perhaps with the path of least resistance.

Clarify in class creativity assignments the difference of convergent and divergent thinking.

Practice guided thinking toward greater, more complex and rich, creativity.

Focus on the growth mindset from Dweck, and praise for effort, not talent.

Structure a class experience intentionally designed for student error, and student learning from error.

Welcome students to use google to answer your questions, and then ask questions that google can’t answer immediately, but can provide information that can be used for richer answers.


Conversation starters

What can we do to make this an active, multi-sensory learning?

What is the role of intentional error in lesson design?

What are our own mindsets, as educators: how do we strengthen our own growth mindsets?

What does it mean to provide our students more decision-making opportunities in our classrooms?

How can we reframe, rephrase our assessments, our test questions and assignments, so that we expect and require students to use google and the web to answer them, but still make them challenging, meaningful, assessments and questions.