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Neuroscience of Learning: A Look inside the Amazing Brain

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Inside the Amazing Brain

You’re not alone if you've ever looked at your son and wondered, "What’s going on inside his head?" or scolded your daughter for her actions, asking, "What were you thinking?!" Parents and educators worldwide have asked questions like these, and neuroscience researchers have uncovered some interesting answers about the human brain and how we learn.

Brain-Based Learning and Neuroeducation

According to Merriam-Webster, learning is "the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something." This makes sense. It's what we do, we teachers and Learning Coaches. Learning is what we're all about.

Neuroscience, on the other hand, is "the scientific study of nerves and especially of how nerves affect learning and behavior." The nerves, we know from studying science, are controlled by the command center we call a brain. When we join neuroscience and learning together, the connections have a direct impact on education. While neuroeducation may sound lofty, it simply means the interdisciplinary study of the mind, the brain, and its function, as well as individual education and learning.

Research into the brain's role in learning is not new. Psychophysiology and educational neuroscience are just two of the many scientific disciplines that conduct research into how the brain functions when learning. Books like Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind and Arts with the Brain in Mind were first published in the late 1990s, and they remain relevant today. Howard Gardner's discussions of multiple intelligences have influenced teachers since ...

Influential Learning Theories: Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
 Learning Styles Diagram: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic Modalities.

Educators and researchers are always looking for innovative ways to improve student performance. As a result, the education field is crowded with different theories about learning, teaching, studying, and so on. Two of the most popular ones are the Multiple Intelligences Theory and Learning Styles Theory.

No single theory or philosophy can fit every situation and meet every need. To make sure you help your virtual school student learn and study effectively, review the details about these theories below.

The Multiple Intelligences Theory

Psychologist Howard Gardner developed this theory in 1983. He claimed that people have eight independent ways of processing information, which are:

  1. Verbal–Linguistic (Word Smart)
  2. Logical–Mathematical (Logic Smart)
  3. Visual–Spatial (Picture Smart)
  4. Auditory–Musical (Music Smart)
  5. Bodily–Kinesthetic (Body Smart)
  6. Interpersonal (People Smart)
  7. Intrapersonal (Self Smart)
  8. Naturalistic (Nature Smart)

It’s more accurate to think of the eight intelligences as abilities or strengths. The human brain is extremely complex, and all of these types of “smarts” work together.

How to use the theory
To apply the Multiple Intelligences Theory to online learning, use it to help your student develop all of his or her strengths. Remember that there are activities that help develop more than one ability at a time. For example, you can help your child do some creative learning activities, such as:

Break the Multitasking Habit with These Study Tips

By: Beth Werrell
Breaking the Habit of Multitasking

It’s easy to get lost in thought when you shower, brush your teeth, or do your hair. But have you ever gotten so distracted in the shower that you wash your hair twice—or forget to wash it at all? If you’ve ever done something like this, then you have fallen into the trap of multitasking!

Multitasking, or doing two or more things at once, is something we do every day. An example is having a conversation with your child while you’re driving. There’s no harm in talking in the car because it’s easy for your brain to handle these tasks, but multitasking becomes a problem when one task interferes with the other. You might talk in the car, for example, but you wouldn’t text while driving because texting and driving both require your vision.

Virtual students are especially prone to multitasking because they’re surrounded by digital distractions. When students try to multitask while studying, they often fail without realizing it. Psychology professor David Meyer says, “Under most conditions, the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time. It can happen only when the two tasks are both very simple and when they don’t compete with each other for the same mental resources. […] But listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook—each of these tasks is very demanding, and each of them uses the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.” When these types of tasks compete for mental ...

Taking Breaks: A Surprising Technique to Enhance Online Learning

By: Beth Werrell

Taking Breaks to Enhance Online LearningHaving a productive school day takes concentration. Students have to be motivated and focused on each task they need to complete. They also need to learn how to look at the big picture, set priorities, meet deadlines, and achieve goals. Then there are the different lessons and activities to juggle—math, trumpet practice, science, lunch, robotics club, reading. It’s hard work keeping everything straight!

School can be challenging at times, so it’s normal for students to get tired, get distracted, and lose motivation. Successful students, however, need a way to avoid frustration and stay on track.

To stay focused on learning, there’s an unexpected technique students can try: taking breaks.

Refresh Your Brain

Your student probably already takes breaks during the day, reserving time to eat lunch or grab a snack. But if he or she gets distracted often, it might mean that your child needs to take more breaks.

“In problem-solving, when you get stuck, you’ve run out of ideas, distraction is really your best friend,” says Benedict Carey, the author of How We Learn. “You need to stand up, let it go … and that is really your best shot at loosening the gears a little bit and allowing yourself to take a different and more creative approach to the problem.” Getting distracted is really just a sign that your child’s brain needs a rest before moving to the next lesson.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that students should take breaks every time they get distracted. With some ...

Understanding and Improving People Skills in Virtual School

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Multiple Intelligences: People Smarts - An Important Life Skill for Students

Growing children develop more skills than we can count. But each child has a few skills that shine more brightly than others. One child might be active and adventurous outdoors, showing strong “nature smarts” and “body smarts.” Another child might be more bookish and introspective, demonstrating natural “word smarts” and “self-smarts.”

Although children have a mix of skills in every area, one of the most important skills they develop is “people smarts.” Also known as interpersonal intelligence or people skills, people smarts determine how a child interacts with everyone—whether friends, strangers, teachers, or family.

What Is Interpersonal Intelligence?

“Interpersonal intelligence” is a term that psychologist Howard Gardner used when he introduced his theory of multiple intelligences. Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to relate to other people. In Gardner’s theory, it’s also considered a learning style. It’s helpful to understand interpersonal intelligence as social skills—something that everyone can learn and improve.

People skills are developed through interaction, observation, and discussion. Although virtual school students don’t interact face-to-face with their peers each day, there are plenty of other ways for them to socialize.

If your child is young, look for everyday opportunities to develop his or her social abilities. With practice, your child should learn to:

  • Maintain a phone conversation with a relative.
  • Greet and chat with a neighbor.
  • Handle a simple transaction at a familiar store.
  • Make small-talk with a new acquaintance.
  • Interact appropriately during a playdate with some friends.
  • Be ...

7 Computer Skills to Master by High School

By: Beth Werrell
Computer Skills for High School Success

Computers are everywhere today, so it's normal for children to develop computer skills quickly and early on. By virtual elementary school, kids are figuring out how to use a mouse and navigate the keyboard.

As your child grows and his or her knowledge of technology expands, there are certain things that he or she needs to learn for school. Knowing how to cite online sources in a paper and create a chart in Microsoft Excel are just a few examples.

To make sure your child is equipped with the right skills, take a look at the list below. You’ll find the seven computer skills your child should master by the time he or she starts virtual high school.

  1. Typing
    Using a keyboard is one of the first computer skills a young child develops. By middle school, children should be able to type proficiently with two hands. To make typing even easier, have your child practice his or her typing skills with apps like Type-Fu.

  2. Digital communication
    Computers offer many different communication channels, such as email, chat, and social media posts. To use these channels correctly, your child needs to understand how messages should change depending on the context. For example, it’s fine to use emoticons and poor punctuation in an email to a friend, but an email cover letter to an employer must be formal and precise.

  3. Online etiquette and safety
    Another lesson that children learn early on is how to use the computer appropriately. You ...

Exercise Visual-Spatial Skills by Taking Online School Yearbook Photos

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Multiple Intelligences: Picture Smarts—Exercising Visual-Spatial Skills

Get your cameras ready! May is National Photography Month, and photographers of all ages are snapping pics and entering photo contests. As the end of the school year approaches, you and your child can get involved by contributing to his or her school’s yearbook.

Create Your Online School Yearbook

To work on a yearbook, find photos from throughout the school year or snap new ones using these tips for taking yearbook photos.

Consider adding photos of:

  • Field trips and other off-site learning adventures
  • Your home classroom
  • Craft projects
  • Friends and family reading, studying, or posed at the computer
  • Assignments or projects that are points of pride

Once your child collects the photos, you can work together to assemble them in a photo album or a handmade book. Attending families can also contribute to Connections Academy’s digital school yearbook.

Building Visual-Spatial Skills

Working on this yearbook project is a great way for children to exercise their visual-spatial skills. Creating photos, or “making pictures,” takes time and thought. Frame the subject of the picture. Find a background that enhances the subject rather than distracts from it. Look at the light source. Will the sun or the indoor lighting brighten up the subject or create a glare or shadow? Paying attention to these details can help students mentally manipulate space and process visual information.

Psychologist Howard Gardner proposed that visual-spatial was one of several different types of “intelligences” that can be interpreted as skills or learning styles. The other skills in ...

Educational Outdoor Activities to Build Nature Smarts

By: Tracy Ostwald Kowald
naturalistic intelligences, building nature smarts with outdoor activities

Rising temperatures. Melting snow. Crocuses and tulips peeking out of the soil. Spring cleaning. Yard work. Spring fever. Signs of spring can make students and Learning Coaches feel restless. When the sun comes out, take advantage of the opportunity to build nature smarts.

What Are “Nature Smarts”?

The concept of nature smarts comes from naturalistic intelligence, which is part of psychologist Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. These intelligences, or strengths, are not fixed like a standard IQ. Each intelligence can grow and develop throughout a person’s life. He or she can build number-logic smarts, body smarts, and other competencies. One way to develop nature smarts is to explore and learn about the world outside the schoolroom windows.

Children who have innate nature smarts enjoy working with nature and studying the environment. Some topics that often interest a budding naturalist include:

  • Animals
  • Botany and gardening
  • Nutrition
  • Weather
  • Hiking and camping
  • Recycling
  • Composting
  • Repurposing and upcycling

Get creative during the spring and summer to find nature-based learning opportunities for your child. It’s easier than you think. Consider the ideas listed below.

Nature Activities for Spring and Summer

These activities will encourage children of all ages to have fun outside.

You can expand this ...

Online and Offline Ways to Foster Creative Thinking Skills in Your Child

By: Dan Reiner
Fostering Creative Thinking Skills in Your Child

Building critical thinking and problem-solving skills is essential to learning. Fostering your student’s creativity is just as important, and it can even help develop his or her analytical skills.

To make learning fun and help your student grow as a unique individual, encourage creativity whenever possible. Below are some creativity tools your student can try, as well as some tips for helping him or her be more creative.

Online Creativity Tools for Kids

One way to boost your virtual school student’s creativity is by introducing him or her to creative online tools. Test some of the creativity tools listed below.

PicMonkey. This photo editing and graphic design tool is a good choice for older students, allowing them to create images and experiment with basic graphic design.

Piktochart. With an account, students can use Piktochart to display data in infographics or tell a story using images.

Wideo. Create, edit, and share animated videos with this unique platform.

ToonDoo. Use this tool to quickly make customized comic strips and cartoons.

Storybird. This platform shares images from illustrators and animators so children and adults can use them to create their own stories.

Tessellation Creator. A visual tool for grades 3 through 8, the tessellation creator exercises geometry skills by showing students how to create repeating patterns of polygons.

Adventure Story Starters by Scholastic. This interactive tool randomly generates a story idea when students spin the wheel.

Puzzlemaker. by Discovery Education. Students can create their own word ...

Body Smarts: Add Kinesthetic Learning to the School Day

By: Tracy Ostwald Kowald
Body Smarts: Activities for Kinesthetic Learners

Sitting still for long periods of time isn’t easy. If your child gets restless during lessons and starts tapping his or her foot or twirling a pencil, suggesting that he or she sit still probably won’t help. Instead, it’s time to take a break and get moving!

Taking breaks and staying active is important to having a healthy, productive school week. Activity clears the mind, relieves grogginess and tension, encourages relaxation, and more. It’s especially important for students who prefer to be active, or, as psychologist Howard Gardner theorized, have outstanding kinesthetic intelligence.

What Is Kinesthetic Intelligence?

Students who excel in “body smarts” process information best through touch and movement. A “body-smart” child might seem to be in constant motion, tapping a foot, stretching his or her arms, or moving his or her shoulders and neck while reading or typing. These students may favor activities such as team or individual sports, martial arts, playing a musical instrument, or acting and dancing. Students with strong body smarts often demonstrate good fine motor skills and hand–eye coordination, which is evident in activities such as handwriting, working with clay, and playing catch. They also show good gross motor skills, which involve the large muscle groups that control walking, running, and even sitting and standing well. These traits show in a person’s agility, balance, athleticism, and body control.

Even if your child doesn’t gravitate toward hands-on or physical activities, you should still incorporate them into his or her routine. Learning to use a ...

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