Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Schools as Brain Training Hubs?

In the post Top 10 Brain Train­ing Future Trends I asked for sug­ges­tions to refine our pre­dic­tions for the 2007–2015 period. A good num­ber of peo­ple con­tributed, and the win­ner is…

Scott Spears, retired pub­lic schools superintendent.

His prediction: 

Pre­dic­tion 11: The notion of school­ing will be struc­turally dra­mat­i­cally brain fitness trendsaltered through the use of diag­nos­tics related to the acqui­si­tion and improve­ment of basic cog­ni­tive skills (such as brain pro­cess­ing speed, atten­tion, mem­ory, and sequenc­ing), along with pre­scrip­tions employ­ing emerg­ing brain fit­ness soft­ware exer­cises, begin­ning in the ear­li­est grades and pro­gress­ing through high school.

Schools will be struc­tured around the acqui­si­tion of foun­da­tional cog­ni­tive skills, related phys­i­cal fit­ness to sup­port brain fit­ness, stu­dent aware­ness and knowl­edge of brain func­tion and respon­si­bil­ity for one’s own fit­ness. Schools will be much more organ­i­cally struc­tured along the learn­ing needs of indi­vid­u­als, will be a com­mu­nity repos­i­tory and asset for access to con­tin­u­ing brain and phys­i­cal fit­ness pro­gram­ming, and will con­tinue to pro­vide impor­tant con­tent knowl­edge acqui­si­tion expe­ri­ences deliv­ered through inte­grated expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing, custom-designed for the indi­vid­ual learner, and vary­ing by time and place as needed.

Group learn­ing gaps will close as the play­ing field lev­els in the acqui­si­tion of the basic cog­ni­tive skills required for high lev­els of suc­cess and learn­ing. “Spe­cial edu­ca­tion” as such will first dis­ap­pear in the mid­dle and later grades as stu­dents receive early inter­ven­tion for cog­ni­tive skill devel­op­ment and as the plethora of cur­rently diag­nosed men­tal dis­or­ders are bet­ter under­stood as brain func­tion issues that can either be pre­vented or reme­di­ated through neuroscience-based inter­ven­tions, and will finally entirely dis­ap­pear as a func­tion of the design of indi­vid­ual learn­ing plans for every student.

The nature of school­ing is thus lib­er­ated from the cur­rent model of empha­sis on con­tent acqui­si­tion to become more focused on the teacher-student inter­face of interest-directed learn­ing under­girded by the skills nec­es­sary for high-order think­ing and learning.”

When I con­tacted Scott to inquire about the main obsta­cles for this pre­dic­tion to come true, he responded:

The obsta­cles are many because this is such a dis­rup­tive, new tech­nol­ogy that is dif­fi­cult to explain to so many in edu­ca­tion who have no “frame” beyond what they believe about teach­ing and learn­ing from their under­grad­u­ate preparation.”

Scott: many thanks for your thought­ful com­ment. We will mail you a hard­copy of our Mar­ket Report titled The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2008. Look­ing for­ward to more of your contributions! 

Posts related to this prediction:

- Learn­ing & The Brain: Inter­view with Robert Sylwester

- Brain Con­nec­tion: Eric Jensen on Learn­ing and the Brain

- Are Schools (Cog­ni­tively) Nutri­tive for Children’s Com­plex Thinking?

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7 Responses

  1. Mary says:


  2. Yes! Stu­dents will directly learn how to use their brains rather learn­ing indi­rectly by mem­o­riz­ing con­tent. I sin­cerely hope this hap­pens at least in time for my grandchildren.

  3. Terry: you raise a great point, the num­ber one skill for stu­dents (mean­ing, us all) to acquire is pre­cisely learn­ing how to learn. I hope it hap­pens in time for my daughter…the real­ity, though, is that as a par­ent I can do much myself. We don’t need to believe schools are the only agents of teaching.

  4. Chris Elliott says:

    Scott’s pre­dic­tion dove­tails with a “Neu­ro­science of Edu­cat­ing” sem­i­nar that was hosted at the Salk Insti­tute in San Diego recently (link below).

    There was a dis­cus­sion of ‘learn­ing phe­no­types’ that can lead to clin­i­cally val­i­dated indi­vid­ual learn­ing plans in the future. How­ever, school admin­is­tra­tors and teach­ers also men­tioned that insti­tu­tional bar­ri­ers to change are quite high — plus social bar­ri­ers like par­ents who pre­fer their chil­dren learn their ‘ABCs’ they same way they did 20 years ago.

  5. Chris, thank you for shar­ing that link and infor­ma­tion on the Salk event.

    Per­haps the obvi­ous short-term oppor­tu­nity is for some charter-schools to include and research in prac­tice a more holis­tic brain-focused approached?

  6. Chris Elliott says:


    Char­ter schools would prob­a­bly be more likely to “take the leap” into a holis­tic brain focused learn­ing approach. I think a rea­son­able way to start is to intro­duce work­ing mem­ory exer­cises as part of the weekly class­room sched­ule — I sus­pect a side ben­e­fit will be improved impulse con­trol, as there is evi­dence that improved work­ing mem­ory enhances impulse con­trol in chil­dren (and prob­a­bly adults too!)

  7. Hello Chris, I agree. Work­ing mem­ory train­ing could be very use­ful, either computer-based or with classroom-based men­tal arith­metic led by the teacher, for example.

    Did you see our arti­cle last year that said:

    Just today we found out that Sharp sums in the head aim to blunt impact of TV, on a topic we have been dis­cussing for a few weeks with sev­eral of our sci­en­tific advi­sors. We quote:

    * “Gilles de Robien, the Edu­ca­tion Min­is­ter (in France), has ordered chil­dren to carry out between 15 and 20 min­utes of cal­cul men­tal (men­tal arith­metics) every day from the age of 5.
    * Mr de Robien moved after a report from the French Sci­ence Acad­emy said that chil­dren who prac­ticed sums in their heads had bet­ter mem­o­ries and quicker brains.
    * Ques­tions for the final year of French pri­mary school
    * Cal­cu­late in your head
    1. Half of 48, 72, 414, 826 and 1,040
    2. Three times 41, 52, 109, 212 and 503
    3. A third of 12, 66, 93, 309, 636 and 3,024
    4. 76–9, 987–9, 456–19, 497–19 and 564–29
    5. 15×4, 25×4, 30×4, 35×4, 40×4 and 45×4″

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