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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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!)

  6. 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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