In this introduction to the ISTE podcast series Course of Mind (@courseofmind), hosts Zac Chase (@MrChase) and Shana White (@ShanaVWhite) talk to ISTE Chief Learning Officer Joseph South (@southjoseph) about what the learning sciences are and why educators should care. South acknowledges that teaching is a tall order. Educators are often dealing with 25-30 students in one class who come from different backgrounds, different cultural contexts, and have different beliefs and abilities. The learning sciences look at the whole child and offer an expanded toolbox to deal with a wider range of situations. This podcast series will cover the basic principles — or the big ideas — of the learning sciences and address key findings that have practical applications in the classroom.
This podcast is produced by NarayanKripa Sundararajan (@KripaSundar) as part of the Course of Mind project, an ISTE initiative made possible in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
If you're an educator and you went through a teacher preparation program like we did, you probably heard about the art of teaching, the craft of teaching or the science of teaching. Maybe, if you're lucky, your program talked to you about a blend of those ideas, art and science or craft and science. Maybe it was practice and science or you know those two magic words, "research based". Or you're on the lookout for the ultimate key to learning - "research based best practice". But what does it all mean? Where does it all come from and what can it actually do for learning? Hi, I'm Shana white and I'm Zac Chase and you're listening to Course of Mind, the learning sciences podcast from ISTE. In this, our first episode we talked to Dr. Joseph South ISTE's Chief Learning Officer. We asked Joseph to explain what the learning sciences are, why teachers should care and how it all fits ISTE. If we're going on this journey, we should probably understand why. Welcome to Course of Mind. I'd like to start us off at the very beginning when people say learning sciences, what does that actually mean?Speaker 2:
So learning sciences really bring together a number of fields, fields like cognitive science, neuroscience, human development, instructional design, uh, a number of the different ways that we learn about and understand how humans learn. And one of the things I love about them is they really consider a person as a whole person. Sometimes when we think about learning, we're sort of like, oh, that's like a brain thing. It's like what's happening in your brain? But really we know that if you're going to learn well, what's happening in your body also matters whether you're really hungry, whether you're really upset, whether you're really scared. All of those things affect how effectively you learn. And so the learning sciences looks at the entire person and everything that's going on around them, how those affect the way they're thinking and perceiving and reacting and studies - How can we optimize learning for that individual?Speaker 1:
All right, so that makes sense. The name is pretty much what it says on the tin. Uh, so is this a new field like string theory for education? And that's why ISTE is launching this podcast?Speaker 2:
Learning Sciences is actually not a new field at all. It's been around for decades. And really what we're already doing in classrooms was based on the learning sciences that we've sort of grown up with. But as time has passed, we've really had an explosion in understanding about learning. And part of this comes from breakthroughs in neuroscience. Part of this comes through studying more rigorously metacognition and other ways of how we learn and think and relate to each other. And so while there's a great deal that we've known for a long time about learning, there's a lot of new insights that have come out in just the last decade or so. And so while it's a, it's a science that's been around for a while, a lot of the insights from it are pretty new.Speaker 1:
If learning sciences are basically what we're already doing, what might teachers stand to learn from this podcast?Speaker 2:
Teachers have a really challenging job. They generally are dealing with 25 to 30 completely different individuals. And all of those individuals come with different backgrounds, different cultural contexts, different beliefs about their own abilities and about the people around them. And about how they relate to a teacher and all of that factors in to how prepared they are to learn. And so the learning sciences and those who study them have been looking at all of these contextual factors and understanding and identifying which strategies are going to be most impactful for students and learners who find themselves in those different circumstances. So in a way you can think of the learning sciences as expanding the toolbox for the educator to address a wider range of situations that they might encounter in a classroom.Speaker 1:
Okay. So it's about strengthening the good and cutting away the bad. Um, but, but what about technology? ISTE is a technology focused organization. Is there a special branch of the learning sciences specific to learning with or supported by technology ?Speaker 2:
Learning is at the core of everything that ISTE does. We only care about technology to the degree that it impacts learning. And that's why we talk a lot about ISTE being the learning first, technology second sort of organization. And really when it comes to the learning sciences, anything that improves our understanding of learning or deepens our practice when it comes to learning is going to also improve and deepen our practice around the use of technology for learning. And we can take the same insights that we get from the learning sciences into how people learn to help us make better decisions about which technologies we choose to bring into the classroom and how we use those technologies in the classroom.Speaker 1:
Okay. That tie makes sense. Uh, these pieces go hand in hand and if it's baked into the standards though, um, what other work is ISTE doing regarding the learning sciences?Speaker 2:
ISTE is actually doing a lot of work around the learning sciences. We're really wanting to increase general awareness of the learning sciences for educators. So we're creating blogs; we're creating this podcast series; We're putting articles in our member magazine. We're really just trying to get the word out there that there's a lot of new insights that we can all benefit from and trying to make as many people as possible aware of what those are. We're also trying to help people really deepen their understanding. And for that we're creating a really neat online course. It's going to help educators walk through the different principles of learning sciences and then find really practical ways of applying those in the classroom. Okay. So what is your hope for Shana and I as we travel through Course of Mind? Why do you care about the learning sciences? We're going to start out with some of the basic principles of learning sciences and sort of walk through the big ideas that sort of make up the foundation of what the learning sciences are and then over time we're going to explore some of the key findings from the learning sciences that have really practical applications in the classroom. And we're really hoping that educators will come along for this ride with us, that they'll learn alongside us and that they'll engage with us. And one of the best ways to do that is on Twitter. They can go to @CourseofMind and they can tell us their stories. They can ask us questions. It's something that we say sounds right, they can let us know that. If something that we say sounds a little off, they can let us know that too. We're really hoping to open up a dialogue and really create a wider conversation around what the learning sciences are and how they can be helpful.Speaker 1:
All right, so the next time you hear about research based best practices, maybe you'll remember the learning sciences aren't one thing but are many things an accumulation of what leading researchers have learned about how the mind works and how it learns. And if applied thoughtfully. These sciences can help teachers consider what in their own practices are based on science and what might be based on habit. Think about your own repertoire, what do you do because you can point to research in science supporting its benefit to learning and what do you do out of habit or familiarity? Over the course of this season, Shana and I will talk with leading learning scientists and find out what the latest research suggests we should be focusing on and practices we can let go of. Until next time. I'm Zac Chase. I'm Shana white and we'll talk to you next time on Course of Mind - When we learn about how what a teacher believes about his or her own efficacy as a measurable impact on student learning. Course of Mind is an ISTE podcast made possible in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Our producer is Kripa Sundar, our editor and music maestro is Trevor Stout. You can find me, Shana White on Twitter @ShanaVWhite. You can find me @MrChase and Kripa is @KripaSundar. As always, for more on how learning sciences can inform your practice, Check out the course of mine Twitter feed @CourseofMind where you can learn about how other educators have applied learning sciences in the classroom and learn what we're learning.