Opening Keynote: The Whole Brain

This is my third Learning and the Brain Conference, and I find these conferences alternately inspiring and maddening. This seems fitting, since that’s frequently the state of the growing field of brain-focused conversations about education. There are many responsible practitioners out there who are doing great things, albeit conservatively: they use medical technology like fMRI, EEG, and PET scans to gain an improved sense of brain activity, and they try to understand what the results of those scans might mean for learning. I think that most people are operating in good faith in this vein: they’re trying to understand what these tools and new technology can really tell us about learning without straying into something misleading or simply untrue.

It’s really easy to stray across that line, I think, and I feel like our opening speaker did that. He did say the words, “Close your eyes and place your hand on your heart. Now your right brain is being activated.”


Please know: unless you have very serious lesions in the brain or an extremely unusual brain structure, things are constantly happening throughout your brain. It’s incomplete to think about people or certain brain functions as “right-brained” or “left-brained.” We use many parts of our brains in everything we do.


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