posted June 11, 2014

Hope Co-hosts Brain and Learning Institute

A popular conference co-sponsored by the Allegan Area Educational Services Agency, Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and Hope College for educators seeking to enhance teaching and learning through the latest in brain research is returning for a 14th year.

The annual “Midwest Brain and Learning Institute” is convening on Monday-Wednesday, June 23-25, at Immanuel Church in Holland, with a post-institute wrap-up on Thursday, June 26, at the Ottawa Area ISD Educational Services Building.

Approximately 100 educators from districts in the area and state-wide will be attending.  Nearly 1,400 educators from 157 different school districts or agencies across nine states have attended the program since it began in 2001.

The institute is intended for educators who work with students of all age levels, including pre-school teachers, K-12 educators and college professors.  The event is organized particularly with educators from West Michigan in mind, but regularly draws attendees from throughout the state and beyond.  This year’s institute is focusing on “Rethinking Technology, Learning, and the Brain.”

The program’s format itself has been designed in light of neuroscience research and emphasizes the guiding principle that learners must be actively involved.  The institute’s settings have been varied to include whole-group presentations, question-and-answer panels, small-group learning clubs and opportunities for informal dialogue.

Monday is focusing on system change in education.  The keynote speaker will be Marc Prensky, who will be discussing why and how technology should be impacting teaching.  Author of five books, including “Teaching Digital Natives” and “Brain Gain: Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom,” Prensky has taught at all levels, from elementary to college, and ran a charter school in East Harlem, New York.

Tuesday is examining current neuroscience developments regarding the foundations for learning.  The keynote speaker will be research psychologist Dr. Larry Rosen, who will discuss the psychology of technology.  Rosen is a professor and past chair of the psychology department at California State University, Dominguez Hills and is the author of five books, including “Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn.”

Wednesday is exploring neuroscience implications for classroom practice.  The keynote speaker will be Will Richardson, who was a public-school educator for 22 years and co-founded Modern Learner Media, which is dedicated to helping parents and policy makers develop new contexts for conversations around education.  His four books include “Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere.”

Additional presenters throughout the institute include Nikki Flinn and Ronna Alexander.  Flynn is an assistant professor of dance at Hope and will be integrating brain-stimulating movement into the institute as a model for the educators to experience and consider for their own classroom instruction.  Alexander is a graphic recorder who visually captures the content of all the presentations for the week on large-format charts which are then digitized and provided to all attendees.  This will be her eighth year providing a visual record of the institute.

The post-institute session on Thursday, June 26, will emphasize “Taking the Institute Home.”  The morning will include local educators discussing how the use of technology is changing their teaching and their students’ learning.  An afternoon work session will provide a framework for developing plans in which participants can integrate the week’s information into their own practice as educators and share it with others in their schools, districts or agencies.

More information about the institute may be obtained online at braininstitute.org