Educators educating Educators

Sep 26

Moment of Learning

For additional information on this topic, refer to "Nobel Prize" in Long-Term Memory

So what happens at the moment of learning, of encoding?

To explain this phenomenon, John Medina, author of the best selling book Brain Rules, uses an example of a blender left running with the lid off. The information is sliced into discrete pieces as it enters the brain and is splattered all over the insides of our mind. Stated formally, signals from different sensory sources are registered in separate brain areas. The information is fragmented and redistributed the instant the information is encountered.

An example of this procedure is to examine the situation of a woman who suffered a stroke and lost her ability to use written vowels. As she wrote, there would be a place for every letter, but the vowels’ spots were left blank! This demonstrates that vowels and consonants are not stored in the same place, resulting in damage to her connective writing ability.

But it goes deeper. When she wrote the sentence, she perfectly preserved the place where the vowels should go. Logically, the place where a vowel should go is stored in a separate place from the vowel itself. Content is stored separately from its context/container.

How then do we keep track of everything? How do features that are registered separately become united to produce perceptions of continuity? It is called the binding problem.

To encode information is to covert data into a code. Creating codes always involves translating information from one form into another, usually for transmission purposes. From a physiological point of view, encoding is the conversion of external sources of energy into electrical patterns that the brain can understand. It organizes information for storage purposes and prepares information for further processing. Encoding involves transforming any outside stimulus into the electrical language of the brain, a form of energy transfer.

Encoding involves all of our senses, and their process centers are scattered throughout the brain. This is the heart of the blender. The brain recruits hundreds of different brain regions and coordinates the electrical activity of millions of neurons. This binding phenomenon keeps tabs on far-flung pieces of information and some researchers believe the hippocampus, the grand central station of memory, is one of the brain regions primarily involved in this process.


Welcome back to another school year. I hope your summer was relaxing and invigorating and you are looking forward to the approaching school year and the opportunity to stimulate and challenge your students’ minds.

This summer I was able to study Sir Ken Robinson, a British author, speaker and international advisor on education to governments, non-profits, and education organizations

I, like many people, find his writings and Ted Talks not only witty and inspiring but also thought-provoking and challenging. Much of his work deals with the diversity of intelligence, the power of imagination and creativity, and the importance of commitment to our own capabilities. He posits that the noticeable lack of them in our schools negatively affect students’ learning and teachers’ productivity and the absence of them is triggered by the demands of standardized testing.

I hope you find Sir Ken Robinson’s words inspiriting and challenging as I do and be mindful of them as you plan for the new year. Here is to a great 2017-2018 school year!