GENERAL SESSION – KEYNOTE SPEAKER

David Sousa, Ed.D.

David Sousa shared insights from the field of educational neuroscience, which combines psychology, neuroscience, and pedagogy to study the interaction between mind, brain, and education.  With technology influencing nearly every aspect of our lives, how has this changed the way children relate and learn?

Sousa shared that while our brains come prewired for language and sound, technology is rewiring our brains, and the younger the brain, the greater the chance for rewiring due to increased neuroplasticity.  However, your genes are not your destiny.  Determinant genes, like those for hair color, will be expressed no matter what (nature).  But expressive genes, like shyness and aggression, depend on environmental influences (nurture) to either suppress them or bring them out.  There is real interaction between genes, behavior, and environment, especially in young children.

Sousa noted that there are different windows of opportunity for different developmental processes, and shared this important graphic (below) which emphasizes the key role of parents in children’s language development.  Think about the implications of this graphic.  If parents cannot speak to their children in their fluent, native language from day one and instead are struggling to learn sign language one sign ahead of their children with brains that are far, far past their language-learning prime, what will that mean for a child’s language abilities (more on that here)?  The takeaway?  Speak to your child in the language you know, the language of your heart.  A home full of fluent models in any language takes the cake any day of the week.

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The greatest change in teaching and learning in recent years is TECHNOLOGY.  Technology affects students’ attention, memory, thinking, and social behavior.

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Sousa also discussed how technology is affecting social relationships.  In face to face interactions, our mirror neurons perceive how others are responding to our message and adapt according to their emotional interactions.  People who put out hurtful, hateful things online do not have to see the readers’ reactions and witness the pain they’ve caused, freeing them to be more vile and hostile without any direct or immediate consequence.  Though Dr. Sousa mentioned this in his discussion of children and technology, I know quite a few supposed “adults” who could benefit from this lesson as well!

 

All recaps are from my notes, memory, and/or presentation materials made available by the presenters. Any errors or omissions are my own.

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