About

brainstorm-v1

Neurons Firing is the graduate course I’d love to take if it existed as a program and was local to where I live. Since 1982 I have been teaching computer classes and facilitating the use of technology in schools. My interests revolve around the brain, graphic design, organizing and creating professional development for faculty, and changing education to make it more relevant, interesting and experiential for all involved.

I am also a project driven person so what better project than to use this blog to synthesize my learning. Feel free to jump in with your thoughts and join the conversation!

My avatar, “Brainstorm“, was created by my husband in SketchUp and he has a stash of amazing models at the SketchUp Warehouse. We had a pleasant surprise on discovering that his Abstract Art collection is among the Featured Collections at the Warehouse! (As of June 2007, some of my husband’s SketchUp art is now available for purchase online.)

Cheers,
Laurie

l-on-boat.jpg

50 thoughts on “About

  1. ~ T ~

    Hi Laurie,

    This is Tavus. We have met through our blogs and later in Brussels in 2011 if you remember. I would love to reconnect but I have lost your email address. If you email me, I would love to catch up!

    Cheers,

    T

  2. Pingback: Two Blogs: About the brain and learning | jakemstapleton

  3. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Maggie,

    Thanks for your feedback! What do you teach?

    Perhaps this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5cab4hgmoE will be of use, particularly between 2 and 2.5 minutes. In any case, there are a large number of videos listed on the side of this one, and while I have not explored them, there may likely be some of use.

    Cheers,
    Laurie

  4. Maggie Hayes

    I am an SLP and I became fascinated by the brain when I was in graduate school … and my Mom’s brain was starting to deteriorate. I love studying about the brain and your website is fabulous. I would like to educate my students about the brain and am looking for a website or a video I can download that shows how our neurons make more and more connections when we learn something new … or add new information to old information. I have pictures and videos of neurons but nothing that shows the process of making connections and new growth … and more growth.

    It can be drawings but interactive would be lovely … if you know of any leads, I would love and appreciate it. Again, love your website – two of my brothers are chiropracters and I’m going to send them your blog. Thanks so much, Maggie H

  5. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Rounder,
    Hmm, I am guessing that there will likely be a change in what the brain scan shows, though am not sure what those changes will be. Addiction definitely impacts neurotransmitters; check out this article from the University of Texas on Understanding Addiction: http://www.utexas.edu/research/asrec/dopamine.html

    If you would be willing to share what you find out, I would be interested in hearing about your brain scan.

    Wish I had a science background so could be of more assistance!
    Cheers,
    Laurie

  6. Rounder Sandlin

    Iam a recovering addict i have been clean for 7 years befor i had goten clean i had a brain scan .going to have another in a few months do think it will show a diffrent pattern in the gray matter of my brain.I would like to hear you oppion.
    THANK YOU

  7. synapsesensations Post author

    Hello,

    My blog is not a medical blog, and the posts I’ve written about dementia and Alzheimer’s have been spurred by my Dad, who had Alzheimer’s. I haven’t written about specific forms of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

    With that said, I have written recent posts about approaches to helping people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s, and that information would likely be useful to anyone dealing with any form of either disease.

    Hope that helps!
    Regards,
    Laurie

  8. Questions Galore

    Would this site be appropriate for those dealing w/ other types of dementia i.e. fronto-temporal disease?

  9. Ann Farris

    Hi:

    Your site came up on Google Alert this week. I am find it interesting that you are just exploring ideas – much like I do. Beause I am both dyslexic and hyperlexic, have overcome the negative side of both – mostly, I am always intrigued by people who think and act outside the box. Seems that you do.

    I am also interested that you are so involved with your school. Do they pay attention to new ideas around dyslexia/hyperlexia?
    I do explain my approach to success on my site: http://www.dyslexiadiscovery.com particularly my article which is free for the taking.

    All the best

  10. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Darci,

    My apologies, as it looks like I did not respond to your comment. I am not familiar with Jane Nelsen or Positive Discipline, though I have bookmarked the site (http://www.positivediscipline.com/index.html) and will spend some time checking it out. On the surface, it reminds me of Responsive Classroom (http://www.responsiveclassroom.org/index.html), which is in practice at the lower school (grades pre-K through 4) where I teach.

    I am all in favor of including kids in the process of crafting an environment (rules of decorum, physical space, curriculum) in which they participate. From what I have seen of the Responsive Classroom in our lower school, the program aims for a calmer learning environment. However, I am also seeing some downsides, among them that the natural exuberance of children seems to be submerged, and when the children transition to 5th grade and the start of middle school, they seem less well equipped to manage their growing independence than their precursors who did not “grow up” with Responsive Classroom.

    As to where to look for info on emotive responses to neural learning, I point you in the direction of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang (http://rossier.usc.edu/faculty/mary_helen_immordinoyang.html), whose writings might be of help, or she might be able to point you to additional resources.

    All the best,
    Laurie

  11. Pingback: » Following the heard Alan Coady’s Musical Blog

  12. Pingback: » Sir Ken Robinson interviewed by Riz Khan Alan Coady’s Musical Blog

  13. HavenMaven

    Hi Laurie,

    I’m curious to know what you might think of Positive Discipline as it is taught by Jane Nelson. If you aren’t aware, PD is a classroom behavior management technique that utilizes student- led rule and consequence making as opposed to teacher-led. It supposedly creates a calmer, more recpetive learning environment.

    Also, do you have input on where to look for info on emotive responses to neural learning? I’m looking to explore the emotional, as well as the physical, “why” of learning.

    Thanks for any help.
    Darci

  14. Jennifer

    Hi Laurie,
    How are you? Started on that Ph.D. yet? Are you headed to Cambridge next week? I am unable to go, but REALLY want to! If you go, be sure to write about what you learn. Hope all is well!

  15. Pierre Grill

    Any possible relation with distant planets minute gravitational pull with even more minute energy involved in developing neurons of a newborn baby?
    It would help making sense out of astrology!
    From a logic seeker…

  16. Kara

    Hi Laurie,

    Thank you for mentioning Garr Reynolds in your blogroll.

    I work for Peachpit Press and thought you and your readers might be interested in knowing that he just released his first online streaming video, Presentation Zen: The Video, where he expands on the ideas presented in his book and blog. More info can be found here:

    http://tr.im/lFvO

  17. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Eileen,
    Thank you for your supportive comment!
    Cheers,
    Laurie

  18. Eieen M. Sax

    Hi, Laurie,

    I am fascinated re: your blog on “Neurons Firing.” But even more so on Arrowsmith and learning. This, to me, is fascinating. Would there were more schools in the USA that incorporated this manner of learing into their programs.

    Best of Luck to you on the above. Keep up the great work that you are doing. You are a source of information for us all.

    Many thanks, from Eileen

  19. synapsesensations Post author

    Thanks for the comment on my blog, and nice to “meet” you! I am enjoying browsing your blog entries and plan on returning over the weekend to read more of your posts. Am interested in learning more about where you teach. My older son spent 5 weeks this past summer traveling around Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.

    Regards,
    Laurie

  20. susip

    I am of talking about the brain, but as time is a limit for me, I am hoping to learn from following you! Thanks and cheers…Susip in Bangkok, Thailand. Your blog shall be an inspiration for conversations per colleagues…when we have time!

  21. Lisa

    Hi Laurie,

    I stumbled onto your wonderful blog a few months back and noticed your references to Bob Greenleaf. I know you have mentioned the conferences Bob hosts, which now includes institutes in New Mexico, Connecticut, Germany and Canada, and I’m wondering if you would consider posting links for the 2009 institutes on your site? I am the coordinator for the NM event at Albuquerque Academy. The institutes offer incredible local opportunities to see nationally recognized speakers at extremely reasonable rates. They might be something your readers would be interested in knowing about. All the sites can be referenced from Bob’s website.

    Thank you.
    Lisa Rhodes,

  22. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Jen,

    You’ve got me wondering if it’s possible to visit a school where the Arrowsmith program is in place. I may wind up contacting one of the NY schools.

    I guest blog at SharpBrains once a month, usually within the first week or two of the month. I write more often at Neurons Firing – there are so many topics of interest that I want to explore or at least comment on!

    Best,
    Laurie

  23. Jen

    Hi Laurie,

    I didn’t realize that you had written about Barbara already – thanks for the link! You’re right, the Arrowsmith program is being introduced in more schools every year. It’s really exciting but we need to take care that the program is implemented properly in the schools as it quite a multi-faceted program.

    I’ll be looking out for your next post – will it be on Sharpbrains?

    Regards,
    Jen

  24. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Jen,

    Thanks for your comment! I had debated about including Barbara Arrowsmith and then decided to confine myself to the stories involving neuroscientists. From what I’ve read in Doidge’s book, as well as from my earlier explorations of the Arrowsmith site, your assessment is right on target. I recently returned to the site, in response to another reader’s comment, to point out the number of schools in the U.S. that are part of the Arrowsmith network, (http://www.arrowsmithschool.org/schools.htm), and here is a link to a post I wrote about Arrowsmith back in January of this year:
    (http://neurons.wordpress.com/2008/01/13/plasticity-and-education-barbara-arrowsmith/)

    I am even more intrigued by the company where you work, Eaton Brain Improvement, which I just checked out, (http://eatonbrainimprovement.com/), and will include it in an upcoming post (sometime in the next month or so) about brain-fitness type programs for adults.

    Regards,
    Laurie

  25. Jen

    Hi Laurie,

    Just read your review of The Brain That Changes Itself on the Sharpbrains blog. I know you didn’t go over all the points in the book but I am surprised that you didn’t mention Barbara Arrowsmith and her unique program for people with learning disabilities. If you go to http://www.arrowsmithschool.org you’ll find stories on how people of different ages overcame their learning challenges through cognitive remediation. I’m interested in your thoughts :)

    Great blog, btw!

    Regards,
    Jen

  26. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Dave,
    Many thanks for letting me know about Daniel Levitin’s book and web site. I am eager to read his book (as well as John Medina’s, which I’ve just ordered), especially after reading your comments above. (the comments to which I refer are the ones on Dave’s blog post, referenced in his comment above)

    Later this weekend I’ll return here to read some more of your posts!
    Regards,
    Laurie

  27. cousinagam

    Laurie:

    I noticed above you were interested in how the brain processes music. Have you read Daniel Levitin’s engaging, informative This is Your Brain on Music? Levitin started off in the music business but ended up with a PhD and teaches at McGill U. in Montreal (his page there).

    A post I wrote based on one short section of his book is one of the most popular on my blog: “…10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything.”

    That doesn’t mean “don’t bother if you don’t have 10,000 hours,” of course — but for me it made a useful distinction between competence and expertise.

  28. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Jack,

    Thanks for your supportive comment! I enjoyed checking out your site and blog, and left a comment on your Timmothy Ferriss post. I look forward to reading more about BlogWorld Expo.

    I checked with my husband, and by all means please feel free to re-post his artwork with a credit and include a link back to the lulu purchase site. Thanks! He has created hundreds of SketchUps, many of architecture (real and fanciful) and many of abstract art.

    Regards,
    Laurie

  29. Jack Hadley

    Thanks, Laurie, for your insights. I have been following your posts and applying them to my passion–that is, using visual thinking and clarity to solve business challenges. Your perspective, from an educator’s viewpoint is very helpful to me.

    On another note, is it permissible to re-post your husband’s artwork in my blog if I give credit and include a live link back to your purchase site? I think the work is really great, and it is very engaging.

    Thanks. Please let me know.

  30. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Mark,

    Apologies for taking awhile to reply to your email. I teach and have been very busy with the first few weeks of school. As I am in the computer department, in addition to my regular responsibilities, each September I spend a lot of time helping out with tech support issues that always arise after a summer of relative quiet!

    I have not read Medina’s book, Brain Rules, but have read reviews by folks I respect and they have given it a lot of positive commentary. I have read Zull’s book and found it to be one of the first books to mesh brain biology with its impact on the teaching and learning process in a way that was quite accessible.

    If you are trying to improve your focus and listening skills, check out sharpbrains.com for available programs and commentary about those programs. In addition, you might check out PositScience (http://www.positscience.com/) and also the web site of Elkhonon Goldberg, who is also involved with sharpbrains (http://www.elkhonongoldberg.com/). (Full disclosure, I guest blog at sharpbrains.)

    I recently received an email from a reader, Alan Coady, who is a musician. His blog (http://edubuzz.org/blogs/alancoady/) might have some information that would be useful for exploring more about rhythm and even possibly point you towards resources to help with distinguishing sounds in French.

    I hope the above proves useful, and will keep my eyes open for other resources that might be helpful.

    Regards,
    Laurie

  31. Mark Levison

    Laurie – thanks for taking the time to reply. I did try asking Norman a few questions via his contact form – but no go. Then I found your blog. So I’m still interested in finding a place to ask questions. In addition what books would you recommend next for someone who is interested making use of their plasticity? I can probably handle one or two at this stage.

    I’m trying to improve:
    – Focus
    – Listening skills
    – My ability to distinguish sounds in French
    – Rhythm
    ….

    The two books that seemed to hold some promise are:
    Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving – John Medina- his presentation (a youtube video) was very funny.
    The Art of Changing the Brain: … – James Zull

    Are they any other books you can recommend? Any newsgroups? Mailing lists?

  32. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for your support and for the links! I enjoyed checking out your site and reading portions of your blog. First time (I know of) that a professional musician has found my blog interesting :-)

    If you ever come across articles relating to how the brain processes music, or know of any resources, and have the time to please forward them, I’d be a welcome reader with thanks.

    Regards,
    Laurie

  33. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your comment. Enjoyed checking out your blog, particularly as I’m a computer teacher.

    http://www.SharpBrains.com might be a good place for information about various brain fitness programs. To quote their description, they are “a market research & advisory company with a mission to provide companies, organizations and individuals with high-quality, research-based, information and guidance to navigate the cognitive health and brain fitness market.” Full disclosure, since August I have been a guest educator blogger twice a month.

    As for asking questions about Norman Doidge’s ideas, there is a contact form (http://www.normandoidge.com/contact/) on his site, and it appears he is interested in responses to his book. That might be a good first place to ask your questions.

    I hope these prove useful!
    Regards,
    Laurie

  34. Mark Levison

    I found your blog as I google Norman Doidge’s latest book.

    I’m looking for a place to ask questions about the ideas that he presented.

    I’m also looking for a somewhere that evaluates the various brain fitness programs out there.

    Do you have any places to recommend?

    Cheers
    Mark Levison

  35. Pingback: » From SharpBrains: Neurogenesis and Brain Plasiticity

  36. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Tina,

    Thanks for your comments! Am glad that the information is proving useful.

    I agree with you about the impact of positive emotional involvement. What do you teach?

    Regards,
    Laurie

  37. Tina Ryan

    Thanks for e-mail. I taught Remedial Reading. The students were highly frustrated and discouraged by their lack of reading ability and not initially confident about learning. Many children’s literacy problems can be attributed to undetected problems with vision. A common expression amongst such children is: “I always though words were just supposed to be blury”. They cannot believe the differance their glasses make.

    My methods revolved around games which the children would go on a word hunt in a given text and they had to find as many incidences of a particular word. It was just fun then….this is important for all children’s education.

  38. Tina Ryan

    In my own experience I’ve found that if you can get students to experience some sort of positive emotional involvement in the subject matter then learning is facilitated. “Fear” of failing exams is a motivator but not a very positive one….and some students don’t care anyway. Students are better learners when highly motivated by personal desires etc.

  39. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Mary-Dean,

    Many thanks for your comment. Several years ago I investigated participating in a Schools Attuned program and would have registered but the timing was not convenient. Since then, my interests have evolved more towards teenage and adult learning. I am considering applying to grad school for a program in Learning & Teaching (geared to adult learning and professional development).

    It’s quite likely that the talks I’ve heard Dr Levine give, and reading A Mind at a Time, helped plant the seed for my interest in the brain and learning. In addition, the middle school learning specialist at my school is a proponent of Dr Levine’s approach, and I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with her.

    Ah, a podcast with Mel and Ken would be WONDERFUL!

    Regards,
    Laurie

  40. Mary Dean Barringer

    Laurie, I love your thinking about Dr. Levine and Sir Ken Robinson. In fact, our staff is wanting to do a podcast with the two of them. Maybe it will happen.

    Have you participated in any of the All Kinds of Minds programs–Schools Attuned, or other offerings? Your kind of insight is exactly the kind of dialogue we’d like on our blogs as well.

    Stay in touch with us.

    Mary-Dean Barringer, CEO All Kinds of Minds

  41. Dominic Bernardi

    Hi Laurie,

    Love you site, it doesn’t really look like a blog to me – way to much of the teacher and way too less of ‘marcia, marcia, marcia’ middle child stuff !

    However, I am in the middle of an assignment for my Brain & Behaviour psych course as part of an arts degree at Sydney Uni and I need to know how you (and the info presented) would prefer to be cited. Usually I put “Doe 2008 cited in…”, but I can’t seem to find your surname on this site, and I haven’t quite figured out how to incorporate your work just yet (I don’t know if APA has got blog cititation sorted yet), but at the least I will need your surname. If you prefer not broadcast that over the net, you can send it to my private email adress- calve445@tpg.com.au or my uni email, dber9185@mail.usyd.edu.au.

    Oh, the assigment is on the diffs in teen and adult brains – phyisiology and behaviour.

    Thankyou
    Dominic Bernardi.

    PS. The brain and learning is fascinating stuff, prob because as a ‘mature age student’ – it’s such a challenge !

  42. synapsesensations Post author

    Hi Pamela,

    Thanks for your comment! I am glad my posts have been helpful.

    I am eager to hear more about your thesis. Are you a teacher? Grad student? Both :-) When you mention “aesthetic imagination” it makes me think of adults, as well.

    Regards,
    Laurie

  43. Pamela Smyth

    Hello. About five hours ago I googled ‘imagination’ to search quickly for anything Ken Robinson may have said recently about it. I found your site, Thank you so much. It is so clear, the links are so interesting, thought provoking and pertinent, and your commentaries have taken me in, along and out again like a conversational quest with a friend. Yes I did find Ken but I’ve listened to others too and found I’m still thirsty. My thesis is on creativity in children’s reading and writing, but I have realised that it is more about aesthetic imagination.

  44. synapsesensations Post author

    Part of my response to Jennifer:

    Ah, I wish my response could be more helpful to you. My school has a grant process whereby faculty may apply for funding for professional development opportunities. I applied for funding for the entire conference plus hotel for three nights, and the grant was funded. With that said, I believe there are ways to get financial assistance through the Conference folks. For instance, if you volunteer to help out at a presentation then you can get some funding towards your attendance. Helping out could consist of handing out materials for the speaker or similar activities.

    There is a Grant Funding link on the site (http://www.edupr.com/grantsapril.html) but at present there is no info posted. You might want to try emailing or phoning someone for further information (http://www.edupr.com/contact.html). Alternatively, if you cannot fund the entire conference, perhaps attending some of the pre-conference workshops will suffice for this time round. I have done that in the past and found them quite useful.

  45. Jennifer

    Hi Laurie,
    I noticed that you are getting a grant to attend the Learning and the Brain Conference in April 2008. How did you get your grant and from where? I would love to attend, but cannot afford to go without assistance. Any ideas? By the way, I am a second-grade teacher and graduate student (graduating in May 2008).

    Thanks!
    Jennifer

  46. synapsesensations Post author

    Hello and thank you for the heads up. I’ve spent lots of time visiting the Harvard Graduate School of Education site to check out their Learning and Teaching program, as well as other programs, but have not visited MIT. Just spent some time on their site this morning and see why you suggested it. Am looking forward to checking it out more fully later today.

    In addition, I’ll check to see if they have any podcasts available.

    Again, thanks!

  47. Amy

    I hope you are aware of the wealth of neuroscience course content on the MIT site. I don’t have the URL on me, but I’m sure you could find it by going to the home page.

  48. Steve Rosenbaum

    I’m looking for contributors to my blog. Maybe you’d be interested. It’s called learningatlightspeed.wordpress.com.

    I’m the author of the book Learning Paths which is about how to reduce time to proficiency. Almost all of the experience is in a business setting but it can apply elsewhere. My email is learningpaths@gmail.com

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