First Day’s Distillation

Two opening keynote sessions and two afternoon sessions about the teen brain = one very full day that began at 6 this morning.

Sam Goldstein kicked off the conference with his engaging talk: Hardwired to Learn: Creating Schools that Nurture and Grow Developing Brains. He was funny, entertaining, and thought provoking while telling stories and sharing visuals that contained more images and less text. He began his talk with a disclaimer, reminding us all to “Question the band wagon!” and think twice about information that is presented. Quoting Daniel Boorstin:

The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.

The second keynote was given by Norman Doidge discussing his book, The Brain That Changes Itself. I had been especially looking forward to hearing him talk, having devoured his book with much appreciation. Well, live and learn. He is a far better author than presenter. Garr Reynolds would have been appalled to see Doidge’s presentation because Doidge read his slides which consisted, more often than not, of bulleted sentences!

Seventy-five minutes later, after lunch, I was raring to go for Frances Jensen and her session about The Paradox of Learning in the Teen Brain. This talk was the quick version of Teen Brain 101, a “short course for teens, their parents and teachers”, which Jensen designed with Harvard colleague David Urion. Their goal was to explain to teens and those who deal with them “fundamental insights that neuroscientists figured out years ago” but the information just never made it out to the public. Armed with complementary visuals (except for some of the charts) and a lively narrative, Jensen was stimulating and highly informative as she explained the science behind the functioning of the teen brain; she left me hungering for more.

Jeb Schenck wound up the day with his presentation on Teaching the Teen Brain: Connecting Memory, Emotions & Actions. Having heard Schenck’s name mentioned at various past confernces, and having read one of his books, I was eager to see him present. He did not disappoint, though I did not learn anything new, prompting me to double check that my choices for tomorrow’s morning sessions are based upon content and not speaker.

Topping the day was having meals with a delightful colleague who I had previously met by email as a result of her reading this blog. We’ve shared three meals together and have yet to run out of conversation! I also ran into an administrator with whom I had the pleasure of working for five years at the school prior to my current one. We spent a grand forty-five minutes catching up and pondering our futures. And now, I am so ready to fall sound asleep!

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