Guest post by Spring CUE Keynote Speaker Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa

I grew up in Berkeley, California in the 1960s. I was a love child. My parents eloped in the first year of college and as a result, it took my mother 10 years to graduate, having my two sisters very close behind me. My father decided to drop out of his ROTC nuclear physicist scholarship program to become a public-school math teacher. He is the best model of “human touch” in education I could have ever had. He ran an “F club” for failing students and built up their self-confidence as learners. He made rival gang members solve problems together. His students loved him. My mother changed majors from biology to linguistics. I remember accompanying her as she interviewed random people on the streets about Ebonics. I watched her listen to the tapes and analyze the different speech patterns between people of different backgrounds and learned to code from her. People liked talking with her. She is the best example of academic rigor and detail-orientation I could have ever had.

In 2017, the OECD, the organization that runs the international PISA exams and studies international comparative data on education, suggested that modern teacher education should include more information from technology and about the neurosciences. I was on that expert panel. In the US, this meant that the Deans For Impact, a consortium of teacher colleges, began to revamp teacher education programs around the learning sciences. While this helps new teachers in formation, it does little to support the teachers who are already in our classrooms. To modernize the teaching and learning dynamic by understanding the brain better, I realized I had to return to my roots. My father’s human touch, my mother’s scientific rigor.

We know that excellent teachers have shared similar characteristics throughout history, from Socrates’ time to our own. A deep caring for students, knowledge about pedagogy, and a clear understanding of content have always been important. Today, added to this list of teacher requirements are a better understanding of how the brain learns and how an appropriate use of technology can be leveraged to enhance learning outcomes. Bringing the brain and technology into the classroom shouldn’t scare us, it should excite us. We have reached a point in history where we can finally have “a scientifically substantiated art of teaching.” This is what I hope to share while at the Spring CUE 2020 conference.

Spring CUE Keynote Address

“The Scientifically Substantiated Art of Teaching”

This keynote will look at how new knowledge in the Learning Sciences — including Mind, Brain, Health and Education — is changing the face of learning landscapes. Over the past 12 years, there has been an explosion of new research tracking teaching and learning experiences that influence learning outcomes, both good and bad. We will touch on some of the neuromyths that still plague teaching practices and which do harm to student potential as well as celebrate the handful of evidence-based interventions that come from the lab to the classroom. We will share 10 important highlights from the learning sciences that all teachers should know, including how EdTech can complement the important work of caring teachers to improve more individualized connections and learning.

Spring CUE Session

“Neuromyths: False Beliefs About the Brain and How They Do Harm in Our Classrooms”: All humans have unconscious biases.

The unconscious biases that teachers hold change their interactions with students through “social contagion,” which, in turn, changes learning outcomes. Most teachers, however, are unaware of their own biases and do not realize how their belief systems impact student learning outcomes. This workshop with share research about more than 70 neuromyths that still plague our belief systems as teachers and explain how and why they do harm as well as explore ways we can rid ourselves of them. Is it true that some people are more “right-brained” and others are “left-brained”? That we use only 10% of our brains? That men and women have different potentials based on brain differences? That we can multi-task? That people have different learning styles, and that by teaching towards them, we improve learning outcomes? Come with your own doubts about the brain and how it works and help dispel myths that impact student learning outcomes.

About Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa

Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa has taught kindergarten through university and works with schools, universities, governments, and non-governmental organizations in over forty countries around the world.

She is the former director of the Institute for Teaching and Learning (IDEA) and director of online learning at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and founding dean of education at the American University in Quito (Universidad de las Americas). Her office seeks to improve the quality of education through research, teacher training, and student support. Her current research focuses on the integration of mind, brain, and education science into teachers’ daily practice and professional development; changes in preschool math and pre-literacy skills based on neuroconstructivism; multilingualism; and the leveraging of technology to enhance learning outcomes.

You can hear more from Tracey on Phi Delta Kappan’s podcast:

Read Tracey’s recently published article: The Learning Sciences Framework for Educational Leadership.

Visit her website: Connections: The Learning Sciences Platform

Spring CUE will be in Palm Springs once again for 2020, hosting over 5000 education-minded and EdTech loving attendees at the longest-running, largest annual event on the West Coast. There are over 42 years of CUE institutional knowledge shared at Spring CUE each year – join us this year to change how you teach:


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