Friday, March 11, 2011

Brains in Libraries

John Medina, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University, was on our campus this week speaking to a number of groups about brain science and education. The challenge, he says, is that we know very little about how the brain works. What we do know is that the brain is suited for sovling problems in an outdoor setting while in motion: “If you want to design a setting that is the exact opposite of how the brain is designed to work,” he said, “you’d design a classroom.”

A number of Medina’s brain rules are releveant for thinking about the library as place. Consider rule number 4: “We don’t pay attention to boring things”: “What we pay attention to is profoundly influenced by memory. Our previous experience predicts where we should pay attention. Culture matters too. ...”

Or consider rule number 9: Stimulate more of the senses”: “Those in multisensory environments always do better than those in unisensory environments.”

Or rule number 12: “We are powerful and natural explorers”: “The desire to explore never leaves us despite the classrooms and cubicles we are stuffed into.”