+ Book: 12 Brain Rules for Work, Home and School

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This is Bruce Rosenstein’s article in USA Today:
This is your brain at work.

John Medina’s new book, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, dissects the workings of the brain in plain English, explaining its role in the workplace and classroom. What could be a daunting subject becomes enjoyable through a writing style that makes words leap off the page.

Medina is a developmental molecular biologist, business consultant and director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University. He writes with infectious enthusiasm about how brains are wired, how they’ve evolved — not as much as you might think — and why we should care.

He claims that much of what we do while working, learning and teaching is misguided. He advocates further research and more scientific testing to develop more productive, humane workplaces and classrooms where students don’t just learn, but remember.

Brain Rules is a truly multimedia exercise, fitting in with Rule No. 9, sensory integration/stimulate more of the senses. Besides the printed book, there is an extensive website (www.brainrules.net) and a terrific DVD that is packaged with the book.

Readers of the just-tell-me-what-I-need-to-know school of thought may find some of the book rough going, given the wealth of material, and frequent references to scientific research. They can start with the one-page summaries after each chapter, supplemented by the website and DVD.

But if you persevere, you’ll be rewarded with a richer understanding of how you think, and how your colleagues, bosses, teachers and students think, as well. It has real implications, because many people take on multiple roles as workers, teachers and mentors.

Sample brain rules:

Rule No. 1: Exercise boosts brain power. Humans adapted during evolution by constantly moving (both to get food and to avoid predators). Medina says we think better in motion. He suggests that people might be more productive if they spent some of the working day (separate from the gym) on treadmills. Another provocative idea: “Board meetings might be conducted while people walked 2 miles per hour,” he writes.

Rule No. 4: We don’t pay attention to boring things. And No. 10: Vision trumps all other senses. Medina presents his own classroom lectures in 10-minute segments per topic, because, he says, people begin to tune out at that time length. He also advocates ditching text-heavy PowerPoints and building them around pictures, which hold more sway over the brain.

Rule No. 7: Sleep well, think well. You need adequate sleep, because that’s when the brain processes the day’s learning. He says further that people should be encouraged to nap at work during the midday hours that he dubs the “nap zone.”

Rule No. 8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way. People are routinely put under stress at work, yet studies have proved it to be counterproductive and costly. Medina writes: “Stress attacks the immune system, increasing employees’ chances of getting sick. Stress elevates blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and autoimmune diseases.” That increases absenteeism and health care and pension costs.

Rule No. 12: We are powerful and natural explorers. Learning and discovery were joyful when we were babies. Yet much of it may have been knocked out of us in grade school, in the quest for grades and generally conforming to the educational system. Medina says the “greatest Brain Rule” is the importance of curiosity.

That comes into play when he cites research that growing older needn’t mean giving up the mental exploration he likens to “an addictive drug.” He writes that “some regions of the adult brain stay as malleable as a baby’s brain, so we can grow new connections, strengthen existing connections, and even create new neurons, allowing all of us to be lifelong learners.”

source: this article was written by Bruce Rosenstein,  USA Today on 6/9/08 www.usatoday.com

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