Kyoto JALT x Brain SIG Event Report

Kyoto JALT and JALT Mind, Brain, and Education SIG held an event focused on the links between education and neuroscience findings. Here’s a short summary of the three interesting and practical presentations.

Stephen M. Ryan – Study Abroad and the Brain            

                 Beginning with a confession of his travel addiction, Stephen M. Ryan described how the brain is hard-wired for pleasurable experiences. The thrill of new experiences, such as through travel, rewards the brain by releasing dopamine. Study abroad can be powerful and transformative for students, yet they often do not process the experience beyond merely noticing superficialities. Mr. Ryan described an innovative and practical approach to the study abroad experience. While overseas, students look for differences between the location and their home country and take at least 100 pictures a day. Those pictures are both a detailed record of their trip and a springboard for deeper processing of the experience after they return to their home country.

Amanda Gillis-Furutaka – The Adolescent Brain: What do Parents and Teachers Need to Know?

                 “Enthusiastic,” “impulsive,” and “self-conscious” were just some of the terms that audience members used to describe teenagers during a brainstorming session. Following this, Ms. Gillis-Furutaka reviewed the previously-held beliefs about the adolescent brain, much of which has been refuted in the last twenty years. Attendees then formed groups and discussed insights on a variety of topics such as risk-taking, the influence of peers, and the benefits of exercise on the brain.

Alexandra Burke – Unlocking Potential. Dyslexia & Mainstream Language Classes

                 Dyslexia is an often-misunderstood issue despite the fact that it affects nearly 10-20% of the population. This presentation began with a consciousness-raising exercise where attendees struggled to read a short text, a skill that most people take for granted. Although most teachers have encountered students with the condition, doctors, educators, and parents are often reluctant to discuss this issue. As dyslexic children have a higher risk of dropping out of school, early diagnosis and treatment is strongly recommended. Finally, Ms. Burke showed a few teaching techniques that can have enormous benefits for dyslexic learners.