Understanding the learning brain in the world

How does the brain learn? Some answers to this question are briefly summarised in this presentation – which was made in the symposium “The Mind and the Machine: Brain, mind and digital learning environments” at ascilite 2015. (These ideas are elaborated in our Epistemic fluency book.)

Many of our insights draw on what we call the “slow” or “long” neurosciences – which study cultural and social evolution of the human brain and mind (evolutionary neuroscience, neuroanthropology, neuroarchaeology, neurolinguistics, etc.) – rather than just the traditional “fast” cognitive neuroscience that look primarily at microprocesses in the human brain. Overall, it is not hard to see that neurosciences, broadly taken, now offer a lot of useful insights for teaching, learning and educational design. The emerging field of (“fast”) educational neuroscience has the potential to solve some big educational issues, but the contributions of the “slow” neurosciences are likely to be even more profound and radical.

slow neurosciences

In a nutshell, neuro-scientific evidence challenges us to rethink cognitive theories of learning and link cognition with the situated action, within richly textured (digital and physical) environments. In short, “Brains, bodies and things play equal roles in the drama of human cultural becoming” (Malafouris, 2013, 2). In the field of educational technology, the “slow” neurosciences force us to move away from thinking about the Mind as the Machine to thinking about how Humans learn and think with the Machines and how the networks of humans and machines become a part of our epistemic environments (These ideas are elaborated in Chapter 5 and Chapter 20).

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