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OEB 2015 - Tomorrow's New World: Extending the Reach of Learning - Lia Commissar

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    (Lia Commissar) Hi! This morning
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    I'm going to talk about education and
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    both generally as a field
    that's developing
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    but also, the specific work
    that we've been doing in this field.
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    The Wellcome Trust -- OK --
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    the Wellcome Trust, for those of you
    who don't know,
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    is the second largest charitable
    foundation globally,
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    with the aim of improving health.
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    And it does that by funding lots of
    bio-medical research, but also
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    by funding work in the social science
    and humanities,
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    funding lots of education work,
    doing lots of engagement work
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    and also lots of policy work.
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    So I'm going to talk through a few things
    this morning.
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    Firstly, what has neuroscience got to do
    with education?
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    What impact does it have on education
    at the moment?
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    The work that we've been doing and then,
    thinking about the future.
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    So, what has neuroscience got to do
    with education?
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    Well, if education is about
    learning something,
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    be it knowledge or a skill,
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    and neuroscience is the study of
    the nervous system and the brain,
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    then they're pretty linked, in my opinion.
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    And it's not new to kind of talk about
    the brain, in relation to education.
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    People have been discussing this,
    critiquing it,
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    debating it for lots of years.
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    There is loads of research papers out there
    with titles such as
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    "A Bridge too far",
    "Its a Prime time to build a bridge",
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    "A two-way path is possible",
    "Booting the bridge from by thence". (check)
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    So lots of people have been talking
    about this bridge
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    but not many people have been building it.
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    And, this is kind of understandable
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    because its probably only really in
    the last 10 years that neuroscience is,
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    the understanding from neuroscience
    has evolved significantly
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    that we can start to think about how
    it may have implications for the classroom.
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    And this is really exciting
    and there is lots of potential
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    and its really understanding,
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    you can understand why teachers,
    why policy makers,
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    why technologists want to start applying
    some of these ideas to education.
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    But my word of warning that will go
    throughout this presentation
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    really is about waiting and doing
    the research and finding out
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    whether these things are actually going
    to be helpful and impactful
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    in the classroom.
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    And the other thing that I must say
    just before i go on
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    is that I am not saying in any way that
    neuroscience alone is the answer
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    and its going to solve all our problems
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    or can tell us everything
    about the classroom,:
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    that's a very complex ecosystem.
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    But, neuroscience is
    a kind of a new-ish field
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    where we can start using that
    alongside psychology,
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    alongside educational research
    and alongside teacher's knowledge
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    to build something really good
    for the future
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    and see if we can start improving
    learning in the class room. 2.51
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    So, what impact does neuroscience
    have on education?
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    So, we're at an education conference --
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    I thought I'd wait and see
    what you guys think.
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    So, I'm going to put a few statements
    up on the board, as any good teacher does.
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    And what I would like you to do is
    just simply raise your hand
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    if you agree with the statement,
    if you think it's true.
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    So: "We mostly only use 10% of our brain."
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    Hands up if you agree.
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    I will just show you this:
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    These are some stats, I'll show you
    the paper this comes from in a second.
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    This was a survey of teachers
    in five countries
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    and those are the percentages
    of the teachers that agree.
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    Hum -- it's not really working, but
    I can tell you that this is not true
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    -- uh, there we go -- even sat there now,
    you might think you're not doing very much
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    but your brain is still in control
    of your breathing,
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    in control of your heart rate, keeping you
    standing up, sitting upright,
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    perhaps paying attention, maybe not,
    maybe mind-wandering
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    but it's all using your brain,
    all parts of your brain.
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    So that's one of these myths.
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    Second one: "Individuals lean better
    when they receive information
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    "in their preferred learning style."
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    So visually, by seeing,
    auditory, by hearing,
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    or kinesthetically, by doing things.
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    Hands up if you agree with that statement.
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    You can see, across the board, teachers
    in lots of countries agree with this.
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    Yes. So (she laughs)
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    It is true that people have a preference.
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    You might prefer to learn something
    in a particular way,
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    you might feel that you are
    a visual learner,
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    and that you learn better in that,
    by using stuff visually:
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    you do have a preference; but researches
    show that you don't learn any better
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    if you are showing the material
    in that particular way, believe it or not.
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    One last one:
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    "Differences in hemispheric dominance,
    left or right brain, can help to explain
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    "individual differences amongst learners."
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    Hands up if you agree.
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    We might start to see a pattern,
    I don't know.
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    So, here is some stats.
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    Really high in the UK.
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    Again, it's not true.
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    If you hear things about integrating
    the right or left brain,
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    or if you hear things about
    one side of your brain is the logical side
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    and the other side is more mathsy --
    sorry, creative, it's just not true.
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    And I'm going to skip the next one.
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    ["Regular drinking of caffeinated drinks
    reduces alertness."]
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    But this one is true.
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    OK, I can tell you a little more about that.
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    If you want to see more
    about these neuromyths,
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    This is a really good paper written by
    Paul Howard Jones last year.
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    It got a lot of interest on social media
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    and it goes through lots of what
    these common neuromyths are.
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    So, neuromyths:
    Where do they come from?
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    Are they a problem?
    And what to do about them?
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    So, generally they often come from
    some kind of science
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    that's been over- or misinterpreted,
    and they tend to stick around (excuse me)
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    because they are easy to understand or
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    easy to kind of implement
    in the classroom.
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    Are they a problem?
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    Well, if you think you only use
    10% of your brain, is that a problem?
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    Possibly not, it's not accurate,
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    but when I first started teaching
    about nine years ago,
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    and this was common in lots of schools
    across the UK,
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    I'm not sure about in other countries,
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    students were asked to fill
    a questionnaire about how they learned,
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    and did they like learning in this way.
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    And teachers were given a spreadsheet
    with students
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    and which were their preferred
    learning styles.
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    And teachers were encouraged to make sure
    that they were providing
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    information for those students
    in that particular way.
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    And I'd say that is a bit of a problem,
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    because teachers were potentially
    wasting time
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    or feeling that they should be doing
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    that was not actually benefiting
    the students.
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    A positive outcome was that lessons
    became more diverse,
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    ............... (check) about a range of
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    but at the same time, students would say
    things like:
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    "Miss, I'm not doing this activity
    because I'm a kinesthetic learner."
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    And so students were themselves
    limiting themselves
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    and not getting the benefit of learning
    in multiple modalities,
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    which is the way you learn best,
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    by using different ways of learning
    the same information. 7:19
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    So, what to do about them?
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    Well, I might come on to that a bit later
    in what we're going to do.
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    So, the research is carrying on, but
    lots of research in this area
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    is still at the stage of it's
    about cells in a Petri dish
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    It might be about finding out about
    what's going on in animals,
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    or very small-scale trials of humans,
    but maybe in a lab.
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    Not much is going on in the classroom.
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    And so we set p this initiative,
    Education Neuroscience Initiative
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    with the Education Endowment Foundation,
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    who are the What Works Centre of
    Education in the UK.
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    And we did it for two reasons:
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    we wanted to build the evidence of
    what works in education,
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    informed by neuroscience,
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    and we also wanted to help support
    teachers and general educators
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    with what we do and don't know. (check)
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    So, we firstly launched a funding round,
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    to get people to apply for money
    to do research in the space,
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    and all the projects had to have some
    evidence that they will -- that they work,
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    some pilot data.
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    But they also had to be scalable
    and affordable,
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    so that if we find that
    these things worked,
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    that they could be rolled out,
    that they could lead to policy changes,
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    that they could be available to everybody.
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    And there is particular emphasis as well
    around disadvantaged students.
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    We want to do something
    that would benefit all,
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    and try and close the socioeconomic gap.
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    And all of our projects are also paired
    with an independent evaluator.
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    So, you have your project team
    and you also have an evaluation team.
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    And that evaluation team helps to shape
    the methodology that's used,
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    make sure it's robust, educationally.
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    They also collect some of the first data
    and they also report on that data first.
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    So there is no chance for the project team
    to maybe overstate claims
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    about what they found.
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    So we funded these projects
    and these are all taking place
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    in around 50 to 100 schools,
    each in the UK.
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    I won't talk about all of them,
    but I'll just whiz through a couple.
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    Fit to Study is looking at great research
    around how more vigorous activity
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    can influence learning,
    short- and long-term.
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    We know this from lots of research
    in animals and from small-group studies,
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    but nobody has done anything in the UK
    on this scale.
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    And so we're looking at changing
    what happens in P.E. lessons,
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    and then measuring the short- and
    long-term outcomes of those students.
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    Teen Sleep has had a certain media coverage.
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    And that's looking at we know,
    researchers know,
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    neuroscientists will tell you,
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    we know that teens have
    a different sleep-wake cycle,
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    their circadian rhythm is altered
    by a couple of hours.
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    So they don't feel tired in the evenings,
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    it's really hard to get them up
    in the morning,
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    they are not fit and ready
    to start learning early in the morning.
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    So we're studying, at a late school start
    time against a sleep education program,
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    where we just teach them about
    the importance of their sleep,
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    how to get good sleep, about
    using technology just before bed
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    and about how that might affect
    their sleep -- not in a positive way --
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    and looking again
    at their academic outcomes. 10:25
OEB 2015 - Tomorrow's New World: Extending the Reach of Learning - Lia Commissar

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