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Brain Behavior Institute 2008 - Session 2



Being a Scientist/Explorer/Creator (Theory):
Living (and Learning/Teaching) in Virtuality


  • Science is a tool to help one become better at thinking for oneself, at using observations to make one's own stories that motivate new observations that motivate new stories that one shares with others.
  • Science education should help people become better at thinking for themselves at ongoing, shared, exploration and creation
  • Scientific statments are "stories", not "reality", since there are multiple interpretations of a given set of observations
  • Working with summaries of thousands of year of observations without killing inquiry (see also Education: Between Two Cultures)
  • "Good" scientific stories (Herbert the blue giraffe?)
    • summarize lots of observations
    • are "useful"
    • motivate new observations/stories

Virtuality: the space between the real and the virtual

  • Observations are stories too
  • There are lots of useful things to learn from the virtual, developing the same skills one would otherwise as well as reaching new understandings
  • Students (and teachers) need to develop increased sophistication in working between the real and the virtual ... in virtuality

Play with The Game of Life, or work through Langton's Ant. Put your thoughts about it in the on-line forum below. Could you use an exhibit like these, or ideas from them, in your class? How would you need to present it? How does it help (or not help) you in thinking about science and science education? How might it help (or not help) your students? Try out and write about another of Serendip's interactive experiences, and /or locate some other useful interactive experiences on the web.

In preparation for tomorrow, write three sentences or less on what questions you currently have about the brain.


Angela Bryant's picture

Lagston's Ant

I thought that Lagston's ant was very interesting. I could use this in my classroom for observation. I would have my students predict what the ant is going to do before I would show them the outcome. I would compare the ant to a Algebra problem so they colud always know that though observation there is always a outcome.I would explain to my students that they could not predict a answer for an Algebra Problem unless they know the formula two the problem. Once they know the formula they could find the output through the steps from the formula.

Ayotola Oronti's picture

Animated, interactive lessons

1. The following is a good site for interactive lessons for children. It is great for intermediate students:


2. This science site is ideal for middle school students or advanced students at the intermediate level:

cynthia's picture

brain and behavior

Please give an explanation of neurotransmitters and how it relates to learning.

Ayotola Oronti's picture

Some Brain Questions????

1. Why is it that behavior does not change based on a distraction or obstruction in the way of the regular pattern?

2. Is it possible to change behavior based on attempting to change the brain?

3.. Can the contents of the brain ever change?


Babtunde A Oronti's picture

Brain questions..............

If we use only a small fraction of our brain capacity, what happens to the rest? Is it that we don't really need it or it's just there to give room for future evolutionary development in the human race?


What has the size got to do with intelligence? In short, if you have a large brain size, does it correlate to high level IQ?

Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Brain Need to Knows

What I need to know about the brain is why can't it regenerate itself? How can we use the full potential of it? How does mind over matter work?
joycetheriot's picture

Great Optical Illusions

Excellent site for illusions!


Look up or downLook up or down


joycetheriot's picture

For Cynthia

For Cynthia

Websites for early elementary students




_____________________________________________________Govt Website listGovt Website list headPotato head  

Find out all about the human body with Wendell the Worm, Yucky's Ace Reporter. Dora will learn all about the gross and cool stuff humans' bodies create…          
ptong's picture

Changing the Brain

As we grow older, our brains become less maliable in the sense that it is harder to absorb information. I would like to know more about the physiological changes in the brain as a student progresses from K-12 and how learning and absorbing information alters.
bronstein's picture

Brain question

The only question I have prior to the discussion tomorrow (which I expect will generate lots of questions) is, What is currently going on with the clinical trial in progress in which researchers (inventors) have hard wired a processor onto a man's brain." It was to activate and run an external device, I think. Then I heard something about the trial running into trouble. Perhaps our brains aren't yet ready to be "cyborged."
jrlewis's picture

I would like to know more

I would like to know more about this trial, before I comment further. Googled it and didn't get anything. Can you please put up a link to an article or story? Thanks.
jrlewis's picture

I am interested in memory.

I am interested in memory. How are our memories meaningful? Why do we memorize material, evolutionary significance? Conversley, why do we forget, physical or mental trauma?
Sage Hunter's picture

brain question

I do not have an extensive understanding of how the brain works or very much background knowledge in the field of neuroscience. I am interested in nutrition and how diet effects brain function. I feel that there is a strong correlation between what students are eating and how they function in school. I am interested in finding out how nutrient deficiency affects our students ability to learn.
cisrael's picture

Brain Questions

What does 'intelligence' look like in the brain; i.e what is going on in the brain when we think, which parts are activated during 'thinking'? What makes someone smart? a genius? creative? Can we help kids to be smarter by understanding how the brain process information?
Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Interactive Games

I found an interesting game that will help your students play and draw conclusions about the brain. Even set up research proposals with funding.

Langton's Ant was a good experience into the world that we as teachers try to change people's behavior but don't try to change the environment they learn in. We need to look at the environment that our children, our world learns in.
Sage Hunter's picture


Here are some websites to check out... mostly beneficial for middle grades science curriculum.  Sorry, not all are interactive - some are in-class projects...

Bernadine Dancy's picture

under simulation

under simulation games, for elementary students coloring books words games and simulation
bronstein's picture

Useful sites

After a couple of aborted attempts at finding new and interesting sites, I decided to try my own list of sites -- the one I give to my students.  While most of these are aimed at high achool chemistry students, I thought that some might satisfy this assignment.  I think I found a couple.


You might want to start at:

 I found that is very useful since it has a number of exercises for kids to follow up on. 


Alsd good is:

This site can get kids thinking about alternative uses for everyday items, which admittedly can be dangerous:

Some other sites might be of interest, but the above ones, I think, most closely satisfy the assignment.

joycetheriot's picture


Artificial Intelligence"If we understand the human mind, we begin to understand what we can do with educational technology." - Herbert A. Simon"AI can have two purposes. One is to use the power of computers to augment human thinking, just as we use motors to augment human or horse power. Robotics and expert systems are major branches of that. The other is to use a computer's artificial intelligence to understand how humans think. In a humanoid way. If you test your programs not merely by what they can accomplish, but how they accomplish it, then you're really doing cognitive science; you're using AI to understand the human mind."
- Herbert Simon: from Doug Stewart's
Interview with Herbert Simon
The field of cognitive science overlaps AI. Cognitive scientists study the nature of intelligence from a psychological point of view, mostly building computer models that help elucidate what happens in our brains during problem solving, remembering, perceiving, and other psychological processes. One major contribution of AI and cognitive science to psychology has been the information processing model of human thinking in which the metaphor of brain-as-computer is taken quite literally.

Brain Games


Cognitive Resources:

adiflesher's picture

Monkey memory test: 

Monkey memory test:  who has a better memory you or a monkey?

Play this game:

Now watch a chimp play

Who did better?

Yes, he IS laughing at YOU

Yes, he IS laughing at YOU

ptong's picture

Interactive Websites

Babtunde and I, found a search engine for interactive lessons on:

We refined our search on this search engine and under the "science" category we found an environmental science activity on:

This is an engaging activity that requires the students to literally, follow a story/case in order to save the food web. It is constantly quizzing the user in different fashions and at the same time requires the user to think by himself/herself on what the next step to solving this mystery is.

Upon starting this activity, Babtunde and I, had trouble going through the lesson because there were no direct instructions on what to do. However after clicking around the page for a few mintues, we were able to find our way to solving the case. Having gone through it once, it is significantly easier to navigate and instruct others.


adiflesher's picture

Random Experiential Links

Here are a couple that I have used in the past:  

·         Mind Habits –  this is interesting site that is based on the idea that certain psychological responses can be conditioned by game play.  The site has several games which teach people to focus on the positive as opposed to the negative.  It raises some interesting questions. Should we be training people this way? Are the games any good?  What

·         Change Blindness: This is a fun and simple classic from the world of psychology.  Watch the video first then run it with your students

·         Emotional recognition:  This is a nutty idea that I’ve had in the past. I still haven’t had the chance to run it.

·         First start off with a basic facial emotion recognition game:


·         Have students test themselves on the recognition of emotions. Have students learn how to make the expressions – have a student volunteer to make the emotional faces and see if the other students can guess what emotion they are doing (perhaps we can find good drama games that do this even better?)Can you recognize Human emotions? (Here are some additional resources)



·         After we test animal emotions have students try to recognize the emotions being felt by monkeys in the following pictures:

·         Do humans and monkeys have similar facial emotion features? - We can go lots of places from here (:


Concetta Henkel's picture

langton's Ant 7-07-08

I would really like to find similar simulations for second graders. I know that my students would be led into wonderful places as long as I am able to guide them.


I came to this institute to help me better understand how I can use what we know about the brain to help cildren change their negative behaviors due to years of negative environmental factors. How can I help children be productive learners and help them gain confidence in themselves without having a home support system?

Cynthia Henderson's picture

Langston's Ant

Langston's Ant helped me to understand behavior as it relates to movement.The distraction didn't seem to make a difference.
Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Langton's Ant

I think we expect to change our students behavior but it was already proven that the ant's behavior didn't change.the only change was the environment. We need to provide a change in the environment. Basically, we need to make the learning environment a place of change. Keep some of the old but embrace the new.
adiflesher's picture

That Crazy Ant

Crazy Ant ManCrazy Ant Man


I think that one of the most interesting things about the use of Langston's Ant was how easily we all  attribute human qualities to a triangle on a screen.

To a certain extent I think that our tendency to attribute agency to everything limits our ability to penetrate the governing rules behind certain systems. 


This is as it turns out, is a basic human impulse. In a classic experiment in the 1940’s psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel showed people films of geometric shapes moving around. The subjects immediately attributed stories to these shapes. The shapes were not just moving they were escaping, capturing, chasing etc. 


Langston’s ant should remind our students (and ourselves) of our overwhelming desire to attribute agency in the world, even when doing so does not necessarily help us to better understand the world.


Langston’s ant can also help us see how much of the complexity in the world is emergent from simple equations. Mandelbrot sets are just one stunning example of complex images created from relatively simple computer programs.






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