[MUSIC, Title: "On (and Off) Camera Habits and the Declarative-Procedural Learning Systems"] [Barb] We mentioned in Week 1 that what's going on in your head— that is, your UNDERSTANDING of how we can bridge that transactional gap between instructors and students in online learning— is important in helping you to actually bridge that gap. Let's look at how what's going on in your head can trick you—and your students. I have a friend—let's call her Angela— who's a teacher of online learning. Angela understands theory of online learning at a very deep level. But when Angela asked me for feedback on her teaching, I couldn't help but point out one small challenge in her approach— she places her face close in on the camera frame, eyes in the center of the frame. I suggested to Angela that she might want to move her chair back a bit and swivel the camera very slightly downward, so her head was higher in the frame. This would allow her students to see her hands. Angela was surprised— she hadn't realized that students couldn't see her hands. Because she's a wonderful teacher, she immediately agreed it would be a good idea to change the angle of her camera. And she did. But the next time I saw Angela online, her head was right back in the middle of the frame, just as before. Perhaps you yourself have had similar challenges— you know cognitively what you're supposed to be doing, but you just can't help falling back into the same old habit. Certainly, we see this kind of "unlearning" challenge when it comes to our students! Why does this happen? And what can we do about it? [Terry] You may have wondered why I've been wearing this wizard hat. My friends sometimes call me Mr. Wizard. This is my neuro-talk hat. And this is my wizard wand—I call her Wanda. Neuroscience has a long history, and like many areas of science, it has specialized words and arcana. Don't be put off by these words, because when I'm wearing my neuro-talk hat and activate Wanda, I can cast a spell, so you'll be able to understand me. Last week we mentioned connecting neural links together to form schemas. Schemas are sets of neural connections that we gradually construct as we acquire expertise about something. Now, here's something that you may not have realized about learning. We commonly use two main pathways to create or tweak those neural links in long-term memory: the declarative pathway and the procedural pathway. We'll explore each of these pathways in turn. But first, let's review the idea of long-term memory. You can think of long-term memory like a clothes closet, where we deposit the sets of neural links that are involved in a concept or skill that we want to call up and use later. Now, if what we're talking about in this video is new to you, don't be put off by my neuro-talk. The pictures will make it easier to see what I'm talking about. But if you've already heard about these ideas in our other courses, just sit back and retrieve them, as we do a quick review of parts of the learning process from a new perspective. As you'll see, these ideas are foundational, both for our own teaching and to motivate our students. The first major pathway we use to lay neural links is the DECLARATIVE pathway. How can you take a conscious thought in working memory— in the front of your brain— and make it a part of your long-term memory? We like to represent working memory with an octopus, because it helps us realize that working memory is what the brain does to hold in mind our temporary thoughts, while we're "working" on them. These thoughts then flow from our trendy friend "Hip," into the hippocampus. Actually there's two of them— one on each side of the brain— but they're connected with each other, and we usually just call them collectively the hippocampus. The information then flows into the schema, that is, into your long-term memory. Long-term memories are located more broadly around the brain, mostly in what's called the neocortex. We refer to her as "Neo." You can think of the neocortex as the closet where your many schemas, along with all your neural links for various facts, skills, and insights, are stored. So, to give a metaphorical recap, DECLARATIVE information flows from the octopus of working memory, through Hip, into Neo. The second pathway that lays sets of neural links into long-term memory is the PROCEDURAL pathway through the basal ganglia. That is an area of the brain that we have jokingly referred to as "a gang of basil plants." To give another metaphorical recap, procedural information flows from the many brain areas—and not just from the octopus of working memory—through the gang of basil plants— that is the basal ganglia—to Neo. Now, I know what you're thinking. This neuro-talk is heavy going. WHY, you might be wondering, would a teacher care if there are two pathways? Isn't the main goal just getting those sets of neural links into long-term memory so learners can retrieve them to their conscious awareness whenever they
need them? Can we talk? Here's the bottom line. The real reason why you should care, is that it MATTERS how neural links are laid down. And here's why. Links that have been laid declaratively are flexible and changeable. They are for things that we think about consciously and objectively. Procedurally laid links, on the other hand, are NOT flexible. They are for things we do so often, so habitually, that we don't even think about them. And that covers most of your daily activities. Without your procedural system, you would be dithering all day about what to say or do next. Your procedural system has your back! [MUSIC, Interlude: "Schemas are Formed from Declarative and Procedural Links"] [Barb] Our schemas are formed from links that are laid both declaratively and procedurally. This is why, for example, you can read swiftly. You can parse those letters habitually, without even thinking about them, through your procedurally laid reading links. Even as you're also grasping the conscious nuance of what you're reading through your declarative links. Or you can swiftly, via your procedurally learned links, reduce a fraction like 12/6 to 2, without even giving it a second thought. This can allow you to then hold the conscious thoughts in your mind, using your declarative system. So, you can tell your friends that each will be getting two cookies from the box of a dozen cookies that you've just bought. We've given you a metaphorical sense of the mixed types of links in a schema here around me with declarative sets of links within a schema shown in blue and the procedural in red. The interesting thing is that we simply don't think— at least not consciously— about what we're doing habitually. That is, we use the procedural sets of links. That's the beauty of learning something procedurally. It allows us to process, analyze, and do things without thinking about what we're doing. But don't be fooled! Even though procedural links are formed because we do something often enough to seem mindless, procedural learning can be EXTREMELY sophisticated. It is a pattern detector that helps us to be able to solve Rubik's Cubes, or speak intuitively in our native language, or accurately throw a ball. The beauty of procedural links, in other words, is that they save you time and make things easy by making your thinking on that topic non-conscious. The downside, though, can be that because you're not conscious of what you're doing, it can be easy to—unthinkingly—fall into your habitual ways of doing things. If it's a bad habit, it can be hard to change. This is related to why it can be more challenging to correct someone's misconception than it is to teach someone something entirely new. Especially if you've learned something procedurally, with plenty of practice and experience, those procedural links just can't be eradicated. You can only let them wither by not using them. One of the greatest difficulties for physics teachers, for example, is that to get students to unlearn what they've experienced all their life, is a difficult thing. Such as the apparent observation that under no net force, an object naturally slows down. So, we've given you a little bit of neuroscience background with this video. For the next two videos, let's step back a bit from the neuroscience and look at some practical aspects of teaching online, to help you better understand the equipment you're using. Then, when we return to discuss my friend Angela, you'll have a better understanding of her challenges with framing herself on camera. [Barb] I'm Barb Oakley. [David] I'm David Joyner. [Terry] I'm Terry Sejnowski. [All] Learn it, link it, let's do it!