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Thinking, Creating, Reflecting: Impacting the Future

Student-Directed Learning & Cultivating Unhackable Brains

Unhackable Brains 

In Becoming Einstein’s Teacher, Erika Twani provides a rationale, description, and “how to” of the Relational Learning Framework, which promotes student ownership of learning (e.g. learning how to learn). Her fifth and sixth chapters delve deeply into how the brain learns, and how artificial intelligence, marketing big-data, gaming, and machine learning intentionally leverage brain processes to hijack our interests and responses. “To turn students into unhackable beings, we need to help them develop learning autonomy. Understanding knowledge and applying it improves cognitive control, which enables learners to think, choose, incorporate the right skills to their lives, and consequently make wise choices today and in the future.”(pp 63-64). Spectrum has been working with Twani and her team for almost two years to plan and implement approaches that strengthen a learning program that fosters the levels of awareness, responsibility, and autonomy to cultivate unhackable brains. 

Combined with daily and weekly opportunities to be engaged in intentional work towards connecting with others, we organize curriculum, instruction, and assessment by three really important premises: We teach them HOW TO ASK QUESTIONS, we teach them HOW TO THINK, and we teach them HOW TO LEARN. All are crucial to nurturing unhackable brains  AND success in high school and beyond! 

What can Unhackable Brains Do? 

Unhackable brains maintain a level of self-awareness when interacting with screens. They have developed some strategies and skills in applying intentionality to their screen time, rather than just reacting and clicking on whatever stimulus is out there.One of my 8th graders said picking up and checking phones is a habit even when you don’t get a notification, and when you do get one it is almost impossible not to open it. I believe this is a symptom of the anxiety of missing out, as well as an available and constant distraction from what is directly in front of us- usually work, life tasks, and family. We use our phones to deal with boredom. Helping children pause in the act of picking up their phone or clicking on an ad or social media notification is simply a matter of stopping and asking oneself- is this a productive use of my time right now? Is it something that can wait? Why am I finding myself distracted? Maybe all of us need to learn this pause habit.  

Unhackable Brains Think Critically

Becoming critical and reflective thinkers, people who think about what they want out of situations, is important for success and happiness in life.  People with unhackable brains are intentional about their goals and ways to achieve goals, and reflect on how well they are achieving their goals. It means being very conscious of what is out there as far as diversions, distractions, disruptions, and dangers of interacting in the digital universe- now the digital metaverse. Unhackable brains means you are living life with awareness and intention of how your time, energy, and focus are being spent, so you can put yourself into situations that are more productive to getting what you want and need out of life. 

Unhackable Brains – Statement from Mur and Pew Research 

From Mur: In the coming years, holograms, avatars, and other 3-D communication systems will make it possible to “attend” meetings without the commute. They’ll even be capable of reflecting your actual facial expressions in real time, allowing you to participate in a more personal way. Repetitive work may be carried out by an interdigital “coworker” that’s been automated to digitally mediate the redundant parts of your job.

Pew Research points out that with increased reliance on digital transformation tools comes increased responsibility. As technology progresses, we’ll all need to work on becoming more meta-aware. “We have reached a tipping point with our tools: They are now more sophisticated than our ability to fully appreciate their effects…We must become present with our tools; retool our understanding of how we think while tech-immersed versus how we think otherwise.”

Project-based learning follows a unique continuum at Spectrum School, with the goal being increasing student ownership and self-direction over the course of the year and across all levels. By graduation, we aim to see students who are autonomous in all academic skills, research, inquiry, and study habits; students who have learned how they learn best and can manage any academic situation or demand.