Interview with Len Scrogan
Published on Monday, 15 December 2014 18:07
Brain Based Learning and Applications for the Classroom
Len Scrogan is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado-Denver and past director of Instructional Technology for the Boulder Valley School District. He took time out of his busy schedule to discuss brain-based learning with us.
Q:You have looked at how brain-based learning studies can improve the engagement processes in the classroom. What is "brain-based" learning?
Scrogan: Brain-Based Education is the purposeful engagement of strategies that apply to how our brain works in the context of education.
Over the last decade, the field of neuroscience has provided some insight to educators about brain-based learning. Basically, how the brain works, how the brain learns, what really matters to the brain and how we attract the brain's attention more effectively.
Following this research allows educators to get and keep their students engaged in the learning process.
Q: Can you provide us some examples of how this research can be applied in the classroom?
Scrogan: Here is an interesting story that is relevant to the discussion. Recently I conducted over 250 walkthroughs of classroom lessons. The walkthrough process consisted of observing a 20 to 40 minute lesson and later providing feedback to the teacher.
I observed something very interesting during the walkthrough process. For the most part, kids would begin by looking up at what was on the screen, looking up at the teacher, etc., in an engaged posture.
But as the lesson progressed, the majority of students would slowly disengage. I noticed that their body language would change, the eye contact would be lost. They would doodle at their desk for example, or talk to other students, or just pull inside.
This behavior was evident in the majority of classrooms in over 250 walkthroughs in over a year and a half period that I was involved with. But it was not true in about 12% of the classrooms.
In these classrooms, the students were drawn to the lesson, they were connected, hooked into what was happening in front of the classroom and stayed that way throughout the entire lesson
Q: Interesting. What was going on in these classrooms where the students were engaged?
Scrogan: The techniques that I observed that were hooking the students and maintaining their attention span and focus time in learning had to do with brain-based learning.
The brain says we see images first and we process images 60,000 times faster than we process text. In those classrooms where the students were engaged, I saw on document cameras immersive images, meaning the images filled the entire screen as opposed to a small image in a corner of a page or black and white notes.
Whether it was a chart, graph, cartoon or photograph the image filled the entire screen.
We know from brain research that color attracts the brain. I saw great use of color in these classrooms. Many that use document cameras are just thinking that they are replacing the overhead projector. They don't give much thought to specifically using color images versus black and white images. So they are displaying traditional practices while utilizing a 21st century tool like the document camera.
Whether it's large images or color reinforcing vocabulary lessons, color was keeping the brain attracted to the lesson.
Brain research also says that the brain doesn't pay attention to boring things and the brain disconnects from those things. So what I saw that was most interesting with document cameras was creating curiosity through the use of artifacts that showed things that made the students think "what on earth is that?"
Q: What do you mean by an "artifact"?
Scrogan: A close up image of part of an animal for example, or an image of the subject matter taken from a unique angle or perspective that required the students to think about what the object was.
So any time there was something a little bit mysterious or something that made them curious--that attracted the brain. The teacher could latch on to that and move things forward.
Q: Is student participation something you found to be effective as part of your observations?
Scrogan: Yes. The brain likes physical involvement as opposed to passive activities sit-and-get lectures. So I saw teachers encouraging the students to get involved in the presentations and not just listen to the teacher talk. Mirroring was used quite effectively with document cameras (the activity was performed on the screen, then the students were asked to mirror the action at their desks.)
The brain really likes the tactile nature of going back and forth with the teacher and the document camera.
Another technique I saw used very effectively relates to a learning advantage called transfer. This means everything we learn more effectively when the brain connects the new learning to something we already know and is relevant to us in some way.
I saw document cameras used effectively for transfer to relate to something in the real world with something the students are about to learn.
Any kind of spatial thinking is useful also. The brain enjoys any type of spatial image so teachers can keep this in mind when choosing images for the lessons.
Q: So creating excitement in the subject matter (while obvious) is reinforced by the brain research, correct?
Scrogan: That's correct. As a matter of fact one of the best techniques I saw teachers use in my 250 classroom lesson observations was the magic of storytelling.
One example was when a teacher put an image on the document camera that filled the screen then provided a compelling story to go with the image. This of course was even more powerful than just the immersive image.
Now imagine adding just the right background music to the techniques above and you've got students who are deeply involved in the lesson. Brain research shows there is a multiplier effect of these techniques getting more of the senses involved in the lesson.
Q: What other insights you can share based on your research?
Scrogan: Using the document camera for prediction. Creating a curiosity gap. For example the teacher may say "I am going to mix these two chemicals together. What do you predict is going to happen?"
This gets the students thinking of past experience, how they can relate it to the future and brings them into the conversation.
Another technique is the use of advance organizers.
Q: Can you give us an example?
Scrogan: Let's say I am going to do an experiment in a science lab. I might have something on the screen that shows the four steps that the students are going to go through as an organizer.
It's organizing their mind in advance to see the process from beginning to end so they expect each step and they don't miss something.
Another great use for document cameras involves graphic organizers. For example two concentric circles that intersect to show the similarities in each group is an example. Back to getting the students involved, you can have them go to the document camera or screen and interact. Put something on the table under the document camera that forces them to make a decision based on the visual image.
Q: Since you have an excellent book on how to use document cameras in the classroom, should document cameras be front and center for many of the brain-based techniques you describe here?
Scrogan: They should be, yes. What has happened across the United States is a lot of document cameras were purchased and put into place as a replacement for an overhead projector (because that's how you would think you would use it) and they are considered a purchase commodity. The thought process that worries me is that "we all have one so we don't have to think about how to use them well”.
Document cameras have slowly grown and expanded into almost 60% of classrooms in the U.S., but teachers simply don't know how to use the document camera tool to attract the brain and to create a format of what I call brain-based learning. Remember I only saw engaged student learning in 12% of the classroom lessons I observed.
And when brain-based learning is done well, the learning process is so empowered, period.
The research on brain-based learning and neuroscience is significant. There is a great body of articles and books and other resources on this topic.
Q: Fascinating information Len. If anyone wants to read more on brain-based learning what would you recommend?
Scrogan: Many of my recommended strategies are supported by Dr. John Medina’s seminal book, Brain Rules. Dr. John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Len Scroganis currently a Digital Learning Architect at the University of Colorado Denver. Len is a nationally recognized TEDx speaker, author, software designer, researcher, conference keynote speaker, blogger, and consultant. He serves as the online community manager for LinkedIn’s Media and Technology online community of 8,000 members, a national judge for the Technology & Learning software awards, a board member for the new ISTE 3D Network PLN, and a member of the CoSN Emerging Technologies Committee that produces the national EdTechNext reports. His university work concentrates on innovative work in technology, online learning, and leadership.
The following is an extensive reference list provided by Len:
College Administrator Finds Many Benefits Using HoverCam Solo 8
Published on Thursday, 06 November 2014 10:39
“It’s one of those things I didn’t know I needed until I got it, and now, I can’t imagine not having it.”
Meet Duane Rohrbacher, JD, PhD, a future college administrator, who is tasked with resolving conflicts on a daily basis.
Dr. Rohrbacher had a problem. He noticed it was difficult to keep up with all of the paperwork and signatures that everyone signs while going through administrative processes. He knows that paper copies must be kept for records purposes, but he also likes to keep electronic versions of files handy for quick referencing and easy access. “I used to go to the copy machine, all the way down the hall, to copy one file, and half the time I had to wait in line or the machine was broken. I knew I needed a better, faster, solution.”
Dr. Rohrbacher needed a reasonably priced copying solution that met his needs. He did not want to sacrifice quality for price, and he also wanted a portable device with a small footprint. That’s when Dr. Rohrbacher turned to HoverCam.
"The Solo 8 is small, produces a crystal clear picture, and it is extremely fast,” he said. Speed and efficiency is very important to Dr. Rohrbacher, who is part of a new breed of college administrators who grew up with and rely upon technology for basically everything. Dr. Rohrbacher wanted a solution that matched his newer devices like his iPad and iPhone.
Besides the ability to copy and scan very quickly, redacting and cropping are built in to the software saving even more time. You can even use Solo 8 with Splashtop to stream0 the camera image wirelessly to an iPad.
Duane loves the speed and efficiency. “I get a lot more done. I can get all of my files scanned, redacted, cropped, and organized in about 1/5 of the time. It’s one of those things I didn’t know I needed until I got it, and now, I can’t imagine not having it.”
“My philosophy is that I am willing to buy a device, spend the money, if the return on investment outweighs the startup cost. For a HoverCam document camera, it’s really a no-brainer. The return on investment is just fantastic, and I could not imagine not having the device on my desk.”
Why Interactive Whiteboards and Document Cameras Should Work Together
Published on Monday, 29 September 2014 08:37
When shown a document camera, some teachers say “I don’t need that – I have a SMARTBoard” while some other teachers might say after seeing a HoverCam demonstration, “If I get that, then I won’t need to get a SMARTBoard.” My response to both these groups is – you can use both pieces of equipment together to enhance your lessons and classroom learning. Some teachers believe interactive whiteboards (IWB) and document cameras exist as separate devices to be used for unique and different functions. While we believe that IWBs and document cameras do provide distinct functions, we do not believe IWBs and document cameras should exist separately. A document camera is useful in the classroom for bringing a snapshot, a live video stream or a recorded video clip into the IWB software.
Your document camera should be able to connect with an interactive whiteboard and work with its software. This is done with a USB cable from the document camera. All HoverCam document cameras naturally connect to a PC or a Mac, the same way IWBs do, and HoverCam camera images are easily integrated with IWB software. HoverCam’s software is compatible with IWB software.
Traditional document cameras are designed to output directly to a projector through a VGA or HDMI output, and many do not have a USB output so cannot be connected to a computer nor an IWB. Those traditional document cameras that do have USB connectors use slow transfer rates, making the live video too slow – or very low resolution - to be useful when connected to a computer except for showing captured, still images. Over USB, the HoverCam Solo 8 gives you the best performance, the highest resolution, and the highest video frame rate of any other document camera to a computer and is therefore ideal to use with IWBs.
Please visit our YouTube page to see a side-by-side comparison of HoverCam Solo 8 vs. other document cameras over USB.
Most traditional document cameras require an external power adapter. A single USB cable powers the HoverCam Solo 8. It’s easier to set up. A nice thing about a HoverCam Solo 8 is that you do not have to search for additional power outlets. When Solo 8 is connected to the computer, it’s always ready to use at a moment’s notice to take a snap shot, scan a document, record a video or stream live video, and can do all of those functions inside IWB software. The HoverCam and IWB work in harmony together. And using Splashtop software, the HoverCam can also stream live images wirelessly to a teacher’s tablet.
To learn more about the flagship document camera from the HoverCam, the Solo 8, please visit Solo8 Section
Free Yourself From Your Document Camera in Class with a HoverCam and Splashtop
Published on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 08:42
All the teachers I know enjoy teaching. The most fun in their day involves interacting with students. Some teachers I know also enjoy “the other things” including grading, discipline and the long summers. But the majority of teachers I have talked to just want to be around, interact, mentor, and positively influence their students. Students make schools go ‘round, and teachers mold students into better people and citizens. Learning is of the utmost importance, but if a teacher is hindered by classroom technology, learning can suffer.
Sitting behind a computer all the time in class is probably not the best method for teaching. Sitting behind a computer keeps you away from the students, takes you out of the conversation, and can lead to diminished learning. Most of the overhead projectors of yesteryear and many traditional document cameras in classrooms today are obsolete and not engaging. To overcome this, Pathway Innovations and Technologies, Inc. set out to produce a document camera for the classroom that would be easy to use, intuitive, intelligent, lightweight and produce stunning images and just be fun!
After years of research and development, and continuous feedback from administrators and teachers alike, Pathway Innovations has cracked the code with its HoverCam document camera lineup and accessories. The newest document camera to come off the design floor is the Solo 8. The Solo 8 embraces new technology and really changes the game in education technology and classroom learning. The HoverCam Solo 8 offers a massive 8.0 MegaPixel sensor for crystal clear images, scanning, an impressive 30 frame/second refresh rate when showing live HD video or recording 1080p video over a USB cable directly to a computer, with audio. No more blurry images. Together, these features make the Solo 8 a central piece of technology you can use in your classroom to teach and engage students every day.
To make engagement even easier, and to enable you to take the HoverCam image around the room right to any student’s desk, HoverCam has partnered with Splashtop to allow wireless streaming of the HoverCam image directly to your iPad or Android tablet. Using your tablet, you can control the Solo 8 from across the room and bring the HoverCam image anywhere in class. And, if your students have wireless devices, there is an optional software available from HoverCam called “Splashtop Classroom” that will push the HoverCam image wirelessly to all of the students devices. There’s even an optional mirroring software app so that you – the teacher – can display your tablet image directly to the large screen display or projector, or allow your students to show their tablet image on the projector – without Apple TV or Chromecast.
Think about this: you no longer have to use clunky, oversized, dumb document cameras that can only show a low resolution image and if they work with USB are painfully slow. Now, an intelligent document camera, the Solo 8, is available and it functions as an extension of your computer. And you or your school don’t have to break the bank to purchase a Solo 8, which is only 349 dollars, or 399 dollars bundled with Splashtop, an extra 15’ USB 3.0 cable and a microscope adapter. Remember, at Pathway Innovations, we want to provide teachers with the latest and best technology at an affordable price. We have embraced new technology and we encourage teachers and schools to evaluate the Solo 8 and embrace one now. You’ll love it!
If you have any questions or would like to test-drive a Solo 8 and Splashtop in your classroom free for 30 days, please visit FREE 30 Days Trial for more information. Embrace new now.
HoverCam Solo 8 Beats Elmo TT-12i in Video Quality Shoot-Out Over USB
Published on Saturday, 27 September 2014 08:44
Whenever we show teachers and school technology directors how easy it is to use the HoverCam with interactive whiteboards, one of the questions they often ask is, "How do you show a live video stream inside the interactive whiteboard software?" To show live video inside IWB software with a document camera, the document camera must have a USB out connector. We thought it would be a good idea to compare two leading document camera manufacturers, Elmo and HoverCam, to see which product produced the best live video images over USB.
We did a side by side comparison of the HoverCam Solo 8 and the Elmo TT-12i using identical monitors and computers with identical processing power to see how well each worked over USB. The findings: At standard 1080p resolution, the HoverCam Solo 8 output full motion video at 30 frames/second, while the Elmo TT-12i frame rate was a painfully slow 1 frame/second. By setting the output resolution of the Elmo to XGA resolution – which is about 70% of HD 720p – its speed increased to 15 frames/second. But at that resolution, it was difficult to read the text of the Elmo video when showing a full page document.
Elmo claims on its website that the TT-12i can also be used as a webcam. While this is factually true, we don’t see merit in a low resolution, slow, blurry webcam. For webcam applications, the higher resolution, faster Solo 8 is more practical.
The Elmo’s MSRP is $885 while the HoverCam Solo 8 is $349. Displaying high-quality video over USB is not a luxury or an option for today’s classrooms. It’s a requirement. To see the video shootout, please click on the video below.
To learn more about HoverCams request a free 30 day evaluation for your school and Embrace New Now.