The Neurosky or Sichiray Mindwave headset
Below are print guides for teachers on using the Mindwave headset in a classroom environment. I know teachers are busy, so if you prefer, watch this 5 minute video on fitting and using the headset.
Here are tips to help students bring themselves into the learning zone (Theta). We can’t force it, but we can guide.
Impractical, revolutionary tips… For secondary students:
Get funding to install a bank of treadmills at the back of classrooms used by slow or reluctant learners. This stimulates neurogenesis and puts students in Theta. Want proof? See the video HERE.
For infants/primary students:
Reverse the lunch-play order to a longer play – then a quiet lunch in the classroom while learning. Remember, exercise produces memory neurons so why not INCREASE the mount of play and even add formal exercise activities. Food also puts students into Theta – the learning brain. Want proof? See HERE and HERE.
Easier, more practical tips…
Tell your students what they will be doing and why. If they understand, they will gladly take part. In some ways, it’s the best lesson you can teach them.
Try one lesson a day with the different technique. Then slowly progress to more. Using the new technique in very lesson will be too much for the students and too much for you.
Eating produces Theta. Can the students eat (good food – not sweets) in the room?
Laughter produces Theta. Even showing a photo of a cute kitten produces Theta for a short while.
Have a ‘learning zone’ or ‘quiet brain’ activity before a lesson. A good one is just to show a video of the glitter jar. There are other slow videos on YouTube but some are too long or too ‘cartoonish’. Cartoons and bright colours will do the opposite of what you want. Often just doing a breathing exercise is best. Slow, not fast, eyes closed, focus on their breathing . They could also watch a short ‘learning zone’ video without words eg:
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A person will go into Theta post-vigorous exercise or during repetitive exercise (like lap swimming or jogging). Playground play is usually a ‘Beta’ zone and students can take 30 minutes to come down from that. Could your students play first, then eat and then learn?
If you have students who are clearly ‘up’ at the start of the day, you could suggest a morning lap-swimming program or similar to the parents.
Dull the lighting if a classroom is very bright. You can’t escape florescent tubes yet due to hi-rate flickering they can effect some students with learning disorders.
Use a soft, even voice – try not to raise it.
Many lessons – especially in secondary school, are too long. Your students aren’t Buddhist monks and will get titchy after 20 minutes. They are used to distraction every 8 minutes via commercial TV and the beeping of their phone. This is how it is in the 21st century and we can’t change it. Accept it but…
Use a brain break to split the lesson up. For younger children, a song, a joke, a game or memory exercise can work. For older students, a brief travel video, scene from a movie, memory exercise, ‘toothbrush’ activity or story circle should work.
Always bring them back to the learning zone with a breathing activity (or similar).
Experiment with some Theta based music/sound in the classroom. There’s lots on YouTube and Spotify yet some have too many ups and downs to really work. If it has words or you can detect a beat don’t use it. A drone is OK. Sometimes just a straight binaural beat like this one on Spotify can help. Others have a more musical flavour like this one.
Keep the volume very low – barely audible. This is important. It’s white background noise only and some students won’t even notice it. If several students ask about it, turn it down or explain what it is.
Stop office announcements and interruptions in lesson times. Educate office staff. Educate other teachers.
Give the students feedback if you’re noticing a difference in the way they’re learning. Praise those who seem to be a little ‘quieter’.
If you are using a basic EEG like the Neurosky MindWave, get the students who have trouble ‘coming down’ to do their EEG work before a lesson.
NSW school STEM incursions and National ZOOM sessions for all grades now open. Bookings or inquiries can be made HERE.
ZOOM sessions are tailored to the grade in consultation with the teacher. These sessions will involve viewing brain activity in real time as well as all the information and stories that made the face-to-face incursions so popular.
A 15-question on-line quiz can be included for teachers to help assess learning. The quiz is automatically marked with results sent through to the teacher.
Zoom sessions range in price from $200 – $500 depending on the length of session and the points teachers want covered.
Bookings for 2022 school-based (on-site) face-to-face teacher PD can now be accepted. Teacher PD over ZOOM available on request.
The Myth of Multitasking: Implications for teachers and their students
Phil Dye: Founder of Mindz Brainplay
In all of our teachers’ PD, student sessions or corporate experiences, we stress the irrefutable fact that multitasking, once the holy grail of workplace behavior, does NOT produce good results.
Our brain experiences electrical changes throughout the day depending on what we’re planning, thinking, doing, hearing or experiencing. The brain state needed for multitasking involves our brain cells (neurons) being high in electricity. This is called ‘Beta’ and it’s where we do many things at once yet do none of these exceptionally well. There is immense brain work involved in trying to juggle many things at once and it’s exceptionally tiring. Teachers know that all too well!
Unfortunately, multitasking does not allow the brain to move into ‘Theta’, the low-electrical brain state necessary for mistake-free work or learning. Learning and focus comes with no distraction or pressure. It comes with quiet or at least limited sound dynamics.
It doesn’t come naturally after 20 minutes of playground play, rugby training or jostling up the stairs to get to class. It will never exist with office PA announcements during class, the sound of jackhammers, students calling out or the distraction of mobile phones. Mobile phones on silent are even worse as students constantly check for possible messages. Mobile phones in a locker at least 10 metres from a smart watch is the only answer.
It also follows that a student’s brain state is often a reflection of the teacher’s brain state. If a teacher is relaxed, controlled and focused, a majority of the class will reflect that. If a teacher is pressured, distracted and stressed, the class will usually be the same – an impossible state for student learning and a terrible state for teaching job satisfaction.
Understanding the learning brain not only equips teachers with a toolbox for creating the best learning zone in students, it equips them with knowledge about their own brain state. Not covered in any teacher training course, it’s vital knowledge for today’s teacher.
The human brain is a soft, mushy thing containing between 80-100 billion tiny brain cells called neurons. Each of these neurons can transfer or generate a small electric signal. It’s as if we were all born with about 100 billion tiny batteries inside our head.
All day long our neurons generate differing levels of electricity depending on what we’re doing, thinking or experiencing.
Some of these neurons start the electrical charge to make us move the way we want to. They are called ‘motor neurons’ and are more densely packed on the right side (hemisphere) of the brain. Other neurons help us remember things or plan. They can be anywhere but are mostly towards the front of the brain. That is our neurons in ‘proactive’ mode.
Often our neurons are responding to something external like pain, noise, food, physical stimulation or fear. That is the ‘reactive’ mode.
Neurons can switch to be proactive or reactive. It depends on the intention or the stimuli, yet really, we don’t actually know how this happens.
The Learning Brain is a specific electrical state in our brain. Called Theta, it’s about a quarter of the way up our electrical spectrum. Here’s a summary of the states from top to bottom.Gamma
The very top electrical state in healthy people is called Gamma. This is when the electricity in many neuron groups is highest – technically between 25 and 100 Hz – very fast. Gamma puts Adrenalin into our system to make us stronger and faster. We can see this when people are in ‘flight or fight’ mode or playing competitive sport.
Strangely, some Tibetan monks have shown Gamma when
meditating leading to the theory that they are in a heightened state of consciousness that we don’t really understand. More research is needed for this, yet for us normal mortals, Gamma is for running away from lions, playing tough sport or being physically and mentally super active. It is a TERRIBLEstate for learning.
Beta is the next level down from Gamma and happens when we are wide awake, working and multitasking. For teachers, this is most of the day. Planning, organising, teaching, marking and confronting the myriad of fires that exist in a teacher’s day is the realm of Beta. It’s a fast electrical state yet not as fast as Gamma.
It’s a good state for getting things done and strategic thinking. A person in Beta all day will be exhausted by the end of it. A human’s neurons can only be in a high electrical state for so long.
Students are in Beta when doing several things at once. They could be listening and taking notes as well as checking their phone. They are also in Beta when doing tasks they find hard or they are anxious. It is NOT a good state for learning.
This is the middle zone of our electrical spectrum. It’s not high and not low. It’s for processing what is happening around you. It is also very necessary for visual processing and understanding. When you’re in an art gallery you are in Alpha. When you’re reading silently to yourself, you’re in Alpha. You’re also in Alpha when driving quietly on a country road.
The one thing that ruins Alpha is sound – or most forms of sound. That’s why you can’t make noise in an art gallery. It ruins your ability to process the art. Watching a silent movie involves far more Alpha than watching a movie with dialogue.
For teachers, Alpha is a good learning zone yet mainly when the learning involves visual processing or reading. English (for native English speakers), art, history and design can benefit from Alpha. Some sound can help with Alpha yet this needs to be quite specific:
A low, soothing voice
Quiet music without words – just audible
Nothing abrupt – consistent volume – no outside noise
It’s the beginning of the electrical state that produces ‘flow’ – the state when time goes quickly and you’re in the zone. Unfortunately, many teachers and students don’t experience Alpha at all during their day.
This is the true learning state. It is about a quarter of the way up your electrical spectrum. Theta occurs in daydreaming and meditation, yet also very much in single focused attention (doing one thing only).
Theta electrical signals originate in or near the hippocampus (deep inside the brain). They are very concerned with memory & especially the formation of new memories & navigation. There is a reliable relationship between the size of a person’s hippocampus (producing Theta) & memory performance. A person in Theta isTHE MOST receptive to information and learning.A teacher in Theta or Alpha is also at their best, can think clearly and be in control.
Poor memory, bad behavior and learning difficulties are often related to too much Beta and not enough Theta creation.
The hippocampus has many densely packed layers of neurons & generates very strong EEG signals. These densely packed, memory-rich neurons can actually be formed during vigorous, sweaty exercise. This is called Neorogenesis.
While most people using the MINDZ headset will not be relaxed & meditative, they will be paying attention to one thing (the screen) & will therefore show Theta. Some people have a genetic default in Theta and are quite chilled. Besides that, Theta is produced by:
laughing (or crying),
meditating (in whatever way you meditate eg swimming laps)
30 minutes after vigorous or hard exercise.
The DELTA brain wave (0-4Hz).
Delta is experienced in deep, dreamless sleep & in transcendental meditation where awareness is fully detached. Among many things, deep sleep is important in healing & regeneration – both physical & emotional. Not having enough deep sleep is detrimental to your health in more ways than one. No one using the MINDZ headset will show DELTA.
There’s far too much research happening to cover it all. However, here’s some summary points and links. We try to choose plain-English interpretations of scientific research. A couple aren’t education based, but relevant for teachers personally..
Run, jump, learn: A Ted talk from Dr John Ratey. Click HERE
Inside the Learning Brain – Seven years old but extremely relevant: Click HERE
What’s happening in the adolescent brain: Click HERE
School-based proof on exercise and the learning brain: Click HERE
Fact or Fallacy is strictly for Investigating Science Students.
Fact or Fallacy Students will conduct a series of mind-based EEG experiments to prove Fact or Fallacy on several common beliefs. A common belief is that lying down helps a person relax and creates ‘Theta’ brainwaves. Another belief is that heavy metal music creates ‘Beta or Gamma’ waves and cannot help a person relax. The session investigates these beliefs using our EEG headsets to see if they fit into the areas of Fact or Fallacy. We train the students on EEG use.
This investigation is different to the ‘Working Scientifically‘ session in that studentsdon’t design their investigation.All guidance is supplied. For the full session outline, click HERE.
Outcome Points: (relevant to all the sciences)
11/12-1, 11/12-3, 12-5, 1/12-6, 12-7, 11/12-2
Group size: We can cater for up to 20 students in a research session. However, we only supply 2 x headsets and 2 x laptops for up to 10 students to use. Schools with more than 10 students in the session need to provide laptops or tablets for extra groups. They will also need to purchase 1 x headset per extra group at the cost of $240. We provide training and notes on their use. Most schools find these invaluable for use in further investigation or teaching students how to find their ‘learning state’.
For costs, syllabus points and extra information, click HERE.
To inquire or make a booking, see below…