Your Brain on Protein-Research from Bowling Green State University

Dr. Huber at Bowling Green State University has published research showing the impact of protein on the experience of the “food coma”- the state of lethargy one often has after a meal.

In this article by Bonnie Blankinship, Dr. Huber explains his research in fruit flies that helped to identify this and a possible explanation as to why this might be- perhaps sleep helps to process the ingested protein. Perhaps too, as protein is an “expensive” protein, that it is it requires a greater expenditure of energy to obtain, then  perhaps the fly is simply depleted.

Interestingly, time of day is also correlated to the fruit fly experiencing lethargy.

I love how this article talks about the details of how Dr. Huber conducted this research. He uses computer sensors and video tracking to record the details of the fly’s movement and activity level to note when it eats and sleeps.

“In one second we can get a thousand data points,” according to the article.

Wouldn’t your students benefit from such a lab?

I really also look forward to Dr. Huber’s future collaboration on creating a “fruit fly soundscape” with composer Reiko Yamada. I think it really shows the power of an inquisitive mind and the importance of collaboration.

Sharing this article with any student to help highlight not only this fascinating research but also to demonstrate some of the essential elements of research literacy- curiosity, interdisciplinary collaboration, and critical thinking.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is a “food coma?”
  2. Why does Dr. Huber study the fruit fly?
  3. What is a drosophila?
  4. Describe how Dr. Huber conducted this research?
  5. What sparked his interest in this subject?
  6. What does he say about behavior?
  7. What other implications are there for this research?
  8. What important traits of research literacy does this article highlight?
  9. How else could you use this article to inspire your students?


Fuel Efficiency Index-University of Chicago Research

For a great look at using economics attempting to solve environmental problems, read Vicki Ekstrom High’s article on  University of Chicago professor Ryan Kellogg’s research.

Kellogg has developed an approach to using a “market” approach to developing fuel efficiency standards, based on the cost of gasoline. So, when the cost of gasoline is higher, the fuel efficiency standards would go higher with the assumption that consumers would purchase more fuel efficient vehicles.

If the gas prices are lower, the fuel efficiency standards will go down as consumers are likely to purchase larger “gas-guzzlers.” The assumption then is that it would not put undue burden on auto makers to develop cars that might very high standards.

Based on Kellogg’s research the market will develop an optimal response to this that maximizes fuel efficiency in times of high gas prices while not straining the auto makers in times of low gas prices to achieve high emissions standards that are mismatched to consumer preference.

Kellogg suggests that this “Fuel Efficiency Index” approach (my nomenclature) provides a better response than the current system which is based on wheel base size and does not require congressional legislation.

According to Kellogg”…. it provides the maximum benefit to consumers and the general public by reducing greenhouse gas pollution at the lowest possible cost.”

Teachers of  Economics, Ecology, Automotive Engineering would find this research worth sharing with their students.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why does Kellogg’s research provide a better solution than the current system?
  2. What assumptions are imbedded in Kellogg’s research?
  3. What data do you think professor Kellogg used to develop his new solution?
  4. What are the fluctuations in gasoline prices noted in the graph in this article?
  5. Over what period of time would this Fuel Efficiency Index need to cover to be practical for automakers and consumers?
  6. How would this solution be implemented?
  7. If you were a policy maker, what other data would you want to analyze before agreeing with professor Kellogg’s Fuel Efficiency Index?

We are Montana in the Classroom-University of Montana Outreach

Congratulations to the University of Montana for sharing their faculty with K-12 students. through the We are Montana in the Classroom program in which  faculty connect with K-12 teachers and students, through distance learning.

Recent events included discussion on Native American Studies:Human Rights by Dr. Shanley and Iva Coff, What is it Like to be  a Chemist? by Dr. Thomas, Moses Leavens, and Ranaldo Tsosie.

What I love about these interactions is that they include faculty and graduate student not only sharing their research, but sharing their story on how they chose to pursue higher education.

For so many of our students higher education seems out of reach or simply an abstract concept as they may not have people in their social networks with extensive higher education or backgrounds in higher education. Simply having the opportunity to interact with the faculty and graduate students about the fascinating research they may be engaged in, but also just about what higher education is all really like can help dispel the many misconceptions that a student may have.

I love these resources that they shared as well. Please check them out and share them with your fellow educators!

Your Brain On Learning-University of Alabama Research

What if everything we “know” as educators is wrong?

Thanks to advances in neuroscience, we are likely to be exposed to revolutionary new ideas about how the brain actually learns that will fundamentally alter the way we do our jobs each day.


And I was just getting used to the new curriculum….

The good news is in University of Alabama writer David Miller’s article on neuroscience research on learning. According to researchers at the University of Alabama is that it will probably take ten years for the research to make its way to the classroom level, according to assistant professor, Dr. Firat Soylu- so don’t delete those slide shows just yet!

The even better news, is that much of this research will hopefully take the guess work out of how we think students learn and make differentiated instruction seem quaint, as we hopefully will be able to truly individualize instruction, so each student can learn the way they learn best.

In an ideal world, this will allow computers to handle the basic knowledge acquisition of memorization, solving basic formulas, understanding vocabulary and allow teachers to focus on developing research literacy through critical thinking, project based learning, labs, and other more cognitively complex classroom activities.

Now is a great time to introduce your students to the basics of neuroscience and the fMRI gear that are the tools of the trade.

Who knows, maybe your principal will get you that EEG machine after all?

For additional information on Dr. Soylu’s work, which includes an insightful review of educational neuroscience research and discusses several lesson designs which can likely enhance student learning, please see the article The Thinking Hand:Embodiment of Tool Use, Social Cognition, and Metaphorical Thinking and Implications for Learning Design.  The learning design method of perspective taking as exemplified in the section “Being the Sensor” as great utility for a wide variety of classroom settings.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does fMRI stand for?
  2. How does it work?
  3. How is it different than a traditional MRI?
  4. How much does it cost?
  5. What is tDCS?
  6. Are you a skeptic- does this seem like just another research “fad?” What evidence do you base your skepticism on?
  7. What teaching practices are you doing now, that are likely a bit behind the times?
  8. What do you want to know about neuroscience to help you be a better educator?
  9. How can you use this information to inspire your students?

3 Steps to Create Expertise based on K. Anders Ericsson’s Research

By  now, you have probably heard about the “10,000” rule, the notion, popularized by Malcom Gadwell, that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an “expert” in a skill.

How in the world as an educator, are you going to be able to accomplish this with your students?

  1. Read Florida State University professor Anders Ericsson’s new book, Peak- Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. Ericsson, the researcher who helped lay the research foundation for the “10,000 hour” rule has co-written a lively, entertaining book with Robert Pool, that helps clarify the reality behind the “10,000 hour” rule, reminding us that it is not quite as simple as repeating the same C major scale for 10,0000 hours and becoming Yo-Yo Ma. In some cases, it doesn’t even take 10,000 hours to become extremely competent in something.
  2. Maybe your students can achieve something more like competency in 1,000 hours? But….It does take deliberate practice. That is it takes consistent, regular, specific feedback to ensure that the repetition leads to improvement.  The more you are able to carve time in your day to work with individuals, or  small groups, or to model the appropriate way to tackle a problem or write a paper, the more likely you are to increase proficiency.
  3. The student must have a clear vision or understanding of what “expertise” is. This is where modeling the behavior, the skill, the competency through your own demonstration is essential. Sharing the “ideal” essay. Demonstrating the steps of  solving inequalities, speaking in the World Language you are teaching, are all essential.
  4. Okay, so here is the bonus number 4. Making all of this explicit to your students. Let them know about this book and Ericsson’s brilliant research which lays out these ideas with great clarity and with excellent, memorable examples. Let them know that racing through their homework while listening to music and chatting online with friends is not the path to expertise! I especially loved the story about how Ben Franklin learned to write well!


Just remember, all of our students are not going to be “experts” with the short time that we have with them. But, in general, many of our schools seem to do a good job with developing students with enough proficiency to be life-long learners and highly productive citizens. Many also become experts later in life. It is reassuring to know that we have an important  part in this process.

I think two other important topics that can be understood from Ericsson and Pool’s excellent book is that we as educators of course could use specific feedback about our teaching practice, so videotaping our lessons, pairing with a trusted colleague, and having a clear idea of what we are trying to accomplish can help us all.

Additionally, Ericsson echoes a theme established by Carol Dweck in Mindset- The New Psychology of Success,  that IQ is not the sole determinant of success!! This is such a radical paradigm shift for our society, that I think we are still just in the early stages of adopting to this notion. I hope Ericsson, Pool, Dweck and others leading in this way achieve greater recognition than simply a best-selling book- I hope their ideas actually become so widely accepted that the notion of aptitude testing or academic placements based on test scores fall by the wayside as the antiquated notions they are.

Moreover, I hope all life long learners are inspired to  continue their journey of “dreaming, learning, doing” and help inspire others on this challenging journey.

Defining Culture at Indiana University


In Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried characters are revealed and humanized through the objects they carried on them as they trudged through VietNam.  It is easy to think that in our modern consumerist culture we are unique in being defined by our possessions as well- logos on shirts, pants, phones.

But is this really new?

Indiana University explores this idea in their exhibit-“Thoughts, Things, and Theories-What is Culture?” at Mathers Museum of Culture open Tuesday through Friday now through December 2017.

The installation features commonplace artifacts such as a 1967 suburban American home, juxtaposed with a dwelling compound from contemporaneous Nigeria inviting viewers to contemplate how our “possessions” fulfill a practical as well as cultural role, tying us to a larger “process” or narrative.

The exhibit tells this story through the phases of life, displaying cultural artifacts such as “Birth and Infancy” and culminating in “Death and Afterlife,” with viewers encouraged to think, discuss, and question every step of the way.

According to their website, “culture is a complicated topic because individual practices from one region or upbringing to another vary greatly, but it’s also a simple one-despite these differences, all cultures are structured around universal needs to fulfill.”

Teachers of World History or Humanities will find this article especially interesting and could likely spark an interesting discussion about what items help explain our culture. I could imagine an especially creative teacher to create an activity where students create their own “museum” either actually in the classroom or in text or graphic form that is inspired by the topics raised in this exhibit.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is culture?
  2. What are some of the countries represented in Indiana University’s exhibit?
  3. In the “Childhood” exhibit, toys were used to help prepare children for adult roles and responsibilities-is this still the case? What are some examples?
  4. A great question from the article,” When does a person cease being a child and begin an adult life?”
  5. Which of your favorite possessions do you think that your “peers” in other parts of the world also have? Which of your possessions do you think they don’t have?
  6. How would you create a similar exhibition?
  7. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn,do?”


The Name Game-University of Toledo Analyzes Baby Naming Trends

What is in a name?

Well, a specific time in history according to University of Toledo graduate student  Ram Mukherjee. Ram analyzed data for girl baby names from 1880 to 2004 and found many interesting patterns.

Do you know a Grace? Unless they are over 100 years old, they were probably from the resurgent wave of Grace’s born in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s.

Their research focused on identifying the trends of baby names and found that some were due to influences in popular culture, and others were a slight variation on a more traditional name. The next step is to use their data to try to predict trends for future names.

This article and research could be used by high school math teachers as a brief warm up activity as it includes a graph with the most common names. It could also be used to foster a discussion of data modeling techniques and could spark a discussion of how to view this data to actually make the predictions for the next set of popular names. I think it is also interesting to consider how popular culture impacts something as fundamental as child naming.

Interestingly, the article notes that “out of 104,100 unique names, 64,911 are female and 39,119 are male.” Anyone care to speculate as to why this might be?

Questions for Discussion

  1. How did they analyze this data?
  2. Elizabeth and Kelly were popular in the 1920’s and then surged again together in the 1970’s-any guesses as to why this might be?
  3. Which were some of the least common names?
  4. Do you think it might be better to have a common name, or a unique name? Explain your answer?
  5. How else could you present the data to communicate the important information?