[MUSIC, Title: “Focused and Diffuse Modes"] [Barb] Back in the early 1960s, my father was a country veterinarian. Some of my earliest memories are of me nibbling calves' food along with them from their mangers. But nationwide, plans were beginning to take shape to send astronauts to the moon. My father, country vet, though he was, wanted to be involved. So he joined the Air Force and we began moving all around the country as he slowly worked his way up to eventually head the Air Force's food technology program. This program worked closely with NASA to help develop the astronauts' food. By the time I was 15 years old, we'd lived in 10 different places and I'd served as a taster for astronaut food like freeze-dried ice cream and powdered eggs. But even when I was only seven years old, the frequent moves were already causing problems for my learning, especially when it came to math. When we moved from Texas to Massachusetts, the other students were suddenly way far ahead of me in the multiplication tables. When I saw other students around me moving speedily ahead while I struggled to catch up, I blamed myself. I must just not be good at math, I thought. And I gave up. Basically, I flunked my way through elementary, middle, and high school math and science. I graduated from high school believing there was just no way I could do anything technical. Kind of funny, given that I'm now a professor of engineering. But it turns out that back in my childhood, my real problem wasn't actually my struggles with math. The problem was that nobody told me anything about how my brain works. Nobody told me it is perfectly okay and actually quite normal not to figure something out the first time you see it. So, even if you might have learned about the different modes of thinking in some of our earlier courses or books, it's important for us to review a few of these ideas in the next few videos just to make sure we're all on the same page. As you'll see, we'll also be adding some new and critical insights. [MUSIC, Title: “Focused and Diffuse Modes"] It turns out that the brain has two very different ways of operating. One, when your mind is focused and paying careful attention to something, and another, more diffuse way of thinking when you're relaxed. Let's call these two different ways of thinking, the focused and the diffuse modes. Psychologists like to call these the "task positive" and "task negative" networks, while neuroscientists tend to call the diffuse mode, the "default mode network." Whatever you might call these modes, though, they're as different as night and day. To better understand these two modes, as you know, it will help if we use a metaphor. The metaphor we're going to use is that of a pinball machine. If you're my age, you remember pinball machines. But if you're a bit younger than me, here's how a pinball machine actually works. It has rubber bumpers. They're scattered all over that pinball table. All you have to do is pull back on the plunger, and the ball goes bouncing out on the rubber bumpers. That's how you get points. So, what we're going to do is we're gonna take this pinball machine and we're gonna put it right down onto the human brain. Ready for it? OK, so here we go. There's the pinball machine on the brain. See how close together these little rubber bumpers are? The bumpers are close because this is a metaphor for the focused mode. In this focused way of thinking, we have patterns that are already laid out because we've already learned something about that topic that we're working with. So, for example, if a student already knows something about multiplication and you ask the student to multiply 23 times 42, the student would either take out a piece of paper or maybe even do it in their head, with their thoughts moving smoothly right along those neural pathways that have already been laid. But what if your students are learning something completely new, like, for example, let's say your students already know multiplication pretty well, but they're just beginning to learn about division? The division pattern isn't really in place yet in their brains. So, what do the students do? They start trying to work on a division problem, but then they inadvertently slip back up to their already well learned multiplication techniques or they just go completely off track. This means they can't solve the problem. They get more and more frustrated because they don't have the new pattern for division in place yet. They can eventually even quit and give up altogether. But actually getting away from focusing on that material is when the magic begins. As your students quit, walk away and begin to think about other things, they begin relaxing mentally. They start thinking about what's for lunch or who they're going to meet up with after class, or maybe they're just falling asleep at night. All of those times are when your diffuse mode network can begin to open up. As you can see here, this mode of thinking has the rubber bumpers much more widely spaced. When your students are mind wandering in the diffuse mode, their thoughts can range much more widely. They can't think in the careful, focused way that they can when they're in the focus mode, but they can often at least get to a new perspective and make a new set of neural connections. Your students begin making progress in solving the new problem or understanding that new concept. Learning often involves going back and forth between the two different modes. First, students have to focus intensely to load that information or the problem into their brain and start "cooking" some of the new neural connections. But then they have to step back, mentally relax, and let those ideas simmer in the diffuse mode. When they return later to the problem they've been struggling with or the new idea they've been trying to understand, they can make better sense of it. Sometimes it takes several back and forths to make progress in understanding a particularly difficult or brand new concept. [MUSIC, Title: “Teach Students What to Do When They Feel Frustrated”] If only I'd known when I was a little girl that it was perfectly normal not to be able to figure something out, the first time I tried, I would have felt better about being able to learn math. And of course, back when I was little I had no idea that already knowing something about the multiplication tables, as the other students in my class did, made it even easier for them to learn more about the multiplication tables. So, of course, they were learning faster than me. We'll learn more about how a little learning helps with more learning in the second MOOC of this specialization, when we talk about schemas. Again, race car and hiker's learners can get to the finish line. Each way of learning has its benefits. Remember, whether you teach math, history, a foreign language, music, or anything, if you're able to take a few moments and teach students about the focus and diffuse modes, this will help them so they can understand what to do and why, when they get frustrated and stuck in their learning. To show your students these ideas, you can download the PowerPoint with imagery by clicking on that "Download" arrow right underneath this video. You can use this material to teach your students about using the focused mode and about how getting into the diffuse mode can help them when they get frustrated. You might say, "Well, yeah, but my students like to wait on learning until the very last second." "What happens when they don't have enough time to go back and forth between focus and diffuse modes?" That's exactly what we're going to talk about next. I'm Barb Oakley. Learn it, link it, let's do it!