Educational Workshops about Brain-Sensing and related Technologies

Posted on by Sarvnaz Taherian

We all know how much technology has changed our lives, but up until a couple of years ago, when we first met Chris Clay from the MindLab in Auckland, I was completely oblivious as to how much it has affected education. Advances in, and affordability of technology can offer children as young as four years old, ways of understanding how computers and electronics work, and those as young as seven, to program software and build robots. We even met an 11 year old, who (apart from being a prodigy) had created his own computer operating system. It blew my tiny mind.

It seems as though learning in the 21st century can be really fun, and really meaningful. Gone are the days where children were forced to learn about subjects in silos. Now there are schools that enable cross-pollination of subjects, so students can learn how maths is related to science and how science is related to art and music etc. We’ve been lucky enough to build a relationship with one such school, Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS), which opened its doors last year. The staff at this high school foster the innate curiosity and creativity that is within each of their students, by enabling them to learn the NZQA curriculum through choosing their own modules, working at their own pace, and building agency (click here for deputy principle, Claire Amos’ talk about student agency).

Several years ago, the legendary educator, Sir Kenneth Robinson did a TEDtalk which discussed how important it is to shift our educational paradigms in order to “put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions”. Schools like HPSS and organisations such as the MindLab are doing just this, providing students (and teachers for that matter) with more control and access to alternative, hands-on methods of learning. Young students have the opportunity to learn how subjects interrelate, and to devise projects that bring subjects together. For instance, the arts and mathematics or psychology and computing.

This is where we at Thought-Wired come in. Yes, we did fall into this accidentally, but it has been a very happy accident. Through our various networks, and meeting the plethora of awesome educators that sprinkle love around Auckland (I don’t think teachers ever stop working), we’ve spent a fair amount of time running workshops and presentations on brain sensing or brain-computer interface (BCI) technology, and all the bits and bobs that make this type of technology feasible. People who’ve attended have learned about:

  • Computer programming
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Machine learning 
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Intuitive computer control
  • Robotics
  • Neuroscience
  • Neurofeedback
  • Psychology
  • Universal access
  • Human-centred design

Some of our presentations have been focused on one particular aspect of BCIs, such as machine learning or neurofeedback. However, all of our sessions are participatory and applied. We know that this is an important aspect of learning, and plus, as soon as we describe what a BCI is, people gasp and jump at the opportunity to test the technology. We also like to explore what ideas our participants come up with for this technology, asking questions such as; what are the applications? What are the ethical dilemmas? How can we improve the technology? The realm of BCI is new and developing fast, so we are still learning, and love to learn from students/delegates who have fresh eyes.

Students trying out the MindWave Mobile headset with Sarvnaz

Dr James running the session on machine learning at the Hobsonville Point Secondary School

We have thoroughly enjoyed running these workshops/presentations, and have decided to try and write up some of our experiences in separate blog posts, so keep an eye out! If you’re interested in learning more about these, or would like us to visit your school/organisation, shoot through an email to hello@thought-wired.com. We’d love to meet you, and your brain!

Next check out the Brainwave Starter Kit that we used in these sessions on our webstore!