An Introduction To Neuroscience Part 1: a Massive Open Online Resource (a MOOR) For Everyone.

We need an open online resource (MOOR) for anyone who wants to know more about neuroscience.  This MOOR would be an introduction to neuroscience for the interested from adolescents to octogenarians, and from teachers to lawyers.  By ‘open’ I mean a resource that builds the introduction just by linking to the best existing resources and sources of information.

For example, An Introduction to Neuroscience MOOR could support teachers and educators generally (including parents).  It would help them recognize false claims, know which issues remain uncertain and have a better understanding of physical and mental health.  Adolescents would be interested too: research on the social brain in adolescence has clear implications for everyone working with teenagers (YouTube talk by Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore) and for teenagers themselves. Our changed understanding of sleep’s impact on health and mental health, and the effect of sleep deprivation in adolescence caused by education start times are equally very important issues. If MOOR users really want to know more, it is possible to refer them to further information at almost any level of detail from organizations such as Brain Facts and PubMed.

What isn’t in doubt is the growing importance of neurological or brain research in understanding human learning and memory.  Scientific understanding of the way people learn is developing very quickly, yet most educators are largely unaware of the rigorous evidence emerging from research in this field. We now are at a turning point, where educators can learn about the best neurological research and apply some specific elements of that research in their teaching.  Understanding key neurological research will let teachers use a greater variety of evidence-based approaches that have been shown to improve learning.  These might include adaptive digital technologies and testing methods that support learners to overcome barriers to learning and improved provision for individuals with specific learning difficulties such as Dyslexia[1] and Dyscalculia[2] .  Better-informed teachers, students and families are more able to take appropriate steps to overcome learning, health and mental health issues in adolescence.

The Royal Society examined the growing importance of neurology in society and its implications for education and life-long learning [3].  Their report had four key recommendations: neuroscience evidence should directly impact on education policy, teacher training, the use of adaptive learning technology, and a knowledge exchange network with teachers and scientists should be established. There are similar calls in academic papers, conferences, university courses, special interest research  groups in America and Europe, special centres, and many scientific organizations.

Yet a simple starting point for learners and educators isn’t there in the same way that MOOCs are there for the dedicated.  There should be such a starting point- whether a MOOR or not – and this would, in part, lessen the demands on scientists to explain, over and over to different audiences, the same starting points.