Transmitter #52

Transmitter, from Todd’s Brain, is a weekly wrap up of research in education, brain hacks, teaching strategies, interesting statistics, Technology, social science, psychology, human interest moments, and news that impacts Teaching and learning. Because contemporary teaching encompasses many fields, so does Transmitter.

Brain Hacks

Deadlines Trigger Dopamine

Dopamine reserves can become depleted if you don't challenge yourself or have social contact. But we can heighten dopamine through checklists and completing tasks within self-imposed time limits. "Be methodical and stop leaving things until the last minute," urges Christopher Bergland, the author of Sweat and the Biology of Bliss. "You want to keep the flow of dopamine constant and break the roller-coaster pattern of procrastination followed by panic."

(Source: "The Neuroscience of Perseverance," by Christopher Bergland for Psychology Today.) 

How To Make Your Child More Popular

STUDY: Children, starting at the age of 4, prefer friendships with kids who know the same songs. Whether those other children actually like the songs is less important, according to the study. So teach youngsters a lot of songs!

"Shared knowledge may be a powerful determinant of children’s social preferences, both because it underpins effective communication and because it is conveyed by others through social interactions and therefore can serve as a marker of social group identity."

(Source: Soley, G., & Spelke, E. (2016). Shared cultural knowledge: Effects of music on young children’s social preferences, Cognition, 148, 106-116.)

Teaching Strategies

Silent Chalk Talk

I used the silent chalk talk strategy twice last week. The activity can be used as a warm-up and schema activator before a class has a discussion about an assigned text.

First, write four questions on whiteboards around a room. Next have students write their answers near the questions. When learners respond, put a "heart" by those responses that are thoughtful. I also ask questions in writing, which students answer in kind. Throughout the strategy, students write, then step back to see all the comments, then respond to the comments or to a different question.

After the board is filled in, facilitate a class discussion on topics. My favorite thing about this strategy is that (at the board) every student is writing, thinking, and responding at the same time.

Why Do We Teach Spelling And Vocabulary Separately?

There are 250 ways to spell the 45 speech sounds in the English language. Because spelling is harder to learn than vocabulary, it would slow down the study of vocabulary if we also taught spelling simultaneously.

(Source: Marie Rippel, All About Learning Press)

The Exam Wrapper: A Post-Test Reflection Opportunity

To have students reflect on their learning process after finishing a test, return the exams "wrapped" in a sheet with reflection prompts. These questions are designed to help students become metacognitive about what they did well, and how they could have done better. Here are some questions recommended by Annie Murphy Paul:

     1. What problems posed the most difficulty for me on the exam?

     2. How did I study for the exam?

     3. What would I do differently if I had to retake the exam?

     4. For my next exam, I want to remember to ______________.

Writes Annie Murphy Paul, “A study by Marsha Lovett of Carnegie Mellon University found that students who completed ‘exam wrappers’ featuring questions like those above were more likely to adopt effective study strategies and ultimately achieved higher grades.”

(Source: Annie Murphy Paul)

Stand By Your Quote

Here's a simple pre- or post-reading activity. Place quotations from the text around the room on chart paper that address different topics related to the reading. Have students read all the quotations, then stand by their favorite. After discussing the quote with their peers, "have them explain to the group what they like about their quote."

(Source: Teachers on Target)


How many microscopic droplets of saliva a talker sprays per word: 2.5.

(Source: UberFacts)

How many words the average adult knows: 42,000

(Source: Frontier Blog)

How many working age individuals in the U.S. don't have a bachelor's degree: 70%.

(Source: The New Yorker)

The number of words the average reader processes per minute: 275.

The number of times a day the average six-year-old laughs: 300

(Source: Numberland)

The percentage of U.S. citizens who will develop a mental health condition in their lifetime: 50%

Of those who suffer, the percentage who are not receiving treatment: 56%.


Tech Watch

Chatterpix (iOS)

Take a photo of a face (human, animal, or object) and then open up ChatterPix and draw a line where the mouth is. Finally record an audio message. "ChatterPix can make anything talk."

(Source: Duck Duck Moose)

Quick Test Grader (iOS)

Originally built by teachers to quickly process exit tickets, Quick Key Mobile Grading App allows you to grade 100 scantron-styled quizzes in less than 5 minutes. Just use your iPhone or iPad. It's free. 


Instagrok is a search engine that makes vocabulary into a semantic map and creates automagic multiple choice quizzes to help students learn new vocabulary words. 

Four Exemplary of Digital Texts

Want students to create meaningful digital texts? Showing them these models is a good place to start. 

(Source: Creating Multimodal Texts)


STUDY: Why Do You Look Away?

Why do people break eye contact when they're speaking? Japanese researchers' experiments led them to conclude that "eye contact drains our more general cognitive resources" -- but did not directly interfere with verb generation.

(Source: Christian Jarrett for Education Digest reporting on research in Cognition Journal by Shogo Kajimura and Michio Nomura.)

STUDY: Stay Smarter Longer - Do Squats

Twin studies show that leg power correlates with healthy cognitive aging. 

(Source: Karger)

STUDY: Does Daylight Savings Time Actually Save Energy?

Research on this suggest that the answer is no--with some experts saying that daylight savings time actually increases energy consumption. More studies are needed.

(Source: LiveScience)


“Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you."

- T.H. White, The Once and Future King (Hat Tip to Heather Wolpert-Gawron)

Brain Feed

Benefits of Using Learner Diaries 

Nik Peachey communicates with students using "learner diaries"--in which the student and teacher correspond. Peachy discusses prompts and benefits of the approach


Plagiarism Edification

Penn State has created a plagiarism tutorial for students that focuses on digital content. 

(Source: Penn State)

American Literature Resource

PAL (Perspectives in American Literature) is a reference and research guide that provides historical context for authors within American literature. Browse authors or time period. "Intended for college students in American literature courses, it also includes helpful study questions and research guidance," according to the site, Hekman Library.

"To This Day"

Shane Koyczan's poem about violence and school, its cost, and what it means to be resilient is a marvel. 

The Weekly Marcus Aurelius

"The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing." 

Lightning Round


There are 3 kinds of people in the world. Those who are good at math and those who aren't. 

When comforting a grammar teacher, I always say softly, "There, their, they're."​

Some links in this post are affiliate links.

Our cool product of the week is a convenient way to add Bluetooth functionality to your car and make hands free calls or stream music. It is a best deal recommendation from Wirecutter, a $69.99 value that is now on sale for $29.99 on AmazoniClever Himbox HB01 Bluetooth 4.0 Hands-Free Car Kit.

Todd Finley

Edutopia Blogger and Asst. Editor || ECU Ed Professor || Founder of Todd's Brain at || Books: Dinkytown Braves and Rethinking Classroom Design.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below