Redesigning Learning For The Brain
The Matrix changed our understanding of our world in a number of ways.
For one thing, the concept of a world which is controlled by external entities beneath an exterior of apparent free-will is eery to say the least. But for learners across the globe, the learning engine that endowed him with the skills that he later on put to good use had them rooting for a similar contraption. And while a proverbial gap between the lesson and the learner has existed for millenia, Dr Nish Sonwalkar comes up with an intriguing solution to bridge this ever widening divide.
Having migrated to the US for his doctoral degree at the MIT following his Masters studies at IIT Bombay, Dr Nish Sonwalkar went on to work in diverse areas ranging from Ocean thermal energy to Molecular Dynamics. In 1996, he found himself at the helm of Hypermedia Teaching Facility (Hypermedia Lab) at MIT. It was here that he began his foray into the world of electronic media put in the service of learning. Several years later, his experimentations in this realm has led him to his brainchild, Brainwave Adaptive Learning™.
No two persons learn a lesson the same way. Neither do they learn two different subjects the same way.
For a target audience with diverse sensibilities, it is not prudent to assume that one system of teaching would suit all. Lessons often will have to redefined and redesigned.
To probe into the neurological part of the learning process, every lesson learnt can be attributed to forming neural pathways in the brain. How and where these pathways are made can be controlled and regulated to help the learner learn a concept in the best possible way in the least possible time.
It was this possibility that attracted Dr Nish Sonwalkar to the realm of adaptive learning. His research led him to examine over 300 educational models and design a framework that would incorporate the best of all. And this is what sets apart this technology from the rest of its peers in the business. For one thing, it is subjective, i.e it is tailor-made to suit the sensibilities of the learner.
In the system that Dr. Nish envisioned, an active EEG headband is worn around the head and brain signals are tapped. These form an intelligent feedback to a device which then appropriately maps these responses to an appropriate learning method. This would help forge enhanced neuronal connections and thereby, help the student achieve his course objectives successfully.
For students, this would mean better grades, results and understanding. Instructors could be assured better learning outcomes and lesser dropouts. At corporate level, this translated to better HR compliance and lesser expenditure in training programs. A true turn-key solution, there is no need to go beyond a simple internet connection and a mobile device.
As of now the system available is called the Brainiak™ Kit, which comprises of an EEG headband and The Brainiak™ Artificial Intelligence (AI) Software App. This may be used to access online adaptive courses on a small palette of subjects like Physics, Algebra, Statistics, and Calculus. There are also programs that help students practice for exams like SATs.
How far this technology permeates the present educational infrastructure is yet to be seen. However, one thing is certain: Adaptive Learning MOOCs are here to stay. The pioneering efforts of Dr Nish Sonwalkar will serve as inspiration to many, as will his standing commitment to making learning a little more effective and enjoyable.