SXSWedu 2014

The Classroom as a Neural Network


Meaningful, engaged learning fosters connections between course material, students, educators, and the wider world. Educational leaders understand the networked quality of the classroom, the power of empathy to create connection, and the well-being of each student as vital components for successful learning outcomes.

The White House Summit on Community Colleges report (2011) outlines the President’s goal of making America the most educated country in the world by 2020; one recommended strategy is to increase the use of cohort-based education. We suggest that collaborative, cohort-based learning mimics the associative properties of a neural network in creating relational links between disparate elements of the system.

What if we envisioned the classroom as a type of neural network, one that encourages peer-to-peer learning, highlights creative problem-solving, and mindfully employs technology to connect, rather than isolate, moments of human connection?

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. How can educators create a buzz within learning communities that encourages new and meaningful connections between people, ideas, and real-world challenges?
  2. How can educators apply current research on the neuroscience of learning and creativity to facilitate engaged, networked classrooms?
  3. How can play, ritual, and community-building exercises create new neural pathways through kinesthetic, embodied learning?



Melinda Rothouse, Co-Founder, Syncreate

Meta Information:

  • Tags: creativity, collaboration
  • Event: EDU
  • Format: Core Conversation
  • Track: Best Practices & Implementation
  • Session Focus Area
  • Level: Intermediate

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