Sabrina in Helsinki

I was fortunate enough to attend the Dare to Learn’ conference in Helsinki, Finland through my role at AUT.

My 5 days in Helsinki were full of new impressions, connections and lots of learning.

One of my highlights was meeting Director of Worldwide Education for apple, Dominic Liechti. As it turned out, he had set up the Khan Lab School (founded by Sal Khan from The Khan Academy). The school has many similarities to Ako such as that children learn in mixed-age environments and are support to direct their own learning. Children are not put in classes by age but by independence levels which are determined by one’s motivation, focus, time-management & self-management and student apply for promotion to their coach/tutor when they believe they have mastered a set of milestones to warrant progression. It is very fascinating indeed!

As a neuroscience geek, another highlight for me was a presentation by Minna Huotilainen who is part of the Cognitive Brain Research Unit at Helsinki University. 

She talked about how brains like to play for fun and for purpose. Brains need to feel social acceptance, security and trust, a stable physiological environment and to feel meaningful. 

Learning is hard-wired into our brains as newborns learn automatically, but when we are older, we need to work for it and provide the right conditions for learning, so the neural pathways can be formed. 

Minna also mentioned, that news cells are born in the hippocampus, especially during endurance training but also during resistance training and all light activity. So what does that mean for our brains? We should be moving or at least standing if we want to support our learning process, so why do we spend the majority of time sitting down?

Building news cells is only part of the hard work, they need to stay alive and they can only do this by building connections/pathways.

This is why dancing, singing or playing a musical instrument is so important. It changes our brain. Not only does it develop more brain matter related to music but also related to memory and concentration. Music makes it easier to learn and remember. 

She also reiterated the importance of sleep and that half of the learning happens WHILE we sleep. This is why I will continue to share more experiences in my next post and have a well-deserved sleep now.


Sabrina Nagel