Using Technology to Support Information Literacy & Brain-based Learning

[Researchers cannot understand the process by which… - II]Children cannot acquire information literacy skills [odd combination of words? Perhaps the author could briefly explain why he or she is employing Hancock’s terminology here? - II]independent of content, nor without attention to the relationship between learning, cognition and the contributions information technologies can make.[poorly constructed opening sentence: children can acquire literacy skills without attention to relationships between learning, etc. - II] This article summarizes a 12-part framework relating how the brain learns, making connections to effective teaching practice using a variety of information resources.[where did the author get the framework or how was it developed? - II]

Every day of their lives, most school-age children in the U.S. are exposed to volumes of information through a profusion of delivery systems -- television, video games, multimedia computer systems, audio and videotape, compact disc,[I don’t buy this assumption -II] and oh yes, print. These children are as comfortable programming the VCR with their wristwatch-size remotes as we once were with setting the coffee maker to perk first thing in the morning.[I suppose I buy this one, although I don’t know how to set my coffeemaker to brew in the morning. -II] [This comment seems a bit trite. Is this true? Are these skills really as ubiquitous as the author asserts? - EE]

In the workplace, businesses are re-tooling with advanced technologies and acquiring access to complex, comprehensive information systems to streamline operations.  It is not surprising that employers now expect higher levels of technological and information literacy skills from workers than ever before. [citations to support this common assumption - II] Some entry-level jobs for high-school graduates now require the same skills necessary for university level coursework, and at the current rate of technological obsolescence, workers can expect to retrain more than ten times during their lives (U.S. Office of Education, 1996). Considering the exposure our youth have to a variety of technological gadgets and information resources, one would think the transition from school to workplace would be second nature.[again I’m not certain that access to technology in the schools necessarily feeds into the challenge of transitioning into the workplace: numerous researcher, e.g, Schank, would in fact argue that transfer of school-based learning has long been an historical problem - II] Not so.[This implies that technology skills are essentially trivial, an assertion I agree with, but my problem is that the issue of media/technical literacy is essentially one of critical discourse and constant reflection. If technology skills are not the main driver for media and general literacy, then the case the author makes below for the inclusion of technology within each principle isn’t really compelling to me. The goal of critical discourse is as well served in a low tech environment as a high tech one. I’m also wary of the assertion that information technology requires years of practice to utilize. Many software engineers responsible for the creation of the technology used in the workplace come from low tech environments, environments that have not apparently hindered their acquisition of the required skills sets. - EE] Only by example from their teachers and peers, through a planned program of instruction, and after years of practice can children develop the collection of information literacy skills soon to be required of them in their work environments.  (For a concise description of information literacy and its component skills, see Hancock, 1993.)[this parathetical statement requires fleshing out earlier - II] Children cannot acquire information literacy skills independent of content, nor without attention to the relationship between learning, cognition and the contributions information technologies can make to learning.[redundant - II]
[I’d argue this. Is access to information technology really a necessary precursor to literacy? - EE]

Through extensive collection and analysis activities, Caine and Caine (1991, 1997) have summarized and consolidated research on the human brain. They have developed principles that serve as a general theoretical framework for brain-based learning[I’m sorry but this is a bit trite – most learning is (I sincerely hope) "brain-based" - EE] and provide guidelines for defining and selecting programs for successful teaching and effective learning.  The Caine's twelve principles are stated below, each with a brief explanation.  The author has suggested each principle's application to teaching information literacy skills and the technologies that support effective learning.

1.  The Brain is a Parallel Processor.
The brain is always doing many things at one time.  For the educator, this means that a vast collection of classroom activities and teaching methods should be available for "orchestration" or[Is "or" the right word here? Otherwise the sentence is a fragment - II] students' many brain activities: thoughts, emotions, imagination, predispositions.  Students should learn early the many ways in which they may access and explore information resources -- text, still graphics, motion video, graphs and charts, audio recordings, oral dialogue, online interaction -- and of the distinct "personalities" of each.[Though earlier the author has suggested that children are routinely given access to multiple information types in school? - II]
[My interpretation of this statement is that a broad exposure to media types helps to foster media/information literacy. But the author has argued in the first paragraph that most kids have a broad range of media exposure, so it would seem to me that what is MOST critical is not exposure, but a critical analysis of how media affects the student cognitively and viscerally, and the ways in which these impacts are exploited for specific ends. - EE]

2.  Learning Engages the Entire Physiology
Learning is a function as natural as breathing, and it can be either inhibited or facilitated.  The teacher who wishes to facilitate learning must consider that everything that affects physiological functioning affects a student's capacity to learn -- stress, nutrition, exercise, relaxation, drugs, cultural habits and beliefs, and natural development.  Teachers should select, and help students learn to select for themselves, information resources that are not only appropriate to instructional tasks but that are responsive to learners' individual needs.[This seems like a very tall order to place on teachers! -II]
[The author’s assertion doesn’t seem to follow the principle. If physiology is the issue, then I’m not sure how information resources play a role in inhibiting or facilitating learning within this principle. - EE]

3.  The Search for Meaning is Innate.
The brain's quest to make meaning out of experience cannot be stopped; it can only be channeled and focused.  As a result, the learning environment must first establish stability and familiarity while providing for novelty, discovery, and challenge in instructional activities.  The use of a variety of learning technologies for instruction provides the constancy learners need[How can various technologies provide constancy? - II] while allowing for individual exploration and inquiry.
[How? It’s one thing to say that a broad range of learning activities is a good thing (an assertion already made), but the suggestion to do so leaves a lot to be desired in terms of instructional technology. Is it better than lower tech classroom activities (a point I’d argue)? How does constancy play a role (I’d argue that there is virtually no constancy in instructional tech applications). Again, my major problem is that the application of the principle to ed tech is ill-supported and opaque. - EE]

4.  The Search for Meaning Occurs through "Patterning."
The brain naturally and constantly seeks order, integration, and structure in day-to-day experience.[so the novelty that teachers are striving for in the previous section almost sounds like something they ought to avoid - II] A teacher conscious of this phenomenon presents activities that allow students to extract patterns and relationships from initially unrelated or seemingly random information.  The teacher as facilitator and guide helps students interact with a variety of print and non-print information, mechanical and electronic materials, extracting information and discovering relationships within it.  The teacher cannot do this "for" students but should encourage them to engage in patterning activities as part of instruction.
[But what does that mean? No one is going to argue this point, but no one is going to benefit from it either. - EE]
5.  Emotions Are Critical to Patterning.
The attitudes and experiences we bring to the learning environment affect the patterns we extract from it.  Teachers must account for both the cognitive and metacognitive perspectives students bring to their own learning.  When interacting with a variety of information resources, it is the teacher's responsibility to acquaint students with the influence each medium has on the messages they receive, to help them become intelligent consumers of not only the information, but the delivery system.[Notably, while I agree with most of the presuppositions involving learning, I find the advice given to teachers on how to address them, at best, vague and discouraging… HOW are teachers supposed to accomplish some of the charges the author is confidently handing to them! -II]
[Fair enough, but how? If awareness depends on critical discourse, then how is that discourse generated and supported? How can ed or info tech support that discourse? Contributed to literacy? - EE]

6.  The Brain Processes Parts and Wholes Simultaneously.
While the two hemispheres of the brain process information differently, this processing is interactive.  Students understand and retain information better when their teachers expose them to the parts of a knowledge base while acquainting them with the whole, or larger picture.  Careful selection and use of a variety of information resources that focus on an instructional theme or topic provide opportunities for this interactivity.
[Again – What does this mean? No one will argue the principle but there is nothing substantive in the assertion. - EE]
7.  Learning Involves Both Focused Attention and Peripheral Perception.
The brain absorbs information of which it is both directly and indirectly aware. In the classroom, the teacher should construct a learning environment that takes into account the direct instruction students will receive and the indirect stimuli that will affect and enhance learners' experiences.  Peripheral materials can include charts, illustrations, technological tools, music, and artworks, in addition to the traditional concerns for light, temperature, and noise.[oddly constructed sentence - II]
[Again – Sure. No one’s going to argue the point, but there is no insight here. - EE]

8.  Learning Always Involves Conscious and Unconscious Processes.
We learn much more than we can acknowledge because of the brain's ability to process large amounts of peripheral information.  Students should be allowed to process actively what they are learning and take charge of their development of personal meanings.  Students can learn to recognize and personalize the content presented in their classes by exploring metaphors and analogies as they interact with a variety of information resources and technologies.[I’m assuming that it’s pretty much impossible for teachers to inform the "unconscious" processes of their students. - II]
[same point as above - EE]

9.  We Have at Least Two Different Kinds of Memory: A Spatial Memory System and a Set of Systems for Rote Learning.
Our spatial memory system is universal and inexhaustible; it is motivated by novelty and becomes enriched over time.  Our rote learning system organizes facts and skills that require more practice and rehearsal.  Traditional education emphasizes rote learning and largely ignores learning transfer and developing understanding.  With guided, orchestrated interaction, students can use a variety of information resources and technologies to develop deeper and richer understandings as they acquire knowledge.
[same point as above - EE]
10. We Understand and Remember Best When Facts and Skills are Embedded in Natural, Spatial Memory.
Learning is most effective when it occurs in connection with ordinary experiences. To be more effective, educational programs should adopt a variety of techniques that offer experiential learning opportunities, such as classroom demonstrations, field trips, individual and team projects, visual imagery, stories, metaphor, drama, and content integration.  Technology and the use of many resources to explore content are natural means to facilitate this process.
[How or why are they natural? - EE]
11. Learning is Enhanced by Challenge and Inhibited by Threat.
In a threatening environment, the learner experiences feelings of helplessness and reverts to more primitive and routine behaviors.  In a challenging environment, the learner is engaged in activity and experiences feelings of optimal energy. A variety of information resources and instructional technologies encourage ready adjustment to the learner's pace, level of engagement, and depth of concept coverage, and should be used for effective individualization.
[But what does that mean? - EE]
12. Each Brain is Unique.
Even though we all have the same systems, they are integrated differently for each individual.  Moreover, because learning changes the structure of the brain, the more we learn, the more unique we become.  Learners should become familiar with as many information resources as possible, should use them frequently, and should see them integrated throughout the curriculum.[Seems again to contradict early statement that students are already being exposed to many information types - II]
[But what does that mean? - EE]

Rather than sitting back (like passive television viewers) marveling at the every-increasing quantity of information and rapidity of change, the imperative for educators is to lead students through a careful, cumulative acquisition of information literacy skills.  With library/media and technology specialists standing firmly out front as curriculum consultants, teams of school professionals can plan together integrated activities focusing on important content while encouraging practice with information access, acquisition, evaluation, organization, and presentation. Learners should engage from their earliest years in rich, complex, authentic experiences that provide a tension between creativity and utility, frequent opportunities for feedback, and an environment of trust and open communication. This "orchestrated immersion" (Palmisano, Barron, Torp, 1993) can help ensure that students will leave their school years better prepared to particpate actively and flexibly in their communities and the workplace.


Caine, R.N. & G. Caine.  (1991). Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Caine, R.N. & G. Caine. (1997). Unleashing the Power of Perceptual Change: The Power of Brain-based Teaching.  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Hancock, V. (1993). "Information Literacy for Lifelong Learning."  ERIC Digest EDO-IR-93-1, ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources.

Palmisano, M., M. Barron, L. Torp. (1993). Integrative Learning System: Rationale, Overview, and Reflections.  Aurora, IL: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

U.S. Office of Education. (1996, June). Getting America's students ready for the 21st century: Meeting the technology literacy challenge. Washington, DC: Author.


Critical Reviews


Publishable … The article is an interesting application of research. The examples of application of the 12 principles of Brain-based learning are, as promised, related to information literacy and technology (however, please review principles 2 and 12 which need to be related more to technology examples or applications).

I would like to have incorporated in the introduction, or lead to the list of 12 applications, a paragraph or two summarizing what is Brain-based learning and the research framework it comes from, as well as other research
studies and findings about this subject.

As far as specific content, please review carefully : principle 1 = change or student’s many brain = OF student’s …
Last paragraph change every-increasing = ever-increasing … Last paragraph again, change particpate = participate …

One final note, all 12 titles of the Brain-based principles, I think, should have some parallelism. E.g. The Brain, Learning Engages, We Have, etc … Could or should they all be constructed using similar syntax and grammar ?



I feel generally that, while I appreciate the intent of the author (and agree with most of the principles), they are simply too vague to make a compelling or useful frame of reference. As well, the examples of the roles through which technology can support these principles are not particularly convincing. I’d like to see a more analytical/critical approach with a focus on specific ways in which instructional or information technology can support the general principles touted below.

I don’t want to be an undue critic (I know what that feels like J ), but I can’t support the publication of this in its current form. It’s something of a whitewash of a whole bunch of tremendously important issues, each of which could occupy a dissertation.



The author is making very important links between student learning styles/behaviors and effective instructional approaches to learner similarities and differences, but many of the assumptions that the author makes about what teachers should DO to address these learning styles seem vague or even problematic. Because the 12-point framework is not really defended in the introduction of the manuscript, the leaps from learning styles to teaching strategies seems even more dramatic.

Though the author appears to be advocating "orchestrated immersion" this argument does not appear until the last sentence of the manuscript.

I would recommend against publishing this article until the author has clearly defined his or her terms, defined the framework presented, and specifically elaborated/explored instructional solutions to these challenges.