Slay the Beast!

If we can’t keep the attention of the zombie learner, we have no hope of getting off the shot to the head. Brain Rule #4 is critical for all teachers.

4. We don’t pay attention to boring things.

If our students are texting, sleeping, or otherwise occupied, there is no hope that we will be able to transmit the information in the course. Without their attention, the communication channel is broken.
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It's All About the Brain

So what are we to do about zombie learners? Are they a lost cause or can we reach them?

Movies and television tell us that there is no hope. Shoot those walkers! I don’t think that would be an appropriate teaching strategy. But that is what happens in many classes when we drone on for 50 minutes or more. They either get it or they don’t.

Just as “real” zombies are killed by a shot to the head, zombie learners are best dealt with by a different kind of shot to the head. We need to arm ourselves by examining how the student brain works to process information.
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What are the Traits of a Zombie Learner?

In case you havent noticed, zombies are cool. In a video produced by TEDEd, the neuroscientists Tim Verstynen and Brad Voytek took a light-hearted look at zombies.

Verstynen and Voytek have identified nine traits in zombies. They examined how the traits relate back to the brain. I want to look at these traits in the context of the zombie learner to see if we can extend them to the metaphor.
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They Want To Eat Your Brain!

Over the past few months, I have been watching episodes of “The Walking Dead” on AMC via Netflix. Like many people, I found the story interesting and the evolution of zombies fascinating. Over the past few years, the use of the term “zombie” has gone way beyond the undead popularized by George A. Romero’s film “Night of the Living Dead” (1968). We have zombie computers, zombie systems in the brain, zombie apocalypse, zombie walks, zombie agents…you name it. The word “zombie” is no longer simply a noun. It is used to describe things that work automatically without our conscious knowledge. In my profession, teaching, a few educators have applied zombie to a certain class of students they call “zombie learners”.

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