A Change: Saw it, Tried it, Loved it

January 2022

We continue our series of special January issues this year with teacher submissions on changes they have made in the past year. Perhaps these end-of-year reflections will inspire you to make some changes of your own for the new year!


Our cover: “If nothing ever changed, there would be no such things as butterflies.” — Wendy Mass, The Candymakers

cover photo by Keiblack on pixabay; others from unsplash

Watch before you read...

Our January Think Tanks are always special. For this one, we asked teachers to tell us about one thing they had changed in the last year. To start the issue off, we chose a couple interesting videos about how the brain deals with change. In a fascinating podcast (or video if you prefer), David Badre gives us a delightful introduction to “cognitive control,” the part of our brain that turns knowledge into action. Harlan Cohen also tells us his story of change and how he learned to manage it in our Lite video.

Mohammad Khari gives us an overview of the issue. Then, in the Think Tank itself, Yulia Kharchenko, Heather Kretschmer, Christine Winskowski, and Tim Murphey all tell us about changes in how they teach language, with suggestions on adopting these new methods. Then, Harumi Kimura, Meredith Stephens with Takuma Sasakura, Ken Purnell with Lydia Rickard, and Curtis Kelly follow with ways their thinking in general has changed. 

In the Plus section, Joshua Cohen closes with a story about an accidental realization that led to better listening, but just before that, look at our comments on how embracing change leads to creativity.

Our Thoughts on Change

Where the Comfort Zone Ends Mohammad Khari

Having experienced (and still experiencing) the COVID-19 pandemic, we all know that humans can adapt to changes fast and in large numbers, unlike any other species. Reflecting on the first days during which we had to stay home, observe the social distancing protocols, or wear masks, we can remember how uncomfortable it was to get used to new routines and how far we were out of our comfort zones.

Think Tank Articles

Show Another Side of You Yulia Kharchenko

There is no denying 2021 was another year of barriers. Border closures, evening curfews, mask mandates, remote learning, online shopping—all served to distance and to keep us separate. 

Designing Digital Adventures Heather Kretschmer

When I was growing up, Choose Your Own Adventure® books were very popular. I vividly remember devouring them around age 12. These books take kids on a fictional adventure, but they’re not set up the way regular novels are. 

The Hidden World of Our Students Harumi Kimura

Suzanne Simard is a granddaughter of a forest logger and is now a researcher who investigates the underground world of forests in Canada. She discovered that some kinds of trees, such as fir and birch, exchange carbon dioxide …

The Power of Extensive Learning Applied to Video Viewing Christine Winskowski

Why don’t we use more movies and television for language learning?

Maybe it seems too easy. Teachers don’t have to do much if students are “just” watching streaming video. 

Student Perspectives on Breakout Rooms Takuma Sasakura & Meredith Stephens

In their discussion of educational expertise, Hattie and Zierer (2018) advise teachers to “engage as much in dialogue as monologue” (p. xv). In the days of the traditional classroom, I (Meredith) would randomly pair students up and prescribe a topic to discuss.

Teaching and Learning in COVID Times: Building Resilience and Belonging Ken Purnell & Lydia Rickard

Pandemics cause change. In the era of COVID-19, many educational institutions have adapted to new requirements of physical distancing, closures, and lockdowns. Interestingly, institutions that purposefully enhanced a culture of student belonging, …

Spreading Good Advising Wisdom to Beat Stress, Better Socialize, and Beautificalize Your Brain! Tim Murphey

A few days ago, I was scanning through my Facebook friends and ran across a mother’s concern for her potentially anxious child. As I read through the list of ways to CHANGE/HELP her child I regressed and realized that these would also CHANGE/HELP me, …

Starting with a Good Question Could Make Classes More Interesting Matt Ehlers

When I saw The Matrix for the first time, in fall 1999, the opening blew my mind: It featured a woman doing impossible stunts, like running on walls, jumping 15-20 meters between two buildings, and disappearing when the phone booth she was in was rammed by a garbage truck—only for her to appear unharmed two scenes later

Talk to Strangers Curtis Kelly

Talk to strangers? Isn’t that something that our mothers told us never to do?

But I have come to realize that having little conversations with people you don’t know is a great pleasure, a great skill and great investment in… longevity! Susan Pinker (Yes, a sibling of You-know-who) in a TED Talk, …

Think Tank Plus

Radio Silence Joshua Cohen

Until recently I never went on a run without two essential things: my earphones and my running shoes. These were nonnegotiable, or so I thought. But, one morning early last year, just as I was getting ready to set out, I realized I had done the unimaginable… I’d forgotten to charge my earphones. When I tried to turn them on, they were as unresponsive as two little stones.

Call for Contributions: Ideas and Articles Think Tank Staff

Become a Think Tank star! Here are some of the future issue topics we are thinking about. Would you, or anyone you know, like to write about any of these? Or is there another topic you’d like to recommend? Do you have any suggestions for lead-in, or just plain interesting, videos? How about writing a book review? Or sending us a story about your experiences? Contact us.

Going Deeper

Embracing Change!

A closing comment: Our brains are built to distrust change, since the routine offers safety. As soon as we are pushed to do something differently, our brains, using well-tested tools of survival, starts looking for reasons not to (source).

And yet, as we have all felt sharply over the last two years, change is absolutely vital and usually beneficial. Stasis has become the thing that hurts us. So how can we train ourselves to embrace change instead of thwarting it? I (Curtis) use these strategies:

1) Embargo routine. According to a Psychology Today article 30 years ago that I can no longer find (not this one), routine kills creativity. Always going to school the same way, always sitting in the same seat in meetings, always eating at the same lunch joint is the perfect way to decrease your creative potential. So, I became inspired to route around, sit around, and eat around, and keep my brain fresh.

2) Adopt a Growth Mindset. Okay, we have heard this term a little too much in the last few years, but still, seeing change as a challenge—as a way to grow—makes it easier to stay loose. After all, who wants to end up one of those stodgy old people who never experiments or listens to others? Embrace flexibility!

Leave it to Pauline!

…to inform us of a brilliant innovation

In a casual email, she showed us a brilliant and inexpensive way to take care of the smart-phones-in-class problem: Have learners deposit their phones in a shoe organizer on their way into the room!

“As it was one particular group of students’ ‘home room,’ they each decorated a name sticker to place on their slot. (Of course, they could access their phones if an activity permitted it.) If one of the phones rang during class, we all knew immediately whose it was.”

Don’t miss the new addition to our site! For teaching and learning…

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The MindBrained Think Tanks+

is produced by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Mind, Brain, and Education Special Interest Group (BRAIN SIG). Kyoto, Japan. (ISSN 2434-1002)

Editorial Staff

Stephen M. Ryan                Julia Daley                   Marc Helgesen

        Curtis H. Kelly                 Skye Playsted                Heather McCulloch

    Jason Walters                  Rishma Hansil               Mohammad Khari




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