Building Open Online Neuroscience for Educators.... on a shoestring

Screenshot from the How Do I Learn website, illustrating both an embedded activity, and an expert resource.

Sometimes, lots of money isn’t necessary to reach good goals. A lot of money is rarely around in grad school, particularly in Education. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to create great things.

About five years ago, I helped create and facilitate a week of learning about the brain and learning for teachers

We based our instruction on the STAR Legacy cycle created at Vanderbilt University. In this cycle, learners reflect on their own prior knowledge, then do their own research (helping them learn to filter information for themselves) then hear from vetted experts (getting feedback on the research they did), and finally, reflecting again on their prior knowledge, and how their thoughts changed.

As I attended to this cycle, listened to organizers of the week, and listened to the teachers as they moved through the week, I distilled a set of requirements for this website. I knew it needed to contain important neuroscience information, to try to guide users through this cycle online, to be interactive, and to be clear about its association with the University of Washington.

Interactivity was particularly important to me, as I strongly believe in Active Learning.

From the requirements I filtered by listening, I designed and built a first iteration. Working within our tight constraints of money, I had no better tools than embedded surveys in websites, but I used these to create multiple choice questions that have been answered more than ten thousand time as school groups, and the general public, interact with, don’t just read, the website.

I went back to the original group, and asked for feedback. I integrated their ideas into the site, strengthening both the cycles, and the sense of UW identity. 



After building all this on a private server, I worked with UW’s central resources to host it on their servers. It remains available here: