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Eagle Hill School

A Thousand Brains

Students Participate in Special Discussion with Jeff Hawkins, Renown Scientist & Author

Joined by Dr. Michael Riendeau, assistant head of school for academic affairs, Eagle Hill students Ranger F. ’21 and Jacob S. ’23 had the unique opportunity to speak and learn from Jeff Hawkins, a scientist whose life-long interest in neuroscience led to the creation of Numenta and its focus on neocortical theory. He is also the author of A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence (2021) and On Intelligence (2004 with Sandra Blakeslee). 

Also participating in the discussion was Donna Dubinsky, Numenta CEO/Co-Founder and past Eagle Hill parent, and Christy Maver, Numenta’s VP of Marketing.

This conversation was exclusive to Ranger and Jacob as a part of Dr. Riendeau’s class “Big Ideas – Exploring the Narrative Argument.” This course helps students determine whether a piece of material is helpful for their research or what they are trying to understand. As part of the curriculum, students read Hawkins’ A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence, a book accessible to non-neuroscientists focusing on using metaphors and examples to break down complex concepts on how the neocortex works and processes thought.


Zoom A thousand Brains


One important takeaway from the book, in addition to the fascinating conversation that can be seen in its entirety below, is that our brain uses reference frames to recall and process information. The brain defines for us the useful ways that we understand and perceive this information. This is why some structures of learning are beneficial for some individuals, but not necessarily for all.

Throughout the discussion, a variety of topics arose from Ranger, Jacob, and Dr. Riendeau’s questions, including:

  • The idea of finding/developing the “right” or most effective reference frame for a given subject/moment/individual, etc.
  • The notion that “You are your brain / you are your thoughts” and what that means for students.
  • How multi-modal presentation of concepts relates to how the brain learns. 
  • What it might mean for students to understand how their brain works and how that could impact learning.

Below are some video highlights from the conversation.


The Eagle Hill School community is thankful to Jeff, Donna, Christy, and Numenta for providing this unique opportunity to our students to learn from their expertise and passion.

Watch the conversation in its entirety here

To learn more from Numenta about the Thousand Brain Theory, view their article.

To learn more about the remarkable work from Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky, and Numenta, visit their website.


What is Learning Diversity About?

Learning Diversity is a blog hosted by Eagle Hill School where educators, students, and other members of the LD community regularly contribute posts and critical essays about learning and living in spaces that privilege the inevitability of human diversity.

The contributors of Learning Diversity come together to engage our readers from a variety of disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, biological sciences and mathematics, athletics, and residential life. Embracing learning diversity means understanding and respecting our students as whole persons.

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