Backwards Brain Bike Progress Report

IMG_1789I have not published a video of me riding my bike since week 10. This is now week 20, still practicing about 10 minutes each day. I have not made noticeable progress in the last 10 weeks. I can concentrate and ride it confidently, but when I lose concentration I have to put my foot down. I will continue to practice each day, and am hoping that my brain takes over the balancing soon.

I have several students practicing now. I have one student (Caleb) that first tried on Monday and spent about 20 minutes each day this past week. His progress is about the same as mine at 10 weeks. It must be the “young” mind and his determination. Here is a link to the video of him on Friday after 5 days of riding.

Student after 5 days.

Some students still think it is going to be easy and they would just need to ride it for a while. After a few tries, they appreciated the difficulty. After the second day, Caleb told me that he had way more respect for me now. Up to that point I think many students just thing I am crazy with a backwards bike.

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BWBB Week 6

bike-logoAfter six weeks of learning how to ride a Backwards Brain Bicycle, I am able to go about 100 feet without putting my feet down to catch myself. It is not pretty and definitely not smooth. I have decided my definition of being successful riding the bike, would be to ride it without “thinking” about steering for balance. At this point I am definitely having to think hard about turning into the fall, “in the opposite direction”. I want my brain to take over the balancing. I am having to really concentrate to steer to balance. If I get distracted, I revert back to what I have done on a bike for the past 50 years, and need to catch myself with my feet.

I am going a bit faster, which helps with the balance. As I go faster I feel strange not wearing a helmet, so I am going to start wearing a helmet. I don’t want to send the wrong message about safety.

One of my goals of this project is to actively study the learning process. I don’t know if this is the same thing, but my observation of other people is much more intriguing. Many students are convinced that it is going to be easy to ride the bike before they try. Some try a very short amount of time and want to walk way. Some try for a longer time and before they leave they promise to come back. I teach Algebra 1 to 9th grade students and Honors Algebra 2 to 9th-11th grade students. Interestly, lots of Algebra 1 students have tried and continue to try to ride the bike. Very few Honors Algebra 2 have tried to ride the bike. At this point, I am of the belief that people that are not used to failing don’t want to try things that their chance of success is low. Most of the Honors Algebra 2 students are also much more reserved and don’t want to “look bad” in front of their peers. I do not want to generalize this situation too much, but I do see huge differences in how the high academic achievers react differently than other students. Along the same lines, the Algebra 1 students that don’t give up in class, are more likely to try riding the bike (and try other things).

I would like more teachers to ride the bike and will make that one of my goals. I am taking my bike to our state teacher conference in three weeks and will courage people to try it. It is not on the agenda anywhere, but we have a great group of math teachers in Montana and I am sure it will get lots of interest.

 

Week 6 Video – I am getting better, but it really takes concentration and it doesn’t look smooth, yet.

Learning is Hard: Backwards Brain Bicycle Update

I have been learning to ride a backwards brainbike-logo bicycle now for 4 weeks. I try to ride it two laps (about 400 feet per lap) in the morning before school, again at noon and sometimes after school. At this time it is mentally exhausting to make it the two laps. I am also out of breath after about 100 feet. Someone pointed out to me that I was holding my breath the entire time, but I didn’t notice. Now that I try to breath, it has been a little easier to concentrate on balancing.

I have the bike parked just outside my classroom door, so that many students see it daily. The comments have been very amazing and lots of students are very encouraging in my struggle. I also allow any students that wish to try it, ride when the halls are not crowed. That usually happens early morning or after school.

I think students are afraid that others might see them fail, but they are really very curious. I have not gotten many teachers to spend much time on it, YET. One of my next goals is to get more teachers to experience the struggle of learning.

I had parent Open House this week and quickly explained what I was doing with the bike. There was a real high interest about the bike and how the learning was progressing. I think they understood why I was learning to ride the backwards brain bike.

I am gaining each day/week and will continue to update videos on my progress. The odd thing is that some days are worse than the day before, and that is discouraging. BOY THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR. I am trying to relate the discouraging days to a reason why. I suspect that it has something to do with the rest I had the night before or maybe the time of day. I have noticed the past several years that when I don’t stay hydrated I don’t think as clearly, and that may be affecting me on the bike. How can I use this information with my students?

I really understand the learning process better since this journey began!

 Week 2 Video

 Week 4 Video This was my best distance, not my average distance.

Update: Both bikes developed cracks on the welding, so we had to redo the welds. On the blue bike we welded (brazed) the full length of the metal plates (thanks Fred!). On the green/black bike we welded additional metal straps (thanks Kirk!). For those of you thinking of making a backwards brain bicycle, here is a picture of the new green/black bike weld. This is four 1/8 inch straps bent to fit and welded to the bike.

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Backwards Brain Bikes – Knowledge Does Not Equal Understanding

Another journey begins. The idea of a backwards bike intrigued me since I saw one on @smartereveryday. Then when I saw @saravdwerf tweet about her experience, I became driven. I describe it to non-believers that it is like the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. I can’t explain all the reasons but I am drawn to do this. I did see Sara and Morgan Fierst @MsFierst present their journey at TMC16.

My daughter @jwbrackney teaches math as well, and wanted to do the same thing. We are taking these to our schools and will use them throughout the year to demonstrate perseverance and to experience re-wiring our brains. We hope to work on this daily and journal the learning experience. We already have colleagues in both buildings excited about this.

This is just the beginning but I want to get this blogged while I remember the details.

So the first challenge was to find four bikes, two that we would use as the main parts and two that we just need the front shafts….

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The second challenge was much more difficult, to find four gears. After weeks of searching on the Internet (mainly because I wanted to get them cheap), decided that we could bore the center to the necessary size and didn’t need the exact center bore. I found some on Amazon for about $9.00 each. I had to buy them at two different times to find them at that price.  The prices change daily, today they are $42.00, I am sure the price will continue to fluctuate.

Boston Gear NB32-5/8 Spur Gear, 14.5 Pressure Angle, Steel, Inch, 16 Pitch, 0.625″ Bore, 2.125″ OD, 0.500″ Face Width, 32 Teeth

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Then to find someone that could weld everything for us. My brother-in-law, had the necessary tools and skills to do this for us. He actually brazed them instead of welding which works much better on this type of metal.

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IMG_1708   IMG_1702 (1)   IMG_1704   IMG_1716    IMG_1714

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We still need to get them all cleaned up and painted. Jennifer’s bike is the purple one and she wants to paint it her school colors. My bike is green with a black front fork and I decided to just paint the new pieces black, for now.

Here they are cleaned up and painted.

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Backwards Brain Bicycle

Why?

  • Demonstrate perseverance
  • Learn to learn
  • Demonstrate the struggle
  • Develop new brain connectors
  • Add some excitement in education
  • Cure Alzheimer’s ???