Creativity and the Brain-Reflection #1

Nov 14, 2016 by

I spent time recently in South Africa attending a colloquium entitled, “Why the Brain Matters”.  There were twelve of us invited to discuss the brain, neuroscience, and learning specifically regarding creativity.  The participants included neuroscientists, artists, authors, and… well, me.  I am an educator concerned with how the brain works, how it impacts education, and how we can better teach children using principles of the brain.  As a special educator, specifically, I am always interested in how we can meet the needs of learners who learn differently.  During the two weeks in Johannesburg, we met every morning to hear one person’s presentation and then we discussed the content critically and along with the creative process– how it can be fostered, what the science says so far, and how we can better understand differences in individuals.  We had colleagues from Uganda, Barbados, Holland, Nepal, Iran, Israel, Switzerland, Kyrgyzstan, and others so it was a very diverse group.  I will be sharing some of my musings from these fascinating talks over the next three weeks.  This is my first reflection.

The first take away is the idea that what we know about creativity starts in the mid-line structures where “daydreaming” and unconscious thought take place as well as in the frontal regions of the brain where the actual “work” is done.  The mid-line allows creative ideas to surface.  The frontal regions provide the discipline and mechanics to allow those creative thoughts to be realized in visual art, music, fictional writing, etc. as well as in creative solutions to problems found in the hard sciences.  Understanding that the brain’s mid-line structures and frontal regions are equally important to the mind (and the process of thinking, managing, processing) is important and is beneficial.  We need to make sure we are providing class time for our students to engage their mid-line… allowing them to daydream, to become “unconscious” about problems so that they can come up with solutions.

What can you do to allow your students time to just sit and ponder?

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Monday Musing: Redefining Education

Nov 7, 2016 by

I was working with a fantastic group of educators a few days ago and part of our discussion was about the idea of redefining the way we do school.  The conversation started with the impact of technology based on the SAMR model designed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.  As we continued the discussion of each level, a clear example of Redefinition emerged in the room.  One teacher, let’s call her Sally, was using a break in the action to check on her students who were with the substitute in a school across town.  Now, I know what you’re thinking. . . .it’s not that big of a deal to log in to a learning management system and grade some papers on a break or send an email to a substitute. This was different! Sally was able to provide real-time feedback to her students while they were working on an assignment using an app called Formative. She didn’t even have to be in the same building to do it.  Apps like this are Redefining Education and are powerful tools in the hands of dedicated educators.  How are you redefining education?  What tools are you using in your classroom?

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Monday Reflection- ESHA in Amsterdam… “Yes, and…”

Oct 31, 2016 by

Last week I was honored to be one of the keynote speakers for the European School Heads Association (ESHA) Conference.  This year it took place in lovely Maastricht, Holland.  Over 600 principals and superintendents from all over Europe attended.  The energy was great and I was grateful for the opportunity to play a small part in their growth as educational leaders.

One of the other Keynotes was Daan Roosegaarde- a Dutch artist and innovator.  Check out his awesome work here: https://www.studioroosegaarde.net/projects/#waterlicht.   His keynote was fantastic and inspiring!  One of the things he spoke about was the common reaction to anything new… the dreaded “Yes, but…”.

“Yes, but it will be too expensive…”

“Yes, but it will not work…”

“Yes, but we will not be able to meet the timeline..”

He gets very tired of hearing this from prospective clients and his own staff.  He even says it himself sometimes and gets tired of it from himself too.

As he spoke, I realized how often we do this in education… in the classroom, in schools, in policy making meetings.   This kind of attitude stifles creativity and passion.  It puts a stop in front of projects before they get started.  It limits genius.   I was lucky to have the keynote following Daan’s so I could address this issue in my own talk.  I simply asked the audience to consider this:

How do we turn our “Yes, but…” into a “Yes, and….”?

One of the things that comedians work on when doing improv is continuing the conversation.  They use the phrase, “Yes, and…” to keep the conversation going.  What if we did this every time a student came to us with a crazy idea?  What if our natural response was, “Yes, and what else could you do with that?”…. or “Yes, and let’s also consider materials you could use to make it affordable.”… or “Yes, and who else could you work with?”

As you have read on this blog before, genius does not fit on a rubric.  “Yes, and…” is a way to continue allowing students to share their genius.

How can you turn your “Yes, but…” into a “Yes, and…”?

 

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Monday Musing: One Kind Word

Oct 24, 2016 by

The Monday Musing this week comes from my own experience and some thoughts that I would like to share.  This past week has been full of sadness, anger, disbelief, and fear seen in natural disasters, political antagonism, racial tension around the world. The world we live in is a complicated place and I think sometimes it is easy to feel small and insignificant.

Also, this past week, I received emails from two of my students who had some questions but also made a point to say that they appreciated the work that I put in to teaching them and always being available to support their learning.  These two quick notes made my week!  The work we do as educators is important and our students appreciate us even if they don’t always say it.  More importantly, WE can change the lives of our students by taking the time to offer them a kind word, a smile, or a few extra minutes of our time.   As importantly, how can you tell your principal how much you appreciate them?  We can make a difference, one kind word at a time!

Tell someone thank you this week- and see the difference you make!

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Monday Success: Innovative Learning

Oct 10, 2016 by

The teaching and learning landscape is changing at a rapid pace and it is more exciting than ever.  Looking at Pokemon Go, the latest in Augmented Reality, we can see new ways to reach students and teach them with technology that is becoming ubiquitous.  A great example of this is the research being done by my friend and colleague Dr. Don McMahon at Washington State University on using Augmented Reality in the Assistive Technology Lab.  Click on the link below and check out the podcast below for a great discussion about Augmented Reality and some amazing things that can be done with it.

Education Eclipse

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Monday Success: Versatilist Podcast

Oct 3, 2016 by

Over the summer I had a great conversation with Dr. Patrick O’Shea who is a professor of Instructional Technology at Appalachian State University. Dr. O’Shea regularly talks with educators about how they are using technology in the classroom to improve student learning outcomes. We chatted about mobile learning, teacher professional development, and what it means for the students you see in your classroom everyday.

Podcasts are one of my favorite things to listen to when working out- healthy and learning all in one.  I hope you enjoy listening to our chat!

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