Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Visualization and the Human Brain
(Part 2)

The Wright brothers were able to make heavier-than-air objects do precisely what they are not supposed to do. Leonardo da Vinci, Francis Crick, and Albert Einstein are time-honored men who designed and built new inventions, who made earth-shattering discoveries, and who offered fresh new ways of thinking. They found ways to solve problems that led to advancements benefiting all of mankind. In his book, Sparks of Genius,” McArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” recipient Robert Root-Bernstein, detailed an astounding discovery-- many of history’s most prominent scientists and inventors were also accomplished in the arts, where abstract and creative thinking complemented innovative traits. Creative thinking is immobilized by standardized thinking although creativity is three times stronger as a predictor of lifetime accomplishment than IQ. It is most revealing that no statue has ever been erected out of admiration of a single "standardized" thinker.

Instead of placing a spotlight on innovative and creative thinking, "standardized" thinking (making for easy assessments) has been our primary educational focus over the past two decades. Consequently, most American 8th grade students know how to multiply 9x5, but the vast majority does not know when to do so, exposing the hazardous nature of high-stakes tests masquerading under the cloak of "accountability." An important distinction must be made between possessing specific skills or knowledge, and knowing when, where, and how to apply them under routine and non-routine circumstances. Otherwise, the knowledge is of no practical long-term value.

Dynamic changes are occurring daily in an interconnected, information-rich, highly visual and complex world at unprecedented rates requiring inventive (not standardized) ideas to address our current and future challenges. The old "tried and true" approaches we embraced from the 1960s, 70s and 80s are no longer adequate in 2012, although we have held tightly onto them for decades. However, the world has changed. The world is "flat." Unfortunately for many of us, progress only goes in one direction –forwards, not backwards. In their best moments, contemporary educational practices cannot stretch far enough to cover future classroom realities.

 Teaching students (1) to understand, analyze, and visualize problem-based scenarios, (2) to explain those situations effectively in words and through models, (3) to solve problems by blending together multisensory and multidisciplinary strategies, (4) to evaluate the quality of multiple convergent solutions, and (5) to identify the criteria for selecting the best solution to a problem, as well as knowing how and when to deploy a viable "plan B," or "plan C," if “plan A” does not appear to be working.

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