Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No Child Left "with a right brain"

If you have not read Daniel Pink's book "A Whole New Mind" i recommend picking it up for some summer reading.  The book discusses the tranisition of our world economy and the skills that are necessary to be successful in the 21st century. Pink discusses how "Right brain thinkers are wired for 21st century success".

Your left brain is logical, linear, by-the-numbers; the right side is creative, artistic, empathetic. Our country is entering a new era -- the so-called conceptual age -- during which right-brained skills such as design and storytelling will become far more crucial than traditionally left-brained skills such as accounting and computer programming.

While the latter skills are readily outsourced, transformative abilities such as empathy and creativity are crucial in a new age "animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life," he writes.

Daniel Pink  in his interview with Oprah Winfrey stated:

Pink: In many professions, what used to matter most were abilities associated with the left side of the brain: linear, sequential, spreadsheet kind of faculties. Those still matter, but they're not enough. What's important now are the characteristics of the brain's right hemisphere: artistry, empathy, inventiveness, big-picture thinking. These skills have become first among equals in a whole range of business fields.

The partnership for 21st Century skills has developed an outline of the skills necessary to be successful. 

1. Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes
2. Learning and Innovation Skills
      *Creativity and Innovation
      *Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
      *Communication and Collaboration
3. Information, Media and Technology Skills

Based on this reality why are our schools moving in the opposite direction. Never before has there been such a focus on left brain education. Standardized testing has taken over. Many schools are seeing their fine arts departments shrink to make room for test prep courses. Computer labs are being scheduled for test prep applications. Project based learning and technology integration are pushed aside because of time constraints. Time that is being taken up by core subject curriculum that is an inch thick and a mile wide.

We are even seeing physical education classes limited in order to extend time in Math and Science courses. The focus on testing has out weighed the fact that obesity rates among our children are at an all time high. Music, art, wood shop, and robotics courses must defend its existence with each budget.

We are creating a educational system were every student is expected to have the same needs (nclb) and are expected to follow the same path (left brain driven). We are expecting all students to master left brain subject areas and pushing aside the importance of fine arts. Everyone is being prepared for college?

In order to break this cycle we as educators must push for alternative instructional strategies. Allow for creativity and design in the classroom. Utilize technology with your students for activities other then keyboarding, test prep and skill and drill. Get better at analyzing the data that you are generating from test prep activities so you can transform your instruction to address the needs and allow for more right brain activities. Look to design lessons that incorporate left brain subject areas but allow for the development of the right brain.  Develop alternative assessments that allow students to demonstrate understanding through assessments that showcase their creativity. Give our students some flexibility to explore their creative side. We owe it to them to prepare them for their future not the future we prepared ourselves for.

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