Sebastian Seung’s work with mapping the brain is quite overwhelming.  I cannot fathom how he has done the work that he has done!  Just the idea that you can possibly map neural activity and connectivity and see it in a 3D model is outstanding.  I think his work will take many years, but he is dedicated to it!  The implications to teaching and learning will be powerful.  Especially interesting was the thought that we are a lot more than our genes.  I believe that our experiences and memories make us all very unique. Because students have all had very different experiences, as teachers, we would have to build common experiences for students to enhance their learning of topics.  We would need to build new memories/experiences for them to base their knowledge on.  I think Laura Masters’ work connects very closely here.  She says that experiential learning is most effective.  Students develop better memory with multisensory learning.  As teachers, we need to plan learning experiences that involve as many senses as possible!

John Seely Brown’s idea that we are living in a world of constant flux resonated with me.  There is constant, rapid change and we do not even know what world we are preparing students for.  His idea that learning has more to do with creating the new rather than just learning the old is true.  I feel like our district is on the right path with implementing PBL and the 4C’s.  Our focus is shifting from just learning and memorizing the old, and creating new through projects, inquiry and interaction. 

I especially enjoyed his cohort group findings where he explained that these kids were successful because they were all very driven to learn through play.  They had a passion, they had a collaborative group to work with to learn and perfect their skills, they failed and tried again, and then got it right.  I do believe Brown’s idea that “we need to create a culture of learning that thrives on participatory life-long learning.”  When students enjoy what they are doing, they are motivated to learn more.  And with the support of others, the opportunities for learning are exponential!

Howard Gardner talks about the 5 minds of the future.  I especially connected with the idea that we need to teach students to have synthesizing minds.  There is so much information coming into our brains daily.  Students need to be taught how to sift through it and know what to pay attention to.  They need to be taught the skills to hold onto the important information and let the not so important information go.  Working with students to become “teachers” to convey the information to someone else is a powerful tool in holding onto important information.  We do this with our Power Teaching Math program at our school.  Students all learn a new topic, and together they are “teachers” to reinforce the learning and help each other master concepts within their groups.  I have seen very powerful teaching and learning happen through the use of this model.

Daniel Pink’s talk on motivation really opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.  As a teacher, you always want your student to have that intrinsic motivation to learn, and many students do have it.  For those who don’t, we have used many external motivators to get them to be more motivated.  My mind was blown when I learned about how business was built on the reward and punishment system and how unmotivating this approach was to employees.  Research results proved that this was not a good model to improve motivation and creativity, but most businesses continue to rely on this method today.  Pink goes on to explain how his findings prove that autonomy, mastery and purpose are all highly motivating.  Some businesses are moving toward using a model where employees are given time in the workweek to work on whatever they want! Their productivity, engagement and job satisfaction have all increased.  This is an easy model to replicate in schools…..and many of us already are through project based learning.  By giving students the opportunity to follow their passion, (autonomy), letting them get really good at something (mastery), and working for an audience larger that the teacher (purpose), student motivation and creativity will increase. 

Sir Ken Robinson talks about how our linear educational system is not longer any good!  It’s not going to work for us any longer!  We need to build a revolutionary system that creates conditions where diverse talents and aptitudes are encouraged.  We, as teachers, (and I strongly believe that parents have a big part here) need to help our students develop a passion or help to support the passions they may already have.  We need to encourage students to take chances and try again if they fail.  Robinson says, ”If you are not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”  Many of the speakers reinforced this same idea. I do believe that most students do not want to be “wrong” and will not participate in the classroom if they feel their ideas are incorrect.  We need to create a culture in our classrooms that encourages and values new ideas and risk taking in thinking, and supports all student contributions.  Kids need to feel safe to share ideas and know that they are valued.

My insights from this analysis: The ideal classroom: Students are in a classroom where they are encouraged to think, work with others on a regular basis, and be able to follow their own interests.   They need to know that risk taking in thinking is encouraged and that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process.  They need to be actively involved with others and learning activities need to incorporate as many senses as possible.  Teachers need to facilitate and support each child instead of direct, as well as create multi modal experiences for learning.  Students need to be given challenging problems to solve and be given time to practice.  Students are given clear goals, feedback, and are assessed on their learning over time. 

A lot of this can be accomplished through Project Based Learning and a focus on the 4 C’s!  It is a huge shift for teachers to let go of the “old” way of teaching and embrace this new shift.  I see this great work in many classrooms across our district.  In speaking with teachers, they see the amazing benefits that this type of learning has for students, but they also talk about how difficult the shift in pedagogy was.  They were going into the unknown.  They have become the risk takers! Many have classrooms that are now models for the rest of the district.  I believe this shift will take time, but through working together and sharing successes, we will all be moving in the right direction.

Mobley’s 6 insights were fascinating.  I have never really thought about “developing” creativity.  I just thought you either were or were not creative.  I always felt that I was I the non-creative category!  Mobley describes our current teaching practices as linear and leading to an answer.  We are “locked” into that kind of teaching.  I am seeing great success around the district in classrooms where teaching has been upended.  Many teachers are teaching with project based learning, inquiry based teaching, and infusing the 4 C’s, which really do allow for more creative ways for students to think, interact and present their learning. 

Allowing students voice and choice in their learning also helps to support creativity.  They are following their passion instead of a teacher’s!

I have noticed a huge shift in the quality of teaching and learning by allowing teachers to work together to develop units instead of working alone.  The work is challenging, but often times, two or three brains are better than one and the quality of the units are much higher when teachers collaborate!

Mobley states that creativity is highly correlated with self-knowledge.  I think that reflection on learning will be big in personal awareness in the development of creativity in students.  After or even during a learning experience, asking student to reflect on their thoughts or their learning can be crucial to opening up their knowledge about themselves.  I like the sentence starter:   I used to think___________, but now I think___________________.  It is an easy way for students to see how their thinking has changed through their learning.

I believe the most powerful insight that I got from Mobley was the idea that we need to give students (and ourselves) permission to be wrong!  The old saying “We learn from our mistakes” is totally true!  I believe it is the most powerful way to learn.  If you are too afraid to make mistakes, then you won’t put yourself out there in a way that would lead to creative thinking.  Like Howard Garndner says, “We need to get kids to deal with things that don’t work out and continue working.”  That might be one of the most important skills we can give to kids!