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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Right Brain Thinkers on Facebook

These guys have the right idea.

Click on the title above to see what they're doing on Facebook.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Zoidge: weird combinations of nothing important

When the economy is in shambles and times are tough, sometimes it helps to delve into the world of non-sense for a quick laugh.

Click the title above for a quick dose of "zoidge."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Non Equilibrium Thermodynamics: a New Model for Teaching

Drink a cup of coffee and get into hyper-focus mode before you read this next piece. It is not for the casual reader. This is an excerpt from my thesis paper “Thriving on the Edge of Chaos: an Argument for a Complex Adaptive Theory of Education.”
The simple translation is this: students learn better from the bottom up.
As a teacher of high school social studies, I began experimenting with the idea of using an interactive game not as a side-unit of instruction nor as a supplement to the curriculum but as the curriculum itself. In doing this, I became more of a facilitator (creating a feedback loop) and switched from the use of lecture to an open-ended game format in order to deliver course content. I changed the structure of my classes to give students more opportunities for creative and critical thinking. As the classes changed in this way from the use of a traditional hierarchy to a lateral distribution of power, or heterarchy, I observed profound changes. The classes experienced a major increase in participation and, arguably, thinking as a result of complex, higher order behavior.
During the use of this game (called Global Challenge) I realized something interesting was taking place; a phenomenon of sorts. It remained an idea without a model for many years until two things happened:
1. I discovered a book by the famous biologist Edward O. Wilson entitled Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998). This book opened up the door on how one might merge ideas and subject areas in order to discover universal truths. There was occasional mention in the book about how physicists do not work enough with mathematicians and biologists, even though one might find answers for their area of study in a completely different discipline. The idea occurred that, by analogy and metaphor, professionals could find universal answers. One might even see the possibility for a “borderless,” 24-hour learning environment, uninhibited by pre-fabricated, school-imposed barriers on learning.
2. On a trip to England in early 2002, I discovered another book in the London Museum of Science called Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software (2001) by science writer Steven Johnson. This book exposed some other ideas, mainly the notion that the most productive and creative behavior seemed to happen from the ground up (Johnson, 2001). This book, and discussions with a long-time friend, led to the discovery of something more profound – chaos theory. Chaos theory disproved the second law of thermodynamics and offered hope that things do not have to disintegrate.
Since entropy and thermodynamics are important to the model or metaphor being presented in this paper, they are worthy of deeper analysis here. According to Gleick
(1987) the concept of entropy derives from thermodynamics and is a part of the Second Law (of thermodynamics). Thermodynamics, according to the Encarta World English Dictionary (1999), refers to a branch of physics dealing with the conversions of energy from one form to another “and how these affect temperature, pressure, volume, mechanical action and work.”
Gleick wrote that entropy was the tendency of systems in the universe to move towards a state of increasing disorder. Gleick also noted that this term has taken root in the non-scientific world and has woven itself into our culture. He gave as examples the non- scientific explanations for disintegrating societies and economic decay. People, it seems, use the term entropy to describe any system that is likely to fall apart.
In thermodynamics, certain things are true such as losing heat when transferring one form of energy to another. This would make perfect efficiency impossible. In addition, Gleick (1987) pointed out that the universe, because of this, was a “one way street.” A process tending towards disorder could not be reversed. These things may be true in the world of thermodynamics, he pointed out, but are not so true in complexity. He went on to say that thermodynamics did not explain the creating of amino acids, microorganisms, self-reproducing plants and animals, and the complexity, even, of the human brain. Systems such as these did not fall victim to entropy, but rose to a higher level.
When Johnson (2001) wrote about non-equilibrium thermodynamics, he spoke of the work done by Ilya Prigogine in the 1950s, and defined non-equilibrium thermodynamics as “environments where the laws of entropy are temporarily overcome, and higher-level order may spontaneously emerge out of underlying chaos” (p. 52).
Putting these things together, one might move in the direction of accepting complexity as a better system to use when defining and explaining the social system in use in education. Where thermodynamics refers to the transfer and conversion of energy, complexity is more of the working model, large enough to explain all systems. Entropy has become an excuse from which cynics can look to explain disintegration of social systems. When, in fact, such disintegration may be because of faulty design, imposition of too much order, lack of balance in the system and, most importantly, a model not suitable to handle random variables. At this point, these are suppositions but are worth considering.
The question naturally emerged as to whether there was some way to make sense of all the disarray and confusion people found in their personal and professional lives. What if there was a larger order to things that humans simply were not seeing, one where order would arise out of seemingly meaningless interactions? What if chaos and confusion were part of a larger design and could lead to greater things?
From a psychological, emotional, and social viewpoint, this could revolutionize the way people think and interact, just knowing that everyday friction and random interactions might actually lead to something. In Consilience, Wilson (1998) argued that there may be a higher order, one that fuses or synthesizes many subjects at the same time; that there might be, in fact, some universal laws that underlie all knowledge. This made an excellent case for interdisciplinary studies. After reading Johnson, however, I became more interested in emergence and chaos theory, thinking that such ideas might make for an appropriate model for education. These two ideas, if synthesized, could form a model for a higher order of learning based on complexity.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Follow me on Twitter


Question: Is it possible to have "tweets" feed directly into the posting section of a blog - via an RSS feed? I know you can easily run an RSS feed over to the side bar. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Important Trend Against NCLB and Standardized Testing

Recent grant writing may suggest a trend towards more creative, interdisciplinary studies - and away from standardized testing.  

Click on the title above for the full story.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The "Creative Class"

In 2002 Richard Florida made an important argument in "Rise of the Creative Class."  This segment of our society is sizable and makes great contributions to the economy.  

"The distinguishing characteristic of the creative class is that its members engage in work whose function is to 'create meaningful new forms.' The super- creative core of this new class includes scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, and architects, as well as the 'thought leadership' of modern society: nonfiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and other opinion-makers. Members of this super-creative core produce new forms or designs that are readily transferable and broadly useful---such as designing a product that can be widely made, sold and used; coming up with a theorem or strategy that can be applied in many cases; or composing music that can be performed again and again."

According to Florida, there were 38.3 million Americans in this group in 2002.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Game Focused School to Open in New York - Fall of 09

If you are a creative teacher, this would be a dream. I look forward to getting the year-end statistics, in terms of attendance, drop out rates, test scores, etc. I'm betting they will look good.

Any plans to open a school out west?

New York to open game-focused school this fall

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Is conceptual thinking catching on?

Dano responded to one of my posts back in November of 08. (umm... Sorry I never responded, but this was before I understood how Blogger's alert program for comments worked. I missed it altogether).  In any event, Dano's comment gives hope to conceptual thinkers.

Dano:  Nice post. The term "conceptual thinker" was a term I was exposed to when my manager told me he wanted me to lead a particularly challenging project because I was one of the only people in the office who could think conceptually. I wasn't sure how to take it at the time but I am quite happy with it now. Thanks for writing about it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Games May be the Key for Teachers

"What if every type of learner, every student would find a niche or a unique way to demonstrate their understanding of the material? Since this was a world history class, they would have to learn history, geography and some 40 chapters of a textbook. Could this be accomplished by playing a game?"

You can read the story of Global Challenge here.

Thanks to Brent Pottenger and Brian Geremia at Academic Impact for their encouragement and support of this article, Mike Powers for his on-going “technical support” - and Britt Easterling and Katie Murphy for their feedback and enthusiasm.  Special thanks are also in order for family and friends.

I also appreciate the help with editing and guidance provided by Colleen Belcher and Ben Ilfield at Sacramento Press

Friday, August 21, 2009

More Companies are Allowing for Creative Time

One way to get employees in any organization to be more productive, is to allow them time to work on their own projects and ideas.  Google allows employees to spend 20 percent of their time doing exactly that.

Source:  Gerard Darby, NESTA (The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts)

Read more here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Right Brain Meetings

The next time you need some fresh ideas, consider getting out of the office.

Read here to learn more about "Right Brain Meetings."

Photo credit: Aynsley Floyd for The New York Times

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The New Economy and the Right Brain

Marco R. della Cava of USA Today tells us that  "As companies continue to triage their way through this economic war, a growing chorus of cultural observers argue that recovery is contingent on the marriage of right-brain innovations with left-brain skill sets."

This article makes a great argument for the need to embrace innovative, entrepreneurial thinking. As Daniel Pink (quoted in the article) says "We're realizing that our economy is not about standardization."

The real challenge for those right brainers who are either out of work or "under employed"... is to convince employers of the need for your creative generalist, right brain approach.  What is the best way to do this? Your comments on this are welcome.

Click on the title (above) to go to the article.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Check out the new Global Challenge website!

The new website is done. If you are a history, geography, government or economics teacher out there and want to try it out for your class – just send me an e-mail. If you’re the first to do so, try it out for free.

Why post this on Right Brain World? If you’re a right brain student, it’s sometimes easier and more interesting to learn through projects. During the playing of Global Challenge, it's often important to be a big concept thinker. Your vision or understanding of where things are headed could help guide students who do not see things in this way. Left brain students are sure to thrive too, since their keen skills in analysis are necessary to getting many things done in the game.  You'll quickly find out how much the two "hemispheres" need one another.

Here’s a quick analysis:

Right brain students will see historical patterns, put together creative plans, help create team logos, theme music, design currency, formulate plots, or interpret the behavior of other players.

Left brain students will enjoy calculating strategies based on per capita incomes, put together spread sheets to keep track of money, points, armies, teams, facts, etc. They will help in providing the much needed order and structure to keep the game moving forward.

The great part about this game, honestly, is that there is something for every type of learner.

If you’re a creative teacher, you’ll be free to integrate the arts. Have your students create theme songs, design team logos or a new look for the classroom itself. If you’re into the idea of integrating technology, then you may want to find creative ways to use Facebook or Twitter, create a class blog or wiki. It’s all up to you. Global Challenge will provide you the overall framework – and you can take it from there.

I hope you will give it a try.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Creativity Test

I'm interested to know how The Art Institute of Vancouver created this test (if, in fact, they are the ones who created it).  If you have a bit of free time, take the test and record your scores and thoughts about the test in the comment section.

Idea:  if you are a teacher, have your students take this test.  If the test indicates the student is highly creative, consider altering the way you evaluate their work, i.e. give them different options to demonstrate their knowledge on a certain subject.  Instead of taking a multiple choice test, the right brain student might prefer creating a multi-media presentation.  You might even have them design a right-brain oriented test... what better way to have them review and analyze course content.

Click the title above to go to the test.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Right brain will steer you through chaos

Daneen Skube suggests that your right brain can get you through chaotic times.  Another way to look at this is that if you are right brain dominant, you stand a very good chance of handling the times we are in currently.  Intuition and ideas are, perhaps, more important now than a linear, methodical approach.

Right brain will steer you through chaos

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jill Bolte Taylor and Her "Stroke of Insight."

What is the function of the right brain? What are the critical differences between our left and right brains? How can we use our right brains to connect to the more important things in this world? Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, had to unfortunately suffer a stroke on the left side of her brain to find the answers.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why do we give standardized tests to "right brained" people?

Question: if "right brain people" demonstrate their intelligence by thinking abstractly, by creating new combinations of things or by possibly communicating concepts through music or art – how can it be fair to give them a left brained test (traditional IQ test) as an objective measure of their intelligence!! Furthermore, how can you objectively compare their scores to the "left brained" population when the test will likely favor left-brained people?!

In other words, is it fair to give right brain people left-brain oriented IQ tests and college entrance exams like the SAT?

Thus, the new study shows that basic differences in brain activity between creative and methodical problem solvers exist and are evident even when these individuals are not working on a problem. According to Kounios, “Problem solving, whether creative or methodical, doesn’t begin from scratch when a person starts to work on a problem. His or her pre-existing brain-state biases a person to use a creative or a methodical strategy.”

Take a look at this last line. One way to interpret this is that a right brain person taking a standardized test will naturally try to be creative in answering a question. The only problem is that on many of these problems, it’s not necessary and will probably slow you down!

Solution: begin work on creating a whole brain standardized test or consider giving different types of tests to people who classify themselves as “right brained.”

Source: posted by Rebecca Sato on The Daily Galaxy (link is on the title of this post).

Study: Kounios, J., Fleck, J.I., Green, D.L., Payne, L., Stevenson, J.L., Bowden, M., & Jung- Beeman, M. (2008). The origins of insight in resting-state brain activity. Neuropsychologia, 46, 281-291.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Will Wright Talks About Games and Education

Will Wright, inventor of Sim City and the Sims, makes a good point about the value of games; it's more about motivation than content. That said, if we can weave the two together, haven't we solved a major problem in education?

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's Time to be Inventive

If it's true that artists do some of their best work when they are at a low point, wouldn't the same be true for a nation? While Tom Friedman doesn't say this exactly, he does strongly suggest that now is a good time to be inventive.

"Therefore, the country that uses this crisis to make its population smarter and more innovative — and endows its people with more tools and basic research to invent new goods and services — is the one that will not just survive but thrive down the road."

Read more here.

Thanks to Lincoln Rolls for the link.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The type of wood is really important

“I wanted generally to apologize to every one of you all for letting you down,” Mr. Sanford told the gathering of his cabinet secretaries in a mahogany conference room in the ornate state Capitol complex. (New York Times, 6/26/09)

I once apologized to a group of people, but was standing next to a stainless steel counter top.

Other options:

1. Showing gratitude next to a cedar desk...
2. Feeling shameful in a tile kitchen...
3. Expressing remorse near a laminated board room table...
4. Displaying sympathy next to an outside stucco surface...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Response to "Intelligence Augmentation"

The following was submitted by Sue at SBW Design.

If "making you smarter" can be twisted to "preventing you from becoming dumb," check this out:

Then go Indian for lunch!

Speaking of Medications

There was an interesting discussion about medications (for ADHD, etc.) on Thom Hartmann's program yesterday. Hartmann has written extensively on the topics of ADD and ADHD. Regardless of your political affiliation (he is a progressive radio talk show host) you should find this interesting.

Word of the Day

We've all heard of a grocery store. It's where we go to buy groceries. Someone who owns or operates the store is called a "grocer" - which sounds pretty weird in and of itself. But, what if you wanted to buy just one item? Would you be buying a "grocery?" It seems to me if you're going grocery shopping, you ought to be able to buy a grocery.

I'd ask the people over at Safeway, but that's a "super market."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Intelligence Augmentation"

After reading the article in The Atlantic on "getting smarter," I’m now interested or curious to know if any readers out there have information on interesting combinations of technology, software, social networking and pharmacology that are used – not necessarily to enhance intelligence – but to combat symptoms of ADHD, depression, OCD, etc. If you have any thoughts or ideas on this topic, please put these in the comment section. If you write a really thought provoking or informative post I can create a separate posting for your response.

Additionally, I’ve now seen two articles (in The Atlantic) on whether Google makes us smarter or dumber, but I’m curious to know if there are any good articles out there on whether Google can also make us more creative. Any thoughts?


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Star Trek and the DSM IV

Don’t get me wrong... the new Star Trek movie is great, but I think they missed a good opportunity. Over the years, the Star Trek institution has advanced the idea that you can succeed regardless of race, age, species, etc. But, if they truly wanted to go where no one has gone before, what about this idea: instead of showing a crew that is different in appearance and culture (Vulcan, African American, Japanese, Russian, Scottish, etc.), show us a crew who can turn the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) upside down. They would not only look and speak differently, but would have abilities that in the 20th and 21st centuries were considered disorders or liabilities.

Let me explain. In the 20th and part of the 21st centuries ADHD, autism, bi-polar disorder, OCD and depression were all stigmatized. If you had such a disorder you may have been accommodated in the classroom, but not accommodated at work. Without the proper treatment, you were often not able to work at all. Life was hard. People didn’t always value your hidden abilities. But people were beginning to realize that if you had such an “illness” there was often a hidden talent or skill.

Some examples:

Bi polar: Great energy, new creative insights…
ADHD: Ability to hyper-focus, creative…
OCD: Intensity, deep thinking, persistence, etc.

So, the message to the writers of Star Trek is this. You’ve done a good job of advancing the cause of equal opportunity. Now, it’s time to take this one step further and advance the cause of people with “disorders.” In our time they still call this mental illness. In the future, it may have a different name.

Note to J.J. Abrams. I’m hoping you will explore this possibility for the next Star Trek movie and will consider hiring me to write the screenplay for this. I’m out of work… and would love the opportunity.

Photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/qw9nwa

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thinking Creatively in 21st Century Schools

I've stumbled into this blog a couple of times now, so it's about time I posted a link over to it. It provides a view into everything good that is happening in the public schools; things that are often "below the radar." In particular, you'll learn more about project-based learning and how to use blogs in the classroom.

Also, you should take a look at the writing of this student. He writes well about the importance of project-based learning.

Oh... and if you're looking for a way to put these concepts to work in your school, I'll have to quote the Video Professor and say "try my product."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Concept Behind Succesful Websites

The best way to explain the boom of sites like eHow, Facebook and Twitter is through an analogy. According to a former college professor, In the Soviet Union under Stalin, approximately 70% of the farms were collectivized (run by the state). Thirty percent were private. Guess which sector produced more? The land that was privately owned. This same kind of thinking holds true for rental cars. When was the last time you saw someone Armor All the tires of their rental car?

The principle behind this is that people tend to have pride in things they own, or products that they have contributed to. No doubt this will be true in the classroom too. There is no “ownership” in reading a text book and answering the questions at the end of each chapter. But, if the student knows they can use this information to create something – like a blog or website, or contribute to a class wiki, they might just read the information.

I think the same goes for teaching too. If your principal or department chair were to write out your lesson plans and, therefore, take away your creativity, how many of you would be 100% motivated to carry that out? I believe sites like eHow are doing well because people can both make and see their contributions. It’s interactive. You can see the results almost immediately.