Thursday, December 18, 2008

Developing a Better Focus

If there are two words in education we might soon tire of hearing, they are creativity and innovation. Yet, I can't help but be excited by the current focus on these two human talents, and I'm not alone. In this article from the New York Times, author and Systems Change 2005 Keynote speaker Dawna Markova illustrates the challenges for leadership in fostering these.

"The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder," Dawna says. "But we are taught instead to 'decide.' decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities."

In addition, to paraphrase, the focus on standardized testing often leads to a focus on preparing all students to be good test-takers, encouraging mediocrity and limiting students' abilities to achieve excellence in where their talents lie. Unless the brain has determined creativity and innovation to be worthwhile mental patterns by the time an individual reaches puberty, it will prune those areas to put more energy into the "critical" areas established.

For the sake of our future, it is imperative that we continue to find ways to focus on higher order thinking skills, from the first day of Kindergarten to graduation day and beyond, if we want our students to be lifelong learners who succeed in the 21st century.

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