Monday, May 25, 2009

Getting scientific about arts education: Education, arts and neuroscience

[24 May 2009 - Los Angeles Times] A new interdisciplinary field researches the effects of learning fine arts on a student's brain. ... For years, school systems across the nation dropped classes in the fine arts to concentrate on getting students to pass tests in reading and mathematics. Now, a growing body of brain research suggests that teaching the arts may be good for students across all disciplines. Scientists are looking at, for instance, whether students at an arts high school who study music or drawing have brains that allow them to focus more intensely or do better in the classroom. Brain research in the last several years has uncovered startling ideas about how students learn. First came proof, some years ago, that our brains do not lose brain cells as we get older, but are always capable of growing. Now neuroscientists are investigating how training students in the arts may change the structure of their brains and the way they think. Does putting a violin in the hands of an elementary school student help the child do math better? Will learning to dance or paint improve a student's spatial ability or ability to learn to read? Research in those areas, Harvard University psychologist Jerome Kagan said, is "as deserving of a clinical trial as a drug for cancer that has not yet been shown to be effective." There aren't many conclusions yet that can be translated into the classroom, but an interdisciplinary field is emerging between education and neuroscience. More

Benefits of Creative Classrooms: 10 Years After Ken Robinson Report in UK

[23 May 2009 - BBC - UK] Creativity benefits results in other areas, research suggests. ... Ten years ago this month a 243-page report on the importance of promoting creativity and culture in schools landed on ministers' desks. It had been commissioned in the heady early days of the Blair government to recommend ways to make progress in the "creative and cultural development of young people" both in and out of school. The review was led by Sir Ken Robinson and included leading scientists, business leaders, and key figures from the arts world. It was widely acclaimed. It argued that creativity was a skill that could be taught. It was not about progressive teaching or loose discipline. Nor was it in any way an alternative to the essential skills of numeracy and literacy. Rather it was about encouraging pupils to be innovative and to develop the ability to problem-solve in all areas of the curriculum, from maths to technology. It argued that such skills were essential to individuals, employers and the whole economy. But what has happened since? More

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Power of Imagination is More Than Just a Metaphor

[15 April 2009 - ScienceDaily] We've heard it before: "Imagine yourself passing the exam or scoring a goal and it will happen." We may roll our eyes and think that's easier said than done, but in a new study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychologists Christopher Davoli and Richard Abrams from Washington University suggest that the imagination may be more effective than we think in helping us reach our goals. More

Monday, May 18, 2009

Not Your Grandfather's Retirement ... Creative Post-Careers and New Retirement

[17 May 2009 - CBS] Aging baby boomers aren't content spending their post-career years idle and are finding new ways to retire. ... Mountain air is not enough for a generation determined to ban boredom in retirement. Martha Teichner visited Asheville, N.C., to explore how some are designing more creative retirements:
John Bauer was a high school teacher in Michigan before retiring to Asheville, and getting a part-time job as a tour guide at the Biltmore Estate. "Why do I wanna keep on teaching when I can retire financially and I can try something completely different?" he asked. Americans just aren't retiring the way they used to ... "We don't want to just sit down and vegetate," said Jim Wyatt. And you don't have to go very far from the Biltmore Estate to see how they're redesigning the whole notion. Nancy Long spent her career writing for newspapers and magazines. Now she's a volunteer docent at the Asheville Art Museum. Long and her husband, Al, were attracted to Asheville, N.C., because for a small city, it has a lot going on culturally. But the big selling point was the fact that they could live right downtown and walk everywhere, a growing trend among retirees. The Longs live in a compact loft in an old commercial building, but here's the kicker: When they retired, they actually lived in Florida … and moved away. Why? "We thought it'd be boring," Martha told Teichner. "Boring," Al agreed. Ron Manheimer, who heads the Center for Creative Retirement at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, said, "People are saying, 'Well maybe Florida isn't the place to go. "What I see is very high expectations that something special should happen in and around this time of life, and I think I see people searching for what that would be." More

Arts appear to play role in brain development

[18 May 2009 - Baltimore Sun] For years, school systems across the nation dropped the arts to concentrate on getting struggling students to pass tests in reading and math. Yet now, a growing body of brain research suggests that teaching the arts may be good for students across all disciplines. Scientists are now looking at, for instance, whether students at an arts high school who study music or drawing have brains that allow them to focus more intensely or do better in the classroom. Washington County schools Superintendent Betty Morgan would have liked to have had some of that basic research in her hands when she began building a coalition for an arts high school in Hagerstown. The business community and school principals worked together, and the school will open this summer, but even at its groundbreaking a man objecting to the money spent on the school held up a sign of protest reading "Big Note$ Wrong Music." More

Friday, May 15, 2009

Creating Positive Community

Check out the Playing for Change Web site, CD and DVD of musicians collaborating around the world to promote positive change and peace.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How learning shapes successful decision making in the human brain

[13 May 2009 - Cell Press via EurekAlert!] New research significantly advances our understanding of the brain mechanisms that link learning with flexible decision making. The study, published by Cell Press in the May 14 issue of the journal Neuron, demonstrates that the brain does not just learn the structure of the physical world but, through learning, encodes rules that regulate how we interpret future sensory information. More and More

On Art, Science, Creativity and Dancing Bees

[12 May 2009 - Science Blogs - The World's Fair - By David Ng] Tonight, I'll be heading out to the Vancouver Cafe Scientifique, where noted bee biologist, Dr. Mark Winston, will be giving a talk about science and dance (May 12th, 7:30pm at the Railway Club). Now, although the linkage between dancing, science, and bees would be normally fairly straight forward, I've been told that tonight's presentation would be more an exploration about dancing as an art form and as a way of creatively expressing science. I'm pretty keen to check it out myself since my own lab does a fair bit of art + science endeavours (although admittedly, I'm a little niave when it comes to the whole dancing scene). More

Former Foes Unite to Bridge the K-12 Achievement Gap

[May 2009 - Stanford Knowledgebase] Liberal and conservative groups are forming unprecedented alliances to improve K-12 education in the United States, sparked by a study from McKinsey & Co. that put a $700 billion price tag on the education achievement gap, Jonathan Schorr told the 2009 Stanford Business of Education Symposium. (Includes Video) More

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brain's Problem-solving Function At Work When We Daydream

[11 May 2009 - Science Daily] Our brains are much more active when we daydream than previously thought. Activity in numerous brain regions increases when our minds wander, according to new research. Psychologists found that brain areas associated with complex problem-solving -- previously thought to go dormant when we daydream -- are in fact highly active during these episodes. More

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cheerful music 'can make everyone around you look happy'

[10 May 2009 - The Telegraph (UK) "Results showed that happy music 'significantly enhanced the perceived happiness of a face.' Further studies of the volunteers' brain waves revealed that the effect of the music was almost instantaneous. It took just 50 milliseconds for changes to take place - too fast to be under our conscious control." More (h/t Arts Journal)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Building an Innovation Zone

[4 May 2009 - 1TO1 VIDEO] Thomas Koulopoulos, author of "The Innovation Zone: How Great Companies Reinnovate for Amazing Success," talks about the systemic changes companies have to make to innovate and survive during economic uncertainty. More

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Single Neuron Can Change the Activity of the Whole Brain

[1 May 2009 -] The pulsing of a single neuron can switch a brain’s waves from the equivalent of a big ocean swell to ripples on a pond, according to new research from Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Yang Dan of the University of California, Berkeley. More

Friday, May 01, 2009

Demography and Lifelong Learning: New strategy needed for the over-50s

[1 May 2009 - Independent Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning, sponsored by NIACE - Report by Professor Stephen McNair] Older people need more opportunities to learn if they are to actively contribute - rather than be a cost to society - during the twenty or more years they spend in 'retirement', a new study of learning and population changes reveals. The report - commissioned by the Independent Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning, sponsored by NIACE - argues that the current narrow focus on skills for work and on younger people is inadequate to meet the challenges of demographic change.  These challenges include:
  • Most people can expect to spend one third of their lives in ‘retirement'.
  • There are now more people over 59 than under 16.
  • 11.3 million people are over state pension age.
  • Life expectancy for a 65 year old today is now 85 for men and 88 for women.
Read "Demography and Lifelong Learning" (PDF)

Genius: The Modern View

[30 April 2009 - New York Times - Opinion by David Brooks] The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It's not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it's deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft. The recent research has been conducted by people like K. Anders Ericsson, the late Benjamin Bloom and others. It's been summarized in two enjoyable new books: "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle; and "Talent Is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin. More