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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Plasticity of the Brain: Spread the Word!

English: PET scan of a normal human brain
English: PET scan of a normal human brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
They rang my doorbell about 5pm yesterday. Two high-schoolers from an underprivileged part of the city selling candles to earn money. I ended up doing a sales pitch to them about the incredible potential of their futures. Poor kids...I probably seemed like a crazy old lady to them! I wanted to make sure they understood the  plasticity of their brains though, because they are the future and it was clear that they did not understand their tremendous potential.

"In their book How People Learn, Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000) make the case that:
  1. learning changes the physical structure of the brain;
  2. structural changes alter the functional organization of the brain (in other words, learning organizes and reorganizes the brain), (as cited in BrainSMART Thinking for Results, 2011, p. 31).
 Intelligence is not fixed! This is the plasticity of the brain, a life changing concept (and scientific fact) that we as educators must spread far and wide. We have all seen students who have accepted the misconception of fixed intelligence; they don't try because they don't think they can succeed. They simply need to learn how to use thinking for learning strategies in order to be "the boss of their brain". These strategies cross over as life skills as well. I have blogged about the strategies before, but I am beginning a series next week where we will look at each strategy in depth.

Please explain the plasticity of the brain to your students, your neighbors, the kid at the cash register, and to random kids who appear at your door selling candles. My last word to the kids on my doorstep was, "Okay, now go change the world!" Because if they believe they can, they will try. Oh and yes, I did buy a candle.

For more information on the BrainSMART programs, please visit www.brainsmart.org.
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4 comments:

  1. Diane I have posted on a few or your previous posts. I have to say i found this post equally useful! I am a college student studying to be a secondary english teacher, when i was in high school, I was one of those students you mentioned in your post. The ones that had no idea they were the future and did not realize their tremedous potential.I Think it is important tht students know how important they are in the classroom as well in our future business world. I agree with what you said about teachers being responsible for spreading this knowledge with our students. Thank you for your useful resources!

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  2. Diane, I agree that the content of your post regarding plasticity is so important. With regard to teens in particular, they experience excessive pruning of synapses and thus are ripe for new learning which grows their frontal region of the brain. They need guidance and understanding about the amazing power of their cognition, just as children do. Not a bad thing for adults to internalize too, yes?! Thanks for your post! This topic will be addressed in some depth in our upcoming book with Teachers College Press.

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  3. Ms. Diane,

    I really could not agree more with you on this issue. I am also going to try and keep up with your new blogs following this one. I am definitely an optimistic person who tries to make the best out of any situation. However, I have been through some moments in my life where I was not so confident in my achievements. Through these experiences I know that the simple negative thought could alter your outcome. When life is good it is easy to stay positive and belief that you can do anything. We must teach these kids to stay positive through hard times and hardships. If students will develop this skill then they will be able to really rise to their potential.
    Thank you for the post Ms. Diane.

    If I were those boys I would have convinced you to buy two candles :).

    Keith Tardibuono

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  4. This is for your latest post. I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. Optimism is the best way to start any day, if someone can wake up with the mindset that they will accomplish what they want that day, then odds are they just might. Ms. Diane goes on to talk about two distinct groups of students. One that believes that they will succeed and make good grades, and the other that is full of doubt. The group that is full of doubt has already taken themselves out of the game, while the positive group is on their way to success. If you don't think you can do something, you are never going to do it. The logic is easy. I enjoyed how she made a reference to the fact that some students believe their mind is unchangeable. They believe that they will either fail or pass, and their efforts have nothing to do with the outcome. Once students can master the belief that the mind can actually be altered and that it is all a matter of being positive then the students will learn and fight for success instead of accepting defeat. Really Great Posts Ms. Diane. Thank you.

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