Friday 4ALL: So Crazy It Just Might Work

outside the box

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As educators, we often have to look creatively outside the classroom for new ideas and approaches. The phrase “thinking outside the box” gets tossed around, but sometimes that’s what we have to do to find something that works. One place I often look to for inspiration is the public radio program This American Life.

Last week’s episode was called “So Crazy It Might Just Work.” If you’re interested, you can listen to the episode here. As with every episode of This American Life, it’s divided into two or three acts with a prologue. In the prologue, host Ira Glass discusses with a writer about the crazy ideas great thinkers use to solve problems. Act one featured a cancer researcher who used sound waves to kill cancer cells after his old music teacher made a suggestion. Finally, the second act finds Ira interviewing a man who has a crazy idea for how to deal with a crush.

Through listening to this episode, it becomes clear that sometimes the craziest ideas are the answers to our toughest questions. A solution that seems crazy or undoable at first might be the solution that works. This can apply to our teaching quandaries as well as solutions our students try to find to problem-based learning activities or inquiry-based lessons.

The idea of crazy ideas that might work comes through most when we brainstorm. A true brainstorm accepts all possibilities without judgement. This is important as one never knows which ideas will present the most promise in solving a problem. If students are aware of this requirement, they may be more likely to stretch their thinking.

How do you encourage students to think outside the box? What place does brainstorming play in student learning? What solutions to problems have you found that seemed to be too crazy to try at first?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

4ALL: Nothing’s Set in Stone, Even IQ

Albert Einstein

Teachers thought Einstein was "low" and look how he turned out.

I heard this report yesterday on NPR about a study that suggests IQ scores are not constant throughout life. It used to be thought that once an IQ score had been established in an individual, that person was stuck with that one measurement of her intelligence The study cited in the piece suggests otherwise. The study reveals that the IQ score of teenagers can fluctuate.

What does this mean to us?

The idea that one’s IQ can change means that students have capacity beyond what was thought to be a set score. Through a positive educational environment and improved instructional practices, students can actually become “smarter.” A student’s capacity should not be limited to a perceived fixed IQ score.

It never sat well with me when I would hear other teachers suggest that a student was “just low” as an excuse for not raising expectations for what that student could achieve. A study like the one in the NPR story means that we can make a difference in the intelligence quotient of our students at the very least. No matter how “low” we think a student might be, there is still an opportunity to help them reach beyond their perceived potential.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.