Top 10 skills children learn from the arts

You don’t find school reformers talking much about how we need to train more teachers in the arts, given the current obsession with science, math, technology and engineering (STEM), but here’s a list of skills that young people learn from studying the arts. They serve as a reminder that the arts — while important to study for their intrinsic value — also promote skills seen as important in academic and life success. (That’s why some people talk about changing the current national emphasis on STEM to STEAM.) This was written by Lisa Phillips is an author, blog journalist, arts and leadership educator, speaker and business owner. To learn about Lisa’s book, “The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brain World,” click here. This appeared on the ARTSblog, a program of Americans for the Arts.

By Lisa Phillips

1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.

2. Confidence – The skills developed through theater, not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of the stage. Theater training gives children practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal. This process gives children the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.

3. Problem Solving – Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career.

4. Perseverance – When a child picks up a violin for the first time, she/he knows that playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer. In an increasingly competitive world, where people are being asked to continually develop new skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.

5. Focus – The ability to focus is a key skill developed through ensemble work. Keeping a balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus. It requires each participant to not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to the big picture of what is being created. Recent research has shown that participation in the arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives.

6. Non-Verbal Communication – Through experiences in theater and dance education, children learn to breakdown the mechanics of body language. They experience different ways of moving and how those movements communicate different emotions. They are then coached in performance skills to ensure they are portraying their character effectively to the audience.

7. Receiving Constructive Feedback – Receiving constructive feedback about a performance or visual art piece is a regular part of any arts instruction. Children learn that feedback is part of learning and it is not something to be offended by or to be taken personally. It is something helpful. The goal is the improvement of skills and evaluation is incorporated at every step of the process. Each arts discipline has built in parameters to ensure that critique is a valuable experience and greatly contributes to the success of the final piece.

8. Collaboration – Most arts disciplines are collaborative in nature. Through the arts, children practice working together, sharing responsibility, and compromising with others to accomplish a common goal. When a child has a part to play in a music ensemble, or a theater or dance production, they begin to understand that their contribution is necessary for the success of the group. Through these experiences children gain confidence and start to learn that their contributions have value even if they don’t have the biggest role.

9. Dedication – When kids get to practice following through with artistic endeavors that result in a finished product or performance, they learn to associate dedication with a feeling of accomplishment. They practice developing healthy work habits of being on time for rehearsals and performances, respecting the contributions of others, and putting effort into the success of the final piece. In the performing arts, the reward for dedication is the warm feeling of an audience’s applause that comes rushing over you, making all your efforts worthwhile.

10. Accountability – When children practice creating something collaboratively they get used to the idea that their actions affect other people. They learn that when they are not prepared or on-time, that other people suffer. Through the arts, children also learn that it is important to admit that you made a mistake and take responsibility for it. Because mistakes are a regular part of the process of learning in the arts, children begin to see that mistakes happen. We acknowledge them, learn from them and move on.

via Top 10 skills children learn from the arts.

The emerging science of ‘collective intelligence’ — and the rise of the global brain

Over at the Edge there’s a fascinating article by Thomas W. Malone about the work he and others are doing to understand the rise of collective human intelligence — an emergent phenomenon that’s being primarily driven by our information technologies. We may be on an evolutionary trajectory, he argues, that could someday give rise to the global brain. And amazingly, he’s developing an entirely new scientific discipline to back his case.

Malone, who is the Director at MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence, studies the way people and computers can be connected so that — collectively — they can act more intelligently than any single person, group, or computer.

And in fact, Malone is even mapping what he calls the “genomes of collective intelligence,” a list of convergent examples and design patterns of this phenomenon — things that are assisted by Google, Wikipedia, InnoCentive, (the community that developed the Linux open source operating system), and others. He claims to have identified about 19 of these collective intelligence design patterns — or genes — theat occur over and over in different examples. He writes:

For instance, the community of people that developed the Linux open source operating system embodies what we call the “crowd” gene, because anyone who wants to can contribute new modules for the Linux operating system. But that community also embodies what we call the “hierarchy” gene, because Linus Torvalds and a few of his friends and lieutenants decide-essentially hierarchically-which of the modules that people send in will actually be included in the new versions of the system. So that’s the genomes of collective intelligence project.

Among the other things Malone is working on, he’s trying to understand how our whole society is evolving in a way that makes us more intelligent. “It’s becoming increasingly useful to think of all the people and computers on the planet as a kind of global brain,” he writes. Moreover, “our future as a species may depend on our ability to use our global collective intelligence to make choices that are not just smart, but also wise.” He continues:

What’s the science here? In a sense, we’re trying to understand scientifically how groups of humans work together now using the means we have and have had for connecting humans to each other, face to face communication, telephone, Internet, et cetera. More importantly, perhaps, we’re also trying to understand the science behind the deeper phenomena of humans working together or humans and computers working together in ways that will help us understand how to create new kinds of human or human and computer cooperatives or collective intelligences. So in that sense, the boundary between science and engineering begins to blur.

Science is about understanding what is, engineering is about how to create what you want to be. But they’re clearly related to each other. Understanding better how the world works helps you shape the world in ways you want it to be, and often trying to shape the world in ways you want helps you understand fundamental scientific questions about how the world is in ways that you might never have thought of asking before. Another way of thinking about the question of what’s the science here is to relate what we’re doing in collective intelligence.

We just had the first academic conference on collective intelligence in April of 2012 held at MIT. I was one of the two co-organizers. We had a number of very interesting speakers and people there, and many people said it was one of the best conferences they’d ever been to. There’s a sense that there is a field catalyzing here, a field congealing here.

Malone’s essay is a long read, but well worth it — including his insights into ant intelligence and the idea that we should start to measure not the relative intelligence of individuals in a species, but rather the overall intelligence of their emergent group behavior.

via The emerging science of ‘collective intelligence’ — and the rise of the global brain.