Dr. Judy's August 2012 Newsletter

Judy Willis

Greetings Neuro-Igniters, I hope you are having a great summer, start of the school year, or down under a mid-year that gives you satisfaction as the students with whom you work are discovering more and more joy in their learning. I think I have met more of you in the past year than ever before through my presentations and workshops in 25 states and 10 countries in the past 12 months—or "remotely" through television, radio, and online interviews. I'm looking forward to repeating that adventure in the coming year. Whether it is at a conference, where I look out on a thousand eager faces, or the two small institutes 3–day institutes I just completed for 35 passionate administrators, specialists, and teachers from six countries here at the University of California, Santa Barbara (almost my backyard). I am more impressed than ever at your relentless dedication and your desire to build your knowledge base of the neuroscience of learning. You'll find a list of places where I'll be giving presentations at conferences and workshops at schools on my website. If you are able to attend one of these, please come by and say "hello"! Executive Functions are the Common Core Standards and the critical 21st century skill sets
It seems that we all share the common challenge of TOO MUCH information students are required to memorize and not enough time to be creative and offer the authentic, project-based, inquiry and discovery learning experiences that are so critical if students are to develop their executive functions. Executive functions is the neurological term for the highest levels of judgment, critical analysis, prioritization, deduction, risk assessment, goal planning, and transfer of knowledge to creative, innovative applications. In the United States, the Common Core Standards are these very executive functions—that have been described by neurology for over 75 years as emblematic of prefrontal cortex neural processing. As these neural networks undergo their greatest rate of change (maturation with pruning of unused networks and myelination to strengthen the most used networks) during the school years, educators are the caretakers of the development of our students' highest cognitive and emotional neural networks. Not only are these executive functions those delineated in the Common Core Standards, but they are also the qualities now sought by employers in response to globalization of communication, accelerated information dissemination, and technological breakthroughs. The success of educators to help all children develop these critical 21st century skill sets will increasingly benefit from the continuing acceleration in the quality and quantity of neuroscience research relevant to how the brain learns best. It will be up to educators to "translate" the implications of the research into strategies for planning and teaching. As I see your efforts to acquire the background knowledge in neuroscience to take on this task of developing applications of this research, I am confident that you will succeed. I look forward to the impact you will have as you continue to learn and collaborate to insure that students are engaged with meaningful, memorable learning experiences that their brains will construct into long-term, concept memory circuits. These students will be prepared with transferable wisdom that will be transferable for solving new problems that have yet to be revealed and expanding on new information with creative innovation as they seize the opportunities they will inherit their 21st century. Keep igniting, Judy
Judy Willis, M.D., M.Ed. jwillisneuro@aol.com www.RADTeach.com