Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Using my whole brain to think about Daniel Pink

Psssst ... I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind, is very popular with Wilkes Instructional Media (IM) course writers. If you want to do a little advance reading in order to get the flavour of IM courses, this book is a great place to start. In order to write it, Pink went on a tour of his own brain. Mashing together a lawyer's analytical approach with a story teller's talent to both teach and entertain, Pink created a slim volume that packs a huge punch. It conveys a simple but compelling message for our times: using all of your brain is better than using just just half (i.e the left side) of it.

Pink writes of the importance of strengthening the right sides or our brains by developing six new "senses" in order to meet the challenges of transitioning from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age:
  • design -- the ability to shape our environment (both things and experiences) to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives (p. 69)
  • story -- "sharpening our understanding of one thing by showing in the context of something else" (p. 103)
  • symphony -- big picture thinking -- seeing the forest as more than just a collection of trees
  • empathy -- feeling what another feels ('walk a mile in another person's shoes' thinking)
  • play -- "a move away from sober seriousness as [the primary] measure of ability" (p. 186) -- aka: fun
  • meaning -- "The search for meaning is a drive that exists in all of us -- and a combination of external circumstances and internal will can bring it to the surface." (p. 217)

As I reread some of the passages in Pink's book this morning, I found myself wondering what had spurred his journey from law school graduate to famous author and speaker. A little 'googling' led me to the answer.

Pink's transition came from the same desire that motivates many educators to get up and go to school each day: the desire to make a difference. Disheartened by the limited scope of a life dedicated to the legal profession to help him do that, he gravitated to politics first as a policy maker and eventually as a speech writer. Eventually a new interest in the "outside world" -- in people doing things in new ways and the role technology plays in that -- superseded his passion for politics. Believing this was going to "matter more in people's lives," he made the decision to to "go out on his own" and start writing both for himself and for a broader audience.

Pink has learned the fine art of acting on his passions, of pursuing his interests, of paying attention to what intrigues him, of nurturing his curiosity, and of moving his life forward towards a heartfelt larger purpose. In the Educators' Discussion Guide found at his website, he challenges educators to do the same.

Wilkes courses typically require students to discuss a key question in a forum (due Tuesday with responses to 2 other student's posts no later than Friday) and to also write a longer piece -- either a blog or a paper.

In good Wilkes fashion, here's your discussion question: (#15 from the Pink's Guide with a bit of my own tagged on for good measure):

As you watch William McDonough's TEDtalk video below, look for examples of each of Pink's six right-brained senses.

What R-directed skills do you use in your work? Which of the six senses is a priority for teachers to develop? Why? Which of these six are your students learning by watching you every day? How?
Your longer assignment for the week (due Friday at midnight) is to show how you could change an existing assignment or project in your teaching area to better foster the development of these six senses in your students. [P.S. Use both sides or your own brain as you create this project, and have some fun with it!]

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the kind words about A WHOLE NEW MIND. Much appreciated. Great assignment, too.

    Dan Pink