Friday, July 24, 2009

Right-Brained: The Fourth R of School

Often considered superfluous, developing the right brain will become an asset with the advent of abundance, Asia and automation. Workers must combat these concepts and be high concept (beautifiers and inventors) and high touch (empathizers) in the Conceptual Age by developing six senses: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning.


This 50-word mini-saga (synopsis: see below) of A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink is proof: I do have right-minded ability! Daniel Pink lays out a thoughtful thesis that I shall apply to the world of education: we must create students (and workers) that can no longer exclusively rely on left-brain analysis and logic, but instead must possess left and right-brained skills. The reason, you ask? With the abundance of "stuff" (cheaply-made and high-quality "stuff" at that - just head to Target to see for yourself), workers who can synthesize, rearrange and create that abundance of "stuff" will be in demand. Further, Mr. Pink says, outsourcing work to Asia at low costs and high efficiency means that American left-brained workers who rely only on their left-brain analyses will

always be undercut by the Asian competition. Finally, automation means that our left-brained geniuses can easily create programs so computers can inexpensively complete former left-brained human tasks - and probably nearly error free. He uses the example of Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue to illustrate this concept.

So how are we, as educators, to help create students that can survive this changed economy and world? Of course, one place to start is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which provides resources, links and frameworks. Another is this concept that Pink coins as "High Concept" and "High Touch." In a work, he claims, where left-brain skills are outsourced and computerized, we must ask three questions of ourselves. And - as educators - I think we need to ask if our classrooms and schools are developing skills in our children that transcend these questions:

  1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
  2. Can a computer do it faster?
  3. Is what I'm offering in demand in an age of abundance? (Pink 51)
The answers to these questions will obviously depend on our subject matter, our grade level and our community, but shouldn't we be at least considering these questions, if we are truly educating our children for the future? I believe so.

Daniel Pink goes on to state that there are six skills or "senses" (65) that future workers must develop in addition to left-brained analytical skills. Pink does a great job of (a) explaining and illustrating each "sense" and (b) helping you, as an adult, develop your six "senses" with his portfolio, which includes suggestions, tips and links.

Below, I've listed some interesting points from each of the six sense portfolios - food for thought, online assessments, suggestions. My hope is that if you take even one idea and start to incorporate it into your teaching, we are moving our students in a direction to better prepare them for the future.

Daniel Pink's Six Senses of the Right-Brain:
  1. Design: function, but also beauty, experience, and lifestyle:

  2. Story: persuasion, communication and self-understanding:

  3. Symphony: crossing boundaries, seeing big pictures, creating a new whole:

  4. Empathy: knowing what makes others tick, forging relationships, caring for others:

  5. Play: the health and professional benefits of laughter, lightheartedness, games and humor:

  6. Meaning: transcending day-to-day struggles to consider purpose and spiritual fulfillment:
So how can we apply these "senses" to our classrooms and our schools? Will helping our students develop these skills make them more marketable and functional in the future? If you can think of any ways to implement in the classroom, by all means, please leave a comment below! And, go buy Pink's book.

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