Saturday, February 28, 2009

Good Advice from Daniel Pink: Focus Less on Facts

This weekend I read A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. In this manuscript, Pink posits the notion that the future will be ruled by big-picture right-brainers more so than by the systematic left-brainers who carried civilization through the Industrial Revolution and the 20th century. According to Pink, the Conceptual Age we live in and will live in requires a new mindset for those who will be successful, a mindset centered largely on the right hemisphere of the brain. Pink makes an argument that we all can tap into our right hemispheres more by focusing on what he calls the "six senses:" Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. Rather than focusing solely on facts and information, we must begin to use our "six senses" more and more.

In A Whole New Mind, Pink states, "When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact."

While Pink did not write this book specifically for educators, I believe his statement has great value for the next generation of educational leaders. Today's digital natives have access to more facts than any group of people in the history of mankind. So what? Is that really all that significant? It is only if our digital natives know what to do with these facts. For example, how important is it for today's students to commit to memory the country of origin of each of the fifteenth and sixteenth century European explorers and where on earth they explored? In my opinion, not very. On the other hand, wouldn't it be more appropriate for today's students to be able to explain the process of globalization during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as well as the long-term consequences of that globalization, when provided with those facts about the explorers? Wouldn't we then wish our students to be able to compare and contrast the globalization of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries with the globalization of the 20th century or of the last decade?

As educational leaders we should focus less on the facts and more on the context in which we find those facts. We should endeavor to empower our students to use their "six senses" in their academic pursuits. We should strive to incorporate into our classrooms more opportunities for our students to use their "six senses." Research shows that our digital native students feel the need to create, to tell stories and to find meaning in the things they do. To mix metaphors, today's digital natives indeed have a whole new mind and we must adjust our instructional methods if we are to reach them.

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