Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Reflection on
A Whole New Mind
by David Pink
I loved reading this book. It felt comfortable, low stress, and understandable, I connected with it in many ways. I don't know what theother literature books had to say, but the meeting between this book and my brain was meant to be! Personally and professionally, it felt like an important part of me that had been considered low status in the work market was given value. The six components were all familiar, although not in such depth nor so specifically, because they are all part of personal, private life.
The portfolio sections of the book were a unique experience, so many wonderful resources and ideas! My junior high son would pick up my book just to check these sections for ideas he wants to try, we read manyof them together and were amazed at the possibilities.
A special connection was the story of the Hero's Journey. The author likened it to reading this book and I agreed; it was an eye opener, especially with all the extraordinary examples. Even more, though, it was my story as I worked my way through the Power 21 on-line class! I'd felt pretty comfortable with what I was doing, and knowing, taking traditional professional classes that gave me new ideas and methods, and most often reinforced my teaching philosophy and style. Meantime, though, elementary students and my junior high son, were amazing and bewildering me with their computer class assignments and the knowledge they seemed so comfortable using. It was moe than the generation gap that had me understanding so little of their language! Hence, I decided this class was the one for me. I struggled like a foreigner in an unkind land, ran the gauntlet of emotions from high to lows, and with help of "those in the know" was able to come out alive. I learned many new things to take back to my teacher's role, perhaps not all I was expected to learn, nor all I need to know, but enough to feel successful and ready to learn more. I wonder if it weren't for the story, told throughout humanity's storytelling history, with the Hero's successful return held out like a promise that all would be well, if I would have stayed the struggle. I like to think I would've, but like I've said, this story was meant to come to me!
The fact that David Pink doesn't write that left or right brain is better, or preferred, over teh other is a major factor in the believability, and acceptance, of his views. We've heard that argument enough to know which "side" we're on. Instead he writes, with examples showing proof, that although the two hemispheres of the brain are very different, both are necessary in the Conceptual Age. I think this is the most attractive aspect of the book, a choice of one isn't required, rather, a belief that we can "have it all".
The viewpoints in this book reminded me also of my grandparents and their generation. Those folk lived the six components: they told stories, they laughed and found humor in the easy and difficult situations, they had genuine meaning in their lives, their neighborliness was empathy at its best, they were continually designing and redesigning their careers and theirlives to make things better, not to mention the countless inventions they created or improved upon "to get the job done" without worry of patents, and they wer able to take their knowledge and skills and use them in another fashion or place; all in the name of survival and the joy of living. I loved my grandparents and spent a great deal of time with them, perhaps that's a big reason I felt so close to this book immediately and enjoyed it so thoroughly from beginning to end.
I find myself recommending this book to almost everyone I meet and then running through a brief summary to entice them to believe they need to read this. I wish I could send it to so manyof our leaders, the chosen and the self-apppointed, so we could all get on the same page and work for the best for our country and our people. I'm so glad I read David Pink's book A Whole New Mind.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Story and Symphony


The aptitude of Story is defined by our author with a quote from Mark Turner who wrote The Literary Mind, Turner writes "Narrative imagining - story - is the fundamental instrument of thought.....Most of our experience, our knowledge and our thinking is organized as stories." Our author continues by stating that minds remember stories better than facts because it is the natural tendency to remember in that fashion, making stories integral to the human experiences of leaning and sharing.

People had utilized this aptitude for centuries, but during the Information Age there was an opposing sentiment which devalued narrative skills and chose to work with strictly factual information and presentations instead, ignoring the concept that gathering facts in isolation is opposite to how minds naturally work. With the dilemma created by the three A's (Abundance, Asia, Automation), though, facts are readily available hence they have less value and impact, but place them within a rich context and tie them into emotions (the essence of Story), emtional impact and the value of knowledge increases.

The Hero Story, considered a basic story structure, was compared to this book in that the reader will move from consideration of exclusively Left Brain capabilities to the realization of the importance, followed by the acceptance and appreciation, of Right Brain thinking; that Right and Left are complements and both are necessary to a successful life in the near future. This was one of my favorite parts of this chapter because of the connection I felt to the Hero Story in relation to our class of on-line tools. I was comfortable as was, but realizing I was on a low tech level for an educator, pushed myself into this foreign arena, encountered challenges and difficulties which led to struggles requiring new skills to succeed, but with the aid of our Friends in TIE and their magic modems, I will land in comfort as a "hero with a whole new mind".

Hollywood great Robert McKee gives seminars on the importance of storytelling skills and wrote a book entitled Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and The Principles of Screenwriting that is very popular with the Hollywood crowd. Even more surprising is the number and type of advocates who come to his presentations and read his book; they are businesspeople who have determined that Story is important to the economics and happiness of their lives and careers in the Conceptual Age.
There are various examples of how the people of the business world are successfully applying the skills of storytelling. One example is how in 2001, Dr. Rita Charon started a movement focusing on the awareness of the benefits of the aptitude of Story to the medical profession. Since then, many hospitals and medical schools throughout the nation are recognizing and including the skills of Story in their practice and training. They've found untilizing narrative competence promotes the diagnosis and treatment of patients in addition to building stronger patient/doctor relationships, although we are reminded that the skills of Story expand a doctor's abilities, but certainly cannot stand alone.

Story, long neglected, has been brought back into the forefront of the arts, business, and personal arenas. Because many Americans now reside in a time of abundance, we have the time to delve deeper into ourselves, our work, our families, and our world in an attempt to understand our place in the big picture. The outsourcing of white collar jobs to Asia and the capabilities of automation force us to gain a new perspective and develop new skills. Our author believes that the aptitude of Story will be a critical factor for American success in the Conceptual Age.


Our author defines Symphony as "the ability to put together the pieces.....to synthesize rather than to analyze." Symphony is likened to the ability to draw and refers to the book by Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Our author takes a class in drawing, with an instructor who uses this book, to aid the reader understand symphonic thinking. After reading this chapter, I've purchased Edward's book and am excited to first learn from it using myself and my son, then to apply its principles with elementary students in their literature illustrations.

There is a reminder of information from Chapter 2 about how the left and right brain's hemispheres work in a 'simultaneous, contextual, and symphonic manner." Also from that same chapter is the reference to the three A's pushing Americans toward a new approach to, and creation of new, careers, with Symphony being a major asset in the endeavor.
The drawing class demonstrates to our author that he is drawing remembered symbols instead of observing what is actually there. Drawing requires genuine observations of features including their relationships to each other, much as what we must do to become symphonic in our choices of application. The art teacher himself, Bomeisler, emphasizes that 'drawing is largely about relationships, that when combined create the whole,' another point of similarity between the abilities to draw and symphonize. The analogy defines cleaarly what the aptitude of Symphony is and how to apply it.
In the discussion of relationships, the author identifies three types of people as those who will most likely succeed in the Conceptual Age. The boundary crosser, who is able to find success and joy applying their talents and skills regardless of how circumstances my vary from their first choice of application. An interesting point was that gender role stereotypes don't apply to those who can cross boundaries, which makes sense since our societal expectations of gender do create boundaries. The inventor is the second type of person because many inventions combine older ideas into a single new one; again, the approach of utilizing what is with its relationship to the big picture. The metaphor maker, with metaphor being defined as 'understanding one thing in terms of something else", is the final type of person determined by this author to be successful. George Lakoff writes, "Human thought processes are largely metaphorical," and our author points out that while computers can sift and organize information, they cannot recognize relationships as the human mind can. An once again, due to the abundance in American's lives, be it in material goods or the capabilities of technology, understanding and relationships are whatr people are searching for and metaphors expand both.
An interesting piece of data the author shares while citing examples of successful businesspeople is that studies show "self-made millionaires are four times more likely than the rest of the population to be dyslexic." A comparison is made between dyslexia and blindness. People who are unable to use their sight generally have developed their other senses to higher levels of function to increase independence. Dyslexia, which creates difficulties with left brain tasks, pushes the dyslexic to hone their abilities to see the big picture, to problem solve, and to recognize patterns, which are right brain functions and beneficial to today's economic success.

Among the many examples given to support the Aptitude of Symphony is a perspective very different from the past decades; a multimillionaire who prefers poets rather than persons with an MBA to be his managers. His reasoning is that poets have a holistic view as well as the compunction to share their observations and interpretations while striving for understanding makes them "true digital thinkers......tomorrow's new business leaders."

The overall definition of the aptitude of Symphony is "the ability to grasp the relationships between relationships", or the ability to see the big picture. Symphony, by it's very nature of seeing the big picture versus all its parts in isolation, can ease the stress caused by the overwhelming amount of information and choices we have, and the lack of time to deal with them all, by helping us distinguish what in our lives is important and what is trivial.

The author oened this chapter with a self-portrait he drew on the first day of his drawing class; he completes the chapter with another self-portrait from his last day of class. The difference was impressive. He had relinquished his former view of drawing with symbols and had learned to truly see the whole picture as well as the relationships that created it. The drawing metaphor made the aptitude of Symphony very clear and real for the reader.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Summary of A Whole New Mind!

Here's to the right brain coming out in all of us! The six senses: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning give us the opportunity for personal and professional growth. The task is mastering the senses. "The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind - creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers."

If a person has the desire to succeed in this Conceptual Age then, the six senses lead the way. The first is design. The design needs to incorporate all the essentials to make it functional, but also incorporate beyond the essentials. The design needs to entice all senses. As an educator, I find this to be very true. We are required to teach the standards, but also add spice to the design.

Then, we have the story. Persuasion, communication, and self-understanding are all part of the story. Educators are the masters of the story. Our job revolves around the story. We are always educating ourselves and working on improving the story at all times.

Symphony is the next sense and it is the BIG picture. The symphony pulls it all together. The senses fit so well into an educator's world. We control the symphony to a certain extent. Our students are the symphony and we need to be the conductor. As the conductor, we guide our symphony in the right direction making the education process successful.

Next, there is empathy which is essential in understanding our students. We as educators need to remember, we need empathy with our students. We are not just teaching a particular subject or a particular grade level; we are teaching students! Can all teachers say they care more about the students or teaching the content?

The fun one of course is play! We all love to play! I always say if I'm not having fun I'm not doing my job. Enjoying our jobs can be play. Who says we can't teach our students and play as we? Play includes, "laughter, lightheartedness, games, and humor." I love play!

Lastly is meaning. It has to have a purpose. There is nothing else to say. If what we teach our students has purpose, our students are more apt to learn it.

Grasping and believing in the six senses can change the way we think. We as educators need to seize the opportunity to jump on board the Conceptual Age with our students. The time to say we are artists has come, we can never lose the excitement of calling ourselves artists!