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Monday
Aug222005

A Whole New Mind

The “Lazy Person’s Guide to Reading” (see my August 16th blog entry) seems to have paid off once again. I spent an not inordinate amount of time on the porch this weekend finishing Daniel Pink’s wonderful book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. I’d heard Pink on NPR a few weeks back and just had to find out more about what he had to say

For those of us who were terrified by Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat and its report on the rise of outsourcing of white collar jobs to Asia, Pink’s book brings some relief – if not a little optimism for our kids in tomorrow’s workplace – if we as educators take some lessons from it.

Like Friedman, Pink acknowledges the outsourcing trend (Asia), as well as two other trends he labels Abundance and Automation. He suggests that readers ask themselves three questions about their jobs:

1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
2. Can a computer do it faster?
3. Am I offering something that satisfies the nonmaterial, transcendent desires of an abundant age? (Are you not just making toilet brushes, but toilet brushes that satisfy the user’s aesthetic sensibilities as well?)

As a result of these trends, he believes we are shifting from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. Successful players in this new economy will increasing be required to develop and use the right-brain abilities of high concept (seeing the larger picture, synthesizing information) and high touch (being empathetic, creating meaning). Happy news, perhaps, for those of us who never were all that good at the left-brain stuff in the first place.

More specifically, he suggests we work toward developing in ourselves (and I hope by implication, our students), six right brain “senses,” to complement our left-brain, analytic skills. He suggests we will need realize the value of:
1. Not just function, but also DESIGN
2. Not just argument, but also STORY.
3. Not just focus, but also SYMPHONY.
4. Not just logic, but also EMPATHY.
5. Not just seriousness, but also PLAY.
6. Not just accumulation, but also MEANING.

In the age of educational accountability, we seem to be gearing all our instructional efforts to helping students master left-brain skills, since that is what the tests measure, of course. But to what extent do we and should we also be developing design sense, storytelling abilities, the ability to synthesis information, empathy, the use of humor and the ability to detect the importance of the information they learn?

How have you addressed left-brain skills into your lesson plans?

 Follow-up posting.

 

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1 Comment »
IF you closely study lessons plans and the trend in education, you will find that 80-90% of school is languge and left-brained based, yet, 80-89% of our students are right-brain learners. There is another book all educatiors should read entitled Is the Left Brain Always Right? An old book, but provides food for thought. Perhaps, as educators we should focus on whole brain and whoe person development?

Comment by Ruth — August 23, 2005 @ 9:48 am

Saturday
Aug202005

God bless conference planners

Most places I go to speak, I get a warm reception, but Florence, SC, was an exception. It was the chilliest group of librarians I’d ever met. Oh, the people themselves displayed the Southern graciousness, hospitality and charm for which they are rightly famous, but, damn, the ice arena where the general sessions were held froze almost everyone out. (I personally lost three toes to frostbite, but it was interesting to watch the zamboni clear the ice before the keynote.) Lauren Hammond, who chaired the conference, I am sure, is still getting comments.

Every member of a professional organization should be a conference chair at least once in his or her career – preferably early on. It’s a wonderful lesson in just how illusionary control over much of anything actually is.

Our MEMO (Minnesota Educational Media Organization) Fall Conference will be here in Mankato this fall and I am once again the chair. (Fourth time as either conference chair or program chair for MEMO.) It is a labor of love – labor being the operative word. My wonderful, dedicated committee and I start planning the event a year in advance – selecting a theme, special speakers, food, tours, workshops, etc. The venue itself was chosen years in advance. As the conference gets closer, we’ll worry about ribbons, signs, equipment, transportation, nametags, exhibit locations, speakers gifts, etc. But despite our best planning and attention to details, I am sure there will be a few surprises.

Like most conference organizers, we want and need feedback for future conferences, so we ask attendees to fill out evaluation forms for both sessions and the conference as a whole. Most folks are honest, yet generous, in their appraisals of the event. Conference planners, exhibitors, and presenters do take suggestions for improvement to heart and use them. However, there are a few comments I would love to see banned on evaluation forms.

1. The room was too hot/cold. (The person who invents perfect climate control in large buildings should earn a place in paradise.)
2. The dessert was too small/too big/not sweet enough/too sweet/made of ____ which I am allergic to. (Hey, at least you got dessert.)
3. I didn’t agree with the keynote speaker. (You mean s/he made you think?)
4. The workshop wasn’t what I thought it would be. (Did you read the program description or just the title?)
5. I didn’t like the color of the bags/program/t-shirts, etc. (Well, the hospitality chair is a fall and you’re a spring – live with it.)
6. From vendors – There was too little time for attendees to do nothing but attend the vendor area. (Is there ever enough time from an exhibitor’s perspective?)
7. There was a snow storm/rain/heat wave during the conference. (No comment.)
8. I had pay for parking. (Next time we’ll try to have the conference at a shopping mall instead of a convention center.)
9. I misread the program and missed the session I really wanted to go to. (And you have a college degree?)
10. There weren’t enough handouts. (You’re saying you came late to the session?)

Here’s all I’m saying – if you’ve ever written a comment like the one above, please volunteer for next year’s conference planning committee. So much planning work is done online now, geographic distance is not really a limiting factor. You’ll learn very quickly that you can’t guard against the arbitrary.

If you attended the SC conference in Florence last spring, take a minute and send Lawren and e-mail telling her how much you appreciated all the hard work that went into the event.

Conference planners, any other comments you’d like banned from evaluations?
___________________

My comment is based on 8 years of attending a conference at Mohonk. We have a 2-hour downtime scheduled after lunch the second day and each year someone complains because 1. they don’t need the downtime and think we should still be in sessions or 2. nothing was scheduled for the downtime.

Comment from Laura Pearle:

Last year in TN, we had a conference chair for the first time run the conference instead of the state president. YIPPEE! Still, I didn’t get to attend a session until the very last one. There are so many details for the conference chair and for the president to oversee. Unfortunately one of our beloved keynote speakers had her laptop stolen while we were at lunch. I spent hours viewing surveillance film in the security booth. Then it was well-deserved time consoling our speaker and being there for her. Earlier in the conference, we discovered the group working with the bookstore didn’t order the author’s books to be autographed and it was off to discover how to overnight books from Oregon to Chattanooga. I am greatly looking forward to attending AASL because I am not in charge of anything. What a heavenly concept. Go to a conference and enjoy being with the professionals, chatting with the vendors, and contemplating “stuff” in sessions. Hooray for the planners!

Comment by Diane Chen — September 13, 2005 @ 11:10 pm

Friday
Aug192005

Picking Your Fights

A coach was the keynote speaker at a banquet I recently attended. Is it just me, or do coaches speak only in clichés? This guy had forty-five minutes worth.

He did tell one joke that I had not heard before. It’s on the slightly blue-side, so if you are easily offended, stop reading now. Here it goes:

On his way into the saloon, a runty little cowboy passes his horse and notices that somebody has painted its testicles bright pink. He storms into the bar and shouts, “Where’s the low down dirty varmint that painted my horse’s testicles bright pink? I’ve got something to say to him!”

From the back of the saloon comes a giant, mean-looking cowboy who stands right up to the little cowboy, towering over him. He looks down and says, “I painted your horse’s testicles bright pink. Now just what was it you wanted to say to me?”

The little cowboy gulps, then squeaks, “Just thought you might want to know the first coat is dry.”

The point of the story, said the coach, is that we should pick battles that are big enough to matter, but small enough to win.

Now that is not bad advice, but no one ever goes on to explain just how a person determines a battle’s size or importance. I know more than a few librarians who seem to fight very hard about some very trivial issues and others that feel pretty much responsible for and try to change everything that happens in the entire world.

While I am by no means perfect at picking my own fights, I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve gotten older. One concept that’s worth thinking about is the relationship between one’s “Circle of Influence” and “Circle of Concern” described by Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Most people’s Circle of Concern is far larger than their Circle of Influence. (I am concerned about global warming, but my ability to stop it is relatively small.) Covey states, “Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. “

Now that seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? Spend your time on the things you can actually do something about. If I am worried about funding for my library program for example, I just might allocate the time I have available to work on this issue as follows:

  • Building budget: 90% Working with my principal, site team, library advisory commitee, and PTA to create a building library budget and to prioritize the building’s budget. Serving on the interview team when selecting new administrators. Working with teachers to build units that require library resources.
  • District budget: 5% Serving on a district library committee. Speaking at school board meetings. Working for the election of library friendly school board members.
  • State budget: 3% Lobbying for state dollars for libraries and the general education formula with teacher and library organizations. Working to elect state political leaders friendly to education.
  • National budget: 2% Working to elect national political leaders friendly to education.
  • Global economic policies: 1%: Staying informed. Donating to “causes.”
How do you know if the battle is too small? That’s easy too. If the issue impacts only you as a librarian with no direct negative consequences your students or staff, it’s too small – period.

So how do you determine which battles to fight?