Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

A Whole New Mind for Educators

I should be careful what I wish for. I wished that those of us in my school could look into the future and prepare for it. Then I read Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind. Shoot! I had to do something about it; it was desperately inspirational. (See my post from earlier today for more information.) So I thought I’d offer a book study to my staff to see if there was any interest. This is an excerpt of what I sent out:

In A Whole New Mind, released in 2005, Dan Pink argues that Western society in general, and America specifically, is moving “from an economy and society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and society built on…inventive, empathetic, big picture capabilities.”  This movement, Pink claims, is a result of three social and economic forces: Abundance, Asia, and Automation. He posits three questions related to these forces: 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? According to Pink, “If your answer to 1 or 2 is yes, or if your answer to 3 is no, you’re in deep trouble.” To survive and thrive in this new Conceptual Age, Pink asserts that we must learn and develop six senses: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. We must be “high concept” and “high touch,” not in a touchy-feely way, but able to do things that are meaningful and unable to be automated and/or outsourced.

Using the human brain as a metaphorical backdrop for his book, Pink –acknowledging that human beings are not exclusively governed by either side of the brain– illuminates how left-directed thinking and right-directed thinking will both impact and influence the future in which we are about to live. The book is neither directly about education nor written by an educator; however, the implications for the future of education run just below the surface. A Whole New Mind prods the reader to look beyond the age in which we are rooted and to look forward to an age that will stand in as stark a contrast as the Information Age does to the Industrial Age. 

I had 12 teachers respond from art, business, English, math, science, social studies, special education. Even our Library Media Specialist joined. It was the single most inspirational and rewarding staff development experience of my 14-year professional educational career. We met once a month for 8 months over the course of the 2006-2007 school year. Below are some educational fallout results from our book study.

The first group who met last year have taken their experiences and ideas from the book and worked them into our school world (and probably beyond).

  • Two of our English teachers have used AWNM as required reading for our Honors Senior Composition and Literature course with the idea that it may be a pilot for required reading in all senior English classes.
  • One of the social studies teachers has tweaked/redesigned his instruction in his classes with a focus on the 6 aptitudes.
  • Our Marketing/DECA teacher has changed how his marketing students design and present their marketing class presentations. This is significant because he is working from a place of extreme success before reading the book and sees the future need behind the ideas and has essentially moved his approach and classes from a place of demonstrated success to a somewhat riskier, yet necessary, approach.
  • Our Library Media Specialist is co-leading a class on 21st Century Learning skills for over 15 of our staff. The first 20 minutes of each meeting is dedicated to AWNM principles.
  • The math and science teachers in the first book study have made unit modifications based on AWNM ideas.
  • One of our art teachers changes and modifications in her classroom has inspired the other two to do the book study this year.
  • Lastly, several members of our staff asked me if I could offer the book study again this year. I have and 12 different teachers from art, English, math, science, social studies, and special education who have signed up.

This future stuff is hard work; change, even on a classroom scale isn’t easy, but our kids will reap the rewards.

What are you wishing for?


October 6, 2007 - Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Looking at the seven initiatives that your group took and applied to their school world, I find one common thread: they were all creative in redefining and refining their work. Having ‘a whole new mind’ means looking at things differently. It’s the age of creation intensification. Creativity seems to be the clarion call of today and answer to the three questions you posed above. Don’t you think so?

    Comment by Herman Najoli | October 6, 2007 | Reply

  2. Rick: What a great way to lead impactful professional development, via a book study on Dan Pink’s ideas! The results of your work with your staff already sound MUCH more meaningful than most of the professional development sessions I’ve seen and experienced. Great job! I’d be curious to know the ways you plan to keep the conversations going to keep the teachers experimenting creatively with students.

    Comment by Wesley Fryer | October 6, 2007 | Reply

  3. What an excellent idea for staff development! I’ve been using AWNM in my own classes ever since I first read it. It’s great to see the creative ideas that your teachers came up with. Are you still doing this?

    Comment by Curtis | January 5, 2010 | Reply

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