Thursday, February 22, 2007

Finding Places for People

I play basketball once or twice a week with a group of guys--some teachers, some from outside of the profession in the financial and accounting professions. Amid a conversation with one of them today, the "infection" that this article from Dan Pink has spread within me surfaced. I like these guys; some of them have families. Where do they fit in this new economy?

There was one gentleman that I just met there tonight who was a financial advisor. Pink talks about the changing nature of the finance industry in this paragraph:

Consider jobs in financial services. Stockbrokers who merely execute transactions are history. Online trading services and market makers do such work far more efficiently. The brokers who survived have morphed from routine order-takers to less easily replicated advisers, who can understand a client's broader financial objectives and even the client's emotions and dreams.
Could this guy do that? Does he have it within him, enough talent in his left brain, to transform what he is currently doing into what he will need to do for the future? Or the question that has really bugged me since this article has been stuck in my craw, will his children adapt because their school system prepared them for this change?

I spent some time in some sophomore history classes today explaining how to create digital stories. Some of them are former students of mine, so it was nice to see them in a different light, but most I did not know. As I explained the premise behind why their teacher and I had changed their project from a standard storyboard to a digital story, I looked around the room listened to my internal monologue begin to script itself: are they truly ready? will they be by the time they leave these doors, because certainly not all of them will move on to a university, and even then that might not be sufficient preparation? The two kids in one class who sat directly in front of me and spent more time staring at their shoes, do they have the "ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to come up with inventions the world didn't know it was missing?" It's discomforting, but I can't honestly say yes. Not until we embrace a new model for schools.
To flourish in this age, we'll need to supplement our well-developed high tech abilities with aptitudes that are "high concept" and "high touch." ... High touch involves the capacity to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one's self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.

These abilities that Pink talks about, the high-touch aptitudes, are they present in your school? in my school? From my perspective, I would say they are in certain areas. Those staff members who routinely involve students in the planning of their classes, in the gathering of information and resources, and acknowledge that they too are learners, their adaptation and process to "School 2.0" won't be a huge shift. It's the rest of us who need to alter our philosophies. I include myself in this category because I, too, have to radically change the way I run my workshops for staff. The most promising part of all of this, and I remind myself of this all of the time, is that I am asking the right questions, and seeking answers from every source I can find.

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