Automate Your Left-brain Teaching

In his book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink argues that just as last century, machines replaced the human back, this century machines will replace the human brain. But not the whole brain, just the left half – the side that deals with routines and right answers; things that can be reduced to a formula or a sequence of steps. He argues that whilst schools are obsessed with routines and right answers, the skills that will make a person successful in the 21st century are right-brain skills such as empathy, artistry, big-picture thinking, and story-telling.

Certain types of jobs are going to disappear according to Pink. Certain types of accounting will disappear; certain types of law will disappear; certain types of medicine will disappear. Any career that is based on following a decision tree that brackets to yes-no answers or any career that is predicated on factual knowledge will disappear early this century because it can be done cheaper, faster and more consistently by a computer.

So as teachers, if we think our value lies in the subject knowledge we possess, then we soon will be, if we are not already, redundant.

So what is the solution? I think it’s to embrace Pink’s prediction about the future and run toward it, deliberately automating our left-brain teaching processes and thereby freeing ourselves to better do the right-brain parts of our job that can’t be automated.

Today I enjoyed working with our ceramics teacher, Narelle Baker, who has seen that potential.img_02313 She’s beginning the process of vodcasting the skills that she teaches in ceramics. Today she was vodcasting basic pottery-wheel skills. She used a flip cam on a tripod to record herself demonstrating the skill she normally demonstrates (over and over and over again). This video will be uploaded to her SharePoint site where students can watch the demo at home, and more importantly it will be set to loop on a monitor located behind the pottery wheels. She is automating an aspect of her teaching that can be reduced to a series of steps.

Imagine walking into Narelle’s room in the future! Students will be working on the wheel…with a virtual Ms Baker explaining and demonstrating over and over (without losing patience!) how to perform a technique…. while the real Ms Baker is working with students elsewhere in the studio, discussing more right-brain topics like design and aesthetics – the sorts of things that require the genius of a ceramics teacher – things that can’t be automated. They have to do with emotions and maturity in the subject. Or she might be working with a misbehaving student. That’s empathy, which also can’t be automated. As a teacher, she will have more time to do the sort of work that can’t be automated, by automating the parts of her job that can.

As seen by students

As seen by students (1064)


4 thoughts on “Automate Your Left-brain Teaching

  1. It’s great to see such examples of good teachers working in ways from which everyone can learn…students about how to do things, but also teachers on how to teach…great stuff. It’s good to see that kind of thing being made available to people interested in arts education and in learning generally.

  2. Andrew

    I have tried several times to leave a message on your work and keep getting the [discarded] message when I submit. Will try again some time. Well done so far
    Mark walker

  3. Andrew
    Success this time [I didn’t click on the notify me button for future reference]

    I just wanted to say well done I think the leadership you are showing is great. I recently read a Will Richardson blog challenge about transparency and leadership which is worth a read [link on my blog].

    A retired school council president challenged me to podcast about something I wrote in the school newsletter. My blog [which would contain the podcast] is linked to the school website so that parents, teachers and the community can read and comment on my thinking, experiences and reflections. I haven’t yet done the podcast but after looking at your work I’m inspired to try,

    Thanks again
    Mark Walker

  4. Hi darling, nice website! I genuinely appreciate this blog post.. I was curious about this for a long time now. This cleared a lot up for me! Do you have a rss feed that I can add?

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