Being Creative

The word creativity has always made me squirm. That’s because I don’t think I am creative.

Not in the sense of being an artist, which is how I had always defined the word. I can’t draw. Or paint.

But last summer, I realized I had limited myself by my own definition so I set out to try to become more creative. I read “Thinkering,” by Michael Michalko, started following Creating Brains, read Fascinate, by Sally Hogshead, and bought myself a Livescribe pen to practice taking notes in a graphic format that I could upload to my blog.

I’m not there yet, but I’m making progress. One idea that resonates with me is the way we need to take two ideas not necessarily connected and find a thread. Reading The Heart of Innovation this morning, I realized this method would also yield good results. He suggests:

1. On a piece of paper, create three parallel headlines — the first, “What Fascinates Me,” the second, “People I Admire,” and the third, “What I Would Do If I Had More Time.”

2. Jot down at least five responses under each headline.

3. Look for connections between your various responses.

4. Write down your inspired ideas. Then circle your favorite.

Read Mitch’s post for a better explanation, and then try it. I’ll post my results and hope you’ll share yours, too.

Another Perspective on Focus

Ah ha! I knew it. There’s value in my distractibility.

Or at least there’s value for some. Check out Jonah Lehrer’s piece in The Wall Street Journal:

In recent years, however, scientists have begun to outline the surprising benefits of not paying attention. Sometimes, too much focus can backfire; all that caffeine gets in the way. For instance, researchers have found a surprising link between daydreaming and creativity—people who daydream more are also better at generating new ideas. Other studies have found that employees are more productive when they’re allowed to engage in “Internet leisure browsing……”

I’m not going to feel quite so guilty for daydreaming and surfing!

image credit

Why? Why Not?

An early morning brain dump: Why not….

  • eliminate grouping by grade levels. Let students move through outcomes and benchmarks at their own pace.
  • hire teachers year round for a substantial increase in salary. Most effective work needs to happen when students aren’t in class. Teachers must stop thinking of their day as time spent only with students. Teachers must have time to read, work together, be inspired and creative, reflect, and plan. Every year. Always learning.
  • re-think the school day. Why not spend less time together and more time asynchronously?
  • allow students to learn math, English, science,and art around a passion: say sailing? woodworking? astronomy?
  • eliminate grades for conversations and portfolios. Sorting and ranking creates a society of winners and losers (and power struggles)
  • develop ways to help students understand that effort, real effort, pays off
  • ask the questions instead of giving the answers
  • think of inquiry as central to learning

inspired by looking through a different lens

Mapping the Curriculum: To What End?

A few years ago, my school started mapping our curriculum. I remember being somewhat frustrated because I wanted us to have the hard conversations first: what does it mean to be a good teacher? Why do we teach certain courses in a prescribed order?

I wondered what purpose would be served by putting our existing curriculum online before those moments of discussion as to why we taught geometry when we did or how we were going to prepare students to be independent thinkers.

But time constraints and shifting priorities gave way to finishing the project. I understood. Sometimes going somewhere is better than going nowhere.

However, readings and conversations have made it abundantly clear to me that our ideas about curriculum need to change. As I read Future Lab’s curriculum report, authored by Ben Williamson and others from DML Central, I found myself nodding constantly as he described “the death of the center.”

The ideal is that school is to be decentred as the sole site of learning, and learning is to be understood as more fluid across diverse contexts: from the home and the family, across informal sites of learning such as communities and youth group settings, to the potentially global, interconnected online space of networks. Young people’s own knowledge from home and community, and especially from the electronic networks to which they belong, are to be welcomed into the classroom as a source, subject and resource for learning.

The report puts forth a concept called  “centrifugal schooling,” a term that embodies vision and possibilities. Listen to their description.

Rather than the curriculum being a self-enclosed and firmly boundaried body of knowledge, internally comprised of strictly defined and individually insulated subject disciplines, within the emerging decentred logic of centrifugal schooling, the curriculum is to be penetrated both from outside and within. Subjects are to penetrate one another, while the school curriculum itself it to be penetrated by outside forces and hitherto non-school, ‘illegitimate’ knowledge. As such, the curriculum is being viewed as a site for multiple kinds of border crossings or boundary penetrations, where the organization and selection of school knowledge is challenged, even transgressed or redefined.

Curriculum development today, then, should not simply an issue of mapping existing content and/or even skills. Our focus needs to include discussions of what is possible? What might be?

But this won’t be easy. Even the writers call this idea “ambiguous and contradictory…” and ” an ongoing curriculum debate, not as a utopian solution.”

Still I love this last paragraph with the hubs and rails analogy:

“….view schools as hubs and rails in learning networks, linked via information processing and network technologies to other institutions, both formal and informal; to ‘authentic’ learning spaces within industry, vocational and community sites; to vast ‘clouds’ of information available online rather than merely to authoritative printed texts and knowledge sources contained in libraries; and it would focus on learners constantly updating and upgrading their ‘personal portfolios.’ The idea of ‘school’ or ‘education’ as institutions would be questioned, if not jettisoned, in favour of fluid learning experiences involving wider skills and a more diverse conception of intelligence than the implicit model of intelligence in much curriculum design
Both the report and Ben’s post are well worth your time. And I’d love to hear your thoughts….