A couple of years ago I was going to set up my own business. I got my website sorted out, business cards printed, but then… nothing happened. I’d concentrated on style over substance.
It’s not bricks that hold a house together, it’s the mortar.* Otherwise, it’s a pile of bricks. There seems to be an assumption that if you’re given a bunch of money or are part of a new organization, then you need to create something from scratch. Instead of focusing on connecting people and adding value, there’s thrashing about creating a new community, a new website, new artefacts. Let’s create more bricks!
Right now, more than ever, it’s mortar time. It’s time to stick the bricks together to build something.
* Granted, there’s lots of examples of dry stone walls in Northumberland (where I live). But that takes a lot of organization, co-ordination and centralised re-shaping of existing organizations. Work with me… :-p
Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby something new is created which has some kind of value. What counts as “new” may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs. What counts as “valuable” is similarly defined in a variety of ways. (Wikipedia)
I’ve noticed increasingly ‘creativity’ being somehow equated with thea use of bright colours. Whilst it’s true that inspirational environments can stimulate people, I doubt sincerely that a lick of paint can transform a space into a ‘creative’ one. This is because of the fallacy of confusing inputs with outputs.
People do this all the time, equating fame, success, good looks, talent, and ultimately creativity with acting a certain way, using a certain thing, or wearing particular items. Given that outputs are usually visible and tangible, this is understandable – but still wrong-headed. Instead of finding out what type of laptop someone uses, the type of pencil they prefer or favourite restaurant, we should be seeking the answers to different questions. Such as:
What do you always have close to hand when writing/designing/talking?
Which are your favourite blogs/books/podcasts?
Who influences you?
When did you realise that [xyz]?
How do you organise your thoughts?
Where do you do your best thinking?
Try finding out the answers these questions – ask people directly if you have to! Note their positive habits. Merely aping their setup and outputs deals with the latter, but not the all-important inputs. :-p
I try to see underheads ahead of me in line who fumble for their checkooks, change, as opportunities for mindfulness in the moment …so when I am delayed by circumstances beyond my control, I try to ask myself what I might not be noticing in my environment.
Instead of seeing unexpected delays as being the result of some malevolent ethereal force it’s a much better plan to have an idea of what can fill that time. Some suggestions:
People-watching (why do people do what they do?)
Writing down/expanding upon thoughts in a notebook
Talking to other people (i.e. practising striking-up conversation)
Pattern-spotting (how many x are there? what does that remind me of?)
Why not checking email/Twitter/other technological things?
You are what you habitually do. (Aristotle)
I’m aiming to become more creative, aware of my surroundings and reflective. Are you?
It was only about two weeks ago that I found out I’m a bit weird. I was listening to an episode of BBC Radio 4’s All In The Mind (listen), part of which was dedicated to synaesthesia. I didn’t realise that something I experience all the time actually qualifies as a mild form of the condition!
But what is synaesthesia? Nature defines it in the following way:
An unusual ‘mixing of the senses’ in which a stimulus in one sensory modality (for example, a sound) elicits a percept in another modality (such as visual perception of a colour).
All In The Mind explained that this definition can be widened to include something both I and my mother experience: conceiving of time as being physically and spatially located. It’s difficult to explain this in words, and my perspective and view on time changes depending on the period I’m ‘looking at’. To give you some idea, however, here’s something like what I ‘see’ when I think of the period of human history:
The above is a very quick and rough sketch – what I actually see is a lot ‘thicker’ and 3D. As you can imagine, this has its benefits and is probably one reason why I’m a History teacher! :-p
I didn’t think anything more about this until I listened to one of the series of TED Talks entitled A Journey to the Center of the Mind by Vilayanur Ramachandaran. Towards the end of his (fascinating) talk, he mentioned that ‘creative’ people (artists, poets, etc.) are eight times more likely to experience synaesthesia than ‘normal’ people. He explained the condition as probably being due to a malfunction in the gene that ‘trims’ ‘the connections that exist initially between all parts of the brain.
So I wondered… perhaps there’s a link between synaesthesia and migraines? After all, I experience ‘aura’ when I have a migraine – something like a less extreme version of the picture below, usually starting with patches of coloured light:
Sure enough, when I looked it up I found several references, including this one. Now I’m no painter or poet, but I am fairly good at metaphors and making links between (often fairly diverse) subjects.
I’m firmly of the belief that, especially when it comes to the brain, things cannot be studied or considered in isolation. Although I want to do further research, I’m fascinated at the possible link between synaesthesia, migraines and creativity (in the form of associationism). Perhaps, like autistic people who are fantastic mathematicians or artists, migraines have their associated upsides…
Do you experience synaesthesia? Perhaps you see numbers or days of the week as being certain colours or, like me, conceive of time in a sensory way. Do you also get migraines? I’d love it if you could share your experiences! 🙂
As Dave Stacey has already said, I think by now every educator worth his or her salt has seen the excellent TED Talks video where Sir Ken Robinson talks about creativity. If not, click here post haste and watch it!
Sir Ken recently agreed to be interviewed by the pupil-powered Radiowaves about creativity in education. It’s certainly worth watching/listening to:
I watched School of Rock a couple of nights ago. Unbelievably, given that I absolutely love High Fidelity – which stars Jack Black in a somewhat similar role – I’d never seen it before. The film was great and I really enjoyed it; I also thought it gave some pointers as to what real learning experiences should look like.
Obviously, I don’t think that it’s acceptable for substitute teachers(or ‘supply’ teachers as we call them over here) to be unchecked and do whatever they want in the classroom. It’s not that aspect I think is laudable. Instead, it’s the following
Project-based learning – the students in School of Rock work on one big project. If this was organised by a qualified teacher, department or faculty, then this could incorporate many different skills rather than trying to teach skills and content separately.
Drawing out students’ talents – At first some of the students seem to be given roles that are an after-thought, ones which are not important. However, the students grow into these roles and make them their own. For example, the student who produces a lighting show is amazingly talented – but would never have had the opportunity to discover this if it wasn’t for the project.
Developing confidence – The system of gold stars and receiving grades for each piece of work keeps students in their seats and keeps them well-disciplined in the film. This is necessary in some schools where students have very disorganised and fragmentary home lives. However, in most schools students need creative freedom and the opportunity to work to their strengths, building confidence in their own ability.
Teamwork – Instead of working individually (or nominally in pairs), students in School of Rock had to depend on one another. They were all vitally involved towards the same end which made them seem valued and developed their interpersonal skills.
Real-world experiences – The students work towards something called Battle of the Bands. Although the students do not win this competition, the experience of playing in front of a live audience and showing their parents what they have been up is invaluable. This made me think of students publishing their work for bigger audiences through blog posts, YouTube videos, etc.
Which films have you seen that you think relate to education?
Further to my previous posts this week, I’ve been at BETT 2008 this week. I don’t like it on other edublogs when people endlessly bang on about conferences/events I haven’t been able to attend, so this will be my last post on it – I promise! 🙂