NYLC: Creativity, Service Learning and PBL

March 27, 2010 at 4:33 PM 11 comments

Plenary speaker Ken Robinson is the author of “Out of Our Minds – Learning to be Creative”

“Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of being wrong… If your’ not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original… We stigmatize mistakes… we are educating people out of their creative capacities.” Picasso said “All children are born artists and grow out of it as they grow up.”

Love the premise that creativity can be learned, assessed, facilitated and encouraged systematically within the routines of organizations including schools. I mean, duh. But the tirade of critique against this is so tiring within ‘rigorous’ standards and the system that crushes the sparkly thinking and self-efficacy out of not just our kids, but out of the adults coming from the system.

So I’m engaged with this entertaining guy, joking, story telling and giving hope for a new way of educating that is absolutely needed for the new economy, the new technological landscape and the new social orders emerging from this current revolution still rolling. It’s not industrial supply of workers anymore.

“Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.”

So it includes trial and error (something we don’t let kids do that much within crowded curriculum check lists).

It includes originality or new ideas to the group or the field (as judged by experts in that field).ย  Ideas from one discipline to another can be a whole new way of solving a problem or seeing things.

I love edges and overlaps of disciplines. How to use photography as a way ofย  seeing biodiversity anew, dog training, child rearing and running meetings, what can I say – Diana (sister) and I agree that dog training is pretty central to organizational behavior.

Creative ideas are often aesthetic – the Occam’s Razor idea that the more elegant, simple solution is more likely to be true. Truth and beauty that link math, physics and art. The curve of a sail in the wind, the exact intersection of forces and matter. This aesthetic threads it’s way through the images I look for, the way I want to inspire students with the truth, beauty and underlying principles of science.

Creativity is bounded to modes of discourse, with different truths in different areas.

And finally, that everyone is creative, it’s not just for a few, sparkly geniuses. (Nice idea, interested in the research on this.) It’s tightly linked to intelligence although not necessarily a score on an IQ test. Like intelligence, it is plastic and changes through life and experiences. (See Nisbett’s excellent book “Intelligence and How to Get Some”. Obviously, I rushed out to buy this when it was STILL IN HARDBACK ๐Ÿ™‚ Here’s the NY Times review.)

One measure of creativity is divergent thinking and the ability to see possibilities, make connections and metaphors. Say, how many things can you do with a paper clip? etc.

Here’s some scary data from “Breakpoint and Beyond – Mastering the Future Today”: 98% of 3-5 year olds score at ‘genius’ level. By 8-10 (with the same kids) 32%. 10% at 13-15 and only 2% from a group of 200,000 adults. They got ‘educated’ in a standardized test system where there is one answer, don’t talk. But creativity is fanned by collaboration and open-ended questions with many answers.

To develop people’s creative abilities, there are specific techniques such as Synectics – creative brainstorming that leads to agreed-upon action. There are some generic skills (not sure what these are from his talk. Maybe in the book.)

Engagement is key, who wants to be creative unless you feel a project is meaningful and allows you to develop skills and aptitudes you love, using materials you love too. Words, numbers, colors, music, the sounds of the flute, or whatever makes you the happiest.

Imagine happy, productive, engaged students who learn because they need to know.

And of course, working together is very fun for most teens and for quite a bit of the time. Not always. Collaborative working groups need

  • a particular purpose.
  • are diverse (abilities, strengths, backgrounds, cultures etc.)
  • and have a workable process. So Lennon and McCartney’s process was to not get up until they’d finished the song. 20 minutes to a couple of hours.

Culture – the habits and habitat – of an organization or society can promote a general culture of innovation.

I’m thinking here maybe a culture that sees innovation as fun, as being okay if something doesn’t work the first time – good try mentality. Where something new is not a ‘threat’ to the old way, and where old ways are not automatically thrown out either. Where there is respect for ideas that have value relative to the particular challenge, where it’s about the outcome, not who wins. So it’s respectful of the people contributing too. Egalitarian for new comers and the older members. I’d love to work there, or be part of making it happen.

I’m looking for a little more concrete guidance for fanning creativity, bu I’m inspired and happy to meet a like-minded soul who says it so much better than I can.


Entry filed under: Conference Reports. Tags: , , , , .

NYLC Conference: Interrobang “Missions” Bio-Diversity – who cares?!

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Diana Bridges  |  March 28, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    Really enjoyed reading this Susan, certainly food for thought. And yes it’s pertinant to all parents, not just educators.


  • 2. annemccartengibbs  |  March 28, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Thanks for sharing this with those of us who couldn’t be there. I find it very inspiring, with potential usefulness in so many areas of life. I think the ability and opportunity to work with others to generate creative ideas is one of the great pleasures of life, something I wish for my kids and all kids.

    Also, thanks to you, I now know what an interobang is. Love that!


  • 3. Kathy O'Connell  |  March 29, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    There’s a terrific video of Sir Ken Robinson on http://www.ted.com. I believe he also has a blog there as well. Quite an entertaining and inspiring speaker!


    • 4. Sue Boudreau  |  March 29, 2010 at 9:25 PM

      Yes he is. Enjoyed him. Trying to figure out how to map some of his ideas into a workable model for schools, more particularly for OUSD. S


  • 5. Kathy O'Connell  |  March 29, 2010 at 8:20 AM

    Here’s another idea…Stanford has a Creativity in Business program with Michael Ray. One of the models uses ‘the Heroe’s Journey’ as it relates to the ‘creative process’. This might be a model that kids would easily grasp and relate to…(they’ve all seen Batman, Spiderman, etc) And, a recent popular business book is Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind. What a terrific read for anyone working with youth today but actually, a terrific read for anyone! Thanks for asking for input, Sue!


    • 6. Sue Boudreau  |  March 29, 2010 at 9:23 PM

      I also love the idea of kids taking on heroic roles because that’s in the end, what it’ll take to save the world. Hero, sense of purpose and meaning glamorizes up boring ol’ ‘service learning. And that’s what it really is. I think young people long for quests and missions. I’m off to find the books you recommend and look forward to chat with you soon on how to get people sparkling. Sue


  • 7. Jessica Neely  |  March 29, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    Thanks so much for sending your post along. As a public media employee, my mind automatically wonders how/if the creation of media by students can help spark that creative spirit. There aren’t many studies on this yet, but we are hoping to learn more in the coming year (funding pending…). How is student’s understanding of and engagement with science enhanced when they are given the responsibility of communicating scientific information to others via media (photos, narrated slide shows, moving video, google maps…)? Can these “21st century tools” encourage students to think more critically about the subject they are studying? And how does (or does) using these tools enhance their creative process with regards to science? Our assumption is yes, but…

    Let me know if you are interested in this area ๐Ÿ™‚


    • 8. Sue Boudreau  |  March 29, 2010 at 9:21 PM

      Yes, interested – we do two powerpoint projects in 7th, at least one in 6th. Heavy emphasis on graphics to engage the emotions as well as communicating information. Graphic representations of data important too. A clear difference in engagement, quality compared to paper poster-type projects. And they really like listening to each other’s stuff too. Let’s talk more… Sue


  • 9. Catherine Saldutti  |  March 31, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    I find your commentary encouraging and engaging. Just to add my notes as someone working with teachers “in the field”: educators are barely surviving the brutal assessment march, and perhaps the saddest outcome for me is that the creativity that great assessments can spark seems to have fallen out of most conversations about assessment. What better than a performance task to get someone thinking, “wow, I never had to think THAT way before” or “wow, that threw me for a mental loop!” But that’s one way to get creative juices flowing! As we know, much creative work has stemmed from the error part of the trial (asessment) and error combination! It’s too bad that assessments these days are designed to stop creative thinking dead in its tracks.


    • 10. Sue Boudreau  |  April 1, 2010 at 12:29 PM

      I am so, so sorry to hear that, more than ever thankful to work in an environment where risk-taking is okay. Thank you school board and OIS admin! It still IS possible within our current system. Maybe schools with high API scores can take the risk to lead the way. See documentary and social network drive at http://www.racetonowhere.com which makes a very persuasive plea for this.


  • 11. Sue Boudreau  |  April 12, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    Also see kid’s views about how to encourage their creativity from a UK study: 1.We want less formality in schools and more creativity in the classroom.
    2.Change the curriculum so that our subjects reflect our lives.
    3.Create spaces where we can vent our creativity.
    4.Let us have opportunities to take risks so that we are not afraid to try new things.
    5.We need mentoring help to get us into the creative industries. We donโ€™t know how it works.
    6.We need to gain confidence in ourselves.
    7.Allow us to learn from each other, to get fresh ideas from cultures other than just our own. We want to mix it up.
    8.We need it to be easier to use the internet at school.
    9.Invest money in us because we are the future.
    10.We are prepared to start at the bottom and make our way up.
    11.We want time for out of school activities and we want them to count towards our qualifications
    12.Give us the choice between exams or course work.




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