Creative thinking: Reflecting to bring words and pictures together (pt1)

Here is Gregg Fraley @greggfraley speaking at TEDx hosted by NASA.  Whilst I listened, I doodled…only to find that one of his key recommendations was to purchase and use a notebook to capture random thoughts and ideas as we go through the day. How good did THAT make me feel?!

The time when I am able to work from home is precious. It gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in readings, resources and videos that push my thinking forward. It turns out that what I’m able to do during this time is develop my creative behaviours. It makes me consider the age-old tension that we all face between achieving curriculum coverage and offering opportunities for deep thinking.

Trying to design opportunities for learners to respond personally to the issues and concepts they encounter is, without doubt, one of the toughest challenges when it comes to carving up a fifty minute block of time into meaningful learning ‘chunks’.  Perhaps one answer is the development of doodle-techniques, just as I have tried here whilst listening to the talk. We know that the majority of information we encounter is channelled through our visual receptors, so having a focus on making connections between the visual and cognitive parts of our brains is something that deserves more time?

Watch and enjoy…my sketches are below (ordinarily, I wouldn’t have included them, as I don’t feel that they are ‘good enough’. If you wacth the TEDx Talk, however, you’ll see that I have had the courage to remove the “YARDSTICK OF COMPARISON”. I found that they are perfectly valid forms of my self expression – thanks, Gregg!).

N.B. The original TEDx Talk post was originally posted on my main blog site





Relevant Learning: Pirates and superheroes to inspire

Dave Eggers set up his pirates shop as a way to secure a property to house his writing workshops, as you will learn from this video. Since this, a crop of similar projects have sprouted, including a superheroes shop in New York and a whole diverse range of chapters under the 826 umbrella.

Making learning relevant to learners is one of the hardest tasks we have. Dave Eggers discovered, by accident, the lure of practical imagination alongside the power of mentoring. His discovery was to go beyond just asking children to write down or to talk about their imaginative musings but to actively imagine that they can step into their very own imagination and take an active role in them. Alongside this, he put people who had already found their passion for writing in the same space as those who were yet to find theirs. Together, they get to scope ideas, draft their dreams and publish their imaginations. 

When we ask students to get creative or ‘use their imagination’, what is it that we are asking them to do? What do we hope to see? What do we want them to show us? How do we want them to feel about their learning when they activate their imagination? How can we give them the necessary space and time to develop the confidence to really develop their most powerful ideas? How far can we let them really run with their ideas? How far could they go…? If thinking creatively is all about making connections between previously unrelated concepts or objects, then what Dave Eggers has done here works really well.

Consider the topic of Pirates or Superheroes and how you might make some links to curriculum topics and the characters themselves:

Maths: What kind of insurance plan would Batman need for Robin? What sort of premium would he need to pay to protect against damage to the Bat Cave ?

Geography: What route should Captain Jack Sparrow take if he sailed from the Bahamas to the South Coast of Ireland?

RE: What code of ethics would Spiderman enforce if he were made Prime Minister? 

Citizenship: What role in government would The Green Lantern be most suited to?

PSHE: What health issues would Blackbeard need to be educated about and how could he and his crew make sure they stayed healthy?

History: What knowledge, dispositions and skills would a superhero have needed to prevent WW2?

Science: What physiological differences exist between the Justice League of America? Compare these with X-Men and evaluate the ways in one group might be more powerful than the other.

And so on…if you have more reflections or inspirational ideas connected with this, please leave a comment.


Intellectual Risk Taking: Making creativity safe

Elizabeth Gilbert presents a powerful argument for the need to acknowledge the inherent pressure associated with success and achievement. In her case, she draws on her experience of the pressure of writing a novel which can follow the huge success of her first novel. For me, this highlights the pressure that learners experience when they start to get identified as gifted and talented, or simply just by being, ‘…the one who’s good at (x)’. It’s at this point, often hidden from public view, that some learners will start to sabotage their own success. They’ll stop contributing in class discussions, reject any accolades or public celebrations of achievement or simply take the other route and start disengaging from the learning altogether.

Elizabeth Gilbert presents a useful strategy that links with Professor Carol Dweck’s work on Mindsets. Gilbert suggests that we need to separate our ability from ourselves. We need to step away from describing what “I have achieved” and move instead to “This is what my ability has produced”. Now, using such clunky language is not such a great idea, but you get the picture. We need to recognise the endeavour and effort invested in learning and achievement, and celebrate THAT, rather than label the individual as ‘brilliant’ or ‘genius’. Gilbert offers a get-out clause for those who wish to be quietly successful in her presentation.

Alternatively, or possibly, in addition, it is worth taking a look at ow we celebrate achievement in our schools, and, for that matter, society as a whole.

For many who aspire to be the very best at what they do and who seek only to express their passion for what they do, where in school will they find a warm and supportive environment that will guarantee a full-bodied, non-judgemental welcome to their most precious and personal creative offerings?