I think all of us want to be more creative and want to encourage creativity in our students. I went to a session on teaching creative thinking that I found a bit disappointing because I wanted tools for improving the creative process in students. The session focused more on how students that are naturally creative think and how assignment structures can sometimes limit creativity. Having that information is useful, but practical tools are what most teachers are looking for and need to make change in their teaching.
So what are these tools? Here's my summary of what I've learned so far:
Perception is about slowing down and using our minds to guide our eyes to notice what is present and then using that information to think about what is not or how it could be different.
(Example: Found Functions in the real world)
Patterning is the identification of common or repeating elements in a work and the recombination of those basic elements into a different and often more complex piece.
(Example: Stop Motion Drum & Piano by a man with no musical knowledge
Abstracting is boiling down an idea to its most important or recognizable parts.
(Example: Math Poetry challenge)
We have been keeping a creativity journal this term to record our experiments with trying to open up our own creativity. In the book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author describes several ways to enhance personal creativity that are concrete and executable. There is a great summary here of all of the exercises. Here are a few highlights:
- Try to surprise at least one person every day.
- When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it.
- To keep enjoying something, you need to increase its complexity.
- Take charge of your schedule.
- Make time for reflection and relaxation.
- Find out what you like and what you hate about life.
- Start doing more of what you love, less of what you hate.
- Develop what you lack.
- Produce as many ideas as possible.
I loved Daniel Pink's idea of "Fed Ex Days" for teachers and students. Google tried to make innovation part of its culture by doing something like this and many of its best products came out of their Labs, which are projects started by employees "just for fun." See here for more on Google's philosophy.
I plan to incorporate my own version of a "Fed Ex" day with my students sometime in the near future. Teacher Josh Stumpenhorst, who Daniel Pink mentioned in his keynote address, called them "Innovation Days" with his 6th graders. In my class, I plan to tell students that they will have some time (a period or perhaps more) to work on something related to our subject but they will need to share with me and the class a product. Will they choose to write a story or poem? Build a web page on a favorite book? Who knows, but I'm curious to see what will happen. When people are allowed to pursue their interests and talents, sometimes interesting and unexpected things can happen.