I have attached an article I recently wrote for technology In Education Magazine talking about the extensive program of digital gaming I have incorporated at NFPS. Gaming is used extensively throughout our entire curriculum including games such as Minecraft, Little Big Planet, Civilisation and Sim City along with a host of IOS games. I also speak about gaming enabling a school to move from its use of technology from being a substitution for other formats or beyond that an augmentation of other formats through to something that modifies or ultimately redefines the learning. This is where the technology become transformative.
Based on the Works of Cormac McCarthy, Commissioned by The Melbourne Writers Festival
Some very exciting news. In August of 2012 acclaimed Melbourne ensemble Collider will be performing a piece entitled Solo In Red, written by myself. The piece will be performed as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival program over 3 nights at the Melbourne Recital Centre.
“Kynan Robinson’s new piece Solo in Red is both astoundingly beautiful and original. Setting out to capture the atmospheres of a Cormac McCarthy novel it does all that and more.” – Vierre Magazine 2011
I prepared a statement for media discussing the work which reads as follows.
McCarthy’s writing and the atmosphere he creates has a sparseness, detachment and tension and is always touched with a dry wit. He presents both the absolute beauty and absolute ugliness of existence, often within the same sentence. To me his works sits somewhere in the place of the spirit world and if you enter it it will often bring forth both frightening and peaceful truths. In the composition of Solo In Red I am making a very personal statement on life and it’s deep sadness, only matched by its overwhelming beauty.
The many elements of this show, including performing with the incredible ensemble Collider plus the breath taking multimedia component which includes lighting plus the most beautiful and lush video projections, (produced by Dotahn Caspi, Sean Kelly and Michelle Robinson) will all lend themselves to an experience that is both powerful and transporting for any audience member.
You can also read about the development of the multimedia and actually contribute towards the costs if you feel so philanthropic. You can either pledge support – (there are some great rewards – especially to those interested in attending the Melbourne Writers Festival Paperback and Hardback passes valued at $90 and $325 respectively) OR if you can’t contribute financially – no problems at all – but all we ask is that you spread the word!
It is a costly process to produce these large scale works and your contributions to the Arts are very very appreciated.
I have been thinking a lot about the type of reflection we ask our students to do and why we do it. In context of attempting to create an educational culture that’s enables and fosters creativity, reflection is an important tool. At the moment when our students reflect on their learning it is in a journal form, mainly written in a book. This has obvious limitations. The most noticeable one is that the only people that will see this reflection are the child who has written it and (maybe) the teacher.
We are attempting to create an environment where each child is inundated with as many ideas as possible. Creativity is often born from the individual’s ability to take two or three disparate ideas, join them together in a way no one else can see and by doing so create a brand new idea.
If a child is not constantly accessing different ideas then the opportunity to do this is limited. If only using the reflection model of a journal in a book, spoken of previously, as only 2 people will be inputting into the reflection, there is the potential that neither the child nor the teacher has any good ideas what so ever and therefore that creative process becomes limited.
I have been working with Richard Olsen from Ideas Lab on this matter and together we have been experimenting with a reflection template built in a Buddy Press platform.This emulates a social network eg Facebook which allows for a flow of ideas, plus other things such as peer to peer learning.
At the moment I am using this template in a project I am working on (alongside Kristen Swenson) using the game Minecraft. The students driving question for this project was “can you teach an area of our schools curriculum through the game Minecraft” (yes – they were doing some research for me). When it come time to reflect they login to their template where they have all created their own profile and they fill in a fairly simple form.
The power of this system is that as it operates as a social network each child can go to any other students reflection, read it and leave a comment with some advice, something they had noticed, some encouragement etc. Furthermore all of the groups that are forming up around the project question are listed down the left hand side. Each student can go and look at the other projects reflection and read, comment etc. At any stage a student is able to leave their own project and join another group if they realise that it is more suited to them or they have more to add in that project than their current one. A number of students have done exactly that over the term strengthening the new projects they have joined as well as inspiring their own creative thinking by having an influx of new ideas coming at them all the time.
As the teacher at no stage have I had to limit the students by my own lack of knowledge.
This reflective template also draws ideas from the iterative reflective cycle used by software developers using the Agile Methodology as their base.
At the recent MOTM conference I was involved in a very interesting discussion with a friend of mine and a couple of other teachers on how to make her class project more creative. She was teaching design and had her students all making chairs
The more I contemplated this project the more I started to think of the Agile methodology to project development, specifically it’s non linear approach and wondered if it could have any benefits to this particular project.
I started by contemplating the notion that if you value a solution over an objective you are compromising potential and creativity. If you already have a solution or answer eg you will make a a chair you have removed the creative process and they will come with a preconceived idea of what a chair is.
They could potentially just say, look I have $20 in my hand I will just buy one.The problem here is that we haven’t stated the objective – why do we want a chair in the first place – what is the purpose of having a chair etc
Instead maybe the project could have been worded as “we want to make this communal space more comfortable, go for it kids”. This would allow for a much wider area of potential for creativity. It hands over power to the students, it broadens it, it opens up collaboration, it avoids the sheep effect – everyone copying the best chair, and you will potentially still get a couple of chairs out it.
The key is to always go for the higher-level objective, the bigger picture , have I presented a project opportunity to the students that has the widest possible opportunities or have I already given them an answer – a chair.
If you look at software development projects liner approaches could be likened to hard coding changeable elements – when you hard code elements into your software project that are potentially changeable down the track ( eg Hard coding url’s, into the code over time these might change). This adds a lot of risk to the project, you are not making your project scalable, and your limiting the bigger picture. If you have a project which is really hard coded and you need to make changes it will take a lot of time $ and it will limit your opportunities to make changes in the future. The chair might be an example of hard coding. An example of a linear project might be “I love superheros. I have 5 superhero figurines which I am going to place in an order of importance on a poster I will stick on the wall.”
4. Aqua man
5. The Hulk
At your next birthday you get given an Iron Man and you decide you would actually like to put him in number two on your wall list but that list has been locked down in texta. Your only option is to rip the project down and start again.
Another approach would be “I’m going to create make something in my house or on my wall that represents my love for superhero figurines.” Do I need to create a list that locks me down or is the point of the project to represent your love for superheros. You might go back to the list but it might come in some crazy way
Sometimes when you ask a question it may not be immediately evident to you that you are proposing a linear project that already has an answer. People tend to get stuck on solution under the delusion that is the objective of the project
You should put out the idea and start zooming out, broaden your question broaden your question broaden your question until you potentially might get to a place where you cant even see the question anymore, it dissolves. Instead you have a very high level guiding objective (is that the right word). That potentially could create a very messy project but thats OK. The zooming out can be very hard to do because we are often blinded by the first answer that raises its head at the first layer of zooming.
My objective is to get a twitter site – No thats not the objective its the solution. My objective is perhaps I am wanting to build a network, is this even an objective or should you ask why do I want to build a network? To impart knowledge, to learn, or maybe I want to get more people to visit my blog etc etc etc. Well twitter might be one way but potentially if creativity sneaks in, there might be many better unthought of ways.
If you already know the answer you have limited creativity and potential for a very interesting project/learning.
This year I have been handed the task of instilling a more creative approach to learning and teaching at one of the schools I work at. This is a task I am excited about. It is a particular passion of mine evident in many of my previous blog posts.
The thinking behind this comes from my own personal belief that creativity The ability to generate new ideas is innate in everyone and needs to be one of the higher goals of education. The investigation also stems from the rapid changes that we see in the western world, changes in the job market which is crying out for innovative/creative thinkers, as well as changes driven by the digital revolution which has provided opportunities for people to create, collaborate and communicate like never before. Our education system has a responsibility to not only keep up with these changes but perhaps even lead some of them.
To achieve the task 2 think tanks have been established, one inside the school and one drawing from experts and networks beyond the schools immediate boundaries. These think tanks will provide ideas, investigate research, experiment with implementing ideas into the classroom, provide feedback and teach and support others.
My initial thinking was to set up an environment where people can share. Instead of the formal monthly meeting we would build a platform (perhaps a NING) where those involved from within the school could be contributing whenever they liked.
Within this platform we would,
1. Look at what the creative thought process actually is, investigate the research into it. this might include looking at notions of cognitive dissonance, divergent thinking, he ability to find connections where others cant see them, risk taking and freedom and dualism.
2. Investigate the environments that stimulate creative thought. This could be both the physical environments, mental environments and online environments. Much writing has already been done about the ideas of networked knowledge and web 2.0 being a modern day equivalent of the coffee shop experience of the Paris intellectuals that lead to so much new thinking in s many areas, including philosophy, literature the arts.
3. Investigate existing models that stimulate the creative thought process in an educational setting, these could include Project Based Learning, some of the online courses developed by PLP, Steven Downs models of learning centred around Network Learning, Rich Tasks, The Agile Methodology, The CKC model developed by Ideas Lab, and The Inquiry model. From initial discussion there is already some debate whether the enquiry model is at all related to creativity or whether its basis being rooted in a western scientific model of investigation and reason actually limits its ability to encourage creative thought.
4. Find ways to encourage these learning environments to flow into the teaching of all curriculums including the core curriculums of numeracy and literacy. Is this done through the questioning process? Do the teachers need to ask bigger questions, what if we trusted the students to just ask their own questions? How much time in education needs to be devoted to skills based learning? Etc. Etc.
I would love to hear anything anyone else has to say on the matter. If you think there are things we should investigate please fell free to suggest, all ideas are welcome. If you would like to be involved in the community we hope to develop feel free to email me and I will notify you once we have built our NING. Or initially feel free to comment with any ideas readings, criticisms etc on this blog. Thanks needs to be given to Richard Olsen form Ideas Lab, Lou Bowe and Mark Dickson and Sheryl Nussbaum Beach for some of their initial work as well as the Creativity Team I worked with in 2011 during the PLP ConnectU project.
Here is a simple but worth while youtube video that gives a nice starting place
This is a transcript of an interview I did for Extempore Magazine
At the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival in 2011, we heard Collider at 303, with compositions inspired by the works of Haruki Murakami. In those pieces Collider—led by Kynan Robinson and Adam Simmons—echoed aspects of Murakami’s work in the music. When we heard about the forthcoming concert of music that draws on Kynan’s reading of Cormac McCarthy, we wanted to find out more.
Miriam Zolin: When you talk about writing music in response to Cormac McCarthy’s writing, should people expect to hear some sort of narrative in the music that’s equivalent to what they might find in Cormac McCarthy’s books?
Kynan Robinson: No not really. It’s an interesting little place where I find myself. I did something similar when I was writing for The Escalators and looking at David Lynch. I didn’t do this deliberately. I’d started writing some music and I’d found that the music was heading in a particular direction. I re-watched Twin Peaks and found that the atmosphere that he was trying to create was similar to what I was trying to create. So then I made a deliberate decision to look at theoretical concepts behind Lynch’s work. I looked at a lot of Lynch’s conceptual ideas and then I related that to The Escalators and created a whole body of work. It was not a deliberate decision to do this; I fell into that place.
At the moment in education there’s a call for creativity in all schools. But the call for creativity is coming more from a workplace angle which means it’s really a call for innovation. There’s not a good understanding of what creativity means. I’ve done a lot of work on this, as an educator myself, trying to unpack it for other educators. The development of a creative thought is an extensive process for your brain to go through and it requires certain conditions. What your brain is actually doing is moving into a place of cognitive dissonance, a place of confusion. It is trying to leap from one level of understanding to the next. To do that it has to confuse itself and then it has to come out of that confusion into a place of equilibrium. [laughs] That’s a really dumbed down version of the idea! Ideas of cognitive dissonance and divergent thinking practices are things that I’m interested in.
If you apply that to what I did with his project, for about a year and a half or two years, I have had an idea in my head and I couldn’t kind of get what the idea was. I was reading Cormac McCarthy a lot, just reading, without a purpose, and I kept going back there and reading it again and again. I was also listening and re-listening to certain composers I hadn’t listened to for years. People like Messiaen and Morton Feldman, and others. What my brain was trying to do was reach out to find answers. Over the space of a year and a half, the answer was forming until ‘bang’ it popped up with an ‘idea’ — this series of works I’m writing. That’s the link into Cormac McCarthy’s work. My brain was sitting in a place of confusion; I was looking for some of those philosophical answers, those large life concepts and those sorts of ideas. The writings of Cormac McCarthy were hitting into the same place all the time and so my brain was just naturally pulled to it. I don’t know why I kept reading it. Actually this is what everybody does all the time. You don’t know why you keep going to these places but your brain is searching desperately for some sort of equilibrium; a release from the state of confusion it’s entered into.
MZ: And often what you’re looking for is something you can’t consciously articulate anyway…
KR: That is absolutely correct. You can’t articulate it because that’s what divergent thinking and cognitive dissonance are all about. You don’t know what you’re looking for. In terms of education – and I know I’m getting off track here – if you start pushing this into education systems, you need to encourage broad spaces where students are allowed to enter into places of confusion. You need to encourage confusion as a source of creativity.
MZ: And then you have to try and justify it by measuring the benefits of cognitive dissonance, which could be interesting!
KR: [laughs] Yes, it wouldn’t measure too well using standardised testing methods for literacy and numeracy which is what gets measured in our current system.
But back to the thing about Cormac McCarthy – I was looking for a whole bunch of answers, related to a lot of different things and not just about the music I was writing. I started to recognise the concepts he is talking about and to enter into the philosophies and the atmosphere his writing creates. His philosophy and the atmosphere he creates are also relevant to a lot of other things in my life. This music that I’m writing is deeply personal. I’m at a stage in my life with my career and compositions where I’m ready to compose music that makes significant personal statements. Up until this now, I would have had a bunch of musical ideas and whip them up quickly, composing really fast, banging out an album and moving onto the next project. I think that’s what you have to do as a younger person. But I’ve been doing this for a fair while now and it feels like I’m ready to deal with some of those larger life concepts. McCarthy’s writing is full of ideas about the fragility of life and the nonsense in the notion of the sanctity of life. He talks about the beauty and the ugliness in the same moment and also talks quite heavily on a supernatural and spiritual level. These are ideas that I’ve been thinking about for a long time but never been ready to deal with from an artistic sense myself.
MZ: Is this what you were referring on your blog, to when you talked about ideas you’d been grappling with for a decade and a half?
KR: Yeah, concepts of spirituality and those kinds of ideas. I was raised as a missionary child in Bangladesh. It’s an extreme environment and an extreme framework to place upon a child. So once that’s happened you’re always dealing with those of ideas and you fight through them and those really strong – Christian I guess – overlays. As a young man you fight against them and get rid of some of them out of your life, or you try to, but they are always in there. Once a framework is established within a human being it’s very difficult to break. It’s taken me a long time to not fight it any more and to try to learn how to deal with it and be prepared to deal with it with my art.
MZ: A couple of times you’ve mentioned the word atmosphere in the same sentence as philosophy. When you’re undergoing this process of being open to the information that your brain seeks in its attempt to find equilibrium, how much of that is about the atmosphere and how much is about the words and the text that then just leaks into the music.
KR: If you’re talking about the rhythms of the language, not so much. When I talk to people about the fact that I’m doing this Cormac McCarthy thing and I use words like ‘sparseness’ to describe his writing, they’ll say ‘are you joking? His writing is so full, it’s packed!’ which is true, in terms of sentence structure. There is an incredible amount of detail that he writes in… but the overall feeling becomes sparser and sparser…
MZ: There is quite a bit of space in his work…
KR: Yes, space, and I guess the rhythms of the words in that way are really affecting me. You know, you probably got me on this one. Maybe I have done that.
McCarthy comes from a particular geographical location which is not what I am referencing either. He really places his writing in that space of ‘America’ which I guess also references artists like Morton Feldman who place their music in that vastness of America. For me it’s not about the geography. It’s more about the way he writes all that incredible detail about pretty much nothing – like how to saddle a horse up. It leaves you with a sense of sparseness.
MZ: [laughs] We’ll let you know how it goes, when we hear the music.
KR: Yes, please do! And interesting too, is that he really does have a heavy religious overtone to his writing and that’s something I’m trying to grapple with in my own life. And then it starts linking in to other things. I also started to look at composers I hadn’t looked at for ages. Like Messiaen. Everything he wrote was about spirituality. I’m drawing on some of the techniques he uses, but more so his dedication to compose about areas of his life which were personally meaningful and things he was searching after.
As far as narrative goes, his writing is definitely linear, but it’s … it just is what it is. The Border Trilogy and those books – they do sort of follow a story. But Blood Meridian is just about that search… the bleakness of it all and also the madness of it all, but within the bleakness there is also this incredible beauty. Those concepts, like the sanctity of life, I really got from him. In our modern times we view life as the most precious thing. He writes in that mode of ‘life can be nothing’.
You can imagine about the times he was writing. Those ideas of humans being so important were not as prevalent. If someone annoyed you, you could just shoot his head off, and that wouldn’t have had the same huge consequences as it would today. Back then it was just another step in the path. It really shook me around and woke me up to this concept when I was reading him. We have this concept of the sanctity of life across the board and maybe it’s a nonsense. He’s an interesting one. He talks about the nothingness of life but at the same time talks about the intense beauty, so it’s all wrapped in together.
MZ: People say that he’s bleak, but perhaps he simply acknowledges the harshness of a reality which we cocoon ourselves from. Perhaps his writing simply goes right there and looks it in the face.
KR: That’s exactly what I got from it too, which is what I’m trying to deal with. These are big concepts to deal with. I’m close to 40 now and as composer, I feel like I’m ready to deal with those conceptually larger subject matters. If you’d asked me about 25 years ago to write about issues of spirituality I would have had a different outlook on it – probably a very immature outlook. Yet the seeds were sown by then and they’ve been …
KR: Yes, festering. And that’s what the creative act is all about
MZ: You have a really busy life – how do you create a space where you are able to think deeply about these big issues?
KR: I think they just create their own spaces. I seem to apply this to almost everything I do. When you’re talking about the creative act, everything I do revolves around trying to find some kind of answer. It’s not like I have to sit down and start meditating.
MZ: So you don’t set aside a time each day or week… saying ‘on Saturday mornings between 9:00 and 11:00 I’ll think about these big issues’…?
KR: [laughs] No, for me it’s like a constant search, a constant attempt to be in that space to push my brain as fast and as hard as it can all the time in all sorts of different areas to find whatever the next thing is that I’m trying to create.
MZ: Are you changing as part of the process?
KR: Yes definitely, and I really don’t feel like I want to waste time doing projects I’m not interested in any more. And I guess my compositional style is changing too. It’s going back to a more ‘composer as dictator’ style!
MZ: What does that mean?
KR: Well, you know the composer in the olden days was a fascist dictator and whatever he wrote was what the musician had to do… basically the musicians bowed down to his compositions. And then I came through the free jazz thing about 15 – 20 years ago where you try to break down that political structure; where you’re taking the power away from the composer and handing it to the musicians. Improvising is all about that. But even in that context it’s a very difficult thing to do to break down those political structures because egos get involved on stage. As I’m getting older I’m seeking to take all of that power back as a composer. My music is going to be about my statements and even though I work with improvising musicians, there are still going to be a lot of controls put down on the actual improvising. Not allowing any sense that the musicians can just take it and run with it. This is not about that. Everything in this music has to be about the concept I’m trying to create; everything must bow down to the idea. I tell the musicians, ‘I can’t give you control so when you are improvising – and there is improvising in the music – it must be within these structures.’ I just find myself leaning back towards that model of composing.
MZ: How hard is it to find musicians who will work with you in that way?
KR: It’s very easy because improvising musicians like challenges. I did it a lot harder with The Escalators than I am doing it with this band. With The Escalators, I set up rule structures and everything had to bow down to these rule structures; nobody was allowed to break the rules. It was an interesting process but improvising musicians are generally up for interesting processes. With this one it is not so strict but there is an understanding of what the music is trying to do. I’m not going to hand over to a crazy wild sax solo that potentially over a 10 minute solo will detract from what the whole of the piece is actually about.
MZ: So the idea is paramount?
KR: Yes, you’re serving the idea. You’re not just playing a bunch of songs. Jazz often operates in that way, where the song is just some sort of framework which will allow the musician to go wherever they want with it. That’s what I mean in terms of my personal style. If I’ve done all this work mentally to try and get to this place where I’m ready to write this music, then I need to have musicians who are supportive of that and who understand it.
MZ: Tell me about the band.
KR: The band is one of the best I’ve worked with. It’s a very interesting combination of instruments and personalities. It’s very rare that you get to play with saxophone, trombone, viola, violin, bass and drums. But also the musicians in this band come from a very dedicated approach to sound. We’re spending a lot of work on things like tuning, which hardly ever happens in the jazz format! It comes from Andrea who plays violin and Jason who plays viola – they play in the state orchestras and the MSO – it comes from their approach because they really want to get that stuff right. It is a lot of attention placed on small detail which is just fantastic. It’s a real pleasure to work in that environment. So concepts of time are really talked through; everybody’s different interpretation of what time is and finding a common time, everybody’s interpretation of tuning and finding a common tuning. Once you start working at that level of detail it’s really refreshing. It’s a really fantastic band.
We’ve just recorded a session at the ABC and that’s going to come out next year I hope. It’s always good with a band to go through a series of gigs and recordings. This band is a band of composers. Every time we do a concert and at least one of the band members writes for it.
MZ: Adam Simmons is writing for this one too, I think?
KR: Yes, Adam is writing for the first set of music and he’s basing his compositions around Dr Seuss. He’s going into it in an interesting way. It will be an interesting show for this concert, with two of us composing significant works, based around the literature idea, which just happened, out of nowhere. You saw the concert where I’d written some works based around the writing of Haruki Murakami and he had done some work on some Russian literature and we didn’t even talk about it. When we realised what we’d done – both responding to different literary works, we thought, ‘well that’s really weird!’
MZ: So it happened without you thinking about it?
KR: It happened really organically but now we’re actually going to focus on it. We thought, ‘well if it’s happening naturally, there must be a reason for it’.
Want to hear this music live?
Monday 12 December
Doors open at 7 for a 7.30 start
45 Flinders Lane Melbourne City
Ticket presales available : (03) 9662 9966
Kynan Robinson – trombone
Adam Simmons – tenor saxophone
Ronnie Ferrella – drums
Anita Hustas – bass
Jason Bunn – viola
Andrea Keeble – violin
On December 12 I will be presenting a new work with my band Collider, a band I co-lead with Adam Simmons. Adam is also presenting a new work on the night. The evening is an exciting one for us. As well as giving us the opportunity to present new material we have both decided to conceptually link our compositions to literature.
I have composed my work with the brilliant Cormac McCarthy in mind, whose writing creates an atmosphere of sparseness, detachment and tension and is always touched with wry humour. He presents to us both the absolute beauty and ugly truth of existence. These are some of the themes I have kept in mind when writing the work. I also find an intense spirituality in McCarthy’s work that seems to links into a deep religious structure overlaying much of America’s history. This is a structure that I myself have some personal understanding of, being raised as the child of missionary parents.
Adam’s work is focussing on Dr Seuss. Adam has embedded Seuss’s prosody in the compositions for this concert.
The details are
Monday December 12
Doors open at 7 for a 7.30 start
45 Flinders Lane Melbourne City
presales available : 96629966
On another musical matter I will be performing as part of CW Stoneking’s Primitive Horn Orchestra on Friday the 2nd at the Corner Hotel and Saturday the 3rd at Homebake Festival, Sydney.
Many of these characteristics initially appear to be dualistic in nature and excited me when contemplating them within a classroom setting.
I think some of them are important to be aware of if we are to be encouraging the idea of creative thought within our students. As educators it is important to consider the wider impact of decisions we make and if it is to foster creativity, which I believe we should be then we should also be aware of exactly what it is we are talking about and how that is likely to impact upon our classrooms.
A summary statement of the article is that creative people are incredibly complex. This in itself can create stress for some classroom teachers. I have witnessed myself attributes of a creative student causing great stress and misunderstanding within a teacher leading to perceptions of threat within the said teacher. This then had the follow on effect of punishment for the creative student. If some understanding of the complexities of the creative process were demonstrated by this particular teacher I am sure the outcomes could have been far different and much more positive for all involved.
Here are a couple of great examples
2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time. They can be both divergent and convergent thinkers. The divergence is needed for the new ideas, the convergence is needed to realise that one iea is good and the other is bad.
3. Creative people combine playfulness and dicipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility. There is no question that a playfully light attitude is typical of creative individuals. But this playfulness doesn’t go very far without its antithesis, a quality of doggedness, endurance, perseverance. They can fluctuate and often need to do so.
4. Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. The whole point of art and science is to go beyond what we now consider real and create a new reality. At the same time, this “escape” is not into a never-never land. What makes a novel idea creative is that once we see it, sooner or later we recognise that, strange as it is, it is true.
5. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. Most people fall into either one or the other categories, creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously. I imagine that this makes them harder to pigeonhole within the classroom environment and can make their behaviour seem erratic.
6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time.
7. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative. It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. So it’s difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic.
I think this trait is a huge one for educators to understand. The creative person will swing between the two and is therefore hard to pigeonhole when it comes to writing up your personal teacher plan to accommodate every learning style. An iconoclast is often viewed in the negative but they are usually that way because they have a better idea and therefore would see the tearing down of a structure as a positive thing to be encouraged.
This dualistic nature is something that should be understood and encouraged in our education systems. Initially dualism always appears to be chaos but with a little investigation and patience the apparent stress of the chaotic can be channeled into the fantastic. And why should we encourage creativity in our education system?
I just completed and interview with The Edtechcrew. A fantastic podcast the talks all things education technology and more. Here we got talking about creativity and education and some thoughts around it.
If your interested here is the link for the podcast
Creativity In Education Part 3
Over the last year I have been participating in an interesting study entitled PLPConnectU. Set up by the department of education and in co run by a group Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) it has been tremendous for my own thinking in regards to education.
I am placed in a group called Creativity (which suits me just fine) and as part of our learning we were required to set up a project for our students under the guidelines of a PBL (project based learning) structure.
Together with my colleague Kristen Swenson we developed a unit of work around game creation. If you are interested in reading about the planning for this unit and how we are trying to fit it into the PBL structure Kristen has written and excellent blog charting the planning our big question, learning aims and sub questions as well as and our own reflection.
But to quickly summarize the students had developed a criteria chart for what made a good game , they had rated a few games then we just let them loose on a couple of online game making sites (stensyl, gamesalad and scratch) and they started going for it.
The following week we had an expert come in from a successful game making company and present. His presentation enforced the notion that before and coding (or making of the game) happened everything had to be completely designed to the enth degree.
This approach not only disappointed the students but got me thinking.
In the corporate world there are 2 primary methodologies for software development.
Waterfall – a Sequential linear design process using the following methods.
Requirements, design implementation, verification, maintenance.
Agile is a relatively new methodology that many companies are trying to use to create product (mostly software development). Agile Methodology, came about after waterfall and was an attempt as addressing some of its shortcomings,
While there are many different Agile methods (eg, Scrum, XP, Agile Unified Process) they all embrace the following manifesto as their foundation:
Its manifesto is as follows
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.
Its Principles are as follows
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer
through early and continuous delivery
of valuable software.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in
development. Agile processes harness change for
the customer’s competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a
couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a
preference to the shorter timescale.
- Business people and developers must work
together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able
to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence
and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount
of work not done–is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs
emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behaviour accordingly.
The expert seemed to be presenting to us from a waterfall approach. I got to thinking how much my approach to education fitted so much more with the agile methodology. It encourages continual change, it encourages the idea that the imagination will develop with the approach and therefore the project needs to be adaptive to flow with the imagination of the creator. It also emphasises the need to work quickly and have many small victories – continuous creative work and searching is going to stimulate the mind allowing for the environment for the big idea to push out (see my last blog).
My personal favourites are principle 5. The environment and support and trust must be provided that in order to get the job done. If we are moving into a more creative education – one that moves away from the dominance of left brain centred literacy and numeracy, we must change our environment. I have spoken many times of the need to find time in order to enable students to develop creative thinking, we must trust them which means as teachers we remove ourselves from the position of authority and rather into one of facilitator – find the resources that the students are going to demand in order to get there ideas out. Help shape their learning but be aware that they will move into areas you have no idea about and be comfortable about that. (I know very little about game programming but am comfortable that I can help guide the students to places where they can find the knowledge they need.
Other points that the above principles talk about that appeal to my sense of good creativity are the use of collaborative teams, reflection and the pursuit of excellent design.
The Agile approach also speaks about the need to be fearless in the constant pursuit of ideas but it gives you the means to respond to change.
By breaking things down into smaller deliverable packages it makes itself adaptable. To use an Australian context, Myki and the Ultranet are two examples of Waterfall methodologies that might have had better success if they had taken more of an Agile approach.
In regards to education I like setting up creative projects for students that allow for ideas to develop, change, be dumped and ultimately, hopefully allow for a new creative thought to pop out.
I think in regards to the game making project we are working on we aren’t going to plan it down to the finest detail before letting kids get into the making – if nothing else it would bore the kids to death.