Month: February 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

Fostering creativity

A little earlier I posted an article about the creativity crisis covered by Newsweek. They also posted a good practical article on fostering creativity called Forget Brainstorming. Here’s a summary of their points:

  • Don’t tell someone to “be creative.”
  • Get moving. Engage in aerobic activity regularly.
  • Take a break. This isn’t about stopping so much as a more effective approach to juggling multiple projects than multi-tasking.
  • Reduce screen time.
  • Explore other cultures. Cross-cultural experiences force people to adapt and be more flexible, and just studying a different culture than your own stretches your mind.
  • Follow a passion. “Kids do best when they are allowed to develop deep passions and pursue them wholeheartedly—at the expense of well-roundedness.”
  • Ditch the suggestion box. Formal suggestion systems actually stifle creativity.

What’s the hardest thing on there for you to do?

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Drop in creativity documented

Read between the lines of Newsweek’s report The Creativity Crisis, and you are likely to pick up the idea that America’s declining educational effectiveness stems, at least in part, from misguided federally-imposed standards.

The average person thinks “art” in its various forms when you say “creativity,” but as this article points out, creativity is much, much broader than that and fostered by disparate activities. Creativity involves bringing together divergent and convergent thinking–generating possibilities, then combining those possibilities and evaluating them for usefulness.

The age-old belief that the arts have a special claim to creativity is unfounded. When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly.

I’m impressed that the scholarship that has tracked a group of “Torrance kids” who were tested and then followed for 50 years to see how well the tests predicted creativity recorded more than the stereotypical accomplishments, recognizing the creativity required in a variety of life activities.

[S]cholars—first led by Torrance, now his colleague, Garnet Millar—have been tracking the children, recording every patent earned, every business founded, every research paper published, and every grant awarded. They tallied the books, dances, radio shows, art exhibitions, software programs, advertising campaigns, hardware innovations, music compositions, public policies (written or implemented), leadership positions, invited lectures, and buildings designed.

Only recently in looking at shifting patterns have those scholars been able to pinpoint 1990 as a year in which, for the first time, creativity scores among young people began to drop. Whatever the cause (and several possible are posited in the article) I find this paragraph to be one of the saddest observations of the situation:

Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Why, why, why—sometimes parents just wish it’d stop. Tragically, it does stop. By middle school they’ve pretty much stopped asking. It’s no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet. They didn’t stop asking questions because they lost interest: it’s the other way around. They lost interest because they stopped asking questions. [Emphasis mine: DK]

It’s not just the asking of questions but also the encouragement to ask them and then to seek the answers that seems to foster creativity. In many ways, colleges are now tasked with countering this trend toward decreasing creativity at the very time political and societal forces are pressuring them (us) to standardize curricula and move students through as quickly as possible into jobs. People need jobs, but I fear that we are completely misunderstanding the preparation required in order to be able to do them.

Creativity is hard to measure, and if we are to serve the needs of our nation and our world, colleges must resist the temptation and the pressure to engage in that which is easy to measure, simply because it is easy to measure.

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Getting the whole feed on Facebook

A friend has asked me to point her once again to the page on Facebook that tells you how to make sure you are seeing all your friends’ posts. The page I had shared earlier to FB friends was an event (since events always show on Friends’ pages, it’s a backdoor way to make sure something gets posted, but once the “date” for the event has passed, it no longer shows), so it was no longer accessible for me to point to. So I’m posting a simplified version here, which will remain good until the next time Facebook changes its code–which could be in the next five minutes. 🙂

In one of their latest updates (“It’s a feature, not a bug”) Facebook’s defaults have left you not seeing posts from friends if you haven’t “liked” or commented on one of their posts in awhile. There are a lot of my friends whose posts I very much enjoy reading, but I don’t click the “like” button or comment on. I would prefer to be the one to decide which posts I want to see.

I’ll add to the standard “how to” though by telling you about a plugin I use to take even more control of my FB reading experience. It’s called BetterFacebook. It’s not for the faint of heart, since it gives you lots of options for changing the way Facebook works, and if you install it you will have to figure on updating it whenever Facebook code changes and the BetterFacebook developer responds.

I’ll just say I find it worthwhile. Among other things, BetterFacebook lets me sort incoming posts onto tabs according to category (if I wanted to see all those Farmville posts, for instance, I could segregate them all onto a Farmville tab, making them easier to see, and making all the other posts easier to see). The main thing, as far as I’m concerned, is that I can mark posts as read, making it easy to see what’s new.

It also has filtering capabilities, which can be helpful if you have lots of people on your Friends list that you don’t really know all that well. Otherwise, processiChange from "Top News" to "Most Recent"ng all the messages from FB can be like trying to process a firehose.

Even if you don’t use BetterFacebook, though, making sure you see every post appeals to most people I talk with, and making it like that takes a couple of steps.

First, while reading Facebook, change the setting at the top from “Top News” to “Most Recent.” Under the old way of doing things (if I understood it correctly), this was basically all you had to do to make sure you saw all posts from all your friends. With the upgrade, you will see a lot more stuff by changing to “Most Recent,” but you still won’t see everything. For that, you still have some tweaking to do.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page (it might load some more posts before Show everything my friends sayit will actually let you do that) and click on “Edit options.” (It’s possible you’ll have to do this on the “Top News” view, but currently it works on either view.) That will bring up a dialog where you can change the settings that you need to.

At this point, just change the drop-down menu so it selects “All of your friends and pages.” Remember to click “Save,” and you’ll be all set. Of course, you can switch back at any time it gets to be too much for you, but generally I would rather be the one deciding to skim through over skip over messages than to leave it to Facebook’s algorithm.

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Learning to work right

At first glance this article would seem to have little to do with college, academics, learning, etc. In fact, it gets at the whole point of higher education, in my opinion. My students often here from me that college has never really been about preparing a student for a job; it is about helping a student learn to live more effectively (which, by the way, generally makes a student more attractive to an employer).

Here is how Cal Newport expressed the insight: “Finding the right work pales in importance to learning how to work right.”

As both my students and my children probably get sick of hearing: it’s not what happens to you but what you think about what happens to you that determines your experiences.

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You must be willing to create crap…

…in order to find the good stuff. That’s sort of what Anne Lamott advised in her book Bird by Bird. One of her chapters was titled pretty much that (using a stronger term than crap).

Daniel Pink posits a similar idea in his piece entitled Why you should come up with at least 1 bad idea today, based on a Wall Street Journal piece by Dilbert creator Scott Adams. Believe it or not, Adams (not known as an optimist) puts an even more positive spin on the idea.

Lamott seems to me to be saying you have to write crap to get it out of your system, and if you’re willing to just let it flow, you will find amid the effluence some worthwhile material. Adams, on the other hand, says that coming up with bad ideas a) gets you started on the process of coming up with something good, and b) provides quality raw material for good ideas. Not just fertilizer, in other words, but seeds.

As I watch speech students struggle to come up with “the” right idea, right structure, right approach, I wish I could communicate this principle. Perhaps Mr. Pink will help do so.

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Con-templating layout

I just realized that as much as I like the new template I applied to the blog, it apparently does not allow for comments to show. 🙁 Not even sure readers can even make comments. So I’ll be monkeying with the templates more. [sigh]

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Daily Shoot output for Digital Storytelling

I was never sure if I was supposed to blog about each shot I took for the Daily Shoot assignment in the Digital Storytelling course I’m taking, so I didn’t unless a particular shot struck me. As busy as things were last way, nothing much struck me at the time.

But all together, I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s a different kind of photography than I used to do when I was doing it professionally. This is not journalism. I’m not sure it qualifies as art, but it tends that way simply in the sense of it being a means to lead me to consider the ordinary world in fresh ways. Just in case any of my classmates or anyone else would like to see the shots, I’m linking to them as a group.

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