It's funny how plan's get adapted/enhanced even during implementation. As soon as the #creativeHE process started I began posting the daily activities on several platforms simultaneously - 3 different Google + sites, two group pages on facebook, my linked-in updates and twitter. Only twitter had featured in my planned design but intuitively posting on the other sites seemed the right thing to do. I think as a result of this we attracted a number of people to the #creativeHE site who otherwise would not have come. However, by Day 3 I had changed my plan for twitter, which was essentially promotional, to one of directly targeting individuals to participate and add their views to the conversation. This was supplemented with emails to individuals.
FEAR leading and facilitating an event is full of emotion and one of the biggest emotions is fear - fear that no-one will participate and fear that people will say its rubbish. The biggest fear for anyone designing a learning activity is that people will not engage in the activity because they do not find it engaging - they might not see the affordance in the activity that I could see or they might not be motivated to realise the affordance. I have come to realise that involvement requires commitment (effort and time), which is often a relational thing, and the adoption of a playful mental state in which critical judgement is suspended. I was very grateful for the people who posted, mainly the people who had agreed to help facilitate the process, who provided leadership for other participants who were watching but not sharing. I feel the committed few who engage in the conversation, share their perspectives on behalf of the whole community of interest.
DAY 1 IMAGINE A CIRCLE and lets see where it takes us.The 'imagine a circle' activity was added at a late stage. It was intended as a sort of ice breaker to get things started. On the morning of Day 1 I woke up thinking I needed an illustration for my post. I had an idea for it. I decided to do some research using google images - using a variety of search terms I greatly expanded my visual knowledge of circles. In engaging in this process I was reminded that my starting point for many projects involving my creativity was to try to find out more and through this process motivate and inspire myself with the ideas and creations of others. In making my illustration I used tools that were familiar powerpoint, snipping tool, paint and photoshop. Resources that I had already (cartoon figures) and circles I found on google images. I composed a narrative picture to reflect the purpose of my post and try to give it more meaning.
The posts on DAY 1 #creativeHE illustrate very well a number of features relation to the inquiry - what's it like to be creative? They also illustrated very well the spirit of social learning, namely a constructively playful orientation in which critical judgement is suspended
The facilitation team did a fantastic job in helping to get this conversation underway.
I must admit I wasn't sure how people would respond to this stimulus which was in the form of a blog post called Imagination Canvas http://blog.sizzix.com/imagination-canvas/ in which an artist tells the story in pictures and words of her creative process. What emerged was an interesting conversation in a single thread (unlike the individual posts of Day1) in which quite diverse and sometimes oppositional perspectives were offered. It made me think that people approached the question from one of three positions - the first which is the one I assumed was that this was a story about someone who was inspired to engage creatively with a problem they cared about, and used media, tools and techniques that they had mastered to produce a picture that they shared together with their process. I liked it because they shared the technical details and reasoning within their process. The seconds position was to see the artists process as mechanistic and to contrast that with the unique approaches to tackling a problem in situations that are uncertain and social rather than in the controlled technical environment of the artist. The third position, coming from someone who also had artistic skill, was to question whether there was anything creative which made me think that perhaps we judge the creative efforts and works of others according to the specific knowledge and understanding we have of the field in which the work was produced. In other words we more readily suspend our critical judgement in domains where we lack knowledge and skill but use this judgment when we ourselves are a knowledgeable practitioner. From an imagineering perspective all these positions are valid but they have different implications if we were to apply them in the higher education teaching and learning context. I could see from the conversation already that there was a reluctance to engage with the imagineering part of the process and began to have a vague idea for a follow-up process that specifically engaged with the ideas that emerged from this process.
The facilitation team gave great support through their contributions to the conversation.
DAY 3 WHERE DO YOUR GOOD IDEAS COME FROM? The Steven Johnson talk that has been animated is a great way to encourage you to think about where your own ideas come from. I hoped that by inviting people to share an example we might generate a number of useful perspectives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU
* The idea that ideas pop into our head when we are not thinking about the problem or turning away from the problem doing something completely different to solving the problem
* the idea of ideas colliding or intermingling
* the idea that many of our ideas are 'stolen' or we piggy back on the ideas of others: 'my good ideas are stolen, repurposed and adapted from things that began somewhere else - sometimes in different contexts'.
* the idea that act of playing around with ideas or just playing provides a mental and physical state that is helpful to the formation of new ideas
* the idea that ideas flow when we are deeply committed perhaps in love with the thing we care about
One of the most powerful wellsprings of creative energy, outstanding accomplishment, and self-fulfilment seems to be falling in love with something — your dream, your image of the future. Paul Torrance
In the absence of being able to engage the community other than through a post I adopted a new tactic. I started to become more meddling in my facilitation by inviting specific people I know, who I thought might be tempted to contribute to the discussion - the three people I emailed all confirmed what I already believe, that active participation requires relationships. I already had a relationship with these people and I'm sure that this facilitated their involvement.
I then extended my meddling and invited a leading researcher and thinker in the creativity field (Scott Barry Kaufman) to join the discussion via invitations on twitter. I also invited another active social media user and thought leader Julian Stodd to share his thoughts on the collision of ideas and creativity.
I also tried to draw in people via twitter who I knew were interested in the idea of openness by posing a question that connected their interest to our inquiry and then in for a penny in for a pound - I tweeted a challenge to the Open Educational Resources conference #oer16 which is running concurrently. While my activity expanded my following none of the people I contacted directly responded. Still it was worth a try!!
The facilitation team are giving great support to the event - I have come to see this group of people as having the conversation on behalf of the community of interest that has formed around #creativeHE
Ever since I was introduced to creative thinking and group facilitation techniques by Fred Buining 15 years ago I have felt that there must be space in higher education for deploying these techniques. Over the years I have facilitated enough workshops and designing process to know that the technique works, although I must say I do not tend to use the technique on my own creative projects. So I was looking forward to hearing what others had to say.
The animation offers five key principles underlying Design Thinking.
- Learn from people
- Find patterns
- Design principles
- Make tangible
- Iterate relentlessly
Other principles were offered through the conversation.
- identify the key challenge or question
- always search for a (more) elegant solution;
- keep it as simple/minimal as possible
Or other sets of principles 'I have been influenced greatly by the ten principles espoused by the brilliant designer Dieter Rams at Braun, and have written about applying them in a pedagogic context in Design for Learning
Some participants liked the idea that design thinking provides a structure for enabling you to make a journey of exploration. 'What I also like from the video was a phrase about knowing the design process will take you somewhere interesting.
Anther theme was that formalised design thinking processes are useful for some problems (eg industrial business design problems) but perhaps are less useful for personal projects like writing, painting and other artistic representations. In contrast, one participant felt it could be used for anything including writing a poem 'I think that it takes us back to the idea of a craft - that is essentially iterative... and frees us from the notion that we have to be inspired.' Perhaps DT methods are also useful where you want to harness the imaginations and thinking capacities of many people.
Before and during #creativeHE I have noticed that there has been a steady trickle of people wanting to join the Google+ group so that over 200 people have now registered on the #creativeHE google+ site (about 30 new people). This tells me that the #creativeHE events themselves with the promotion on social media are an important way of building a community of interest.
Once again the core facilitation team led the conversation through their posts and comments. The actual number of participants remains small, although some new people posted today. I like to think that many people are connecting to the community and reading the posts but we have no way of knowing. I have been thinking that we should try to gather the views of people who read the posts but who do not contribute. I'm going to have a go at a short on-line questionnaire to see if we can gather some views.
I believe that we can learn a lot about creativity from people who have done something creative. Mostly we do this from observing people, like colleagues or friends at close quarters, often when we are collaborating with them and they share with us their thinking and decision making processes and subsequent actions. But we can also learn in other ways for example when people write biographies, or researchers like Mihaly Csikszentmihaly interview people as in his book on the Psychology of Flow, or when we interview people ourselves if we are involved in research. I conducted many interviews with students while working at the University of Surrey a few years ago and learnt about the ways they used their creativity. There are also vast resources on the internet as creative people record their thoughts and experiences in blogs, or in talks and interviews.
Day 5's stimulus was a YouTube recording of a talk given by photographer Dewitt Jones, in which he tells the entertaining story of an assignment he completed for Dewer's Whisky. It describes a scenario in which he had to produce a photograph of salmon fishing in Scotland for the company's advertising campaign. As the story unfolds he finds himself in a set of circumstances that he did not imagine but his actions and though processes reveal the way in which his technical expertise and imagination intermingle to produce the results he wanted.
* the need to persevere
* the role that chance serendipity plays
* the role of instinct/intuition and experience
* the need to look for more than one right answer
* the need for a culture that is not so worried about making mistakes as this is inevitable when you are searching for more than one right answer
* the desire to produce something of beauty with aesthetic appeal
My own contribution was formed around the way DJ explains how he created an ecology for learning and achieving within which his creativity was utilised. http://www.normanjackson.co.uk/scraps-of-life-blog
A number of suggestions were made from applying what was learnt to higher education
* The need to encourage students' to explore something from different perspectives
* encouraging students to think associatively
* encouraging learners to search for more than one right answer - which of course means involving them in problems that have many possible answers and assessing outcomes accordingly
And not surprisingly a key problem with introducing more creative approaches was also identified: 'how can we empower academics and other professionals who teach in HE to make the first step towards a much more adventurous approach to learning and teaching?
There were fewer contributions to this topic and the conversation was mainly through the contributions of members of the
ENCOURAGING/FACILITATING CREATIVITY OF OTHER PEOPLE?
Anyone who is interested in trying to understand creativity in their own professional field needs to spend time observing and listening to people in their field, and if they can work alongside them all the better. The apprenticeship model was great at providing the relationships and affordances through which this could be achieved. Sadly, that doesn't happen much in higher education. We have our own experience of being taught and then once we get a teaching post we just go in and do it.. all be it with an organised development process now. So it's great when you go to a conference or workshop and a teacher explains and illustrates what they have done in a way that we can gain insights into their creative process.
I wanted to offer HE practitioners in #creativeHE Imagineering an opportunity to listen to a teacher talking about how she tried to promote creativity using the talk given by Tina Seelig. (Stamford University's Design Centre) In it she describes a number of techniques she used to encourage 44,000 participants' to think and behave creatively. So the question was which of these techniques might be used in more traditional settings.
Ruth Proctor - gave one good answer after she had carefully logged all the things mentioned - ALL OF THEM! I asked her which of the features she thought she could use in her practice and her response was interesting because it surfaced a really important truth about creativity and about the #creativeHE social learning process.
'Gosh, yes, lots of them! In fact, pretty much the whole list.
I think the first thing I'd take away and share with my students, [& what I try to do in my practice] is the idea of building relationships, & the importance of those positive relationships between teachers and learners to enable learning to happen. I think this is because I see pedagogy, in part, as being a process of interaction between teachers and learners, & that this process, supported by positive relationships, enables learning to take place, [- this view is definitely informed by Siraj-Blatchford's REPEY and influenced by my experience of teaching and learning in the EYFS].
What is new to me, & what I have only, very gratefully, stumbled across through the Creative HE community, is that you can build these positive relationships virtually too.'
I think +Ruth Proctor identified one of the most important things for successful social learning Relationships between people, ideas, principles, beliefs, goals, things like tools and resources, and our own and other people's lives are critical for learning and for wanting to learn more. I had just come across a post which uses the football coach to illustrate this very point https://chronotopeblog.com/2016/04/16/is-effective-teaching-more-about-good-relationships-than-anything-else/
Start with a question?
Share a bit about self with others - building relationships
Short 5 min lecture at start of each class
Creative challenges - individual & team challenges - mixing it up
Share and then evaluate, feedback
People who want to keep learning
Levels / layers of engagement / motivation
Surfing the surprises vs iceberg-magnets
Learning from mistakes / others' interpretations - sometimes the story you think you have told is different to the one the listener hears, which is different to the next listener etc.
Difficult to unravel
Find out who's actively involved
Does initial engagement indicate future / enduring engagement?
Does hooking participants in right at the start help to encourage continued engagement / participation?
How to engage those who sign up / show up but do not choose to engage?
Deputise - co-construction of learning? Sharing wealth of learner knowledge and expertise? Collective construction of learning? Supportive learning community?
Promote and float, - teacher as facilitator?
Pick a problem, frame it, share ideas for possible solutions, pick a shared favourite, prototype, test, create a story to communicate the process
Remember to laugh, enjoy, have fun and celebrate successes
Room / space / potential for exploration and experimentation
Learning through teaching
Reflecting on learning through teaching, shaping thinking
Virtual / alternative influencing / informing / shaping the real?
Experience meaningful learning
Inspiration from others
Shifting thinking - through participation and reflecting on experience of participation
Powerful learning experiences
Participating in an adventure