Sometimes the development of an idea falters because it is just too expensive to turn the idea into a practical reality. But good ideas are never lost they just get put on the back burner. About 18 months ago I started a business project called storyshare. The basic idea was to help people create stories that were personally meaningful and help them bring their story to life through illustration, sound and animation. I made a business plan and attempted to find some illustrators - one of these became our LWE community illustrator so this part of the process was a success. But at the time I failed to see how I could make it a commercial success as I could not animate the illustrations without a great deal of expense and I knew that the potential market would not buy the service at a price that would cover the costs and make a small profit. So the idea was put on hold - until this week when I discovered the explee animation tool. I can now see how it will be possible to animate the illustrations in an inexpensive way so the cost of the service would be limited to the illustrations themselves. I thought it was a great example of how advances in technology can suddenly liberate and idea. I offer my story as an illustration of what explee can do. The illustrator is Kiboko Hachiyon. Thanks again to Chrissi Nerantzi who drew my attention to explee.
If creativity is a novel relational 'product' growing out of the circumstances of our life (Carl Rogers 1960) then development - the ability to be able to do something new, is an example of such a product.
Sunday was mostly a wet and windy day so I spent quite a bit of time on my computer. I began exchanging emails with Chrissi Nerantzi about the possibility of creating an on-line course and over the space of a few hours she sent me and my son, who is also working with us, a whole pile of links to various web tools and examples of what the tool was capable of doing. Here's an example
From: Chrissi Nerantzi
Sent: 05 January 2014 22:23
Subject: You have received a YouTube video!
Something like this might also work for the conference?
My son followed the link and gave me a glimpse of what it could do. It's a powerful, intuitive drag and drop tool for creating short animations which can be uploaded to youtube. I love animations and over the years I had financed and collaborated in a number of animation projects and I know how expensive and time consuming they are to produce so I was really excited about the possibility of being able to produce one for myself.
This morning I had a go at making my own animation through a process of trial and error. Over an hour I managed to create a 40 sec clip introducing our conference which I embedded in the conference website. In doing it I knew I was trying to achieve something specific. Looking back I can see that I had engaged in a piece of personal development through which I learnt how to make an animation using this software. It was very satisfying to make something so quickly and so easily. I also felt that I was being creative and the clip I produced, being entirely new to the world - was creative.
So my development and creativity emerged and merged from and through the circumstances of my life. Thanks to Chrissi who drew my attention to the tool and my son for showing me how easy it was to use, and having the time, interest and a potential use for the product - I engaged in and completed a piece of impromptu personal development and was able to be and feel creative in the process!
A contribution to the Creativity in Development Narrative Inquiry
I suppose it's inevitable as we come to the end of year that we look back on it. This year has been particularly eventful with my daughter's wedding, serious illness in the family, visits to family in Australia and visits from family in Iran and many other smaller events and achievements that connect us as a family in interesting and unpredictable ways.
This reflective mood encouraged me to think of the idea of development in the context of being part of a family. It seems to me that development is an important process for keeping the family together and for continually engaging members of the family in the process of nurturing or enabling the development of its members sometimes by design but often as a consequence of the way life unfolds.
Development as a family comes from sharing experiences good or bad and participating in and talking about small and significant events and people so that members of the family develop a shared sense of history and belonging. This was brought home to me recently as I interviewed my mother and father who are in their late 80's in order to record the story of their early life growing up in Manchester in the 1920's and 30's. One reason for doing this was to provide our family with a clearer sense of our history the detail of which will be forgotten when they are no longer with us. In fact the stories that parents tell about us and our childhood are one way in which we can appreciate our own development.
Development as a family manifests itself in what we do to, with and for each other, the sacrifices that are made and the willingness to take on rather than avoid family commitments regardless of cost. In a well functioning and caring family everyone is involved in developing themselves - to be better parents/grandparents, spouses, workers, students etc.. and often for others - children, grandchildren, siblings or the children of siblings.
A year in the life of a large family inevitably contains many events some of which cannot be predicted in advance. This year the serious illness of one family member completely disrupted our plans yet brought us together to support each other. We are all different and more empathic having had this challenging experience but we would have never wished for such an experience.
Development is easiest to see in the youngest members of the family for example my youngest grandson was born exactly a year ago and in the space of a year he has grown from a tiny helpless baby into a little boy able to walk and let you know what he wants and doesn't want to do. But another grandson shows me that not all babies are able to develop at such a pace if they are born with conditions that affect their physical and cognitive development. Their measures of progress are smaller and much harder to see and harder for them to accomplish. Nevertheless when witnessed they bring much joy and hope for a better future.
Formal learning has an important role to play in the development of a child. A year ago my six year old grandson was a hesitant and reluctant reader. Thanks to the efforts of his mum and school he is now a fluent reader willing to search for and read the books that interest and inspire him opening up a world that is not accessible to those who cannot read. While they are at school or university our children's developmental processes are mostly hidden from us - we gain insights when we see them doing their homework or more intensely when they revise. My youngest daughter is revising intensively for her mock GCSE's at the moment - it's a serious arduous task and she is far more engaged than I ever was at her age.
As parents we encourage our children to develop their interests beyond the classroom - we want them to have friends and be confident socially, to enjoy and engage in sport, to join clubs and societies, have hobbies and be aware of the world around them. We are happy when they want to get involved but are disappointed when they do not use the opportunities they have and sometimes we pressurise them into doing things that we believe are for their own good. We push and pull, reason and cajole, and sometimes just insist in what we believe is for the greater good of encouraging development that will help and enable our children to be happy, fulfilled and successful in the future. Sometimes these actions result in tensions as our children let us know that this is not what they want to do.
Perhaps our creative involvement as parents in these forms of development is in the success we have in enabling our children to discover things that interest them that they value rather than imposing on them what interests us and what we value. I learnt this the hard way: the fact that I was a geologist seemed to be a burden when I tried to interest my three children in the geology at our feet when we were on holiday. I carried on behaving like this with my three step children. I failed to interest any of them in something I was passionate about but when one of them became fascinated in archaeology he reluctantly admitted that he could see the parallels and could see why I was interested in it!
So our involvement in our own children's development must balance the aspirations we have for them and the need for our children to discover for themselves their own purposes and ambitions and create their own intrinsic motivations for pursuing what they value. There comes a point in this familial developmental process where we start thinking that our children must do things for themselves. For several years we tried to encourage our son to learn to drive. Thanks to friends who were willing to give him lifts and the absence of a need while at university to drive he put it off until he suddenly realised he needed it in order to get a particular job. So he paid for his own lessons and after three goes he passed his driving test. We all rejoiced at the new freedom's this act of development afforded but it only came about when his need created the desire for him to persist until he had achieved this goal.
Most personal development goes on unseen, unrecorded and unrecognised. It just goes on and on as our children grow into the people we hope and they want to become. As parents we rejoice when we think our children are moving in a direction that we think holds promise but despair when they make decisions that we don't think will lead to anything of value.
All too often we forget that much of our own learning was through the experience of trying - regardless of whether something worked out or not. Perhaps this is the hardest lesson in the family development process letting our children make their own mistakes - and being ready to help them when they do. And it can be painful process. There are times when our children develop us in directions that we do not want to go. At times we may have to compromise our beliefs in order to maintain the relationships that make up a family. Above all we have to trust that they will find their own way and make the decisions that are right for them in their circumstances.
So the continuous process of creating and recreating family is a never ending developmental process in which all members are involved for themselves and for others.
A new development process may begin with an idea, and that idea might take a while to germinate, but it only begins to become a reality when thoughts are acted upon. This week I embarked on another development process that had grown out of
an earlier process in which I tried to develop a better understanding of the role of creativity in individual's developmental processes. This work was motivated by the need to give a talk at the SEDA conference in November and my desire to try to make my talk relevant and interesting for participants. I created an ecology for learning that I described in a previous blog (11/15/13) and out of this emerged the suggestion by one of the participants that I might see if others would be interested in sharing their understandings of how their creativity is involved in a particular developmental process by creating a narrative inquiry.
Over the last few weeks I contacted a number of people to see if they would be interested in joining a process. Their enthusiasm for the idea provided the motivation I needed to act. So on Sunday I set up a project website to encourage people to get involved and provide participants with the means to share their narratives and understandings. I also invited one of the enthusiasts Chrissi Nerantz to join me as co-convenor which she readily agreed. I also wrote a short article for Lifewide Magazine to advertise it and posted it on ACADEMIA.COM & LINKED-IN. Only time will tell whether ambitions will be realised but one thing is certain there is much potential and possibility in the idea.
So my new developmental project involves contributing to the process as a participant and supporting the process and encouraging the involvement of others.
So where is the creativity involved in starting this new developmental project? The idea for a narrative inquiry around the theme of creativity in development was not my own so I cannot claim an original thought, neither is the idea new to me because I am aware of other examples. To some extent it must be present in imagining the possibility that new things will or might be brought into existence if certain things are done or put in place. It is the vision of what might come out of the project that provides the energy to actually do something. Organised processes for learning require structures to support communication and interaction. Before today this website did not exist. I have developed websites before so making one is not new to me but the design and content of this one are new. Creativity must also lie in the way a project is framed and communicated to others so that more of the potential in the idea can be realised. It is most definitely in the way that people are encouraged to become involved and 'selling' the value of being involved. It is also in the way relationships are grown to create the energy, spirit, capacity, agency and inventiveness when people come together around the things they care about. I am delighted that CN has agreed to be a co-facilitator. She positively oozes energy and enthusiasm and it will be enjoyable working with her. Also her willingness to collaborate combined with all the ideas that she will bring increases the potential for me to be creative. Creativity in development is in the thinking, the actions and interactions and their effects, and the relationships that hold the potential for new possibilities
This week I spoke at the SEDA conference in Bristol on the theme of Creativity in Educational Development. I was very grateful for the opportunity as it gave me a reason to discover how educational developers perceived creativity and how they used their creativity in their work. The idea of development is also close to me as I consider my life is a process of continuous development some of which I intentionally orchestrate and some of which is more accidental or opportunistic.
Furthermore, all the roles I have performed in my career have a strong developmental basis and many have involved me in explicitly developmental roles for the organisations I have worked for.
As I see it, the wicked problem facing all universities, is fundamentally a developmental challenge focused on the question of 'how we prepare learners for the challenges they will face in their future lives'. Nested in this challenge is the developmental problem of how teachers and other professionals directly involved in student development develop themselves so that they can support and enable students to develop themselves so that they can act effectively in the future worlds they will inhabit. For institutional leaders the developmental challenge is concerned with the continual process of change so that the people who work in the organisation are able to engage effectively with this challenge. People who work in a developmental role fulfil a unique role in enabling the institution to meet this challenge. Fundamentally this is a story of development - at personal, professional, curriculum, infrastructure and whole institution levels and what I want to discover is how personal creativity contributes to this process.
To prepare for my talk I created, over about four months, an ecology that is represented in the illustration. It involved conducting two surveys to try and discover the beliefs of educational developers. I am very grateful for everyone who took the time and effort to get involved and I have identified people who gave me particular support and encouragement and te sort of feedback we need to progress our thinking. It is lonely life being a developer and we need the emotional and intellectual support of others to sustain and expand our learning projects.
I have documented the results of the surveys which are consistent with other studies I have made relating to perceptions of creativity in higher education. My hope is that my presentation will lead to the involvement of more developers in the process and to new as yet unimagined possibilities and opportunities.
In his book CREATIVITY Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention which greatly influenced my thinking when I was trying to understand what creativity meant in academic disciplines, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi argues that creativity cannot be understood by looking only at the people who appear to make it happen. Creative ideas need a receptive audience to receive and use them. And without the acceptance and judgements of competent others, we cannot decide whether someone's claims for creativity are valid.
Csikszentmihalyi developed a 'systems' model for creativity which contains three components. The first of these is the domain, which consists of a set of symbolic rules and procedures. The second component of creativity is the field, which includes all the individuals who contribute to the field who act as the gatekeepers to the domain. They decide whether a new idea or product can be accepted. These people decide what new contributions are relevant and what should be recognised, preserved and remembered. The third component is the individual, who using symbols of a given domain, comes up with a new idea or sees a new pattern or contributes a performance that adds value to the field. It is the thoughts and actions of individuals or co-creating groups of people whose thoughts or actions change a domain, or establish a new domain.
My own research into higher education practices aligns with this well established conceptual framework but how does it relate to my own learning ecology. The domain I am contributing my thinking and writing too is the domain of education/higher education and the field I am trying to influence is the field of educational practice - particularly people who have a developmental role within universities (educational, professional, curriculum, student development and organisational development). Looking back I can see that I have tried to engage with and influence the field of practitioners in four ways.
Firstly, I tried to grow the knowledge from the field itself by involving practitioners in the study. It is their knowledge and perspectives that provide the new and original contribution
in the e-book. The act of feeding back the views of other members of the field and inviting comment was a way of testing whether the products have value to the field and ultimately the domain. I did not receive any negative feedback and the positive feedback gave me confidence that what I had produced was of value.
Secondly, I tried to engage other practitioners through an on-line survey. While very few members of the field accepted the invitation to complete the survey the notice was circulated by email to many hundreds of practitioners on the specialist mail lists or postings in on-line special interest groups. The small numbers of respondents might suggest that what I was doing was of no interest to them or it might indicate that culturally most practitioners do not get involved in on-line surveys.
Thirdly, thanks to two invitations to speak on the subject of creativity in higher education I will be able to present and discuss my ideas at two conferences in November.
Fourthly, my consolidated learning has been made explicit in an e-book which provides me with the vehicle for recording my contribution to the domain and I will publish it on a website under a creative commons license so that practitioners can access it with no financial cost to themselves. This means that the ideas will be publicly accessible in a global sense.
Finally, when the work is complete I will make it freely available and disseminate information about its availability to the field via email networks. In this way I anticipate that those who are interested and willing to spend the time reading, will access my ideas and take from them those aspects that they find useful and meaningful.
Only time will tell whether the ideas contained in my e-book will be seen by the domain as being relevant and significant enough to warrant citation and adoption by practitioners in the field. By putting a stat counter on the web page I can monitor how many people access it so that will give me an indication of the interest in the field. If further invitations to speak arise from this work that will be another indication that the ideas have value to people who are practising in the field.
But there is another very important dimension to the field and that is the way people in the field contribute to the creative work. In my learning ecology two people stand out in the extent to which they contributed materially to the creative product through the insightful feedback they provided, the way they challenged ideas or perspectives, and the encouragement they gave me to persist. In the world of sharing and shaping academic ideas it is the unseen hand of collegiality that shapes the creative work and makes it more acceptable to the field.
Csikszentmihalyi's cultural domain-field model has much relevance to my learning ecology and the creative work that emerged from the ecological process.
Over the last few weeks I have been working on my background paper for the SEDA conference in mid November. Last week I realised (insight) that I had enough material to move from a single paper to a mini-e-book of six or seven chapters. This would allow me to explore the idea of creativity in development so much more than I could through a single article.
This week I reached 20 respondents to my email survey of creativity in educational development. This was the target I had originally set myself so I was of course delighted. The results will form one of the chapters in the e-book. I felt it was time to try to engage the wider community so with JW's help we put our creativity questionnaire on-line and invited SEDA members to participate in the survey. We needed an image for the survey so I adapted a picture by Julian Burton to suit the purpose (above). I also used this image to encourage Kiboko to develop his version of the narrative that is conveyed in this picture as its an important one.
REFLECTIONS ON MY ECOLOGY FOR CREATIVITY
One of my tactics to grow my own understanding of what creativity means to me is to create a narrative of what I have done to develop the knowledge for the talks I am giving in the next few weeks - what I now see as an ecological process for knowledge development and self-development. I can use this narrative to examine my own creativity. One of the ways I am doing this is to use a number of tools I have found to help me think and reflect on my own developmental narrative. In the next few weeks I will share my reflections through my blog.
In my internet wanderings I came across a blog by Darlene Chrissley on the theme of The Ecology of a Creative Life. In it she says, 'It has taken me fifty years to understand my own personal ecology; the conditions that best support me as a creative being. My ideal ecology balances four distinct quadrants: Introspection, Expedition, Integration and Exhibition. Over time I have adopted a set of creative practices that support me in each quadrant. When I make space for each one and move between them in an easy flow I am happy and productive and my work is original and meaningful.' Darlene Chrissley (2012).
I liked the implication in this ecological view of creativity that the four elements work together rather than sequentially as in so many other models of creative processes. . I have mapped below her four quadrants and my reflections on my own process in respect of each of these four dimensions of her creative ecology.Broadly speaking the model seems to work for my creative ecology although I do not see exhibition as an entirely final stage process and my introspection is far more contextualised than hers.
I have just finished the second chapter I was writing on learning ecologies and during the final stages of writing another example of a learning ecology came to me when my daughter explained how she had tried to develop her communication skills while she was at university. During the last twelve months she participated in half a dozen activities that involved her in using different forms of communication and creating new relationships and networking - both friendships and professional relationships. Most of the experiences involved her putting herself into unfamiliar contexts knowing that it would afford her the opportunity to learn something new. Through the whole process she has gained valuable insights into what she enjoys doing and what she is good at, and is motivated to explore further the potential of broadcasting as a career. She has also learnt the importance of forming professional relationships to gain the feedback she needs to improve herself. Her narrative helped me complete the chapter by enabling me to connect the idea of learning ecologies to students' experiences while they are at university..
This week we published Lifewide Magazine on the theme of learning ecologists. Using a combination of mail lists and placements on discussion forum's I recon I distributed a notice to about 15,000 people. It will be very interesting to see who actually downloads the page. It will also be interesting to see if there are any unanticipated consequences.
The magazine can be accessed from this URL
On Monday I contributed to another workshop on the ecological theme at Southampton Solent University. My co-presenters had the idea of using a shoebox containing various items that might be used to stimulate the imaginations of participants to think about their own ecological stories of learning. I decided to create my own shoebox of artefacts.. I knew I had a shoebox in the bottom of my wardrobe and as I retrieved it I thought about Jay Lemkes words about investing meaning in the artefacts in our lives. I thought that here I was in a space that I occupied most days (nights) of the year and it must contain objects that I have invested with special symbolic significance or I could create particular meanings because of the memories they evoked. It was an enjoyable and enlightening exercise.. My bedside table and drawers are quite messy so I found a number of objects that held particular meaning and most I could see were associated with considerable learning and complex relationships and events within my world of family, work and travel. I photographed the images in my shoebox and made a slide for my presentation ... I thought it a good exercise to bring home the ways in which the objects in our life hold significant symbolic, relational or experiential meaning.
The shoebox ecology workshop ran by Christine Fountain and Susan Patrick worked from another direction. They filled two shoeboxes with objects and invited people to choose objects that they could associate with experiences and learning in their own lives.. two themes emerged ... gardening and occupying garden like spaces eg parks... and holidays.. and experiences people had had while travelling...or the effects of travel.... It was a wonderful example of the creative process of creating meaning from objects....
It's been an interesting week. On Monday I travelled to Birmingham to participate in the seminar organised by CRA on the theme of Recognising Lifewide Learning. I contributed a presentation and a workshop on the theme of an ecological perspective on lifewide learning. In fact I had used the opportunity of the seminar to make myself think about this idea and draw on the considerable body of existing work which is now contained in this evolving paper..
I introduced my talk with a slide that portrayed my own ecological process for making my contribution to the event. I had concluded that my learning process had been purposeful and directional - towards creating the resources and personal knowledge to be able to contribute to the seminar and workshop and that it had also involved lots of other people - the people who had codified their understandings in the articles I had read and whose ideas I had assimilated and reused, the people I had talked to especially members of my family, the people who had written blogs which I had drawn on, accounts of learning written by past students at Surrey and my daughter's evolving account of learning as she helps us pilot the lifewide development award. My learning had been both a constructive process and an organic social process.
The workshop involved inviting participants to think of a learning project they had been involved in and to try in about fifteen minutes to record the key elements of their learning process. Each then told their story of learning and as a group we tried to think about the ecological aspects of the story. The process was quite revealing and on the train journey home (in true ecological spirit) I decided to email the people who had participated to invite them to continue working on the ideas that had emerged and to write them up as a co-authored paper to illustrate how such a workshop methodology can work in revealing the ecological process involved in lifewide learning. So far only two people have responded so I'm uncertain as to what will emerge from the process. But I feel sure that something useful will come from it.
On Thursday I was thinking ahead to the next issue of Lifewide Magazine and thinking of potential contributors when I googled Jay Lemke - who has written extensively on ecosocial theory and who I had really enjoyed reading. I came across a beautifully written and inspiring chapter he wrote in 2002.. on becoming a village.. I cite a passage below to illustrate..
An old saying has it that it takes a village to raise a child. As children, we know how much we need to learn about everything and everyone in our communities to live there successfully. As we learn, we gradually become our villages: we internalize the diversity of viewpoints that collectively make sense of all that goes on in the community. At the same time, we develop values and identities: in small tasks and large projects, we discover the ways we like to work, the people we want to be, the accomplishments that make us proud. In all these activities we constantly need to make sense of the ideas and values of others, to integrate differing viewpoints and desires, different ways of talking and doing. As we participate in community life, we inevitably become in part the people that others need us to be, and many of us also find at least some of our efforts unsupported or even strenuously opposed by others... The challenges of living in a village define fundamental issues for both education and development.1
His website had a contact email address and in the spirit of nothing ventured nothing gained I decided to invite him to write a feature article for the next issue of the Magazine.. Within a few hours I had a very encouraging response which indicated that although in the midst of travelling from Europe to San Diego he had taken the trouble to follow the link I had given him to my website and had made a relational connection.. What a wonderful illustration of our ecologies in action.
Fortified by insights gained at the CRA workshop, the other important decision I made this week was to reframe the conference we are planning for next year to focus attention on the way that universities are supporting lifewidelearning ie I turned it from a criticism of inaction to the opportunity to celebrate achievement and progress. In spite of uncertainties I went ahead and booked the venue thus committing Lifewide Education to the conference in March next year. Making these decisions brought a sense of relief, as so often decision making does, and I was much happier at the end of the week than I had been at the start.
1 Lemke J L (2002) Becoming the Village: Education across lives, in G. Wells and G. Claxton (eds) Learning for Life in the 21st Century: Sociocultural Perspectives on the Future of Education Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, UK available on-line at http://www.jaylemke.com/storage/becoming-the-village.pdf
To develop my understandings of how I learn and develop through all parts of my life by recording and reflecting on my own life as it happens.
I have a rough plan but most of what I do emerges from the circumstances of my life