Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Creativity by numbers

[29 November 2006 - Spiked] The UK Creative Partnerships scheme for deprived schools seems more interested in exercising children’s bodies rather than their minds. ... ‘School should be anything but uniform’, says Creative Partnerships (CP), a £140million scheme brought in by the UK government in 2002 to put the arts back into the timetable for schools in deprived areas. CP was conceived because many teachers were complaining about the straitjacket conformism produced by grade targets, literacy hours and league tables. As former arts minister Estelle Morris said in 2003: ‘It is often said that arts and creative work in schools have been squeezed out…. There is a need to build on that and to recognise the place of arts and culture in our curriculum.’ Schools play a vital role in bringing cultural experience to the next generation. But a closer inspection of CP raises serious questions about what ‘creativity’ has come to mean today, and how teachers are supposed to engage with young people’s minds. More

The End of Ingenuity

[29 November 2006 - New York Times - Opinion] ... Without a doubt, mankind can find ways to push back these constraints on global growth with market-driven innovation on energy supply, efficient use of energy and pollution cleanup. But we probably can't push them back indefinitely, because our species' capacity to innovate, and to deliver the fruits of that innovation when and where they're needed, isn't infinite. Sometimes even the best scientific minds can't crack a technical problem quickly (take, for instance, the painfully slow evolution of battery technology in recent decades), sometimes market prices give entrepreneurs poor price signals (gasoline today is still far too cheap to encourage quick innovation in fuel-efficient vehicles) and, most important, sometimes there just isn't the political will to back the institutional and technological changes needed. We can see glaring examples of such failures of innovation even in the United States - home to the world's most dynamic economy. ... But in the larger sense, we really need to start thinking hard about how our societies - especially those that are already very rich - can maintain their social and political stability, and satisfy the aspirations of their citizens, when we can no longer count on endless economic growth. More

Intelligence agencies invest in college education

[28 November 2006 - USA Today] The U.S. intelligence community pours millions into higher education, paying for hundreds of scholarships, intelligence-related courses and fellowships at nearly a dozen universities, public documents and interviews with officials show. Last month, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) more than doubled the number of schools in its program. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also developing a program for nuclear scientists. The sponsoring agencies, including the CIA, say the programs help ensure they get enough recruits skilled to wage the war on terrorism. The programs began in 2004. ... The programs recognize that 21st-century intelligence officers need skills that can "translate to a variety of areas," says Lenora Peters Gant, who runs the ODNI's university outreach program. "We want to hire an engineer that understands world cultures and religions and speaks Urdu and Farsi or maybe Korean. That's where (intelligence) is going." ... Intelligence recruiters also liked small Catholic schools such as Trinity University in Washington, D.C., says Robert Maguire, an international relations professor who coordinates Trinity's intelligence studies program. ... Trinity professors received stipends to revise courses and design new ones when ODNI started its first Center of Academic Excellence there in 2004. Intelligence students study creative problem solving, contemporary diplomatic history and social science research methods. More

List of Nation's Top Emerging Gay Ghettos Announced

[28 November 2006 -] Whether or not you subscribe to Richard Florida's "creative class" theory, where the gays go eventually so do higher property values, less crime, better schools, ethnic diversity and growth. In that vane, in partnership with, the leading resource for gay-friendly real estate transactions, has announced its inaugural list of the nation’s top up-and-coming "gay ghettos." President Jeffery Hammerberg defines gay ghettos for their "richness of diversity -- like a colorful tapestry -- that makes these neighborhoods such a wonderful place." Many gay ghettos are locations of revitalization and renaissance in the cities where they are located. They are likely more affordable than the present "gay-borhood" and ripe for investment and community building. The list is presented in regional and alphabetical order. More

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dishing: Keep Those I's on the Prize

[November 2006 - Media Magazine] News flash: there may be no "I" in team, but there most certainly is one in media. In fact, there are three: insight, ideas, and innovation. With the sweeping pace of change in the media landscape, this triple-I combo spells the new core competencies in our industry. They are the catalysts for success and the launch pads for the fast track. In other words, they're "must have" ingredients for communications platforms that combine content with context so compellingly that they capture consumer attention amid increasing clutter, noise, distractions, time scarcity, consumer control, and every other sky-is-falling trend bemoaned at media conferences. Fortunately, the three I's are all members of one family - born of the same gene pool, sharing common DNA. That DNA has creativity at its core - the ability to develop a new thought, find new connections, and establish new links between existing concepts. More

Creative industries forum kicks off in Singapore

[27 November 2006 - People's Daily Online - China] A global forum for creative industries, Beyond 2006, one of a series of events of month-long Creative 2006 programs to showcase and promote Singapore's creative sector, was kicked off in Singapore Monday. "Many countries see the creative industries as a key competitive advantage in the globalized economy. Ideas and imagination have become valuable assets and drivers of economic opportunities and growth," Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, said at the opening ceremony of the forum. "Singapore cannot be any different," he said, adding "We must harness creativity and the power of innovation to forge ahead in a globalized economy." The two-day forum of Beyond 2006 is a platform to provide opportunities for the domestic and international leading creative icons to exchange creative ideas. More

Pressing need for creative economy

[27 November 2006 - China Daily] First there was the "new economy," then there was the "knowledge economy," and now we have the "creative economy." Call it what you will, but the nation is arguably attaching more importance to "chuangyi" (creativity) to restructure its economy. In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, massive material and political resources have been devoted to what leaders term "Chuangyi jingji" (creative economy) as a key strategic element for advancing the cities' development. As a name, the "Chuangyi" economy is hardly as clear as knowledge economy, but "Chuangyi" does points to one important dimension that the nation needs to pay particular attention to. More

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bill Cosby on Teachers

[7 November 2006 - Teacher Magazine] Bill Cosby made headlines last week after giving a speech in Los Angeles about education, with news outlets reporting that he had criticized teachers and parents for not doing enough to help kids. The comedian, who holds a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts, has been outspoken in recent years about what the black community needs to do to close the racial achievement gap. But Cosby says his comments about teachers were taken out of context. Rather than attacking teachers, he says, he meant only to urge them to explain to kids why they love the subjects they teach. Cosby gives his side of the story. More (in audio interview)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness

[17 July 2006 -New York Magazine] More and more psychologists and researchers believe they know what makes people happy. But the question is, does a New Yorker want to be happy? More

Friday, November 10, 2006


[31 October 2006 - Change Agency blog] It is about power. Passive reception of information for the sole purpose of regurgitation is extremely uninspiring and unengaging -- and disempowering -- because it doesn't challenge students on deeper levels. But, even more so, passive reception of information reinforces traditional power structures. What David is describing is creative work — students working with information in a creative manner that allows them to feel empowered. They are able to work with the information using tools that have the potential to allow students to be authors, artists, architects. I have had similar experiences in the classroom with students becoming/feeling more empowered by the technology. I have seen students who "create problems" in other classrooms, become "creators" of multimedia products, animations, video productions, and graphic design products when provided with the tools and the knowledge of how to use the tools to manipulate and communicate information to an audience. I’ve seen students who are otherwise uninterested in school stay after school for hours in order to produce documentary videos for a history class or -- even more powerful -- to develop marketing presentations and videos to market our school to incoming students. ... Of course, I expect to hear the argument that “if the students don't know basic facts and information FIRST, then they can’t work creatively because creative work involves analysis and synthesis of information!” However, so many people in education are relying so much on that argument that pushing students to be more critical and creative isn't even on their radar screens. We are settling for the minimum instead of pushing our students more deeply into their learning.We need to stop settling and begin engaging our students in more empowering, creative, and meaningful learning/work. More

Cities known for creativity working to attract visitors worldwide

[6 November 2006 - USA Today] Representatives from nine places designated as "creative cities" by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization met in Santa Fe in late October to brainstorm about "creative tourism," according to the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper. ... "It's not passive tourism," says Santa Fe City Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger. "You're coming to engage in a community, to learn about its culture experientially. That's been a very strong theme with every single one of these cities." More

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Innovating With ... Google for Educators

[Google] Google recognizes the central role that teachers play in breaking down the barriers between people and information, and we support educators who work each day to empower their students and expand the frontiers of human knowledge. This website is one of the ways we're working to bolster that support and explore how Google and educators can work together. As a start, we're inviting you to share your best ideas for using technology to innovate in the classroom. More

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Re-inventing invention: new tendencies in capitalist commodification

[May 2006 - Economy and Society - By Nigel Thrift, Oxford] This paper argues that a shift is taking place in the fabric of capitalism as a  result of a change in how the business of invention is understood. Using theoretical approaches that rely on the notion that capitalism  increasingly tries to draw in the whole intellect, in the first part of the paper I argue that the new understanding of innovation currently shows up as three associated developments: as the mobilization of forethought, as the deepening of the lure of the commodity through the co-creation of commodities with consumers, and as the construction of different kinds of apparently more innovative space suffused with information technology. The second part of the paper then argues that these disclosures are leading to new forms of value, based on generating moments of rightness. There is a brief conclusion. More (PDF)

Monday, November 06, 2006

International collaboration to transform education announced

[8 September, 2006 - Futurelab - on eGov Monitor] Futurelab, the UK's leading education innovators, and the Singapore government agency, Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), have announced a two-year partnership today to develop ground-breaking digital learning resources that support new approaches to teaching and learning. This international collaboration, known as iLAB 2015, draws on the creative talent, educational experience and technical expertise in both Singapore and the UK, and will lead to a range of educational tools that make learning an engaging and rewarding experience for learners of all ages and abilities. The collaboration will develop new digital learning resources as well as implement Futurelab's existing prototype technologies and research programmes in Singapore. In practice, this means that innovative resources such as Racing Academy, which uses gaming to teach engineering, and Space Mission: Ice Moon, which transforms the classroom into an Emergency Response Centre to enable collaborative learning, are likely to be introduced into Singapore schools. ... Annika Small, Chief Executive of Futurelab says: "Singapore and the UK share a vision around the potential of new technologies to radically transform educational practices by enabling more diverse and compelling learning experiences. I am delighted about the Futurelab-IDA partnership which will ensure that innovative ideas for learning resources are put into practice. Together we will produce practical examples of digital tools that foster the development of the creative, problem-solving skills needed in the 21st century." More

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Definition of Creative Thinking

"my brain looks like a carousel on fire" (Melissa Ferrick) = the creative brain at work?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Book Review: Improvisational Negotiation - A Mediator's Stories of Conflict

[3 August 2006 - News Blaze] Whether you are at loggerheads with your teenaged son or daughter over household chores or with your co-workers because they are a noisy lot, the problem is the same. How do you explore the difficulty you are having and come up with a compromise? Maybe, reading Jeffrey Krivis's Improvisational Negotiation: Stories of Conflict About Love, Money, Anger And The Strategies That resolved Them, by Jeffrey Krivis, can help you more creative problem solving. More

Politics of possibility

[10 August 2006 - Jerusalem Post - Opinion] Sir, - Millions of us worldwide, especially women, of every race and religion grieve for what is happening in the Middle East. We believe this violence is a failure of leadership by shortsighted men in the US, in Israel and in Arab countries who insist on using barbaric solutions. The truly courageous among us in every nation must use creative, problem-solving, human kindness and faith-filled wisdom to articulate the politics of possibility. Let it begin today. -- ANNE McCRADY, Henderson, Texas More

'Hogwash' lets kids fill in the baloney while teaching them a lesson in creativity

... [8 September 2006 - Seattle Post-Intelligencer] If you've ever been to a Theater Sports or Comedy Sports show, you understand the wacky charm of improvised theater. Now, your children can have that same experience through 'Hogwash: An Improvised Tall Tale for Small Children' at the Historic University Theater every Saturday through Oct. 28. ... 'The show is originally based on the old 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books that I used to read,' Anfinsen explains. 'You would read to Page 10 or so and it would basically ask you if you want the main character to go here or there? If here, turn to Page 40, if here, turn to Page 30. Nowadays everything is so laid out. We don't want anything to do with that. We want the kids to say 'This is what we want to happen. Don't feed us any baloney. We want the good guy to do that and the bad guy to do that.' The idea of 'Hogwash' is to encourage creative problem-solving and early arts appreciation. Kids naturally want to be part of the action. More

Company pays for creative problem solving

[16 October 2006 - The Detroit News] Q . I read an article several weeks ago about a Web site that posted questions or problems companies had for scientists and researchers to try to solve. If scientists came up with a solution, they could send it in and the Web site would contact the company. One example was a scientist who came up with a more efficient way of filling toothpaste tubes. Could you provide me with the name of the site? - S.K.E.

A . You are thinking about InnoCentive (innocentive. com), a company paying cash to creative folks who solve specific problems. Both problem solvers and solution seekers are courted by InnoCentive. Solvers must register. Some challenges are specific ('A chemical method is desired to measure carbon steel corrosion presence in a non-intrusive manner'); others, general ('A sugar substitute is needed.') More

The Workplace as Solar System

[28 October 2006 - New York Times] CLEARER THINKING Just the word “brainstorming” elicits a lot of eye rolling in most offices, writes Michael Myser in Business 2.0.

But the problem, he says, is not with the concept of brainstorming, but the way it is done.

“Most often, modern brainstorming involves a group of people sitting around a conference room, staring into space, and waiting for ideas to come. But in its true form, it’s a rigidly structured process,” he writes, adding that Alex F. Osborn, who coined the term in his 1953 book “Applied Imagination,” laid out three vital steps.

First, there needs to be a facilitator trained in drawing out the best ideas. Groups using a facilitator come up with 600 percent more ideas than those that don’t, said Scott Isaksen, founder of the Creative Problem Solving Group.

Second, there need to be clear guidelines — for example, the session will last no more than 45 minutes and criticism or judgment of the ideas that emerge should wait until the session is over.

Third, participants should prepare in advance for the session.

Given how badly it is usually done, it sounds as if most companies could use a brainstorming session to figure out how they should brainstorm. More

Nurturing inquiring minds

[28 October 2006 - Kansas City Star] “Kids look at science as something that they read and they do problems,” said Melinda Merrill, an advanced-science and gifted-education teacher at Center Middle School. “They don’t realize that it is a creative, problem-solving area that, even if they don’t go into a science career, what they learn … they can use in all their careers." More

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Right to Be Creative – In Schools, In Prison and In Life

[3 November 2006 - By Steven Dahlberg, Principal, International Centre for Creativity and Imagination, Willimantic, Connecticut, USA] Inmates forfeit many rights while they are in prison. But their “right to think and be heard” – to think creatively and express their ideas – can’t be taken away.

As artist M. C. Richards once said, “we have to realize that a creative being lives within ourselves, whether we like it or not, and that we must get out of its way, for it will give us no peace until we do.”

Educator Berenice Bleedorn’s idea about the “right to think and be heard” is a fundamental belief that we all possess creative potential, that our creativity seeks expression, and that we can deliberately unleash and harness our creative thinking for the common good.

Our creativity makes each of us individual. Applying that creativity is how we connect with others to live out our purpose in the world.

This, in fact, is what education should be helping our children discover in themselves. But anyone who cares about creativity in education knows that few schools have enough resources to support high-quality (and quantity) programs in creative thinking and the arts. And this problem has gotten worse under the testing-outcome obsession of No Child Left Behind.

At the same time, vast amounts of research and experience continue to demonstrate the positive impact of creativity on learning, understanding, engagement and development.

There is a huge disconnect between what we know to be true and helpful and good, and what we actually support and encourage. We know that creativity matters – from the childhood classroom and innovative workplaces to economic development and positive aging. The National Governors’ Association even spent an entire day earlier this year focusing on creativity and education. Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is focusing the coming year of her NGA leadership on the “Innovation America” project. Though it’s great to see these examples on the national level, creativity is rarely a priority in policies, funding and training.

Last night I witnessed the positive impact that creativity had for a group of incarcerated women. Through a creative writing program, their creative spirits were nurtured, supported and given a voice – where previously they’d been trampled, stifled and shredded.

Time In” explores the stories of women incarcerated at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut. This collaborative dance, song and spoken-word performance encompasses the stories of female prisoners’ lives before conviction, the ceaseless presence of time in their lives on the inside, and the new lives and language they must learn as convicts.

But it also explores the life of the mind and spirit – something that isn’t given over to confinement in cells and boxes, like the rest of their lives are in prison. For some, the freedom of the mind is a way to maintain sanity; for others, a way to begin to imagine life after prison.

Some come to this awareness naturally. For others, it comes through prison programs, such as the writing workshop at York run by Wally Lamb, the Connecticut author of She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True.

This performance – along with the commentary before and after with the artists, director, Lamb and two former York inmates – demonstrates what happens when you find and express your creativity:

  • It shows the value of another person believing in you and your creative potential. “If you want to see somebody change, believe in them,” said a self-described ex-convict following the performance.
  • It provides a strong argument for teaching creativity and arts in school so that students discover their true selves and can find a place for positive expression in school, rather than exploring negative self-identities and illegal expression on the streets. After teaching creative thinking to men in a Minnesota prison in the 1980s, Bleedorn recalls that “I cannot forget the men who, in some cases, may be paying the high price of failure of schools and society to recognize and value a multiple of thinking and behaving talents.”
  • It suggests that if we want to rehabilitate offenders so that they become productive, contributing citizens, then we need to help them discover who they are, who they want to become and how to begin living that new vision. “Hope you can see the good inside of me,” sang the performers.

Most people’s encounter with creativity happens by chance – whether in the classroom, the workplace or in prison. They randomly find themselves in the presence of a great teacher or manager who realizes that simple, “one-right-answer” approaches aren’t going to create individuals who are capable of living in our complex, interconnected and challenging world.

The time has come to develop “creativity by choice, not by chance.” Lamb’s original choice was to teach one, 90-minute writing workshop at York. “What I wanted from them was whatever they needed to write – two pages minimum,” Lamb told the audience before the performance. This provided the chance experience for the women who ended up in his workshop, and the chance for Lamb to keep returning.

The choice has come in dedicating himself to more than seven years of working with these women. The choice has come in helping the women produce several books of their writing. The choice has come in partnering with other artists – such as the dancers from The Judy Dworin Performance Project and the singers of Women of the Cross – who also started working with the York inmates. These collaborators worked with the inmates to bring movement and song to the prisoners’ own words. Lamb describes the outcome, “Time In,” as “victory over voicelessness.”

Lamb reminded the “Time In” audience, as he taught the inmates, that creativity is hard work. It takes “revision, revision, revision … and patience, patience, patience.” But if you hunker down, find your voice and give your creativity its due effort, Lamb said you can see patterns, move out of dead ends and find your way out “to understand your history and rehabilitate yourself.”

These women “struggled their truths onto the page,” Lamb said. We can, too. And we can help the young people in our communities do the same.

Bleedorn reminds us that “the freedom to express individualistic, spontaneous ideas in appropriate, planned activities and in a supportive climate for some part of the school day could satisfy creative energies positively rather than relegating them to experimentation with negative behavior.”

The closing scene of “Time In” conveys a similar message of the freedom, hope and courage that comes from expressing our creative selves. It’s a strong reminder that we have a choice to recognize the creative potential rather than the destructive core of who we are. We have a choice to tap into what is most purposeful and meaningful in our lives. We have a choice to express ourselves and make our creative desires real in the world.

And we have a choice to develop creativity in both schools and prisons now, so that one day, we are only doing so in schools. How will you use your right to think and be heard?

"Time In" runs at Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford, Connecticut, November 2-4, 2006.

The Rise of the Testing Culture

[10 October 2006 - Washington Post] The testing culture "has a lot more momentum than it should," agreed Harvard University education professor Daniel Koretz, an expert on assessment and measurement. He said a lack of solid research on the results of the new testing regimen -- or those that predated No Child Left Behind -- essentially means that the country is experimenting with its young people. More