IdeaChat 11 February 2012

Creativity and Learning

On Saturday night last week I went to “the opera” for only the second time in my life. It was Mozart’s The Magic Flute, a “comic opera” from 1791. The next morning I awoke to the 1967 film Camelot on television – based on the 1960 Lerner and Lowe musical play.

Now I have one of those wandering, hyperactive minds, and in both cases I wondered about origins and I wondered about possible twists. While I thought I heard jokes about the Reformation (and thus Lutheran Germany) in Die Zauberflöte – I was not, sitting in a concert hall, in a good place to look this up on my mobile – I knew that I wondered what it might look like if we were to stage this opera with sets and costumes based on Berlin of the 1980s – another strange, surrounded world. I imagined Act II, Scene 7 (“Der, welcher wandert diese Strasse voll Beschwerden”) occurring in front of the Brandenberg Gate, the guards uniformed as East German soldiers. Watching Camelot, briefly, I thought about staging this story in a setting and with costumes historically accurate to early-mid fifth century Britain – a bit like what Orson Welles tried to do when he set his film Macbeth among the caveman looking rock set of the old Republic studios, a dramatic clash of language and visuals.

This tendency of my mind to wander uncontrollably, which has driven teachers, and many others, crazy over the course of my life, is, to me, a representation of liberated learning, and the power of using creativity to enable students to explore and learn in “natural” rather than linear ways. Music plus histories plus design plus language plus lighting plus clothing plus reader response theory in the two lessons I’ve described above bring together my drive to create with a desire to learn …
In the real world, creativity and learning represent the work of design thinkers to generate that which is  “new and different.”  In schooling, we’ve separated the two as if real learning can occur isolated from the action of creation. We’ve attached great value to those among us whose capabilities run to rote recall, arithmetic procedures, prompt writing, and fast processing of print, and to those capabilities in otherwise creative learners. We have pushed creativity to the margins, something to do when real work is done. Because society has come to over emphasize the non-creative competencies, we often limit the potential and possibilities of those whose talents reside in the wandering, hyperactive mind.  

On Saturday, 11 February 2012, from 9-10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (US/Canada), Pam Moran (@pammoran) and I (@irasocol) will co-facilitate an #ideachat conversation on creativity and learning. We’ll explore questions that move us to consider what would be different if we worked in spaces transformed to enable adults and young people to naturally explore, imagine, create, design, build, compose, make, engineer, and communicate as integral to why and how they learn.

  1. How do we begin to liberate the imagination in order to liberate learning? in the classroom? in our work spaces?
  2. How do we help ourselves move away from the linearity of the  Reformation/Gutenberg Era?
  3. What does a classroom or work space that liberates learning look like?
  4. What can we learn from designers, makers, builders, composers, creators to inform our understanding of learning and creativity - formally, and informally?
  5. How do you learn when you create?  create when you learn?
  6. What helps you be at your most creative when learning?
  7. How do you know when you are in a learning flow that leads to creativity?
  8. In what ways do you play as you create and learn? 
- Ira Socol

1 comment:

Miss Shuganah said...

I like to think of myself as a poet, so I will take a crack at answering #4.

When I read poetry I hear rhythms. Best way to hear a poem is from the poet himself or herself.

When I write a poem, I try not to be rigid about rhythms. Iambic pentameter is great but can be a stranglehold when it comes to creativity.

I write when I hear in my mind's ear a peculiar turn of phrase. I attribute that in part to growing up with grandparents from Eastern Europe. "Throw the horse over the fence some hay." When I am tired or stressed that construct is more likely to come from me than other times.

If I can relax my mind then poems come easily. Helps not to lose the momentum. I take a turn of phrase and I stand it on its head. Or I think in terms of narrative.

If I were teaching poetry I would teach rap, hiphop, the classics. I would look at ee cummings and his parenthetical interjections. I would have students read Ogden Nash. I would look at odd idioms. Puns. Gerard Manley Hopkins for alliteration. Emily Dickinson. There are no mistakes in poetry.