Saturday, February 6, 2010

Creo ergo sum

I'd argue that school should be less about thinking, and more about creativity. In schools, creativity often means pulling out the crayons and posterboard and letting them draw.

Barry Bachenheimer lights up a room--he's energetic, charismatic, and bright. I've been to two of his presentations, and know he likes to tweak folks into thinking.

A couple of days ago he tweaked me in his response to my last post.

"Drawing with crayons" is to creativity what punching calculator buttons is to thinking. Both are tools. (I'd argue that creativity is a subset of thinking, but it's February my brain's hibernating until that woodchuck gets his facts straight.)

Back in the 70's, our junior high class took some silly test, and a few of us got pulled into an experimental class designed to expand our creativity. I remember meeting Frederik Pohl and the Amazing James Randi (who made a career out of debunking the Amazing Kreskin), but the nonsense we did to enhance our native abilities was, well, stupid.

We creatively figure out ways to subvert our not-so-creative teacher, and we were disbanded a few months later.

Real creativity involves solving problems. We, the kids on Bayberry Lane, once built an 11 foot snowman. We spent a whole afternoon figuring out how to get the midsection on the base.

Too bad we had to go to school the next day....

The poster is from Graphic Expectations.


Unknown said...

I wrote my response and it led me into writing a blog post on this topic. Creativity is problem-solving. It's also analysis. Sometimes it's destruction. It's winter and it's summer and it's spring - and sometimes in the waning moments of creativity, right before the ache that leads to spring, it's a long autumn. Creativity involves solving a problem, yes, but often it includes the frustration of discovering a mystery and creating a metaphor to bridge the gap.

I'm not sure if any of what I wrote made sense, but those are my musings.

doyle said...

Makes sense to me--and problem solving is all about bridging gaps. If there's no gap there's no problem, at least no problem with a solution.

(Your take on this was much better than mine.)

Unknown said...

I like your take on it much more than mine, Doyle. You are clear and concise - two things I will never really be able to be.

Barry Bachenheimer said...

Dr. Doyle- Thanks for the shout out.

Your post reminded me of a post I did a few years ago.

I have blogged in the past about creativity, be in from Sir Ken Robinson, Daniel Pink, or others-- having students develop right brain creativity skills while in school will be helpful to their competitive edge.

While discussing this issue in our Instructional Council earlier this month, a concern that "we value what we test" and how standardized testing doesn't leave much room for creativity.

Behold, I discovered the Bowerbird. This species of bird found in New Guinea decorates a perch with interesting objects-- berries, beads, clothespins, saliva (yes, saliva) in order to attract female member of the species to mate. The more attractive and creatively decorated the perch, the better chance the male Bowerbird has of landing a mate.

The ultimate example of using creativity for a formative assessment! If you are not creative enough in your perch, you don't get the girl. Talk about a pass fail exam!

doyle said...

Dear Barry,

I LOVE the bowerbird--my Auntie Beth told me about it before I could even shave, and looking back, it may have been instrumental in my view of the living world.

We just finished midterms--traditional midterms, which count as much as half a marking period, emphasize the language of science without getting to the heart (art) of science.

Science requires imagination and creativity--we are working with models (indeed, myths) within very specific rules on what we allow to be called the natural (or empirically observable) universe.

My students (heck, many teachers) confuse the rules of the game (what constitutes "natural" or "reality") with the beautifully expansive models we produce within the rules.

Science is spectacularly creative, and its mythological soul vastly under-appreciated.

I think it's a big reason why so many phenomenal scientists are not great high school students.

If we trusted teachers (and sadly, our profession has not earned that trust), we could measure the more interesting side of science. UbD works to that, but then we rely on state tests using scantrons and low level questions to assess our students (and our teachers).

First year college science sucks for the same reasons, but at least it's understandable why college freshmen slog through the survey courses--each field speaks a language, and you need to learn the language to grasp the models/myths. The reward is upper level science courses that are joyous thoughtfests!