Imagination: It’s a Muscle, Too

I know I’ve referenced this gentleman before, but I find that Marvin Bartel (a professor of art in the United States) has quite a lot of excellent ideas for teaching creativity in schools.

Teaching creativity, you say?  Is that even possible, you say?

Why yes!  Yes indeed it is!

Something I noticed when I was in school – especially in art class – was that when teachers were going through their lessons, they often wanted us to be creative, but they never really taught us how to go about it.  I didn’t mind as much, because I am a creative person.  But even I had trouble coming up with things to draw or write or paint, and when confronted with that problem from me and my classmates, teachers would often simply say, “Well…I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

…Which was not as helpful as I would have liked, incidentally.

Until I read Marvin’s article,“The Secrets of Generating Art Ideas: an Inside Out Art Curriculum,” I don’t think I realized that this was actually a problem for a lot of people.  A lot of students have trouble coming up with ideas for art projects and writing.  One of the ways Mr. Bartel suggests teachers combat this is through the use of the Conversation Game.  If you were in my EAES 201 class, you played this game with me, but I just wanted to elaborate on it a little further.

The rules are simple.  You divide your class into groups, and make sure that each member of the group has a piece of paper and a pencil.  Then they go around to every member of the group and ask each other ‘getting to know you’ questions.  Each student writes down each question and their answer to it, but they don’t have to share their answers unless they want to.  After a certain amount of time has passed, the groups stop and tell everyone in the class what their questions were.  For every question they have that no other group has, the students get a point, and the group with the most points wins.

However, this is not a game you play once and then forget about.  This is a game you keep playing and keep playing, and over time the questions will evolve from the level of, “What is your favourite television show?” to  the level of, “If you could choose any superpower, what would it be?” As time goes on, students learn to ask critical, insightful, creative questions, and they can use those questions or their answers as inspiration for writing, for art projects, for drama – essentially any creative exercise.

I like the idea of being able to teach creativity and develop that skill like a muscle, through constant use.  How about you?

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RiP: A Remix Manifesto

Based on this documentary, I am going to answer this question from the study guide:

Do you think you can argue your creativity when it’s based on another artist’s work?

 

I would like to start off by saying that…people have overcomplicated this issue so much more than is necessary.  Well – I say people, but I mean corporations.  As far as I’m concerned, creative copyright should not extend to anyone who did not actually create something.  If it’s not yours, dear lord – just let it go.  It doesn’t belong to you.

But I digress.

I believe that you can argue your creativity even if it is based on another artist’s work – to a certain extent.  Yes, many forms of art and creative media are based on works from the past.  Artists learn their trade by watching other artists, picking up bits and pieces of what they like from everywhere.  That is only natural. Before I could draw, I traced pictures from other artists.  Then I stopped tracing and started simply looking at the way they drew forms and objects.  Even now, when I create only my own artwork, it would be a lie to say that the style I have now is completely my own and not cobbled together from a hundred different sources.  Somewhere along the line, everyone who creates something has looked at something or someone else and thought, “Hey…I like that.  That gives me an idea.”

But then, of course, I am reminded of something Mark Twain said:

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.  The world doesn’t owe you anything.  It was here first.”

The world does not owe you anything – including the tools you seem to think are necessary to your creative art.  There is no law that says your creative license is without bound.  Nowhere is it written that you or anyone else has the RIGHT to create whatever you want from any source at any time, no matter the situation.  I believe that there are certain copyright laws that should be upheld, especially if the artist is still alive and/or has asked that their material not be used.  I know for certain that if I found out someone had taken a piece of my writing or my artwork and used it without asking my permission or giving me credit, I would be upset.  There is such a thing as showing respect to other artists.

Of course, I think most people – including the makers of the Remix Manifesto – understand that some things should not be part of public domain – at least while the artist is alive.  This issue only really seems to get complicated when corporations claim the copyrights to things they had no hand in creating, and then expect everyone to treat them with the same respect due to the original creator.  In that case, I would say the corporations are being as disrespectful, if not more so, than someone who would take an artist’s work without giving them credit.  They have taken something that was created as a work of art and turned it into a tool for obtaining money for themselves, and as far as I am concerned, that is theft and a betrayal of the public trust.

In the end, I think what it comes down to is this: be respectful.  If the artist is still alive and they don’t want their material used, don’t use it.  If they ask that you give them credit, give them credit.  Even if they aren’t alive, or they don’t ask for credit, give it to them anyways, because that’s the polite thing to do.

And as far as corporations are concerned, well…as much as the past might try to control the future, it can’t hang on forever.  Right now our future looks like it will be less free, but just think – someday the people of our generation are going to be the ones running the corporations.

Nothing lasts forever.  Not even copyright.

What Do You Believe?

A lot of people believe a lot of different things about learning.  Last semester in ECS100, one of our lecturers gave us a whole slideshow of learning and education quotes from various people, most of whom were dead.  It was lovely and gave us a lot of important/intelligent/interesting/unique opinions on education.  However, I feel that sometimes we get too caught up in what other people think and believe, and as teachers that is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions.  If we can’t think original thoughts, how can we expect creativity and curiosity from our students?

As someone who spent her childhood collecting quotes, I know I sometimes had difficulty finding my own words.  I’d think of something I wanted to say, and then think, “Oh – but this person said it so much better!”

Well, today is about eloquence.  It’s about OUR words, OUR beliefs, and OUR knowledge.

As a teacher, what is your most firmly held belief about teaching, education, knowledge, or learning?  If your teacher-y soul was stripped down to its bare threads and bones, what would we find carved into your core?  If you had to throw away every single thought and idea about learning EXCEPT ONE, which one would you keep?

This is mine:
The only think more precious than knowledge is the people who carry it, find it, desire it, hate it, want it, and need it.  My students are more precious, more priceless, more infinitely beautiful and full of potential, than anything in the universe, no matter how much they do or do not learn from me and my peers.

Romeo Was an Idiot

Tech Task #6 said that we had to use one of the tools on the list to create a story.  My intention was to use Sketchcast, but the site wouldn’t work for me.  I tried out a few of the others, but they weren’t really doing it for me.  In the end I had simply decided to upload my own artwork onto ToonDoo to make a comic, but then I realized…that’s ridiculous.  I can just put the pictures right on my blog.

I sketched this out on paper, scanned it into my computer, and used my tablet for inking/colouring/text, so it is digital artwork.  I don’t know if that counts, but here we are in any case.

Romeo Was an Idiot…

…And Juliet Could Do So Much Better.

A.k.a. It’s Not Always the Prince Who Sweeps You Off Your Feet.

A.k.a. Don’t Trust Men in Obnoxious Yellow Capes.  (Except Robin.  Robin is Okay.)

A.k.a. I Have at least Ten Other Titles, But I Will Spare You (This Time).

(For the record, though, I don’t advocate kidnapping as the way to anyone’s heart.  Flowers probably would not actually go over very well in that situation.)

(Also, I coloured it that way on purpose; I was not just being lazy.  I like the way it looks.  So.)

….Anyways!

I think that storytelling in any capacity is invaluable in the classroom, whether it uses digital resources or not.  I have heard it said, and experienced for myself that it is true, that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.  Storytelling is a way of teaching – certainly it’s one of the methods I most prefer.  Often when I set up a lesson or a presentation, I design it like an act in a play.  There’s room for audience input, obviously, but overall I know my lines and I know the direction I want to go in.

That’s storytelling: knowing who your audience is, what you want to say to them, how you want to say it, and what medium you want to use.  I believe that everyone should be taught the ability to tell a coherent story.  After all, from sports to politics to schools to churches to our groups of friends, we are surrounded by tales and accounts and anecdotes on all sides.

As teachers, our job is to prepare children for the world outside the classroom.  Considering the world’s trend towards digital media, then, it is quite obvious how important it is to teach them digital storytelling.

….And that’s all I have to say about that.  Have an awesome day/evening/week/etc.!

Murderers!

(I like exclamation marks.  Can you tell?)

I have found that I quite like this gentleman, Marvin Bartel, Ed. D.  I intend to be an Art/English teacher in the future, and he has some very interesting ideas on creative teaching.  His writing on the subject is prolific, but one thing of his that I thought was really instructive was his list of Ten Classroom Creativity Killers.  In the article he expands on each one and tells how to NOT kill creativity in the classroom.  I would encourage all of you to read it, because his ideas are excellent, but for those without the time or inclination, here is the basic list:

I kill creativity in the classroom when…

1. I encourage renting (borrowing) instead of owning ideas.

2. I assign grades without providing informative feedback.

3. I see a lot of cliché symbols instead of original or observed representation of experience.

4. I demonstrate instead of having students practice.

5. I show an example instead of defining a problem.

6. I praise neatness and conformity more than expressive original work.

7. I give freedom without focus.

8. I make suggestions instead of asking open questions.

9. I give an answer instead of teaching problem solving experimentation methods.

10. I allow students to copy other artists rather than learning to read their minds.

Reading through this list, I have to say that I’ve experience all of these problems with my teachers at one time or another – and heck, I’ve probably been guilty of a few of them, even with the limited amount of teaching I’ve done.  Probably numbers 4, 5, 6, and 10 are the areas in which I can most improve.

4. I am training to teach in the subjects I love, which is wonderful and fantastic.  The only problem with it is that when I love something, I want to do it.  I like demonstrating.  Oh, I hate watching demonstrations – but that’s double standards for you.  I know I’ll have to kill my urge to demonstrate all the time.  A lot of students like to do hands-on work, which means that the more time I spend showing, the less time they get to spend doing.

5. Much of the time, I find that I understand a problem in my head, but I don’t know how to vocalize it so that everyone else will understand.  So when I find an example of a similar problem/solution, I’ll use that instead of trying to say what’s in my head.  That doesn’t mean it will be helpful to everyone else, of course.  While an example may fit into the network of puzzle pieces in my brain, it won’t necessarily fit everyone else.  Instead of using examples, then, I should think of ways to explain things simply and effectively in my own words.  I already practice doing this – anytime I encounter a particularly complex idea, I try to distill it down to its most basic forms so that anyone can understand it.

6. I am the sort of person who likes structure, realistic work, and well-executed ideas.  I sometimes have difficulty judging or understanding more experimental, expressive, or abstract work.  As a teacher, however, I need to be able to look beyond my own personal preferences to judge the actual worth of any piece I am given to mark.  Not everyone thinks or creates in the same way, and I believe it is essential for teachers to be open to all forms of creativity in their classrooms.  That is what I aspire to.

Can you see anything on the list that you think is or will be an issue for you, as future teachers?