Saturday, September 03, 2011

sources of creativity...

There are two sources of creativity, whether you are talking about crafts or some other human endeavor. Both of these are well known to those who work with wood. The first could be called serendipity if you want to be kind, or accident if you want to be honest. We all make mistakes and learn from them, and inherent in those mistakes is the opportunity to reflect on the deliberate application of the effects demonstrated in the mistake. The adhesive used in the post-it note is a classic example of something that arose quite by accident, but turned out to be useful despite its inventor's original intentions. These kinds of things happen all the time in the wood shop, and it just takes being in the right frame of mind to recognize them.

The second source of creativity is engaged as we wrestle with repairs to mistakes we have made, resolve issues in the making of things or as we brainstorm new ideas for projects, and it involves the human capacity to use simile, metaphor and hypothesis. These represent the more deliberate (less accidental) creative act.

If this then perhaps that.

We compare one thing to others and make proposals to be tested in actual circumstance. Much of this actually centers around the tools and materials we have available for use and the techniques in the use of those tools and materials that we have been taught to understand. As our understanding of all the available tools, techniques, processes and materials expand, we have a broader catalog of available content from which to draw hypotheses. What if I did this with that tool or tried to do that in this material? Or what if I tried to apply this technique to that operation? In real life you cannot whittle a stick without making hypotheses regarding direction of grain, and angle of blade, etc, and it is during engagement in the real world that effective hypotheses are formed. When Maslow said that if the only tool you have is a hammer then all problems look like nails, this is precisely what he was talking about... Maslow was not really talking about the tool itself, but the metaphorical framework that can be drawn from it and applied to a wide (or narrow) range of problems.

Arthur C. Clarke said, "a teacher who can be replaced by a machine should be." As education adapts to advancing computer technologies, teachers are being challenged to redefine their roles. There are things that effective teachers do (and have always done when allowed) that machines cannot. And those must become the areas that teachers reinforce, augment and sustain in the re-creation of self. As teachers attempt to adapt to technological change, some of this can actually make teaching easier, more stimulating and more satisfying in the long run. Instead of teaching being a field in which one third of new teachers leave the profession in the first three years, we would find hard wired communities of life long learners growing around them.

Wired magazine has an article about Khan Academy. In some subjects, like math, it is possible that a machine can teach to a broad range of student abilities better than most teachers. If, as was proposed by Charles H. Ham in 1880, schools were ever to become workshop/laboratories where ideas could be tested by hand, eye, and skill, under the guidance of craftsmen/mentor/counselor/scholars, and assisted by resources provided by technology, we would be making full use of our capacity toward the education of our children as lifelong learners. The following is from the article on Khan Academy describing why one teacher is using it:
For years, teachers have complained about the frustrations of teaching to the “middle” of the class. They stand at the whiteboard, trying to get 25 or more students to learn the same stuff at the same pace. And, of course, it never really works: Advanced kids get bored and tune out, lagging ones get lost and tune out, and pretty soon half the class isn’t paying attention. Since the rise of personal computers in the early ’80s, educators have hoped that technology could solve this problem by offering lessons tailored to each kid. Schools have blown millions, maybe billions, of dollars on sophisticated classroom technology, but the effort has been in vain.

What students need most in this era of advancing technology, just as they've always needed is the opportunity to test and apply hands-on, in real time, and in physical relaity those things that they have learned from their learning environment, whether simple or complex. Students must be asked to respond in fact and in form to that which they have learned, and there as always lies the teacher's most important and creative task, that of leading and inspiring their students hands (and hearts) toward work. At Clear Spring School we have been leading the way in this for years.

Today in the wood shop I've been sanding and oiling small boxes. Examples are shown above.

Make, fix and create...

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