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Wednesday
Oct032007

Concerns about creativity

mondrian.jpgPiet Mondrian

Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. ISTE NETS 2007

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. Albert Einstein.

I got the chance this past weekend to visit the new(ish) Museum of Modern Art while in New York City. For anyone in search of creativity, the MOMA is probably the place to start. Lots of works by Mondrian, Warhol, PIcasso, the guy who does all the paint dribbles and drips... The LWW and I also saw two Broadway shows, both just oozing with creativity. Ate in Little Italy and had some creative food. (Even better than the Olive Garden here in Mankato, if you can believe that.) The Cloisters up in Ft. Tyron Park had a bunch of medieval creativity inside in its artworks, outside in its gardens, and surrounding it with a Renaissance Festival with many creatively dressed persons. It was a weekend to basically revel in the creativity of others. NYC is just that kind of place on about a thousand levels.

In an interesting response to one of my earlier blog postings about teacher attitudes toward technology, Clay Burell (who writes the Beyond School blog) from his school in Korea wrote:

I want to test the hypothesis that, if teachers discovered their own creativity, based on the strengths of their "multiple intelligences" profiles, by learning to express that creativity through some "digital art" they don't know about with iLife or the read/write web, then my hope/hunch is this: their excitement at unlocking their own creativity will gradually trickle down into their instruction.

Clay's idea is a really interesting one. Can we hook teachers on technology by tapping into their "inner" Stienbeck or Mozart or O'Keefe?

All this started me reflecting a bit about creativity in schools and education and technology and listing a few concerns:

Concern 1: Creativity isn't always about art. I tend to appreciate creative problem-solvers, as much or more, as those folks who are creative in a more "artistic fashion." Or maybe I should extent 'art" to dealing with people and situations in new and effective ways? The creativity I admire most, especially in my staff, is simply figuring out a way of accomplishing a task in a better way. Or dealing effectively with a problem - mechanical or human. I hope we never narrow what constitutes a "creative" endeavor.

Concern 2:  Creativity must be accompanied by craft and discipline. Most of us when we look at a Jackson Pollock (yes, I do know his name), usually think something like, "Geeze, give a) a monkey, b) a little kid, or c) me a can of paint and I can make a painting like that." You'd be wrong. Even abstract artists understand balance and tone and just plain exhibit great craftsmanship/technical skills. The most original written ideas in the world are inaccessible when locked behind faulty grammar, spelling, syntax or organization. GarageBand will not cure a tin ear. Too many folks, kids especially, think that sufficient creativity will overcome a lack of skill or need for discipline or necessity for practice. Creativity unaccompanied by drive, self-discipline or just hard work and practice ain't worth a lot.

Concern 3: The world is not really interested in your art, but that's OK. Real talent is given to a very few. The rest of us sort of plug away, mostly to please ourselves. I had a couple ancient, maiden aunts who painted what even I as child knew were grotesquely odd versions of things like the Mona Lisa or a badly listing landscape or the portrait of a favorite dog - or maybe it was a cat. Some works hanging about their house may even have been paint-by-number kits. But I think they got great pleasure from the creative process. And they didn't insist on making others look at their work or try to sell it. Neither should you.

Concern 4: If we ask students to demonstrate creativity or innovation, we need some tools to determine whether they have done so. Like pornography, I don't think I can define creativity, but I think I know it when I see it. But that won't cut it in the assessment world. As much as I admire ISTE for including creativity as one of their student tech skill standards, I am not sure it is fair to hold students to account for mastering it - if we can't describe what it looks like, provide models, and be able to somewhat objectively determine whether a kid can "do" creative.

To all the creative people out there - keep up the good work! But no, I don't want to read your novel or watch your interpretve dance. Sorry. 

 

Oh, somehow I discovered a really "creative" way to delete the entire contents of my e-mail inbox yesterday, so well, I've yet to recover it. If you are waiting for a response from me about something, you might send me a reminder. Thanks, Doug 

Wednesday
Oct032007

It's called Intellectual Freedom

rant.jpgAn open letter to technology directors who block YouTube, blogs, e-mail sites, and any other web resource not expressly required to be blocked by CIPA (which is pictoral pornography - period).

Dear Sirs:

There is long held belief in libraryland that one one selects a resource on the basis of it having some things of value rather than censor a resource based on it having some parts without value or which might possibly cause offense. In choosing to block YouTube, you are a censor. You violate your staff's and students' intellectual freedom, their rights to view. By arbitratily blocking other sites, you are violating your staff's and students' right to read. You are denying them their rights accorded by the First Amendment.

Let's take your policy to its logical conclusion. Were I, as a tech director, teacher, taxpayer or parent in your district, to ask you to block Wikipedia, Encyclopedia or World Book since each suggests evolution may be a reputable scientific theory, shouldn't you block those sources, despite them also having content of value to students? Should I disagree with the view of the NAACP website, ought you not block that as well? As a good Democrat, I really think most neocon values are pornographic and children shouldn't be exposed to them. Let's only allow students access to sites that espouse the "just say no" theory of birth control and STD prevention.

Or perhaps your district does block at this level.

Blocking Internet sights simply shows professional disrespect -  your values are good, other educators are not.

Smart people like you should know better.  It's better to allow and have a resource challenged, than to block it "just in case."

Do yourself and your students a favor and read up a little on Intellectual Freedom. A good place to start is at ALA's Intellectual Freedom Q&A site. Quite honestly, I don't see how anyone should be able to graduate from college without understanding the First Amendment. But's never too late to get that education one ought to have received back when. (Did you ever think that school is wasted on the young?)

All the best,

Doug

From the Amercian Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom website:

What Is Intellectual Freedom?
Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.

Why Is Intellectual Freedom Important?
Intellectual freedom is the basis for our democratic system. We expect our people to be self-governors. But to do so responsibly, our citizenry must be well-informed. Libraries provide the ideas and information, in a variety of formats, to allow people to inform themselves.

Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas.

Who Attempts Censorship?
In most instances, a censor is a sincerely concerned individual who believes that censorship can improve society, protect children, and restore what the censor sees as lost moral values. But under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, each of us has the right to read, view, listen to, and disseminate constitutionally protected ideas, even if a censor finds those ideas offensive.

Tuesday
Oct022007

Give me a reason

boyreader.jpgMost English teachers will tell you, "Kids just don't read like they used to." I disagree. Recently my high school treated students who passed all classes with a trip to Stonebriar Centre. Upon arrival, a large group flocked straight to Barnes & Noble, where they stayed until the bus ride home. On the bus, they exchanged books and discussed favorite authors. If high school kids are willing to dish out $17 on books at the mall, then why isn't a room the size of a basketball gym full of books free of charge appealing to them?

from Give me a reason to go to the library by student Andrea Drusch in the Dallas News, Saturday, September 29, 2007. (Thanks to Mary Ludwick for sharing this on LM_Net.)


School library media specialists, are we listening or simply going into a defensive/reactionary mode?