This is interesting from Alex Moore (BBC)
Whether you’re a student, an accountant or a professional buffoon, the fact that ‘creativity’ isn’t necessarily the top line of your day-job description doesn’t make it any less important.
It filters into so many aspects of our lives, from decorating our houses, to buying inventive presents, to making excuses for your dad jokes; it’s about ‘thinking outside of the box’ (although that’s now such a cliché, that maybe it’s best to ignore any form of box. In fact, yes, replace the box with a blancmange. Think outside of that).
I’m a creative person. I can say that pretty confidently. I'm regularly thinking outside of the blancmange. I’ve been a Creative Director for several years. I’ve created movies, TV series, shorts, games, adverts, and posters. I’ve even worked in teams called ‘Creative’, where people will say “run it by Creative”, “this is Creative’s job” and “why are Creative asleep?”
In some offices, ‘Creative’ is a real place, though hard to believe. Like Andorra. Yet being creative is one of those skills that most people will go around telling you can’t be taught. “You’ve either got it or you haven’t,” they’ll say. Like a singing voice. Or herpes.
So many things we convince ourselves of fall into this camp, and even though we could quite easily take some lessons or watch a YouTube video on the subject, we just settle on these shortcomings as ‘a thing’.
We’ll regularly tell other people “I’m rubbish with figures”, “I can’t draw”, “I can’t read maps”, “I’m rubbish at looking for things” (that last one is mine. It’s debilitating.) “I’m not creative” is definitely on that list. Yes, undoubtedly some people are just born naturally creative, like Mozart, or Colonel Sanders. But for the vast majority of us, creativity can be learned. There’s a technique to it that makes everything easier when you know how, like golf, cooking, plumbing, yoga, divorce, sex tapes etc.
So, here’s my magnificent seven of key creative tekkers.
1) Identify the Problem
Being creative is very rarely just about sitting down and thinking of a good idea. Nearly every good idea, ever, from the wheel to Facebook, to those jackets where the hood rolls up and disappears into the collar, are all a product of a problem that was identified. So to kick off being more creative, figure out exactly what problem you’re trying to solve. Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, says that he refuses to do something just to be different, and that every design begins with the reason.
2) Refine the Brief
Create a brief for yourself, then refine it. If you’re decorating a flat, creating a TV programme, branding a cereal box, or writing an article about how to be more creative… ask loads of questions. Most importantly ‘what are we trying to do?’ and ‘why are we trying to do it?’
Write an initial aim, then list all the reasons why. Take your time over it. Then use those answers to rewrite the brief with more detail when you know more about what you’re trying to solve. Suddenly the aim, ‘to write an article about how to be more creative’, becomes ‘to create a memorable list of techniques, for busy and curious readers, to solve any creative problem that can be applied effectively in everyday life’. Once you know exactly what you’re trying to do and why, that immediately narrows the odds of finding the creative solution. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Take the specific bit you want, and boil that. (This is a metaphor. Ideally don’t waste your time boiling any amount of ocean.)
3) Consume Everything
Devour creativity, of any kind, around the clock. One key way to be more creative is to have a head full of other people’s creative work to draw on. This can be literally anything. But don’t just look at it. Consume! Museums, cinema, galleries, Ted talks, magazine articles, ads, shop signs, billboards, friend’s living rooms, restaurant menus, fun haircuts, lighting in bars, amusing dog names, hotel foyers, old people’s formal dress sense, the list is honestly endless.
Get your mind swimming with ways that other people have been creative before you start. I’ve seen fashion collections equally inspired by the 1950s, as have been inspired by snowflakes. Anything can inspire an idea, and the more you know of what’s come before, the more you have to reference. Architect and living legend Frank Gehry, the man responsible for creating astonishing buildings all over the world like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, claims that his use of corrugated steel, chain link fencing, unpainted plywood and other everyday materials was partly inspired by spending Saturday mornings at his grandfather's hardware store as a child. For me, I often start a brainstorm by showing 'Creatives' loads of others people’s relevant work. We call it ‘stimulus’. It’s sort of ‘stealing’ but in a nice way. Doing an ‘homage’ is also stealing, but in French.
4) Tear it Down to Build it Up
To build a creative idea, start by taking a good one apart. If you can figure out why something is good and why people like it, that’s a formula you can use. What was the creator trying to do when they first sold these ideas to someone? When I see an ad or a TV series I always picture the 'Creative' behind it trying to pitch that concept to the client or TV commissioner. Why did they say yes and sign a big cheque? This is the creative equivalent to ‘showing your workings out’ in a maths exam. In effect, you’re simply figuring out the secret of someone else’s success.
My personal hero, Star Wars: The Force Awakens director and all-round creative genius-man, JJ Abrams, is not a fan of this way of working, however. He claims, “You can always deconstruct, as companies do… this is what they did, and this is why they did it. But they are already starting from a place of artifice, and duplication. As opposed to a place or authenticity.” He’s right, of course, but if you’re short on time, not too proud to shun authenticity and not JJ Abrams, it’s a useful technique.
5) Forced Relationships
Most creative problems have been solved before. So how can you create something new when so much has been done? Take two different ways that a problem was solved before, and smash them together. Frozen meets The Hunger Games? is how The Huntsman: Winter’s War was born. Then flopped (I’m not saying this technique works every time).
6) A Big Walk and a Big Soundtrack
Going for a walk, run, ungainly shuffle, whatever, outside will get you some much-needed fresh air and a clearer head. Something happens when you open a blank word document with a blinking cursor, whether you’re in an office or lounge, your brain will drain of all inspiration and you will sit opening and closing your mouth like a professional sea bass.
In fact, you’ll be far more likely to fancy tackling a big clean of your flat, than taking on your creative endeavour. So put your creative problem in the front of your mind and get out. Put some music on - specifically music that doesn’t usually make it onto any of your usual playlists - and let the creative big bang start happening in your tiny mind.
7) Better Together
There’s a reason why ad-agency creatives come in pairs. In addition to being great for an impromptu game of chess, bat and ball, or that weird game of catch with a tennis ball and a Velcro disc, the most important reason is the power of the group collective. Hearing criticism for your ideas will initially make you want to disband your newly formed band due to musical differences, but it is important ultimately, and you’ll more quickly figure out solutions to any flaws your idea may have.
My career has always relied on me being creative. It’s definitely one of my best skills after being a really good look alike for myself, and having the largest collection of my own wardrobe of anyone on the planet, so I’ll stop sharing right there in case I put myself out of a job.
JJ Abrams says that, “Every active creation is a leap of faith, and the fun of it is that… it may work,” while Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love is adamant that if you “show up for your part of the process” then there’s a chance “a divine cock-eyed genius assigned to your case might decide to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed for just one moment through your efforts.”
Whatever it is that happens, have confidence in your ideas, always try to think of several more than you think you need to as first ideas are usually a bit predictable, and if you meet someone who is supposedly a ‘Creative’, be aware that they are utterly terrified of being found out that their super-power is entirely subjective. Happy creating.
You wouldn’t get it from my blog sometimes, but I am an advocate of technology for many things especially for education. I believe in essence the potential and rewards technology can give us, and if used correctly, controlling it - and not letting it control us… are we all fed up as I am about this app and that app wanting to know my location or ‘we’ want to download your contacts… shock horror indeed… more updates, log on with your Facebook password… you have another reminder… notifications!!! Mmm I could go on… So it is about control. And after reading an insightful article in the Standard last night, yep the Standard, its about balance also. Balancing your digital and your physical. Not sure what I mean? Read the article by Rohan Silva.
The real world is fighting back against being eaten by technology
Evening Standard 10.1015
“Software is eating the world.” So said the ultra-influential Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen back in 2011, describing the way that digital technologies were disrupting old industries, and threatening just about everything on the high street, from travel agents to bank branches.
At the time, this seemed like a reasonable prediction about how things would continue. Surely online shopping would continue to erode physical retail, e-books would inevitably replace traditional texts, and more and more of our entertainment would come from the digital world rather than the real one?
Today, this forecast is starting to seem a little shaky. If you look at shopping, many of the top e-commerce brands, such as Warby Parker and Moo.com, are opening physical stores. Only last week, the granddaddy of all online retailers, Amazon.com, announced the opening of its first bookstore in Seattle, with a view to opening more around the world.
Or take music. A recent PWC report showed that revenues from live concerts and gigs are growing fast, as people clamour to watch their favourite musicians in the flesh, rather than digitally on smartphones or laptops.
So what’s going on?
For starters, there’s a growing understanding that physical objects have unique qualities that the digital world doesn’t.
In the world of cinema, top directors like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan are increasingly making movies using old-school film, rather than on digital cameras, because they think analogue recordings are more textured and complex than anything computer code can currently capture.
The same is true with books. Recent studies suggest that we retain information much better when reading from a physical text than a screen, partly because we’re more focused, and also because it’s a more multi-sensory experience.
So if you’re reading this in print, you may well remember more about it than if you’re scanning it on your iPad. (In the case of this particular article, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s a good thing or not.)
Another reason the real-world is fighting back is that we increasingly crave places where we can escape from the incessant chatter and distraction of technology. This isn’t about being a Luddite — it’s a recognition that being constantly plugged into the internet isn’t all that good for us.
Finally, in an age where we can tap a button and access just about any information or content on demand, there’s a countervailing desire for the experiential and the one-off. This helps explain why live music continues to grow in popularity, and also the massive appeal of the likes of Secret Cinema, immersive experiences you simply couldn’t have in the digital realm.
Back in 2006, David Cameron attacked Gordon Brown for being an analogue politician in a digital age. This was a clever line at the time but today the smartest entrepreneurs are returning to the physical world to build brands and engage consumers in new ways.
Technology isn’t going away, but we’re learning to strike a better balance between the digital and the analogue. In other words, software might still be eating the world, but the physical is biting back, hard. That can only be a good thing for all of us.
Having just spent two days last week at our respective freshers fairs (on two campuses) it was interesting to gather information from our new, and some older students regarding their general use and thoughts of technology.
I was mainly there to introduce our new students to our Clued Up website highlighting of course the areas of Digital Identity and Digital Study Skills. The site is an informative one and gives students in-depth information regarding their own digital footprint and potential apps and websites that could enhance their studies.
Many students were buzzing with tales and informative insights into what and how they use social media applications. Having information and large icon images surrounding my ‘stall’ it fired off many interesting conversations.
However one student was far from impressed. In the crowd before me I picked up her scepticism as she frantically shock her head. “Am I not convincing you of its usefulness?” I enquired. It’s not that she said – I just don’t like apps – you set them up and you get buzzes and dings and notifications I don’t understand… hated it – so deleted it!
As this point she started a trend and I then realised the ‘mob’ in front mostly began to agree with her. And in truth I did a little also. If you do not have a total understanding of the app’s preferences and how to control them, they are indeed a disturbance rather than an aid to learning.
This is what I believe digital literacy needs to overcome. It is not just understanding how an app or site can be beneficial but how to control it and this is proving more difficult as apps and websites become more complicated and connected. How many sites do you register for and are then prompted to put in your Facebook or Twitter details?
Of course I am not just talking about Twitter here its all forms on online communication and how we can or cannot share information.
Are any of us overwhelmed with the amount of information and communication we have to deal with? How can me manage it? I am aware that most of us in the ‘know’ or ‘Clued Up’ can manage this information overload reasonably well. But for those that can’t it can become an added problem to the whole idea of what it is for.
There was a recent article form the BBC by Sean Coughlan (Education correspondent 30th Sept 2015) regarding the rising numbers of stressed students seeking help. Of course there are many factors relating to this such as leaving home for the first time or financial issues, however the article highlighted the following:
Meredith Leston, a student at St Anne's College, Oxford, suffered from anorexia and depression in her first year.
"People talk about 'snapping' and that is what happened to me. I just couldn't take the pressure and the whole new realm of expectations."
She says part of the problem is the ever-present role of social media, fuelling a culture of constant comparison and a sense of inadequacy.
"As well as being a first class student, you have to be a first class person, you have to be performing socially, academically. It's a nightmare. You're constantly on."
The other constant thorn is the expectation to be seen to be having a good time, with social media turning social lives into a place of competition rather than relaxation.
Oh, and if you are wondering what Darth Vader is doing on the stall…. he is recording student comments. The mouth is in fact a camera and students were happy to answer a few questions… see example below:
It's always good to get students talking....
Technology is the way forward for learning and teaching. Or is it?
I am, as you may know a huge advocate of technology for learning and teaching. I am, as you may not know skeptical about how it is used and integrated into our learning and teaching environments.
I have seen cases where technology is over used in certain circumstances and maybe under used in others. It does not help of course that the technology and ideas of integrating it are changing almost on a daily basis. One thing that seems to be more stable is our commitment and desire to tech. The passion to promote our own learning and to pass on our knowledge successfully to others is paramount in the desire of our educational commitment. Technology is just a tool for us to use to enable us to help pass on this knowledge in various ways that may or may not be more suitable to our students. We all know that students prefer more face-to-face contact then screen time, however online study is becoming more personal and now allows students even more control to plan and structure their own learning. Not a bad thing.
It was however refreshing to be part of a project here at London Met to help promote a small number of academic science lectures*. These were to be captured (filmed) for current and future use, as well as hopefully promoting the lecturers in-depth research into their chosen topic and presentation skills. The passion and enthusiasm that radiated from the presenters was resolutely acknowledged and applauded.
As good as the technology is and how it can potentially even more accelerate our learning and teaching it is not able to elude confidence and enthusiasm. This of course comes from our students, our peers and us.
I am not saying getting a tick or a 100% score or a ‘well done’ from an online test doesn’t make you feel good, but it generally stops there. Having been to a great lecture, class or presentation leaves you wanting to find out more. Enthusiasm is infectious. Maybe that’s to do with human contact, sharing and emotion. Sadly my PC/Mac lacks this software.
* Summer Science Lectures at London Met
I was lucky enough to present recently at ALDinHE this year (1st April 2015) our Digital Literacy project at Southampton Solent University. (http://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/epacks/digital-literacies/)
It was well received and I would like to thank everyone present.
The audience at the end asked me a few questions and I hopefully responded with the correct and with any luck productive answers.
However once sat down, the lady to my left mentioned that her IT department do not recommend their students to use cloud based storage. This she said was due to the issue of security. So the use of Dropbox and Google Drive for example it seems are not encouraged at her institution.
I was disappointed that this question was not asked when I was summing up, as I feel this is a crucial element of Digital Literacies and I neglected to pass on this information to my audience. Even though I am an advocate of new technologies and emerging cloud based storage solutions I am also aware of the security issues.
Indeed, Clued Up! Our Digital literacy project is hopefully a balanced resource and highlights in many cases the pros and cons of using the said new technologies.
I was so excited by my own presentation and the fact that it gathered such keen interest from the audience that I promoted the apps and online resources but neglected to mention the cautionary tales that should accompany such a presentation.
When running our workshops and introductory sessions we are always clear to suggest to students that uploading their course work or other important documentation needs careful consideration, as all important and private materials should be backed up on solid devices and kept safe.
We don’t really know if anyone accesses the materials stored in a cloud system or why they might want to but it is clear they can. Students must be aware of this.
So I am grateful to my neighbour at the presentation, who’s name I sadly neglected to obtain for pointing this out. I only wished I’d remembered to include these issues in my presentation, as Digital Literacy is not just about the positive aspects of new technologies but also the pitfalls.
Wow here it is, haven’t done a blog for ages and when I do its an attack…
Learning can be the most difficult thing to do or the easiest. It depends on many factors, high on the list would be, the individual and the subject to be learnt for example, is the individual keen to learn this specific subject, is it being driven into them or is it that the individual is desperate to have the knowledge of a specific subject, yes many factors.
However, for me I feel there is a gap in the education system that slows up the learning process for younger learners. Working in a forward thinking proactive university I can see the current treads and approaches to learning. Also being involved in a variety of external learning groups, professional related bodies and projects hopefully gives me amble knowledge and insight in to how we hope to effect change and learning practices.
Having recently attended the CASS symposium (at LondonMet) and various sessions involving our own CELT colleagues, namely Sandra Sinfield and Tom Burns I feel enriched with the knowledge that we are exploring all areas of interesting and active learning for our students at this university level.
However my recent experience with the secondary school process is the opposite. Some of the schools I have visited have wonderful facilities and up to date technology to support the learning and teaching. However I found most of the students (generally between the ages of 13-16) to be bored and showing a lack of interest in the way the subject was being thrown at them.
However the successful ones, and probably the ones with most home support manage to get through this system relatively unscathed and venture to university where we then have to re-educate our young hopefuls. We then put into place learning activities where students are expected to work on their own, in groups or in pairs, share their work, collaborate and come up with new ideas and concepts instead of just being told what to do. We use their imagination and thought processes to drive some of our concepts of learning and teaching. They become more fulfilled, more productive, more active and more, as a result, ready for work and have what their future employers desire.
Some students I speak to are surprised that I ask them to reinterpret or repurpose an activity or design their own. Having other students to evaluate their work is a concept new to most. However in a primary school this is done on a daily basis, young children say what they think about what they are doing and what others around them are doing – it allows them to express themselves and learn from others around them. This starts them on the way to think critically and eventually a way in which they start to advance their creative thinking, something we so desperately try to promote at our universities.
It’s a shame this seems to be an area we stifle and subdue during the early teenage years at secondary school. Learn on your own, sit an exam on your own etc seems such an out-dated approach. But we do get the boxes ticked and someone in government somewhere can put together an articulated diagram or graph together that can be manipulated to suit their desired statistics.
London Metropolitan University 8th July 2014
I am always amazed and encouraged by the vast number of new projects and initiatives that academic staff and professional service departments here at London Met continue to produce and deliver.
The wide range of presentations and workshops this year as with every year it appears just seems to get better and better. You may think ithis is easy for me to say as I work here and would of course promote all that we do, and indeed this may be the case! However, I am fortunate to be working in a central service, which allows me the benefit of working alongside and with many of these keen and insightful enthusiastic members of staff.
I am in the privileged position to offer support and technical guidance for many of these projects.
Here are just a few of the projects I am fortunate to be involved in:
The Digital Literacy project
Jim Pettiward and Chris O’Reilly
Heroes and Villains (An Academic Honesty and Integrity website)
Thandi Lazarus, Amrit Kaur, Robert Walsha, Anne Foley and Chris O’Reilly
The Take 5 project
Sandra Sinfield, Tom Burns, Claire Bradshaw and Chris O’Reilly
PPT presentation at this point
It is certainly in the day-to-day challenges and intricacies of my work that I am able to see at first hand the enormous enthusiasm and continued support our staff offer to our students, not just in the daily teaching and support but in many other ways, trying to think outside the box and how best we might put new ideas and concepts over to our students. It is something that I have been aware of for many years, and just when you think you have done all you can… you think of something else!!!!
Working as an Educational Technologist based in a central unit I am often asked to be involved in a variety of projects, not just for academic departments or faculties but also other professional service departments.
In most cases there tends to be a different approach to these projects, they are often in the area of informative knowledge sharing or support and guidance.
Certainly in most cases a different approach is required to keep students interest constant and enabling them to absorb the information generally within a first viewing or a one off active participation process, this is generally because unlike online academic activities students tend not to revisit non-academic informative or instructional packages.
This particular project, the “Loan Shark” was lead by our Students Services department hoping to develop a package that would help students understand the dangers and pitfalls of borrowing money from various lenders and individuals.
Being an avid fan of Sir Ken Robinson and his approaches to education I was very much aware of the animations that sometimes accompany his talks. This process is interesting in its own right and one I firmly agree with in regards to exploiting our learning senses. Sensory stimulation on as many levels as possible at the same time reinforces the knowledge intake. Hearing the important phrases or key words supported by a visual helps us retain information.
I also believe that short bursts of learning attacking as many senses as possible is more effective than the old approach of long drawn out lectures. In a strange way I relate it to the now ‘High Intensity Training’ that is highly influencing our physical exercise programs in a big way, the 3 minutes a week exercise that was highlighted by the medical journalist Dr Michael Mosley.
It was with this methodology in mind that I created the following ‘Loan Shark’ visual artefact.
The article below the video from Oxford Brookes University highlights why this approach, like that used in the RSA animate are becoming more popular.
Sensory Stimulation Theory
Traditional sensory stimulation theory has as its basic premise that effective learning occurs when the senses are stimulated (Laird, 1985). Laird quotes research that found that the vast majority of knowledge held by adults (75%) is learned through seeing. Hearing is the next most effective (about 13%) and the other senses - touch, smell and taste account for 12% of what we know. By stimulating the senses, especially the visual sense, learning can be enhanced. However, this theory says that if multi-senses are stimulated, greater learning takes place. Stimulation through the senses is achieved through a greater variety of colours, volume levels, strong statements, facts presented visually, use of a variety of techniques and media.
Lee Dunn, 2000
Students learn well from each other. Peer learning and collaboration is encouraged. When students know what they need to study within their class and for future assessment’s its worth watching and studying them. How they learn and share information in this age of technology can be fascinating and a worthwhile exercise.
Maybe we can take this further, not just focusing on what strategies work for the students, but more importantly what the students struggle with. This will tell us more where we need to focus as educators and maybe how we can take this forward.
However in the mist of this come further surprises, a 13-year-old boy teaching traditional classes at MIT !
We all learn all the time in many different ways.
Follow this article from the BBC:
Whizz kid, 13, teaches technology class to MIT graduates
In less than three years, 13-year-old Quin Etnyre learned to programme electronics, created his own company, and began teaching MIT graduates in his spare time.
Fuelled by a love of electronics and education, Quin developed starter kits to help children dive into the world of electronic programming.
Looking toward the long term, this whizz kid has plans to revolutionise the education system, integrating electronics into everyday classes.
Produced by Charly Jaffe and Tasbeh Herwees; filmed by Travis Peterson; edited by Bill McKenna
For most of us note making is a traditional method and an essential approach to learning. It helps us retain vital information. It enables us to set the pattern for revising, if of course you can structure you note making orderly and effectively. They can be the basis and in some cases the core of your academic essay.
However in this digital age is it still essential to make notes?
Laptops have been hugely integrated into the classroom. Students use their laptops to make notes and then file them away for when they need them. However can we honestly say our students are only making notes, there are so many distractions for them to be drawn to.
Now of course we have a vast array of mobile devices, capable of not just helping students to make notes but can also be used to record the lecture. Is this an advantage?
We can presume all we like and there are numerous statistics out there to enable us to find out more.
But what do the students say? How do they cope with the choices from the dark side?
Listen to what our students here at London Met have to say…
London Met students talking about note making.
Chris O'Reilly is an Educational Technologist and freelance advisor for online educational learning material and development.