creativity as aerobic excercise for the brain #creativeHE

Creativeity takes courage blue badge

I was going to retire the Friday blog for the summer. Focus on the PhD I said. Do less social media and get back to my ‘…ologies’. But it’s been a #creativeHE week which deserves a blog. So here it is.

The #creativeHE  community is open for anyone interested in the subject of creativity in education. What is it? How does it manifest? In which ways can creative thought and action be embedded into curriculums and practice?

The week began with a request to offer an example of creativity.  But there is a question to be answered. What does ‘creativity’ mean?

creativity definition

Accepted interpretations include difference, innovation and originality. To step outside of the box of conventional thinking, be unrestrained by social expectations, demonstrate uniqueness of thought and action.  Lots to work with there! But then it gets more complex because where do our measures of diversity come from? How is difference defined? Who controls what is considered to be creative action in the first place? This rather beautifully segues into my Phd where I’m building a conceptual framework which seeks to explain how our attitudes and behaviours are influenced.

alert

PhD alert!!!  The teaching on my first MA was influenced by postmodernism’s insistence on the social construction of reality. At the time I found PM a useful explanation for diversity and difference. The limitations of language and power of cultural expectations fitted well with my research into parameters of gender. But there was philosophical trouble ahead.

Postmodernism was an intellectual attack on meta theory without seeming to realise the irony of  presenting an alternative meta-meta theory. Yet PM was all about irony so maybe it didn’t mind how within its single narrative around the validity of truth and knowledge (i.e. there wasn’t any) it carried within itself the weapons of its mass destruction.

Postmodernism was followed by critical realism. This conceded social structures were callable of generating discourse. Their causal effects had a realist quality but our knowledge of them would be forever fallible. Traditional conceptions of structure and agency were inseparable. They were linked in an invisible mesh of convention, expectation and belief. PhD alert end.

It’s a ‘good enough’ theory. We’re limited by social constraints and change requires an understanding of the forces which are preventing it from happening in the first place. You can apply this to creativity. The ability to solve problems through unique and innovative actions is partly what makes us human but we’re also capable of being creative for self-satisfaction. This is the internal creative drive seeking expression. However, we live within a society which is full of social conditioning and this includes behavioural expectations. It leaves two options. We offer creative action within culturally acceptable limits or apply the creative impulse to blow these limits apart. The ability to think so far outside the box it breaks all known rules seems to suggest we may be positioned in different places on a scale of creative thinking.

brain on a treadmill

The #creativeHE community is full of examples not only of creative thinking but of thinking about being creative. It’s good to sometimes step outside our boxes, practice some critical reflection and ask questions about the environments we live and work in. Taking part in something that exercises our creative muscles is as good for the brain as aerobic activity is for the heart. What we need to do is ask why we don’t all do a little bit more of it. Look out for #creativeHE the next time around!

brain on treadmill image from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201602/more-proof-aerobic-exercise-can-make-your-brain-bigger 
Alert image from https://pixabay.com/en/exclamation-mark-point-triangle-24144/ 

The #creativeHE team is led by Norman Jackson and Chrissie Nerantzi. It began as an extension of a PgCert/MA unit at MMU and sits within P2pU

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Lurking as valid learning

Lurking can be a valid form of learning. During @openeducationweek the #creativeHE team have been busy. As well as facilitate the #creativeHE google community I wanted to do all the activities. I took the ideas away to ponder on but that was as far as it went. I’m not sure if I’m a creative failure but I learned a lot from just being there.

Creativity uses all the senses. It can be cognitive like poetry and music or kinaesthetic like making and modelling. The C Word is often associated with producing something tangible. #creativeHE used jam jars and shared activities like ‘paperclips and rubber bands’. A simple idea with great results and non-messy so minimal clearing up was required afterwards!

A conversation developed around the role of messiness as an integral part of the creative process. Many crafts are messy occupations. Painting, potting, sculpting, cookery all involve splashes and spills. I don’t like mess and hate tidying up. One of the lessons I learned this week was how goal orientated I am. The concept of play with a specific output is fine. I’d be the first to advocate a different approach, to experiment and try something different – but am less likely to take on a free style activity myself.

Digital creativity is ok though!  For example Pic-collage  (App) and Photo-collage (Desktop) make it easy to be creative with photographs. Bitstrips is a cartoon strip maker  with enough options to make a recognisable avatar for yourself. Toondoo and Pixton also offer free cartoon constructions. It’s worth adding Powtoon to the list as well. I could play for hours with these (theory v practice!) and have recently been exploring the concept of Lego Serious Play, in particular the transfer of problem solving from head to hands. Thinking with your fingers is a lateral approach which appeals to me. I need to learn more.

I’ve taken a lot from the #creativeHE week. As a facilitator I read and commented but as a creative activity maker I lurked. The definition of lurk is two-fold; to wait, hidden, in order to ambush or as a ‘profitable stratagem’. With regard to online discussion forums, the word has developed negative connotations yet lurking can be a valuable on many levels.

The invisibility of online participation is something to accept as a valid learning mechanism, like the quiet student at the back of the class who produces 1st class assignments. Not everyone is comfortable with being centre stage. It’s no different online, where the permanence of digital contributions can be a deterrent stronger than the advantages of taking time to craft a thoughtful and meaningful response. Like face to face seminars, participation needs to be encouraged but reluctance can be justified.

Like the late laggard in Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Model, the lurker has been unfairly maligned. Learning should not be defined by presence and there may be many good reasons motivating lurking and laggarding behaviours.

It may be  better to be there quietly or arrive late than not be involved at all.

inviting digital digits to dance #creativeHE #openeducationwk

Postr for Open Education Week

This week was #Digifest16. It looked good but my view was remote. Following online just isn’t the same as being there. We learn more from absence than presence. Like my OU experience. Two years and four virtual modules for the MA in Open and Distance Learning, then a final year with modules from Psychology and Social Science. Taught through traditional OU methods. A courier arrived with a box of books, papers and a CD. That was it! You had to book a telephone call with a tutor  while peer contact was non-existent. It was a pivotal year. I learned more about the affordances of online learning by not having digital collaboration than I did with it!

Next week (7-11 March) is #openeducationweek. #creativeHE are taking part and this is an invitation to a digital digits dance.   #creativeHE facilitators

The course is open to anyone involved in teaching or supporting learning in higher education. Using games, models and stories, #creativeHE represents a unique CPD journey, one which fosters curiosity and discovery modes of learning, alongside critical reflection on the value of imaginative approaches to teaching practice.

If open education or the concept of play feels strange, this in itself is a useful reason for taking part. Putting ourselves into the unknown is a reminder of how students feel when asked to face unfamiliar teaching methods or concepts. Comfortable in our spaces, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be confronted with something different. Strange situations offer useful learning curves. If you’ve always wanted to try an open educational course but haven’t been sure where to begin, take a look at #creativeHE. The friendly atmosphere offers a great starting point and engaging in a range of different online environments can intrinsically enhance your digital ways of working.

Creativeity takes courage blue badge

Check out this Slideshare presentation http://www.slideshare.net/chrissi/creativehe-is-back-for-5-days-during-open-education-week-join-us

The Course site (including recommended reading). Sections used during Open Education Week starti with OEW. https://courses.p2pu.org/en/courses/2615/creativity-for-learning-in-higher-education/

The Course Community (where all the online communications take place) https://plus.google.com/communities/110898703741307769041

Plan for the Week

  • 7th March: Creativity in HE
  • 8th March: Play and games
  • 9th March: Using story
  • 10th March: Learning through making
  • 11th March: Celebrating open creativity

Drop by, dip in and out, try something new, tweet using #creativeHE and let us know your thoughts on creativity in learning and teaching.

The course is supported by CREATIVE ACADEMIC @academiccreator a social enterprise aimed at encouraging creativity in higher education teaching and learning. Additional resources can be found on this website http://www.creativeacademic.uk/