On Creativity – how?

I’m passionate about creativity so it doesn’t take much prodding to write about it.

@whatedsaid asked “How could these two videos help us improve student-learning? http://wp.me/p1ZuBL-ai / by@sherrattsam always guaranteed to make me think!”  Both of them encouraged me to write a post so here I am.  I will include the videos here but please do visit the linked post because it offers more things to learn.

My plan here is to express my thoughts on each video briefly and then go into answering Edna’s question.

Time and Focus

In this video, the kids were asked to complete the picture, twice. Once with just 10 seconds, the other with 10 minutes. The time was variable but the focus was constant, i.e. complete the picture.  What if time was constant and focus was variable? For example, keep the 10 seconds rule but say ask first to “complete the picture” and the other time to “draw a picture”.  Both approaches encourage creativity.  Play factors in too and that seemed more encourage for the second opportunity of longer time.  I reckon saying ‘draw a picture’ would give that sense too.  

My 10minutes sketchbook project is very much an experiment in creativity.  I change the variables and see what I come up with. Sometimes I constrain the time, as with the work on the cover.  Often, i change the focus. And often, too, with an element to play.


In this video, Louie Schwartzberg talks about gratitude.  The beauty of nature is all around us.  So is the beauty of man-made things and ultimately of people and our interactions with them.  He encourages us to have a closer look and  be grateful.

Inspiration is everywhere and sometimes we do have to look closer.  Just as important is this standing back and looking at what we have created, perhaps with fresh eyes and thus a deeper appreciation of what he have achieved as individuals and collectively.  Drawing such inspiration is critical to the creative process, an impetus to get the creative juices flowing.

In the classroom

So how can we use the two videos to improve student learning?

  1. Change the creativity variables. Change the constants. Ask the question differently.  It is okay to constrain time, really.  Creating artificial deadlines or time-chunking – is a good strategy for task and time management (read more here)
  2. Make time for play.  This is important, too, when introducing new technology.  Give kids time to ‘shake the sillies out’.
  3. Provide plenty of inspiration.  Point them out if you have to.
  4. Showcase work.  It is good to look at what has been created and share in the joy of having achieved something on one’s own or with others.  With technology, it’s even easier to widen the audience beyond the classroom or school.
  5. Encourage this action-reflection cycle and teach kids about this explicitly.  Creativity involves a combination of being-inspired and actually doing.  Action without reflection and inspiration will eventually burn out.  Reflection and inspiration without action will not lead to anything concrete or improvements.  We need both.

I’m sure more can be drawn from these two videos so please feel free to add your thoughts.

I think that these are good things to consider in Project-Based Learning as well so will add this to my PBL page.

UPDATE (5 Jan 2012)

I think this doodle by Giulia Forsythe captures the sentiment well, with a quote from Jason Zweig: “Creativity is a fragile flower, but perhaps it can be fertilized with systematic doses of serendipity.”


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8 thoughts on “On Creativity – how?

  1. Deb Hogg says:

    Thanks Malyn. Love how you pull together thoughts and ideas and come up with practical ways of using those ideas.
    We’ve noticed a huge improvement in the quality of the TAS projects being produced by Years 7 and 8 this year, and funnily enough this has coincided with sharing photos of previous students’ work and showcasing their products in the public areas of the school! So it appears they are 1. being inspired by the work of their peers, and 2. being challenged by the opportunity to display to an audience!
    Having the opportunity to watch creativity in action everyday? Priceless!

  2. malyn says:

    Thanks Deb. I think John Hattie said that when assigning tasks, give students examples of what it means to succeed. Showcasing previous works certainly provide that. i’m glad you concur.

    You are very lucky to have the opportunity to watch creativity in action everyday.

  3. Clarinda says:

    Very interesting post Malyn. I think the 10 min/10 sec idea is a fantastic example of what can be done given set limits and pushes awareness of possibilities previously not considered.

    I think this quote is amazing – “Action without reflection and inspiration will eventually burn out.” Creativity is an empty vessel without purpose, meaning and audience. And the greater the cultivation of this, the richer the learning. Ah, the possibilities!

    Wonderful post.


  4. Ed says:

    Love the post, Malyn! The question was actually Sam’s on his original post.

    You’re the second artist this week to respond to that video by saying time doesn’t have to be a constraint in itself. Can I mention again how much I love your sketchbook project?!

    The action/reflection cycle is part of the PYP! The diagram goes choose-act-reflect-choose… etc Very valuable.

    Here’s what I plan to do with the first video:
    Ask half the class to ‘complete the picture’ and the other half to ‘complete the picture in the most creative way you can’ with the same time limit (maybe a bit longer than ten seconds!)
    Compare the results.
    Then show the class the actual video and have them discuss it. Maybe ask them to think about what message the creator of the video wants to get across, how effectively this was done and to evaluate the message itself….
    What do you think?
    (Still thinking about the second video and need to hurry up in the race to the end of the school year!!)

    PS Re ‘Make time for play’ See the K-12 online conference schedule here http://t.co/B7BUmg7F

    • malyn says:

      great idea with the activity. It’s certainly a good exercise in terms of developing media literacy as well. You could even ask how they feel about getting different instructions – will one group feel hard done by for getting less time? You could also discuss whether students associate time allocation with quality expectations.

      I’m definitely checking out the K-12 conference. I’ve got a teensy contribution to @gcouros’ keynote.

  5. Catherine says:

    Hi Malyn! I love the idea of play in the classroom for both the students and teacher. Kids have wonderful imaginations and to be able to foster and continue to grow that is something I’d really like to do. Thanks for the post.

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