Brain Research, Creativity, Inspiration

Portaging Into the Wilderness of Creativity and THUNKS

A friend of mine is reading a book.  She sent me a quote from the foreword.  It is brilliant.  I decided when I started this blog that I would try to illustrate my quotes with my own photographs (another passion) and with that in mind, I did laugh when I read the quote!  Here it is:

      (For the record, the photo is an intricate light fixture in a tiny burger restaurant in Tokyo near the train station that we went to after a long day in the city).

The title of the book is called, Dancing About Architecture: A Little Book About Creativity and it is by Phil Beadle.  I knew nothing of the book or the author until a few hours ago and I am now hoping to read this book very soon!  What I did read was a fabulous articleby Ian Gilbert on the topic and the book and its author.  And that article made me want to read the book even more.  Why?  Because I am hopeful that it will help fuel further ideas that are currently zipping around my own head for ways to build, structure, plan for and create ‘creativity’ within my own classroom.  I have read a lot of the ‘why’ about educational reform.  I have bought in.  I have signed up.  I’m committed.  Now what?  I am hopeful that this book will spark my own creative process.  Why do I think this book might do that?  Here are a few words about the book and it’s author that have me excited:

Phil isn’t creative to make the world a nicer place. He’s creative because sometimes the world sucks and you need to give it a kick to make it suck less…In this little book, Phil’s first for the Independent Thinking Series, you will find many, many creative ideas to cut out and keep for your classroom or staff training session.  Some ideas are quite straightforward. Some need the leap of faith that by asking different questions you will get different answers. Not always better but genuinely not what you expected. But giving you ideas is only part of what Phil – and the rest of Independent Thinking – is about. The name is the clue. What is more important is that you start to come up with your own ideas. This is where this little book can really help you. Yes, some of your ideas might fail.  Live with it. Creativity and failure are bedfellows, Look at Jonathon Ross. On the other hand, they might succeed. Catastrophically, to borrow a phrase from the White House. Whatever happens, your world will start on that journey to upside down and you can screech to a halt in your grave with the universe well and truly battered. – Ian Gilbert

Sounds great, right? I hope so!  Having posted about creativity quite a lot in this blog already (such as here, here and here) I was equally engaged by Gilbert’s take on how creativity ‘works’. He recounts a five step plan by a man named James Webb Young that was published in a book in 1939.  On the value of the first step (gathering raw material), Gilbert has the following to say:

Part of the first step that we often overlook, however, is the need to feed our brains with all sorts of ‘raw material’ and not just the sort most related to our work. If all you do, as an educator, is read education books then you will never be very creative. You will never succeed in doing what Steve Jobs, the creative genius behind Apple (amongst other things) calls making a ‘dent in the universe’. Genuine creativity needs a collision of ideas, something that will never happen if all your thoughts travel in the same direction. Arthur Koestler in his seminal book on creativity, The Act of Creation, talks about ‘bisociation’. An idea travels in one direction and then suddenly is broadsided by another travelling in a different one. It is used in humour all the time. What’s blue and white and climbs trees? A fridge in a denim jacket. That sort of thing.

I read this and I loved it. It reminded me of the comment left on a previous post recently:

I say ‘get out there’.  Yes, engage in PD within your own like-minded group of educators, but mix it up a bit too.  Be creative!  Make a ruckus! (my new favorite Seth Godin line). A couple of months ago I added a few different sources into my Twitter feed, which  up until now, was almost exclusively teachers.  It is now teachers, authors, thinker, curators, artists and the like thrown in and the new ideas that in turn are reflected in my teaching have been brilliant.

But back to the practical aspect of creativity: where can you start sparking creativity in your classroom? Here’s something you can start with: THUNKS. Part of the Independent Thinking toolkit (registration is quick and free), THUNKS have been described as “thought hand grenades” and are designed to get kids thinking by posing a question with no right or wrong answer. Check out a sample of Thunks, buy the Book of Thunks, or look for more at the Thunks website.

  1. Is there more future or past?
  2. Is black a colour?
  3. If I switch the lights off does the wall change colour?
  4. Can you cast a shadow into a dark room?
  5. In a dark room what does a mirror reflect?
  6. Can you touch the wind?
  7. Can you touch a rainbow?
  8. Is a broken down car parked?
  9. Is there more happiness or sadness in the world?
  10. Can you feel happy and sad at the same time?
  11. If I read a comic in a shop without paying for it is that stealing?
  12. If I swap your pen for one exactly the same without telling you is that stealing?
  13. If I pick up your pen by mistake and put it in my bag is it stealing?
  14. If you ask me if I have your pen and I say no because I don’t think I have, is that lying?
  15. If we borrow every single book from a library is it still a library?
  16. If we move the entire school and everything and everybody in it to Africa would it still be the same school?
  17. If we took the school building and moved it to the other side of town but left the people and things exactly where they were where would the school be?
  18. Does lined paper weigh more than blank paper?
  19. Is it ever OK to cheat?
  20. Was Theseus a cheat in the labyrinth?
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3 thoughts on “Portaging Into the Wilderness of Creativity and THUNKS”

  1. Thanks for your great perspective and the quote. Love making a ruckus as it is the lightning strike before the first sounds of thunder that awakens us and grabs our attention- making us search the skies for next strike and in doing so changes our perspective.

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