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Thursday, 30 October 2014

What is creativity? Beautiful insight by young students

What amazing insight children have.  Their views are simple, clear yet insightful, deep.
Their answers are spontaneous and show considered and deliberated responses.

I asked:
* What do you think creativity is?
* What is a creative thinker?
*What does creativity look like?
* What inspires you to come up with original, creative ideas?
* When are you most creative?

Here is a video blending some of their responses together.

Here are some of the quotes from the 8 - 10 year olds.

"Creativity is when you feel something in your mind that just wants to come alive." (8yr old)

"Expressing your feelings. Putting your mind on a piece of paper and like tryin gto be original and trying to do new things." (8 yr. old)

"Thinking of something original.  The first of something that is thought". (8yr old)

"Creativity is unique original ideas." (10yr. old)

"Creativity can be anything that you want it to be.  It can be cooking.  It can be art." (8 yr. old)

"Creativity can burst out in all different ways.  It's what's inside you.  You can express yourself in a whole lot of different ways." (11 yr. old).

"You do different things.  You don't do boring things." (10 yr old)

"Creativity isn't just about art.  It's about using your imagination." (11 yr. old)

"Creativity to me is an unthinkable bundle of colours and paints." (11 yr. old)

"You make or do something in your mind, in a different and creative way." (12 yr. old)

"In my stories I think really hard and I image it in my brain and I try and show what I see in my brain. (8 yr. old)

"I feel my most creative when I've watched something and I get ideas in my mind and then combine them to make a painting ... or something like that." (8 yr. old).

"I'm most creative when it's quiet and I'm just thinking about what I'm going to do.  Sometimes I just draw and I just feel relaxed.  When we're in class and we have to do a project and present it in different ways I have a lot of creative ideas to share my thoughts with others." (8 yr. old)

What do you think creativity is?

Friday, 13 June 2014

Of Shadows … A Poem About Being Creative

Of Shadows 

A Poem About Being

By Daniel Dunlevie

Her craft is always on her mind.
Doodling, sketching, shaping, evolving, moving, transforming.
To develop as an expression, an outlet.
A voice to be heard with the listener obscure, irrelevant, meaningless.
They’re her interactions with the world, controlling the nature of life.
The expectations of pressure, the importance of outsiders. 
How they see her.  How she sees them.
Glaring, judging, comparing, smirking, whispering, yelling.
But those feelings disperse when she’s in flow.
They float away to reform when she looks at what others have done.
Glaring images.  Judging impacts.  Comparing techniques.  Smirking at the cheek.  Whispering at beauty.  Yelling with inspiration.
All of these have redefined who she is. Who she is becoming. Who she will be.
What she has gone through brings meaning.  She wants to change a lot but at the same time, nothing.

Power has been imbalanced throughout her life - in the hands of her parents, her friends, her peers, her teachers, her strangers.
Never in her hands.
But there has been a shift.  A change.  A belief that empowers her with direction, passion, purpose. 
An ability exists to articulate her mistrust, her pains, her contests, her courage, her happiness, her power.
This outlet has revealed a creative being inside. A being with strength.  A being that has lain dormant.  A being that needs to be free of societal shackles.  What is imposed can now be flicked off. 
She is the one who chooses.  She is the one who brings meaning.  She is the one who is powerful.
When she is immersed in her craft, she is in a world controlled.
Her senses are heightening to every sensation.  All movement innately create. 
It comes from within.  She feels the fire.  The journey is where she is shaped.   

She chooses the night. The darkness offers seclusion.  
Feelings of safety and danger are entwined in uncertainty.  Reflective of times that she felt obscured and confused.
She chooses her setting carefully.  It reflects the synergy of her life. There for everyone to see, yet it’s only seen by those who seek it.  Those who aren’t tussling over power.  
Participants in a world that can be harsh, ugly, and intimidating, yet remain soft, beautiful, and tender.
What she has found is her being.  What she has found is her worth.

Dan - Why the poem???

Great question, Dan. Well, I was thinking that as teachers we can act with a "I'm an expert"  mentality where we direct and tell students what to do. But how often do we actually practice what we preach?

We tell kids goal setting is important - do teachers?
We tell kids to write a creative story - do teachers?
We tell kids to use thinking routines - do teachers?
We tell kids to sing - do teachers?
We tell kids to act - do teachers?
And so on.... 

But do we, as teachers, actually know what we're on about?
Are we just guided by teacher books?  Curriculum framework? Last years planner?

So I decided to go through the process. When was the last time you went through the whole process of something you teach?

The experience:

I walked around the culturally rich city of Melbourne to be inspired by what I have been inquiring into - Creativity.  In particular, the concepts of "Being CreativityDoing CreativityKnowing Creativity.", which I have written about in my last three blog posts.

I wanted to truely see creativity in the world around me. Strolling around with my headphones in I switched into viewing the world as an observer. Beholding the interactions of people, the movement on the street,  the natural and artificial environment around me, the smells, the sounds, the feelings. Everything around me I found interesting.
I started to really look at life.

In fact, I entered a frame of mind that Keri Smith writes about in "How to be an explorer of the world".

I took lots of pictures. Zoomed in. Framed. Landscaped. Angled. From high, from low - everything in-between.

The photo:

For the photo above I was just near the corner of Brunswick St and Alexandra Av in Fitzroy when I saw this beautiful piece of street art and it got me thinking, "Who is it for?" "Why did they do it?" "Why that sport?" "What was their inspiration?" "How did they feel whilst doing it?" And simply and most importantly "Who is the person who created this? "

So this became the inspiration for my poem titled, "Of Shadows - A Poem About Being Creative".

I would love some feedback.

I have written another two that I will post soon about 'Doing Creativity' and 'Knowing Creativity'.


Friday, 30 May 2014

Knowing Creativity - Part 3/3 of Creativity: Being. Doing. Knowing.

Being, Doing, Knowing

By Daniel Dunlevie

Part 3

How do we know what creativity is?  Is it when somebody comes up with an idea and expresses this idea through a chosen medium?  Anyone can do this.  The value of what is created is objective.  Its value is perceived by the maker and viewer.  The creator had an idea, planned it out, bought the materials and then stuck it all together with an abundance of nails and glue.  The end result might be an eyesore to some or an interesting take on sculpture for others.  But fundamentally it is their creation.  They had the knowledge that they could build it and applied this knowledge to go through the certain steps of creation.  I would argue that it doesn't matter whether the creator likes what they created or not, little own what others opinions are.  If one knows that they are creating then they are creative.  But if creativity remains around just this proposition then there are impacts on the creator.  

In the words of Pablo Picasso, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away”.  

Without an outlet of expression the creator might conjure up feelings of self-loathing, self-doubt and feel a lack of purpose in their creations and consequentially life.  This would impact on their intrinsic motivation, self-belief and consequentially their work.  This may have both negative and positive outcomes to the end product.  Propositional knowledge is where the conflicts of creation lie.  This is the knowledge that pushes the boundaries and understandings of life.  This is the level where interaction occurs with its audience.  It is the influence of its impact.  The emotions, thoughts and ideas generated from propositional knowledge may produce work that is successfully expressive of the emotions and provide satisfaction for the creator and or it could leave the creator in a consistent state of disappointment.  But as Friedrich Neizsche said, “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star”.  

However, it is the understanding of personal knowledge that has a more structural impact on how the end product looks.  The personal knowledge that the creator has of the world, whether it be opinions (informed or uninformed), interactions (I push this and it moves) or ideas (expressed or internalised) will have a profound impact on what is produced.  Having personal knowledge of creativity allows the creator to have experienced creation before.  There is some propositional knowledge in this. For example, if the creator has seen a sculpture, but can’t remember a single thing about it, then they probably wouldn't claim to know sculptures.  The fact is that knowing such a thing requires many propositions about them.  What is important that applying personal knowledge to creativity involves more than knowledge of propositions.  No matter how much one may tell the creator about sculpture, no matter how many facts they learn about it, if they haven’t seen a sculpture then they can’t be said to know about sculptures in the sense required for personal knowledge.  

Personal knowledge thus seems to involve coming to know a certain number of propositions in a particular way.  But for one to grow in their creative journey through life one must experience creativity personally.  It could be argued that the more one does this, the richer the knowledge-base to create.  This could be generated through experiences in an array of environments such as walking through an art gallery, swimming in the ocean, driving down a highway or hiking through a jungle.  It could also be social interactions between different people, perhaps from different cultures and the sharing of thoughts and ideas or interactions with nature or space.  These are interactions between the external world and the individual.   These can be used to motivate and inspire the creator. 

Procedural knowledge permits the creator to make the final product.  With procedural knowledge the creator can articulate their ideas in ways that rely on certain learnt skills and abilities.  Knowledge of this is formed through direct sensory experiences of creation.  There are many learning experiences they could go through such as having the elements of a creative process explained, be guided through the procedures step-by-step, have certain aspects demonstrated, explore others work, collaborate and discuss ideas and thinking with others, and then practice to hone their skills. 

However, herein lies the tragic shortcomings of schools in developing students as creative beings.  Teachers focus too much on developing student’s procedural knowledge and do not spend as much time on having students develop their personal knowledge or their propositional knowledge through meaningful learning experiences.  This is where teachers are deficient in their understanding of the creative process and inhibits their ability to create creative beings.  To develop student’s creative knowledge they need to be actively captivated in their learning.  Creativity is not about being passive.  A teacher must provide a stimulating learning environment that a student can actively interact with.  A teacher must also challenge the children’s perceived understandings and develop their critical thinking.  Children need to be empowered to be brave and take risks.  Be nurtured to trust their instincts.  Given the freedom of choice.  If students are not given the opportunity to develop this belief, then their knowledge and creative abilities will be constrained, restrained, diminished, extinguished.  Teachers must hand back the learning to their students.  In doing this a teacher will help their students become more creative.  

Let the child be. Let the child do. Let the child know.

Be creativity.
Do creativity.
Know creativity.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Doing Creativity - Part 2/3 of Creativity: Being. Doing. Knowing.


Being, Doing, Knowing

By Daniel Dunlevie

Part 2


“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor.  It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.  Don’t cheat us of your contribution.  Give us what you’ve got.” (Pressfield, 2002, p.165).

Being creative isn’t an easy task.  Some days ideas come in abundance.   There are times when you’re in a state-of-mind to just let your mind wonder.  There are days that you are inspired and motivated to get things done.  These days you make your thoughts and ideas come into fruition.  They flow. Without action thinking creatively just remains an energised and stimulated moment.  This step of “doing” creativity is paramount to current educational discourse about creativity.  But doing creative work is difficult because it requires us to think in a specific way and work with an ambiguous ending in sight.  It can be messy.  There is failure.  Creativity needs time to grow.  There needs to be analysis, evaluation, reflection and adjustment which can mean frequent changes and a consumption of time.  Perseverance is a key element during this process.  Writer Stephen King (2000) articulates this, “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position (p.7).”  

It is undeniable that some people are more creatively talented than others.  To these people the complexity of the creative thinking process is cohesive and intelligible and they can generate these thoughts into action that is practical and logical.  Those that don’t have a natural talent for such things have to work hard to develop it.  This is a vital note in the discourse of creativity.  People can become more creative with work.  Even those people with talent will be limited in their output if they lack motivation to act, direction to aim for, drive to continue, inspiration to grow or resilience to handle external and internal feedback.  Motivation is extremely important in creativity because it drives an individual to persist at problem solving.  Creative potential is not fulfilled unless “the individual (and his or her social support) is motivated to do so, and creative solutions are not found unless the individual is motivated to apply his or her skills” (Runco, 2005, p. 609). 

The Australian Curriculum incorporates creative and critical thinking in the curriculum identifying that it involves “Generating and applying new ideas in specific contexts, seeking existing situations in a new way, identifying alternative explanations, and seeing or making new links that generate a positive outcome. This includes combining parts to form something original, sifting and refining ideas to discover possibilities, constructing theories and objects, and acting on intuition. The products of creative endeavour can involve complex representations and images, investigations and performances, digital and computer-generated output, or occur as virtual reality” (ACARA, 2012).  This dismisses a misconception that creativity is just about the process of coming up with new ideas, as some ideas might be completely crazy and impractical.  Therefore an essential start of the creative process is the evaluation of its worth.  

Doing creativity entails making, playing and exploring.  There are many models that compartmentalise the process of creative thinking.  These were established for different purposes and have different outcomes in mind.  Plsek (1997) has attempted one such model which identifies three common themes that stream through all of the models.  The first link is that the creative process involves purposeful analysis, imaginative idea generation and critical evaluation.  This implies the notion that the total creative process is a balance of imagination and analysis.  In comparing models over different periods of time Plsek notes that older models tend to imply that creative ideas results from subconscious processes, largely outside the control of the think.  Modern models tend to imply purposeful generation of new ideas, under the direct control of the thinker.  This reflects the changing paradigms in education and society.  The implication of for education is that teachers in the 21st Century need to ensure that students are given opportunities to consider different ways of understanding and different approaches to thinking. Giving students the opportunity to think critically and creatively about human problems, issues and challenges, allowing students to develop critical thinking skills that will allow them to reconceptualise and develop new ways of thinking. Students need to have discussions and ethical and moral debates in small groups and with the whole class to explore, think to seek and find the answer to those big questions. Teachers must give students the opportunity to explore many of the fundamental questions that often cannot be seen or proven.  Pselk’s comparison reflects how mindsets have changed from fixed to growth mindsets.

Finally, Plsek identifies that the total creative process requires a drive to action and the implementation of ideas.  We do more than simply imagine new things, we must work to make them concrete realities. During this time of creation a creative being can enter a ‘transfixed’ space where time blurs into the background and ideas just intrinsically surge to realisation.  Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi (2002) refers to this experience as being “in flow”.  This describes the way that the experience seamlessly unfolds from moment to moment, and one enters a subjective state.  Poet Mark Strand articulates this cognitive process when he is experiencing flow.  “You’re right in the work, you lose your sense of time, you’re completely enraptured, you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing…there’s no future or past, it’s just an extended present in which you’re making meaning”. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997, p.121).  During this state of flow the individual operates at full capacity.  Entering flow depends on establishing a balance between perceived action capacities and perceived action opportunity.  The balance is intrinsically balanced.  

Csikszentmihalyi (2007) identifies that the dimensions of the flow experience are:

  • ·      Attention is focused on a limited stimulus field.  There is full concentration, complete involvement. 
  • ·      Action and awareness merge.
  • ·      There is freedom from worry about failure.
  • ·      Self-consciousness disappears.
  • ·      The sense of time becomes distorted.
  • ·      The experience becomes its own reward.

Teachers may feel confronted and challenged by developing their pedagogy and promoting creativity in the classroom.  It should be seen as a fun and exciting challenge and supported by a whole school approach.  Further to what previously mentioned, teachers may need to have mentors, outside professionals such as actors and artists model creative teaching and have administrators creating a feeling of ‘safety’ to experiment with the concept and be creative.  To change a school’s culture to be one that harnesses and celebrates creativity takes the entire school community.  When students can see that creativity is valued by adults then they will thrive.  As Sternberg (2003) states. “The most powerful way for teachers to develop creativity is to model creativity.  Children develop creativity not when they are told to, but when they are shown. (p.126)”  


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2012). Critical and Creative Thinking. ACARA, 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2013

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding Flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York: Basic Books

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2007). Flow and Education. Retrieved 22 June 2013

Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Wolfe, R. (2005). ‘Conceptions and research approaches to creativity: Implications of a system perspective approach to creativity in education’. In K.Heller, F. Mönks, R. Sternberg, & R. Subotnik (Eds.), International handbook of giftedness and talent, 81-93. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science Ltd.

Nakamura, J. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. ‘The Concept of Flow’. In Snyder, C.R. & Lopez, S.J. (2002). Handbook of positive psychology. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press
Pslek, P. (1997) "Working Paper: Creativity Models." Working Paper: Creativity Models. Directed Creativity. Retrieved 20 June 2013. .

Pressfield, S. (2002). The War of Art: Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles. New York: Black Irish Entertainment

Runco, M.A. (2005). Motivation, competence, and creativity. In Elliot, A. and Dweck, C. (Eds.),  Handbook of competence and motivation, 609-623. New York: Guilford Press.

Stephen King, S. (2000).  On Writing. NY: Pocket Books.

Sternburg, R. (2003).  ‘The Development of Creativity as a Decision-Making Process’. In Sawyer, R.K., John-Steiner, V. Moran, S. Sternburg, R., Feldman, D. Nakamura, J. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (Eds.) (2003). Creativity and Development.  New York: Oxford University Press.