Tag Archives: creativity

How Eno Can Jumpstart Your Creativity

Brian Eno is one of the most prolific, creative, and influential artists and producers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Eno began as part of glam rock band, Roxy Music.  After becoming a solo artist, he experimented, grew his craft, and was responsible for founding and growing the ambient music genre. Eno’s prolific influence and impact are in great part due to Eno’s ability to think conceptually, to consistently evolve his creativity, and his willingness to think differently and actualize his wild imaginings.

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Image courtesy of cinetech

Eno was the first to introduce “chance music” to popular audiences; he produced work for greats like U2, Coldplay, and David Bowie; and his work extends beyond music to include art installations, writing, and today’s focus, “Oblique Strategies,” card game he created intended to resolve studio conflicts via randomness.  I learned about Oblique Strategies today and right away started thinking of ways I could integrate this into the classroom, specifically as a part of the creative process in presentations. For teams, Oblique Strategies helps put members outside of the conflict zone, which helps them resolve conflicts.

This image by Flickr user Rusty Sheriff is of an Oblique Strategies card. Seems fitting for sparking presentation-based creativity!

This image by Flickr user Rusty Sheriff is of an Oblique Strategies card. Seems fitting for sparking presentation-based creativity!

For individuals struggling with themselves (or their lizard brain) to choose or develop a topic, Oblique Strategies can help reposition that internal conflict, recharge the creative process, and lead to growth. Oblique Strategies decks are still rare, but lucky for us, there are web versions available. Oblicard.com is a random card generator available free on the web; it contains many of the cards created by Eno and creative partner Peter Schmidt. Next time you face conflict, whether internal or external, try generating a random topic. It could be the spark that jumpstarts creativity nirvana!

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Body of Work: Spring Projects

March marks the beginning of the creative leg of this year’s Body of Work development. I am working on creating assignments for the reboot of Professional Communication and Presentation online, designing the course calendar, and planning lessons. The launch is in April and I cannot wait!

In addition, I am working on a new deck that will debut in March. The subject of this deck is content development and is based on my content development series from 2013. Below is a preview of the deck. I am working on blending photography and iconography, and trying to find a balance between the two has been particularly rewarding. Creating consistency and unity when using two types of visual support can be a challenge, but using iconography from the Noun Project has helped me better represent ideas for which I cannot find photographs. I’ve also been creating my own icons for this project and drawing out ideas for icons I cannot find and must create.

Design elements; Network designed by Brennan Novak from The Noun Project, Brain designed by Linda Yuki Nakanishi from The Noun Project, Earth by  NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Design elements; Network designed by Brennan Novak from The Noun Project, Brain designed by Linda Yuki Nakanishi from The Noun Project, Earth by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

In choosing a color scheme, I wanted to blend the calm productivity and creativity-generating blue with some vibrancy and positivity. To achieve that, I chose both orange and yellow-toned gold as my contrast color. Gold also represents wisdom and knowledge and the sharing of these ideas with others. In choosing typefaces for the project, I’d initially used District Pro Thin by Garage Fonts alone. But, since this is the only weight of that font available for use  and it’s important for me to create some type contrast, I am balancing out the lightness and sleekness of District Pro Thin with Intro by FontFabric. I love the geometric simplicity and impact of this typeface. It looks particularly good with a small bit of text and a large image behind.

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This is the current title slide; I’d love to keep working to find something with even more visual pop

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This is my favorite slide so far. I am using it to represent that one idea that is a game changer in the creative process, the idea that can change the world.

Finally, in April, I plan on creating my first “slidedoc” using Nancy Duarte’s new infoproduct, Slidedocs. I created a course structure document to inform others of the changes PCP is undergoing. However, the document is extremely text-heavy and dense. Most readers are unsure what to look at first, which is of course not what I am going for. So, I am going to use the principles learned in Slidedocs to recreate the document in Keynote. I will then use this document to train instructors on how to teach the new PCP.

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Great Questions Spark Innovation

This week, Alex Rister and I met with a colleague and former student, David Morillo. During our meeting, David, who is an Online Admissions Training Team Leader at Full Sail University and an integral part of leadership training at our institution, led me through an exercise designed to help me isolate my hierarchically based value system. During that exercise, I shuffled through cards with words like “Faith,” “Family,” “Accomplishment,” and “Wealth” on them. After sorting, resorting, and resorting again, I landed on my top two values: “Fairness” and “Creativity/Innovation.” I cannot really pin point the source of my adamant belief in fairness as a guiding principle in life, but when asked why I chose creativity and innovation over other values like “Change” or “Knowledge”, I realized that for me, innovation leads to growth, increased knowledge, and wisdom. My drive to choose paths in life that help further foster creativity leads to growth in these other areas. One way I teach by innovation is to constantly ask my students questions and encourage them to come up with questions of their own. Author and business journalist, Warren Berger recently wrote the book (A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas) on questions as a tool for innovation. More than just asking questions, it’s important to ask the right questions as a path to innovation. In this book and in this INC. article by Leigh Buchanan, Berger describes what makes a great question, what sorts of questions don’t get asked, and how to motivate others to ask questions. Three takeaways from this article I can apply to my own body of work and the work of my students are:

1. A great question is challenging and ambitious

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Great questions force the speaker and listener to content with an idea, make sense of it, and find a solution (or myriad of solutions) to the proposed problem at hand. A PCP Reboot question to consider here is: What if we actualize persuasion by asking students to learn to sell their professional stories?

2. Leaders’ questions help create a culture of inquiry

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Oftentimes as a teacher, I don’t have an answer to a proposed question. I simply want to see where a question takes us. Students can then learn that sometimes the best questions have no immediate or firm answer.

3. A great answer takes time

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I’ve worked on answering the big question for my course–how do we truly reveal the power and importance of a presentation in an accelerated asynchronous medium–for five years. Each time I think I’ve found the answer, a new facet of the question reveals itself that I must contend with, iterate around, and work to solve.

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TED talk of the day: Jacob Barnett says think, don’t learn

Jacob Barnett is a speaker, budding mathematician, and physicist; he is also 14 years old and was diagnosed with ADD and autism at a young age. After years of special education classes and failed attempts to “correct” Jacob’s inability to learn, his parents took him out of school and allowed him to think (not just learn). Jacob believes it was the freeing of his consciousness from the bonds of traditional education that enabled him to finally think and innovate. Further, he supposes that some of our greatest thinkers (Newton, Einstein) began to really think only when they put aside learning. Now, this may not work for most of us, who don’t have the innate genius and can thrive and think once the constructs of learning are in place. However, I am fascinated by the idea that learning happens not when we are forced to exist within the constraints of lesson plans and diagnoses but when we are freed from the bonds of learning and begin thinking and tapping into our creativity. As I work on the next post in my content development series, developing a presentation’s big idea, it’s good food for thought.

Under what conditions do you stop learning and start thinking? What gets your creativity moving?

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Design in digital education

So, part of being a teacher, at least a good one, is a healthy bit of complaining. I don’t mean complaining about course loads or workplace politics or noisy cube neighbors. I complain about the disconnect between the online learner and the online teacher; I complain about the pervasive shift away from teachers who are creative problem-solvers towards teachers who are mere task masters, trapped and demoralized by a system that focuses much more on results than it does on an enriching learning experience for students. I’ve referred to Ken Robinson’s “Bring on the Learning Revolution” (once to my own detriment and at the expense of my “reputation”) in the conversations I have with superteachers. Although his first TED talk “Schools Kill Creativity” is definitely the more popular of his two takes on the state of education, it’s in his second talk that he brings up the idea of fast food education, a one size fits all assembly line model of educating the masses, that like one too many cheeseburgers, deteriorates and destroys the quality of the educated, while at the same time reinforcing the idea that teachers are merely there to dole out grades, to check off on work completed without criticism.

I spent several hours last night networking with a fellow superteacher, who feels shackled and constrained by his school’s insistence on checklists. He teaches art to elementary schools students and actually has to warn his students that he is going to teach differently and act differently when an administrator stops by to ensure items are checked off. He is thinking of moving on to something else. He loves education and working with kids, but feels education has been coopted by other interests and concerns.

I believe this disconnect is most prevalent in the online environment. Although this not entirely absent in the traditional classroom context, in a physical classroom, the teacher’s role is more clearly defined (even if it is just task master) and the student has a clearer sense of what the process of being educated requires (active participation, immersion in course concepts, thorough study, analysis, discussion, revision, and self-reflection). Recently, our department has been working ways to make online feedback more dynamic. We’ve begun using Jing to record audio feedback to student work. I listened in to many of my colleagues recording their feedback and I was definitely pleased by the enthusiasm and dynamism this approach engenders. I can only imagine what it would be like as a student to receive verbal feedback from a teacher, to hear a teacher’s sense of encouragement and willingness to help.

As I perused design-thinking.alltop.com for some inspiration today for another post on photography, I ran across this article from The Design Thinking Network on the place of design in digital education. Adopting design-centered approach, meaning drives each intentional decision, and each decision made is meant to creatively solve another pedagogical challenge in both the live the virtual classroom, has enabled me to tweak my class to the needs of my students as opposed to stick with a routine/pattern/structure that works best for me. Keith Hampson asserts that design is even more important in the online learning environment than it is in the physical classroom because the mediums being used but that most online learning systems fail to take design into account when creating content and software. The online experience is a design-based experience. Every day we are bombarded with both good and bad design. Consider how many pinterest boards you visit each day. How many websites you Stumble Upon, and how many blog, magazine, and news articles you read. Hampson sees this as an opportunity to use design in a design-saturated environment. Similarly, the Design Thinking for Educators organization is committed to bringing the design process into the classroom. If you haven’t checked out this amazing resource for 21st century conceptual approaches to education, you are missing out. Thanks to Alex Rister for the share!

I truly believe design-centered thinking (problem solving, ideation, troubleshooting, radical ideas) can save education. What do you think? What will help move education in the right direction?

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