Wednesday, December 22, 2010


One idea that has stuck with me is when Robinson talked about how the languages we learn affect the way we think. Many times, the variances in language are born out of the environment in which the people live as illustrated by Robinson's example of the many variances of the word "snow" in the Eskimo language, versus the typical two or three in most other languages. Language is central to our experience of being human. The language I speak influence the way I think, the way I see the world, the way I live my life and make decisions.
If different languages spark different pathways of thinking and creating, then can we conclude that children who are exposed to a variety of languages early in life have more creative connections than those who are not?
Language is not static, but dynamic, changing. As our environment changes, as technology evolves, so does the language we develop. How does this effect individual/collective creativity?
As a music educator, language is essential in conveying musical expression. Whether vocal or instrumental, the nuances of the instrument used is guided by a host of linguistic cues from our musical language. Are the things that I focus on in musical expression different than those of an educator in another culture because our languages are different? I'm guessing this is probably true.
There's so much that can be tied to our language and the creativity that flows from it. This would probably make a good thesis topic!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reflection- Out of Our Minds....

This book was a fabulous read for a music teacher! I so often find myself feeling sorry (for myself) and doing too much complaining about grad classes that 'have nothing to do with what I teach'... However, over the past couple of years, I have managed to get over that little issue as I get more and more into 21st century skills, technology integration in the classroom, and continue in my own learning. I found myself saying [amost outloud sometimes] "Yes! That is so true! Why doesn't everyone do that?"

I found most of my interest in the book covered the reasons why... in creativity. As Robinson states, "Why is it essential to promote creativity? Why is it necessary to develop creativity?" I completely agree with the premise that all people possess creative talents and that it doesn't just 'belong' to people who "wear jeans and come in late." Many people just don't know that they do have creative talents or, if they do sense some creativity in themselves, they often do not know how to develop that talent.

Many business leaders have been asked what needs they have in relation to hiring new employees...what do they see as important traits? Businesses are reporting that employees are not able to communicate well, can't work in teams, and they can't think creatively. Our current education system doesn't allow for creativity to be included in 'core' academics. University degrees aren't designed to make people creative. "I bought a bus and it sank."

Robinson discusses that people who don't show academic ability in school are often branded as less able. But, also that some of the most brilliant and successful people in all walks of life--failed in education. "I know teachers, professors, business people, musicians, writers, artists, architects, etc., who failed at school. Many succeeded only after they'd recovered from their education. What about all of those who didn't? A major reason for this waste of ability in education is academicism: the preoccupation with developing certain sorts of academic ability to the exclusion of others, and its confusion with general intelligence. This preoccupation has led to an incalculable waste of human talent and resources."

The 'problem' with that companies want to promote creativity but they're not really sure what it is or who really has it. I found it interesting that Robinson also believes that politicians feel that too much creativity in education is the reason our standards have fallen in the first place. He also states that "creativity is not a separate part of the brain that lights up only in certain people. Creativity is possible in science, technology, business, management, music, in any activity that engages human intelligence. Different people have different creative strengths according to the pattern of their intelligences. Real creativity comes from finding the right medium (being in your element). When people find their medium, they discover their real creative strengths and come into their own. Genuine creativity is not only a matter of letting go but of holding on."

It seems to be a big circle of creativity issues. People in education want to pursue a tougher agenda but feel the pressures of standarized testing from politicians, etc. Politicians say that the pressure they feel comes from businesses... There is common ground, though. Governments put large amounts of money into education and parents hope that education will help their children to find work and become successful. Businesses want people who are literate, who can analyze information, who can come up with ideas of their own, who can communicate clearly with others, who can implement ideas, and who can work well with other people. The businesses want education to fill all these roles and teach these skills to young people. Educators want to provide a balanced education but feel pressured from other, outside, influences. Parents also want education to develop their children's best abilities and help them to be successful and happy.

Education should help each of us find our 'medium', our 'element', so that we can realize our own potentials and develop our creative talents.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reflection Post for Out of Our Minds

Ken Robinson has several themes running through his book.  A main theme from the subtitle is learning to be creative.  Throughout his book, Robinson indicates that schools are not focusing in the right areas to promote the creativity that will be necessary for our students to be productive leaders in the business world of tomorrow. 
Robinson states that our present education system is “dominated by a narrow view of academic education that overlooks the greater part of young people’s intellectual capacities”.  He goes on to say that “In the interests of raising standards, schools and universities are increasingly encased in standard testing regimes that inhibit teachers themselves from promoting creative development.  In a profoundly ironic way, many political initiatives to raise standards in education are making matters worse.”
When I started teaching in 1968, there did not seem to be a lot of direction for what to teach at each level.  I have to admit that it is helpful to have more direction and organized plans for courses of study at each level.  However, I often feel that we have pushed the planning around specific standards too far.  I often feel limited in planning for my students when I know they will need a particular topic that is not written into the standards.  On the other hand when students are not working up-to-speed in a particular area, it is necessary to go back and pick up standards from a lower level.  Since we are required to include our standards in our lesson plans, I am often stretching a concept a lot to make it appear to fit.  I do not enjoy being placed in a position of either stretching the concept of the standard or doing my students a disservice by not providing them with topics they will need.
At the yearly math/science conference in Huron, there is often a panel of university instructors brought together to help the high school teachers understand what our students need to be successful at the university level.  When I have attended these sessions, the university professors have unanimously been very dissatisfied with our high school standards.  They do not feel that the students coming out of our high schools today are as well prepared as they were before so much stress was placed on teaching to the standards.
I agree with Robinson that our stress on teaching so that our students will do well on an academic test is seriously limiting what we could and should be doing for our students.  As Robinson says, “The dominant ideologies of education are now defeating their most urgent purpose:  to develop people who can cope with and contribute to the breathless rate of change in the 21st century – people who are flexible, creative, and have found their talents.”
Robinson argues that our preoccupation with a very limited scope of academics is short-changing many of our students.  Granted, reading, math, and science are important, but so is the ability to communicate effectively in a variety of ways.  The fine arts have been relegated to a poor second-class field in many schools, disservicing many of our young people with wonderful talents in these areas.  If our students of the future are to function well in society, classes such as sociology, psychology, and other areas of the social studies are important.  We are so busy trying to force all of our students into very specific molds, that we are preventing them from developing their own talents and creative powers.
As Robinson says, “Our ideas can enslave or liberate us.”  We need less enslaving and more liberating.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chapter 6 Summary - You Are Not Alone

This chapter summarizes the differences in culture, intelligence, and what these two things have to do with creativity. Robinson is quick to point out that although creativity is often thought of as a personal trait it is not. Creativity stems from culture and grows in different ways according to popular culture of the time.

In order to first understand how culture effects creativity you must first define culture. This chapter gives two definitions. The first is being "cultured" or what society has come to know as a preferred consumer of the fine arts. However for this chapter Robinson uses the second definition of culture which is "..the shared values and patterns of behaviour that characterise different social groups and communities." (pg. 168)

It is true that most people belong to more than one culture group. Each of these groups also has its own values and ways of doing things. These are the ways that a group or culture express their identity and these are the culture groups that bring about creative change.

Robinson goes on to state that the knowledge that we have does not only come from ourselves but rather from others. Those around us effect the way we think and effect the way we create ideas. Because of this network of knowledge much of our knowledge of the world is dependent upon others. For example, I know much about art and can share that knowledge with others. Other teachers in our school are good at teaching other subjects, however when we work together only then does the school become great. Students will need the knowledge from all teachers in the future and therefore each teacher is dependent upon the other to make sure that students leave high school with the skills they need to prosper in the future.

It is with this growth of human knowledge that we are becoming more of a specialist society. This is something that Robinson warns us about. As the rise of the specialist occurs, we no longer have in sight the larger picture and how all this knowledge and creativity connect to each other. We must remember how to engage together our own specialities in order to preserve our different cultures.

This leads to creativity and culture. Robinson states that "We stand on the shoulders of others to see further." (pg. 171) This means that in order for us to be creative we often first must use the creative genius of others to propel us on our own creative path.

Culture drives what is creative in society. When Shakespeare was writing he wrote poetry and plays not novels. It was not until the printing press was created that novels became popular. This is not to say that Shakespeare did not think about writing novels however technology did not allow for these to be mass produced therefore the technology of the time powered what was creative. Robinson gives another example of photography. Prior to photography painting was the main way to capture the present and was thought of as truly an art form, however once photography was invented it became a new way to capture the present. Still the fist photographers mimicked the way oil painting was done. It was the culture of this time that drove this form of creativity. It was not until later that photography was deemed its own art form and a new culture was born.

Culture has also brought together two forms of knowledge that for many years have remained separate. Those are the Sciences and the Arts. Robinson uses the example of two individuals who created a fashion collection titled "Primitive Streak". This show combined the knowledge of a scientist and that of a fashion designer. This show can be seen at this website I recommend visiting it. It is quite fascinating.

Robinson goes on to summarize that culture is ever changing and driving our creative habits accordingly. As time changes new ideas are coming and going. Some ideas even repeat themselves such as feminism. Creativity and culture change is not just a logical process. New ideas take hold when they strike an interest and develop a mood in society. "They appeal to the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, the ghost in the social system, or what Raymond Williams has called the 'stucture of feeling' of a time." (pg 178)

To summarize this chapter one only has to look at the title. "You Are Not Alone" It is the perfect summary. Creativity comes of a network of knowledge and is based upon cultural preferences of the time. These preferences do not always happen quickly. It may take time the road may be rocky. It is with these great changes that we as creative members of society base our creative thoughts and actions, working together, out of our minds.

Monday, November 29, 2010

cars and drawing

drawing and cars

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gustav Mahlers thoughts on Music Expression

Chapter 4: Being Creative

This chapter dealt mainly with the many different misconceptions about creativity. The author suggests that in order to promote creativity, it is essential to understand the main elements/phases of the creative process, which include the following:
1. The importance of the medium.
2. The need to be in control of the medium.
3. The need to play and take risks; and
4. The need for critical judgement.

He also suggests that creative abilities lie within all of us. There aren't certain 'special people' who are known as being more creative than others. This suggests that these people are set apart from the rest of the world by having extraordinary gifts. To some degree, some people do seem to have more natural creativity than others but it doesn't mean that creative people are a special breed of people.

A large misconception is that creativity is reserved only for those who take part in certain types of activities, mainly the arts. This is not true either. The daily work of visual artists, for example, involves much more than "surfing on a constant tide of inspiration". The creative work they do involves a huge amount of practical routine and control of materials and techniques. Anyone can be creative in the work they do. "It is not a specific type of activity but a quality of intelligence."

Free expression is another misconception in the world of creativity. The image the author shares is of children running wild and knocking down furniture; being spontaneous and unihibited than focused and serious. Brainstorming is a very good creative tool, if used properly.

Creativity involves doing something. People cannot be creative in the abstract, but they can be creative in doing something-- math, engineering, writing, music, business, etc. However, creativity is also different than imagination. Creativity begins with imaginative thought, with envisioning new possibilities but continues to go further. "You might be lying motionless on your bed but in a fever of imagination. Private imaginings may have no impact in the public world at all [but] creativity does." Creativity isn't just a mental process. It involves action. A first definition of creativity could be "imaginative processes with outcomes in the public world."

Other factors in the creativity processes include originality, values, perception, imagination, and even language. Different modes of understanding (verbal language versus pictures), symbols (formal symbols mean something) and schematic forms are are used in functional ways to get the world's business done. I found it interesting that if we tried to speak the language we use today in Shakespeare's time, he would only be able to understand on average, five out of nine words in our vocabulary. And- we both speak English!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Knowing Your Mind"-Chapter Three

One of our family friends has been a successful dentist, veterinarian and a lawyer along with being stellar in politics and a superb classical pianist.  Another friend has been outstanding in radio broadcasting.  He also has expertise as a pilot, an engineer, an organist and as a trick rider all in his short 40 years.

I believe our two friends are very intelligent.  I also wonder if more of our circle of friends( myself included)
tried to accomplish as much as these gentlemen, how much more could we command?  "To be or not to be?"
"Intelligence or tapping into intelligence?"

The introduction to chapter three outlines three characteristics of human intelligence that are important in the understanding of creativity.  They are:
*intelligence is multifaceted
*intelligence is interactive and dynamic
*each of us has a different profile of intellectual and creative abilities

Chapter three relates the story of Liz Yarlow, an acclaimed viola player, who was almost totally deaf.  Her situation illustrates the great capacity of the mind to accomplish what seems impossible.  The brain and its workings have long been a mystery.   More discoveries are being made by studying the functions of different regions of the brain plus studies on the electrical processes.

Research has shown that the left hemisphere seems to control logic and scientific reasoning while the right hemisphere is related to beauty, intuition, and spirituality.  all areas of the brain are interconnected and needed for successful results.  It is very important for the brain to have a chance to develop abilities.

Understanding creativity can happen through looking at:
*the variety of human intelligence(multiple intelligence)
*the dynamics of human intelligence(holistic)
*the individual nature of intelligence(idiot savants)

In conclusion, the human mind is our greatest resource for the future and the present.  "All individuals
have a wide range of abilities across different types of intelligence." We, as teachers, must find any way that it takes to help our students "thrive not just survive". 

P.S. If you have time, go to www. and view "Changing Education Through The Arts Program!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chapter 2: The Septic Focus

Septic - this is a term that we generally associate with Poison! Harmful! Infected! Germy! So, I get my mental rubber gloves on, and proceed to explore the chapter.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this chapter. From my vantage point as a music educator, I would read points that Robinson was making and say "Yes! Yes!" (good thing I was home alone!)
This chapter explores "academic ability" and our present-day obsession with it in our educational communities. What IS academic ability? How does it impact my view of myself? Our students' view of themselves? Higher education? Corporate needs? Is this view really relevant now in our constantly-changing world of technology and innovation? Is academic ability the most important "thing" to measure in a child?
"The relationships between education and the world we actually live in are being stretched to breaking point. They need now to be entirely rethought. this process should begin by reframing the abilities we all have, and reassessing the skills and aptitude that are now most needed for personal fulfillment and for economic success." (P. 93)
Robinson begins the chapter by reviewing the tried and true measures of intelligence - IQ testing and academic ability. TV shows such as Mastermind and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire were created on the premise that intelligence can be measured by a person's capacity to remember and recall factual information such as names, dates etc. This is prepositional knowledge. Another form of measuring intelligence is illustrated by the testing used by Mensa - Logico-deductive reasoning or in other words logical analysis...working out the principles of a sequence and how it will progress.
There is a general belief that each of us is born with a fixed intellectual capacity, and that that capacity can be measured with a pencil/paper type of testing. Not only that, but the results of this testing is a predictor of performance later in life. IQ testing has been the foundation for the selection of different styles and levels of education and has been referred to in conclusions made association IQ scores with racial and ethnic differences. As powerful as these tests have been in determining our childrens' futures, "there is no general agreement on exactly what IQ tests measure, nor on how whatever it is they do measure relates to general intelligence." (p. 63)
As our world society has evolved, so have our paradigms that we operate in. The most notable shift occurred at the time of the Renaissance. It was at this time that two main themes emerged - individual experience and the power of reason. I really enjoyed reading about Descartes and his quest for understanding. In the end, he concluded that really, all that he knew for sure was that he was thinking about the problems! "I think, therefore I am". The hallmark of a paradigm, according to Robinson, is the approach to science change a paradigm is to replace one tradition with another.
Robinson spends some time outlining the history of the British educational system, which influenced of course the rest of Europe as well as our own system here in the US. Some of the history was familiar to me (grammar schools, the influence of the Church), but a lot was not. I learned about the beginnings of schola publica (public schools) and how their assumed superiority led to the division of the educational system at that time. I'd never heard of the eleven-plus system. Children were divided according to their different abilities and attitudes. What is interesting to me is how that was accomplished! Only a certain percentage of students were expected to pass the test. If a higher number passed, then the passing level was raised so that the actual numbers would remain the same! This test was strictly based on academic ability, centering on verbal and mathematical reasoning.
Has our focus on academic ability been all bad? No, there have been benefits. From that focus we have made extraordinary advances in medicine, industrial technologies, communication and travel, and our understanding of the physical universe. But the price we have paid, according to Robinson, comes in three main areas: the division of the arts and sciences, the division of intellect and emotions, and the narrowing of intelligence.
I found great value for my personal teaching style when Robinson talked about linearity. Building ideas one upon another, moving through a sequence of study, patterns, cause and effect. We hear these terms over and over as educators. Even in my music instruction, a subject area which begs for creativity, I find myself sometimes stuck in this thinking. What about spontaneous discovery?!?! How often do I allow my students to discover for themselves a particular concept? Do I take the time? Do I feel that I need to "get through" a curriculum in a prescribed amount of time?
Academic ability is not the end-all of education. It is only part of our educational challenge. As educators we need to be mindful of the social, communal, personal aspects of our students. We need to "see through the academic illusion to their real abilities, and to how these different elements of human capacity enhance rather than detract from each other." (p. 93)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Summary of Introduction & Chapter 1 – Bursting the Banks – from Out of Our Minds – Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson

In his introduction, Ken Robinson stresses the importance of creativity, not just in the arts, but for all businesses and organizations if they are to be competitive in the global community.  He states that everyone has creative capabilities, but we often don’t recognize them or make an effort to develop them.
There are strategies that businesses can use to stimulate creativity among its employees, but that is only a short-term fix.  The long-term solution needs to come from our educational system. 
Robinson states, “This is now dominated by a narrow view of academic education that overlooks the greater part of young people’s intellectual capacities…  In the interests of raising standards, schools and universities are increasingly encased in standard testing regimes that inhibit teachers themselves from promoting creative development.  In a profoundly ironic way, many political initiatives to raise standards in education are making matters worse.”
“The Bursting Banks” seems to refer to the explosion of changes in our lives due to the exponentially expanding technology.  Robinson views change as being the normal progression of civilization, but he impresses that changes are now occurring at an incredible rate, and we need to develop new skills to survive and flourish in this new culture.  He does not believe that our strongly academic approach to education is allowing our youth to develop the skills they will need for a globally competitive job market.
Robinson urges schools to spend much more time on basic communication and problem solving skills.  Our students need to be imaginative, innovative, flexible, adaptable, self-confident, and capable of working well in teams.  Schools need to stress vocational relevance and promote transferable skills.
Robinson believes, “ The dominate ideologies of education are now defeating their most urgent purpose: to develop people who can cope with and contribute to the breathless rate of change in the 21st century – people who are flexible, creative and have found their talents.”  He concludes that just trying to strengthen the same academic programs that we have taught for generations will not solve the problem.  We need to develop different, cross-disciplinary approaches to education.

Book Cover

This orchestra appears to be"out of its mind" as they play their instruments.
Maybe they just were not all in the same place.  It helps when we are all on the same page.
I imagine from the title of our book that this illustration is a good match.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book cover

Look what Van Gogh added to his insanity, he must be out of his mind.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mary Ellen's Book Cover

This newest bridge in Sao Paulo, Bridge Octavio Frias de Oliveira, will be the largest curved suspension bridge in the world.  I chose this as the cover for my book “Out of Our Minds – Learning to be Creative” because this appears to be a very creative bridge design, and I imagine a lot of people thought the designers were out of their minds as the bridge started to take shape.  Because they were willing to step out of the box of “normal” bridge design, Sao Paulo is graced with a fantastic, beautiful bridge which will improve the flow of traffic during rush hour.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I chose this image for my book cover because it really made me think if what it depicts would be musically possible. It is possible to do, but would it be aesthetically pleasing and could a robot be creative in conducting an orchestra? The robot as the 'leader' made me think about the lack of skills that are related to 'right brain' activity in some people today. I am really looking forward to this book!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Anne's book cover

I chose this image for our book selection because it's a little crazy and yet invites me to imagine the way my brain works, the information it seeks and stores, and the way in which different sections connect with each other.

Welcome to Literature Circle Five!

Your Super Summarizer schedule is as follows:

Section One--Due October 28, Mary Grayot
Section Two--Due November 4, Anne Lyon
Section Three--Due November 11, Lynn Mason
Section Four--Due November 18, Laura Snow
Section Five--Due December 2, Befekadu (Buff) Tewahade
Section Six--Due December 9, TBA