Creativity in a cookie
Dec 5th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Isn’t it the truth? Sometimes, there’s just no need to write more . . .  It was a nice meal with family too!

The Festival of Lights
Nov 27th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

TMA Lighthouses, a set on Flickr.

My daughters and I built a lighthouse for The Maritime Aquarium’s Festival of Lights. It is amazing to see the talents of the local artists. The lights are on display until mid January. If you go, vote for #15!  Feel free to click on the link above to view the set and see the full pictures!

Now to some thoughts on education, creativity, and expertise .  .  .

I’ve heard of the lighthouse competition before, and thought it might be an exciting project for my daughters and I to participate.  We love the water and lighthouses and the kids have been to the aquarium. (One of the perks of the contest was a year-long membership to the aquarium.) There were several pictures of “past winners” both on the aquarium’s website and in the promotional flyer.   We elected to build one of our favorites: the Black Rock Lighthouse on Fayerweather Island in Bridgeport.  I decided we would do a scale model and we were pretty precise with measurements, angles, colors, dimensions, and the lot.  It was a challenge to decide what materials to use, how to best represent the light, and how to incorporate all of the subtle details.  We did make a few minor changes, mainly to the top portion of the light due to our inability to make certain objects with the confines of the materials we used.  Nonetheless, if you look at a picture and look at our model, it looks extremely similar. Our model is clean, representative, and majestic.

What I learned, from looking at the other models, is that ours doesn’t really tell a story.  Some of the other lights have an underlying story in their model – a scene, an imaginary sense of wonder, a connection to the viewer.  I can make a connection to those lights on an emotional level – I am drawn in to explore the story and examine its details.  This speaks to the idea of creativity and expertise.  With experience, levels of expertise develop more, and, in turn, increase the creative potential of the artist (or insert other domain here). My children and I have already begun brainstorming ideas for “next year.”  No doubt, our experience building our own model coupled with opportunities  to view other high quality work has inspired us, but also provided us with relevant background knowledge that will make us better producers on the next go-around.

We can’t underestimate the importance of giving students opportunities to produce – whether it be writing, science, music, or whatever . . . When they are producers, they increase their creative potential because they add to their experience and that expertise makes their work more innovative, higher quality, and more imaginative.

Cut the Rope and Angry Birds
Oct 22nd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

This past week in my graduate leadership class, we were discussing problem solving and used the app “Cut the Rope” to spark the discussion. Later during the class, I showed a video of Dan Meyer presenting at TEDxNYED. Ironically, Dan just made a post on his blog, dy/dan about the app “Angry Birds” and approaches to problem solving. Read it here:

Five Lessons On Teaching From Angry Birds That Have Nothing Whatsoever To Do With Parabolas

Easter Egg Art
Apr 23rd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

My daughter Anna took great pride to show me the following egg she had hand-decorated for Easter.  I love how creativity can manifest in children if they are just given the resources necessary to pursue and produce.

What students think about STEM and 21st Century Skills
Apr 12th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I recently observed a high school student focus group for the development of an instrument that will examine college and career readiness in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I was amazed (disappointed) at some of the comments the students made. But they are worth examining BECAUSE we need to be change agents! This is part of the call of STEM educators to improve knowledge, skills, and certainly dispositions.

When I think of engineering I think of a train

Research is looking stuff up on the Internet or print materials (not conducting investigations)

There is no creativity in science

Creativity can’t be taught

Problem solving can’t be taught

from lavc.edu

Get Engaged 2.0
Jan 26th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

My team at the Center for 21st Century Skills at Education Connection recently produced a video about student engagement, with a “Did You Know?” feel.  Check it out and share it with your friends, family, and colleagues!

Peanuts . . .
Jan 2nd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

As I continue to explore concepts of expertise, I look at my front yard for evidence. About 12 years ago, I made 4 Peanuts characters that I put out on my lawn at Christmas. Over the years, two were stolen, and about 5 years ago, I made the cutouts for two new ones (Peppermint Patty, Snoopy (#2)). With the throws of children and graduate school, I never painted them until this December. Now they stand on the yard – a testament to “paint by number.” (Even if I traced the number system from a Google image). I am dazzled by those who create original art and recognize that one of the most important characteristics of the development of that expertise is the ability to regularly practice the craft.

from the front yard . . .

The Changing Role of Education
Nov 17th, 2010 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I recently came across a great YouTube video featuring Ken Robinson speaking about education and I find it thought provoking.  Although I think there are a few generalizations that are a bit over the top – his connections are very important.  His talk was overlayed with an interesting video “sketch.”  My favorite part is at time index: 7:42 where he talks about creativity.  I always wonder how much authority teachers are willing to “give up” to allow students to be truly independent and self-directed.  I certainly see strong examples in problem solving, but I think education, in general, is still weak in creativity.  As I continue to struggle with an operational definition for creativity, I like what Ken has to say about creativity:

I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value.

I am much more comfortable with my problem finding definition, which of course is a little longer:

Problem finding is the creative ability to define or identify a problem. The process involves consideration of alternative views or definitions of a problem that are generated and selected for further consideration. Problem finding requires individuals to set objectives, define purposes, decide what is interesting, and ultimately decide what they want to study.

If you have a little over 10 minutes, it’s well worth the watch:

Success with a camping air mattress
Aug 13th, 2010 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I recently spend part of a week at Raystown Lakecamping with my family.  My children enjoyed spending time with their cousins cliff jumping, swimming, and boating.  We did “tent it,” which always leads to some levels of uncomfort.  In order to mitigate the lack of sleeping amenities we did the traditional thing:  use an air mattress. 

 I don’t know about you, but I’ve had traditionally bad experiences with air mattresses.  Night one is usually fine, but then there seems to be a problem with air leaking, which just progressively gets worse.  The mattress gets pumped up at night, starts off firm, but by morning, various body parts are clinging to the hard ground.  Ugg. 

Thinking about this, I realized that temperatures change during the day – at night, when the mattress is full, it is cool, but during the day, the heat build up. In an air mattress, that means the molecular motion of the confined air increases, causing additional inflation and higher pressure during the day.  This then puts additional stress on the matress, which potentially creates microleaks. 

So I thought that if the pressure was relieved, this would prevent the additional pressure from building up.  Sure enough, with a partial deflation, I went back to the mattress in the afternoon to find that it felt fully inflated.  This, of course, died down during early evening, when I re-pumped the mattress before bed. 

Interesting  . . .

When I evaluate my thinking, I see this as a problem solving situation – which in my past definitions is a logical/analytical process.  However, I am forced to think that there was some creativity involved.  So I am at this cognitive dissonance trying to decide whether (or how) problem solving is a creative process.  I have traditionally distinguished problem finding and problem solving as different cognitive processes – but there may be some blurring that I need to think about more.

Sliced bread shows how creativity can be situated
May 30th, 2010 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

from blog.beliefnet.com

A recent .news story (which, honestly, I heard from a secondary source and haven’t yet found the primary, yet . .. ) talks about the budget crisis in New York State.  Recently a Corrections Officer came up with a potential way to save a large amount of money.

Replace prisoners’ hot dog and hamburger rolls with sliced bread. (I don’t know if it’s white bread or whole wheat!:)  In any event, this apparent switch will save the state of New York over $3,000,000 per year!  Unbelievable.

I am looking forward to heading to the supermarket to verify the cost-savings and how many hot dogs and hamburgers we are talking about . . .

from plimoth.org

However, this gets me to thinking about teaching, learning, and creativity.  We certainly have a problem finding/problem solving situation here.  But I think what I see that is important is that it is situated.  If the person wasn’t working in the prison environment, this would have probably been a non-existent thought.  It was necessary and critical that this individual had practical, real experience with the environment so he developed an expertise to recognize that there was a potential money-saving option.

I think there is a lot here that I am not yet seeing, but wanted to be sure to document this idea for further thought and analysis.

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