Posts tagged creativity

Posted 4 months ago

The Future of Higher Education is in Our Intention and Actions Today

The Future of Higher Education is in Our Intention and Actions Today

Copyright 2012 - courtesy of Creative Images.

Copyright 2012 – courtesy of Creative Images.

Part I (an opening)

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” Four Quartets

In systems that exhibit little to no change, prognostication is rather straightforward: a…

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Posted 1 year ago
Using Screencasting for Teaching, by Kirk McDermidUsing Screencasting for Teaching, by Kirk McDermid

by Dr. Kirk McDermid, Department of Philosophy…View Post

Using Screencasting for Teaching, by Kirk McDermid

Using Screencasting for Teaching, by Kirk McDermid by Dr. Kirk McDermid, Department of Philosophy…

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Posted 2 years ago

The Power of Simple Words

The Power of Simple Words – Reblog

I gravitate towards all things writing, especially the how and why. A rather excellent blog, Brain Pickings, often has very insightful posts on a broad range of topics, mainly creativity, arts and science, and words of wisdom for the masters who came before us.  The truth is, you never know what they will send you, but it is always superbly written and insightful. Plus, they always have the coolest images breaking up their text, and they know how to direct your attention from words to images and back to words in a seamless style. They aren’t afraid to mix up the modalities, and it makes for good reading/viewing/listening.

This morning I had a chance to read their latest newsletter and the feature article, The Happiness of Pursuit: What Science and Philosophy Can Teach Us About the Holy Grail of Existence, by Maria Popova. You can read the piece for yourself, but what stuck with me most was the last line:

“When fishing for happiness, catch and release.” – Shimon Edelman. Very simple, right? When we find happiness, we should let everyone else around us experience it as well. I strongly recommend you read this entire post – it’s just a lovely way to start the day.

Nestled cozily within this brilliant morning read was this little gem:

This brief snippet led to viewing this, a short 2-minute video on using simple words and knowing your audience:

For writing teachers, I think having students view this brief video is a great way to introduce rhetoric, and styles of writing. Often students confuse big words with good writing or sound argument. This video, which integrates contemporary culture to makes its point- “Ambulate this direction!”- is short but meaningful: we don’t always have to “sound smart” in order to leave a huge impression. Sometimes the simplest of phrases can capture national attention.

Posted 2 years ago

Is your child an Innovator?


“There is no competitive advantage today to knowing more than the person sitting next to you.” — Tony Wagner

By C. M. Rubin with Harry Rubin and Michael Freeborn

How do you train an Innovator?

We are born curious. We are born with imagination. The first challenge is to ensure that these very human qualities are not schooled out of us, as Sir Ken Robinson says. Beyond that, in my research, I identified five essential education and parenting practices that develop young people’s capacities to innovate:

1. Learning to work collaboratively (innovation is a team sport!).

2. Learning to understand problems from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

3. Learning to take risks and learn from mistakes.

4. Focusing on creating versus consuming.

5. Reinforcing the intrinsic motivations of play, passion, and purpose versus the extrinsic carrots and sticks.

Posted 3 years ago

Being a Student

by Steve Markoff

Assistant Professor,

Accounting, Law, and Taxation

Montclair State University

As a good friend of mine (and excellent teacher) Joe Hoyle of University of Richmond says, “If you are always the king, it is very difficult to understand what it is like to be a peasant.”  Sometimes it is oh so easy for us to forget what it’s like to be sitting in one of those chairs facing the front of the room, listening to someone spout knowledge about a topic that he or she has been an expert in for perhaps 30 years or more.  Being in charge is a very comfortable feeling.   Sometimes, the only way to understand what it’s like is to literally walk a mile in their moccasins.  So, that’s what I did, and I made some very interesting observations not just about my students, but about my own teaching that I feel are worth sharing.

I’ve always loved learning as much as teaching.  I rarely read a book or watch a TV show unless there is something I can learn.  So, one thing I did to segue into full-time university teaching, was to go back to school and take a college course or two.  Of course, I first chose something that I always loved and wanted to learn more about – astronomy.  I took this course for credit and for a grade, not auditing.  Of course, it did not take much in the way of teacher motivation to get me to tear into the textbook as I was super interested.  Yet I found it kind of odd to be sitting on the other side.  I would wonder “why did the professor say this or skip that?”  I felt some degree of anxiety about raising my hand to ask a question if I wanted to engage in some additional learning.  Oh, and let’s not forget the stress of studying for and taking the two midterms!   I was so nervous to walk up to the front of the lecture hall to get my Scantron card in front of all the students when the professor called my name.  And the heartbreak of getting a 98% and immediately turning to the question I got wrong to see if it was a mistake!  I was determined to get 100% on the next midterm and the final.  And while it was interesting to emotionally and physically get back into what the undergraduate students are facing, something was missing, and I knew what it was – I was taking a course in a subject that I really loved and had wanted to learn even more about for decades!  Preparing for lectures and reading every single word in the textbook, along with the optional software, was an absolute joy.  I figured that, in order to get a real picture of what a typical student goes through, I was going to do what they have to do -  take a course in a subject that I had no background in, had little working knowledge of and which I really didn’t find interesting in the least.  So I chose a physics course. Accounting and physics, what a combo!

The joy I had felt opening up my textbook to do the assigned readings suddenly became laborious work.  I kept asking myself “why was I even doing this?”.  Instead of being prepared ahead of time, I rushed at the last moment to do the assigned work for class.  In fact, I even showed up once without having done it.  I considered not going to class that day. 

I became easily confused as the textbook presented what seemed to be a never-ending group of formulas.  The lectures didn’t help either.  The professor proceeded to turn the lights down as we listened and watched the PowerPoint.  Oh my, staying awake was very hard.  If I had some popcorn, I would be all set!  When I raised my hand to ask a question, I felt almost silly.  Was I the only one with this question?  Why did others seem to understand this and not me?  The professor’s explanation rarely helped, but I didn’t want to hold up the class. I remember being so confused that I wouldn’t even ask a question.

When it came to the test, I wasn’t wondering if I got 100% either.  Finding time to study seemed difficult – everything else seemed more important.  It’s amazing how many other things there are to do when the alternative is studying for a class in a subject that isn’t interesting and that you don’t really want to learn.

If all this kind of sounds familiar, but from the other side of the podium, take heart.  From this exercise – by being a student – the one without the knowledge – I came away with some very important things that have improved my teaching:

  1.  Respecting my students for what they are, rather than being frustrated that they aren’t what I think they should be.  It’s very easy when I am the expert in the classroom.  Things that are obvious to me might be total mysteries to my students.  Sometimes, they might appear to be unable to make what seems to be the simplest connections.
  2.  The importance of creating a big enough “WHY”.  The big difference between the astronomy and the physics was my personal “WHY” – in the first case I understood at a very deep level why I wanted to learn the material in the course.  In the physics course, I wasn’t there to really learn it.  From this, I’ve discovered that, as the leader of the group, I have tremendous power over how my students perceive the material.  Getting them to become engaged and really WANT TO soak up the knowledge is my most important task from day one.
  3.  The importance of stepping stones and sequencing.  In the physics course, I noticed a definite pattern in the class.  When the pace moved too slow, more people seemed bored – even me!  Sometimes though, it seemed like things were moving too fast, and then it became frustrating.  Furthermore, I noticed quite a few times that I couldn’t follow something, only to find the missing link a little while later.  As an expert in my own area, it’s often difficult to know what the proper spacing of the key learning points is for the students, and what the proper sequence should be.

I now look at my students with much more awareness.  I learned a bit more patience if they don’t grasp the concepts immediately, and that I have to be flexible in this area.  I learned to respect them for what they ARE, and see them as they CAN BE.   And I’m a lot more careful about putting together the learning steps and trying to be aware about how far apart they are, and what order they are in. 

Posted 3 years ago

Creative Campus Innovations Grant Awarded to ACP and RAUL

February 28, 2011 – A quick google search of “creativity crisis” yields over 9.5 millions hits. Most articles and cited research point to a recent Newsweek article titled “The Creativity Crisis” that has garnered a lot of interest in the education world (Newsweek, The Creativity Crisis, July 2010, Identifying a “crisis” may be the easiest part of this issue, though;  getting students to think creatively and explore the creative process – especially for students who expect an extrinsic motivator to perform, or are there simply to fulfill a degree requirement – is much more difficult.

How exactly does an educator foster a learning environment that kick starts a student’s creative juices, and how can we  create courses that  inspire creativity in a diverse body of students?  Can we create a course that stimulates deep learning by arousing creativity?

The Office of Arts & Cultural Programming (ACP) and the Research Academy for University Learning (RAUL) at Montclair State University (MSU), are intrigued by the question of artistic creativity, and how it can be integrated into myriad disciplines to ignite ingenuity, innovation and critical thinking. They have secured the highly competitive Creative Campus Innovations Grant, awarded by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The purpose of the grant is to “identify, support, and document cross-campus collaborations that integrate the performing arts and work of performing arts presenters into the academy and the community.” During this academic year and the next, the grant will facilitate the participation of visual/theater artist Robert Whitman, artists from the UK-based company Wayne McGregor|Random Dance, and iconic American director Robert Wilson.

To answer the questions that generated the grant proposal and to meet the requirements of the two-year grant, the ACP and RAUL have formed a team of eight MSU faculty members to create a multi-disciplinary course on creativity, based on the famous course developed by renowned artist and educator Paul Baker ( ) that produced many creative people in a wide variety of fields. Using Baker’s methods laid out in his book, “The Integration of Abilities: Ideas for Creative Growth” (Anchorage Press, 1977), the team will work closely with visiting artists and collaborate extensively on course creation that inspires creativity and celebrates the creative process in the classroom.

Work on the course began in September 2010, and has involved regular team meetings and several work sessions with visiting artists. For example, in October the committee met with Scott deLahunta, Director of R-Research at Wayne McGregor|Random Dance ( and Liz Lerman, Artistic Director of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange (

DeLahunta returned to the MSU campus in February, with other members of Random Dance, to conduct workshops with students and meet with the committee. Additionally, he and members of the company will participate in a symposium on creative thinking called Brainstorm, scheduled for April 12, 2011. Brainstorm will feature a public conversation with artists such as Robert Whitman and choreographer Elizabeth Streb, discussing the role of creative thinking in their own work (please check the ACP website for emerging details on this event).

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange will perform The Matter of Origins March 24-27, 2011 (, and the committee members have been invited to participate as “provocateurs,” who lead small-group discussions in the second act of the piece.

Recently, the committee also met with Jeroen Olyslaegers, playwright and author, who wrote the text for Jan Fabre | Troubleyn’s Prometheus-Landscape II. Many exciting and productive threads came out of the conversation, which ranged from the nature of Jeroen’s collaboration with Fabre, to Fabre’s creative laboratory process, to Jeroen’s own background and influences, and the ways in which these processes and values might be translated into the course. One particular thread that translated across disciplines was the question of intuition: its importance in the creative process, how to foster it, how to privilege intuition over rational thinking in a way that produces creativity; yet also to be able to examine the product of one’s intuitions and look at them critically.

MSU faculty members include Jerry Fails , Computer Science; Harry Haines, Chairperson, Communication Studies; Mika Munakata , Mathematical Sciences; Tiger Roholt, Philosophy and Religion; Debbie Saivetz , Theatre and Dance; Marissa Silverman , Cali School of Music; Ashwin Vaidya , Mathematical Sciences/Physics; and Yawei Wang , Marketing. Jedediah Wheeler, Executive Director of the ACP, Carrie Urbanic, Community Engagement Director, and Ken Bain, Vice Provost for University Learning and Director of RAUL, round out the committee.

The work-to-date – collaboration with the artists, team discussions, and a course outline – will be presented by several members of the committee on May 4, 2011, at the RAUL-sponsored University Teaching and Learning Showcase. Key formative evaluation will take place to mark the progress of the collaboration and identify continuing steps in developing a Promising Syllabus, a fully developed course outline and evaluative processes. For more information, visit:

The virtual Creative Research Center of Montclair State University will support the University Teaching and Learning Showcase through active involvement in the day’s activities. Dr. Neil Baldwin, the CRC director, will serve as the on-site commentator/blogger/rapporteur.


Posted 3 years ago

The Creativity Push

Recently, creativity in the classroom - how to teach it, why it’s not there, why we need it - has been making some education news headlines (see my next post for links to a Newsweek article on the Creativity Crisis). Since the Newsweek article came out last year, many researchers and educators have posed the question in articles and studies, how can we get more creativity in the classroom? Is this theme gaining ground in the academic world? Or is the new push for creative thinking, and teaching creatively, just the latest trend in education? Would love to have some shared thoughts on this topic!