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“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”

― Alvin Toffler

July 21, 2014

As I considered a final post for the creativity journal, I wondered how I would wrap up an interesting semester that covered such a wide variety of creative communication topics.  As an avid viewer of the CBS Sunday Morning Show, I discovered the concept for this final entry.  What caught my attention was the brief description of an impending story titled “The Great Communicator” that was later in the show.  I missed the tease for the story, so I wasn’t sure of the topic.  When I arrived at that portion of the show, the story was about Ronald Reagan.  Now I was not only intrigued by the title but also by the fact that President Reagan was the first president I remember as  child (he was in office until I was 12 years old) when I could understand a little better about what was going on.

I know a decent amount about his background, including his acting career and life as a spokesperson before he was elected.  However, I did not realize he was so funny.  The focus was about how he used humor to effectively reach any audience.  He used humor to poke fun at himself, his opponents, the journalists who documented his every move, and everyone within range of the podium or microphone at his discretion. The highlight of the program was a stack of 3×5-inch index cards dubbed “one-liners” that were in his desk after he died and are now stored at the Reagan Library.  Here is a link to the story.   http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/ronald-reagans-one-liners/

As I reflect on this course as well as how I hope to be an effective, yet creative, communicator, I realize that humor plays a big part in how I prefer to deliver information and carry on conversation.  It keeps things light, which for me, allows for a much more open dialogue.  My struggle is to balance sarcasm with humor because I can overdo the sarcasm.  Watching how President Reagan would just sneak in the one-liners gives me hope that I can continue to find that delicate balance in how I hope to communicate with students, colleagues, and anyone else I encounter as I continue this venture into academia.  While it has already been two years, I certainly feel I am very much still in an infant state.

If this course has taught me one thing, it is that I have plenty of room to grow in relation to creativity.  I have felt challenged by some of the readings to understand how deep creativity can be.  However, I also feel that I was able to grow and contribute in several parts of the course.  Whether it was the group mindmaps, creation of a creativity curriculum, or our group presentation, I could sense a better understanding of my own creativity and how it can apply to others.  With that said, I have plenty of room for development.  This will improve through more interaction with classmates and professors in my coursework, observation of my own department as we restructure, and finally, reflection on how I am able to contribute  to my own personal development and the development of everyone around me.  This was a nice course for me to segue into this new adventure ahead as I fully begin my doctoral studies.

July 8, 2014

In a journalistic context, a work space is fluid, especially as it relates to sports journalism. Teams travel from city to city and  the journalists who cover that team do the same.  So the “office” is a different arena and city every few days depending on the sport.  Sometimes the work space has no relation to the event or team being covered.

Over the past three days, I have twice covered the NBA Summer League in Orlando. After a 17-hour workday, I was first reminded about why I left the profession because it is demanding and draining, both physically and mentally.  However, what really caught my attention again is how the workload has changed due to technology.  I’m especially taken by the creative forms of transmission and communication that afford things to be done in an immediate fashion in comparison to just 5-10 years prior. Over the the course of my two days, I transmitted video from the basketball games and practices as well as interviews with players and coaches.  This was accomplished from different work spaces: the arena, a practice facility, a Starbucks, and my living room.

I bring this up because I’m constantly amazed at how new technology allows us the creative freedom to do this job from anywhere.  Between FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and Dropbox, I was able to send my material to stations in Boston, Houston, and Philadelphia without ever needing to leave my computer. If you want to discuss communication and creativity, the development of these web-based sharing systems is about as creative and innovative as they come.

July 2, 2014

Following a day of reflection after our group led the class discussion, I am happy with how our plan worked out well and seemed to keep the class engaged in our discussion on social movements.  At first I wondered how our various ideas between four different students would connect the ideas of death, rituals, social media, and social movements into a fluid discussion because at first glance, they just do not seem to have that much in common. However, after a long lunch meeting (who doesn’t enjoy a good 3-hour gathering over food), we were able to filter out some strong connections between our various interests in these topics.  I was impressed not just with the common connections but also how our group migrated to individual strengths to make a more compelling presentation.

The group activity was very enjoyable because everyone took it seriously but had fun with it.  That was the goal.  But what else came out of that activity was an observation that graduate school is much different from teaching undergraduate students.  The interest and desire to learn about a wide array of topics is not forced – but wanted – by every student I encounter.  Just asking groups of students to create a social movement through social media stirred up excitement and uniqueness.  Whether it was use of Twitter, Instagram, or shooting video, the imagination of everyone in our class has been enjoyable to see come out each week.

I am intrigued to better understand social movements and how they begin, develop, sustain, and conclude.  By taking on this group presentation, it has helped fuel that interest a little more.

June 25, 2014

Reflecting on space and play, I appreciate the idea and concept of play and how it can generate ideas.  However, I was struggling with some inspiration about how to transform play into production.  Then the Tampa Bay Times arrived in my driveway, and I read about the “Yes, man” and Studio@620.

The studio affords inexpensive openings for aspiring artists, poets, comedians, or anyone who just needs an outlet for their work. First as it relates to the space described by David Owen, the idea is to allow an open space.  Not necessarily the “keyless” approach of never closing, but an openness to the work space to display individual creativity because as Owen writes, “humans are diverse, and have their own ideas about design.”

But the playful side of Studio@620 is evident in their desire to allow kids to be kids through the Sunscreen Film School Summer Camp.  It’s a fun, educational experience where kids 12-18 get the opportunity to learn from professionals while playing various roles to create a film.  It is competitive, but the idea is to get ideas flowing freely without limitations.  Joan Erikson writes, “we need a sense of playfulness which allows experimentation and change.” That defines the essence of film making because without trying something and making alterations, you likely will not get the project to turn how you wish, which is to get it right.

June 16, 2014

“Creativity is as important as literacy,” Sir Ken Robinson said in the most-watched TED Talk ever.

This quote strikes me as profound and confound. It is profound because Robinson validates this claim with some specific examples, including Gillian Lynne, who was the choreographer for Cats and Phanton of the Opera. A doctor pointed out that she did not lack the ability to learn, but that she just needed the proper surroundings to display her desire to learn what inspired her.  She didn’t need to read or write to be able to dance or understand the movement and beauty associated with it.

However, Robinson’s quote is difficult to agree with in some disciplines.  As our education system begins to hyper-focus on certain programs, the fear is that creativity will go away as robots are taught minimal, but highly specific, skills that produce jobs.

“We are educating people out of their creative capacities,” Robinson said.

On the contrary, technology and science are two extremely valuable disciplines that we rely on for communication and health, and the rapid expansion of improvements in both disciplines is a definitive sign of creativity.

But the Robinson talk did uncover insightful ideas on creativity. He says, “we need to radically rethink our view of intelligence” with three D’s.  Included is the Webster definition of each D.

1. Diverse – “differing from one another”

2. Dynamic – “always active or changing”

3. Distinct – “noticeably different”

My takeaway is different and actively changing. However, that uncovers my consistent struggle on how to be truly creative?  Is creativity just improving on previous ideas or uncovering real originality?  Does that even exist with the dearth of research and innumerable communication outlets available online?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a creative rebuttal for my own questions.  One thing I do think is that since creativity seems to be this ambiguous thing without a real definition, it allows for plenty of interpretation.

June 9, 2014

I realize now at the halfway point of the Creativity course that I have lived a non-creative way of life.  The readings, especially the first two books, have inspired me to be creative in my daily work, in what I hope to construct in my classes, and how I hope we can revamp our curriculum to keep up the pace for what students will face in the real world.  Not sure if that is even possible, but I know that to ensure I do my best I must do as the Kelleys say in Creative Confidence, “no matter how much expertise you gain, you still need to keep your knowledge and your insights refreshed.”

It took me a lot longer than it should to read Kelley because I would read a few pages, then jot down some notes about things I want to inquire about.  The two most important areas affected by this new way of thinking are my plan of study for the Ph.D. program and our curriculum in the School of Mass Communications.  At least a half dozen times, I would stop reading and input new information into a Word document that reads more like a stream of conscience.  I should probably do a mindmap, but I find that I can’t spend all my time just brainstorming, as enjoyable as it is.  We must find a way to be unique, different, innovative, or simply not boring in our courses.  I’m thinking of ways to learn more about our campus, other departments, and people in general through storytelling.  This is my new mission to force ourselves outside the old model of journalism and TV and into a mold of telling good stories and showing them wherever (Youtube, blogs, news websites) and whenever (no longer tethered to a 6 p.m. show) people might want to watch.

As for my plan of study, I got sidetracked for at least an hour and began to outline what I hope the next 2 to 2 1/2 years of my life will look like.  The variety of courses in the School of Communication will provide  what I need.  However, after reading Kelley, I want to explore the idea of also getting a graduate certificate in Entrepreneurship to fulfill my six hours of outside work plus tack on  two more courses.  I think this could help me in better understanding how and why (these are the questions I implore my students to ask) businesses succeed and fail, especially in this new digital age.  Also, how can you position yourself through digital knowledge and communication?  I have no idea how these next few years will play out, but after reading this book, I’m inspired to fast track it to get the most from it.

June 2, 2014

While traveling  back from a wedding in Perryville, Missouri (I had no idea where that was until we began our trip), I paid close attention in the St. Louis airport to the individual charging stations.  You know the seats.  They are the comfortable looking leather ones with nice arm rests for beverages, bags and your phone/tablet.  They also provide what a lot of airports don’t offer: personal space.  However, as I reflect on what has been discussed during the first few weeks of the Creativity course, these seats offer little, if any, room for collaboration, interaction, or just good old-fashioned mingling.  That is the highlight for me in airports or on planes.  I want the opportunity to chat with a complete stranger.  Find out where they are from, what they do, where they are going, or who they are visiting.  Those comfortable chairs that are so popular, do not afford this opportunity.

Ironically, on the flight to Perryville, I read the two articles from Alfonso Montuori.  I thought about the “Lone Genius Myth” and that these popular seats can lead to the same separation that Montuori discusses as the conditions for creativity in modernity.  Do we need this type of isolation to harness innovation and creativity in our postmodern world?  Not if collaborative, participatory, interactive work spaces are supposed to foster creativity.  I realize that travel is often done individually, but the chance to find out what other people are thinking in public spaces is a way of being creative.

May 27, 2014

Steven Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From” is a thought-provoking, innovative way of looking at creative ideas. Through real examples of products, created by people we may have no idea who they are, got me thinking about how can we really be creative?  The idea of the adjacent possible seems simple, but it is complex unless you allow new discoveries to unfold.  That is not to say the adjacent possible will always lead to some ground-breaking revelation, but without allowing the ideas to at least come to mind and try to flourish, it will never happen. Where Johnson caught my attention was with this description of the theme throughout his book. He writes, “we are often better served by connecting ideas than we are by protecting them… environments that build walls around good ideas tend to be less innovative in the long run than more open-ended environments.”

Instead of thinking in abstract, which the adjacent possible often allows, for now my preference is to apply.  Since I’m only two years into my new journey (aka second career), there is a desire to help “fix” our curriculum in Mass Communications to better serve our students.  Selfishly, I also want to make it fun and innovative for me in the classroom because I enjoy learning.  The overwhelming part of the mass communication profession is that if you do not continue to learn, grow, and develop skills, your ability to contribute to the daily news gathering environment can cease to exist.  So we must continue to evolve (or connect ideas) every semester, and the only way to do that is for everyone to share the best ideas (or knock down the walls) we can cull from the industry professionals and make sure our students learn those skills.

If we can apply what Johnson alludes to in regard to openness and willing to think in the adjacent, we can hopefully better prepare ourselves to teach our students to better prepare them to get jobs. Then we can rely on them as our adjacent thinkers to keep moving our program and future students forward in this rapidly-changing environment.

May 21, 2014

After spending our previous class creating collaborative mindmaps, I was intrigued by the outside-the-box thinking of several people in class.  It was inspiring, especially after completing this week’s readings.  David Bohm’s On Creativity was the most compelling for me because of the suggestions from 1968 that still seem applicable to today’s environment.  The common threads were that “new” and “unknown” are almost necessary to truly be creative.  One can take time to reconfigure and improve previous ideas; however, the true sign of creativity is basically from scratch.

To accomplish these new and unknown ideas is quite challenging because as Bohm points out ultimately people are “afraid to make mistakes.”  I could not agree more.  We are trained from an early age that success is based on not making mistakes, whether that is learning to ride a bike, following recipes, or taking exams in school.  We should not color outside the lines, which is ironic because the original way to learn art as a child is basically through abstract painting.  There are no rules, no guidelines, no actual lines that restrict anything, and usually no direction.  It inspired me to look at my three-year-old daughter’s most recent “portfolio.”  What do you see?

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“Splatter Paint”

 

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“Collage”

Here is what I see.  No idea if this correct, but that’s the beauty and the bane of creativity.  It is up for interpretation.  “Splatter Paint” is creative use of color to inspire freehand swirl. “Collage” is collaboration with a purpose but it looks exactly like what any teenager with puffy paint might put together.

To bring it back to Bohm, he suggests that to be creative, you must give the energy seen from an infant learning to walk.  If you have never witnessed the focus, attention, willingness to fall down and get back up, then you should do yourself a favor and witness this phenomenon in action.  Bohm adds, “this kind of whole-hearted interest will give the mind the energy needed to see what is new and different.”  That does not guarantee creativity, but it can help lead to it.

May 14, 2014

What is Creativity? That’s what I hope to discover over the next 10 weeks, or at least come away with some insightful ideas to utilize moving forward.

After the first day of the Communication and Creativity course and reading the syllabus, my first thought was, “How do I want to approach my journal?” To avoid boredom, the goal is to include various links to stories or ideas or concepts that are attention-grabbing and enhance individual creativity. So what better way to begin than to ask Google, “What is Creativity?” The definition that populates is “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” The interesting part of that is the emphasis on artistic work because that is such a narrow scope, until I think about that I often explain the creation of news stories or visual storytelling as a blank canvas when it begins. So it’s a fair definition.

However, I waited until after completing the Mindmap for our class discussion because I wanted to come up with some original ideas without just rehashing what someone else says. The general consensus of topics was collaboration, uniqueness, students teaching other students, and learning in creative environments. Now I returned to Google and discovered “30 Things You Can Do To Promote Creativity In Your Classroom” by Miriam Clifford. There are terrific ideas, but the one I liked the most was No. 30, “Teach creative skills explicitly.”  It summarized creativity in five major areas: imagination, being disciplined or self-motivated, resiliency, collaboration, and giving responsibility to students.

I enjoyed the Mindmap idea because I want to figure out how I can apply it to my daily work as an instructor in the School of Mass Communications. This will get me forward-thinking to the fall semester.

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