What Creativity Looks Like

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What Creativity Looks Like

Many of us are talking about the need to shift learning in the direction of creation, rather than consumption, of knowledge.  Students and teachers have the capability to create and share in ways that they never have before in human history.

I have proposed that the cognitasphere includes both the body of knowledge as it exists and evolves, and the process of creating, teaching, transferring, managing, and learning that knowledge. It represents the total of all the answers to all the questions that have been asked in the past, as well as the process of asking questions that will create new knowledge in the future.

What does this actually look like?  Like this:





It is simple: all of the flat mesa tops represent what we already know.  The canyons, the voids in between the mesa tops, represent gaps in our knowledge, unexplored or unanswered questions, unexplored or under-explored regions in the map of human knowledge.  The process of the creation of knowledge is equally simple: new knowledge fills in or bridges a little piece of canyon.  A bridge actually connects two areas of previously unconnected or only distally connected knowledge.  A bridge of a canyon is the ultimate “thought outside the box”!

It is the nature of the cognitasphere to manage these mesa tops and fill in these canyons. It will be the nature of schools to prepare students to become active members of the cognitasphere.

Teachers can set a simple goal for themselves and their students: after each unit, term, or year, reflect back and see where and how we filled in or bridged a bit of a canyon, where we created knowledge that did not previously exist.  Does it have to be groundbreaking original Nobel Prize research?  Of course not! Even authentic opinion adds a bit to the sum of our knowledge, certainly more so than regurgitation of someone else’s ideas.

But here is the key: you as teacher must only present the map, the image, the setting.  You must create a vista of potential interest such that each student finds a worthwhile canyon to explore from HIS OR HER point of view. Then they will inquire with the energy and creativity we cherish, the self-direction of engagement. They will learn the passion of exploration on their own, the self-evolution of learning.

And that is what we want education to look like.


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By | 2012-08-23T00:14:00+00:00 August 23rd, 2012|21C Skills, Innovation in Education|4 Comments

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  1. Bo Adams August 28, 2012 at 12:58 am - Reply

    Grant, why are the mesas the current understandings? (Quick disclaimer: I tend to over stretch metaphors!) Aren’t the canyons the deep understandings caused by our river pathways of seeking understanding – where we get into flow, like the water that carves a canyon? Aren’t the mesas the areas that we leave unexplored – where we choose not to flow our rivers?

    It is like a brain isn’t it? The canyons are like the folds of the brain. The water channels are like the well myelinated synapses. Then, “depth of knowledge” takes on metaphorical significance. “Flow” takes on similar significance.

    I push only because I want to understand deeply…not just remain on the surface.

  2. glichtman August 28, 2012 at 3:08 am - Reply

    It could be that way, absolutely. I guess my original perception was that the mesa tops are where we can mentally walk today; the canyons are voids. I am thinking of the canyons as empty; was not thinking of them as having bottoms with water in them. I also like the idea of building little bridgeheads on opposite sides of the canyons, small creative bits that we build on to existing knowledge, therefore starting to bridge a gap. But yes, if one brought into the metaphor the water and depth ideas, one would have to re-think it!

  3. Ian Kelleher November 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    Some people fear going into canyons – dark unexplored places, whereas some see them as amazing places of opportunity. So a big role of the teacher is shifting student mindsets from the former to the latter: getting students (particularly those with “achievement drone” tendencies) happy to sit, temporarily, in the land of not knowing. (And this gets me to a happy meeting of Tony Wagner’s “guide on the side” and Calvin and Hobbes).
    Thanks, Grant, you continue to push how I think, always in great ways.
    Ian (the CTTL at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Potomac MD)

  4. Grant November 5, 2014 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Great comment, Ian; love the role of the teacher there; just tweeted it out!

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