Passion and numbers

Creative teachers are passionate. This mathematician, Dr James Grime, is a great example. You can see he loves his numbers so much that he has to share that excitement. Checkout his passion for numbers in this episode of Numberfile. 82,000 is a particularly interesting number, apparently.

Another mark of excellent and creative teachers is their ability to explain concepts clearly. In the second video Dr Grime explains the mathematical problem that is key to the action in the film Good Will Hunting. Grime reckons you can solve this problem at home. Supposedly this problem took the MIT professors in the film two years to solve, but Grime says no, it’s not that difficult. Well, it depends who’s tackling the problem of course and how clear thinking they are and how much persistence and patience they have.

It’s interesting to watch Grime talk through the problem solving process which involves lines and dots. He gets so much fun out of it. I’m sure he and Sherlock Holmes would have enjoyed problem solving together.

Creative teams

The literature tells us that there is a difference between supporting effective teams,  supporting creative teams, and one more – supporting creative teams working online (e.g. Chamakiotis et al 2013). Context is always important.

Have you worked in a creative team? Do you know the challenges and the pressure? How do you rate as a creative team member? Perhaps you have many tips and hints for those new to the task. If you do, please add your comments to this blog!

Mark Brown has some hints for creative teams. He’s watched some teams and says it’s important to strategically step back and let the team thrive. Support others so you get where you need to go, but at the same time don’t allow good ideas to get brushed aside.

Tom Wujec has some insights from the now famous spaghetti and marshmallow design team challenge. The big lesson from the Wujec’s challenge is that rapid prototyping is the way to go. Be prepared to fail and try again, and fail and try again, and again. Be prepared to sacrifice a few marshmallows.

Tom Wujec; Build a tower, build a team


Chamakiotis, P., Dekoninck, E. A., & Panteli, N. (2013). Factors influencing creativity in virtual design teams: An interplay between technology, teams and individuals. Creativity and Innovation Management, 22(3), 265-279.



The story’s the thing: Digital fiction

Canadian author and educator, Kate Pullinger visited my university last week, and since then I have been thinking about ‘the book’ and where it is going in the digital future.

Pullinger says that stories are an important teaching tool for teachers of all subjects. How true. As a writer and lecturer in creative writing and new media at Bath Spa University in the UK, Pullinger believes that ‘the way that we read and interact with text and stories may well have changed fundamentally in 20 years’ time’ (1) , and that the ebook is only a small change in that evolution.

Digital fiction

Pullinger has written traditional fiction like The Mistress of Nothingfor which she won the Governor-General’s award in 2009.

However, her experimentation with digital fiction and the future of the novel is of increasing interest. Her digital works include, e.g. Inanimate Alice  and Flight Paths . The text is sparse and the format relies on the integration of text, image, sound and animation.

Flight Paths: A Networked Novel


Her work with digital story telling and school students is clearly influencing the direction she is pushing the traditional novel. For example in 2011 she was involved with 5 secondary schools and 5 digital writers in a collaborative arts-in-schools project called Ebb and Flow.

And an interesting outcome of her digital story venture, Inanimate Alice, is that school students are now adding to her published ‘novel’ online. She is intrigued herself that students at a US school began adding a fifth chapter to her four-chapter, pre-teen/teenage digital work. The students’ classroom teacher encouraged the kids to contribute text and images to the story and create a new adventure for Alice, which they loaded up onto the Internet, challenging notions of authorship, and demonstrating that fiction can evolve imaginatively, textually and collaboratively. Teenagers are reading books after all.

Live creative writing: ‘Memory Makes Us’

While in Brisbane, Pullinger also took part in an IF:Book Australia event, on 9 July at the State Library of Queensland. The project was called ‘Memory Makes Us’ . Pullinger explored memory as a collaborative and creative event, connecting and combining memories contributed by members of the public with her own experience to create a new work. This included text and images. As she wove together her own and others’ stories, the creative work was streamed live on the Internet and broadcast on the big screen at Federation Square in Melbourne.

Strange as it seems, to me it was more exciting to know that as the story evolved it was projected live into a living breathing city, than that it was simultaneously projected on the Internet. Why? What is the difference? It’s all out there. Is it because I can imagine Federation Square and people reading the screen as they pass by? Is it that I can imagine the particular but imagining the complexity of worldwide participation is too much? Does knowledge of a place make up for anonymity of place?


(1) Pullinger, Kate. (2011). Education: Classroom innovation: Strategy/Comment: Comment: Educators need to utilise the explosion in digital writing. The Guardian, London, UK, 11 Jan, p. 5.

Performance poetry, courage and wonder

There’s always more than one way of giving a speech or telling a story.

Sarah Kay, a performance poet, combines her two loves, theatre and poetry, and fuses them magically to be a performance poet. She is inspiring as a poet, performer and educator, because she really believes in rediscovering “wonder” – seeing the world and our lives afresh, using poetry to “entertain, educate and inspire”.

At school and college she proactively encouraged others to use performance poetry to express themselves, to be heard, and is the founder of a youth project Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression) which supports this aim.

Steps towards creativity
Sarah’s steps towards realising her goal to be a performance artist:

Step 1: “I can” – having the courage to grow, explore and take risks.
Step 2: “I will” – enacting ideals, sticking to the task, doing the hard work.
Step 3: Finding you – infusing your work “with the specific things that make you, you”,what I would call finding your voice, using, as Sarah says, past experience to “dive into the things you don’t know”.

Sarah’s exercise to get started with poetry
1. Write down a list of ten things you know to be true.
2. Share your list with someone else – connect and combine stories.
3. Use this list to connect with what you feel passionately about. You might end up with a poem worth sharing and performing. Create poems that only you can create – these are the ones that will resonate.

Sarah Kay: “If I should have a daughter”

Connecting and combining, chindogu, keyboards and bananas

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum have the Japanese art of connecting and combining objects, Chindogu, down to a fine art. Chindogu inventions are practical, but not. While at first they may seem like a solution to a problem, they are ‘unuseless’ because there is something a bit weird about them. They are not ‘appropriate’ in some way. What is appropriate? We have an idea how things should work, but might reject how they could work. And the thing with chindogu solutions is that because they are weird they might open the way to thinking in a new way about old ideas and problems, and come up with solutions that fulfil a pressing need or adress complex world problems.

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, two doctoral students, have created a kit called MaKey MaKey that gives the user tools to make a computer interface out of pizza, bananas, paintbrushes, dogs, people, anything! They see the world as a construction kit. They want everyone to be amazing. You are only limited by your imagination. Connect and combine, see what happens, and have fun.

Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard