Creativity is the Killer App (ISTE12 concurrent session)

Chris Walsh up on stage.


This afternoon I attended the ISTE12 workshop “Creativity is the Killer App” by Chris Walsh from New Tech Network (twitter: @fitzwalsh). Here’s the short summary:

This presentation will share practical examples of creativity in action and highlight high-tech and low-tech tools to leverage. It will rely heavily on design thinking principles currently in use by leading business, education, and non-profit organizations. In addition, participants will engage in series of simple activities that model design-thinking processes and instructional techniques to foster creativity, so that every participant is a step closer to implementing these ideas in their school.

This was mostly an informative or motivational session meant to impress upon the audience that creativity can be nurtured and developed, and that as teachers we have the ability to help the process along. The following are my key take-aways from the workshop.

Key take-aways

The most important concepts I took from this related to conditions for creativity. This gave me some things to focus on when I am designing assignments, projects, or exercises for a class.

We have to be happy to be creative. We have to be light and joyous and free from worry. If we aren’t, then we are stifled.
We need extended time to be creative. It is real hard to be creative under a time crunch.
We need to explore lots of ideas. We can’t edit our thinking when we’re trying to be creative — we need to go for quantity of ideas when we’re being creative, not quality.
We have to fail a lot. If we aren’t teaching our kids how to fail and showing them how to recover from that failure, then we are failing our kids. Failure is an option!
We need to have a variety of experiences in order to be creative. We need to get out and go lots of places in order to stimulate our brain to think about different things and in different ways.
We need to have the freedom to choose different paths, to try different things, and to approach the problem from different ways. We can’t feel shut off; the more we feel that way, the more we start editing our thinking, and this is what might keep us from finding the solution that we need.
We need real and challenging problems to work on in order to get the juices flowing.
For some reason, manipulation of objects and moving around seems to help us think. Don’t stay in one place!
A clear understanding of constraints and resources can focus on what kinds of answers will be acceptable. Without this, we can create answers for a world that doesn’t exist, and this doesn’t help anyone.
You have to have a certain level of knowledge, skills, expertise, or mastery in order to be creative in an area. This seems to be what provides the fertile ground in which a solution can bloom.
Encouragement and recognition can provide much of the incentive that people need in order to keep moving forward, to keep working on a difficult problem through frustrating times.


As always, these are my notes from the session that will probably not be useful for you, but might give you a better sense for what went on during the session.

BTW, he started (before the session) with a clip from Infinite Thinking Machine (at this site). It mentioned Makerspace and Brightworks.

  1. What is creativity: “Partnership for 21st Century Schools” definitions. Fancy definitions.
  2. Types: expressive, designing/inventing, problem solving, other types as well.
  3. Creativity matters: human/social progress; Economic engine (think about Apple); expressions of value and fun, personal growth/li>
  4. Creativity is not a serendipitous accident or event.
  5. Monty Python cast and crew had a 9-5 office hours. They worked really hard.
  6. Creativity does not happen solo. He has us draw a butterfly. He teaches them how to do critique groups. He has the student repeat the process, gets better each time.
  7. Creativity is for “artists”. No. Steelcase chair. MLK words. Plaid “Bahama” shorts (had to know when to bring them back).
  8. Creativity is innate: some have it, some don’t. Again: no! What does a creative person look like? Actually, there’s no such thing. Look in a mirror.
  9. Gives an assignment: buddy-up. What is the most creative learning activity that any of us has ever experienced? Then generate some creative way to present digitally that creative learning moment. #creativelearning.
  10. Conditions for creativity: playfulness (have to be happy), time (we need extended time to be creative), exploration (need to have lots of exploration; don’t stop yourself from being creative; no censure; go for quantity), failure (we have to fail a lot; if we aren’t teaching our kids how to fail and showing them how to get to the other side, then we are failing our kids; failure is an option), variety (lots of variety; we need to get out and go lots of places; neon glow sticks aren’t fun in one color).
  11. More conditions: freedom/autonomy/choice, real challenging problems to solve; thinking with your hands; clear understanding of constraints and resources; knowledge/skill/expertise/mastery (you gotta have the knowledge and skills in order to be creativity in an area); encouragement and recognition (lots of this)
  12. Attitude: personal passion provides the spark; give yourself permission to be creative; happiness matters a lot; discipline/commitment (you have to work hard)
  13. Jerry Seinfeld: he’s creating a chain, creating volume;; discipline and commitment matter.
  14. Creativity tools: Explore (web [wikipedia; twitter; spotify], outdoors, music); cross pollination (communities [sxsw], guests, visits [other schools]); divergent thinking (storytelling, games [flux]); Design (visualization, multimedia [hyperstudio application])
  15. Can you teach creativity? Teachers (modeling openness, encourage failure); open language (could, might, possible, how else, tell us more); methods (mashups, mimicry, design thinking, tinkering, exhibitions); experience (lots of different ideas and situations); assessment (can it be measured?; probably can but not sure)
  16. He recommends Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin on why he believes schools are stealing kids dreams. Mostly because they need more playfulness and schools are trying to minimize it.

One thought on “Creativity is the Killer App (ISTE12 concurrent session)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *