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Posts Tagged ‘creativity

I do not know any university educator who has not experienced this — a forced increase in class size but not recognition of increased teaching load on paper. This was true when I was a professor and is true now as an adjunct. 

“Creative” administrators seem to reverse engineer class sizes based on any metric other than learning experience. This practice has a derogatory label — spreadsheet management.

If you think that such administrators feel bad about doing this, then know this — they do not. In fact, some pat themselves on their collective backs for it. I recall administrative groups inventing awards and/or nominating themselves for awards invented by other spreadsheet managers.

The problem with such “creativity” is that it puts teaching and learning last instead of first and foremost. It does a disservice to the social responsibility of a university.

As a former appointment holder and administrator myself, I am fully aware that policy changes, budgets, and pandemics can throw a wrench into the works. But I draw the line at managing from a spreadsheet. It is impersonal, insulting, and inhuman. Do not be “creative” that way.

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When I was curating resources last year on educational uses of artificial intelligence (AI), I discovered how some forms were used to generate writing.

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YouTuber, Tom Scott, employed writing AI (OpenAI’s GPT-3) to suggest new video ideas by offering topics and even writing scripts. The suggestions were ranged from the odd and impossible to the plausible and surprisingly on point.

This was an example of AI augmenting human creativity, but it was still very much in the realm of artificial narrow intelligence. The AI did not have the general intelligence to mimic human understanding of nuance and context.

I liked Scott’s generalisation about technology following how AI worked/failed for him. He described a technology’s evolution as a sigmoid curve. After a slow initial start, the technology might seem to suddenly be widely adopted and improved upon. It then hits a steady state.

Tom Scott: Technology evolution as a sigmoid curve. Source:

Scott wondered if AI was at the steady state. This might seem to be the case if we only consider the boxed in approach that the AI was subject to. If it had been given more data to check its own suggestions, it might have offered creative ideas that were on point.

So, no, the AI was not that the terminal steady state. It was at the slow start. It has the potential to explode. It is our responsibility to ensure that the explosions are controlled ones (like demolishing a building) instead of unhappy accidents that result from neglect (like the warehouse in Beirut).

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Can artificial intelligence (AI) emote or create art?

Perhaps the question is unfair. After all, some people we know might have trouble expressing their emotions or making basic shapes.

So it makes sense to see what something fuzzy like emotions might consist of. The components include the meaning of words, memory of events, and the expression of words. If that is the case, modern chat bots fit this basic bill.

On a higher plane are avatars like SimSensei that monitor human facial expressions and respond accordingly. Apparently it has been used in a comparative study for people suffering from PTSD. That study found that patients preferred the avatar because it was perceived to be less judgmental.

And then there are the robot companions that are still on the creepy side of the uncanny valley. These artificial flesh and no blood human analogues look and operate like flexible and more intelligent mannequins, but it is early days yet on this front.

As for whether AI can create art, consider Benjamin, an AI that writes screenplays. According to an AI expert, Pedro Domingos, art and creativity for an AI is easier than problem solving. AI can already create art that moves people and music that is indistinguishable from that of human composers.

The video does not say this, but such powerful AI are not commonplace yet. We still have AI that struggles to make sense of human fuzziness.

The third and last part of the video seemed like an odd inclusion — robot race car drivers. Two competing teams tested their robo-cars’ abilities to overtake another car. This was a test of strategic decision making and a proxy for aggression and competitiveness.

Like the previous videos in the series, this one did not conclude with firm answers but with questions instead. Will AI ever have the will to win, the depth or create, the empathy to connect on a deep human level? If humans are perpetuated biological algorithms, might AI evolve to emulate humans? Will they be more like us or not?

If the image below was not photoshopped, it is a reminder that not all forms of creativity are good.

Either the owner of the building refused to give up space or the builders planned poorly. Either way, the last two lanes in the track are ridiculous. The runner in lane 7 has to shimmy past a wall and the one in lane 8 has to run through a tunnel.

Competitive track is about putting runners through practice that represents what they need to do in competition. There is no new run-through-tunnel track event.

Some might point out that the tunnel is a creative reaction. But a creative solution does not make it a good one. No competitive track athlete runs through tunnels. They might jump over hurdles, but certainly not run through things.

This is a reminder that calls for “creativity” must be balanced with critical thinking and met with the same. Not all creativity is good or useful. These types of creativity are reactive and hide poor planning or judgment. Encouraging this type of “creativity” runs us into trouble sooner or later.

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The video above led with this question: Does drinking alcohol enhance creativity? The short and accurate answer is that it depends on which aspect of creativity your define and measure.

One way to respond to the issue of asking difficult questions is not to ask them in the first place. You might not like the answers you get. Think about leaders and managers asking how their employees feel about work, for example. But if you do not ask such questions, you risk cutting off a key sensing method. Blind policy is as awful as bad policy.

Designers and creators of polls and surveys have figured out strategies of asking questions that lead to desired answers. So have researchers and teachers.

Survey design 101 for pollsters, researchers, and teachers is that you get what you measure. This is not always a good thing because you also do not get insights on what you do not ask.

How might a layperson react to such knowledge? Be aware that the answers of surveys, research, and tests are often small spotlights on a much larger tapestry. You do not have the full picture, so you should not make rash decisions on what is incomplete.

This tweet claims that the Q&A in the worksheet is an example of providing creative answers.

I wonder why any teacher would ask all these questions one after the other.

These seem to be a collection of old jokes put in the form of a worksheet. Perhaps that is the creative element.

That said, most creative endeavours need to be balanced with critical thinking.

This tweet claims that the person in the photo is futuristic. He is not.

Some might say that he is innovative. He might be if you consider “being innovative” to be “creativity in action”.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then creativity is the father.
I have a simpler notion. The “innovation” was born of necessity and required a bit of creative thinking.

The “innovator” simply used what he literally had on hand: His cap, his phone, and the handrail on the seat of the bus. The person had a first world problem and he used is old noggin to devise a solution.

How to you teach this type of thinking?

You do not. You provide time and space for it.

You let students learn by play.

You help students catch this learning with challenging projects, nurtured passion, and meaningful peer-based collaboration. All these happen with difficult play or “hard fun”.

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Teachers can relearn how to do this by empathising with their students. Teachers need to play games to see why and how unstructured fun can lead to powerful learning opportunities.

How to see possibilities Open your eyes to read. Open your hands to try. Open your mind to new ideas. Open your heart to being a kid again.

Recently I tweeted this blog post from George Couros.

Couros outlined three misconceptions about innovation in education. Briefly the misconceptions he mentioned are:

  1. Innovation is about how you use technology.
  2. Innovation is reserved for the few.
  3. Innovation is solely a “product”.

There are even more misconceptions. I suggest that people make at least three more mistakes about innovation in education.

Innovation — and its precursor, creativity — can somehow be taught or transmitted. It must be modelled and caught.

Creativity cannot be taught as a skill, but it can be killed -- Yong Zhao.

Innovation is not about having plenty of resources. You need to be at your most creative (thought) and innovative (action) when times are bad and resources are thin.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then creativity is the father.

Innovation is not doing the same things differently. If the same things are being done, how exactly is that being innovative?

Doing things differently does not always mean doing things better. But doing things better always means doing things differently. -- Hank McKinnell (Former CEO of Pfizer)

Just one of CNET’s eleven reasons why Apple and Adobe should fear Microsoft caught me eye. It was Microsoft Story Remix (MSR).

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The video above outlines what MSR might do.

I was not impressed with the bling factors like the fire football and exploding goal. I was taken more by the seamless combining of videos shot by different people.

The seamless stitching is an example of using technology productively and meaningfully. The software does the heavy lifting of collating videos and presenting preliminary cuts and sequences. The human can decide to make tweaks like rearranging sequences and providing one or more foci. The software and humanware each do what they do best.

Is creativity threatened by technology now? Only if we let it do all the doing and thinking.

The technologies we invent are our tools and instruments. We need to acknowledge that we shape our tools and instruments, and in doing so, they influence our expectations and behaviours.

We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. -- Marshall McLuhan.

With something like MSR, there is no need to hoard and rely on individually shot videos. Instead, there is incentive to share and truly collaborate. Contributors simply need to upload to a shared space.

Once the videos are there, each contributor can make their own video or they can rely on one person to do this. In either case, MSR take the tedium out of the task.

Anything that promotes meaningful and helpful collaboration is good in my book. MSR is a great example of how to design for it.

Disclosure: This reflection was not prompted by or paid for by Microsoft. It is also not a product endorsement. My focus is about powerful and meaningful integration of technology for education. My goal is not to make rich corporations richer. It is to enrich the thinking of educators.

This TechCrunch article declares that creativity is overrated, particularly in the corporate workplace. I am not about to go as far, but I will point out something else about creativity.

We appreciate successful and popular creative efforts. But do we also see the other side of creativity? The side that looks and sounds like this?

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The odd pieces are creative in their own way. We need these effects, perhaps thousand or even millions of them, to be base from which more successful or popular ones emerge.

How tolerant are we of such “creative” endeavours?


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