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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Just Read: "Imagination First: Unlocking The Power of Possibility"

I just finished reading the book "Imagination First: Unlocking The Power of Possibility" by Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon. I have to say that I didn't know what to expect from a book on imagination--I think of myself as a pretty creative, imaginative person, so I didn't think I necessarily needed a "how-to" book on imagination to get me going. I also wasn't sure if people who aren't imaginative would be able to develop their imaginative thinking just by reading a book. 


While not a beach-read, this book is relatively easy to digest.
Do you need to own it? Maybe not, see if you can borrow from your library
and then make the call once you've read it.
The book itself is easy to read and discusses the 28+ Practices that people can use to develop their imagination. It isn't meant to be a how-to per se, but offer you some thoughts on creative thinking that you can then apply to your own life. The authors state that practice (actual repetitive "doing") makes the 28+ Practices more meaningful and, like working out, exercising and building your imagination is not about being "done" but about staying loose as you practice again and again.

What I liked about this book is that, although I'd consider myself an imaginative person and a creative problem-solver, this book helped me to outline some of the tools I use every day and have come to just assume everyone else uses too. I like the challenge of designing with limitations (Practice 6)! I constantly hoard bits of eye-candy and quotes and ideas (Practice 7) that allow me to create a bigger "pool" of ideas and inspiration from which to draw from. I love calling up my 85-year-old grandmother and talking to her about my schoolwork (Practice 10)--it allows me to get down to the nitty-gritty and think about the basics of what it is that I am learning or teaching that week.

I also enjoyed reading this book as a parent as well as an educator. I don't know it all and sometimes I can get caught up in the junk of running a household or getting through the lesson before the class is up and miss some of the little details with my children and students that would encourage creativity and imagination. I think this book encouraged me to slow down and make sure I am not killing the creativity and imaginations of the people around me (obviously, I would never do that on purpose, but when my child comes up to me at dinnertime to show me a picture she drew, I could take a minute or two to ask a couple of questions about it and really look at the picture--dinner can wait!). In the classroom, I can design lessons that help my students break away from the status quo of constantly seeking the "right" answer and allow them discern where right and wrong answers matter (spelling and math) and where they don't.

As an educator, this book provides some interesting ways of thinking and encouraging imagination in ourselves, our classrooms, our teams, and in our communities. Here are a couple of ways I am inspired to use the information gained from this book in my life:

  • Watch what I say to people when they are sharing their ideas with me--make sure I do not "kill" their creativity and imagination. Use phrases such as "Yes, and…" to draw out their ideas and allow them to expand upon them.
  • Take more risks in my creative thinking--ask "What if…" more and encourage others to do the same.
  • Make more of my art lessons open-ended and allow the students to "finish the ending."
  • Work more with others--collaborate.
  • Focus on the process and not the end result.
  • Create a safe environment in my home and school where mistakes can guide us.
I think this book is a valuable resource for an educator, an administrator, or a parent to not only encourage imagination, creativity and innovation in themselves but also in others. As a parent and as an educator, I know I have a certain power with the lives I am entrusted with. I want to make sure I am encouraging critical thinking, passion and imaginative learning.

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