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Karina Eisner

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What place does creativity have in education?

Almost every education related TED video available states or implies that creative thinking is at the center of the learning process and at the root of every breakthrough.
What place do we give creative thinking, free exploration, uncharted discovery in our current educational models?
Are the prevalent public education systems becoming a means to program the masses rather than a way to facilitate discovery, growth and self realization? Are students truly turned into useful citizens, or rather adults trained to respond to induced stimulus in predetermined ways, much like rats in the lab?
Are we afraid of where original thinking can bring us? Are we afraid of change? Are we afraid of losing control? How far are we ready to go to keep it? And do we really think creativity can be killed?

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This debate is closed, now what?

….......................................YOU ARE INVITED......................................

WHAT? Stage 2 of this debate, do it!
HOW? Connecting, cooperating, organizing information, sharing our skills, giving ideas, encouraging, writing or blogging, creating a web page, reaching out to our own communities.
WHERE? New TED debate, Creativity in Action
WHEN? Now.

We can overcome geographical, language, age and political barriers. We can make a difference. Let's take the next step. Are you in?

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Closing Statement from Karina Eisner

This debate is closed, now what?

….......................................YOU ARE INVITED......................................

WHAT? Stage 2 of this debate, join us!
HOW? Connecting, cooperating, organizing information, sharing our skills,
giving ideas, encouraging, blogging, creating a web page, reaching
out to our own communities.
WHERE? New TED debate, here, Creativity in Action
WHEN? Now.

We can overcome geographical, language, age and political barriers. We can make a difference. Let's take the next step. Are you in?

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    Oct 23 2011: Karina,

    To share with you how young people were engaged in a creative solution in my community:

    Students wanted to skateboard. They found one of their favorite places to do so was the high school parking lot. (As a former hockey player -- I know why -- it's far most exciting to dodge danger than just coast merrily along the sidewalk!)

    Needless to say, the adults didn't think this was a very good idea. Though many understood outdoors exercise with friends is far preferable way for young people to work out social and physical energies and get their excitement than the alternatives.

    Leaders engaged the youth in creative solutions. The students told our Mayor that the city needed to build them a skateboard park. To which the Mayor offered something to the effect of:"If you take leadership in creating it, I'll put you in touch with leaders who can help you with the planning, designing, building, management and governance of it."

    We now have a skateboard park -- a culmination of the energies and creativity of youth and the experience and relationships of adults.

    Youth have something to do, Police have fewer calls to the high school to stop skaters. Leaders are proud. Because, in the process, alliances have been made between "rulle-making adults" and "boundary-pushing kids" not least of these is collaborative respect, pride and empowerment of diverse sectors, ages and interests of local citizens.

    Who, through doing creatively, are constructing concentric layers scaffolded by real relationships and co-engaged solutions that solve problems and strengthen self and cultural identities --- all while encouraging more of the same.

    Andrea
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      Oct 24 2011: What a great example! Thanks for sharing, we have motivation, negotiation, and resolution. It doesn't sound difficult when we take it one step at a time...

      I hope the young TEDsters here can take heart and see that [whatever the problem is] they can handle it, it can be done.

      I hope they can rekindle the I CAN frame of mind with which they started out this journey...

      I hope we can make it happen, not only their quality of life is at stake, but our future is in their hands as well.
      When I pass the baton, I want to be excited to know that they are bursting with ideas on what to do to make this a better place...

      PS:: did you get my email? It did work at one point...
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        Oct 24 2011: Karina,

        I actually have a good deal of confidence that young people can create and collaborate in quite robust solutions.

        I did get your email and sent you one in return, this afternoon. I'll re-send it to you.

        Its time like these I imagine a young, creative programmer laughing at her/his computer screen, going: "Hehehe! Got 'em again! That'll teach 'em to doubt my power and brilliance."

        If this is the case: here is my humble appeal:

        Dear Master Yoda. Whether our problem is due to a duck, hiesenbug, or I know, I know, a PEBKAC or id10t code, will you please have Tux or Biff or whomever liberate us?

        Andrea
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          Oct 24 2011: You are funny...

          I just think it is the cold weather, TED got a virus, like many of us these days. Quite a few things have been acting silly lately, not just that... remember the replay button?

          Anyway, if that doesn't work, we'll find a way around it. Where there is a will, there is a way.
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          Oct 25 2011: @ Andrea, and Amira, replying to your post below, as there is no more room there.

          Andrea, your model makes a lot of sense! TIPS and ROOTS ( the middle will come later)
          I like how you can simplify something so dense and bring it back to basics: just an issue at hand that CAN be separated into a few small parts to better tackle it. This is a unique gift of yours :-)

          Amira, here is an idea...
          If other TEDsters here want to join in, we could be part of your "root support".
          Using this site or another one, we could continue to meet regularly, think out loud, problem solve, gather resources and sound research (I think it is now high time for that, to give any outcome a solid base), copy-paste solutions that did work before, generally provide you with support, and give you an unbiased point of view on the progress of things.

          You, on the other hand are there, in Cairo. Would you like to be the agent of change? The innovator in your local community that will start spreading a different way of thinking? Our kind "consultant" here suggested to start out small, so an immediate goal could be gathering concrete field information, correlate it with research, maybe add some expert opinions, and then write an article to print or read in the radio... Sounds within reach?

          Doing this can attract the creative thinkers that really care about education in your area, the weird ones that Andrea mentioned (I guess that includes both of us and all the other posters here :-P Lovely...)

          Think about it. Is this worth your time and effort? If you decide this was just a platonic discussion, that's fine too.

          I personally still would like to do something on my end. I feel strongly that all the synergy we shared here, and the value of so much input shouldn't just evaporate when this debate expires.
          But that's just me, by now you probably know me a lot better as someone that can't keep her arms crossed if she can help it.
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        Oct 25 2011: Karina --

        Your idea that some from TED could help Amira's efforts is great.

        However, Amira would want her strongest base of "roots" to be people in her culture. They are key stakeholders. And important for the development of their culture that the roots be integral to it. In great part because todays roots become tomorrows leaders. By using in-situ groups, the connections to their place and each other's groups become, overtime stronger.

        Another natural metaphor: think of the "acorn" model. An acorn creates roots, roots grow into a tree. Which continually provides for decades beyond it's emergence, via shade, beauty. And, of course, more acorns to grow more roots.

        Any off-site or virtual supporters, in my mind, should become advisers. Sharing feedback, relatable data and information, lessons and encouragement. But should not been seen as the main or even key problem-solvers of Cairo's changes.

        This is a "constructivist" vernacular style.

        Where the stakeholders of a place/space are the co-creaters of it. The closer to the center or core of the place/space the stakeholder is, the more relative weight their input should be. Given our stake is Cairo is secondary to Amira's and her fellow citizens there is, the stake of our contributions in the solutions should be perceived as commensurately less.

        A popular older model of civic engagement, known as communitarianism would, by contrast, see others as perhaps "knowing better" or more about civic problem solving, if not Amira and Egypt then they do.

        I don't usually prescribe to this model. In my mind, in place-experience always trumps distanced views.

        Which is NOT to say people in the TED community and in a group like you are developing can't be very valuable to Amira. Only that this value should be construed as adjunct and/or advisory, not primary to the place-based work they are doing.

        The "roots" than, should be homegrown and/or home-based and closely tied to the growth focuses.

        Andrea
    • Oct 24 2011: I love this example. It is a comprehensive model that took us from A to Z and illustrated the fruitfullness of all the elements involved; young people, adults and officials . I would like to add an element which seems to have been taken for granted in this paradigm: the cultural background where these events took place. It seems that a few critical principles were behind the success of this situation:
      1- Officials take pride in serving and finding solutions for socials and community issues
      2- youth engaged in a constructive debate with adults who listened and communicated
      3- the needs of young people have intrinsic value
      4- the general welfare of society is achieved when the needs of subgroups are addressed constructively
      It sems to me, that all these points have been securely established in the collective mind to enable debate, problem solving and cross-generational discussion to be fruitful, inspiring and even considered as an option.
      Bringing this to my country, we need a really creative approach which would instill these fundamental values to both the experienced generation (adult/officails) , and the young, less experiences generation( creative, resourceful) to move this society from the stagnation caused by over 60 years of dictatorship. I believe it will all come together soon, I am dreaming of a better, more open and creative educational system for my 2 yr old grandaughter.
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        Oct 24 2011: Yeah, you are back!
        Thanks again for your insight.

        You are right pointing out how the same steps may need adjustments in order to work out in a global perspective.
        Some communities may not have a developed civic conscience. When they have to live in fear, or struggle to sustain their family every day, the focus narrows to the individual, to the smallest unit: self. The sense of community and oneness is often damaged, solidarity and "otherness" are lost.

        Or there may be a lack of awareness of the positive, long lasting impact that caring for and meeting the needs of all age groups would bring to the whole.

        What is the case in Cairo today? What is being done in regards to education? Where do you think creativity can help?
        Stay in touch as we continue to discuss this on a new debate...
        • Oct 24 2011: For many years we have had 2 educational systems running parallel to eachother, the public system, 60 to 70 kids in a classroom, teaching to the test, memorization... and yes; I hate to even mention the word... corporal punishment...OMG, I'm feeling ill at the sight of the word in print... Then we have private schools; English, French or German, take your pick from colonial legacy. These schools are very expensive, have imported curricula, material and even teachers.These schools are status symbols, and havens of creativity, learning and plain " good education". Having said that, many kids come out of these schools feeling socially alienated, culturally confused and and even a bit elitist. So we have a real dilemma on our hands. How do we reform or "revolutionise" education to mix learning, dignity, civic identity and employability all at an affordable cost?? Now lets start a debate/question for all TEDsters to try and deal with that! Daunting isnt it?
          A cab driver told me today that it is shamful to ask for directions, if you are a cab driver, then study the map! This made me think what he was taught. It was better to be lost, than ask and show ignorance. That is what Sir Ken Robinson talked about, this man's creativity was schooled out of him. He told me that as a young cabby, it was custom to pay a quarter of your day's earnings to ask another cabby for directions," pay so you remember never to ask again" he told me. There are many Egyptians who, in spite of these challenges, were raised in homes were questions, discussions, reading and knowledge were the norm. These people have grown to be leaders and stars in their fields.
          Creativity is often confused with disobedience, arrogance or even stubborness and refusal to just fit in.Introducing the value of creativity should not be an educational issue, but a cultural and social value as well, Just like the issue of" children with educational challenges or needs" they used to be called "retarded" and kept at home.
        • Oct 24 2011: The real change took place when the society as a whole embraced children and tolerated diversity. I believe that the idea of creativity is just as scary to many people. It entails change, hard work, going into the unknown and believing in the intrinsic potentials of people to amaze us every day. Creativity is that thing" wierd " people do just to get attention or get back at you... that is how creativity has been discribed to me as I give workshops to parents about child development and how children learn. The common complaint is:" she wont do as she is told, she is just spiteful" I usually have a good cry afterwards.
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          Oct 25 2011: Amira & Karina --

          Amira's situation is complex and I won't pretend to be an expert on how to inspire a revolution of creative thinking in a place that has undergone such a sea-change. Though I'm drawn to the problem, so happy to give ideas.

          Much of what you mention, Karina, would be apropos.

          My preferred model with an innovative effort to transform a community that has never even thought of the ideas--and may well conceive them, as Amira says as "weird," is to go to people who feel comfortable being "weird." Good advice Warren Buffet gave -- and we have examples in the late Steve Jobs and other creative geniuses, is to be great one must be willing to be an outlier.

          For culture change you want outliers who, as part of their differentness are concerned with culture (as opposed to cynics who choose the outlier persona as affect of their rejection of society. )

          I like a "tips and roots" strategy.

          Engage experienced leaders who've taken risks to achieve success--they are outliers, your "tips."

          Then engage energetic young adults who are hungry for change or to save the world/culture, your "roots."

          Put them together to collaborate early efforts. From there you can "move to the middles," as the groups demonstrate credibility, staying power, commitment and incremental outcomes. There is much more to the process, but that's a start.

          I would also work hard to create empathy between generations, provided they are somewhat insightful. When adults cluck-cluck about the weirdness or audacity of younger change-makers, don't try to convince them they're wrong.

          Instead, seek parallels to their own younger behaviors. Was their teenage contrarianism a sign of critical thinking skills? Were their struggles in school due to a doodling habit a sign of creativity? Was their inability to sit still prescient of future strengths?

          Point out the connections--generally an Aha!. They see youth's strengths much like their own were, back when.

          A start!

          Andrea
        • Oct 25 2011: Karina, Hi, I'm trying to fit in as much as I can in these last few hours of this conversation. What you suggest sounds good and do-able, There are several local conferences and places where I can be heard, but getting my act together in the midst of all that is happening will take time. We have waited this long, so a bit more wont hurt. I want to listen to some more "wierd" people and get ideas as well as inspiration. I'd like you to keep me posted about other talks and conversations which you think I would like or be able to join in. Will these conversations still be availabe once they are closed? I haven't read every single post and would like to. How is TED going to archive all this brain juice? how about PDF downloads? Is a conversation copyrighted? So much of what has been said here would be great for teacher training. Hope you have the time to answer all my little logistical questions.
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        Oct 24 2011: Amira --

        A very astute analysis of the cultural environment that undergirds examples like these. So good, I'll be sharing it with leaders and others in the community.

        And Karina -- It is true, there is a cultural ethic in this community that is remarkable. And that some communities, due to fear and struggle, might find this model harder to adapt.

        That said, the community is quite diverse compared to others in our state. And, many of the solutions like this one have been ways to maximize the gifts of a community that has been in transition from an aging bedroom community which resisted change for many years. In fact, there have been significant tensions in the leadership ranks regards solutions like these, which engage all citizens. Many, for a long time, didn't think these efforts were worth it. Some still don't.

        Only by a few brave leaders shoring through, have believers been made of many others.

        Leaders began to understand that for the area -- and thus their self-interests -- to survive and thrive, they had to do things differently. It hasn't always been easy. And there remains differences in what we do and don't value. But, to their credit, many many older citizens have showed astounding energy in learning from newer and younger generations. To, as Amira notes: "he general welfare of society is achieved when the needs of subgroups are addressed constructively."

        There are numerous governance and structural tools that can be developed and employed to help create this level of cross-sector change. But, ABOVE all, it takes actually doing them and communicating the outcomes in ways citizens can appreciate things they might not have believed possible before.

        My colleague Harry Boyte has covered Burnsville's success in several books and articles, if you are interest in more.

        On a separate note -- Karina, I re-sent the email. And also sent a note to TED Admin. Did you get it?

        Andrea
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          Oct 25 2011: Andrea,
          No, I didn't get your email. I do know that it is enabled, so it should work fine.

          Do not worry, we'll sort this out one way or another...

          The situation that Amira has placed in front of us so carefully analyzed is extremely complex. I can see several cultural elements that may be deeply ingrained in the social fabric, making it very resistant to change.

          As a participatory researcher, what steps do you think are advisable TO BEGIN WITH?

          The all-out-in-your-face truth already took place; deep political changes shook Egypt early this year.
          Now is time for them to take the pieces and make something better and new. Is not often that we see such an opportunity (here, as of today, we are painstakingly patching up an existing system in hopes of eventually improve it from the inside out) What would be prudent to do first?

          Reaching out to families in small groups and inform/train them in alternative education methods?
          Pulling a group of community members, representative enough of a wide sector of society, and meet with authorities to brainstorm a newly branded system?
          Marketing a new vision by creating advertisement? Articles in local publications and radio/TV to saturation point?
          Complementing the existing system with scaffold organizations (evening schools, tutoring, study groups)?
          Associating with outside educational advisors/ organizations in order to get input and trained staff?

          What do you suggest?
        • Oct 25 2011: Thank you for your comments and thoughts.I would be honored if you care to share my ideas with others.
          It is important to see the process of creativity as well as the outcome. I understand the process is an uphill struggle, but we have no option. I really believe that without creative ideas and solutions, we risk self destruction on all levels, spiritual, above all. Stagnation and surrender to what we know rather than what could be is a fatal illness.

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