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Andrew Williamson


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Isaac Asimov on how to discover new ideas

So how can you discover new ideas? Naturally, prolific author Isaac Asimov has some light to shed on the subject. In a recent publication of a 1959 essay, Asimov shared his insights on how to foster creativity and discover new ideas.

Great article that discusses the Sci Fi novelist Isaac Asimov's notion of how to foster creativity and generate new ideas. What some like to call ideation or in design thinking speak, the ideation phase. To position this article in the context of the creative thinking process, there is nothing new here however, I do like the way Asimov has broken the process down in to 6 bite sized chunks. This makes the process for generating ideas easily digestible and could be generalised into the classroom. This six chunks could also be aligned to Wallas' and Cropley's "Creative Thinking Stages Model"

Ideas are born in solitude
Not necessarily possible in the classroom however opportunities for individual thinking and personal reflection that foster metacognitive thinking could allow for students to focus on ideas. This could also provide students with the necessary incubation time that Wallas and Cropley refer to in there stages of the creative process.

Ideas need to be shared
Collaborative grouping and opportunities for students to present their ideas are essential when fostering creative thinking. Getting students to respond appropriately with meaningful feedback is the tricky part.

Ideas flourish among the right people.
This has interesting implications for the classroom. Sometimes it's not always possible for students to form collaborative groups where they are surrounded by the 'right people'. Mostly I allow for groups to be self organised in the hope that students will gravitate to the right people. I always do this with the caveat of students need to make good choices and if it doesn't work then we need to mix things up a little by changing the group.

Ideas Require a relaxed environment
I like to think that my classroom environment is one that is relaxed and that students feel safe to make mistakes and see failure from a growth mindset in that it's part of the learning process. However, often I need to reassess if this is true. The stress of deadlines, communication within collaborative groups breaking down and the imminent end of the lesson hour can create stress that interferes with the flow.

Ideas should not be paid for
This doesn't really apply to the classroom however Asimov does discuss it in the context of ideation happening whilst participating in extra curricular activities. This aligns with Cropley's idea of the incubation phase of the creative thinking process. Where novel ideas occur when unrelated ideas clash or combine to form a new idea during a period of absent minded or day dreaming or engaging in an unrelated task. I now see great value in a child engaged in a day dream state. It's a sign that some deep thinking and processing is taking place.

Ideas need an arbiter
Asimov points out that the process of ideation can often be served well by having an arbitor or facilitator of sorts. Someone who will offer guidance, ask the right questions, and probe the correct areas to maximize the effort. This could be a teacher but even more powerful would be for other students to be arbiters. This would require some time being spent educating the student on what is constructive feedback and how to give it. This is something that I find challenging in the hour long music lesson. Ensuring that I find and make time inside the lesson to model constructive feedback but also allowing students to give and take feedback from their peers.

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Where does 'creativity' happen in your brain? | Education | The Guardian

If painting, mathematics, and parking your car engage totally different brain areas and processes, so should creative painting, creative mathematics, and creative car-parking. Creativity is, in a word, everywhere. Asking neuroscientists for the neural centres of creative thinking is like asking them for the neural centres of thinking. It’s the brain, stupid.

Another book that I am going to get to add to the ever growing library of books to read. What I like about this article especially the quote above is the idea that creativity is hard to pin down. That is, it's hard to define where it comes from and how to get it. This provides some challenges for the classroom in how do we foster creativity? Creativity is a thinking process so one could argue that to foster creative thinking would be to foster good thinking in general.

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“If you have kids put blocks together to solve the puzzle, that can be useful for learning basic computing concepts. But we think it’s missing an important part of what’s exciting about coding. If you present just logic puzzles, it’s like teaching them writing by only teaching grammar and punctuation.”

“because MIT and Tufts’ approach to coding is really about creative self-expression and storytelling, and looking at code as a literacy — a way to tell a story.”

STEM or STEAM? Both the Federal Government ($1-billion-innovation-program/7006952) and State Government ( have recently made policy announcements pushing for greater support for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in schools. Both believe that increasing the number of students learning STEM subjects will lead to a more innovative and dynamic job sector. Whilst I applaud this strategy to a degree, I question whether the focus is too narrow. What I mean by this is, innovation implies creativity. No? So why not include the Arts as one of the core subjects? I believe this would facilitate a flow of artistic and novel thinking throughout the STEM subjects. The arts promote creativity where suspending judgement and accepting ambiguity are readily used as part of the thinking process. STEM should become STEAM. What do you think?

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An interesting read regarding the stark realities of being a vlogger on YouTube. Having 10's if not 100's of thousands of subscribers does not necessarily equal $$$

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What Drives Children’s Creativity? | The Creativity Post

Messing’ with paints or words can lead to new creative possibilities. Mistakes, setbacks, and roadblocks aren’t insurmountable, and they won’t squash the joy of creating if they’re perceived as opportunities for growth. Parents and teachers can help children learn to trust themselves, to take sensible risks, and do what they love to do. They can encourage children to be innovative and playful with pen, paint, crayon, paper, stone, clay, musical notes, sand, or whatever medium for creativity they choose. This will empower children to want to create—fueling that initial spark with a variable mix of passion, chaos, and clarity so it can ignite and become creative expression. - See more at:

There's that notion of growth mindset again. It's a reoccurring theme/ingredient when discussing the creative thinking process. Important to think about ways to foster the growth mindset disposition. Would your call it a disposition?

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Middle School Maker Journey: Top 20 Technologies and Tools #makerspace

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Wooohooo! Reached my goal of 5km in 25min. PB. 

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Unlike other computer games with structured outcomes, Dezuanni believes the open-ended nature of Minecraft lends itself to creativity

Yep could agree more. I've spent countless hours playing lego and Minecraft with my son. I love playing with both mediums. The possibility for creativity is boundless. There has been loads of examples of both lego and Minecraft being used in the classroom. Check out what +Kynan Robinson​ has been writing about as he explores Minecraft with grade 5/6 students as part of his PhD.
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