Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pencil Me In

Tom Johnson's Adventure in Pencil Integration is a fantastic (literally; you'll see) blog that I think is really about dealing with the modern problem of using new media forms in education and elsewhere.

It is written entirely in metaphor. It is set in 1897 and Tom Johnson is working desperately to convince his school to use pencils, yes, pencils, in addition to, or instead of, chalk and slate boards. People have 'plogs' or Pencil logs, the IT guy (Instrument Technician) is concerned about the music classes and worried that if the hall becomes too narrow, the band will have trouble moving their instruments (yes, a band-width problem), and so on.

I have to admit that when I am busy, I skim through his posts when they appear in my reader queue but I am consistently impressed with how he stays in character as a 19th century teacher and yet discusses modern computer and teaching issues.

Well, now he is putting a book out. Pencil Me In is due out on September 1 and I recommend you check it out.

Ideas worth doing - TEDx

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, the place that I get much of my inspiration for this blog, is holding a competition.

TEDxAmsterdam has thought up a creative way to curate their audience — pose a global challenge to transform an ‘idea worth spreading’ to an ‘idea worth doing.’

Entrants are encouraged to realize an idea before October 19 — and document their progress through photos, video, testimonials or press. 100 winners will receive tickets to TEDxAmsterdam on November 30, 2010. Enter your idea here.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

following through on an idea: leatherman

How the leatherman multi-tool was devised. I thought 'Leatherman' related in some way to uses for the tool- carried in a leather pouch or good for working leather... No, its the guy's name. Well, Duh! Anyway, interesting stuff.

Oh, and note the related stories: How to become an inventor and How to design, patent and sell an invention.

Friday, July 23, 2010

writing advice from the Los Angeles Times

Janet Finch offers 10 rulers for writers. Here are two:

1. Write the sentence, not just the story
Long ago I got a rejection from the editor of the Santa Monica Review, Jim Krusoe. It said: “Good enough story, but what’s unique about your sentences?” That was the best advice I ever got. Learn to look at your sentences, play with them, make sure there’s music, lots of edges and corners to the sounds. Read your work aloud. Read poetry aloud and try to heighten in every way your sensitivity to the sound and rhythm and shape of sentences. The music of words. I like Dylan Thomas best for this–the Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait. I also like Sexton, Eliot, and Brodsky for the poets and Durrell and Les Plesko for prose. A terrific exercise is to take a paragraph of someone’s writing who has a really strong style, and using their structure, substitute your own words for theirs, and see how they achieved their effects.

2. Pick a better verb
Most people use twenty verbs to describe everything from a run in their stocking to the explosion of an atomic bomb. You know the ones: Was, did, had, made, went, looked… One-size-fits-all looks like crap on anyone. Sew yourself a custom made suit. Pick a better verb. Challenge all those verbs to really lift some weight for you.


I've seen many such advice lists. Let's see if I can find one or two more to round out the post.

Hmm. John Steinbeck wrote a letter containing such advice. An excerpt:
The basic rule given us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from the writer to the reader, and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, there were no rules. A story could be about anything and could use any means and any technique at all - so long as it was effective. As a subhead to this rule, it seemed to be necessary for the writer to know what he wanted to say, in short, what he was talking about. As an exercise we were to try reducing the meat of our story to one sentence, for only then could we know it well enough to enlarge it to three- or six- or ten-thousand words.
Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer have short videos offering advice.

Author's Network offers very clear advice. As with Steinbeck, the meat of the message is that a writer needs to write and that is hard work. This fits with what I learned (second-hand) from Prisoners of Gravity, a book review show on CBC television (see here and here -Oh! oh! and the second link seems to have some videos!). The advice there was (after all these years, this isn't an exact quote, but very close), "If you can find something else to do, do it. Only be a writer if you are driven to be one." The message isn't exactly to follow the JK Rowling model - write or starve - but to be the sort of person who always wants to write.
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Added the Next Day:
Ian McDonald explains how he does his research before writing a story ( Chicago Centre for Literature and Photography / via Boingboing ), An excerpt:

IM: What, give away all my secrets? Well, I have this avatar body I can occupy...It takes years. I read a lot. I travel a lot -- and as much as I can afford. I talk to people, I read the papers. I cook the food. I buy the music, I follow the sports teams. I try to second-guess what the government will do in international politics. I learn a bit of the language. I study the religion. I study the etiquette. I try and work out what the day-to-day details are like. I watch people.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

sports vs arts

From America's Finest News Source, I learned that a school in financial difficulties had to cut it's football pro...That's a good joke: goodbye Arts programs!

quick links -again

From Marginal Revolution:
Nobody would argue that Torrance’s tasks, which have become the gold standard in creativity assessment, measure creativity perfectly. What’s shocking is how incredibly well Torrance’s creativity index predicted those kids’ creative accomplishments as adults. Those who came up with more good ideas on Torrance’s tasks grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers. The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.


A two part (one, two) series on using psychological techniques to improve your creativity.

Interviews with 22 Nobel Laureates in physiology, chemistry, medicine and physics as well as Pulitzer Prize winning writers and other artists has found a surprising similarity in their creative processes (Rothenberg, 1996).


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

being creative means actually making things

You can have all the creative ideas you want but if you don't follow through on them, you aren't creative.

"Many people have great dreams, only a few wake up and realize them."


Lack of motivation. A talent is irrelevant if a person is not motivated to use it. Motivation may be external (for example, social approval) or internal (satisfaction from a job well-done, for instance). External sources tend to be transient, while internal sources tend to produce more consistent performance.
...
There are 19 more reasons at the site.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Caption contests and ESL

Here's a chance to combine two of my interests. I want to teach creativity and improve my own and I do teach ESL.
Caption contests, where one looks at a picture and adds the caption sounds like win/win to me.

Here are a few I found online, chosen somewhat randomly, but with some thought to my Korean students.



Korea Beat - this is to one specific (and completed) contest, but he seems to have links to others. I'm not sure if he posts this type of contest on a regular basis.

The Korean Tourism Organization has essay and photo contests as well.