Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Commentary: On Playing for Change's 'Stand By Me'

By Josefina Tiburcio
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Media Reviewed:
Playing For Change: Episode 2, "Stand By Me"
Four years ago while walking down the street in Santa Monica, Calif., the voice of Roger Ridley singing “Stand By Me” was heard from a block away. His voice, soul and passion set us on a course around the world to add other musicians to his performance. This song transformed Playing For Change from a small group of individuals to a global movement for peace and understanding. This track features more than 35 musicians collaborating from all over the world. They may have never met in person, but in this case, the music does the talking.

This class is about exploring “Creativity and Social Change,” which is why the video, “Stand By Me,” captured my attention from the minute I watched it. The people that had the bright idea of putting this video together are very creative and are making positive social changes in society, as well as in communities all over the world. Furthermore, the name of their Web site speaks for itself -- Playing for Change.

Based on what I experienced when I watched this, I strongly believe that the creativity in this video can touch our hearts and possibly awaken the feeling and emotions that many of us hide deep inside of us. It is amazing to see how all of the people singing in the video are connected by the same passion for the music and the sound of the different instruments. Some of them actually make very nice musical sounds with different objects they play -- possibly invented or created by themselves.

The possibility of being connected by similar emotional pains exists. These pains could be caused by different circumstances in life (homelessness, hunger, loneliness caused by separation or loss of loved ones, rejection from society, etc.), but in the end, lead people to feel similar emotional pain as reflected in this video.

Most importantly, this video can impact the viewers in a positive way by making them feel compassion toward other people in society, regardless of their origin, race, color, culture and social class. This compassion for others in society is what we need. It is the tool that can trigger our desires to make a change in the life of an individual, a community, society -- and mainly in ourselves.

For instance, the first person who sings in the video, Roger Riedly, seems to be a homeless person. At the end of the song, people from the community approached his bag and made a contribution. Also, there is a possibility that the doors to the music world open up for one or more people singing and playing in this video, as an individual or company seeking new artists may become interested in them either as a singer or instrument player.

Finally, I think the creative idea of getting all these people from different parts of the world together in a single video is amazing. There is no doubt that creativity can impact our lives a lot in a positive way. Creativity not only help us to be or become creative, but it also helps us to discover the gift of the creative mind some of us already possess, but have not yet discover. At the same time, it help us to better appreciate the ideas and creative thinking of others, as well as realizing that creativity can come from anyone and anywhere. After taking the "Creativity + Social Change" class, the term “underestimate others" becomes history for some or all the students that experience this class.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Creativity in the Classroom Workshop at The Aldrich - Monday

A creative education workshop for teachers, administrators, and parents ... with Facilitator Steven Dahlberg, Director, International Centre for Creativity and Imagination
MONDAY, MARCH 22, 2010, 4:00-6:30 P.M.
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877
$30 (members)/$35 (non-members)
.2 CEUs available
Register online:

Creativity includes -- and is more than -- the arts. Creative thinking is a twenty-first century skill that applies to all subjects, all grade levels, and all ages. It is a skill that prepares students and adults for a rapidly changing world, where complex problems do not have pre-defined, easy solutions.
Creativity involves creative and critical thinking skills that can be taught, practiced, and applied in all curriculums. In this workshop, you will:
* Explore what creativity is, who has it, and how to unleash more of it.
* Think about thinking ... and learn how to think in new ways.
* Learn and practice applied creative thinking skills.
* Discover styles and types of creative thinking within the creative process.
* Connect creativity to the classroom.

Steven Dahlberg is head of the International Centre for Creativity and Imagination, which is dedicated to applying creativity to improve the well-being of individuals, organizations and communities. He works with the Public and Community Engagement program at the University of Connecticut,
where he teaches the "Creativity + Social Change" course. More info at:

For registration and further information please contact:
Suzanne Ryan
Museum Educator
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
seryan @ aldrichart . org

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ken Robinson ... Again on Creativity and Education

[15 March 2010 - The Bonnie Hunt Show] Sir Ken Robinson shares what isn't working with our teaching system in schools.

Commentary: On Eve Ensler's TED Talk ... Happiness in Body and Soul

By Tiffany Ayala
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Media Reviewed:
TED Conference: February 2004
Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues, shares how a discussion about menopause with her friends led to talking about all sorts of sexual acts onstage, waging a global campaign to end violence toward women and finding her own happiness.

I chose to watch this video from the TED Web site because it struck me as a piece that definitely steps outside of the boundaries. Throughout my years as a college student I have come to realize that there are many important issues where light should be shined upon. However, unfortunately the most important issues tend to be the most avoided ones. Diversity, for example, is such an important component for many students and parents when selecting colleges, but under this social umbrella of issues hang many injustices that don’t usually get addressed within the community. One of which is violence against woman.

While in college I was assigned to read The Vagina Monologues, by Eve Ensler, who is the woman in this video discussing how creative forms of art, such as creative writing and plays, have allowed her and others to spread awareness of women's sexuality and violence against women. The book was life changing and her lecture intriguing and moving. Although it is hard to accept, it does not surprise me that one in every three women will be beaten, battered or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. However, what is a pleasant surprise is the fact that through the creative art of performance and speaking out with women sharing their personal experiences, worldwide social change is possible—leading more women to share their stories while spreading the influence, providing others with hope and strength, and helping to find happiness within the body and soul.

As discussed in the course, Creativity + Social Change, there are many aspects of life in which the presence of creativity is beneficial. For example, in education, prison systems, and spirituality.

It was interesting to hear Eve Ensler make a connection to the topic of spirituality within her lecture. She referred to a Buddhist convention, which she had attended and where she was told that she would find happiness by the end of the program. Eve, on the other hand, thought the idea was obscene. She didn’t believe in happiness, and thought that only idiots were happy. How could one find happiness in a life filled with suffering and pain?

I, for one, could somewhat agree and understand Ensler’s opinion. Though at the same time, I wondered how she could say such a thing when all of those suffering women who were brave enough to share their stories with her, as well as the whole world, managed to lead so many other woman to escape; freeing themselves of the pain and suffering to then find internal happiness.

I was glad to hear Eve Ensler end her lecture referring back to the beginning where she referred to the concept of happiness. Throughout her journey around the world speaking to all sorts of women and hearing their stories she had finally come to terms with what she had come to understand as happiness—and for me to hear this was very comforting and inspirational. I would urge everyone, men and women, to think about this deeply, and consider it in your own lives, no matter who you are or what you are going through.

Ensler closes her lecture saying that happiness exists in action, through telling the truth, and giving away what you want most. Most importantly, she emphasizes that social change comes about when we give to the world what we want the most, and as a result, we heal the broken part inside each of us.

Commentary: On James O’Brien's PopTech Talk ... Hands-on Education

By Angela Hyde
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Media Reviewed:
PopTech: James O'Brien: Hands-on Education
2009 PopTech Fellow James O’Brien assembled a staff of like-minded educators to create BCAM – Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School. The fledgling educational-innovation tank combines performance-based academics and professional training in media and arts to prepare teenagers for success in the 21st century.

The current education system in the United States is failing many of the young people it is meant to prepare to take their places as responsible, contributing members of modern society. The system as it exists is archaic, focusing on teaching knowledge and skills that are no longer relevant in today’s knowledge-based global economy. Many students are being totally lost in the system, missing out not only on personal fulfillment and growth, but also on the ability to become productive, engaged workers and citizens. Is there another way to approach how we educate our youth so that they are truly prepared to enter the world after high school? Is it possible to nurture and develop their innate curiosity into a lifelong love of learning that provides the foundation to become the problem solvers and innovators of tomorrow?

James O’Brien, principal and founder of the Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School (BCAM), is building an environment at that school to tackle these challenges, employing unconventional methods and approaches. The mission at BCAM is to support and provide a relevant education to ninth through twelfth graders, preparing them for college and careers beyond high-school graduation. The challenge is heightened by the additional issues of daily urban life: student literacy capabilities that range from college-ready to third- and fourth-grade reading levels; a student population that feels alienated and unmotivated and that lives in an environment of violence, crime and gang affiliations.

To implement their goals, the innovative staff at BCAM developed a “21st Century Professional Preparatory Model Curriculum,” which uses a three-pronged approach to educating students: academics, creative arts as part of the core curriculum, and professional development. Mr. O’Brien discusses how the school meets students at their level and works with them to develop their talents and skills. Academics are steeped in the inquiry model, and students are taught to relate the lessons learned in academics with what is happening in their lives and to connect with their communities. Because in New York state all students are required to pass five Regent exams in order to graduate from high school, preparation for those tests is incorporated into the academics portion of the curriculum. Arts, which include fine arts and media arts, are required for three years to foster personal expression and creativity. To foster professional development, the school partners with professional organizations and businesses where students serve internships that involve them in the work world. Mr. O’Brien is pursuing paid internships, which would give the high school students added incentive to be truly “invested” in their work and futures.

While BCAM is still in its infancy, it is an example of how educators are going outside of the current education model to create vital, engaged education systems that address the needs of young people and their world.

For more information on the state of education in the United States and a look at how others are revolutionizing education, check out these Web sites/video clips:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Commentary: On Ken Robinson's TED Talk ... Schools Kill Creativity

By Brooke Smith
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Media Reviewed:
TED Conference: February 2006
Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence. In this talk, he makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

I watched a video presentation from the TED Conference. The ultimate goal of TED is to highlight, study, and show how one can use the gift of human imagination. The man giving the speech was Sir Ken Robinson. He grew up in England and moved to California later in life. The speech was easy to listen to and humorous. Sir Ken Robinson used to be a university professor but now writes and speaks about creativity and education. The speech took place in Monterey, California, in February 2006 during a four-day TED Conference.

This video relates to our class in many ways. Sir Ken Robinson spoke about the main goal of changing our education system and how we use this system to teach our young children. He believes that creativity is the backbone to every individual and that traditional education teaches children how to conform to become studious while losing their creativity. According to him, the definition of creativity is, "the process of having original ideas that have value." In class, we spoke about this exact concern with the educational system. I believe that teachers should modify the way they attempt to conduct their classrooms. According to the video, education was created before the 1900s to meet the needs of industrialization. The most useful subjects back then were reading, writing and mathematics. This time period began steering children away from things they enjoyed because there was no future in being a musician or a dancer. Instead, the goal was to force everyone to become academic and find careers that they may not enjoy but will obtain financial success.

Sir Ken Robinson said: "We have a huge vested interest in [education], partly because it's education that's meant to take us into this future that we can't grasp." I agree with this statement. Traditional education and the subjects it deems important have become outdated. The times have changed and it is time we revamp the goal, focus and purpose of education. If we do this, we can better prepare our children for the uncertain future and the necessary skills needed to be successful today.

The speaker believed that children "all have tremendous talents, we [adults and education] squander them." How do we create schools and education to stop dismissing creativity and talent? This question was asked in class. I do not believe that there is just one change that would fix the educational system. Instead, it is many little changes such as teaching style, use of technology, etc., that would help begin a new style of learning. Children are full of imagination and talent. This is the main reason I love my job. I go to work every day and learn more from the children than they learn from me. They may not know that they do this, but I love their innocence, imaginations, ideas and passion. Children are very passionate about most of the things they do. "Kids will take a chance, even if they don't know how to do something or why they are, they still try," Robinson said. It is only through our educational eystem and adults telling children "No" that we hinder and/or stop children's creativity.

I took down many interesting things that Sir Ken Robinson said. These are just a few of the quotes that stuck with me.

  • Creativity is as important now as literacy.
  • If you not prepared to be wrong we will never be original.
  • The challenge is how to remain an artist, because we were all born as one. (quoting Picasso)
  • Highly brilliant people and brilliantly creative people no longer think this way because of being STIGMATIZED in school.

This video was easy to watch and full of valuable information on why the need to change the educational hierarchy is necessary to adequately prepare future generations. Instead, we are setting children up for failure. A degree no longer holds as much value as it once did. Everyone has them now. Instead, you have to continue your education and obtain higher degrees like a master's degree or law degree. It is time for a change to our system. How can we as individuals begin this change? Will it help future generations if we do?