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Imagine, Create, Play, Share, Reflect (Repeat)


In All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten, Mitchel Resnick, part of the MIT Media Lab, suggests a cyclical process that can be helpful in stimulating creativity. He chooses language that purposely evokes memories of childhood fun and play. Like play, it is a process that is inherently enjoyable and that can keep going and evolving with each step: (1) Imagining expands your idea of the possible, (2) Creating a model of your idea gives it a physical, sharable form, (3) Playing with it helps you push the boundaries of your model and how you can interact with it, (4) Sharing your model with others allows you to observe other playing with it, playing with it with them, and getting feedback or new ideas, and (5) Reflecting is a way to celebrate your creation, to consider your experience interacting with it, to consider the feedback from others. Finally, to repeat, you can imagine how it could be better or just allow it to inspire you to imagine something else.

One important takeaway for art and education is that there is always a next step in the cycle. There is never a dead end; you are never stuck or done. With this in mind, there is no reason to fear exploring even the impossible and personally investing in it. You can enter into this process at any stage: you don't always have to start with imagination. Finally, there is purpose and progress to play. 

A second takeaway is that the type of materials available to an artist affects creativity. Resnick praises materials such as blocks, crayons, dolls that do not over-constrain or over-determine their actions. Digital tools can broaden the possibilities even further by giving artists the tools to model and manipulate behavior, as well as form, to serve their purpose. Like other materials, artists of different ages and skill levels will want to interact with digital materials in different ways. As more products are created to inspire and open up possibilities for digital creations, it will be important for teachers to choose materials that are accessible for the age or skill level of their students but that also do not over-determine their interactions with it.