LCI to Join WNET Celebration of Teaching & Learning on March 16

In three weeks, more than 10,000 North American educators will converge on the Hilton New York for WNET’s seventh annual Celebration of Teaching & Learning. The Celebration is a major professional development conference that includes over 40 featured speakers and 100 interactive workshops, as well as two exhibition halls full of education resources. This year, as in 2011, I’ll have the privilege of presenting there, on a panel with Madeleine Holzer, director of educational development at Lincoln Center Institute, and 2010 National Teacher of the Year Sarah Wessling.

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Watch America’s Imagination Summit

In case you were on vacation in August or just spending some quality time away from the computer, Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) would like to remind you that comprehensive video footage of America’s Imagination Summit, the major event we hosted here in New York City on July 21-22, is available online.

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Coloring Outside the Lines

Image by Samantha Celera*

Lincoln Center Institute’s Imagination Conversations aim to, among other things, unite diverse sectors by drawing attention to their shared reliance on imagination. So it’s exciting for me to see the corporate and education worlds coming together on behalf of this cause: Crayola and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) have just awarded “Champion Creatively Alive Children” grants to 20 American elementary schools. According to a press release, the grants, “which will fund innovative programs aimed at fostering children’s critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication skills,” include $2,500 and Crayola products worth $500. The winning programs include one that will enable students to “find their individual voice” through puppetry, and another that will ask students to visually solve a new problem every month. (The full list is here.) For any interested educators, the eventual outcomes of these learning initiatives will be made public on NAESP’s Web site. In the press release, NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly touches on one of LCI’s main concerns when she mentions “preparing our nation’s children to thrive in the 21st century—a task that depends on fostering a culture of creativity and critical thinking.”

In a similar vein, LCI has created the annual Imagination Award to recognize and highlight imaginative thinking in the teaching and learning practice of public schools. Begun in New York City, and inspired in part by LCI’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning, the Imagination Award is now also awarded to a school in Washington State. Winning schools exhibit evidence of the incorporation of imaginative thinking across the curriculum, in subjects from art to English to the natural sciences. The school must demonstrate the ability to construct learning environments in which imagination is cultivated as part of learning as well as teaching.

These ideas, it seems to me, is very much on the minds of people in all realms of society right now. I applaud Crayola and NAESP as well as the grant recipients for transforming them into action. The education and business communities are beginning to see that both of their futures hinge on their ability to harness the power of imagination.

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News from New Orleans


Image by Martin Haase*

I’m pleased to see that the ICI Continuum concept (imagination –> creativity –> innovation), which is central to my and Eric Liu’s book Imagination First (unsurprisingly so, since it is at the center of LCI’s teaching-for-imagination methodology), has popped up yet again—this time in Louisiana. The Town Talk reports that state educators assembled at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts on June 28 for the Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation (ICI) Summer Institute. This four-day professional development event, conceived and coordinated by KIDsmART of New Orleans and sponsored by the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development, gave K-4 educators the opportunity to receive training in arts integration methods from consultants and arts teachers. Dana LaFonta, executive director of the Louisiana Division of the Arts, makes remarks in the article that strongly echo LCI’s beliefs: in today’s global economy, “arts education develops skills for the 21st century: creative thinking, problem solving, individual responsibility and teamwork.” Add imagination to the list; better yet, put it at the head of that list. Pleasant as it is to find the ICI formula being invoked in public discourse, it’s even more satisfying to know that Louisiana educators are fostering in students the capacities necessary for workforce success—and that state government is supporting the effort.

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Imagination Goes Global


*Image by Germán Meyer

Much of my work on imagination—Lincoln Center Institute’s Imagination Conversations and the book Imagination First, for instance—focuses on the United States. As I’ve said many times before, I want to see an imaginative shift in American education, one that will foster a national workforce of creative problem solvers and bold thinkers. But we advocates in the U.S. need to be aware of initiatives taking place in the rest of the world, too; after all, imagination is a human capacity, not merely an American one. So it’s with great interest and pleasure that I bring to your attention some recent developments in Malaysia.

In the Malaysian newspaper The Star, Priya Kulasagaran reports that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has launched “Malaysia Innovative 2010,” calling 2010 “the Year of Creativity and Innovation.” Najib, like me, believes that this new emphasis is necessary if a country is to be economically competitive. But Kulasagaran also quotes an educator who, while agreeing that developed right brains are essential for success in the 21st-century marketplace, points out that “[c]reativity should not be seen as … a commodity, but a lifelong process of trial and error.” Eric Liu and I make the same argument in our book, Imagination First: far more important than innovative products and services is the development of a community of imaginative thinkers, an “ecosystem of possibility” (174). The article soon transitions into a discussion of the classroom. Continue reading

Notes from an Imagination Advocate, Part One


Image by Jacob Bigelow (1786-1879)*

As regular readers of this blog know, most of my entries have to do with things going on in the world—with people in various sectors whose careers and actions embody imaginative practice. But it seems appropriate now and then to retreat from the hustle and bustle, exciting as it is, in order to reflect on some of the major issues facing imagination advocates like me and my colleagues at Lincoln Center Institute. One matter I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the educational discussion centering on the STEM fields.

“STEM,” for those who don’t know, refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the fields arguably responsible for the most impactful advances in society. In recent years, the United States government has demonstrated its desire to promote STEM education in public schools and in colleges and universities. This makes plenty of sense; as the STEM Education Coalition explains on its Web site, these fields play a “critical role … in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace of the 21st century.” Yet, with all of the enthusiasm for STEM, arts-in-education proponents sometimes wonder, “Well, where do we fit into this picture?” Continue reading

Emerging Issues Forum Brings Creativity in Education into Focus


Image by Ariana Rose Taylor-Stanley*

In “More Creativity in the Classroom,” an opinion piece written for The Huffington Post, former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt expresses a vision for education with which I heartily agree. It is strikingly similar to the one embodied by  the imaginative learning model of Lincoln Center Institute. “Creative thinking fuels innovation,” Hunt asserts. It leads to new ideas, products, services, and jobs. So unless we “cultivat[e] creativity in our schools at the state and local levels,” the United States will soon find itself unable to compete economically with other nations who do. But, some readers may ask, what does it mean to “cultivate creativity” in public education? Continue reading

Redesigning the American Classroom


Image by John R. Hawk*

In a recent blog entry on graduate business schools, I mentioned “design thinking,” a term that may be unfamiliar to many readers. In a fascinating January 20 interview with Public School Insights, a blog of the Learning First Alliance, professor and business innovator David Kelley provides satisfying answers to anyone in the dark about what exactly “design thinking” is. In addition to founding the world-class design company IDEO, Kelley has been a professor at Stanford’s unique Institute of Design (nicknamed “”) for over 30 years. Like LCI’s Imagination Conversations initiative, much of Kelley’s current work is dedicated to reshaping American public education—but how does he want to change it, and why? Continue reading

Imagination Means Business

Image by Mark Kobayashi-Hillary*

One aim of Lincoln Center Institute’s Imagination Conversations is to demonstrate to audiences that imagination is not only the province of artists but, rather, is central to the fields of education, science, government, and business. A recent New York Times article by Lane Wallace, “Multicultural Critical Theory. At B-School?”, reveals that some thought leaders in the business world share our perspective. The piece focuses mainly on Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, whose guiding principle is that business students need to learn more than number-crunching if they are to succeed in the 21st century—they must also be able to think critically and creatively.

Martin’s idea, Wallace explains, is to weave skills traditionally associated with the liberal arts—for instance, the ability “to imaginatively frame questions and consider multiple perspectives”—into the business school curriculum. Other institutions besides Toronto that have expanded the scope of their M.B.A. programs in the last few years include Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and the Yale School of Management. Many of these programs are now offering “design thinking” classes that send students into the field to find problems, to which they then propose solutions. Martin and his like-minded peers are wisely responding to one of the lessons of the current financial crisis: businesspeople with basic knowhow aren’t enough to keep our economy thriving. The new era demands workers who can “think … nimbly across multiple frameworks, cultures and disciplines.”

Developing the minds of M.B.A. students holistically is an exciting step in the right—that is, the imaginative—direction.

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.