Story Starters—A Deck of Cards for the Young Imagination

In our book Imagination First, Eric Liu and I write about Oblique Strategies, a deck of cards created by musician Brian Eno in 1975: “Each of the over one hundred cards contains what Eno calls ‘a worthwhile dilemma’—a concise, cryptic prompt….meant to give direction.” Today, I bring news of another novel deck of cards, this one aimed at children: the Spark Your Imagination Story Starters.

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Robots, Learning, and Play

Here’s an imaginative idea: Latitude, an international research consultancy, asked 348 children around the world, “What if robots were a part of your everyday life—at school and beyond?” The kids were to answer in the form of an illustrated short story. Now the results of the Robots @ School study are in, and they reveal what today’s young people think and feel about learning and technology.

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Lincoln Center Institute’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning

Image by Nancy Bareis

A growing number of blog visitors have been seeking information about Lincoln Center Institute‘s Capacities for Imaginative Learning.

LCI has created the Capacities for Imaginative Learning as a framework for student learning, applicable to the Common Core Standards across the curriculum. The Capacities operate as both strategies for, and outcomes of, study according to LCI’s practice.

The Capacities for Imaginative Learning are:

Noticing Deeply to identify and articulate layers of detail in a work of art or other object of study through continuous interaction with it over time.

Embodying to experience a work of art or other object of study through your senses, as well as emotionally, and also to physically represent that experience.

Questioning to ask questions throughout your explorations that further your own learning; to ask the question, “What if?”

Making Connections to connect what you notice and the patterns you see to your prior knowledge and experiences, to others’ knowledge and experiences, and to text and multimedia resources.

Identifying Patterns to find relationships among the details that you notice, group them, and recognize patterns.

Exhibiting Empathy to respect the diverse perspectives of others in the community; to understand the experiences of others emotionally, as well as intellectually.

Living with Ambiguity to understand that issues have more than one interpretation, that not all problems have immediate or clear-cut solutions, and to be patient while a resolution becomes clear.

Creating Meaning to create your own interpretations based on the previous capacities, see these in the light of others in the community, create a synthesis, and express it in your own voice.

Taking Action to try out new ideas, behaviors or situations in ways that are neither too easy nor too dangerous or difficult, based on the synthesis of what you have learned in your explorations.

Reflecting/Assessing to look back on your learning, continually assess what you have learned, assess/identify what challenges remain, and assess/identify what further learning needs to happen. This occurs not only at the end of a learning experience, but is part of what happens throughout that experience. It is also not the end of your learning; it is part of beginning to learn something else.

Click here to download a copy of LCI’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning (pdf)

Give Them Room to “Just Do the Thing”


High school history teacher Diana Laufenberg has witnessed some amazing learning—and learned to step back and allow her students to fail along the way.

In this brief TED Talks video, Laufenberg discusses how profound changes in the information landscape have altered education, opening up opportunities for experiential, student-centered learning focused on exploration and creativity. During her father’s childhood, she explains, kids went to school to gain information; school was where the information was. When she was a kid, her parents bought a set of encyclopedias and, as the locus of information shifted to include her home, education shifted as well. Students in the public high school where Laufenberg now teaches each have a laptop that is fully connected and portable. If information is everywhere, what is school for? Laufenberg argues for learning as a creative process involving failure, processing failure, learning from failure, and trying again. School is no longer about accessing information—kids can do that anywhere; school can now be about playing with information. Want to hear more about the kinds of activities that have opened up these types of learning experiences for Laufenberg’s students? Click here for the full 10-minute video.

Notes from an Imagination Advocate, Part Three

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Image by muellermartin*

Coming of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I occasionally got the impression that certain members of the anti-establishment community thought that they were the first people ever to protest a government, and that their methods were utterly unique and had no historical precedent. In retrospect, I think some of the radical movements of the time might have met with greater success had they been more conscious of the continua of which they were a part. When you’re deeply involved with a set of ideas, it’s important to know not only where you stand, but also who came before you and who else is doing what you’re doing. I’m speaking to myself and my colleagues at Lincoln Center Institute now, and to all educators who support our work. What can we do better? Continue reading