the future is unwritten

A run-down of the best moments of the World Creativity Forum #cwf2010

The #Popupschool

Poster from Claes Oldenburgs The Store

Poster from Claes Oldenburg's "The Store"

This was by far my favourite thing at the CWF.  Taking their cue from a movement largely associated with the arts’ community, students from London, UK and Oklahoma, USA established a temporary learning environment at the CWF.

The Pop Up idea is not new, going back at least to the sixties when artists opened temporary shops to showcase and sell their pieces directly to the public, rather than dancing with inevitable bureaucracy involved with securing a showing through an established gallery.  The Pop Up movement explores ideas of agency, creativity and community.  By establishing temporary shops or galleries in unused retail spaces, artists take advantage of conditions brought about by recession and regenerate community by infusing it with culture. Click the poster advertising Claes Oldenburg’s “The Store” to visit the MOMA page discussing his popup shop established in December, 1961.

#PopUpSchool Magazine

#PopUpSchool Magazine

Tucked into a corner of the showcase area at CWF, The PopUpSchool stood in rather stark contrast to the decidedly corporate-flavoured neighbouring booths.  The PopUpSchool is learner-driven, purposeful, participatory and connected.  It disrupts traditional notions of school as bricks and mortar.  Along with the students’ presentation to delegates on Wednesday morning, the PopUpSchool was, to me, the most imaginative and inspiring aspect of a Creativity World Forum that my colleagues and I dubbed, “#whitemeninsuits”. (I’ll have to review my recording of David Pogue’s talk, but I am pretty sure that the preponderance of talks given by white men in suits with delegates sitting in rows consuming powerpoint presentations at a forum dedicated to celebrating creativity, imagination and innovation qualifies as irony)  Please take some time to navigate around the PopUpSchool’s online magazine, where students documented their experiences at the CWF.  Super stuff, indeed!

The Barefoot Water Walk

Wishing Well Barefoot Water Walk

Wishing Well Barefoot Water Walk

Organized through a facebook page, the Barefoot Water Walk was not part of the official CWF program.  Wishing Well founder Ryan Groves and TOMS Shoes‘ founder Blake Mycoskie partnered to host the walk, whose participants were invited to stay and listen to the keynote address, thus expanding the walls of the CWF to include over 100 folks, mainly students, who otherwise might not have been part of the experience.  I appreciated this especially because, although many of the keynote addresses focused on the role of education in supporting the development of creative capacities, the youth voice was largely unheard, apart from the #PopUpSchool and the Barefoot Water Walk.  Disruptive!

Pranav Mistry

Of all the speakers at CWF, Pranav Mistry was the one who blew my mind.  I had not viewed his TED Talk prior to arriving in Oklahoma, so the Sixth Sense technologies that he discussed were new to me. Aside from watching Mistry demonstrate things that I would never have imagined possible, I was impressed with his interest in making these technologies accessible to the general public.  On his website there is a “coming soon” section that promises to include instructions for those DIYers who would like to make their own versions of the wearable gear.  Below is a snippet of his talk at the Forum where he demonstrates Sparsh:


Before heading to the CWF, I had the chance to chat with Haley Simons from Creative Alberta.  We connected via twitter, where folks can follow @CreativeAlberta for developments in Haley’s quest to establish Alberta as an International District of Creativity.  Haley is a passionate force to be reckoned with, to be sure.  Our Ottawa Carleton District School Board team included Chair of the Board Cathy Curry, Superintendent of Instruction (a.k.a Noodling King and unofficial Minister of Creativity) Peter Gamwell, Chair of the Ottawa-Carleton Assembly of School Councils Anne Teutsch, and 8 others from a variety of departments across the District.  Thursday before we departed for the CWF, we assembled to skype with Haley and some members of the Edmonton Public School Board.  It felt like the beginning of an East-West partnership and I know that we will connect again very soon to continue the conversation.

Creative Tallis online

Creative Tallis online

I also connected with Jon Nicholls, from Thomas Tallis School in London, UK.  The students from his school were the driving force behind the #PopUpSchool and I was very interested in the partnership that had been established between Thomas Tallis and Howe High School in Oklahoma.  You can read about their partnership here.  Over lunch with Jon and his colleague Soren Hawes, we made plans to connect their students with our grade 8 classes at W. Erskine Johnston PS.  More on this as the project develops, but suffice it to say that I am excited for our students to expand their learning through a project that will be both fun and meaningful.

First Day Back

gamesI missed my hubby and my two kiddos, Dono and Violet, terribly over the 5 days I was in Oklahoma City for the CWF.  It wasn’t until I returned to school on Friday that I realized I had also missed the staff and students at W Erskine.  I was quite touched when students told me they had missed me and wanted to know all about the Forum.  As exhausted as I was from the “go-go-go” of the CWF, I also felt energized by some of what I had seen.  I found myself having a most incredible first day back.  I joined a Grade 8 math class in the computer lab to play around with Geometer’s Sketchpad and yes, Dave, you did catch me smiling about MATHEMATICS. We then devoted our writing workshop to exploring games – brainstorming game genres, listing games we have played and then following up with a short writing assignment to explore the common features of games we like with one of the following prompts:  “A game is great when …” or “The new game I would invent is …”  This is the beginning step in our new partnership with the students at Thomas Tallis, but I haven’t told the students yet… shhh… They are going to eat it up, that much I know.

We wrapped up the day by viewing Pranav Mistry’s TED Talk together and it was a real thrill to watch them as they freaked out at exactly the same parts as I had when I watched his talk in Oklahoma!  When the bell rang, I was swarmed by students wanting the URL for the website to find the talk.  As one student wrote it down, others asked her to “facebook it” to them.  Love it!

As Joe Strummer said, “the future is unwritten”. I think that summarizes what I am taking back from the Creativity World Forum in Oklahoma. A renewed sense of the possibilities that are out there if we seek them out.  Oh, and I never did find Wayne Coyne — apparently touring in Japan.  Dang!