Monday, June 24, 2013

Chapter 2: Imagination

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -Albert Einstein

As I read this chapter and thought about this quote, I kept coming back to this question: is imagination possible without knowledge? Share your thoughts on this question and the chapter.

Last week was an amazing start to the summer book club. You guys have been having a great conversation. Please feel free to continue commenting to old posts while moving on to the new week's discussion. Please note that we will take next week off and continue the conversation the week of July 8th. If you know someone who is interested in joining the book club, let them know that now is a great time to catch up with the group. Have a great week!

46 comments:

  1. I liked this chapter a lot! I think we can imagine things that we know nothing about. Like when you haven't been somewhere you anticipate what it's like, and if you don't have lots of images from media, etc., your imagination gets to make up what it thinks or suggests that it will be like. We have to get new ideas from our imaginations or there would never be new inventions. In the American Profile from last week's newspaper there was an article about Waterparks. In 1977 a man named George Millay opened the first water park in the U.S. He was the first person to develop the concept of having waterslides without lakes. I am sure his imagination was working on this long before he had lots of knowledge about what would and wouldn't work in a waterpark! I think imagination is SO important for teachers to use. To "hook" 4th graders into a lesson about measurement, I pulled a long nightcrawler out of a can and asked if we could measure it. We put it under the document camera (no harm to the critter) and I demonstrated how to measure the worm, we discussed what's important for measuring. After this little opener I started to pass out little paper cups to all of the groups; they all thought were getting a cup of earthworms! Some students were even cautions about looking in the cups. However, they each received a cup of colorful "yarn" worms! Their imaginations were active, and I certainly had their attention.

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  3. I loved this chapter when I read it yesterday morning! In the middle of my teaching career I was a stay-at-home mom of 3 very active individuals (who are soon to be 21, 23, and 25) and we "used" and developed our imaginations on a minute by minute basis. The one thing I notice in my classroom is that my young adults don't know how to use their imaginations in real life situations; perhaps they have never been "taught" how to develop them.

    Imagination leads to problem solving and that was a point that I kept getting over and over in the chapter. I work with work-based learning and college readiness young adults at the high school level and I find that many of them don't know how to problem solve; even the most basic problems or issues that they encounter. Let me give you an example: I am a half-time instructor so my schedule is usually that I teach every other day (block scheduling). This past Spring one of my students contacted me on my "day off" and said that she could not access a paper on the computer because the computer was in my classroom and I was not at the school and the paper was due to me by 8 a.m. Now I could have ran to the school which is only 5 minutes away and opened my classroom and she could have submitted her paper; however, I decided that I was not going to jump for her that day. You see this young adult was a senior who was soon to be an alumni of our high school and this Fall will be attending a university. I told her to problem solve and asked a couple of questions to get her started. After a couple of texts back and forth and her exclaiming that she was now late to her 1st block class because of me and my deadline (let's just interject at this time that this deadline had been set for 4-5 weeks at this point). She finally told me she would just fail the assignment and take the F, but I wouldn't let her give up that easily. I asked another question and I got back that she didn't want to nor could she handle arguing with me on that day. I gently explained that I was not arguing with her only trying to get her to problem solve. After about 20 minutes I get back "so should I contact one of the teachers in your department and ask them to open your classroom for me?" Yes! Success!!

    Since then I have gotten 3-4 texts from her this summer telling me how she has problem solved situations and how proud she is of herself.

    So how did this bright young lady with a 3.12 GPA get to be a senior in high school, accepted into a college, face all kinds of personal and family obstacles, etc. get to be a senior in high school and not know how to solve basic problems in life?

    I loved the activities that were at the back of the chapter and will be using them with my AVID and ICE students throughout the year.

    For me problem solving is using your imagination and imagination is a wonderful thing whether you are trying to build a bridge, the world's tallest building, painting a picture, designing beautiful room, or figure out how to get into a locked room; it is al about problem solving which takes imagination!

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    1. Thank you for being a teacher that made the bright student use imagination and common sense! I have a bright 8th grade, 13 year old son- it's amazing the factual knowledge and conceptual understanding that he possesses yet he can't solve a simple problem like the example you gave. My dilemna is...when standardized tests (and most social studies tests in general) are fact based or conceptual at best, how do you get students to use imagination and make that a valued trait at the same time as helping them learn the facts and concepts? I fear we are raising a generation of smart kids that won't be able to survive in the "real world" because somewhere along the line school told them to turn off their imagination. I let my son play WAY too much "Minecraft" (it's a computerized lego-like invented world game) because it does help him imagine and create- I don't want him to not be able to persever and problem solve, no matter how smart he is!

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    2. I agree with you when you say that we are raising book smart individuals but not so much common sense individuals. I believe in hands on; let's figure it out type of activities in my classroom, but I am very fortunate that I teach subjects where that is okay to do. I always tell my students that the highest compliment that they can pay me is when they are in the working world and living life and come upon a situations where they need to problem solve and they say, "Hey, I remember when we talked about this in Mrs. Tait's class and I know how to at least get started."

      Let your son continue to play Minecraft but also bring out the real Legos and let him just "play." We tell our students to grow up too fast and I think that is where our students lose their use of imagination.

      Happy Playing!!!

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    3. I agree- they want to act more like grown-ups, and they have grown-up responsibilities at home- but they need times to be childlike. For example, the build-a-castle project that goes with the Middle Ages unit- they really don't learn anything important or testable, but they have fun and create with their families and are so proud of their work. I want to incorporate more of those projects- they are good for their imagination!

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  4. Imagination is a great habitude to start with.It is amazing how many of my students struggle when they are given an assignment that is open ended and every step is not given to them. Towards the end of the school year I gave my students the assignment to create a Civil War Battle organizer. They could create any kind of organizer using any materials they could find to create it. The only requirement was facts about the battle. Some students flourished and had elaborate designs. Others really had a hard time thinking for themselves and thinking outside the box. I think that in this era of testing we forget about imagination and its connection to problem solving and learning.

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    1. Brant, I agree about the kids not knowing how to imagine. I think it is frequently because they are not encouraged to invent and create at home as they are growing up. My own kids used to make big forts in the living room, and make-up their own recipes in the kitchen. My guess is that your students who flourish with the project you assigned are the ones who were pretending and creating all along at home.

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    2. Brant, like you I give a lot of open ended assignments and know that I have students (11th and 12th graders) who stand in front of me and say, "Just tell me what to do" or "What do "you" [meaning me, the teacher] want it to look like?" Again some flourish and run with the idea and some are just spinning their wheels.

      Pretending and play are valuable lessons that we are NOT teaching our students.

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    3. I agree and in our coorporation, due to intense testing, our kindergartners are no longer allowed a play time. At the school my sister-in-law is teaching the students only recieve a 30 minute lunch recess and then another 15 minutes of free recess. That is not much time for them to develop any imaginations and to learn from children who are imaginative.

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  5. I think several of you make great points about our students not being able to problem solve on their own or use their imagination. I am not sure that they taking the time to use their imagination or possibly we (parents and teachers) aren’t always giving them the opportunities to do this. Also, many students don’t use their imaginations as much at home because they are not outside playing or engaging with their friends through active play. Also, there are times when adults will solve problems for children instead of allowing them to figure it out on their own. Our students are better for having to go through the work of figuring it out on their own and experiencing the feeling of accomplishment when they do it on their own. This chapter helped me to think about how I can help my students use their imagination and also how many amazing things they create when given the opportunity.

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    1. Helicopter parenting does little to help kids problem solve. We are in trouble when parents will not even let their college freshmen pick their own schedules after meeting with advisers, etc...is there such a thing as too much parent involvement?

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    2. Kelly:
      Your post sounds like something I might have written. I am on my way back from ISTE, where gaming was a big topic. Why is it that kids are so eager to play games, when, on average, they will fail 80% of the time, but, in real life, they seem to have such an aversion to failure? Today I also got to hear John Spencer, featured in the book. I also heard him at ICE last fall, but he changed his presentation today to apply more to librarians and reading.

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    3. Helicopter parents are a BIG problem! I know one principal who interviewed a candidate for a teaching position and Mom came along to the interview and even made a follow-up call to the principal. Geez!!

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    4. I so agree with all of you. While I love technology (mostly), I truly believe that the lack of problem-solving skills has been exacerbated by cell phones. Many times I went to the restroom on my prep period and a young woman in a stall was on the phone to her mother, sometimes crying, about some problem or drama. When I would return compositions to my AP English students, I could expect an email from parents before the next class period was over. When I was a kid back in the dark ages, my parents bought a set of encyclopedias (a lot of money at that time) and my mom's standard answer to any question we asked was "look it up." If a problem came up at school, you had to deal with it yourself. This chapter provides some good strategies for helping kids use imagination to solve problems. I particularly liked the mind-mapping strategy.

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    5. I sometimes feel students expect everything to be given directly to them. I am asked repeatedly in the library where is...? what is...?, or when did....? After asking the student a couple of question of my own I find out they have not even attempted to find the answer. That's when I guide them to the right place to help them find the answer. I give the student some time and check back with them. Usually we both learn something and hopefully I have helped develop their problem solving skills a little bit.

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  6. I also loved this chapter! I do agree the imagination is more important than knowledge however when I decided to try the Mt. Everest climb and lemon taste imagination activity on my three girls (ages 3, 6, 8) I found that you do need a knowledge base to be able to imagine. My children didn't know anything about Mt. Everest so doing that activity without any knowledge base did not have the same effect. However, after doing a quick mini lesson on Mt. Everest and seeing a picture of it they were able use their imaginations in the activity. I have to say the hour drive in the car yesterday went quick and I felt we had awesome conversations all the way there.

    I loved how the activities used all the senses while imagining. While doing the activities, I thought how easily students could practice this habitude with their descriptive writing and like the posts earlier with problem solving.

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    1. Amy brings up an important point--the visualizing that was required of the students required prior knowledge. Would we pucker at the lemon description if we had no prior knowledge of sour? Those sensory descriptions are important to all, especially in writing.
      How much do they contribute to "imagination?" I have noticed, over the years, that students from a low socio-economic background are often the most "creative." Why? Because they have to be! Many times, prior knowledge isn't what drives them to come up with new ideas or ways of solving a problem;rather it is necessity of using existing resources at hand.(Mrs. Tait's post about using existing teachers at school is a good example.)

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    2. Thank you for your compliment, Martha.

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    3. Martha:
      One thing that concerns me about students from the low socio-economic background is that they can often be creative (they may not have 10 Barbie dolls, the house, car, etc, so they pretend more), but does their lack of life experiences also limit them? I can see this working both ways.

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    4. I have also found that the primary kids from a low socio-economic background are often better at some skills, like counting money. Some of them have actually probably had to go to the store and purchased things at a very young age, unattended. Also, some of them have learned to take risks earlier; they are not afraid of being wrong. This may be because no one was teaching them the "right way" to do things. Unfortunately, sometimes some of these characteristics end up being used in a negative manner as these kids grow up.

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  7. Loved this chapter..... "Life is exactly what we imagine it to be." This is such a profound statement. After reading this chapter, it's very clear that this is a "habitude" that needs to be cultivated, especially at the middle school level.
    Imagination- I think about the games we invented as kids- Kick the Can; Post Office; School; Plays; and the list goes on. We played school before we had ever attended school- so knowledge or imagination? Good question?
    Great activities in this chapter to propel the "habitude" of imagination. A disheartening comment I heard a lot this year from students was, "Is this what you wanted?" Students have been programmed to give us an exact, predetermined answer, thus, dissolving any hope for imagination. To combat this ongoing question, I encouraged students to "think outside the box." It actually became somewhat of a class adage by the end of the year. Students quit asking questions and would just comment, "I know, I have to think outside of the box." Our class blogging challenge, also provided the platform for this habitude. The challenges were designed in such a way that students used creativity to problem solve with the world around them- communicating and working with students around the globe.
    At what point did our students lose the ability to imagine? Is it the system? Is it our culture?
    "If we cannot see the possibility, we cannot achieve the outcome."~ love it!

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    1. The other issue I run into is so many students will only respond if their answer is the "right" one...I want to hear their ideas, so I, too, had to work on the "outside the box" concept. For my seniors, this was really hard...but we made progress. I hope they can carry it forward to the university level.

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  8. I kept going back to my time as a young parent (not too young as we were early 30s) as I read this chapter. We worked hard to give our kids opportunities to imagine; however, I also remember those times when life and the day-to-day drudgery got in the way, and I would respond to their request/idea with a curt "no." I worry what great discovery I may have lost the opportunity to witness because my first response was negative. A few years ago I found myself doing the same in my classroom, and it bothered me greatly.

    As teachers, we have so many people pulling at us, and our lives get so hectic and stressful. For me, my "coping" mechanism was to not add any more to my plate. Looking back that was the wrong reaction--I should have moved something off my plate and made room for my students to try new and different approaches in their learning. To do otherwise is to squelch their natural ability to imagine and go beyond the obvious. I worry that so much of education these days is an "inch deep" to help prepare students for the test...letting students use their imaginations certainly gives them chances to practice their problem-solving and also to make their educations more relevant to them. Shouldn't that be a cornerstone of our work?

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    1. After reading this chapter for the first time last week (and again this morning) I found myself becoming much more aware of my own children's opportunities to use their imaginations. Like Ted, I found myself telling my own kids "no" if a project was going to be too messy or leave the house cluttered. I have to get over the fact that I now have a cardboard box "car" in the living room and an "airplane limousine" made of blocks on my dining room table. My challenge now is to find a balance of giving my own children the opportunities to develop their imaginations while still taking responsibility for their own toys. My classroom challenge for myself is how give students the opportunity to develop imagination with the limited time we have and the strong emphasis on test scores.

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  9. I love Lesson 2- Success Moments. It struck me- if kids can't imagine being successful, then they just won't succeed. I wrote notes in the margin- kids don't remember what they have been taught because they don't use their imaginations. It's all tied together. The opening question about knowledge preceeding imagination is also true in reverse- they need something imaginative and memorable to help that knowledge stick. One of my biggest frustrations is kids with "teflon brain"- you teach them in class and that day they really "get it"- but then just a day or two later they have no memory of that lesson or the facts and concepts they learn- it all seems to slide right off. Good teaching for these kids (there are more of them every year) HAS to include memorable moments and building that mental file of success moments to draw on. This book is totally changing how I want to start the school year- and we start August 1 (balanced calendar)- I am imagining how I can teach these new incoming middle school 6th graders to imagine a successful experience in my classroom.

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    1. I love your thoughts on imagination and how using our imaginations help us to learn. I too have the frustration of students having no memory of something that I know they understood just a week ago. I tend to leave imagination out of my lessons, not on purpose of course, but because it takes students a lot of time to imagine. If they aren't given the time growing up, they aren't used to it. We do have to teach them to imagine. We have to give them the time and tools they need to imagine their future and how learning will help them to reach their goals and solve their problems.
      To address the idea as to whether knowledge must come before imagination, I think that a person must have knowledge of something but that what they imagine may be a whole new concept once they have combined thoughts of previous knowledge. If we had knowledge of everything, we would never create and discover new things. As a teacher I feel I need to guide my students to knowledge of many things that will allow them to imagine new things.

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  10. I see this working both ways. What about young babies who have limited knowledge and life experiences? How much imagination do they have?
    In certain areas, I think you are better off with less knowledge, because you won't be constrained to what already exists. But, in some cases, maybe an extensive background will help you imagine more possibilities, or know what has already been tried so that you can do something different. I liked the examples of different people using the same three colors to get wildly different results in art, or seven different musical notes. This reminded me of my trips to the grocery store: why do I come out of there with mundane meals and other people shop the same place and end up with gourmet meals?
    I wonder how many students have had a class where they specifically discussed imagination like this. I love the idea of the success file; many times we encourage our teachers to create one for themselves as well.

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  11. I have just spent the week at ISTE where it is obvious that we have many creative imaginations. With imagination you will have knowledge. So many students are told what to do and are not given any room to be creative. Even in my classes I have students who want to know how many words, how many slides, how many etc. I give them basic parameters and that is it. I want them to own their work. Out of that comes the questions and from those questions comes the knowledge.
    Infants may not have knowledge but they develop the desire to learn, to grab, to feel and touch. From that comes the imagination. If we don't allow our students to use their imaginations, what good is the knowledge.
    A local store had a holiday picture in which children were to color and turn in to be judged. Every child, but one, colored the picture nearly identical. The child, a 5 year old, colored a Santa in a very yellow outfit. When asked why the judges chose the one yellow suited santa, they responded with, "This child has an imagination and will not conform or accept that there is only one way to proceed. "
    What good is the knowledge if there is no imagination to use the knowledge?

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  12. I processed this chapter for several days. The current class I teach, intense special education students, I never thought the students using their imagination or even having an imagination. I witness my students building and incorporating blocks of knowledge, but I am not aware of witnessing true imagination. A few years ago, I taught students with mild and moderate disabilities, I saw many imaginations working. I treasure the moments when I watch my grandchildren using their imaginations. When given string, tape, paper, and a hole punch, they are good for hours. As I mature, I realize the importance of "play". Our newest generation needs opportunities to "play" without electronics. They need times that I once called "Quiet Night", an evening with no electronic devices droning out our thoughts. This meant no dishwasher, washer, dryer, and vacuum cleaner running for me, and no television or radio/boom boxes for them. This night was always approached by grumbling, but after a few games and reading a few pages, we all felt at rest. Maybe after a period of rest, we find new answers to problems and the ability to put in motion imaginations. Another very thought provoking chapter!!!

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    1. I like your idea of quiet night! I think that the number of children with attention problems can be traced to the extensive use of video games/computer games. WHen children are constantly watching something with flashing colors and sounds it cannot be good for your brain, and it makes your teacher seem really boring!

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    2. Julie and Kerri, I agree about the importance of "quiet nights," and even quiet days! Students complain that they are not allowed cell phones in our middle school classes. They claim that they could quickly look up answers for various class problems. However, our students are too reliant on typing a question into Google to get a quick answer rather than just thinking about what the answer could be on their own, or even think about the best place to find an answer, rather than just Google. Imagination is key to extended thought processes, I think - even for something as simple as imagining the best place to find an answer (yes, sometimes a book will give you an answer quicker than a website!). :)

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  13. I teach art and the students are more comfortable when i have one or two examples for them to look at and ask them to create a work that is similar. But that doesn't really get me or them where I want us to go. I try to give them something open ended like list 10 things you think of when you hear the word "water" , then to use one of those ideas to create a design. Some ideas aren't going to work well and that's ok. My classroom is a lab and we learn from trial and error. The more I give them experiences like these there will be growth in their self confidence and creativity.

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    1. I know what you mean by them wanting examples. I also feel that when students see examples then they think that the example is "right" and they try to make theirs just like that one.

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    2. Alice: I have always struggled with the idea of having a "model" for students. When studying some of the backwards design, Grant Wiggins, etc we were told students needed a target. But how do we balance this with wanting them to use their imagination and creativity?

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  14. I teach fourth grade and it is amazing to me how little thier imaginations seems to be. Almost all of the students in my class are on free/reduced lunch. They are not exposed to much of anything outside their town. This leads me to believe that its harder for children who haven't had many life experiences or general knowledge to use thier imaginations. I see this a lot during writing when I come up with a really cool prompt (or so I think!) and there's always some kdis who say, I can't think of anything. Some kids come up with good stories but there's no details. I loved the begining of the chapter where she has them imagine climbing and then wants them to tell what they were wearing, etc. I think all children have to the ability to use thier imagination, I just think for some its going to take more nuturing than others.

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    1. I agree. Many students are going to need help with ideas. My the time I get them in the 8th grade they are so used to being told what to do that they have no imagination. They just want to be told what to do and how to do it. It is very hard to get away from the habit of being told what to do.......we use baby steps to pull them out. It is there but they just don't know how to access it.

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  15. Question: My post from earlier today is missing. Is there a problem with the posting?

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  16. This habitude fits in very nicely with reading comprehension. When the author was describing different situations having students use all of their senses to imagine themselves there (The Anchor: The Million Dollar Conversation Starter), it is just like a technique we use in elementary school to help children improve their reading comprehension. We have them close their eyes and visualize what is happening in the story. We use questions similar to those that are listed. The formal program is called “Visualizing and Verbalizing”.

    Kids come to school with so much imagination, yet we often force them to fit into the school mode. They quickly learn that there is one right answer, not many right answers. We need to emphasize this more in school.

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  17. Well, I agree with Albert Einstein so I too think imagination is more important than knowledge. Another point I’d like to make from this chapter is the definition given to the imagination. I’ve never quite thought of the word imagination in the way the author does at least to the depths she does. It was very enlightening for me.
    I have two young grandsons that love Legos but to me . . . yuk! They have the imagination to create something. I just look at the blocks expecting them to miraculously turn into a cool design! It never works!
    As I was reading this chapter I kept thinking about my teaching. Do I give my students an opportunity to use their imagination? Well, I know I do because there are times I’m very surprise at their lack of imagination. Has that happened to anyone during class? On the flip side though, I’ve needed their imagination for something like creating a story and they usually come through for me!
    Another idea I took from this chapter is Lesson Three. I really like the idea of mind mapping as a tool to solve problems. I teach third grade and that seems to be the year that students need to be pushed out of the ‘education nest’ or to learn to become more independent. By using these lessons maybe I can help them understand how important their imagination is to being successful.
    Cathleen Cunningham

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    1. Glad you mentioned that you were surprised when they do finally come through. This last spring as I was telling my 6th grade choir that if they were to sing in the end of the year cabaret, then they had to do something more than just sing a song with everyone on melody. We held our auditions and a set of 6 girls auditioned with their remix of J Beiber songs AND they sang it acapella with all the extra sounds of instruments just like on the SING OUT TV show. I was amazed. When I asked them how and why they came up with this format their answer was, "you told us we couldn't just sing, it had to be different if we were to perform." I had forgotten but it was a memory worth remembering and videoing.

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  18. This chapter reminded me of a terrific book I read a few years ago, and maybe some of you have read it: Eric Larson's The Devil in the White City. It's about the Chicago World's Fair in 1896. The men who planned the buildings, attractions, and landscaping were men of enormous imagination and vision. They also had much knowledge and skill, but what they were able to envision with their imaginations was staggering. And they made it happen. It was spectacular. I was online constantly looking at old pictures in awe . The big attraction was an enormous Ferris Wheel--the first one ever. One car held something like 60 people. All this was created without any "technology." The book left me wondering where such men of imagination and vision are today.

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  19. Great question! I sometimes think when I am talking to students that knowledge can hinder imagination within certain students. They know the facts, the logistics of how and why, and will often stop pushing the envelope and thinking outside the box for answers. This was my mindset until I read: "When we talk to our students about their imaginations, let's ask not whether they have one (because they do), but rather what they are going to do with it." (44). That was a light bulb moment for me. It is up to us to push our students to use their imagination. As educators we can't settle for the simple answers. I walked away from this chapter with that challenge for myself. Very powerful reading yet again!

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    1. Thank you for highlighting that quote. That is a great thing to remember and take from this chapter.

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  20. Imagination and knowledge go together. With your knowledge base one can imagination solutions or create something. Both need to be nurtured in our students. Students need to see that you not only use imagination when you are creating something but when you are trying to solve a problem too. I watched an episode of MacGyver on Netflixs this morning. MacGyver talked with his grandfather about using ideas from his grandfather's stories to come up with solutions of what to do. His grandfather replied that they were just stories. He replied that they worked. An example of using your imagination to come up with creative solutions. I think some students think answers need to come instantly, but really sometimes they need time and we need to use our imagination to organize and figure it out.

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