Creativity and Courage (things said at CMK): a reflection (pt. 2)

I mistakenly left my iPod in Virginia, so I was tethered to my MacBook and old school notebooks during the few scheduled sessions, impromptu conversations, and #cmk13afterhours.

outdated technologies

I’m also very embarrassed by my old school phone

I’m sure people looked at me the way I look at folks who write checks in the line at Target or use AOL or Hotmail.  Next time I’ll remember not to judge check writers or AOL users.  We all have reasons for doing what we do, I guess…  Maybe.

I’m looking back through my notes as some of the things that were said over the week.  I want to think them through here.  Feel free to support or challenge the thinking or continue as your were out there in the Internet.

Creativity and Courage

Manchester, NH is only an hour away from Boston, so a trip to MIT’s Media Lab was on Tuesday night’s agenda.  The introvert in me considered skipping out, but it’s MIT’s Media Lab.  That’s argument enough for getting over any social anxiety.

Upon entering the Media Lab, we encountered a few exhibits representing the cutting-edge work taking place at MIT.  Wheels + Legs and the Silk Pavilion are two exhibits currently on display.

part of the Wheels + Legs description

part of the Wheels + Legs description

part of the Silk Pavilion description

part of the Silk Pavilion description

 

I was especially intrigued by some of the cardboard prototyping done for the Wheels + Legs exhibit.

Prototyping from the Wheels + Legs exhibit at MIT's Media Lab

Prototyping from the Wheels + Legs exhibit at MIT’s Media Lab

We slowly made our way to the 6th floor where we were to listen to Tod Machover.  He talked about “Death and the Powers,” an opera commissioned by the Association Futurum of Monaco.  He talked about “A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer and City,” a bold collaborative endeavor with the people of Toronto.  A similar collaborative undertaking is in the works for the 2013 Edinburgh Festival.

Someone asked, “Why don’t you do any work in the United States?”

Machover essentially said that American symphonies were, for the most part, conservative and hesitant to experiment for fear they’ll lose subscribers.

I wish I could remember Machover’s response word-for-word.  Basically he implored us to be creative and courageous whether we’re teachers, administrators, or on a symphony’s Board of Directors.

The advice resonated with me, because I buy-in 100% to the idea that the library should have a makerspace and digital media labs like YouMedia.  I believe that the library was a coworking space before coworking was cool.  I believe the library–a common space, a shared space–is ideal for workshops, forums, roundtable discussions.  The library is an ideal place for creation, not just consumption.  Despite the trendiness and the cliche of that previous statement, I believe it.

Sometimes it’s tempting to back away from these beliefs when we still exist in a culture where people perceive libraries to be about books and quiet and librarians to be about the Dewey Decimal system and teaching citation styles.  It’s not that these things don’t belong here, it’s just that there’s so much more to the work than that.  I can help a student think about a research paper and show her/him how to properly cite a source.  It’s equally exciting (ok, more exciting) to help a student make a movie or watch a student play around with a Raspberry Pi that she/he got from the library.

Raspberry Pi

cc licensed Flickr photo by qgil

There was a lot of talk at CMK about creating democratic cultures in school and the erosion of democracy through the defunding of public education.   I was surprised that this conversation popped up in several different venues over the week: once in a late night lobby talk and then again in some of the few scheduled sessions.

I’m thinking about libraries and how they support democracy through the provision of tools and shared space and the programming of thought-provoking workshops.  The library is a democratic space, because students (or community members) have access to books, articles, 3D printers, cameras, green screens, etc, which gives them the freedom to defend ideas and possibly create physical manifestations of those ideas.

I feel lucky to work in a pretty progressive school.  There’s a lot of tradition here both in culture and academics, but I think minds are open to change and new ideas.  As we move into a new space in August, I’m interested in seeing how new ideas take root, what butts up against tradition, and what is born from courage and creativity.

 

 

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