Utne Reader Project August 1998

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Utne Reader Summary August 1998

Submitted by Tim Everson

January 13, 1999

Can we all learn to think like geniuses? While reading The Art of Genius: Eight Ways to Think Like Einstein by Michael Michalko in the August 1998 edition of Utne Reader, I began to believe that I too could think like Einstein or Edison.

According to the article, scholars have come up with eight thinking strategies that have helped many of the great thinkers of our time. These strategies were based on information that was gathered by analyzing notebooks, correspondence, and conversations of some of these great thinkers.

The eight strategies are as follows:

1. Geniuses look at problems from all angles.

2. Geniuses make their thought visible.

3. Geniuses produce.

4. Geniuses make novel combinations.

5. Geniuses force relationships.

6. Geniuses think in opposites.

7. Geniuses think metaphorically.

8. Geniuses prepare themselves for chance.

I found it interesting that many geniuses did not have an ultra high IQ score. I figured that the two went hand in hand. Michalko stated that creativity is not the same as intelligence. In order to think like a genius, you have to be creative in the way that you think. Most of us think reproductively which means that when we are faced with a problem, we go back through our memory and try to find another similar problem that we have solved in the past. We then try to solve this new problem following the same basic strategy that we used in the past. According to the article, this is not how a genius would approach a new problem. A genius would ask herself/himself how many different ways that they could solve the problem. This method of thinking enables the problem solver to come up with new approaches to solving the problem. This aids the genius with solving problems in the future that may appear the same as those that they have solved in the past, but in reality are much different when the problem is broken down. To the reproductive thinker, this may be the end of the line for them as far as solving the problem.

Michalko also stated that possibly the most important lesson of all is that when you find something that interests you, everything else should be dropped and the interest should be pursued without interruption. Many people fail to reach their creative potential because they have become fixed on their pre-conceived plans. I find this idea somewhat unrealistic. I have a family and a job. If I was to drop everything and go with my interests, I probably wouldnt have either for very long.

This article has caused me to try some different approaches to teaching in my classroom. Together with Glassers idea of quality and the idea that creativity is the key to finding new ways to solve problems, I have had students try some new exercises. One such example involved my Exploring Computer class. In this exercise the students paired up and created a spreadsheet and two charts to exhibit their data. I told them that they could present any information that they wanted. This freedom of choice left many students dead in the water. In most situations, students are not given the opportunity to be creative. Most assignments are straight forward and they are told exactly what needs to be done. Through group discussion, some ideas were presented and they were able to complete the assignment. The next day I handed out copies of the assignments (without names) and asked another group to critique the spreadsheet and give a grade out of 40 points. This again caused many students to wonder how to get started. I told them to look at the spreadsheet and charts and grade it on quality and how well the information was represented. I told them to be creative with the ideas that they gave when grading. The next day we did the same thing but each group had another paper to grade. The third day I handed the graded papers back to the creators and told them to make changes according to the comments of their peers. This proved to be a very interesting assignment. Many students said that they would have done better the first time if they knew that their peers would be grading it. Interesting. This assignment not only showed that they could do better, but it also caused them to think differently. The answer to the problem was not just to get it done, but to complete a quality work that they would be proud of.

I discussed the article with different colleagues and they told of very creative students that they had had in class who didnt have the highest IQs, but often times came up with very new and interesting methods for solving problems. These teachers taught math and said that when they got to story problems, these students stood out from the group. Many times these problems were more real world than a normal math assignment. I too can remember learning new ways to look at math problems from various students throughout my experience.

This article has definitely sparked my interest to get students to be more creative with their work. I look forward to using this idea in my Desktop Publishing classes. It should prove to be eye opening for both my students and myself. I intend to talk to my students about this article and how a person can learn to think differently. We may not all become geniuses, but we can learn to be more creative. I think that the teacher is the vital key to making this possible by creating activities that allow students to use their own ideas. Too many times assignments are black and white, leaving very little room for creativity.

-- Anonymous, January 10, 1999

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