Creativity, Play, and the Imagination Across Disciplines

This May, Teachers College will be host to an exciting forum for educators, artists, scholars, and game-makers to come together and share their ideas for how creativity, imagination, and play can inspire new ways of thinking in a broad array of domains. Creativity, Play, and the Imagination Across the Disciplines will be held May 26-28 and seeks to create an environment conducive to the free flowing exchange of ideas in an effort to generate new understandings. Born from a desire to actualize an experience that is not just about creativity, but is actively engaged in creating, this unique conference will serve as a venue for participants to not only listen and learn, but make and do.

The conference is presented in conjunction with Game Show NYC, an exhibition of games that presents a new twist on traditional art exhibits. GSNYC, which builds on Game Show Detroit, originally presented at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit in 2006, seeks to broaden the concept of conventional art shows by engaging viewers in a way that is both active and educational. Presented in the Macy Gallery, the reception for this exhibition will serve as one of the conference’s many exciting events.

A wide variety of sessions will range from presentations on theory and practice, to interactive workshops where the presenters and participants will learn together. Attendees will have the opportunity to think and learn in an interactive setting, and participate in workshops that examine the role imagination plays in the creative process. Sessions will engage the audience in various fashions, and participants will have the chance to think freely, exchange ideas, and absorb new and exciting knowledge in an effort to inspire creative growth.

Some highlights from the program include several sessions on gaming and game design as a means of education toward such aims as exploring the nature of the creative process, and inculcating notions of ethics and justice. Multiple presentations involving theater and performance investigate the role these art forms can play in changing inner city lives and approaching a greater understanding of literature.

The conference will feature sessions in which the process of artistic creation will be taken up by practitioners discussing their own works. Conversations range from exploring strategies of doubt and refusal, and approaches of getting beyond external and internal gatekeepers. One particular session delves into the role of intentional constraints in opening possibilities for creating, while another examines the importance of cultivating make-believe to develop creativity.

Alternative approaches to educating will be on display, including a talk with students of a college founded on creativity and self-discovery who will offer a behind the scenes look at an interdisciplinary classroom orchestrating an environment for creativity and play. A number of sessions will offer “provocations,” ways in which to explore and bring forth participants’ own expressions of creativity in workshop format.

The conference also includes presentations grounded in the world of assessment in educational settings, including an international panel comprised of superintendents, principals, teachers, and scholars from four global cities – New York, Toronto, Western Australia, and Singapore. At present, research focused on understanding how top schools around the world educate for creativity is being conducted in schools in these cities. The panelists will share their insights about the latest developments in education, exemplary teaching, and pedagogical practices in their school that help foster higher order critical and creative thinking in students.

While not solely focused on offering specific lessons plans for bringing creativity into the classroom, the conference will provide a wealth of resources for teachers of all disciplines and age levels to take and adapt for their content area. Because creativity and imagination can be seen as universal concepts that can spark innovation across disciplines, educators will be able to explore the ways in which other teachers and practitioners use various strategies to elicit student innovation and share their own methods for teaching creatively.

This student conference will serve as both a rich source of stimulating concepts for educators to bring into the classroom, as well as inspiration for fresh ideas and ways of thinking for those in other disciplines.

Artists, scholars, and game-makers will be just some of the voices from other arenas that will be present. Nick Sousanis, one of the conference organizers who is doing his doctoral dissertation in comics form at TC, explains that the nature of the sessions is geared toward cultivating the examination of one’s own pedagogy, allowing for reflection and reinvention of practice. The conference seeks the convergence of a diverse group of people and ideas in an effort to expand the possibilities for learning and growth for everyone involved.

In addition to interactive presentations in a variety of formats, the conference will feature a number of invited speakers. Tony Wagner, founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is scheduled to speak at the conference dinner on May 26th. He will be sharing his research from his latest book to be published this year entitled Learning to Innovate, Innovating to Learn and discussing how we can educate for creativity.

Other speakers include Maxine Greene of Teachers College, Fred Goodman from the University of Michigan, and Chadwick Jenkins from City College of New York. These esteemed speakers will be able to share a wealth of knowledge from their research and practice to set the tone for the conference.

Another aim of the conference is to weave in the potential for future collaborations. While the event will feature a set structure, the overall format will also build in time for informal interactions. With presenters and attendees coming from across the country and a number of international locations, it is hoped that this time for unstructured interaction and more intimate conversations will set the stage for collaborations to come. In addition to
providing space for open interaction, the conference will also feature a “wrap” party on Saturday so that participants have an opportunity to reflect on what they’ve experienced, debrief, and begin thinking together about what comes next. Creativity, Play, and the Imagination Across the Disciplines will be held from May 26 through May 28, 2011 at Teachers College, Columbia University.

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For more information about Game Show NYC, check out