DaVinci Banquet – 2014

2014 DaVinci Banquet

The DaVinci board of Directors will be hosting the 2014 DaVinci banquet at the Oklahoma History Center, March 28 at 6:30 p.m.

Keynoting the banquet will be Dr. E. Ann Nalley, Cameron University Professor of Chemistry, who has distinguished herself in the field of chemistry and science in general.

As Vice President of the Malta Conferences Foundation, she is a leader of an organization which believes that Acts of war and terrorism have destabilized the political and economic climate in the Middle East and around the world, but it remains possible for scientists from opposing sides of the political and cultural conflict to meet in an attempt to forge relationships that bridge the deep chasms of distrust and intolerance.

Nalley was the 2006 president of the American Chemical Society.

Dr. Nalley will share her insights into creativity in science.

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Announcing the 2014 DaVinci Award Recipients


Dr. Aleisha Karjala, USAO
Dr. Christine Pappas, ECU
Wade Watkins, NOC
W.T. Skye Garcia, ECU
Dr. Mary Swanson, NSU


Rae Anne Klement, St. Gregory’s
Laura Borkenhagen, UCO
Amanda Jespersen, NSU
Jessica Becker, St. Gregory’s
Ashley Woody, CU


Marcia Greenwood, Cleveland Elementary, Oklahoma City

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2014 DaVinci Spring Forum

The DaVinci Spring Forum will be held April 11, 2014, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Murray Hall Parlor on the campus of Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.  Forum participants will discuss how to create a clearing house of undergraduate research opportunities across Oklahoma through the DaVinci Institute. The Forum is open to faculty from Oklahoma public and private colleges and universities.

REGISTER for the Forum, which includes lunch, online by following this link to the Forum Registration Site.

DaVinci Member Institutions – First four registrants = free – subsequent registrants $10.

Participants from non-member institutions = $10

Registration Deadline – April 7, 2014

Directions to Murray Hall

Map of OSU Campus (pdf)

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Creative You

By Dr. Erik Guzik and Dr. Kathy Goff, cSchool, Creative Oklahoma

Are you creative?  Very few of us think we are. In fact, when many of us think about creativity, we often conjure up images of musicians, artists, and writers—the mystical “creatives” who we dream about being, but never dreamed we could actually be.

Sadly, we rarely allow ourselves to imagine that we might actually be the creative ones.  Or that we might be able to benefit from our creative abilities in a number of interesting and important ways—whether completing an otherwise boring homework assignment, crafting a witty email to a friend, or devising a game plan to break an opposing team’s stifling half-court press.

The truth is that most of us do not realize what unique creative abilities we hold and the interesting ways in which they can be applied. Worse still, lacking an adequate understanding of our own creativity, we very often place ourselves at a disadvantage when building careers, attending staff meetings, or even deciding what (or how) to prepare for dinner. After all, how can we effectively develop and apply our creativity if we do not understand our own unique creative strengths and potentials?

We developed the online Vast Creative Abilities Indicator (VCAI) in response to these concerns.  While we appreciate forms of assessment based on self-reporting and self-perception, we also believe that the best way to understand and develop creativity is to set it in motion—and view it in action.  In this spirit, the VCAI asks users to complete a small set of interactive, hands-on challenges that allow respondents to showcase their actual creative abilities and talents. The short version of the test takes only 15 minutes to complete, offering a small set of tasks whose results are evaluated by trained scorers to determine an individual’s current creative strengths and potentials. The tasks include a variety of different cues—verbal, visual, spatial, audible—in order to identify different aspects and kinds of creativity.

Though the VCAI is still being carefully beta tested, the initial results have been very encouraging. As one example, while working with Creative Oklahoma’s cSchool, we captured sketches of incomplete figures that cSchool students were asked to complete online as part of an initial assessment of their creative abilities:

Here is one of the complete screen captures of a sketch submitted by a cSchool student:

Note the creative process that the student is using.  The drawing begins in the left frame, resulting in a fish, likely triggered by the image that resembles a hook.  But it is a false start, and the sketch is erased.  In the right frame, a drawing then appears of a woman with red shoes.  Again, a false start—the student erases the figures and begins again.  The final drawing is a mermaid—half fish/half woman—that ties both figures together, and also happens to include some very witty titles (another indicator of creativity that we consciously look for—and reward—in submissions).

Psychologists often talk about epiphany and the “A-ha” moment in the creative process.  Not only do we see that moment within the sketch above, it can be analyzed, studied, researched, taught, and enjoyed.  The sketch also illustrates the power of imagination and play–if the student hadn’t been willing to imagine different possible configurations or outcomes involving the given figures, the imaginative end result would never have been created.  We see here experimentation, determination, perseverance, and a desire to create something truly different and unique.

The VCAI also offers an automated creative strengths finder (again currently in beta), based on new software algorithms designed to detect creative markers within submitted work. Automated results of creative strengths are made available to users immediately upon completion of the provided challenges.  Since users respond to a variety of cues as they work on challenges, the automated results also include a description of the different forms of creativity identified within submissions.

Though we certainly would not want to remove the essential human element from creativity evaluation and enjoyment (nor, we would argue, is this possible), the automated assessment offers a number of interesting benefits and opportunities.  As mentioned above, users receive feedback and results instantly.  The results themselves provide the basis for future individualized, self-paced creativity training and development—creative brain training, if you will.  Perhaps best of all, however, the cost of administering the short version of the automated assessment within organizations is extremely low compared to traditional methods of talent evaluation—and free for use in education.  Combined with human scoring, we believe this automated, cloud-based approach to creativity evaluation—a form of blended assessment—holds great promise in evaluating creativity quickly, yet effectively, within both education and business. Using this system, we are now beginning to map the creative abilities of K12 students in Montana, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts, hoping to find hotspots of creativity where one might least expect them, perhaps in a disadvantaged school or otherwise neglected school district.  We are excited about the possibilities.

We should also be careful to note that we see creativity assessment as a beginning rather than an end, a way to discover creative strengths and an opportunity to better develop the creative capacities that each of us holds. As researchers and evaluators, we are very careful not to get caught within popular webs of misconception that view creativity as an innate individual gift rather than a shared human ability—an ability that we firmly believe can be further developed with better practice, learning, and understanding.

So do you know your current creative strengths and abilities?  If not, what might you be missing? Try out the VCAI here: www.vastability.com.

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Creativity in the Workplace

by Doug Eaton, Director of International Sales, Kimray, Inc.

The creativity movement around the world is capturing the imaginations of education, arts and business advocate groups around the world. Not many would be surprised about Education and the Arts. After all, the best teachers are recognized as those who can keep the transfer of knowledge evergreen – to instill and encourage the thirst for knowledge in students. And the Arts…well, who doesnʼt believe the very essence of creativity is ballet, painting, sculpture and the theatre? But business? Really? This archetype of conservatism where consistency, internal HR policies, state and federal scrutiny, GAP analysis and hierarchical structures make coloring outside the lines as acceptable as dentures in a punch bowl?

I say the greatest need for creativity is in business. I also say the greatest demonstrations of creativity ….by far…in the world are in business.

Even though business is constrained by hard lines of governance both internally and externally, the basic role of business is to produce a product or service that is valuable in the eyes of those willing to buy it. This reality drives the business enterprise to achieve, to win, to survive. Solve the nasty problem, create the next beautiful widget, invent and solve a need previously unrealized by those with money to spend….and do it all within a budget allowed by the ability or predicted ability to sell it.

Management people, machine operators, marketing analysts, leaders and clerical people alike all have a role in looking deeper into processes, measuring and improving the value of their product to win the war with their competitors or to win the continued loyalty of the consumer. This constant pressure to create value, drives the necessity to constantly improve. So, whether it is an innovative design to improve function, appearance or cost, or a method to train workers more effectively, or to create an IT program that will increase speed and decrease cost in a manufacturing process….creativity is required. Businesses that have more creativity are more successful than those with less creativity. And businesses that win over time employ people who are creative.

So how can the educational sector better produce the future talent and attitudes required to keep the leading edge moving and expanding?

There must be thousands of ways if the environment for change is established. I suggest that students need to have fun in problem solving. Incentivize the genius of teachers and curriculum developers in the creation of age appropriate gaming projects and networks. These gaming strategies would integrate the reading, math and science skills currently being taught. The students would learn to solve for efficiency, move groups of people in team settings and develop skills in bringing diverse hard skill sets to bear on practical problems. This strategy should be the center of the core curriculum, as opposed to reserving these activities for extracurricular project groups that tend to focus on children with more resources or early indications of talent.

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Thinking Outside of the Tank

by Steven Harmon Wilson, Ph.D.

The DaVinci Institute is a “creativity think tank” that, while enjoying the support of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and with board members representing many Oklahoma public and private colleges and universities, has focused its energy on programs and projects that extend beyond the domain of higher education. For example, DaVinci has a proud “family tie” to Oklahoma A+ schools and other creative K-12 initiatives (see: http://davinciok.org/history/). I would like to highlight another budding branch on our family tree: Tulsa’s Any Given Child initiative, which will infuse arts experiences and education across the K-8 curriculum in Tulsa Public Schools. Supported by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., AGC-Tulsa premiered last fall. The project holds great promise for the future of the state’s creativity think tank, and it comes not a moment too soon for our children’s creative development.

By some measures, the state’s arts initiatives suffered a 20% cut in 2012 alone. It would be nice to be able to blame recent cutbacks or outright elimination of K-12 arts and music programs on the Great Recession and its resultant constraints, because then we could hope for restoration of funding once the storm passed. But that probably will not happen; the cuts reflect a longstanding trend. Arts have not been a broadly accepted budget priority even during boom times, and art funding hovers around less than 1% of Oklahoma’s state budget (see: Routes Contributor, “Budget cuts threaten K-12 art instruction,” January 25, 2012; http://routes.ou.edu/?p=435).

Those of us who have long cherished arts, music, and the humanities worry that children will have diminished opportunities to develop a wide appreciation of beauty. We further worry that they will not be allowed to explore and to hone their own native talents in a safe, supportive environment. I admit to holding a romantic view on the value of the arts for their own sake, and as an essential part of a well-rounded education. Romance aside, experts have studied the issue, and have produced research supporting the proposition that, in addition to missing out on a key creative outlet, students who do not have access to art and music classes may also have difficulty mastering core subjects, exhibit disciplinary problems, and suffer high dropout rates (see: http://www.arteducators.org/research/research). I would add only the risk that such children will also grow up not appreciating art, and so may have no scruple against cutting any remaining funding even further. Oklahoma’s arts and humanities may not survive at all if such a “death spiral” develops.

A few years ago, when I was the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts at the Metro Campus of Tulsa Community College (and freshly on the board of the DaVinci Institute), the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa invited me to join what it called the Community Arts Team. This turned out to be a group of like-minded romantics—patrons and professionals from the ballet, the museums, the performing arts centers, philanthropic organizations, the public and private schools—all of us similarly worried about the future of artistically deprived children. Participation in CAT meant addressing the challenge: well, what are you going to do about it? Over coffee and pastries, we set aside our worrying, and instead set about talking about the ways we could preserve, restore, and perhaps extend arts education.

Ultimately, we learned about and then sought the support and guidance of the Kennedy Center’s Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child initiative, which promotes expanded arts education, and specifically seeks to ensure access and equity for all students in grades K-8. This program helps selected communities (only a handful have made it through the application process) develop and implement a plan for infusing and integrating arts across the curriculum. Although the Kennedy Center provided a structure for work to be accomplished, and sent consultants to help us build on that structure, the mentors stressed that every community is unique, and that we would have to do the work of brainstorming, strategic planning, and visualizing the future of OUR Any Given Child program. We had to set long-term goals and commit to short-term action steps. We had to establish an organizational infrastructure to oversee and sustain an effective effort. We had to develop resources and professional development for the arts education providers we would rely on, including classroom teachers, arts organizations administrators, as well as teaching artists, musicians, and other performers.

The long-term goal is for every student in the district to be exposed to at least nine live arts experiences by the time they finish high school. And if you read this and worry that this was just a grant obtained from the federal government to replace the state funding, stop worrying: we had to secure funding and other resources necessary to sustain the community’s long-term goals for K-8 arts education, and we had to communicate and collaborate and consult with policymakers and leaders in the school district, local government, and arts organizations. In short (though it was a lengthy process) we were called upon to influence arts and education policy, so that the initiative’s gains would be institutionalized. Finally, because results must be measurable in order to matter, we had to convince the Kennedy Center mentors that we had the systems in place for outcomes assessment and data collection (See: http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/anygivenchild/).

We succeeded in getting to AGC-T’s “opening night” in September 2013. The Tulsa Ballet offered a special Monday afternoon performance for fifth-graders from several Tulsa schools. First-graders had already begun taking field trips to Gilcrease Museum. Seventh-graders went to the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art. Fourth-graders enjoyed dance as performed by Choregus Productions. Sixth-graders were scheduled to visit the new Hardesty Arts Center (aka, AH-HA) in Tulsa’s expanding downtown arts district. If art is the heart of Any Given Child, its head is on integration: there are appropriate links made to a variety of academic subjects, such as science, language arts and social studies. All of the live arts experiences are reinforced with pre- and post-event lessons (see: Andrea Eger, “Any Given Child program brings arts to school kids,” Tulsa World, September 17, 2013; http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/any-given-child-program-brings-arts-to-school-kids/article_7a76f267-fbe2-5316-9dbd-427e538edb7d.html)

The DaVinci Institute’s tie to Any Given Child-Tulsa has been, admittedly, a dotted- rather than a bold-line, but it is a reasonable association for me to make: as one of the few original advisory board members working in higher education, I have been in a good place to promote the long-term view that arts in the early years can lead to better prepared students in the colleges. During the year we transitioned from CAT to AGC (2012-13), I had the honor to serve as the Chair of the Governing Council. Romantic or not, I have been there from the beginning, to support the kids in K through 8, but always with an eye to improving prospects for the incoming classes of 2020 and beyond—and not just for TCC, but for all of the DaVinci Institute’s members and stakeholders. As a K-8 project, AGC-T is outside of Oklahoma’s creativity think tank, but it is heading our way. And this allows me to conclude this post on an optimistic note. What’s the matter with kids today? Nothing that a little more arts advocacy in the schools can’t help solve.

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Creativity on Speed

Last week, we shared a post from Creating Passionate Users related to the application of learning theories.  Another of their great posts – entitled Creativity on speed – suggests that breakthrough creativity is inspired by going really fast.  They provide a few cool techniques that professors and teach will find really useful in classroom environments when time on task is major constraint.  Students who learn to do this will be great at bringing creativity to their next life assignment, too!

A few of Kathy Sierra and Dan Russell’s suggestions include hosting “ad lib jams” and “creativity deathmatches” (think slam poetry or battle of the bands).

If you try one these activities, we at DaVinci would love to hear about the experience and the results!  So, have you?

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Creative Oklahoma Communities Initiative

by Dr. Kathy Goff, cSchool Program Director, Creative Oklahoma

 The Oklahoma Creative Communities Initiative is designed to identify and develop the creative capacities of a community for economic development and improved quality of life. This initiative focuses on locating and mobilizing the creative abilities of individual citizens for identifying and solving community problems.

Traditionally, communities have focused on the challenge of attracting outside resources. We, Creative Oklahoma, believe that effective community development is based on understanding assets, capacities and abilities of local citizens and teaching them a problem solving process to creatively address local concerns.

Communities become stronger and more self-reliant when linked together for problem solving purposes.  Gradually, as relationships among assets inside the community are rebuilt, and as demonstrations of local competence multiply, residents cease to look first toward outside help to addressing the most important local concerns.

The keys to community regeneration are:

  • locating local assets
  • connecting them in mutually beneficial ways
  • expanding networks to include marginalized and overlooked assets
  • teaching people how to creatively solve local problems

Finding the strengths of community members and connecting them to problem solving initiatives is ongoing work and part of the community building process.

This initiative identifies the creative strengths of local citizens using an on-line, research based creativity assessment.  A software platform serves as the central nervous system of the initiative for information exchange and virtual problem solving activities that will be available 24/7. The software encourages locals to maximize the use of their own, and the community’s, creative strengths and abilities to solve problems.  As the initiative expands, residents will have access to the creative ideas and input from other communities, states, nations…

What is unique about this initiative is teaching and empowering local citizens to solve problems from within, thus promoting self-reliance and sustainability. Local citizens design and carry out the process and action plans with the assistance of trained facilitators. This replicable model educates and inspires citizens to create change and a sustainable future for their community.  Communities that have mobilized internal assets offer opportunities for real partnerships, for investors who are interested in effective action and in a return on their investment.

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Developing Creativity in the Classroom

by Whitney Porch-Van Heuvelen, Assistant Professor of Design, Southern Nazarene University

Teaching students to be creative in the classroom is easily attainable by setting three main goals:

a) developing an environment where students build a solid graphic design foundation based on the design process and the development of technical and analytical skills;

b) fostering a passion for design and becoming a “lifelong learner;”

c) creating emerging leaders in the design field who are involved in their community through active employment and volunteer service.

Creating an environment where students can express themselves is part of the teaching profession that varies per professor. The main goal is to create a comfortable environment where students feel secure enough to push their current abilities and be open to critical analysis in a group setting and one-on-one with the instructor. This happens when mutual respect is established between professor and students and, as the instructor, managing the many diverse personalities in a classroom.

“Active learning” in the design studio is the only way to help students become independent thinkers who actively use the design process (concept to finished product) to reach their individual learning outcomes. “Active learning” can be defined as learning through “doing”: conceptualizing, creating, critiquing, revising while implementing time management skills and being deadline oriented.

All of these outcomes will be actively applied once entering their field of practice. Studying and pursuing a career in graphic design is one of the most exciting career paths of our current time. Our culture has had an awakening in recent years of the importance of graphic design, and how well designed products and branding can help influence our lifestyles. During their academic career, and upon their upcoming graduation, it is important to press upon students that to be a successful designer, one must live a “creative lifestyle.” Living a “creative lifestyle” and being a “lifelong learner” helps a student embrace design wholeheartedly. Design is every where and as a designer you must take notice: relish the opportunity of a graphic design education, read magazines (design and others), attend galleries and museums, study fashion and interior design, travel, be engaged in your community, embrace technology, pay careful attention to the design details that companies implement to catch the viewers attention when you browse your local retailers. Plus design is always in flux and to not be a “lifelong learner” you will be left behind – creating design solutions that are archaic either conceptually or aesthetically.

Finally, the key component to fostering creativity I one’s students is to instill a desire to be leaders in their community through active employment and volunteer service. Many organizations need educated designers to contribute their knowledge base whether it is graphic design or community service oriented. Encouraging students to join local community service projects that are of interest to them and to actively network in design organizations for internship/employment opportunities that can propel them to reach their potential. The local American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and local Advertising Clubs need strong leaders who are passionate about design and contributing to the design education of clients and overall community. Volunteer service opportunities are plentiful and that doesn’t always have to mean giving your graphic design services pro bono. It can simply mean volunteering your time.

The problem solving and aesthetic skills students learn in the graphic design classroom and developed in their day-to day lives are valuable tools that not everyone has developed. These skills should be celebrated in and outside the classroom and are easily attainable with the relationship that is built between a student and his/her professor during their college career.

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Learning Theory and Creativity

Over at Creating Passionate Users, Kathy Sierra and Dan Russell have written a great post entitled A Crash Course in Learning Theory that offers a quick guide to very useful concepts gleaned from cognitive learning research. As we work toward creativity education, these principles are important to keep in front of us.

How have you used these principles to teach creativity?