On 24 October 1998, Associate Professor Ian Smith, with the assistance
of Assistant Professor Steven Coombs presented a seminar at CDTL entitled,
“The Integration of Creativity and IT in the Teaching of Thinking”.
In the following pages, CDTLink presents an essay based on the seminar,
as well as a response from Ms Cynthia Lau, a participant of the same seminar.
During his lecture “The Integration of Creativity and IT in the
Teaching of Thinking”, Ian Smith presented two examples of how IT
can be integrated with the teaching of creativity. The Reflective Log
helps one to reflect on points achieved after a task is finished; the
Spidergram, a creative thinking conversational template, helps organise
one’s thoughts and feelings about a subject matter visually.
However, I believe there are more novel ways of using IT, especially
in generating new ideas. A quick search over the Internet yielded me a
list of over 50 IT product titles alone with similar applications and
features that can be used for such a purpose. What really surprised me
was that a few of the applications are in common programmes like MS Word
Understanding Creative Thinking
Basically, IT applications used for creative thinking can be classified
under the following:
- Idea Generation, where one creates new ideas, thinks of alternatives,
explores possibilities and novel ways of thinking;
- Idea Evaluation, where one assesses the feasibility of ideas against
a list of criteria and chooses the best option;
- Idea Management, where one organises, records and manages the thoughts
and ideas during the thinking process (e.g. the Reflective Log and Spidergram).
For easy recall, just think of Idea GEM. In particular, I wish to feature
IT applications that can help generate new ideas, which is what creative
thinking is most often used for.
IT Can Generate Ideas!
In teaching creativity, thinking techniques are employed to deliberately
force the mind to think in another paradigm. This usually provides the
thinker with fresh insights and concepts, which when applied back into
the context of the problem, may yield novel solutions. Using the operational
principles of these techniques, we can further classify our software list
(e.g. Thesaurus and Dictionary Features in word processors, Paramind)
Rearranging or substituting the words of a problem statement can present
new meanings and insights. Standard features in a word processor like
MS Word, e.g. thesauruses and dictionaries, can help us in this area.
We can achieve the same effect if we use manual dictionaries and thesauruses,
but electronic versions are faster and easier for cross referencing. In
addition, the programme, Paramind, forms new ideas by “meaningfully
exhausting the interaction of words”. It basically generates new
text from a given input and expands it logically by using related words.
The original idea, modified in several ways, is then presented in a fresh
(e.g. Ideas Fisher, Innovation Toolbox, Internet Explorer, Netscape)
The use of random words to stimulate the production of new ideas in
a short time works on the principle of creating a forced connection. Your
mind basically tries to associate the concepts and features of random
word to the problem/thought to yield new ideas. By employing the randomizer
feature of the computer, software applications have been developed to
generate random words for getting new ideas. We can also extend this technique
to using pictures, videos and sounds available on the Internet to do a
forced connection and to stimulate more creative thinking. One can use
a computer programme to suggest a random word or ask a friend to suggest
and then search the sites related to that word. By visiting the sites
listed, one may find new and interesting ideas along the way.
(e.g. The Creative Whack Pack, Ideas Fisher, Innovation Toolbox, MindLink)
Asking questions is a useful way to direct the thinker to look at the
problem from another perspective, and perhaps even challenge the basic
assumptions in the existing paradigm of the problem. The software classified
here basically takes in the input from the user and then poses sets of
questions and keywords to provoke the person to think of new ideas.
Brainstorming and Group Processes
(e.g. BizIdeas for Windows, Group Systems, Grouputer, The Electric Mind,
In brainstorming more ideas and perspectives can be derived through
a group process: ideas are not evaluated in order to produce as many ideas
as possible, and individuals are encouraged to piggyback on the suggested
ideas to come up with new ones. Through the Internet, groups can now brainstorm
virtually via resources such as Internet Relay Chat and Online Chat Rooms.
There are also several meeting room programmes designed to facilitate
the group process more effectively. Some even allow members to key in
their ideas simultaneously and anonymously.
IT is the Thinkers’ Assistant
As IT becomes more accessible to everyone, it may seem that the need
for man to think for himself decreases. However, the rapid advent of these
new technologies in fact forces us to think more creatively and critically
as we need to know how to manage, apply and give new meaning to the vast
amount of data now available on our desktops. Instead of hindering, IT
can increase our creative and thinking capabilities.
NB: This article is not an exhaustive one. For more details, please
visit Creativity Web at: