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On finding a thermal … that creative lift … that moment of inspiration that motivates …

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Fig. 1 Riding the thermal of personal and intellectual development. Vernon (2011)

My sketch – my view of an end of module assignment. (H800 – Postgraduate – Masters in Open and Distance Education – a year ago).

Used as a treatment, more a feeling of the journey I’ve been on all my life.

(This sketch is 7ft tall, runs to seven or eight cycles, was marked out on wallpaper lining paper and taped to my bedroom wall).

Looking for that thermal, that intellectual and creative challenge. This expresses something that offers a path for L&D Directors, for personal development planning – the simple premise that you aim to stimulate a desire, a need, the possibly, that motivates someone to take off.

I’ve treasured the moments in my career when I’ve been here, been there – independent and on the rise.

It’s taken a good deal of postgraduate and professional development to put my head in this place again. The MA in Open and Distance Education could just as well have been an MA in Fine Art.

How do we cope with these choices? How can we deal with that fact that our life is finite and that the runnels we drain through limit us to just one path (or two).

I’ll attached two dozen baubles in a list of references to suggest where this all came from drawing on 38 years of diaries that for the most part catalogue what I read, what I saw and who I was with – I do laugh when the word count for references is greater than the text. I’m not aspiring to be an academic (not enough fun or potential income) or in my case a ‘digital scholar’.

If I reference my life do I deserve a PhD?

How could it ever be less?

Surely I could and should and in my case am able to list vast quantities of references that have a bearing on what I now express?

I could probably show you a specific diagram from an O’Level Physics text book that I first looked at on 17th May 1975 that could have something to do with the above … 

I could, and should, retrospectively look through a list of thinkers whom I have read, or have heard about and who surely had some kind of say? Or not.

Scholarly publication needs to re-invent itself.

Are our children not the first for whom we may say as they enter university – here is everything, to the best of our knowledge, what they have ever read? Here are all the key people who may have influenced their thinking – with a comprehensive profile if you want it. Here are is a reasonable narrative of the 8 trillion images they have seen on TV, online or at the cinema, let alone stuff they seen in magazines and on bill-boards.

Can I not have an original thought of my own?

Are we not all derivative?

Which has me thinking – my thermal is someone else’s water draining down a plug-hole. There are mirror images that may attempt to illustrate what goes on in ones head when you are flying.

A catherine-wheel on a rainy November 5th is how I sometimes see it.

I’m caught up in the ‘flow’

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1975)

Fig.2. Out tutor’s sketch at the ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’ Residential earlier this year.

I think of myself as someone who has ideas.

On the one had people say I think too much. Perhaps I read to much? Perhaps I indulge my curiosity. Take for example the chapter I am reading for the current module I am taking on accessible online learning – where I am curious to know more I chase the reference. I’d say on my current outing I have read all but four or five out of fifty references in addition to the chapter … so a four hour read has become … and is yet to complete … it’ll be 32 hours. And worth every syllable. I don’t want one authors intellectual vomit if they have nothing original to say (they don’t), so I have to refer to the list that has allowed them to assemble their argument. THIS is where I find the treasure – those earlier moments of revelation.

Online this journey takes minutes. I find everything. Three decades ago I would take a day physically moving from one library or another in Oxford to find a particular paper on a particular subject that had me. I recall going from the Map Room, to the Radcliffe Science Library to the Rhodes Library to find a piece of contraception and lactating mothers … is learning diminished when such a journey takes place across a QWERTY keyboard? The inch between two thumbs rather than a mile or so across a campus?

I’m about to ditch the thinking and return to doing.


Fig.3. People who make me think

Excited to be team building for the first time in over a decade.

Are you interested?

I feel like the 17 year old who says ‘let’s start a band’.

Do I?

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