I used to think I was horrible at art, and at thinking creatively, until I met my high school art teacher, Mrs. Gentry. Mrs. Gentry was the type of person that saw the genius in all types of creators, and not just the ones that had the typical artsy vibe going on. Through my high school art class, I was able to develop my own creative spirit, and to make pieces of art, some traditional and some that were a little out of the ordinary, that expressed who I am and the beauty that I see in the world.
Some of the beauty I see in the world, taken while I was running.
Unfortunately, not everyone had a teacher like Mrs. Gentry that encouraged their creative spirit and made them feel worthy of being an artist. For this reason, I am so grateful that a site like ds106 exists. ds106 is a virtual, interactive art and storytelling class that allows students to work through its course material at their own pace, and pick and choose the assignments they wish to complete. While this model isn’t sustainable for every classroom (imagine students skipping basic addition and subtraction and electing to study advanced calculus), it’s more than sufficient to support the goals of the class, which are to help everyone, old or young, free-spirited or practical, to develop their inner creator. While students at University of Mary-Washington can actually take this class for credit, most of us get to experience it in the best was possible– for free!
The way that I’m using ds106 is as sort of a class within a class– classception, if you will. In my Digital Literacy class, one of our assignments is to complete 30 days of The Daily Create challenge on ds106, which is simply a chance to make something beautiful and engaging each day, as a way to break the mold of regular existence and challenge standard conceptions about what we should spend our free time doing (hint: it doesn’t always have to be watching Netflix. Although this is a pretty good way to spend free time, albeit not a creative one).
To watch another episode, or to not watch another episode… who am I kidding, I’m watching 10 more. (Photo CC by Daniel Horacio Agostini)
Navigating this website is fairly easy, but sifting through all the different creative challenges can be a bit overwhelming. These challenges fall into many categories, such as writing, audio, visual, and photography. I’m most excited about photography challenges, as I routinely find myself carrying my phone with me on runs in order to capture sites that spark my interest (and also as an excuse to stop running for a few minutes). I’m dreading the audio challenges, because the sound of my recorded voice is akin to a 12 year old girl’s, but I’m also not going to skip this type of challenge, because I’m eager to develop my creativity in all ways, and not just the ones that I already have a knack for.
An evocative aspect of ds106 and The Daily Create are the fact that the instructions for the challenges are so vague that they can be interpreted in a number of ways, based on each individual’s artistic perspective. What I may perceive as a photography challenge, another person may interpret as an opportunity to draw a picture. The fluid and dynamic nature of The Daily Create challenges means that I can use this website as a classroom tool, even though many people may not view a science classroom as the traditional setting for artistic license. However, the link between science in art is intrinsic, which is made evident in the fact that many famous artists are also famous scientists (think: Leonardo da Vinci). After all, how can someone explore new frontiers in science without first imagining the concepts in a creative mindset? By using Daily Create challenges in my future science classroom, I can help students visualize concepts in a paradigm-shifting manner, and also bring a little fun and whimsy to a sometimes overly serious subject.
While I have the desire to be a science teacher, I can trace some of my aspirations to be an educator to my high school art teacher, who taught me that it’s okay to view the world in a way that isn’t standard. ds106 is a resource that is trying to reach the general population with this same message, and I hope that by participating in this forum, I can not only develop my own creative mindset, but also inspire others to develop their inner artist.
Creative Potential is a powerful tool. (Photo CC by Sean MacEntee)