One Red Paperclip and Some Imagination

Ever hear of the guy who traded a red paperclip for a house? Sure, it took 14 trades and one year to make the deal, but what a trade. Although Kyle MacDonald’s little venture is not directly tied to education, I think it is a fantastic illustration of what a bit of ingenuity and imagination can accomplish.

Along these lines, Will Richardson recently discussed the importance of instilling creativity in our students. Creativity is something I have noticed lacking in my students over the years. Many of them seem unable or unwillinging to think creatively. They want a right or a wrong answer (and would prefer that I tell it to them). They have difficulty thinking “outside of the box” to solve problems and are many times stumped if given an open-ended question or assignment. They also struggle when attempting to draw parralells between things. I would like to blame the standardized testing movement for this lack of free thought, but I am sure there is more to it than that. Why is thinking creatively so difficult for many of our students, and how can we help illustrate the importance of ingenuity?

Creativity, imagination, innovation, ingenuity… these are very important concepts to instill in our students if we want them to be successful in our ever-changing world. Perhaps the one red paperclip can inspire some of our students to think creatively by showing them that ingenuity can sometimes lead to personal profit.

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3 Comments on “One Red Paperclip and Some Imagination”

  1. John K. Brown Says:

    It has always been true that we motivate students in education primarily with grades. The “successful” students are the ones who get the best grades. Good grades are primarily the result of knowing the right answers. Successful students become very uncomfortable when there is no “right” answer and there status is threatened because the path to top grades becomes unclear. Compound this with parents who insist on top grades and the result is a student who doesn’t like the uncertainty of a creative classroom.


  2. So, is the option to grades portfolios, presentations or a combination?

  3. John K. Brown Says:

    A project-based curriculum that emphasizes creativity and open-ended analysis is absolutely the way to go. However, we have found that the straight-A students don’t generally like this approach because the grade is everything to them and often to their parents. We love simplicity in our assessments and what some folks call “objectivity”. Well defined rubrics help a great deal in developing projects because they establish clear criteria for the students. They also can shift the emphasis from rote memorization and parroting of facts toward the more important skills.

    The bottom line is whatever is assessed is what will be emphasized.


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