Dimensions of Creativity: Originality


Originality: ability to generate a product or idea that is unique or very unusual, unexpected, first of its kind. E.g. oxymorons, juxtapositions, unprompted shifts in time/place/role/capabilities, unique combinations

Originality is the pinnacle of creativity. Often it is a someone's spontaneous originality that makes us call him/her "creative." Of the four FFOE skills, originality is most difficult to force but can be REINforced. Originality by definition means producing ideas and products that have not existed before, but we judge it in relative terms. If a second grader has never been exposed to an idea before and comes up with it on her own, she is displaying originality. It often grows out of fluency and flexibility (especially odd juxtapositions and combinations) and involves the greatest risk taking of all creativity skills. Open acceptance and respect for original ideas is vital to developing and maintaining students' originality. How peers and teachers react to ideas can make or break originality.

Why does originality matter?

Originality is the crux of innovation and the most fragile in school settings where we have “answers.” Most students will keep original thoughts to themselves for fear of being deemed "weird" by peers or "inappropriate" by teachers.

Originality Builders

Prompt with odd juxtapositions, situations (such as flexibility prompts). Ask students themselves to think of the other time, place, person, audience to make their project original. Gradually wean them from prompts to more open-ended options as their originality grows. Stop class to applaud original ideas: " Did you hear what Sam said? Had you ever thought of it that way? What an original idea!" Many flexibility builders can grow into originality builders. Others:

  • Math: 24 as shape(s)
  • Social Studies: design a comic to explain the Boston Tea Party (BTP) in a British newspaper or on BRITISH Youtube 1773, write an American Idol audition for a colonist to sing about the BTP in 1773, create a blog post from an eyewitness to an event (The witness should be an inanimate object or animal of your choice), a slave comments on Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation
  • Science: create an illustrated lab report from the point of view of one of the chemicals involved (your choice), create a log of sights and sounds of a cell’s life

Originality tools on the web: Any tool that provides completely open creation of products "from scratch" can be used to generate and build originality.

  • Blabberize (reviewed) make an uploaded image "talk" with a moving mouth
  • Szoter (reviewed) add voice bubbles to images
  • Comic makers (see many reviewed)
  • Draw.Chat (reviewed) online collaborative whiteboard/drawing board
  • Inkscape (reviewed) create vector graphics and animations
  • Adobe Spark for Education (reviewed) make online posters, including images, video, sounds
  • GifMaker (reviewed) create animated stories/strips
  • Queeky (reviewed) artist's vector drawing/paint tool with full variability and techniques. Records the drawing process.
  • Ryeboard (reviewed) online collaborative whiteboard/drawing board
  • Tagxedo (reviewed) word cloud maker with extra options
  • Thinglink (reviewed) combine written and audio comments/narration to uploaded images/slides
  • Timeline JS (reviewed) add details to events using a visual timelines
  • Padlet (reviewed) build a "bulletin board" space using pieces grabbed from around the web
  • and many more. See idea sharing for specific activities/projects or to add your own ideas

Image credit: 'DSCF0540'; http://www.flickr.com/photos/49304189@N00/1947202063; by: Jornny Liu. Released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.