- Thought and Idea are different things.
- We encourage both in the classroom.
- I’m not sure which I privilege more.
- I’m not sure which I should.
(Note: I started thinking more than I planned. The last three points will have to be in my next post.)
The Whole Story:
Disclaimer: My line of thinking here is protean. Ideally, I’d play with it as a comment somewhere first. As I haven’t run into such a post yet, I’m diving in.
Claim the First: Thought and Idea are different concepts
It’s highly likely that everyone is on board with this already, but I hadn’t been until recently. Asking me to think about something and asking me to come up with an idea are different requests. To me, thinking can include, but isn’t limited to, walking and making connections between the intellectual paths of others. Having an idea, though, is making something new, sometimes utilizing those intellectual paths, sometimes operating apart from them. Social bookmarking is an idea. Figuring out how to create it, utilize it, improve it are all thoughts.
Claim the Second: Thought usually precedes idea
Continuing the social bookmarking example, whatever the first iteration of social bookmarking, its creator likely went through a thought process driven by a problem. The thought process probably noted the insufficiencies inherent in the present situation as well as the desired features beyond those insufficiencies. With thinking, the process can end there. It can end at any step of the game: “Oh, there’s a problem.” “Oh, here’s why this problem exists.” “Oh, here’s what I’d like out of a solution to that problem.” “Oh, here’s what it would take to make that solution real.” “Oh, here’s that solution.” That last part is the idea, arrived at through thought.
Claim the Third: Thought mustn’t always precede idea
More than once, I’ve heard people complain Wave doesn’t solve a problem. They don’t know why they need it because it doesn’t fill an obvious need. It’s an idea that precedes thought. Now, I’m sure Wave’s developers see the need, I’m sure they thought it out. The difference between social networking and Wave exists in the paths of thinking. Many people had identified the problem, the causes and what they’d like to see in a solution leading up to the advent of social bookmarking. Thus, when the idea arrived, it was embraced more readily than has been the case with Wave. Wave was an idea whose time hadn’t yet come.
Claim the Fourth: Ideas from minority thoughts face a greater chance of rejection
The clamor for Wave invitations was as frenetic as the clamor for gmail invitations or the race to blogging, or the race to myspace (remember that?), or the race to space. We’d agreed we wanted to get there because it was a new idea with the force of those we knew behind it. Then, we got to Wave. Then we were there and looking around. Then we started complaining. We didn’t know why we were there. By and large, we still don’t. We’ve started leaving.
Claim the Fifth: The rejection of minority thoughts evidences hypocrisy
A common cry of keynotes and conference sessions and blog posts and podcasts is that we should not only allow, but encourage our students to play. Sometimes we mean this in a social way. Sometimes we mean this in an intellectual way. Either way, the implication is that we are asking our students to play for the inherent value of discovery within play. They will uncover new ideas. Play is thought without repercussions or expectations. When my younger brother dumps out his LEGOs and begins building, that’s play. When he dumps out his LEGOs and begins building based off of the diagram included with his latest set, that is not play. Minority thoughts give us ideas without diagrams and ask us to play. Though we encourage this in our students and claim to be dedicated to it in our own practices, if we can’t see the endgame or the relevance we frequently decide not to play.
This post serves as further evidence. In writing it, I’m asking if you want to play with ideas. In reading it, you’re looking for your diagram, looking to see if my idea lines up with your thinking. If you’ve made it this far, you likely want to play. If you haven’t, you’re probably not a player. Playing (or commenting) means you either want to see what we can make or that you see your thinking in these words and want to utilize the idea.