Monday, January 15, 2018

Innovative thinking

Right now I’m in the middle of teaching workshops about Design Thinking to second year student-teachers. This is a thinking process that promotes creative and innovative thinking as well as collaborative practices. It’s being taken up by some of the school boards in the Calgary area so it’s a hot topic, as you might imagine, and on my mind.

(Today’s posting isn’t really about design thinking so if you’re keen to learning more about Design Thinking and education you might like to visit a library guide, developed by the Doucette Library, called, funnily enough, Design Thinking.)
So, maybe it’s my frame-of-mind right now, immersed in teaching design thinking, that a book like Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art ofConfusion by Chris Barton made a strong impression.

It’s 1917 and Britain is at risk of being cut off from crucial supplies of food brought in by ships. German U-boats were very skilled at targeting ships that supported the United Kingdom.  As the book states, “desperate times call for desperate measures” and innovative thinking was essential to overcoming these devastating loses.

Norman Wilkinson, a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve lieutenant-commander, had a seemingly bizarre idea – camouflaging the ships. By painting ships with an array of dazzling patterns and colours, it would break up the ship’s form on the ocean’s waters, presenting an image so confusing that it would be difficult to track.

Dazzle was meant to make the Germans think a ship was, for example, turning toward the west when it was actually headed to the southeast.”

A small workforce (of mostly women) was organized to come up with patterns which were tested out to determine which were the most effective at tricking the eye. Thousands of British and American ships had be ‘dazzled’ by the end of the war.  Though, determining whether the dazzling really did save ships from being torpedoed is debatable, it did booster the morale of the sailors on those ships.

I love the sentiment that is summed up in the book :
 “a willingness to tackle problems by trying the unlikely, the improbable, the seemingly bonkers will always be needed.”

The material at the back of the book, author’s and illustrator’s notes, a timeline and reference list provide additional information for research purposes. I thought that the author’s notes about researching and writing about this book of special interest and would be instructive to students about this process.

I recommend this book for grades 4-7 for social studies, art, and science. Because it’s so interdisciplinary it’s perfect for STEAM classrooms.


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