Welcome to Durham College

I have been lucky enough to teach full-time at Durham College for more than 15 years.  Durham College, in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, is a community college located approximately 45 miles (or 72 kilometres) east of downtown Toronto.  Durham College is one of Ontario’s 24 provincially-funded colleges.  The college has been a part of the Oshawa community since 1967.  We currently have close to 10,000 full-time students and over 50,000 alumni (https://durhamcollege.ca/about/history).

The Birth of an Idea

I have been fortunate enough to participate in many professional development workshops and conferences at Durham College in my time at Durham College.  Currently, I am also a member of our college’s Creativity Community of Practice (CCoP).  

One of the goals of our community of practice is to facilitate a creativity-based workshop each academic year.  In the past, we had successfully accomplished this goal internally by working with small groups of program teams but now we wanted to do something a little different and a little bigger.  And that is when we came up with the idea of a “creativity day”. 

The idea of Durham College hosting a “creativity day” was originally born in early 2020.  A Durham College “creativity day” felt like a natural evolution from our small scale boardroom workshops into something much more collaborative and exciting!  

We were also aware that our community college learning partners at Sheridan College and Fleming College had also taken part in creativity-based professional development workshops. As such, we felt that inviting our friends in education to be a part of our “creativity day” would provide us all with an opportunity to connect, share, and discuss the benefits of creativity in our classrooms and in our workspaces.

The Purpose of Creativity Day

There were many reasons to host (the freshly titled) Durham College Creativity Day.  First, the day was designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of the participants in regards to their own creativity.  Second, the day would promote learning, teaching, and innovation through creativity.  Third, Creativity Day was developed to enhance the student experience.  Fourth, the day would continue in the building of a culture of creativity at Durham College.  Finally, Creativity Day would continue to grow collaboration opportunities between our creativity learning partners.

However, the true purpose of Durham College Creativity Day would be to reconnect people with their relationship with their own creative journey.

The Pandemic

However, in the spring of 2020, with the Covid-19 global pandemic, thoughts of hosting Durham College’s first-ever Creativity Day were put on hold.

An Alternative Solution: Rotary Global Classroom

Durham College is home to one of the most unique and one-of-a-kind classrooms in Ontario.  The Rotary Global Classroom uses cameras and computer technology to link Durham College students to thought leaders and other post-secondary students from around the globe to discuss and collaborate, in real-time, issues of global importance.  

In early 2021, discussions within the CCoP restarted, and plans to use the Rotary Global Classroom virtually, using MS Teams to connect people from the United States and Canada, resumed.

By May 2021, through the use of our Rotary Global Classroom, the members of Durham College’s Creativity Community of Practice had organized the college’s first-ever Creativity Day.  The theme of our day was Creativity: A Personal Journey.

Creativity: A Personal Journey

Our virtual professional development workshop was attended by faculty, staff, and students from Durham College, plus guests from Toronto-area post-secondary institutions Fleming College, Sheridan College, and York University. Over 100 people registered for the event!

Many creativity-based professional development workshops generally engage participants through activities and lectures.  However, Durham College’s Creativity Day did not take this traditional approach.  Since our theme centered around personal creative journeys, we asked our keynote speakers to connect with the participants by sharing their anecdotal stories about their own life journeys with creativity.  

Creativity Day featured four exceptional creativity experts as our keynote speakers: 

  • Dr. Cyndi Burnett (Director of Possibilities – Creativity and Education), 
  • Ismet Mamnoon (Guardian of Imagination – Creativity and Education), 
  • Dr. Jim Friedman (White Family Associate Clinical Professor of Creativity and Entrepreneurship – Miami University, and Chief Steward – World Creativity & Innovation Week),
  • Najja Bouldin (Management Consultant and Innovation Coach – Phoenix Innovation Group).  

Each keynote speaker spoke about their inspiring journey for approximately 20 minutes.  Using MS Teams as the presentation platform, the speakers encouraged and engaged in participant interaction using the chat feature to ask and answer questions. 

Overall Reactions

Durham College Creativity Day was a tremendous success.  Over 90 percent of survey respondents rated the day as “excellent” or “very good” in a post-workshop survey!

Using a sliding scale from 1-5 (“1” being low and “5” being high), survey respondents also indicated that, after attending Durham College’s Creativity Day, they were very likely to participate in a future creativity workshop with an average score of 4.69 out of 5!

Also, using a sliding scale from 1-5 (“1” being low and “5” being high), survey respondents indicated that, after attending Durham College’s Creativity Day, their feelings of creativity had increased with an average score of 4.17 out of 5!

Comments from the event participants were very positive:

  • “This was one of the best PD days I have ever attended, each speaker was amazing and inspiring!”
  • “This was an excellent session. The stories shared by the speakers were relatable and inspiring. I enjoyed that the session was story-based and not prescriptive learning. It allowed for a natural engagement, which encouraged my own thoughts and ideas. I hope we have the speakers back again.”
  • “This was really awesome. The speakers were really engaging and inspiring, to say the least. I learned a lot. Thanks for a good time”
  • “This was the best PD creative day I have ever experienced at DC in 14 years. Thank you!”
  • “Great day!  Hearing about the speakers’ journey with creativity was very inspiring.  I have taken some creativity courses in the past and always enjoyed them.  This event sparked my interest in incorporating creativity into my work and life!”
  • “This was one of the best sessions I’ve ever attended (long term full-time faculty here).  The four speakers were so uplifting and honest – with such moving stories!  10/10!”

In short, Durham College Creativity Day was a professional development experience like no other that many of my colleagues and I had ever experienced.   

Our Takeaways 

After hosting Durham College Creativity Day, our community of practice came away with a number of takeaways.  First, we learned we could successfully host an effective and engaging professional development workshop virtually during a pandemic.  Second, we learned that students, faculty, and college staff are very interested in making creativity a part of their professional and personal lives.  However, the main key takeaway from Durham College Creativity Day was that everyone is creative, and everyone has a personal creative journey!

Next Steps for Durham College Creativity Day

The momentum and excitement that came out of Durham College Creativity Day continued into the summer and fall of 2021.  By posting the presentations on the Rotary Global Classroom webpage, videos of the keynote speakers have continued to educate, entertain, and inform many people across the Ontario college system and beyond.

Going forward, Durham College’s Creativity Community of Practice will look to build upon the momentum of Creativity Day for 2022 in designing future creativity-based experiences.

If you would like to view Durham College Creativity Day, please visit https://durhamcollege.ca/globalclass/class/dc-creativity-day/.

Clayton Rhodes

Clayton Rhodes is a professor with the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario. He holds a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Phoenix and an Honours Bachelor of Arts from York University. Outside of the college, Clayton enjoys bowling, slo-pitch, kayaking, and inline skating. His favorite drink is Arizona Southern-style sweet tea. Clayton can be reached at clayton.rhodes@durhamcollege.ca or on LinkedIn.

Check out Clayton’s other blog posts!

A Beginner’s Guide to a Creativity Community of Practice

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