Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What is Inspiration?

Buscando inspiracion , image taken from Flickr, originally uploaded by Girard Girbes.

I was having a chat with a friend last night during which I thanked her for being one of the sources of inspiration for the restarting of my Blog. She maintained she'd been nothing of the sort and suggested I might be grossly over-exaggerating her role. So I began to wonder - what exactly is 'inspiration'? Is there an 'Inspiration Quotient' that has to be reached before it can be said to influence or inspire an individual? Or, as I maintain, need it only be a brief comment, wink of an eye or a wee word at just the right time?

I thought I'd explore this topic by looking at the factors, events and individuals that have inspired me recently. A veritable mixed bag they prove to be too.

Here's an interesting little exercise that serves to illustrate the diversity of origins for our inspiration. Take a moment to load up Google and type in the phrase "Be inspired". Then just feast your eyes on the resulting hits you get. If your results are anything like mine were, then the first 50 or 60 hits (that's as far as I looked) you get are all from different websites, without repetition. Now I don't know about you, but such a search (using any other keywords) usually results in bunches of hits from the same site or repetition, but I found not one repeated site in the first 60 or so hits I got.

So what's my point? It is this. That it seems only fitting that when inspiration can come to us from many different sources, that searching for the phrase should result in a similarly diverse selection of web sites. This is particularly noticeable when you see the nature of the websites that prepare you to "Be inspired" - images from the north west of England, a manufacturer of scrapbooks, Oxfam, BBC's digital work in the community and taster days at Imperial University.

One of my most poignant personal stories of inspiration comes from a dearly departed friend and mentor, Lesley Reading. She was Deputy Head at my school and her assemblies would not come parrot-fashion from a book or a website, but would be inspired by her walk to school through the avenues of blossom-covered trees. She would marvel at such beauty, or the birdsong that she would hear and this would seem to create a text all of its own that she would read to the girls. So she would be inspired by the world around her, and in so doing, inspire her audience to go out and enjoy things that they took for granted.

In the educational ICT world it is hard to find people more inspiring than Professor Stephen Heppell and Richard Millwood, formerly of ULTRALAB. Their magnificent work has been the spur for many educationalists like myself to follow their lead by embracing technology and making it do fantastic things. Ian Usher is in this mould too - one only has to hear him give a presentation and one wants to experience what he has experienced. He can be one of the best motivational speakers you can ever meet.

A recent addition to my pool of inspiring individuals is Adam Burt - a truly humble yet innovative ICT developer and although different in character to the other people I have named so far, he inspires by example, notr least because of his dyslexia. He has a gift to show users such exciting possibilities using ICT as a tool, such as his new project which converts lecture notes, into podcasts via networked photocopier. What an awesome tool that is! My friend Dale Jones continues to inspire me through his words and deeds - he is everything an ICT Co-ordinator should be - knowledgable, cutting edge, exciting, friendly, supportive, challenging and innovative. I was lucky enough to attend a podcasting seminar run by Ewan McIntosh and his inspiration was clear to every person in the room - the 'buzz' the looks on faces, the excitement and the way he made it look so darned easy! That's a gift that is.

I am proud to be a fellow of Mirandanet, founded by Christina Preston, an organisation jam-packed with inspirational people all working collaboratively to make the world a better place. And there can surely be no one who would not want to take that lead. Take a look at their Etopia and World Ecitizens projects and see that these are people that want to inspire others. In a similar vein, my good friend Bernie De Koven aka Major Fun wants to make the world a better place and I believe he succeeds in doing so by encouraging others to have fun with whatever tools are available - such as evidenced by his Junkyard Sports.

These are people who have shown me how to use ICT to make a difference. These are people who have inspired me and changed my life for the better.

But this story sprang from a discussion with someone who is not ICT-centred. My Liverpool-supporting friend's inspiration to me was merely to say she might be starting a blog. That planted the seed - it was all I needed to get going. And special Eve - she's always there with a word or two to keep my feet on the ground, and sometimes makes suggestions that in their own way make me think I should get out there and do what she says.

These people all play a part and without them (and many others) my life would not be half as fulfilling as it now is.

With so much INspiration in my life, I have a lot of PERspiration to do if I am to become a genius, if Thomas Edison's maxim is true.


Ewan said...

Likewise, I think my role mighyt be over-estimated, but I take the compliment with pleasure ;-)

My inspiration-leaders are so varied and so often those who do things in the world of science or sport - two areas I am not very strong in at all, or so I always made myself believe when I was at school.

I think inspiration can come from so many different sources and something which should inspire us in our personal life can sometimes end up being the main inspiration in our professional lives. That's what's happened to me and it means that I have the luck to see my 'work' as more or less playtime.

Cheers, Drew!

Anonymous said...

ta for the comment drew, but methinks you have overstated my role, all yu have achieved is down to you,, all your friends may egg you on a bit, but unlike others, you take their advice on board and motivate yourself, am proud to be your friend and have you as a very special friend. EVE

Gerard said...

Thanks for using one of my photographs and giving credit to me.