Jamf Blog
Taylor Mali speaks at Jamf.
August 25, 2021 by Mike Lawrence

Harnessing the Genie’s Power

Post-pandemic pedagogy and creative constraints: Taylor Mali helps educators to tap into the sources of inspiration that will allow them to thrive.

In this lively webinar, part of our Jamf Sessions series, poet and educator Taylor Mali transports his audience to a place where there are no limits for imagination. Sharing his poems full of vision, reflection and hope for teachers, he helps viewers to tap into the sources of inspiration that will allow them to thrive and to lift up others in life.

The poet’s view of life

Taylor Mali became widely known following a viral slam-poetry performance of “What Teachers Make,” a slightly profane, indignant and ultimately inspiring defense of the teaching profession. A longtime educator and poet, Taylor has published several collections of poetry and essays and currently tours the world hosting workshops and delivering lectures. He is the inventor of Metaphor Dice, a fun and intuitive tool for providing writing prompts; his dice feature prominently in this Jamf Session as an illustration of the concept of creative constraints.

He stakes out the poetic and philosophical space in which he locates the content for this webinar’s message by triangulating among the three following quotations by noted American poets:

“Limitation makes for power: The strength of the genie comes of his being confined in a bottle.” - Richard Wilbur

“You have freedom when you’re easy in your harness.” - Robert Frost

“come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.” - Lucille Clifton

The power of creative constraints

This Jamf Session is spent exploring the concept of finitude and the various ways that constraints — from prompts and rules to real-world obstacles and lack of resources — can empower us to “harness the genie” of creativity.

The author and teacher guides the audience through a simple exercise using the Metaphor Dice. He rolls the dice to yield three words that combine into a single statement. Attendees then do their best to use poetry to explicate the resulting metaphor: “Regret [is a] stingy dance.” The results range from messy to profound, but that is the joy of creating a learning environment by leveraging constraints. The dice provide a plethora of combinations that can guide students and provide them with an ingenious start to the writing process.

He explains the reasoning behind this approach: The dice provide a limit to the word choices, which actually unleashes creativity among students (and adults!) by providing a constraint. In other words, the trapped genie of legend actually draws his power from the bottle. As he demonstrates with an anecdote about a student who achieved a startlingly profound act of self-examination with the dice as she struggled to compare her father to a broken mirror, restricting the space in which an act of creativity can take place can lead to unexpected connections and insights.

Finitude as a strategic feature of Jamf products

One key takeaway for educators will be the power of student focus — precisely the power that Jamf Teacher, Jamf Parent and Jamf Student provide by limiting student use of devices to just those apps and websites that are relevant to their educational journey. When students are forced to focus their attention on a narrow range of information, they enjoy greater potential to be mentally fruitful and to overcome cognitive blocks. Jamf products aid in this process by shutting out external distractions, and they facilitate a high degree of customization so that educators can tailor the learning environment to their own and students’ unique needs. Taylor reminds all educators present to lean into these and other types of constraints, which become easier to devise and uniformly apply within the context of the technology-mediated classroom.

Watch the Jamf Session on-demand below. And sign up to attend one or more of the other sessions available this summer through the #JamfEd series.

Watch “The Genie Draws His Power from the Bottle” session on-demand.

Photo of Mike Lawrence
Mike Lawrence
Mike is an award-winning teacher, administrator and educational leader and was previously recognized as an Apple Distinguished Educator, Class of 2003. He served as the CEO of CUE, expanding the nonprofit’s impact & helping the nonprofit grow fivefold in 12 years, served two terms on the ISTE board, and also directed the California Student Media Festival for a decade. He leads strategic learning and development initiatives worldwide at Jamf.
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