Saturday, June 4, 2011

What is Creativity?

I recently (re) watched a speech by Sir Ken Robinson about changing the education paradigm. The above clip is an abridged version but hits the main points. He raises some very interesting ideas, most of which I agree with, and challenges society to redefine their thinking about how we view and value education.

His major argument is that schools systematically (but not deliberately) destroy creativity in our students. Sir Ken defines creativity as a process of putting your imagination to work - applying your imagination. It is the process of having original ideas that have value.

He mentions three key points in relation to creativity. It is a process, not an event. You have to work on and refine it. Historically there are some exceptions, such as Mozart, (who was said to have never refined his work) but this is the exception, not the norm. Robinson states that it is a process we can plan and teach. Like literacy, we can give people the tools to go through the writing process, but can't say what they will write. We can give students the tools to be creative, but cannot tell them what to think.

Secondly, it is about originality. Thinking things that are either new to yourself, your workplace or even to history.

The third point is about value. Any old ideas are not creative - they have to hold value. Understanding which values to apply to an idea is a key part of creativity. Too often ideas are dismissed because people apply the wrong values to them. They relate to their present values instead of what might evolve. A classic example of this is the internet. When it first hit the mainstream some people thought it was clever but not very useful. Tell that to the people who came up with E-Bay!

This third point is something that I think teachers can have a definite impact on with their students. Teaching them how to apply critical judgement in the correct way and with the appropriate values in mind. Alongside this we need to cultivate an environment in our schools where students can feel ok to make mistakes. If we have a fear of getting something wrong we will be reluctant to try anything new, hence no creativity.

Skills are essential for our students. But they also need to know how to apply them in a creative manner.

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