Sir Ken Robinson, an international adviser on education, gave a TED Talk in 2007 titled Do Schools Kill Creativity? In it, Sir Robinson tells the audience that kids will inherently take chances, but it’s education’s drive towards skill based learning that trains kids that failure is not an option. He goes on to state that structured education as we know it is a result of industrialism in the early 19th Century and the need for reading and math skills. However, times have changed in the last 200 years. According to Forbes Magazine, the top three skills desired by high-profile corporations are problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking (Fisher 2012). These companies desire growth and innovation in their fields and in Sir Robinson’s words, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original” (TED 2007). These new skills desired by the workplace are in direct correlation to creative thinking and collaborative work rather than drilled skills.
Ideally, the demand for these skills would cause a trickle-down effect, with companies influencing colleges and universities, which then change their entrance requirements from high school graduates (perhaps with less of an influence on SAT/ACT scores), which would change the overall dynamic of K-12 education. Unfortunately, in a world of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, our focus is instead on high test achievement on normed assessments.
So what do we do? State assessments aren’t going anywhere any time soon, yet we have a responsibility as educators to prepare kids for the world after structured education. We can infuse our lessons with digital media and change our teaching methods to incorporate both CCSS required standards and collaborative, creative learning. Students create every day – they write stories, they imagine how settings and characters look in books they are reading, they find new ways to solve math problems, and they imagine up the most interesting science experiments. By adding digital media to this already creative process, we only enhance their experience while getting them ready to be productive members of society. After they write stories, they can create paper slide videos narrating that story. While they imagine the setting and characters of a book, they can use digital arts software or animation software to give life to their vision. They can collaborate in pairs or teams using sites like padlet to brainstorm as many ways as possible to solve (or create!) a problem. They can use the internet and sites such as Discovery Education Network to research science experiments. In all instances, they can chronicle their progress using wikis. You can change your current presentation model to a media-infused presentation.
The problem isn’t a lack of creativity in school. The problem is we teachers are unprepared to integrate modern technology into our teaching as a means of developing creativity. If we are uncomfortable with it, we won’t incorporate it into our teaching. However, if we look at is as our responsibility to our students and take it upon ourselves to learn it, we will be able to confidently refine our practice. Technology and digital media isn’t going anywhere. We owe it to our students to teach them how to use these tools so that they are prepared when enter the working world. The creativity is still there. We just need to make sure we know what it looks like in a 21st Century classroom.
Fisher, A. (2012, February 1). Executives to new grads: Shape up! [Blog] Retrieved from http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2012/02/01/executives-to-new-grads-shape-up/
TED (2007, January 6). Sir Ted Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY