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How creative should a school be?

Posted by jturner56 on August 18, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-08-18 at 7.51.00 AMThis response to my blog post last week got me thinking about what schools should be doing to foster digital creativity.

As noted previously, I believe it’s not so much about the position as the effect. Call it what you will, position the person where you like, the likelihood of progress will very much depend on the structures around them, their capacity to build bridges, and the culture’s willingness to build constructively. See The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents (Julia Battilana and Tiziana Casciaro, HBR) for more on this.

The danger in industrially structured schools is that individually inspired learning progress will rarely move beyond individual choice (even in cases where such individuals are ‘promoted’ to lead the change). Not helped if external priorities push people in the opposite direction. This is why understanding change and culture should be two prerequisites for any educational leadership position.

But I digress. Creativity is the focus. So let’s explore what we can understand to be creativity.

To some it might be individual choice, the “eye of the beholder”. I remember a decade or so ago I was involved in formally assessing the creativeness within standardised evaluation of technical products created by students across a state. I still remember the debates within the group that left us more in support of the potential of human creativeness than feeling we had any handle on being able to provide standardisable assessments.

A walk through the net finds an array of definitions, some of which I think shed light for fostering creativity in schools.

“imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of artistic work”

“producing something new and valued”

“tendency to generate or recognise ideas, alternatives or possibilities of value”

“turning new and imaginative ideas into reality”

“boosting creativity by learning interesting new things” (ASCD)

“creating original works as a mean of personal or group expression”

My favorite is the philosopher Daniel Dennett’s use of Doug Hofstadter’s term jootsing (see Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking) which means “jumping out of the system”. It implies that powerful creativity comes from understanding the system before extending it. Countless Nobel Prize winners bear testimony to this.

At the school level then we can foster creativity by ensuring that understanding is only a precursor to opportunities (be it digital or not) to extend through adding value to the individual, the community, and beyond. This can be academic or social. A good example of the former can be found in Art Folios, which are used as a formal part of university entrance. Other subjects can follow suit through digital folios which can be used to build cognition, access wider audiences, share ideas, and build a creativity profile (Helen Barrett has a lot more to say on this than I have time today).

Time dedicated to creating, managing, and for purposeful interactions is time well spent. At my school we are building iFolios across the middle school and beyond, and building  time for students to develop and apply new digital skills which can be used to push their learning and creativity envelop. Not rocket science, it’s just about community commitments.

So in summing up, creativity springs from the values, structures, opportunities, leadership and bridges that underpin the community. Be it a classroom, a school, a city (see Richard Florida’s work on this) or whatever. Creativity might be often in the eye of the beholder, but it takes a community to be creative.


2 Responses to “How creative should a school be?”

  1. To me, a Director of Creativity would help teachers accomplish their educational goals in ways they haven’t thought of…and have fun doing it. If a teacher is having fun students will too.

    • jturner56 said

      Thanks Joel. As my Head of School says, one of our main goals is creating a learning space which teachers and students look forward too each day with a smile.

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