Light Offerings

Why are we not educating for true human creativity and innovation?

Posted by jturner56 on February 4, 2017

To read Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators (2012) and Most Likely to Succeed (2015 with Ted Dittersmith) is to share his concerns with the shortcomings of an educational system increasingly out of step with society (albeit with an American flavour) . To Wagner, what is needed is the development of innovators and entrepreneurs to counter the outsourcing and automation that the new digitally powered global knowledge economy is forging.

Wagner quotes Dr Robert Sternberg, a psychologist who has studied creativity and wrote “Creativity is a habit. The problem is that schools sometimes treat it as a bad habit.”

Creativity to Wagner comes from the interrelationship of expertise, creative-thinking skills and motivation. He sees this through the three Ps: play, passion and purpose. The importance of like minded teachers as role models is highlighted. Parenting must include confidence and courage in children taking risks supported by empathetic understanding. Schools must move beyond limited foci of college preparation and grading against predetermined standards. The community must embrace and value such undertakings.

An excellent case study of what this might mean might be found in Picasso. In Think like an Artist (2015) Will Gompertz highlighted Picasso’s 1901 journey from impressive copier (someone who had subsumed the skills and knowledge of many artists) to innovator. Someone who took these ideas to a new area of mood and colour (his blue period). Picasso went on to show how the essence of an idea can be extracted through thoughtful subtractions. Similar examples can be found in Einstein, Galileo, Shakespeare and Napoleon (as noted by Gompertz). It’s not just about Art.

In digital, as Neil Selwyn admits in Education and technology: Key issues and Debates 2nd Edition (2016), we too often look merely to do the same old things – just slightly differently. The risk is that ‘innovation’ will be done to education through digital means rather than ‘with’ or ‘by’. And if so the qualities that underlie education are likely to be  transformed in the name of efficiency and expediency.

If innovation matters to education, then be it digital or non-digital, educators need to seek to lead as innovators, harnessing their own commitment to play, passion and purpose to re-design, re-invigorate and realise. Empowering teacher and student voice towards such ends might be a good place to start. The courage to go beyond learning defined by measurable inputs to embrace and value what students can make with their learning (beyond just grades) is needed.

What opportunities do we provide our students to explore such insights, much less to develop such thinking?

 

 

 

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