Apparently someone at ISTE said (presumably in an authoritative way during some keynote or major workshop) that you can’t teach creativity.
I’m going to have to call bulls@%t on that one.
We teach kids to play basketball, don’t we?
I once watched a first-year coach of a basketball team shout at his team, “Defense! Get on Defense! And they did nothing. He hadn’t taught them what to do when he shouted “Defense!” They hovered around the ball, massed the one player with the power to make the shot, and left all of that player’s teammates wide open. The game was a rout, of course, because the coach said, “Offense!” a lot too. It was, pardon the pun, offensive.
And it reminded me a lot of my experiences coaching basketball. I was terrible, for largely the same reasons. I didn’t know the language of basketball, I didn’t have a model of how a beginning team could become victors, and I certainly didn’t value the game. (I still don’t, I’m sad to say. I wish I did, but I just can’t find it in my heart to devote time or energy to it.)
But then I saw that same coach a couple of years later. Someone had finally explained to the poor guy that kids can only do things that they’ve had explained to them, by someone who values the action, who understands the lingo, and has a model to explain what the overall plan is. They take that stupid whiteboard with the basketball grid already laid out on it, and they point to specific players, and point to WHERE they should be on the court at a given time, and then WALK THE PLAYER TO THE SPOT on the court and show them where to be, and then show them how to hold their arms. And this great coach even then walks up to each kid and walks them through what a player coming towards them is likely to do, and how to be ready for various actions.
That’s value, that’s a model, and that’s language.
And we can do the same thing with creativity.
I’m all in favor of acknowledging that there are limitations on what teachers can and cannot do in the typical school day. We want them to learn Magna Carta and 1215, Declaration of Independence and 1776, the Pythagorean Theorem and the quadratic equation, the Three Laws of Motion and the Punnett Square, and who Charles Dickens was and why what he wrote is worth reading even today, and how to speak a foreign language… and that’s a lot to squeeze into a school year — especially when you’re talking about passing a high-stakes examination on content at the end of the year, and that the teacher may not be hired or re-hired whose kids don’t make “increasing adequate yearly progress” over time.
I get that. Really I do.
Not to pick on Kel Hathaway (@kelgator over on Twitter, but in this case he’s just the messenger, and the guy he was listening to was apparently the real culprit), but you can teach kids creativity (UPDATE: and OK, my reaction is somewhat overblown, as Kel’s notes from the relevant session indicate). They may not LEARN creativity that way, but you can certainly teach it… but it requires first that you VALUE creativity, and that you have a LANGUAGE to describe the parts of creativity, and that you have a MODEL of how creativity works which you can SHOW and EXPLAIN to your students. Then they can walk themselves through your model/process, and use your language, and appreciate the value that you put on that language and that process. And they will have a way of talking about being creative with other people.
My school has this. I hate to brag, but I designed it. With a lot of help from a graphic designer of mine, but we have it and we use it. It’s one of those things I’m really proud of.
No, you can’t have ours. But you can have the process by which I got it. Just think about those three things: VALUE, LANGUAGE, and MODEL. Value is the most important of those. If you’re not willing to spend time on being creative — if it’s all just going to be drill, drill, drill — there’s no point to reading the rest of this article. Once you have that value in your classroom or your school, you can develop… you must develop… YOU HAVE TO HAVE a model and a language to describe what creativity is, how it works, what it does, and how it functions. To put it in @DaveGray terms, you need to identify the node, the parts, the comparisons, the relationships, the functions, the changes and the overall system of creativity. And then you can teach it, and kids can learn it too, if they’re willing to take the time to understand your language and your model.
“Well,” I hear you say, “It’s just creativity… isn’t it? It’s something a kid has or they don’t have, right?”
And I have to say, “No. It’s not. Creativity is the doggone patrimony and dowry of every single human being on earth, and for a teacher in ANY school in the world to say ‘you can’t really teach that’ is more than an annoyance… it is practically criminal.“
But this is just me talking smack. So let me put it in other terms. Better yet, you put it in YOUR terms, and we’ll see what comes of it, shall we?
This involves you going and getting some tools: some paper, and some pencils, or pens, or whatever else you have in your cache of office supplies and art supplies and whatever else you call that collection of junk. DON’T do it digitally, unless you really, really, really understand digital tools better than pen and paper. My mom calls it her stash, and guards it jealously as if it were her dragon’s golden hoard.
OK. So, here’s what I’d like you to do. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and draw a diagram of how one acts when one is in a creative mindset. I’ve just done this exercise for myself, and you can view the results below, but you have to do your own FIRST. No peeking until after you’re done.