Friday, 16 July 2010

#ukedchat & Creativity

The #ukedchat session last night was all about how one can inspire creativity in the classroom. It was a very interesting, exciting event as usual with lots of ideas shared.

Not many seconds into the session people were trying to define creativity.

I quite like this definition

“I define creativity as the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. Innovation is the production or implementation of an idea. If you have ideas, but don't act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.”  Linda Naiman

And this one:

The experience of thinking, reacting, and working in an imaginative and idiosyncratic way which is characterized by a high degree of innovation and originality, divergent thinking, and risk taking.

Roger von Oech - Creative thinking involves imagining familiar things in a new light, digging below the surface to find previously undetected patterns, and finding connections among unrelated phenomena.

From the QCDA we get:
First, they [the characteristics of creativity] always involve thinking or behaving imaginatively. Second, overall this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieving an objective. Third, these processes must generate something original. Fourth, the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective.
Creative people are purposeful as well as imaginative. Their imaginative activity is directed at achieving an objective (although this objective may change over time).
Skilled teachers can help pupils tackle questions, solve problems and have ideas that are new to them. This makes pupils' ideas original, the result of genuinely creative behaviour.
Teachers need to help pupils judge the value of what they and others have done through critical evaluation. This means asking questions such as, ‘Does it do the job?’, ‘Is it aesthetically pleasing?’, ‘Is it a valid solution?’, ‘Is it useful?’

I sat having coffee with, and talking to my son and his wife last Saturday whilst their little son got paper and crayons and crayoned a flag (World Cup inspired) on his rectangle of paper. He then went and found a kebab stick and sellotape, he sellotaped the flag to the stick and stuck the flag in the nearest plant! He enjoyed that activity, completed it and we all knew that he was delighted with the outcome. I think that, along with all of the lego creations often found in corners once he has gone, recordings he has made on the recording toys, pictures, play dough creations all demonstrate true creativity. It is natural in small children.

Children will tell the most amazing stories, creating it as they go, they will dance, sing, make up songs and jokes, invent games and more. Why then, as they get older and in school, are we trying to inspire creativity? It does not make any sense, it is there already, it simply needs harnessing, guiding and nurturing. Is there something about school that kills creativity in the young child?

So what does creativity in school look like?

“Sit down, fold your arms and eyes this way…” I remember that as a child, in fact with some teachers it lasted right the way through secondary school… no creativity inducement there, far from it. Chalk and talk! I did have better teachers though - those that instilled a love of music, art, poetry and literature by inspring me to investigate, listen and look for what I like with gentle guidance.

“Choose a topic that you are really interested in, study it and find a way to share what you find out with the rest of the class, I be here if you need me”… great but how many times did that / does that happen?

The National Curriculum - the first prescribed curriculum this country had faced started the real slow down of creativity in primary school, the QCA Schemes of work even more so. Teachers began to lose their creativity and do what they were told hour by hour. In 2003 when Excellence and Enjoyment came along schools were told to take control of the curriculum, make it creative and exciting, but too many teachers had already lost or never acquired the creative style of teaching. Things should have got better over the last seven years, to be fair they have in many places but there are still teachers who “do the QCA”, I have even be aware of one I the last few weeks told to do exactly that to improve the school! (Thanks goodness not one of my schools or the boxing gloves would be out by now.)

So what it a creative curriculum?
Is it
•    One built around acquiring necessary skills through any exciting medium and subject but based on a theme free enough to let pupils take their own route?
•    Giving children challenges and problems to solve, time to reflect, improve, collaborate and investigate whatever they are curious about?
•    Giving them freedom to express themselves in the way they want to including with video, sound files, music and drama?
or a mixture of all three? Or is it something different altogether?

What does a creative curriculum demand from a teacher?

•    Above all confidence in their own ability to teach – even when things seem a little chaotic the children will be learning
•    The confidence to let go and let it happen and know that they are getting it right for their children
•    Enthusiasm – it is no good a teacher wondering in to the classroom disinterested, exhausted or in a bad mood – the children in class, just like children at home reflect the adult’s mood – consequently going in full of enthusiasm and fun will bring its own rewards
•    Commitment – to the children and their learning
•    The ability to value all of the learning processes

About 10 years ago I worked with a class of children on a project about bullying. A couple of the groups wanted to make presentations. They made story boards, PowerPoint presentations that were very good, they gave presentations to the class, and later that month to the visiting teachers at the ICT conference. I made a display of the presentations and started to put the story boards up on the wall. A colleague said “You can’t put those up, they’re crap!” It seemed very sad to me that she did not value the preliminary work showing how they had got the where they had got and just wanted the polished, finished version on display.

I think that more than anything a creative curriculum needs time. It has to be okay to take several days dedicated to a project e.g. to do some D&T in a Tudor’s project where pupils may choose create a Tudor house, plan it, measure the pieces of dowel needed, cut the wood and card carefully, construct it, decorate it, keep a video or photographic diary, write a reflective log about what went well and what could have been improved. There is so much in that simple project, so many life skills, maths, literacy, D&T, historical research, art for the finishing, maybe ICT if CAD used to plan, digital camera were used for the photographs or video log, a word processor was used to write up plan or report etc. There will be opportunities for creativity – planning, constructing, problem solving, recording, presenting, collaboration, in-depth study into Tudor housing. It could be expanded to go wherever the children wanted it to go – Tudor gardens, furniture, clothing, food, music, banquets, religion, Shakespeare, The Globe, theatre, play writing etc. So long as everybody is comfortable with this it is easy in primary school, maybe not so easy in secondary school and that is very sad.

Current access to such a vast range of technology, hardware, handheld technologies, software, web 2.0 resources offer a much bigger and better range of tools to facilitate creativity than pupils have ever had before but complex tools are not essential, an easi-speak mic or digital camera can make a difference!

Best quotes from the #ukedchat: (NB no more that 130 characters allowed, #ukedchat takes up the other ten, I may have added a few letters in for easy reading)

  • Primarypete_: to allow creativity to flourish, you need to allow children to risk and fail with grace
  • Dughall I think we can only have creativity with a high degree of pupil choice, involvement and personalization of the curriculum?
  • Eyebeams: so elicitation using mind mapping, cross curricular, risk taking, just building a list here
  • ChrisFullerisms: not just taking risks but an environment in which errors are accepted and embraced, by erring we often learn more
  • Eyebeams: I think creativity might allow for being receptive to and exploiting serendipity
  • Nellmog: I think applying creativity in the classroom is throwing away the lesson plan when something more relevant happens
  • Didactylos: We are naturally programmed to use play / creativity as our mode of learning.  Schools therefore are often unnatural habitats
  • Natty08: Life doesn’t happen in straight lines so why try and teach it as so – creativity encourages bumps and corners
I started writing YES!! At the end of the statements I feel strongly about – but it got too repetitive :-)

All in all a very interesting session! Follow #ukedchat on Thursday evenings 8 – 9pm BST, to find out more visit: