Posted on 8 August, 2016 by Richard Grazier

Creativity is a weapon

Creative skills are just as important as technical ones, but there seems to be more effort being made by governments to encourage young people to take up technical routes, especially in STEM subjects. In fact, in the UK, over 100,000 people signed a petition against the government’s decision to leave expressive and creative arts out of the English Baccalaureate, and MPs have been debating the issue this week. Globally, a number of other curricula have come under criticism; India’s recent National Education Policy 2016 report showed that the existing curriculum ‘does not foster creativity and innovation nor does it enable critical thinking or independent problem solving’.

Creativity is much maligned, miss-understood and mistreated. Alongside critical thinking, creativity is often identified as the essential skill needed in the 21st century. Creativity isn’t about being carefree and unstructured, you can be creative in maths and engineering just as much as in music and dance. Creativity isn’t just about coming up with new ideas or ways to do things, evaluation is as much a part of the process, and therefore creativity and critical thinking are aligned not opposed to each other.

Creativity is at odds with our culture of standardised testing, the exams culture today still focuses heavily on sitting in rows and recalling answers rather than asking questions. This impersonal process alienates students from their own talents, everyone remembers how they came alive with certain teachers when they were able to learn about topics or subjects that inspired us. The focus of curriculum and teaching on outcome rather than the process through which self directed learners with creative and critical thinking skills are developed, is monotonous, whereas human culture is diverse and rich, and we perform better when we are interacting with things that excite and inspire us.

Changing the learners’ position from passive to active through the use of technology in the blended model empowers students to have greater autonomy, enabling creativity and critical thinking to flourish. Equally those who may not have been confident in expressing themselves in traditional settings may find themselves now more able to contribute through the new collaborative opportunities created through the model.

Students are often made to feel that failure in school is deemed unacceptable; however, without failure, and without taking on a ‘growth mind-set’ many of the innovations and developments we have seen globally would not have been possible. Creativity isn’t just about new ideas, some ideas may be either impractical or just crazy; it’s a process, not a single event, so an essential part is evaluation, and even learning from mistakes.

Whilst we need to encourage students to harness their creativity, this isn’t just about the individual. Whether in education, work, or social life, most creative processes benefit hugely from collaboration. Collaboration is the heartbeat of the blended learning model, as the teacher partially withdraws from the space, the void has to be filled and this happens through self-directed learners with greater autonomy, digitally-native learners who are already used to being curators and collaborators.

The space that the self-directed learner fills, is the same one they face at University, in work and throughout life. The use of technology in a blended model is a pedagogical priority first and business opportunity second, and by creating space where students are empowered to learn – becoming consciously unconscious in their learning, rather than simply taught – will give them the skills to not just achieve an outcome, but own their future.

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