Committing to Creativity Part I – Rationale

The five year old proudly brings his drawing to his Kindergarten Teacher. He says “Look, I drew a purple flower!” The teacher looks it over and smiles at him. “Johnny, what a wonderful purple flower! Draw more purple flowers for me!” And he proceeds to shower her with purple flowers for days to come.

10 years later that same Johnny offers up a drawing a purple flower to his teacher. Hmm, would this teacher as likely shower him with praise and encourage him to create more for him?

In the next period, the history teacher drones on about the Civil War. Johnny raises his hand and asks, “What if the South had won the Civil War? Would we have slavery today?” The teacher watches the clock, might even like the question. Maybe she wishes that SHE had asked that question and possibly considered it in her lesson preparation. But since she felt that the question would steer her time into uncharted waters she dropped it. Instead she says to Johnny, “Interesting point but we know that the North won the Civil War don’t we? So let’s stick to the actual content.”

It’s 10 years later, the latest Mid East crisis has resulted in widespread destruction of the Saudi oil fields. The world’s economy, ill prepared for this event, grinds to a halt. Social unrest, violence, and disruption plagues all governments. The President convenes her cabinet and asks “Can we create a solution to this?”

In all of the cases above the critical variable is creativity, more specifically, creative problem solving. That is, the ability to weld right brain creative skills and properties with left brain logic and convergent thinking to synthesize what we are considering, re-work it perhaps, to come up with new, original approaches to our literacies and competencies.

The P21 framework recognizes the need for reorganizing schools’ curricula to include the expectation that students will practice and master creative problem solving.

I’d argue that if there ever were a time when we need our learners to be proficient creative problem solvers it is now. Economic downtimes, social and political upheaval, accelerating ¬†technological change, demographic trends all combine to suggest an uncertain future and perhaps an UNpreferred future for us all unless we collaborate to recreate our now for a positive and preferred futures set for twenty first century citizens world wide.

A counter argument is that creativity can not be taught. Rather, they say, it is a skills set or attribute that is the peculiar property of a sub set of our population. On surface that may seem true. Certainly some people are more creative than others.

I’d posit that those folks well -known or known only to you, may appear more creative than others you know because for one reason or another they either took or were afforded the opportunities to practice creativity.

Would that schools would make those same opportunities for students! They don’t as a system though do they? Sure sometimes there are special teachers, or special subject areas that lend themselves more readily or openly to “permitting” creative thought and production. But do school systems, big and small, routinely and consistently require a creativity “strand” that all students must take?

The next several posts will identify and explain how we can do this.

The Education Gap of Now that Impacts the Education of the Future; Let’s Future Wheel That!

This blog is intended to equip all educators with mindsets and skills to reshape what our educational system is to what it should be against our common vision of the society it will drive. Then you read the February 9th article in the New York Times by Sabrina Tavernise and realize the depth and breadth of the challenges before us. These challenges are within our power to manage, and even transform into positives provided we are clear on our vision and clearer on our determination to get there.

Tavernise describes two studies. One that “found that a gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown between rich and poor children by about 40 per cent since the 1960s….”

Another describes “the imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion – the single most important predictor of success in the work force – had grown by about 50 per cent since the 1980’s.”

There are those who will argue the studies from a statistical design view and perhaps find some anomalies that dilute the message inherent in both studies. I will not because it just seems pretty evident that there is an educational gap.

Where I live, on Long Island New York, is a great example. Long Island students are among the best in the nation. Long Island students dominate the Westinghouse Intel Scholar program. About a third of all recognized high schools for their AP successes from across the nation are Nassau and Suffolk County schools.

But there is a but lying within this plaudits. Remember the young lady from Brentwood Schools (a LONG ISLAND school) who won Westinghouse recognition who wound up on The Ellen De Genares show and on several newscasts who was homeless?! She was rightfully praised for her accomplishment in the face of poverty issues that plague many districts on Long Island. She managed to seize the ring happily. However that very same school district has lost millions of dollars in state aid the past few years that would have gone to additional staff and intervention programs for their schools’ most needy and most academically challenged students.

How many Intel winners were from inner city schools?

In short these trying economic times, and a time also of changing demographics, are coming together in a not so perfect educational storm that portend dark days for educational systems not up to the reinventing challenge and darker days for their students who in fact amount to victims of poor planning and of poorer prioritization by the society who needs these very same students to flourish in so many ways.

How about a Futures Wheel now?


What do you think? How can we achieve our Preferred Futures?

Through the Looking Glass

I urge you to access this link:

You will be able to access a video produced by Corning Glass that talks about the Future of Touchscreen Tech.

It’s about 10 minutes long. Obviously it is a commercial about Corning Glass. And of the 10 minutes, perhaps half to two thirds are about educational applications of their research and development.

But oh, what a half or two – thirds.

I took at least two themes from viewing it this morning. One is directly linked to future schools and how they might look and related to that how teachers will need to be able to change their repertoire to accommodate and to maximize these technologies’ potential.

The other theme I took was the capacity of her students’ to engage the technology effortlessly and to incorporate it into how they were learning. For you see, the teacher was certainly not playing sage on the stage. Instead she was orchestrating or better yet, leading an educational jam session by leveraging the capacities of the technology to highly involve her students so that they could use true inquiry-process skills to construct their own learning.

The students for their part, were totally comfortable in interacting among each other and in using multi sensory  approaches to learn.

And going back to the previous two posts where we first used the Futures’ Wheel and then next, the Cross Impact Matrix futures forecasting strategies, it is fairly easy to discern the Preferable Futures that may lay ahead for schooling.

Oh but the implications for teachers and for educational leaders! Work forwards – backwards in your thinking and by the way, this is a left handed way to plant the acorn for another futures forecasting technique to be explored another day, Backwards Forecasting, and consider what Higher Education teacher training programs will need to do to re-tool how they prepare future teachers. And related to this would be how schools offer meaningful and effective Professional Development to their staff.

I don’t remember the exact numbers but someone once told me that typically corporations (perhaps in more flush times) allot 15% of their budget to research and development. In contrast school districts typically budget less than 1% of theirs to professional development.

Throw in two other factors, where school districts are scrambling to hang onto jobs let alone allocate monies for professional support, and, where what’s left of professional development is allocated to answering to the high stakes testing hysteria across the country. It is totally understandable although also lamentable that training teachers to use the kinds of technologies this video depicts and to translate these to constructivist learning that must characterize twenty first century learning is not in the front of the priority wagon train.

And Schools of Education in colleges across the nation? Are their professors trained to engage future teacher candidates in practicing and mastering the skills of using such technologies? Do they collectively recognize their moral obligation to prepare future teacher candidates to be able to skillfully embrace and practice the competencies necessary to make these practices the rule rather than the exception?