Reflections on creativity and technology in education today

The problem in the technology education world, is that we don’t see creativity as a virtue.

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“The digital revolution has hardly begun. We are still understanding and navigating these new technologies and just what they mean – for each of us individually as well as for our societies as a whole.” (p. 16)

“…we have to harness our creativity to a more compassionate and sustainable vision of the world we want to live in, and the lives we hope to lead.” (p. 21-22)

I’ve worked in the education sector for some time. Since 2011, I’ve been everything from a Teaching Assistant, Art Leader, Primary/Elementary Teacher, Nursery/Kindergarten Teacher…. the list goes on. And the one thing that’s always fascinated me all these years is the potential of creativity through technology. In fact, it’s the focus of my PhD research right now.

Education and learning are no longer the same 11 years after I first started out. The internet and rapid innovation with technology is helping us make connections and share ideas with each other in ways that were not possible before. Just like you are reading this article right now that I wrote, with this amazing space we call The Creative Revolution. Technology has become a central part of our lives, which means we need to adapt and use it to benefit learning experiences in education as well, otherwise we will start to fall behind. But the sad truth, from my experience, is that education is falling behind. And not just falling behind but continuing to travel in the wrong direction.

In England, we haven’t updated our statutory ‘computing’ curriculum, in which those aged 5-18 learn about technology, since 2013 (Department for Education, 2013). Many educators felt they lacked real knowledge of understanding or utilising technology for this (Royal Society, 2017) and in a recent report this continues to be a problem (Ofsted, 2022). For those reading who are used to a different educational system, I am assuming it is probably a similar conversation in your part of the world. Creativity is mentioned only twice in our computing curriculum, one time in a vague notion to ‘equip’ students with it, and another to develop it towards the end of a child’s experience in secondary education. But how can educators possibly develop it when they are already struggling?

The problem in the technology education world, is that we don’t see creativity as a virtue. But we need to. And by virtue, I mean the philosophy that creativity is a behaviour or trait that helps define our moral values, practical wisdom, and ability to flourish.

Let me tell you a quick story. We can all agree that technology has unlimited potential alongside creativity; it can be used to create art, music, literature, share emotions, tell stories, lead to action, and shape change. From a young age I was surrounded by different forms of emerging technologies and self-taught myself on how to use them (as it probably surprises no one, my education didn’t teach me anything about how to be creative with technology. Just how to use it for pre-determined end-goals or for an exam (sound familiar?). Video games, computers, coding, making a website, creating and editing videos…you name it, I probably learnt it by myself. And as an adult, each year I worked in education and each school I worked for became delighted when they found out I was a ‘technology specialist’.

I remember leading a teacher staff meeting at an ‘infant’ school in November 2017 when I was just starting as a teacher trainee, surrounded by teachers who had worked for decades. I showed them the different resources, latest apps and websites they can use through visual demonstrations, and things to be aware of regarding trends in technology. And they all looked at me, Headteacher (principal) included, like I had opened a garden of Eden. But they also found it scary, were bewildered, and were not confident in learning it. There was no time to learn it, no money to invest in it. And there were other educational benchmarks to meet. So the next week, it was decided that I teach all the computing lessons in the school and continued to do so for the rest of my first 3 month placement. Teachers took it in turns to shadow me, which was a very surreal experience. I, a teacher trainee, training experienced teachers. For the whole school I taught all Reception – Year 2 classes of which there were multiple (or late Pre-School – Grade 2 for those in the USA). And while I greatly enjoyed empowering children and teachers with technology, letting their creativity flow and come up with ways to share fantastic stories, create digital artworks, even working together to design a level for an educational coding website – I worried for when I left my placement, and the many schools facing the same problem that I heard about from students across the UK and abroad through word of mouth, academics and the news. They were struggling to keep up, and creative opportunities to use technology in school were limited.

That does not mean we should lose hope, however. In fact, I think since the height of the Covid-19 pandemic we are now presented with a great opportunity to do a lot of good to promote creativity alongside technology. Many educators are starting to make use of technology to create evocative media, works of art, collaborate on educational projects, and ways to continue promoting learning and communication through the digital stratosphere.

Support for creativity in education in England alone is bouncing back. Examples include a ‘Let’s Create’ national strategy, a ‘Creativity Collaborative’ programme to work alongside many schools to transform teacher’s capabilities to teach for creativity, and the launch of a Creativity Exchange alongside many other recent initiatives (Arts Council, 2022; Creativity Exchange, 2022).

Sir Ken Robinson himself envisioned effective schools promoting project-based learning with plenty of cross-curricular opportunities, practical elements, and an ethos of team-based or collaborative learning (Bell, 2015:32). He further added that we should strive to “encourage a mixed culture within our schools, of the sciences, the arts, technology, of individual passions and the unique pathways they each determine, and the interconnectedness of our human ecosystems.” (2020:8)

Schools and educational institutions around the globe are starting to do just that. This was apparent when I was lucky enough to participate in Adobe’s MAX Creativity Conference (2022). They mentioned the importance of creativity more times than I had ever heard it in most of my secondary education:

“It is your creativity that continues to inspire us”

“Creativity is a fundamental collaborative and social endeavour”

“Your creativity moves the world forward, shines a light on things to discuss and elevate voices…”

For 2 days, I saw countless examples of creativity being used with technology to create social movements of world events, transport a young audience to a multi-sensory forest experience, encapsulate the feelings of those isolated in the Covid-19 pandemic, empowering children to share their culture through artwork within a virtual art gallery…so many wonderful, wonderful examples.

We need to empower educators and learners to embrace creativity, especially in an age of technology. It will not be an easy feat, but I am hoping that through my research and by connecting with others like you in The Creative Revolution, that we will learn how to work towards it and can find ways for education to become more interconnected in creativity.

Let’s make creativity a virtue in technology education, as well as all of education. After all, as Berys Gaut (2014) rightly said:

“The thought that creativity is a kind of virtue is an attractive one.”

Oh, it certainly is.

About the Author

Jenny Crowdy is a 1st year PhD student at the University of Winchester in England. Her research is focused on Creativity, Virtue, and mixed media technologies. She is currently also working as a co-developer on a ‘Technology Enhanced Learning Champion Scheme’ alongside university staff, to help students maximise their creativity and digital presence through technological learning.

 

References

·      Adobe MAX Creativity Conference (2022) Available at: https://www.adobe.com/max.html
·      Arts Council England (2022) Available at: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/
·      Bell, J. (2015)
·      Sir Ken Robinson, international education leader.
·      State Legislatures, 41, (3), 32-33.
·      Creativity Exchange (2022) Available at: https://www.creativityexchange.org.uk/
·      Department for Education (DfE) (2013) National Curriculum in England: computing programmes of study. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study [Accessed 22 July 2022].
·     Gaut, B. (2014) Mixed Motivations: Creativity as a Virtue.
·      Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements, 75, 183-202.
·      DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1358246114000198
·      Ofsted (2022) Research review series: computing. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/research-review-series-computing/research-review-series-computing
·      Robinson, K. (2020) A global reset of education. Prospects, 49, 7-9.
·      Robinson, K., & Robinson, K. (2022) Imagine If . . . Creating a Future for Us All. London: Penguin Books.
·      The Royal Society (2017) After the reboot: computing education in UK schools. Available at: https://royalsociety.org/-/media/policy/projects/computing-education/computing-education-report.pdf

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