Sunday, December 27, 2009

Creativity in Education

A couple of weeks ago I posted a short YouTube video that indicated that fun could be good for us.  Today I’d like to return to the right brain and talk about creativity.  We can think of creativity in a couple of ways.  How we nurture it in our children; how we nurture it in our leadership.

I’d like to start with a story.  When my son Adam was in kindergarten, the students were coloring pictures on a worksheet.  One of the pictures was an elephant.  Because he didn’t have a gray crayon, Adam used a pencil to color the elephant.  His teacher looked over his shoulder and said that he needed to use his crayons to color the elephant.  Now Adam didn’t have a gray crayon so he determined that a pencil was a good substitute.  However, his teacher did not appreciate Adam thinking outside of the crayon box.  Unfortunately, this experience was not the only time Adam’s creativity took a hit as he worked his way through school.

In this TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson argues that, as exemplified by Adam’s experience, we educate creativity out of children in our public school systems.  He goes on to make a case for nurturing creativity in education; that creativity is as important as literacy and that we should treat it with the same urgency.  Take 15 minutes to watch this thought-provoking video.

In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink makes a similar case, talking about the rise of right-brainers. Left-brain logic has long been admired and even thought of as the part of the brain that made us human.  The right brain was considered something less, that it somehow impeded the good work of the left brain.  However, today we understand how the two halves of the brain complement each other.  Pink writes,

“Both sides work together—but they have different specialties.  The left hemisphere handles logic, sequence, literalness and analysis.   The right takes care of synthesis, emotional expression, context, and the big picture. ”

Today, it is not enough to develop the rational left side of the brain.  Today’s challenges require that we develop what Pink calls R-Directed Thinking.   We still need L-directed aptitudes, but they are no longer sufficient for succeeding in today’s complex world. 

One final thought about creativity.  While we need to foster creativity in our children, as leaders facing complex challenges that require us to retool our public education system to meet 21st century challenges, we need to reconnect with our own creativity.  In this TED video, Dave Eggers describes how he and a number of his writer friends developed a creative after school program, what he describes as “school, but not school.” 

How is your district encouraging children’s creativity?  How is the leadership in your community working together to develop new and exciting programs that provide opportunities for students to develop their creativity and reach their full potential?

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