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Jeansonne | October 24, 2017

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Deadlines and Creativity

This video from Cafe Creative  is circulating around the internet and generating another insta-fix for education and echoes Sir Ken Robinson.

Many people just respond with “great”, “wow”, “of course” and “no kidding” and hte most difficult one for me, “that is true”. I would guess that people spent less time thinking about the video than the time it took to watch. The reality is that children did complete the task but the task was not framed to be creative.

I am not over analyzing. I am providing a perspective. Too often, we see something on the internet and we all agree and any response beyond 140 characters is deemed verbose. I am a teacher with 20 years of experience but I am also very creative and have my own mini studio. Yes, I have shown my work. I also attended Stanford D.School for educators. I also have a background in graphic facilitation, graphic recording and a Masters in Learning and Technology. On my own time, I am putting together a curriculum on creativity so yes, I have some expertise that goes beyond a meme.

Perhaps their first response is more a factor of the context of the task frame rather than the time.

Let me break it down: It depends.

1- Creativity depends if the students’ perceive there is a  ‘the right answer’.

Typically, teachers initiate, students respond, the teacher evaluates. This is the IRE model. Within that IRE model, the discourse paradigm, the teacher is an authoritarian gatekeeper of knowledge. They are the touchstone. The holder of the red pen. It puts students in a subservient position of knowledge creation. As such, a child indoctrinated (assimilated even) in this process is likely to try to ‘guess the right answer.’ Let’s assume then that the first time, students were trying to get  “it” right. The second time around, they likely understood that they could have a bit more fun, knowing that there is no ‘right answer’. (Kids would have figured that out). The issue then is not the time as much as the context.

2. Creativity depends on how is the time used before, during, and after a task.

Time can be restricted to create cognitive dissonance or a slight sense of urgency. That can be good and needed for learning. Every teacher knows how they can give a week for a project and students will not have begun or do it the night before. Sometimes less time creates a sense of urgency that forces creativity. The key though is to create a cycle where students can discuss with others, quietly reflect on the task, their own response and then analyze how to improve or change it. At Stanford’s workshop, we learned to make mistakes early, often, and efficiently. That is partly what we see in the second round: They reflected between tasks even if the turnaround was shorter.  Also, the first part was not generative but naturally skewed toward illiciting a first response within the instructions: “Complete the picture”.

3. The degree of creative responses depends on how the students were briefed.

Time is not always the issue as much as the instruction and understanding of the task.  The task was framed as as a command “Complete this picture”.  This word pattern reinforces that subservient position of children and knowledge creation.  Watch what happens to your own thinking when you read the next lines.  

  • “Can you complete this picture?
  • “Can you complete this picture as anything you want but it can’t be a clock.”
  •  “How might we use these shapes to make anything you want”?

Change the question first so that students are not forced into a thinking pattern that is reflective of discourse paradigm of knowledge creation. 

As a teacher, I am open to not having an answer that makes it easy for me to enter into a mark book, or creates a nice bell curve, or that keeps the Fraser Institute employed. The instructions we give our class envelope a entire history of educational philosophy and the paradigms within.

4. Creativity (in the context of the video) depends on the relationship with the instructor.

The instructor is novel to the class and there is a film crew. Kids will be on their best behavior. In reality, if he were a Teacher on Call, there are children who will be off task, scoping out the power structure of the new addition and socializing because they are comfortable. They probably used their time better than in a typical classroom. (Many adults do this too so you can skip the rhetoric about classroom management please.)

5. Creativity depends on tools

The children were given a piece of paper and used a pencil. What if they were given the shape but as cut outs that they could place on a paper?  What if the task allowed them to combine tools? The use of a pencil and paper already tips the response in favor of a predetermined outcome. What if the shapes did not fit on a desk? What if they were suspended? What if they could walk on them or move them with their feet. (I did that once, painted with my feet.. very liberating).  What if they were asked to complete the picture but given tape, string or glitter, or even sand, mud, rocks, leaves?

So what about creativity in schools?  Do we make longer blocks?

Ironically, teachers are caught in the IRE model with the Ministry of Education too.   When Ministries of education design learning outcomes, the  type of response and evaluation that will be generated often have a “right answer”.  The learning outcome is highly quantifiable. Go back to the Ministries of Education and look at the wording of the learning outcomes and the task. How many learning outcomes challenge students with a question? Yet, those outcomes need to be balanced with those that generate a clock (we all need common basics)  and those that are open to exploring, discovery, inquiry, and creativity.  Is there enough time to explore the topics in depth beyond the time to make posters that students often copy and paste and spend hours colouring. Colouring is not creative (but oh so satisfying).  As educators, we need to carefully design the question and the task to be creative in the time we do have.  

Problem solving is creative and yes, that takes time.


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