Sunday, April 22, 2012

Creativity and Curiosity: My Thoughts- Special Post #12A

Creativity, Curiosity, and Education
picture with book background that has quote from Albert Einstein that says I have no special talents I am only passionately curious
For part of Blog Post #2 in only the third week of EDM 310 (when we had NO CLUE what we were getting into), Dr. Strange had us watch a video lecture by Sir Ken Robinson entitled "The Importance of Creativity."  In this video, Sir Robinson implies that the current education system undermines and even discourages creativity and curiosity in students by seeking only the "right" answer and discouraging "wrong" answers.  I would have to agree with Sir Robinson's assessment of what Dr. Strange term's the "Burp-back" education system. While there may be many reasons the stifling of independent and creative thinkers has prevailed in the United States education system, I think a few of the main reason would have to be the limitations on most teachers coupled with the apathy of some teachers.
an essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail
First, when you are told that your students must meet certain standards and that you must focus on a certain part of the curriculum in order for your students to get the right answer on a standardized test, it leaves little room or time for the fostering of creativity in your students.  Since I accept Sir Robinson's premise, I must admit that filling children's heads with facts and test questions in no way allows them to come to their own conclusions or solutions.  How can they be curious about something when I simply tell them the answer? 
Secondly, I honestly think that some teachers don't care enough or have the inclination to do the work it takes to excite curiosity and creativity in their students.  I don't know why, but somehow I know this is a controversial statement.  It's like if you are an educator (or future educator), you aren't allowed to speak negatively about your future colleagues.  I was once a student. I saw the apathy in many of my teacher's eyes. There are different reasons for it.  Plenty of teachers start off (like us) with a passion to change the world or to inspire their students. However, they are met with the cold reality of budget cuts, standardized tests, uncooperative administration/parents/students and eventually give up.  Teachers need support, encouragement, and incentive to develop curiosity and creativity in their students.  The restraints should be lifted, allowing teachers more freedom to explore the interests of the student.
I do believe a curriculum could be developed that increases the curiosity AND creativity of students.  I think this is one of the central theme's of EDM 310 (whether an explicitly stated theme or not).  We are learning how to use varied and alternative tools to ignite curiosity in our students.  We are learning to take technology that students have already discovered and have sparked interest in their everyday lives and use it for educational purposes.  As I said in my response to Ms. Cassidy's interview, I do not want to UNPLUG my students. I mean I don't want to plug them technologically speaking, but I also don't want to unplug their capacity for creativity and their inclination to be curious.  The key components of this curriculum would be that it should be:
1) Student lead/initiated
This means that students should have a say in at least some aspect of what they are learning and how they learn it.  If you want to spark curiosity, let them choose what topics that interest them.  If you want to provoke creativity, let them choose how they handle the topic/information.
2) Teacher Guided
We should be examples to our students. If you are an uninspired and uncreative teacher, you will have the same type of students.  Your classroom should be a place where your students feel comfortable coming to you with their ideas and questions.  If ideas are not free-flowing or students know you will never give them a shot at doing something out of the ordinary, you have stifled curiosity and creativity by your own attitude.
There are more specific ways to stir up creativity and curiosity in your students. The two elements I have stated about are crucial, though.  I think that if you simply offer students a chance to be creative, they will surprise you.  It's all about environment.  I think one of the reasons that EDM 310 fosters so much curiosity and creativity is because the students in this class feel comfortable that there is no idea they will take to Dr. Strange that he will absolutely discourage or shut down.  His attitude and philosophies on education alone foster our own creativity and curiosity. 
Clearly, I think that a teacher's actions can increase the curiosity and creativity of students.  Some of those actions would include creating projects and assignments that prompt students, but don't detail line by line how and what they should do.  Teachers shouldn't simply give a project "To Do List" and say, "I want it done exactly like the instructions say." Give guidelines that are broad enough to allow student freedom, or prompts that spark an idea that students can then run with in whichever direction they choose.  Show students part of the picture, and let them fill in the rest through their own curious mind.  I am a firm believer that students are naturally curious.  Teachers have to find what interests the student as an individual then the creativity will come.  I guess the biggest thing a teacher could do to increase curiosity and creativity is to know her students.
I know in many ways I could be a more creative person.  I like to have specific guidelines. I like to be told what to do and how to do it (when doing a project, not in my everyday life).  It bothers me when I don't know what a professor expects from me.  I think I could become more creative by becoming more connected.  Creativity comes from inspiration.  We have found so many sources for inspiration through our EDM 310 assignments.  These "sources" can be found on our PLN.  I don't want to rely completely on someone else's creativity; but sometimes it helps to see what others are doing, because that could spark a thought or idea in you.  Of course, it helps to surround yourself with other creative teachers (physically or through social media like Twitter and Skype).  Also, it helps to be in a school with administration that allows creative ideas to blossom and take shape with little restraint.
Becoming more curious is hard.  In the information age, when you hear a word or concept that you don't know or understand, you just google it.  I am the first one to whip out the dictionary (on my computer of course) when I don't know a word.  That's how you learn new words. In fact, that's how you learn new anything.  You have to take the time and have the inclination to learn new things.  This class has really sparked my curiosity about using technology in my own classroom, for example.  Again, it helps to surround yourself with curious people and to be in an environment where curiosity is rewarded.
Honestly, I think that my own curiosity and creativity will affect the curiosity and creativity of my students.  I must throw away the idea of being a teacher and become the mentor, guide, leader, and student.  I say "student" because if I ever lose the desire to learn, how can I instill that desire into others?

1 comment:

  1. "I honestly think that some teachers don't care enough or have the inclination to do the work it takes to excite curiosity and creativity in their students." I agree. It is controversial only to those who are not inclined (as you put it) to foster creativity and curiosity.

    "His attitude and philosophies on education alone foster our own creativity and curiosity." I hope so!

    "...sometimes it helps to see what others are doing, because that could spark a thought or idea in you." Absolutely. That is why true learning communities are so powerful!

    Interesting. Good ideas. Well written.

    Excellent. Thank you very much!