Thanks to the Gerard W. Fry from the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota for this „Chalk Talk“ article, rounding up current creativity & education initiatives, published in THE NATION one of America’s oldest political journals. Quotes findings from our reserach and our model for 21st century education are mentioned.
THE NATION, March 3oth 2015
Chalk Talk : „Education to Foster not Stifle Creativity“
TO ESCAPE the middle-income trap, it is imperative for Thailand to become an innovation-driven economy and society. In 2014, Thailand’s research and development (R&D) expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product was only 0.5 per cent.
In 2016, the government is aiming to encourage the private sector to have R& D expenditure for innovation equivalent to 1 per cent of GDP. On this important statistical indicator, Thailand lags considerably behind its neighbours in the Asia-Pacific. In a recent global survey of about 1,600 chief executives, the leadership characteristic that was considered the most critical for success was creativity.
The mantra at Nike is continuous innovation, which has contributed to that corporation’s phenomenal success.
In another important global survey it was found that 85 per cent of individuals believe that schools play only a minor role in fostering creativity, or are actually suppressing it. The noted British educator, Sir Ken Robinson, gave a popular TED talk on how schools kill creativity.
There are unfortunately numerous misunderstandings about creativity and innovation. First, many individuals equate the terms creativity and innovation and use them interchangeably.
Actually they are two different constructs. In a recent conversion with Daniel Goleman, a major leadership |scholar and the father of emotional intelligence, Professor Teresa Amabile of the Harvard Business School, a noted expert on workplace innovation, noted that creativity |precedes innovation. It is coming up with new ideas and ways of doing things, while innovation is the process of implementing these creative ideas and turning them into realities, she said.
Sir Ken defines creativity as the „process of having |original ideas that have value“.
Another misunderstanding is that creativity and intelligence is the same thing. Empirical evidence over the years suggests that the relationship is actually low.
It is also important to note that it is not appropriate to innovate for the sake of innovating. Students need to become mindful of this important proposition and that there is no need to change systems that are working well.
There is also the important concept of dark innovation. Innovations can be used for negative purposes such as to scam older people. The 9-11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York City was highly innovative terrorism. Building the Berlin Wall to keep East Germans from fleeing communism was also innovative.
Turning to the positive aspects of creativity, Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, former head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, has done important work on creativity and human happiness. He introduced the important concept of flow, which means complete engagement in activities which he sees as |optimal human experience. Watching television is passive and not flow. In contrast, writing a poem, developing new software, or playing jazz is flow.
Thus, in our schools individuals should be given many opportunities to engage in flow and to understand how this contributes to human happiness and optimal living.
In terms of education it is critical to give students the opportunity to use their curiosity and creativity to solve challenging problems for which there are no clearly defined answers.
Let me share two examples of schools emphasising |creativity and innovation. One is Rungaroon School in Thon Buri, a private school run by a lady whose training is in architecture, not education. The school has a really |attractive learning environment conducive to student-|centred learning and problem-solving.
The second example is Jefferson Middle School in Eugene, Oregon. With support from the Asia Society and the University of Oregon, Grade 8 students devoted a year to studying the Mekong River from intercultural and interdisciplinary perspectives. They even produced a research newsletter in which they shared their major findings and discoveries.
The teachers were facilitators in the process not „sages on the stage“. The students became deeply engaged in this project and had many opportunities to use their creativity in studying the Mekong and the countries through which it flows.
There are also the examples of Silicon Valley (Stanford), Route 128 (Harvard-MIT), and the Research Triangle Centre (Duke University, the University of North Carolina University, and North Carolina State), where universities have stimulated the development of creative new |companies.
Silicon Valley gave birth to Apple (the world’s second most innovative company), Google, Yahoo, HP, and many other innovative companies. Facebook’s first headquarters was part of Stanford Industrial Park.
Related to the role of higher education in fostering |innovation. Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring recently wrote an important and insightful book, „The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out“.
Back in 2005, Daniel Pink wrote a book, „A Whole New Mind“, which argues that we are moving into a conceptual age, in which those with high level right brain skills |(creativity, imagination) will rule the world and be the most successful.
Building on Pink’s ideas, the German, Leonard Sommer, a graduate of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, has developed the „Classroom Think Tank“, an innovative model for 21st century education in an imagination age. |It is based on conversations with more than 100 creative thinkers and futurists in 35 countries. His model |emphasises four elements:
• Creating a school environment where creativity can bloom;
• Inspiring curiosity to grow resulting in more engaged learning;
• The use of technologies to foster creative thinking;
• The role of teachers as facilitators.
This model was presented at the Cannes Lions Festival 2014, the world’s largest annual awards show and festival for professionals in the creative communications industry.
Locally, Professor Chaiwat Sukthirat at Naresuan Univeristy has written a valuable book in Thai outlining 80 innovations for encouraging student-centred learning.
Also, the Thai educational psychologist Aree Phanmanee has delivered an important book on how to foster the ability to think (khit-pen) with creativity.
Students across the globe have much untapped |potential for creativity. A major challenge for educators of the 21st century is to enable our students to fully realise their creative potential.
GERALD W FRY
Distinguished international professor
College of Education and Human Development
University of Minnesota