Creativity is as important as literacy

Where’s the innovation in our education system?

I had a question posed by one of my readers yesterday about innovation in education. She contends that our public schools have become “test factories powered by child labour where there is only one correct answer for each question”. Many parents I know have expressed frustration at our public school system’s inability to inspire children to learn. The reader who posed this question is from the US but the same could also be said of Australia. How innovative are our schools and what are they doing to engage, inspire and re-imagine the idea of learning for our children?

I am a mother of two small people so I am also keenly interested in what inspires children.  I understand the concern about this idea of a “test factory” and I have also started to explore avenues outside of the traditional structures of education to find ways to engage and inspire them. When it comes to “education” surely some of the most important things we can do are >
a) help our children find things they’re passionate about so that they might to engage optimistically and passionately with the world
b) encourage in them a sense of curiousness to help them understand that life is about exploring – opportunities, relationships and experiences
c) instil in them a value of delayed gratification so that they will live beyond the moment as well as in the moment
d) appreciate and feel grateful for what they have, so that they will learn to be positive, content and in control of their own happiness

A great article by Steve Denning published in Forbes Magazine poses the question >  how do we inspire lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy?

I’m not sure how we achieve that in the traditional schooling system but I do know that we can try and model those behaviours ourselves. I also know that creativity and innovation are two things majorly lacking in most school systems, yet they are two of the most important traits a person can develop. There has been lots of talk about the need for innovation in our schooling system but much of the conversation appears to be focused around preparing children for a brave new world with the increasing reliance on technology and the changing business world. There is less conversation on innovation in order to re-engage and inspire. The two are not mutually exclusive but the second part of that point is as important as the first.

Given that the factory model of management doesn’t work very well, even in the few factories that still remain in this country, or anywhere else in the workplace for that matter, we should hardly be surprised that it doesn’t work well in education either. . .  So why should we expect anything different in the education sector? … Given this context, I believe that the single most important idea for reform in K-12 education concerns a change in goal. The goal needs to shift from one of making a system that teaches children a curriculum more efficiently to one of making the system more effective by inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy. . . This is a shift from running the system for the sake of the system (“You study what we tell you to study, when we tell you, and how we tell you, and at a pace that we determine”) to a focus on the ultimate goal of learning (“Our goal is to inspire our students to become life-long learners with a love of education, so that they will be able to learn whatever they have to.”) All parties—teachers, administrators, unions, parents and students—need to embrace the new goal.” Steve Denning

Denning argues that our education system has suffered from a top down factory management style for too long and that The system” grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency, dispiriting students, teachers and parents alike. Read the full article here

Further to Denning’s point on management style, I am reminded of a previous post I’d written after watching Dan Pink’s clip on TED  [for those of you who don’t watch TED it’s a cracking site for a bit of buzz uptop] and he talks about how to motivate people, namely staff. His theory is that traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance but if you want engagement, self direction is better. Pink’s proposition is that autonomy, mastery and purpose are the new building blocks of an entirely new way of thinking about staff for the 21st century.  It’s not about beating people with a bigger stick, it’s about tapping into our desire to do things because we like them, because they’re interesting, because they matter, because we’re part of something bigger. Pink contends that the 3 key things that drive people are:

Autonomy – because we all want to feel like we are in charge (to some extent) of our own destiny. The urge to direct our own lives.

Mastery – The desire to get better and better at something that matters.

Purpose – The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Sound familiar? check out the TED video here

Creativity is as important as literacy

Here’s another video worth watching by Ken Robinson taken from TED on why he thinks school kills creativity.

Everyone has an interest in education don’t they? It’s one of those things that goes deep with people. We all have a huge vested interested. It’s education that’s meant to take us into a future we can’t grasp. Nobody has a clue of what the world will look like then but yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. We are all in agreement about the extraordinary skills children have in creativity and innovation. Robinson’s contention is that all kids have talent and that we squander it ruthlessly. If you’re not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with any original. When children grow up to be adults they are no long prepared to be wrong. In fact, as we get older we stigmatise mistakes. It’s Robinson’s contention that we are educating people out of their creativity. We don’t grow up to become creative. We are all born creative and we actually grow out of it. Robinson’s contention is that creativity is as important as literacy. It’s definitely worth a watch.

The whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet.

It used to be that if you had a degree you got a job. According to UNESCO in the next 30 years more people will be graduating through education than ever before. Suddenly degrees aren’t worth anything. Everyone has one. Where once you needed a BA for something, now you need an MA. Where once you neededan MA now you need a Phd.

It’s called academic inflation.  If you haven’t read much of Robinson’s work, get onto it. He’s a cracker thinker.