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Karina Eisner

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What place does creativity have in education?

Almost every education related TED video available states or implies that creative thinking is at the center of the learning process and at the root of every breakthrough.
What place do we give creative thinking, free exploration, uncharted discovery in our current educational models?
Are the prevalent public education systems becoming a means to program the masses rather than a way to facilitate discovery, growth and self realization? Are students truly turned into useful citizens, or rather adults trained to respond to induced stimulus in predetermined ways, much like rats in the lab?
Are we afraid of where original thinking can bring us? Are we afraid of change? Are we afraid of losing control? How far are we ready to go to keep it? And do we really think creativity can be killed?

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WHAT? Stage 2 of this debate, do it!
HOW? Connecting, cooperating, organizing information, sharing our skills, giving ideas, encouraging, writing or blogging, creating a web page, reaching out to our own communities.
WHERE? New TED debate, Creativity in Action
WHEN? Now.

We can overcome geographical, language, age and political barriers. We can make a difference. Let's take the next step. Are you in?

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Closing Statement from Karina Eisner

This debate is closed, now what?

….......................................YOU ARE INVITED......................................

WHAT? Stage 2 of this debate, join us!
HOW? Connecting, cooperating, organizing information, sharing our skills,
giving ideas, encouraging, blogging, creating a web page, reaching
out to our own communities.
WHERE? New TED debate, here, Creativity in Action
WHEN? Now.

We can overcome geographical, language, age and political barriers. We can make a difference. Let's take the next step. Are you in?

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    Oct 23 2011: Karina,

    You have given me much to think about because as a high school teacher who feels that technology has allowed me to be artist that I was born to be, I would like to think that by integrating technology into my classes I am giving my kids their Creativity Back. But am I...???


    I expect creative thinking, free exploration, uncharted discovery to happen regularly in my classroom. I expect it but often do not get it. My curriculum demands that I teach my kids to read and respond but I try to leave the ways they respond up to them. I want them to create blog posts, digital stories or even PowerPoints that allow them to express their thoughts and opinions on the subject matter.

    Yes, we all know that the prevalent public education systems are merely a means to program the masses rather than a way to facilitate discovery, growth and self realization but I want to take them above and beyond the required responses. I want them to relate what they've read or seen to things that they are familiar with so that they can create links that take them out of the box.

    NO, I don't believe that we are CHURNING out useful citizens. We are making trained lab rats who give us the answers that we are looking for. I sing and dance when I get out of the box responses whether they are right or wrong. I celebrate their individuality and I try to encourage unusual responses. Many of them are not used to doing this and/or are too scared to respond so I have to fuss and complain to them in hopes of getting more out of them.

    I am not afraid of their individual thinking and often laugh when some of them complain that they want worksheets because what I am asking them to do is too hard. Creativity can be killed if the students do not see the value of it. They turn off their thoughts so that they can supply us with our thoughts. I know what I think. I want the messiness and uncertainty that their original thoughts can bring.

    It helps to keep me honest and on my toes.
    • Oct 23 2011: The reason why I believe your students are not living up to your expectation is because you must be one of the first to demand critical thinking and creativity of your students. They are used to "cutting and pasting" from a textbook to a worksheet as their homework, for that is all most teachers and the educational system usually demand of us.

      Anyway, I applaud for your attempts at incorporating creativity and critical thinking into the educational system. Don't stop trying!
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        Oct 23 2011: Thanks Alonso,

        I try to convince myself that that is the case and I am asking them to move out of their comfort zone. That's the only thing that keeps my trying. It is frustrating when they keep asking me "What is the answer?" and I keep replying "I don't know. What do you think?"

        I know that they have to be trained to think independently.
        • Oct 24 2011: Valerie, maybe you should try to spread this to the other teachers. Convince them to require critical thinking and to not care as much about the students getting the answer's right so long as they are using their brain. If the whole school starts to require critical thinking and to teach the students how to think critically and independently, your students might start to use these qualities more often. I know this is rather far-fetched, but it's worth a try. And who knows, if you get the whole school changed, it might start spreading to other schools in your district.
    • Oct 24 2011: Valerie, I sympathize for you, and it does sound frustrating.
      When you say that the students are to scared to respond, this seems to be a broken record, because I'm hearing it a lot, and noticing it in my school education.
      I have an idea that you might want to try, to get some responses that will probably shock you.
      Try to get them to react to something being anonymous. If they know that they can say something with out anyone knowing it was them, maybe you just might find the real creativeness that's in the class.
      And then see where that will take you and the students.
      The more creative you are doing this, the more you'll get creative answers, maybe.
      Instead of thinking out of the box, maybe we need to start thinking out side a bubble. A box has six sides to choose from, when a bubble has only one side, and that's out.
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        Oct 24 2011: Clever!

        :-)
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        Oct 24 2011: Dan LOVE the bubble and will probably use that in class.

        I do ask for them to do other things and sometimes I get good responses so some of them are getting it. We make photomovies, blog, wikipages, wordles,etc. Many of them see and appreciate the connections between what they normally do in class and the techie things that I ask them to do.

        Thanks everyone for your great words and advice. I will keep up the big fight and try to get them to think OUTSIDE of the bubble.
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        Oct 24 2011: One tool I have found to be effective in promoting anonymous brainstorming is Pirate Pad, a free text collaboration tool. http://piratepad.net/front-page/
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        Oct 24 2011: One tool I have found to be effective in promoting anonymous brainstorming is Pirate Pad, a free text collaboration tool. See http://piratepad.net/front-page/ Anonymity can be powerful in promoting freedom of expression in the classroom and boardroom.
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      Oct 24 2011: Valerie,
      Thanks for giving us an honest look at your daily efforts in class.

      I agree with Alonso, it is possible that the students are just not used to think out of the box. Maybe you can motivate them by finding a few original, surprising projects along the lines of what you expect.
      I'd show them something totally above their means (not, "this is what I'd like it to look like").
      Something crazy and inspiring. Something in multimedia, intercultural, international. Maybe make it yourself! A collage of the best music in the world (classical and contemporary), the best architecture, inventions, poetry, speeches, paintings, quotes, even food.

      Stimulate them by helping them REMEMBER (because it is all in there)

      Just take them for the trip of their life into what they could be!
      Stay in touch and let us know how it went :-)
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        Oct 24 2011: Karina,

        We are working on poetry now and I don't just want them to write poetry, I want them to produce poetry slam videos.

        I want them to record themselves performing poetry that they have written. Some of them will use templates to write their poems if they do not feel comfortable creating their own. I won't require them to talk on camera if they are uncomfortable. They can make voice recordings and then create screencasts with visuals to go along with ther recordings.

        Many of them are not used to recording themselves and I am trying to get them to feel comfortable by not requiring them to use the video camera, etc.

        I know that this is pseudo creativity because I am giving them the format/venue to express themselves but I am doing it in a way that allows them freedom to incorporate other aspects of their creativity. I think of it as creativity on training wheels.

        I figure that if I introduce them to enough things that are new to them that they will eventually feel empowered enough to do their own thing. We have started using Weebly for ePortfolios and Animoto for PhotoMovies and I have students who have created their own websites and photomovies to help friends and family keep in contact. I was floored.

        I will let everyone know how our work goes. Thanks for all of your comments.
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    Oct 23 2011: Well, perhaps you would want to hear the voice of a student also on this topic.
    As a student, I honestly do not see that creativity is being encouraged in school. The education it offers lead to stagnation of developing ideas.

    The freedom for a student to speak his own opinion lies dominantly on the teacher whose charater is willing enough to receive the student's point of view regarding a subject. Other than that, only a few being supportive. The curriculum sometimes enforce these scholars to gain quick information based on the textbooks since there is a limited period for each course. (For ex: a teacher must finish a topic within a week, unabling him to demostrate a more enterprising and innovative teaching.) In the end, these teachers are lack of will to use alternative way of teaching and instead, they just used the common way of teaching their students through monotonous lectures.

    Schools in developing countries have poor concern about this issue. They encourage the students to expand more on the academic performances rather than the outgoing skills which are needed soon in the work field. Emotional intelligence also matters as a part of stimulator for the student to gain a broad, bold and creative mindset.

    However, although most universities nowadays take a look on social activities which are stated in their CVs or personal statements, a vast majority of them are actually taking only a bit into consideration these kind of achievements. And later on, in the university life, the student will be required to stick to the courses without having the opportunity to change them.

    You can take an outlook over this article: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/159/indian-engineers-education
    (Why Education Without Creativity Is Not Enough)

    "In India, it takes engineers two to three years to recover from the damage of the education system."
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      Oct 23 2011: Well, of course, all students are welcome. In this matter you are experts!

      I appreciate your input.

      I see two main points that you make:
      One is the status of education in the classroom in developing countries, where you find a focus on performance (not real world skills) and book based teaching and monotonous lectures.
      The other is that universities (in developing countries?)do not really take into account achievements (which ones?) and, once student is enrolled, do not give students a chance to work on them.

      Thanks for the link. I guess your intent is for it to support your point of the situation in India, since the article says, "The U.S. education system is much more geared to innovation and practical application,[...]It's really good from high school onward." So I will not consider that you follow the small dialogue above.

      The article actually tells us that there is a desperate need to fill job vacancies, and despite the huge number of graduating engineers, "India's schools can't keep up with demand." There is pressure to fill that workplace need, and that is part of the reason the study modality is so focused.
      This is a complex issue deeply interconnected with the socioeconomic profile of the country. That creativity is not encouraged in engineering is to me an oxymoron, as it should be one of the areas where it should bloom. Obviously you can't change everything, but do you see anything you could do where you are, today?

      Bring awareness, post articles in the local newspaper, create a club? Other?
      Would you like to stay and help put together a pool of ideas, and draw from it for your own scenario?
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        Oct 23 2011: I'm sorry, maybe I was just struggling to use the formal language and in the end I got off topic since I did not read that small but inspiring dialogue you wrote below the question.

        *what I meant in my comment was most prestigious universities only see academic performance and overlook the activities of student being involved in social/art events or in creative organisation (only portfolios being noticed)

        I do agree with "creativity is not encouraged in engineering is to me an oxymoron".
        ...
        Let me try again and go straight to my actual main point: Action.

        Small Scale: supported by parents, friends' habits, country's cultures

        (parents encourage kids to do simple science praticals and fun arts handmade at home, demonstrate the importance of creativity in education thru schools' mini events arranged by the student councils, show some movies to youth to show them how lacking creativity can cost a lot to their future so that they will take the level of creativity in their school life seriously and so the same goes to the teachers; if these are done, automatically, the school's atmosphere changes leading to change in the city and hopefully, the nation.)


        Bigger Scale: supported by government and the curriculas

        (government should take better control on the amount of students per class so teachers could manage them better and stimulate an interactive discussion with the students so they'll be unafraid to confess their creative ideas; who knows an innovator might be unobserved in the classroom? the curricula should also provide a chance for the student to grow creativities.

        I think my friends and I am actually working towards emphasizing creativity among students.
        Currently, I'm endeavouring to manage an art exhibition in Jakarta, gathering all the scattered talents which lie inside the students in many schools around Indonesia. (performing and visual arts)
        I hope this will raise people' concern abt importace of any types of creativity in any field.

        Wish me luck :-)
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          Oct 23 2011: Good luck!

          And thanks for all the suggestions, you gave this a great deal of thought!
          Stay in touch to continue sorting out the creativity puzzle and getting ideas on some practical solutions...
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      Oct 23 2011: The article describes the US colleges as much better in developing creativity and innovation in its graduates. But there are different viewpoints on this. Deborah L. Wince-Smith, President, Council on Competitiveness states that "… creativity must be a fundamental goal of liberal education.… few colleges or universities today see their role as the education of truly creative, entrepreneurial innovators." in an article. See here: ( http://www.aacu.org/peerreview/pr-sp06/pr-sp06_analysis3.cfm ). Maybe we're not has good as we'd like to think?
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    Oct 18 2011: I was actually considering getting a group of students together to discuss not just this issue, but issues with society as a whole. I have a very inspiring Democracy teacher that could probably assist me in this.

    Another point I think should be brought up is that schools only measure certain types of intelligence. In honesty I feel that in school they only teach you how to briefly memorize information and to follow orders. To do what one is told (although sometimes a good idea) is one of the roots to all problems in our society. Sadly that philosophy too often gets me into trouble
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      Oct 18 2011: Dylan,

      "To do what one is told (although sometimes a good idea) is one of the roots to all problems in our society." I have a different opinion of this issue. I think when a society is led by enlightened leaders with reasonable and just rules, then doing what one is told is likely to be good for the well-being of the society. This still requires the individual to think for himself/herself of course and use judgment. Blindly doing what one is told is not a good thing. My point is "don't throw out the baby with the bath water."

      I agree that schools tend to selectively measure only a few types of intelligence - namely verbal, logical, mathematical applied in an analytical manner. Schools seldom measure generative ability. Maybe because schools are still developing a traditional workforce rather than creative thinkers for the new economy.

      What is one thing you could do with your Democracy teacher to encourage other students to think creatively?
      All you need to begin is you and one or two others who share the same passion for this topic to begin spreading your ideas. Remember that memes are powerful and infectious.

      Good luck!
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        Oct 18 2011: Peter, it is good that we can take turns :-) Sometimes we have to sleep too, right? RIGHT?

        Thanks for your great references, links, and thoughts; your mind never stops amazing me! Your enthusiasm for this subject is contagious, I can't wait to see what becomes of this collaboration :-)
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      Oct 18 2011: Dylan,

      Excited to read your post! You clearly show that your own creativity is very much alive. When you realize it is there, you get a glimpse of the enormous potential that lies within each one of us to affect change.

      And it may sound cliche, but YOU CAN change the world, one goal at the time.

      Often times it doesn't require you to hold an anti-establishment flag, risk your life, or leave your current way of life. It does not require an amazing IQ either.
      What it does call for is a fundamental SHIFT, in the way of thinking. No, you won't become a geek, or turn into an outcast for doing that, but you will regain an inner awareness of your thinking process, and start seeing everyone around you as part of a global team. No longer competing against each other, you will see allies in classmates, teachers, average city people, local institutions and large companies. You will be able to identify worthy goals and find ways to utilize resources (human and otherwise) in that direction, and it will not even feel like an effort.

      KUDOS to you for identifying a need in your own situation and taking initiative!!!

      Please, stay in touch. Many here are thinking in the same direction, and although the issue looks different once you take it to the local level, it is the same in essence, same platform, same goals.
      I would love to hear how your challenge takes shape, what you work out with your teacher (s), how you involve others into this transformation :-)

      A local group in my area is moving out of the ideas into the field as well. We are thinking of ways to keep us connected (regionally and globally) and feed each other, brainstorm and apply strategies to real problems. You are more than welcome to join us, there are more meaningful ways to make it happen beyond emails or postings back and forth...
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    Oct 13 2011: Responding to Karina's request "So, TED problem finders, I'd like to request that in every entry you will make the effort to propose solutions, resources, links, examples of successful interventions, keeping in mind that we don't want to fill several virtual pages with theory, nagging and bitterness."

    I would like to share that in our home-school, we recognize that creative output is enhanced by: 1) the application of mundane thinking processes to 2) a knowledge base that is broad and agile (data that is store in such a way that makes it easy to extract bits of information) 3) plus the application of techniques for "playing" with the data in combinatorial and transformational ways 4) plus a great deal of perseverance and hard work. We acknowledge that the potential for creative output is innate and that people can express this potential in a variety of ways in a variety of disciplines. We also believe that this potential can be cultivated, refined, and enhanced through teachable techniques and a great deal of structured practice. There still persists a romantic notion of creativity that if we only remove the obstacles, creative expression will naturally flow and reach its apogee in individuals. This views discounts the huge benefit that technique, knowledge, hard work, and mindset has to bring to creative output. In particular, knowledge seems to be dismissed as an important element of creative output. Maybe that is because creativity is commonly associated with the the arts as opposed to the more technical domains such as engineering. The more knowledge bits one has, the exponentially more combinations of those knowledge bits are possible in the person's mind.

    Hard work is often excluded from talk of creativity. Maybe this is due to the myth of ideas just "popping into one's head" as opposed to a deliberate, sustained effort over time.

    So one solution/resource I offer is our model for promoting/developing creative capability in our family. End of Part 1.
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      Oct 14 2011: Peter, the system only lets me give you one thumb. Thanks for enlightening us again. Great plan!

      You explained it very thoroughly.
      One thing resonates with me, as a member of a household of artists :-)
      "[The potential for creativity] can be cultivated, refined, and enhanced through teachable techniques and a great deal of structured practice. There still persists a romantic notion of creativity that if we only remove the obstacles, creative expression will naturally flow and reach its apogee in individuals. This views discounts the huge benefit that technique, knowledge, hard work, and mindset has to bring to creative output."

      This is so critical! And it is true for artists, who would not get anything done if they only depended on that magical moment of inspiration, the right light, etc. But as you pointed out, it is also true for ANY other discipline. When writers have a "writer's block" they write. They resort to techniques to make progress whenever their pen refuses to just flow. When inventors don't get it right, they persevere and use methods to try alternatives until the ideal solution does come up.
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    Oct 9 2011: My experience is in the field of innovation. Here you can verify that a "good idea", as an act of creativity, is a trigger of an innovation process but does not guarantee the result, which is expected to be, at the end of the process, an Innovation, recognized by the society and/or by the market.
    We (a team of Coaches and Executives, here in Italy) discovered that other two key competences will be necessary to start a virtuous circle and are: problem solving in order to overcome the obstacles, and "expression" (we used this word) in order to involve, convince, share with others because we need their help and competence to pursue the result.
    In fact we start from a "good idea" (ideation or invention or creativity), we let it grow and become "strong" through the problem solving, we bring it to success through involvement, communication, sharing.
    The "learning" then happens when you perform several virtuous cycles along a "spiral", I like to say, giving you an image for learning. Moreover we have to consider two other forces which enable a good and effective innovation process. They are Consciousness and Willing. The Consciousness allows you to enlarge your perception of your own motivation and of other people motivation. The Willingness is the determination, energy that you spend to reach the results surmouting the difficulties.
    • Oct 12 2011: Reading your comment was like looking at a well balance piece of sculpture. It all fits and sits beautifully together. Can I quote you in my class: "Problem solving and decision making skills"?
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    Oct 5 2011: I find political correctness to be a compensating, obfuscating and judgmental strategy for jacking up feelings of inadequacy. Your first paragraph is much improved. I am not in disagreement and I think you get the point.

    As for your second paragraph, who do you think you are?

    Paragraph three: Outward Bound IS a sport. I made a distinction between competitive sports and cooperative sports that apparently sailed past you.

    And 4- You need to get in touch with the fact that jocks are commonly considered bullies in high school (ask any geek, nerd, skater, goth, emo, punk, headbanger, etc.), why do you defend them? Why are you so patronizing? Why do you play the role of moral crusader?

    McGiver remains an excellent role model for creative thinking for kids. Your invocation of the ancillary plot components- corporate ties and violence, are a canard and specious sophistry.

    I don't mean to be argumentative, that's your turf, I'm just trying to guide you towards a more enlightened and reality based interpretive frame of reference.
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        Oct 6 2011: Although I would say rejection is the only cause, as jealousy and envy arise from it.
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          Oct 8 2011: Yes, rejection can be traumatizing particularly during a phase in growth where kids are trying to find their place in the world and become qualified for adulthood.
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    Oct 4 2011: There is a quote posted in the front hall of my children's school.

    "In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." - Eric Hoffer


    As someone pointed out already, creativity is learning. Without the creative ability to imagine uses for the information, all you end up doing is memorizing what is being taught. Creativity is a key part of our ability to adapt to new situations.
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        Oct 5 2011: I haven't read all of the posts, so I'm not sure who you are all referring to when you mention the fragile bottle of creativity. That fragile bottle mentality is what's causing the problems related to creativity. Creativity isn't something that should only be used at special occasions. It is something that should be used constantly. The problem that our society is facing, is a mentality that creativity is only appropriate in a very limited number of uses. It should be used constantly, and in every aspect of life. The most creative person I have ever met, was a janitor. The abstract solutions that he came up with to different cleaning problems that he was faced with was out right amazing. His ability to pull two items out of a garbage can, combine them, and use the new "tool" to assist in his cleaning left a huge impression upon me.

        I would argue that many classrooms are void of creativity. The teacher or professor states a list of facts, and the students are expected to memorize those facts. The students may come up with creative ways to help them memorize, but the memorized information hasn't been learned, only remembered. If it's taken out of the context that it was memorized in, then many fail to see the relation until it is shown to them. It's not that they lack creativity, but they lack the creative base on which to build upon.

        I have always encouraged my children to ask the question "why?". I feel that it helps learn the cause of the outcome that they are viewing. A tree is just a tree, until you ask "why does it grow?"
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        Oct 5 2011: 500 classrooms a year, and not once have you ever been required to memorize facts in a non-creative way?

        Perhaps you could explain how you learned history?
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          Oct 9 2011: Grrrr, I certainly appreciate the courage of those that state an idea and dare to stand up for it.

          Mike, sorry that you too were left talking to the hand. The guy removed his comments. It messed up the dialogue, but yes, I wonder with you, never memorized anything?

          I wonder further: 500 classroom a year????
          Well, come to think of it, it is possible to go through that many if you are Good Will Hunting... somehow our guy didn't seem to be that kind...
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    Sep 28 2011: Creativity, in its basic understanding, is comparable to the birth of a newborn. True creation is the emergence of something entirely new in the physical and material dimension that we perceive. It can not be solely the result of logical reasoning. Creativity can take place only upon a penetrating vision of something that was previously unknown. It requires an intuitive ability that enables a leap in the field of mystery before integrating it into the domain of the known.
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      Oct 2 2011: Wonderful !!
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      Oct 2 2011: Alex, you are right on target, I think!
      You know, I am repeating myself here, but that's what Socrates said 400 years before Christ...
      His school of thought was actually called the Maieutics, which means "midwifery", and consisted in giving birth to new ideas from within, through questions, not instruction. These questions made the indiviual confront whatever knowledge he already had and test it...
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        Oct 3 2011: Maieutics, giving birth to new ideas from within, through questions, not instruction.

        An art of teaching as used by Socrates based on the idea that the truth is latent in the mind of every human being due to innate reason but has to be "given birth" by answering intelligently proposed questions (or problems).
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    Sep 27 2011: I am an artist and the Author of BEST SELLING training DVDs and I worked on a personal project for 6 years and I came up with a system for education that uses Game, Movies, interactive media , dance and .... It uses visuals, Sounds, Kinesthetic , reading and writing , all four.

    We tested this in a preschool and kids were crazy about it, the same kids who were skipping the classes by pretending to be sick could not wait for this, I loved it they loved it . I am a Film maker, I know how to use my creativity to make people get excited and have fun. So what happened next ?

    I live in Iran and when I spoke to some people from the Ministry of Teaching do you know what they said ?

    We know it is great and amazing but it is OVERLY FUN and if kids get used to an educational system like this , they won't be able to continue their education without it , we have to change entire system from top to bottom and we won't do that .

    They rejected it because it is OVERLY FUN !!! Fun is not a good for kids to get used to !! it was simply against their ideas.

    by the way I know you are active in another talk about education , so I would delete this if you want me to.
    • Sep 27 2011: Great story Amir. Let's hear it for overly fun learning.
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        Sep 27 2011: I could do a conference on this , about what I came up with , what I did , the videos of the kids , the things that we did , the reaction they had , and finally the great Tragic ending :(

        they feel fun is a wrong feeling to have for a humans :(

        Is not fun the best thing we have ? Who would wanna live without fun ? That is not living that is just staying alive
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          Sep 27 2011: Nooo, don't assume it is the end! Ok, you realized that wasn't the market for your idea. You have several options, three of them are:
          * store away your program for now and think what else will properly serve the people you intended to help AND get through the educational authorities (but if it means under-serving the children, I wouldn't),
          * find a way to put it in place independently of the ministry of education,
          * take your system to another, more receptive market.
          Ideas worth spreading should not be killed :-) If you think this is one of them, stick to it!
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          Sep 27 2011: I would love to see you present your project on TED, please make it happen :). You're also likely to connect with people who can take it further; people who are involved in non-conformist education systems, or who have the resources to (r)evolutionise some of the decrepit aspects of current education.
  • Sep 26 2011: The general system of education, based in "testing" has killed many a creative urge. But school should teach people how to learn, how to think (and I don't mean just reason), and how to explore. Yes I believe in teaching maths, science, english lit and history. I am thankful for good teachers I had that taught me those things.

    Creativity can be squashed, but not destroyed. I think it is a lot like life itself, it just keeps popping back up.
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    Sep 26 2011: I don't believe the shift away from creativity in schools is caused by fear. I believe it was fueled by a desire to measure success. Creativity, like art, is very subjective, and therefore extremely difficult to measure. What would happen if we attempted to have a standardized test for art or drama? All we succeed in doing, is remove any motivation to learn anything beyond what is in the test.

    When I was in highschool, all we were taught were items that were on the provincial exam, and how to score as high as possible. What we actually knew made no difference. All that mattered, was how high you scored. Because of that limitation, all of my teachers had their hands tied. They had to teach us one style of thought. The style that would give us the best score. Now as a child, my mother was an elementary school teacher. I know that creativity is taught to small children. At the younger grades, we do not teach through memorization. We teach by giving a problem, and asking the class how to solve it. We do this because it helps the children to understand what the problem is. The benefit, is it also forces children to think creatively. Teachers are constantly surprised by the strange solutions that children come up with. At the higher levels of education, it becomes all about memorization, and creative or abstract solutions are typically suppressed. Even in the creative fields of art. You are not allowed to do it differently, as it makes it harder for the teacher to grade your work. It's far easier for the teacher to grade the quality of your painting, if everyone uses the same paints and brushes. It's about the quality, as opposed to the creativity.

    So no, I don't believe that it is being fueled by a fear of change or lose of control. I believe that it is fueled by a need for measurable success. No, creativity can never be killed, but it can be suppressed. If we are taught that creativity is bad, we stop being creative. The positive is that it still resides inside of us.
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      Sep 26 2011: "Shift away"?

      Like there was a focus on creativity at some point?

      Let's face it, the education system has tiers into which children are slotted for their expected long-term level of productivity. We've gone from churning out workers for Henry Ford to churning out the mandatory 6% unemployed (NRU), future investment banker-thieves-politicians (where do you think the ones who cheat on tests and have the teachers turn a blind eye to it go?), and the rest of the masses/messes who might claw their way to middle management and consider it an accomplishment.

      The education system is just one pillar of the fundamentally corrupt society - and I am not talking about capitalism/socialism/whatever-ism you'd like.
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        Sep 26 2011: Have you seen this talk Gisela?
        http://www.ted.com/talks/john_hunter_on_the_world_peace_game.html

        This is a real teacher and I don't think he will fit into your definition of education as a pillar of corrupt society. Anyway I'm a teacher myself and I can assure you that I truly stand behind the words of this man and on the shoulders of my own teachers. They sent me to extracurricular activities; shaped, developed and nurtured my opinion and creativity! I can only be sorry that you didn't go to my school and met my teachers.
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          Sep 26 2011: There have always been individual teachers who break the mold - I had a few. They usually end up being penalized somehow.

          But the system overall is what I meant.

          EDIT: I am listening to the talk right now, thanks.
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          Sep 27 2011: Silvia, thanks for sharing that! Inspiring, challenging...
        • Sep 28 2011: I saw it today, it was greatly inspiring and I wish more teachers did stuff like this teacher is.
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        Sep 26 2011: You bring 10 apples to school, to be shared between yourself and two of your friends. How many apples should the three of you get, so that everyone gets the same amount?

        Answer:
        Go to the store during recess, and buy 2 more apples, so that everyone has 4 apples.

        Answer:
        Everyone gets 3 apples, and give the extra to the teacher.

        Answer:
        Everyone gets 1 apple because they can't eat two, and give the rest to the food bank.

        Answer:
        3 and 1/3 apples each.

        When you remove the constraints of conformity, you are left with creativity.
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          Sep 27 2011: You bring some interesting points, and this is a great one: for each question there is more than one correct answer! This is a good visual to explain creativity.
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        Sep 26 2011: Penalized? Hm, come to think of it that might have been the case with some of the great ones I've met (unfortunately). Hope that you enjoyed the talk. You're welcome. :) I also enjoyed the ones of sir Ken Robinson but I think you've already watched them.
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        Sep 27 2011: Gisela,
        You're sharp and absolutely right.
        Do you have more answers?
        Are people afraid of creativity?
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          Sep 28 2011: I think "creativity" and "control" are seen by too many as being diametrically opposed.

          And while I wish I had all the answers, I see it as being a broken system built on a broken foundation and any remedies that are suggested without taking that into account are purely cosmetic and doomed to ultimately fail.
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      Sep 27 2011: Mike, you said, I don't believe the shift away from creativity in schools is caused by fear. I believe it was fueled by a desire to measure success.
      Let me ask you then why is the current system so intent in constantly measuring? Everything is measured, from the raw material (the child) to his progress, performance, achievements, abilities, disabilities, strengths, weaknesses, potential -you name it. It measures weekly and by-weekly. Kids are always taking tests, and teachers are forever inputting data that they have no time to evaluate anyway before the next shower of data comes along. The system measures against arbitrary standards that change every year (why are they even called "standards"?) Is it not because of a desire to control every aspect of the process, and then the outcome itself? And why the need to control the results, if not a fear of the unpredictable, fear of the original, fear of the individual? An individualistic society afraid of the individual!? Could it be?
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        Sep 27 2011: I like your statement of "an individualistic society afraid of the individual". That may very well be, but I see the push for standardized testing being done for political reason. If a politician were to say "students are learning more, just take my word for it", no one would believe him or her as politicians are known to say whatever it takes in order to get into office. Now if a politician were to hold up a graph, showing the "improvements" that have been measured by standardized testing, then people are more likely to believe. We also do it under a misguided attempt to eliminate any bad teachers. As if a bad teacher will have an immediate and drastic impact on the IQ of a student. Bad teachers, are more easily found through measuring complaints, rather then student success. As a student's success is based off of a wide range of factors. Far more then simply the teacher that they have at that moment in time.

        The most likely reason why I don't believe that the standardized testing is being fueled by fear, is that where I live we're at a bit of a tipping point with them. Few teachers have ever been in favor of them, and the government is beginning to acknowledge that the tests are often counter productive. We're just unsure of what the proper balance of it should be, as we do need SOME standardization, but not at every level.

        I would have to ask, but I believe it currently sits at four standardized tests during the grades K-12 (grades 3, 6, 9, and 11 or 12), and optional provincial exams on academic courses for the grades 10-12. The provincial exams are not a requirement of graduating highschool, but many universities require them as proof of basic knowledge, and the government requires them for qualifying for any government scholarships.
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        Sep 27 2011: You're welcome! So lucky to have friends who teach me well. :)
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    Oct 26 2011: To the TEDsters that made this fun and challenging, kudos for great teamwork, and participation :-)

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Mike Euverman, Gisela McKay, Silvia Marinova, Joseph Perez , Frans Kellner, James Kindler, Michael M, Fritzie Reisner, Amir Azizi Sarajy, Orlando Hawkins, Rosie Waygood, Mark Hurych, Shokrullah Amiri, Lynn Lee, Ed Schulte, Salim Solaiman, Albert Ip , Jim Moonan, Jessica Figueroa, Daniel Howard, Lozano Garcia, Tim blackburn, Jagdish Patel, Frank Rothstein, John R Schuh, Craig Patterson, Mary Mascaraque, Alex Mero, Christopher Thompson, Juliette Zahn, Mo Jacoby, Eduard Ghiur, Udit Kumar Sahoo, Amira Makhlouf, Tee Cee, Keith David Henry, Christa Hollis, Rahul Misra, Thomas Brucia, George Kong, Tavaris Eiland, Walter Radtke, terry wilkinson, Just Schoolit, David Mays, Unanima Theatre, Thadeus Frei , Nicholas Lukowiak, Durvesh Shinde, Bryan Gilbert, Rebecca Hader, Felix Lanzalaco,Erich Kreppenhofer, Brittney Stewart, Robert Vantage, Phillip McKay, Susanne Gannon, Stern Rockwell, renzo provedel, Leslie Saunders, Melissa Csikszentmihályi, Stephen Camm, Rasik Hulsogi, vishneswar reddy, Shobhit Agarwal, Greg McWhorter, vinay kallat, Dylan Gonzalez, Thomas Brooks, Scott MacAfee, Craig Patterson, Sanket Gupta, Jake Williams, Emmanuel Mashandudze, Chae Hiang Chua, dan philips, Cleo Abram, Alonso Espinosa-Domínguez, Jessica Mashael Bordelon AlMisbah, Gloria Felicia, Ayelet Lazarovitch, R Vishnu prasad, Jacinto Ela, dan philips, Brandon Alexander, Varlan Allan, Valerie Burton, Nick Belt, Richard Horowitz, Pascal-Xavier Van de Goor, Nicholas Ravencroft, Patrick Lu, Luigi Vampa, Jaime Lubin, Andrea Grazzini Walstrom, and Peter Han
  • Oct 26 2011: The major problem with education is in standardized testing. Specifically in multiple choice testing. Instead of open-ended questions, questions are now confined to four or five answers -- which promotes the memorize and regurgitate style of learning.

    This becomes a huge problem in math. Instead of using tools (formulas, methods) to solve problems, the tools become the solution to problems.

    Example: everyone learns about factoring in algebra II. In most schools in the US, it is taught by the FOIL method. So one of the "problems" that the teacher might give is expand (x+1)(x+2), or factor x^2+2x+1. And that would be the extent of learning factoring. So now, most kids should know and understand the concept of factoring, right? But what happens when you give most kids this problem: How many positive two-digit integers are factors of 2^24-1? Because this question wasn't given in the familiar form based on x's, many kids cannot solve this problem. But the method is the same, factor this expression into (2^12+1)(2^12-1) and so on. From there, you will need to find the prime factorization of the expression, and play around with the numbers a little bit to find out how many two digit integers are factors. The problem certainly isn't easy, but most kinds won't even know how to approach the problem because it wasn't given to them in a form that was explicitly taught to them. And this is where education fails kids -- what happens when society encounters a situation that hasn't been seen before, will the new generation be able to problem solve their way out of it, or will they be stuck with it because they weren't taught a solution?

    http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf
    There's a good article, albeit long(25 pages), about the issues in math right now.
    • Oct 26 2011: I agree that standardized tests are a major problem. I think another big problem with these tests is that they don't measure intelligence and academic skill nearly as well as they are supposed to, but instead they measure how good the tester does with this type of test. Grades also have this problem. And this is horrible because to a bright person with learning differences who doesn't do well with these tests (due to their structure), it can be very demoralizing.
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        Oct 26 2011: Alonso,

        Have you read Peter Han's comments on standardized tests/measurement?

        Look for it below, it will help you to understand how this tests come into play in the whole puzzle. As it is today, measurement is necessary. While individualized, informal assessment still takes place to some extent in classrooms, it is a very rare thing and certainly not what drives your GPA.
        That said, it is a good thing that you have noted that different learning styles need to be addressed differently, because your own journey is just beginning.

        While you can't do much to change the way your previous education was imparted, you do have choices for the future. And knowing your learning style will be instrumental in relationships, work, etc.

        Google open curriculum colleges, also pass or fail colleges. Some have adopted an open platform where you can navigate their whole menu of courses through the 4-5 years of college, and try different things outside of your major. The pass/fail system let's you go for things that you may not be too strong at, but have an interest in, without risking a blotch on your transcripts. My daughter tried Swahili that way, and loved it!

        Food for thought...
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      Oct 26 2011: Patrick, you bring very interesting issues. As a teacher I understand your frustration, weather you experience this inequality yourself or you see it in your class...
      Please, come to the next debate and help us to find ways to make it better. You'll see several other students all over the globe have the same complain.

      And BTW, thanks for the link!
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    Oct 25 2011: During this last day of this wonderful conversation, I would like to thank our host Karina Eisner for first creating this conversation space and secondly for working tirelessly to recognize, reinforce, re-frame, retort, reflect and respect the sharings of the various contributors of this conversation.

    A little review of this conversation thread will reveal that Karina often worked into the wee hours of the morning for her to nurture this conversation. She has provoked, prodded and poked us into stretching our thinking on this important issue in her unique style.

    I have copied this entire conversation thread onto a MS Word document to archive for my further reflection. It's easy to do by simply cutting and pasting from this website.

    I look forward to seeing you all on other TED conversations that either relate to this topic or focus on an entirely different topic. I wish you all success in your creative ventures and thank you for your interest in promoting creativity in education around the globe. Never has so much depended on creative minds. Keep the faith in this mission. It's worth the exhaustion and frustration. It will reach a tipping point. Let us serve as the vital nudge that tips the monument over.

    Best regards,

    Peter Han
    Houston, TX USA
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      Oct 26 2011: [blushing]

      Honored to have you here, enlightening us with your thoughts and unending resources... and helping us test the maximum datat capacity of the TED.com site ;-)

      See you soon to continue this interconnected dialogue...
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    Oct 25 2011: In my opinion and experience people (teachers & parents) are in general scared of creativity because it's not what they're used too, after all we live in a concervative society.

    Schools, from kindergarten to university, should enhance and support creativity. But parents as well, you can't leave everything to the schoolsystem. You know your kid best so it's up to you to create an environment in which it's creativity is supported. And to be honest I think it's hard for schools to support every kids in its creativity. Every kid has different points of interest and talents, you can't support all of that of all of them with our standardized education system. For that we must go to personalized learning system like Sir Ken Robinson said, but that isn't affordable for most of the population I think. So we need to find an affordable solution which doesn't deviate too much from the "normal" (to be accepted by others) to bring more creativity to the next generation.

    In my experience in school you have a handful of teachers who urge you to be creative and supports every creative idea. I was lucky enough to have class from all of them and being a creative person I learned a lot from them in and out of class. Other students who weren't that creative didn't like their classes because it wasn't what they were used too. We need to isolate the creative ones from the non-creative ones and focus on the creative ones. And I think parents support creativity to a certain level as long as it's not too creative. I had more support for my creativeness in school than at home, that's not normal either. I would expect the opposite.

    Point is: Parents, gather other creative parents, become a member of the school board, start by changing something small to convince the others and then you can tackle bigger things.

    (sorry if things aren't clear I had to write down all my thougts fast because I need to go back in class and if I didn't write them down I'd forgot them by the time I get home)
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    Oct 25 2011: Relating to Amira's posts and Andrea's response regarding "tips" and "roots", the practice of "Positive Deviance" may be relevant to Amira's goals. Take a look: http://www.positivedeviance.org/ This practice arose out of desperation many years ago in Viet Nam, where a researcher was desperate to find a way to curb childhood malnutrition. The researcher observed that a small minority of locals had discovered a solution and named them the positive deviants.
    • Oct 25 2011: Peter! Thank you for the site, I like the name even without looking into it yet. I will explore this further and keep you posted. Thank you.
  • Oct 25 2011: My experience is that education does not value creativity in the slightest; it values obedience. The obedient will always outperform the creative in school. In life I think it's the other way around.
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    Oct 23 2011: Karina,

    To share with you how young people were engaged in a creative solution in my community:

    Students wanted to skateboard. They found one of their favorite places to do so was the high school parking lot. (As a former hockey player -- I know why -- it's far most exciting to dodge danger than just coast merrily along the sidewalk!)

    Needless to say, the adults didn't think this was a very good idea. Though many understood outdoors exercise with friends is far preferable way for young people to work out social and physical energies and get their excitement than the alternatives.

    Leaders engaged the youth in creative solutions. The students told our Mayor that the city needed to build them a skateboard park. To which the Mayor offered something to the effect of:"If you take leadership in creating it, I'll put you in touch with leaders who can help you with the planning, designing, building, management and governance of it."

    We now have a skateboard park -- a culmination of the energies and creativity of youth and the experience and relationships of adults.

    Youth have something to do, Police have fewer calls to the high school to stop skaters. Leaders are proud. Because, in the process, alliances have been made between "rulle-making adults" and "boundary-pushing kids" not least of these is collaborative respect, pride and empowerment of diverse sectors, ages and interests of local citizens.

    Who, through doing creatively, are constructing concentric layers scaffolded by real relationships and co-engaged solutions that solve problems and strengthen self and cultural identities --- all while encouraging more of the same.

    Andrea
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      Oct 24 2011: What a great example! Thanks for sharing, we have motivation, negotiation, and resolution. It doesn't sound difficult when we take it one step at a time...

      I hope the young TEDsters here can take heart and see that [whatever the problem is] they can handle it, it can be done.

      I hope they can rekindle the I CAN frame of mind with which they started out this journey...

      I hope we can make it happen, not only their quality of life is at stake, but our future is in their hands as well.
      When I pass the baton, I want to be excited to know that they are bursting with ideas on what to do to make this a better place...

      PS:: did you get my email? It did work at one point...
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        Oct 24 2011: Karina,

        I actually have a good deal of confidence that young people can create and collaborate in quite robust solutions.

        I did get your email and sent you one in return, this afternoon. I'll re-send it to you.

        Its time like these I imagine a young, creative programmer laughing at her/his computer screen, going: "Hehehe! Got 'em again! That'll teach 'em to doubt my power and brilliance."

        If this is the case: here is my humble appeal:

        Dear Master Yoda. Whether our problem is due to a duck, hiesenbug, or I know, I know, a PEBKAC or id10t code, will you please have Tux or Biff or whomever liberate us?

        Andrea
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          Oct 24 2011: You are funny...

          I just think it is the cold weather, TED got a virus, like many of us these days. Quite a few things have been acting silly lately, not just that... remember the replay button?

          Anyway, if that doesn't work, we'll find a way around it. Where there is a will, there is a way.
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          Oct 25 2011: @ Andrea, and Amira, replying to your post below, as there is no more room there.

          Andrea, your model makes a lot of sense! TIPS and ROOTS ( the middle will come later)
          I like how you can simplify something so dense and bring it back to basics: just an issue at hand that CAN be separated into a few small parts to better tackle it. This is a unique gift of yours :-)

          Amira, here is an idea...
          If other TEDsters here want to join in, we could be part of your "root support".
          Using this site or another one, we could continue to meet regularly, think out loud, problem solve, gather resources and sound research (I think it is now high time for that, to give any outcome a solid base), copy-paste solutions that did work before, generally provide you with support, and give you an unbiased point of view on the progress of things.

          You, on the other hand are there, in Cairo. Would you like to be the agent of change? The innovator in your local community that will start spreading a different way of thinking? Our kind "consultant" here suggested to start out small, so an immediate goal could be gathering concrete field information, correlate it with research, maybe add some expert opinions, and then write an article to print or read in the radio... Sounds within reach?

          Doing this can attract the creative thinkers that really care about education in your area, the weird ones that Andrea mentioned (I guess that includes both of us and all the other posters here :-P Lovely...)

          Think about it. Is this worth your time and effort? If you decide this was just a platonic discussion, that's fine too.

          I personally still would like to do something on my end. I feel strongly that all the synergy we shared here, and the value of so much input shouldn't just evaporate when this debate expires.
          But that's just me, by now you probably know me a lot better as someone that can't keep her arms crossed if she can help it.
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        Oct 25 2011: Karina --

        Your idea that some from TED could help Amira's efforts is great.

        However, Amira would want her strongest base of "roots" to be people in her culture. They are key stakeholders. And important for the development of their culture that the roots be integral to it. In great part because todays roots become tomorrows leaders. By using in-situ groups, the connections to their place and each other's groups become, overtime stronger.

        Another natural metaphor: think of the "acorn" model. An acorn creates roots, roots grow into a tree. Which continually provides for decades beyond it's emergence, via shade, beauty. And, of course, more acorns to grow more roots.

        Any off-site or virtual supporters, in my mind, should become advisers. Sharing feedback, relatable data and information, lessons and encouragement. But should not been seen as the main or even key problem-solvers of Cairo's changes.

        This is a "constructivist" vernacular style.

        Where the stakeholders of a place/space are the co-creaters of it. The closer to the center or core of the place/space the stakeholder is, the more relative weight their input should be. Given our stake is Cairo is secondary to Amira's and her fellow citizens there is, the stake of our contributions in the solutions should be perceived as commensurately less.

        A popular older model of civic engagement, known as communitarianism would, by contrast, see others as perhaps "knowing better" or more about civic problem solving, if not Amira and Egypt then they do.

        I don't usually prescribe to this model. In my mind, in place-experience always trumps distanced views.

        Which is NOT to say people in the TED community and in a group like you are developing can't be very valuable to Amira. Only that this value should be construed as adjunct and/or advisory, not primary to the place-based work they are doing.

        The "roots" than, should be homegrown and/or home-based and closely tied to the growth focuses.

        Andrea
    • Oct 24 2011: I love this example. It is a comprehensive model that took us from A to Z and illustrated the fruitfullness of all the elements involved; young people, adults and officials . I would like to add an element which seems to have been taken for granted in this paradigm: the cultural background where these events took place. It seems that a few critical principles were behind the success of this situation:
      1- Officials take pride in serving and finding solutions for socials and community issues
      2- youth engaged in a constructive debate with adults who listened and communicated
      3- the needs of young people have intrinsic value
      4- the general welfare of society is achieved when the needs of subgroups are addressed constructively
      It sems to me, that all these points have been securely established in the collective mind to enable debate, problem solving and cross-generational discussion to be fruitful, inspiring and even considered as an option.
      Bringing this to my country, we need a really creative approach which would instill these fundamental values to both the experienced generation (adult/officails) , and the young, less experiences generation( creative, resourceful) to move this society from the stagnation caused by over 60 years of dictatorship. I believe it will all come together soon, I am dreaming of a better, more open and creative educational system for my 2 yr old grandaughter.
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        Oct 24 2011: Yeah, you are back!
        Thanks again for your insight.

        You are right pointing out how the same steps may need adjustments in order to work out in a global perspective.
        Some communities may not have a developed civic conscience. When they have to live in fear, or struggle to sustain their family every day, the focus narrows to the individual, to the smallest unit: self. The sense of community and oneness is often damaged, solidarity and "otherness" are lost.

        Or there may be a lack of awareness of the positive, long lasting impact that caring for and meeting the needs of all age groups would bring to the whole.

        What is the case in Cairo today? What is being done in regards to education? Where do you think creativity can help?
        Stay in touch as we continue to discuss this on a new debate...
        • Oct 24 2011: For many years we have had 2 educational systems running parallel to eachother, the public system, 60 to 70 kids in a classroom, teaching to the test, memorization... and yes; I hate to even mention the word... corporal punishment...OMG, I'm feeling ill at the sight of the word in print... Then we have private schools; English, French or German, take your pick from colonial legacy. These schools are very expensive, have imported curricula, material and even teachers.These schools are status symbols, and havens of creativity, learning and plain " good education". Having said that, many kids come out of these schools feeling socially alienated, culturally confused and and even a bit elitist. So we have a real dilemma on our hands. How do we reform or "revolutionise" education to mix learning, dignity, civic identity and employability all at an affordable cost?? Now lets start a debate/question for all TEDsters to try and deal with that! Daunting isnt it?
          A cab driver told me today that it is shamful to ask for directions, if you are a cab driver, then study the map! This made me think what he was taught. It was better to be lost, than ask and show ignorance. That is what Sir Ken Robinson talked about, this man's creativity was schooled out of him. He told me that as a young cabby, it was custom to pay a quarter of your day's earnings to ask another cabby for directions," pay so you remember never to ask again" he told me. There are many Egyptians who, in spite of these challenges, were raised in homes were questions, discussions, reading and knowledge were the norm. These people have grown to be leaders and stars in their fields.
          Creativity is often confused with disobedience, arrogance or even stubborness and refusal to just fit in.Introducing the value of creativity should not be an educational issue, but a cultural and social value as well, Just like the issue of" children with educational challenges or needs" they used to be called "retarded" and kept at home.
        • Oct 24 2011: The real change took place when the society as a whole embraced children and tolerated diversity. I believe that the idea of creativity is just as scary to many people. It entails change, hard work, going into the unknown and believing in the intrinsic potentials of people to amaze us every day. Creativity is that thing" wierd " people do just to get attention or get back at you... that is how creativity has been discribed to me as I give workshops to parents about child development and how children learn. The common complaint is:" she wont do as she is told, she is just spiteful" I usually have a good cry afterwards.
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          Oct 25 2011: Amira & Karina --

          Amira's situation is complex and I won't pretend to be an expert on how to inspire a revolution of creative thinking in a place that has undergone such a sea-change. Though I'm drawn to the problem, so happy to give ideas.

          Much of what you mention, Karina, would be apropos.

          My preferred model with an innovative effort to transform a community that has never even thought of the ideas--and may well conceive them, as Amira says as "weird," is to go to people who feel comfortable being "weird." Good advice Warren Buffet gave -- and we have examples in the late Steve Jobs and other creative geniuses, is to be great one must be willing to be an outlier.

          For culture change you want outliers who, as part of their differentness are concerned with culture (as opposed to cynics who choose the outlier persona as affect of their rejection of society. )

          I like a "tips and roots" strategy.

          Engage experienced leaders who've taken risks to achieve success--they are outliers, your "tips."

          Then engage energetic young adults who are hungry for change or to save the world/culture, your "roots."

          Put them together to collaborate early efforts. From there you can "move to the middles," as the groups demonstrate credibility, staying power, commitment and incremental outcomes. There is much more to the process, but that's a start.

          I would also work hard to create empathy between generations, provided they are somewhat insightful. When adults cluck-cluck about the weirdness or audacity of younger change-makers, don't try to convince them they're wrong.

          Instead, seek parallels to their own younger behaviors. Was their teenage contrarianism a sign of critical thinking skills? Were their struggles in school due to a doodling habit a sign of creativity? Was their inability to sit still prescient of future strengths?

          Point out the connections--generally an Aha!. They see youth's strengths much like their own were, back when.

          A start!

          Andrea
        • Oct 25 2011: Karina, Hi, I'm trying to fit in as much as I can in these last few hours of this conversation. What you suggest sounds good and do-able, There are several local conferences and places where I can be heard, but getting my act together in the midst of all that is happening will take time. We have waited this long, so a bit more wont hurt. I want to listen to some more "wierd" people and get ideas as well as inspiration. I'd like you to keep me posted about other talks and conversations which you think I would like or be able to join in. Will these conversations still be availabe once they are closed? I haven't read every single post and would like to. How is TED going to archive all this brain juice? how about PDF downloads? Is a conversation copyrighted? So much of what has been said here would be great for teacher training. Hope you have the time to answer all my little logistical questions.
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        Oct 24 2011: Amira --

        A very astute analysis of the cultural environment that undergirds examples like these. So good, I'll be sharing it with leaders and others in the community.

        And Karina -- It is true, there is a cultural ethic in this community that is remarkable. And that some communities, due to fear and struggle, might find this model harder to adapt.

        That said, the community is quite diverse compared to others in our state. And, many of the solutions like this one have been ways to maximize the gifts of a community that has been in transition from an aging bedroom community which resisted change for many years. In fact, there have been significant tensions in the leadership ranks regards solutions like these, which engage all citizens. Many, for a long time, didn't think these efforts were worth it. Some still don't.

        Only by a few brave leaders shoring through, have believers been made of many others.

        Leaders began to understand that for the area -- and thus their self-interests -- to survive and thrive, they had to do things differently. It hasn't always been easy. And there remains differences in what we do and don't value. But, to their credit, many many older citizens have showed astounding energy in learning from newer and younger generations. To, as Amira notes: "he general welfare of society is achieved when the needs of subgroups are addressed constructively."

        There are numerous governance and structural tools that can be developed and employed to help create this level of cross-sector change. But, ABOVE all, it takes actually doing them and communicating the outcomes in ways citizens can appreciate things they might not have believed possible before.

        My colleague Harry Boyte has covered Burnsville's success in several books and articles, if you are interest in more.

        On a separate note -- Karina, I re-sent the email. And also sent a note to TED Admin. Did you get it?

        Andrea
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          Oct 25 2011: Andrea,
          No, I didn't get your email. I do know that it is enabled, so it should work fine.

          Do not worry, we'll sort this out one way or another...

          The situation that Amira has placed in front of us so carefully analyzed is extremely complex. I can see several cultural elements that may be deeply ingrained in the social fabric, making it very resistant to change.

          As a participatory researcher, what steps do you think are advisable TO BEGIN WITH?

          The all-out-in-your-face truth already took place; deep political changes shook Egypt early this year.
          Now is time for them to take the pieces and make something better and new. Is not often that we see such an opportunity (here, as of today, we are painstakingly patching up an existing system in hopes of eventually improve it from the inside out) What would be prudent to do first?

          Reaching out to families in small groups and inform/train them in alternative education methods?
          Pulling a group of community members, representative enough of a wide sector of society, and meet with authorities to brainstorm a newly branded system?
          Marketing a new vision by creating advertisement? Articles in local publications and radio/TV to saturation point?
          Complementing the existing system with scaffold organizations (evening schools, tutoring, study groups)?
          Associating with outside educational advisors/ organizations in order to get input and trained staff?

          What do you suggest?
        • Oct 25 2011: Thank you for your comments and thoughts.I would be honored if you care to share my ideas with others.
          It is important to see the process of creativity as well as the outcome. I understand the process is an uphill struggle, but we have no option. I really believe that without creative ideas and solutions, we risk self destruction on all levels, spiritual, above all. Stagnation and surrender to what we know rather than what could be is a fatal illness.
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    Oct 23 2011: What are the elements of creativity? What supports and encourages and what limits or undermines creativity?

    How do we culturally support or undermine creativity? What dominate values control our perceptions and feed our myths trumping other less emphasized values sometimes in direct opposition to creativity?

    Where is the discussion which takes these questions deeper to reveal how our perceptions of success and opulence undermine our ability to see we are one species on one planet riding through space. When we focus on our differences, control and greed we create war and destruction. When we focus on being a responsible member of the human family, we show love for our children. For me, creativity must be grounded in a basic understanding and commitment to future generations. The fire-sale codification of earths resources must be stopped and we need to find creative ways to make that a culturally human value of the first order.

    "Creativity" that leads to war, death and destruction needs to be seen in another light.
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      Oct 23 2011: Craig,

      Interesting questions.

      In response to "How do we culturally support or undermine creativity? What dominate values control our perceptions and feed our myths trumping other less emphasized values sometimes in direct opposition to creativity?", one dominant value that damages creativity in my opinion is Consumerism. It has been called the world's most prevalent and powerful religion. The myth that material acquisitions can lead to success, happiness, and meaning is and has been deliberately created and perpetuated by legions of highly creative and accomplished marketers and advertisers. This myth discourages the production of creativity by individuals and encourages the consumption of other people's creativity instead. (That is what led me to conceive of a personal creativity ratio consisting of the instances of me creating something divided by instances of me consuming someone else's creativity.)

      So Consumerism is one value that diminishes creativity.

      Another value or perception is that creativity is often associated with the fine arts, performing arts and child's play but not the mundane world of adults as they go about their quotidian activities. Ruth Richards writes at length about our need to recognize and cultivate Everyday Creativity in her book by this same name. She is a professor at Saybrook U. See: http://www.saybrook.edu/spotlight/rrichards

      This everyday creativity is a favorite topic of mine ever since Javier Fernandez-Han gave a talk on this topic ("Demystifying Creativity: You Don't Have to be Creative to be Creative") at TEDxTheWoodlands ( www.TEDxTheWoodlands.com ) last month. I believe that creativity is a daily decision we make either explicitly or implicitly. I aim for creative output everyday. Some days, my creative output is trivial. Others, a bit more significant. But I aim for creative output everyday as a habit. Hope this helps someone reading this post.

      Best regards,

      Peter
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    Oct 23 2011: We have heard many posters describe similar creativity-stifling experiences in their education experiences. While this is unfortunate, even tragic, let's focus on simple actions we can take personally to improve the situation. I make a request of all posters - please post at least one simple action you would be willing to take to make creativity more encouraged, enabled, and everyday in education.

    I will start with a few actions I am/I will take:

    1) I will share a learning program called "Invent and Innovate" which my son and I developed last year with schools in my local area. This program integrates design-thinking, social action and creativity techniques. I will help schools use it to launch a variety of creative social action projects through which youth apply creativity to solve social problems locally. See introduction to this program at: http://www.wix.com/peterhan/invent-and-innovate-program

    2) I will serve on the advisory board for my local school district to promote creativity and innovation in the school through a combination of curriculum enhancements, workshops for teachers, partnerships with local entrepreneurs.

    3) I will give talks/workshops to youth to encourage them to cultivate and apply their creativity. My next talk/workshop will be on Nov 4th to 50 student leaders (officers of career and technology education programs) of our local school district.

    What might you be willing to do?

    Best regards,

    Peter
  • Oct 23 2011: It truly depends on the community. I have lived in communities that as a whole insisted on having creativity encouraged, and in others where creativity was neglected. The federal government decides on the amount of funding given to states for education, but in general they make no decisions on what is actually taught. therefore, it depends on the local authorities and parents what will be focused on in the classroom.

    Our states are where curriculum decisions are made. I am guessing that you unfortunately live in a state or county/parish that neglects creativity in general.

    I am in Louisiana, and before this year our state focused very heavily on the LEAP exams. Parents and teachers fought against "teaching to the exam" because it was obvious this was not leading toward success. And now changes have been made.

    So there is your answer, in my opinion, it is up to the states and local school boards to decide what is to be taught in the classroom. Direct your fight there.
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      Oct 23 2011: I am glad to read your ideas, Jessica!

      As you said, every state has a say in (public) education, and that attests for the significant differences from state to state in outcomes, high school drop off, college acceptance and graduation percentages. Not that those are the only ways to measure the success of a system, but they are the ones currently used.

      While I agree that legislators and districts design and put in practice the systems, I don't think those are the only areas where we can focus.

      First of all, because this debate includes TEDsters all over the world, beyond your parish, beyond my county, with different educational formats and problems, we need to see the big picture.

      Next, because we know we cannot solve the whole world, but we can make a small difference, one issue at a time, we ask ourselves, "even when I am not a legislator, I am not sitting at the board of my district, or I can't vote because of my age, how can I change things for the better? How can I stop blaming others and starting to be the change I want to see? How can I bring awareness to the key role of creativity in education?
      • Oct 23 2011: I agree. One thing is that to make an instituational change at any school board will require parents and teachers unifying. Educators and teachers working together to bring the Arts into the classroom.

        Tapping into resources such as "Art In Action" for ideas as well as possible curriculum additives.

        In the meantime, how can a parent or teacher or student bring in creativity?

        Parents can add this at home.
        For example: For a history exam, ask the child discussion style questions. If you can't come up with your own, google search related topics and interview each other.

        For time tables, let the child draw out the problems and answers with chalk on the sidewalk or with window chalk on the bathroom window.

        For an english lesson on subjects and predicates, do a verbal exercise. 1st person says a subject, and 2nd person says a simple predicate. Then 2nd person repeats the subject and the 1st person says a more complex predicte.

        Teachers can incorporate this easily into their curriculums weekly. It just takes a little creativity.

        For a history lesson, have the students make pictures of the events discussed in that chapter, and then tape them to a time line in the order the occurred. Then they can write the date next to each picture.
        They can then go further and analyze something by explaining to a small group or to the whole class what they would have done if they faced one of these events in history

        for mulitiplcation have the kids make up a song and even add in a little drum tapping on the desk as they sing out their time tables.

        The options are endless.

        These are things that can be done by individuals whether or not they get the support of the administration because it reinforces the existing curriculum, but allows for young minds to develop those critical thinking skills.
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          Oct 23 2011: Jessica,

          Thank you for the many simple practical examples of imbuing, embedding and integrating creativity into subject matter lessons. The possibilities do seem endless and are limited largely by the teacher's imagination.

          Your comments remind me of 2008 Teacher of the Year Mike Geisen's approach to teaching science. He used a multiple intelligence approach to make the learning come alive for his students. See: ( http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=1864 ).

          Keep the good work. Your students are fortunate to have you.

          Best regards,

          Peter
  • Oct 22 2011: Unfortunately, in the traditional educational system, there is not enough room for creativity, critical thinking, or usage of the brain other than for memorization. I would know because I am a student. In the traditional system, you practically have to plagerize in order to get the answeres right. You get questions were all you have to do to ansewer it is write down what it says in the text book. All you need to do to pass a test in the traditional educational system is memorize a couple of phrases in a bloody book. This is infuriating to me, especially since the first half of my life I spent in a montessori school. We are not learning, we are simply temporarily memorizing phrases.This is very dangerous and I think we need to change the educational system as soon as possible.
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      Oct 22 2011: I disagree with the general statement that in our education system "there is no room for creativity, critical thinking, or usage of the brain other than for memorization," but I do think that our system is flawed in that it does not prioritize these things.
      Take the college application process as an example. The purpose of the process is inherently to determine which students merit entrance to a given institution. This is of course not a bad thing in and of itself, but I feel that our definition of "merit" is wrong. Journalist for the New Yorker Louis Menand says in his essay "The Thin Envelope" that we define "merit" as "quantifiable aptitude and achievement." I think this concept is the crux of the problem; By upholding this limited definition, we ignore the need for creativity and passion. And, honestly, those are the more important aspects of "merit."
      In short, I think that by focusing on the quantifiable, we form an education system that ignores the qualities that make for success. We choose the best test-takers, but not the best students.
      The question that I have though is: How can we change this system?
      I don't know. I'd love to hear another's thoughts.
      • Oct 23 2011: You are right. I am going to change my comment to "...there is not enough room for creativity,critical thinking, or usage of the brain other than for memorization".
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        Oct 23 2011: Cleo, thanks for sharing your views here!

        You take a good, long look into the situation with college application. While I essentially agree, I have to say that creativity is already taken into account, not all is GPA.
        Leadership inside, and particularly out of school, and participation in (or creation of) clubs or service groups are clear indicators of creativity and weigh heavily in college admission. If the track is in art, design, or performing arts, a portfolio or CD is required. So, there is room there to show creativity. But what remains is a standard to measure it. Where does the admission committee draw the line, and where does the next college's committee draw theirs?
        As you say, the system is flawed and can be improved.

        "The question that I have though is: How can we change this system?
        I don't know. I'd love to hear another's thoughts." Me too!
        I encourage you to stay in touch as we find areas that we can improve, and put ideas into action. It is good to stimulate the flow of ideas, but we can do more. We can BE the difference.

        Food for thought for you: What could you do, right there, where you are? Columbia University, a pillar of education, sits at the edge of two very different worlds. Is education the same in both sides of the "border"? Do you see any needs there?
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          Oct 23 2011: Karina,

          I'd like to share my perspective on the comment "creativity is already taken into account, not all is GPA. Leadership inside, and particularly out of school, and participation in (or creation of) clubs or service groups are clear indicators of creativity and weigh heavily in college admission."

          It depends on the college. Some do not have the capacity/desire to consider non-quantifiable criteria. Such criteria requires a considerable amount of time and judgment and opens the admissions process to criticism. Some schools invest in assessing non-quantifiables.

          Leadership and participation in service organizations may or may not reveal creativity and commitment. As a volunteer interviewer of applicants to my alma mater, I am dismayed by the superficial nature of their involvement. At first glance, their application seems impressive - President of Interact, VP of Leo Club, etc. But when pressed to describe the nature of their work and how decisions were made, usually what emerges are sinecures (distribution of bottled water to walkers for a walk-a-thon, sorting of folders for an office, etc.). The other type are what I call "fly-by philanthropy". Their parents spend $6,000 to send them to a developing country to build a school for two weeks. Their motivation seemed to have been to impress college admissions officers first and to serve the developing community second. And sometimes their 2-week's work actually caused more trouble than good in their target beneficiary community.

          So participation in leadership and service positions at the high school level do not necessarily reflect passion, creativity, commitment and do not necessarily weigh heavily in the admissions process. In my experience, the vast majority of strong applicants boast a plethora of such experiences in the applications and the admissions team need to scrutinize carefully to discern the authentic experiences that reflect creativity, passion, commitment.

          Best regards,

          Peter
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        Oct 23 2011: Peter,
        My opinions on creativity in the college application process are first hand, as my children have applied, visited and interviewed many universities. We started that process 2 years prior to graduation, and in many cases met representatives and had phone conversations regarding specifics. In all of them, I verified their requirements and preference for activities in areas beyond curriculum and GPA.
        But I agree, it probably depends on which university.

        My kids were brought up very much in the spirit of "Emotional IQ" (the book) to hold values, and be self motivated, listen to themselves and try their best. It really works when parents are on board, so when the moment came they had good opportunities at top universities (regardless of parents income, I am a teacher!) If you ask me, they are overachievers, and I'd slow down if I were in their place. But this is not my generation, they were born at a faster pace and are comfortable handling a triple major, juggling 2 universities, speaking 5 languages and visiting family in 7 countries...

        I am not surprised to hear that you found "resume padding" in the applicants to your alma mater, but the fact that you spotted them before acceptance shows that your school cared about authentic service... Well done, Mr Han!
        The universities that my children chose continue to foster creativity and encourage them to explore and be trend setters. One of them, which you know well:-), even has open curriculum!

        One example of assignment my FRESHMAN has: she was given $10,000 to spend on a service-based project anywhere in the world. The catch: she needs to present a solid assessment and "business plan", plus a strong emotional appeal. She competes with 10 kids, and gets the whole summer to travel and make it work if she wins (they cover her expenses too)

        Now that is trust, creativity, and community service if you ask me.
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      Oct 23 2011: Alonso,
      The Montessori system is very in tune with developmental needs and inner aptitudes and motivation. Although in the US most Montessori schools are private, some public districts have adopted it in a few schools. However, in most of those cases students eventually transition to mainstream schools in the later years.
      The contrast can be terrible, I feel your pain. After given all authority to pace your studies and develop a learning style, and just when you get to a culminating point, that is all taken away from you. You get placed in a classroom with a fixed curriculum, schedule and calendar year, your seat is assigned and the expectations are pre-set. Instruction is usually uniform for all, as is the expected production/results.
      Cookie cutter education does not sit well with Montessori...

      In your case, I think you are lucky to see beyond the everyday routine in your current school because of your previous experience. This gives you great insight. I wonder if you could use this as an opportunity to change, maybe not the whole system, but a few things around you.
      But why not, if you strongly think the whole system is wrong, why not think of something totally new and better. That is, after all, what Maria Montessori did.

      She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed, and that the school environment (including teachers) should continually observe the child and adapt so that s/he may fulfill his or her greatest potential. Not bad for the 19th century, eh? So how can we improve on that 200 years later?
      • Oct 23 2011: In order to get closer to the ideal educational system, I think there is a lot of work to be done both for the teachers and by the teachers. Teachers need to be taught more about how the child's brain works and about sensory integration (especially in developing countries such as my dearest Mexico. There is a greatly insufficient amount of knowledge about sensory integration in Mexico and in most of Latin America for that matter). If they know our minds and if they know that every single child is unique, they will be able to teach much more efficiently. They also need to be motivated a lot more so that they, in turn, can be motivational and enthusiastic when teaching. I personally think there is nothing worse than a teacher who is less excited about teaching than your average student would be about writing a three page report on a history topic. Teachers also need to be trained better. I have one particular teacher who seems as if he is learning the topic along with us instead of teaching us, and I am sure there are many more of the sort.

        I also believe we need to get rid of grades, or at least drastically change how they work. Grades, in my opinion, do not reflect the intelligence of a child. They merely show how good a child does in the educational system. There are many bright children with learning problems such as dyslexia or ADD who seem to be much less intelligent than they truly are because they can't learn properly in this particular system. I also believe standardized tests need to be changed somehow. I do not doubt that there are some brilliant children out there who do not do very well on these tests due to their structure.
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          Oct 23 2011: Your points are all good, Alonso, are you sure you are not an education reformer under cover?

          While we put all the big picture ideas on the pile of big picture to-do list, what do you see in your immediate surroundings that you can change?
          Any way you can contribute to make things better? Do students have any role in this lack of motivation they see in teachers?
          Can they come up with activities/meetings/print outs that encourage kids, expose them to innovation, and foster creativity among students?
          Is there one thing you see near you that you could improve today (or this week)? Can you make a plan?
          Stay in touch and look for chapter II of this debate...
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    Oct 19 2011: At it's Center - like the sun to our solar system, all other aspects of education should receive the "light" of creativity - thinking of old things new ways moves us forward, if we don't learn that in school and our parents didn't learn it either, are we really evolving the human race?
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      Oct 21 2011: You make a critical question, "if we don't learn [creativity]... in school, and our parents didn't learn it either, are we really evolving the human race?"

      The pace is fast, change is constant -it doesn't often give us time to catch up, yet, is this evolution? Is it, when we are not even processing what happens? Without a creative mind, can we really move forward?

      Scott, what do you see in your area? Do you see creativity in action, weather in the classroom or in the playground, at work or in the town?
      Most of the posters here agreed that creativity itself is inherent to the human being, it is ours. It cannot be killed but on the same token, it cannot be taught. What we can learn is a fool-proof thinking process that will allow for thorough exploration of everything, to always ask "why" and not accept anything as fact without examining it inside and out. This will stretch our creativity. We can also keep daily habits that foster creativity in our family (read the posts for ideas from Peter Han and Terry Wilkinson), and act in our community to change the status quo.

      If you think creativity is alive and well in your community, let me know where you live, I want to go there :-)
      If you think creativity needs a big overhaul, and that you can make a difference, let me know too. I'd like for our group to stay connected beyond this debate, and move to stage 2: action. We could support, give resources, and help problem-solve so, from the four corners of the world, we can raise awareness, make an impact, and bring the focus back to creativity (in and out of schools)
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        Oct 21 2011: Karina,

        Creativity is alive in my community; Burnsville, Minnesota.

        Though who'd thunk, we're a suburb!

        We have many civic, cultural, social and economic layers that have been burbling for years. Now, of all odd times,is when seem to be coalescing most visibly. Pretty remarkable to see how diverse neighbors hold seek and continually practice expressing an ethic of relational innovation and creativity.

        We've become a mini-hub of visual, public and performing arts and other cross-sector gifts.

        If you come, I'd be delighted to give you a "participatory researcher" tour and introductions to some very impressive innovators.

        Including our indefatigable Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, who is only the most (internationally) visible among many less visible, but no less energetic and creative leaders who represent many different interests who have abetted and encouraged area citizens and our community to bring creative solutions alive.

        Andrea
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          Oct 22 2011: Andrea creativity is everywhere but first in the soul and heart. If the town is tiny or the city big, is the same...a small town could be the place to live without modern crisis, and big citys are the nest for paranoia.....creativity needs realms, ambiance, significative enviroment, human scale (that is the same than cosmic scale)...your place is worthy by your presence and action.
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          Oct 23 2011: Andrea,

          Thanks for stopping by. And for sharing a bit about the status quo at home.
          I would love to visit and get a personalized tour, thanks for your kind offer :-) ...unfortunately the closest I am getting for the next few months will be Boston. I will keep it in mind for the warmer months, though. My friends from Prairie Home Companion tell scary stories about the legendary winter season up there...

          Here is where I was soliciting your expertise:
          You may have read that, as we get to the end of this debate, and because it seems to have struck a very important cord (I am still shocked by the amount of participation) I wanted to stay connected as a group and turn our theories into action, our problems into solutions.
          In the virtual realm all discussion is good brain exercise, and food for the soul (this one is for Jaime who doesn't let me forget this aspect) but in the TED spirit, I think we have a duty to walk the talk and affect change, take it from here into the real world.

          My vision is a virtual group that, building up on this momentum, identifies a few targets world wide (as our posters are from all over the world) and works together to make a difference. For some it will be just brainstorming, others will be on site...
          I am impressed with the TED debate about the situation in Japan after earthquake, and how fast it moved into action. Not the ideal model, but an example of ideas making a difference..

          Peter, local TEDx organizer offered to somehow incorporate us into the regular meetings. As you see, the physical application doesn't quite have shape yet.
          So, any ideas? What virtual place? Stay here? Post or email me if you wish.
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          Oct 23 2011: Andrea,

          Email not working from my end either. Will try tomorrow...
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        Oct 21 2011: Karina,I see the point, creativity in innate - we all have it inside us - I guess school /education institution could/would/should be a place where we could work on extracting it from within, a safe arena for our wildest imaginings, creativity without the consequences of failure - and I suppose like all things if we are able to use our creativity , it will grow, flourish and evolve. eventually we will all move closer to our true potential.

        I lIve in New Brunswick Canada - I see creativity everyday, but not the system to support and nurture it's growth and expansion - I think we all play a role in education, as we will all have to live in the world of tomorrow, we need to ensure that it is a creative and engaging place.
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          Oct 23 2011: Scott,

          What kind of system do you think could there be in New Brunswick to support or promote creativity? Do you envision a community group? A government organization? A parents club? A newsletter? Or only a school related body?

          Where could YOU play a part? I imagine your main role in fostering creativity is right at hand, as a dad. But can you make tomorrow better for your daughter? Do you see a need to extend beyond here and now, and improve anything else?
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          Oct 23 2011: Scott, Your comment "I guess school /education institution could/would/should be a place where we could work on extracting it from within, a safe arena for our wildest imaginings, creativity without the consequences of failure" interests me.

          First, I think we should include the home and community as places where we should provide the safe arena for our wildest imaginings, not just formal educational places.

          Second, I think there are times and places where we need our youth to experience the consequences of failure for at least two reasons.

          One is to learn from our failures to improve our skills, our application of those skills and to adjust our knowledge base based on our experience.

          The second reason is in my opinion, more important. It is to develop a humility and receptivity to feedback. See Chris Argyris article on the perils of not experiencing failure enough: ( http://velinleadership.com/downloads/chris_argyris_learning.pdf )

          Sometimes, in our effort to provide a "positive encouraging environment" for youth, we deny them the experience of failing - both the cognitive and the emotional impact of failure. When they are denied these, they don't learn to deal with them successfully. They may develop an inflated sense of achievement and capability...and also an emotional fragility...to sometimes disastrous consequences in the post-school real world. See article on "The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work": ( http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117702894815776259.html )


          Best regards, Peter
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        Oct 23 2011: Karina --

        You have clearly tapped a topic of interest here. And enabled and nurtured very rich thinking. Excellent indicators that this theme could be brought from ideas to action. I wholeheartedly agree that organizing all this energy by such a diverse and engaged intellect is exceedingly prudent.

        I'd like to converse with you about specifics for how to take this and your ideas on how to build forward. But, for some reason, can't email you from TED. Some odd glitch seems to be conspiring on communications between you and I, seems to me we ran into this on an earlier forum we both tried to post to.

        So, why don't you try emailing me? And I'll respond with some concrete suggestions on your vision.

        Meanwhile, you might begin by creating a database of relevant research. Some of which has been posted here already. Having this information separated (but connected) to the ongoing dialogue will come in handy as resources for the group as it develops and amplifies its collective voice.

        You can start the database here on TED. Through a separate conversation seeking research citations and articles only. Keep in mind, if you formally distribute specific content produced here, TED asks that you cite them in all of it.

        Or, you could start a blog for the same purpose. The advantage of the latter is that you can sometimes create different levels of user groups, with some public and some private.

        In any case, as you so brilliantly do, then inviting people to post links and bibliographies to it. I'd ask them to provide a two or three sentence "abstract" or overview of it. Keep in mind that categorizing these will be necessary at some point. Key words can come in handy for this.

        Hope this helps. Look forward to more in one-on-one conversation with you.

        Andrea
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    Oct 19 2011: creativity is pure joy.....education is playing and discover the universe
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      Oct 19 2011: Hola, Jaime; jump in, we need your philosophical view here!

      Craig's has a question, see, he brings up the point that creativity also gave place to not so joyful things, like unemployment, and I add the atomic bomb to make you think harder...
      Do we draw a line, if so where?
      If not, are we ready for it to hit us in the face?
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        Oct 19 2011: Karina, we have to see in a more wide perspective in all senses...historically the creativity brought a lot of god and positive consequences. But we forget our history and our panorama is narrow because we are in focus in "our time"...we never learn anithing if we dont see the past, the history, and in the Marx (Karl, not Groucho) who doesnt know his history is condemnned to repite...(more or less) creativity is humanity par excellence and we all humans ar not islands of perfection. The so called "unemplyment" is not a consequence from creativity...is a tag fron liberalism to be applied to the people who believes in employment....thats very different from labour. But also creativity is affected by the philosophical mainstream in all ages in human history. The narrow perspective produces more narrowed opinions.
        And as allways I said...opinions are usless.
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          Oct 19 2011: No, Jaime, opinions can be the starting point for solutions!!!
          Different opinions, different solutions -all action in real life situations!

          And that takes me to the next step of this TED conversation.
          This group has been talking for a long time, and that has been nice, we made mind and heart friends, even shared musical moments ;-)

          We have been also exposed to a few REAL WORLD situations:how to redesign the educational system in Cairo after last political changes, lack of motivation/creativity in American and Canadian educational system, need for innovation in local community college, lack of resources (economic and otherwise) in areas in India and Pakistan, how to implement/nurture creativity while homeschooling, etc.

          So I'd like to move to step 2 and remain connected, pick a few of those issues, support the TEDsters in those areas and help them make a plan and solve them.

          This step 2 is all about action and walking the talk.
          So, not just opinions, Jaime, solutions. We can overcome geographical, language, age and political barriers, and make a difference.
          Are you in?
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    Oct 18 2011: Thank you guys so much for your input.

    Karina,
    I definitely agree with you in that anyone can change the world. Right now my immediate goal is to get people thinking in general (its sad that you have to "get" people to do that). I'm doing this by passing around a piece of paper that has the question "what do you think is the root of all of the world's problems?" written on it, just to get people's perspectives. I'm even thinking about printing out a bunch of fliers with that same question posed on it and doing a a "pass it on" type of thing. Any ideas on how to get my message across?
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      Oct 18 2011: YES, Dylan, absolutely!
      Passing a paper around, or making a poster with a pen attached, and pining it up by the cafeteria or other popular place are good, non-threatening ideas to get feed back from a wide number of people, and also plant a seed. Sending the same Q to your facebook friends is another.
      I think it is an awesome idea to continue planting the questions, whatever way you like. Maybe make a list of questions in the areas that are important to you, the concerns you think need change, and post them one at a time, sort of "the brain question of the week" that nobody knows who puts up there... couple it with a logo or graphic, make it cool somehow, but simple, and let your teacher in ahead of time... YES!!!!
      After a while, when curiosity and interest built up, you uncover the rest and invite them to join. By then you will have an idea of weather you want a school club, an outside group, or maybe you do a class/service project for extra credit with that teacher based on the answers given by most...

      Is your paper anonymous or are you signing it with your name or an alias? You could spend time thinking of a good name for your "creative problem solving, world fixing group" before you send more of those questions. Maybe do it together with your teacher, two brains are always better than one...
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      Oct 21 2011: Dylan - I'd challenge you to write something positive on your paper - if we want to solve the world's problems - we can't focus on them - how would determining what we do poorly, help us at all, I think your concept is solid and your intentions are pure - I'd simply like you to ask people to build on what them have, not what they don't and maybe change the focus from "the world" to the individual, by asking about "your world" it's not as big and you are the person with the most direct and immediate influence on changing it.

      "What do you do everyday to make your world a better place?"

      or something like that - Check out John McKnight or Asset Based Community Development - there is some great stuff there.
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        Oct 22 2011: Creativity is not for solve problems....is for joy and could be used aometimes to confront the positions or situations that we all "problems". Is not a tool is a state of humansoul. The utilitarian thinking abut everything is a short vision of the real capabilities that we humans can applied in our lives. If we reduce creativity as a tool, we lost the real significance of ourselves.
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          Oct 23 2011: Yes, it is a "state of the soul", is inside of us, and it is there for ever :-)

          Only a creative soul can act creatively or come up with creative solutions to real world crisis or problems...
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          Oct 24 2011: Maybe Creativity is Joy in and of itself.

          I heard someone say that God smiles when we are engaged in our purpose - I would think that when engaged in our purpose we are probably at our most free and creative.

          I don't think of creativity as a tool, but more of an approach, because you can do the same old things in the same old way and get the same old result - which does your soul no good at all or you can do the same old things in a brand new creative way and have an entirely new and exciting outcome - an let your sould sing.
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      Oct 23 2011: Dylan,
      So, how is it going?

      I think Scott pinpointed a good one: focus on some tangible issues, maybe let others identify them, but stay concrete. Starting at an attainable goal will make the journey more possible for all, and will build stamina for the next step.
      Changing one thing right where you are, you ARE making the world a better place. By slightly rephrasing your question you show them that they need to be specific, avoiding answers like, "well, no more wars".

      Unless, of course, what you want is to start with a very conceptual, wide base, sort of survey of what others would want for the world and take it from there...
      FYI:
      Creativity: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; the process by which one utilizes creative ability
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    Oct 17 2011: Why it is important is beautifully expressed by the TED speakers listed above. Principally because creativity is agility of the mind and our world (and long life) require agility. Creativity is also a strong source of well-being and a universal pipeline of expression across cultures.
    Teaching creativity, like teaching anything else, is possible through example (creative teacher), through exercise (practice), through exposure (sharing) and through constructive criticism.
    Perhaps the best "channel" to teaching creativity is the search for personal motivation. What are those few things that really motivate a student on a personal level.
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      Oct 17 2011: Welcome, Thomas! Glad to have a participant from Switzerland too, we are covering the whole world :-)
      Thanks for your input.

      You clearly summarized part of what we have concluded here; it helps us to solidify the idea of what is the common denominator in the theme of the connect (or disconnect) between education and creativity in general.

      I will highlight something that is quite new to this debate: "Creativity is also a strong source of well-being and a universal pipeline of expression across cultures."
      I agree with this, you articulated it beautifully. Isn't it at the very core of our being? I wonder, could we still be human without creativity? Wouldn't we become automatons instead?

      I have suggested earlier that every posting includes some suggestion for positive action in this area, and I think (intentionally or not) you do it when you say that "Teaching creativity, like teaching anything else, is possible through example (creative teacher), through exercise (practice), through exposure (sharing) and through constructive criticism."
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        Oct 17 2011: Karina, On Wednesday night we are holding an event with artificial intelligence expert Jürgen Schmidhuber who will be talking about "A Formal Theory of Creativity to Model the Creation of Art" which in some ways tries to answer your question about whether creativity is purely human. He also asks whether a machine can be curious. He will be together with an Architect talking about beauty.

        My post suggestion (good idea by the way) is to take a Renaissance approach to teaching - teaching without artificial borders between disciplines. This is not the same as the "anything goes" approach but rather a rigorous and challenging endeavor that leverages connectivity and cross cultural communication to allow review and debate across disciplines. My children are in a much better position than I was (am?) to debate across disciplines because they have access to a "stream" of information that is less divided into sectors. My friend had a model for this in a platform that let people cross-play, that is they could compete against each other while playing different games...for the sake of clarity I play chess against you playing checkers.
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          Oct 17 2011: Thomas, thanks for expanding on that, your post is so rich!
          I wish I were there Wednesday.
          By the way, may I ask you who the architect is? That's a dusty hat of mine, and I am not surprised one is involved in this, we are an extremely curious breed, everything is of interest.

          Which takes us directly to the Renaissance solution you propose for education.
          I think everyone here will agree that your approach is very 21st century; across borders and cultures, and interdisciplinary. After all, isn't it the way our children are learning outside schools already?

          I would like to continue exploring this vein...

          While I can imagine your friend's program being a very good way to step-up a game, I am having a hard time picturing how it would help in education. Wouldn't it contribute to information overload? Or reduce the ability to process, retain and turn information into knowledge -a phenomenon that's pretty much an endangered species already in our youth, with so much technology at their fingertips, but so little time?

          Could you help me understand how you think it would work.
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          Oct 18 2011: Thomas,

          Regarding "A Formal Theory of Creativity to Model the Creation of Art", are you familiar with Cohen and AARON, his art creating software program? See: http://www.viewingspace.com/genetics_culture/pages_genetics_culture/gc_w05/cohen_h.htm
          In addition, Margaret Boden writes a chapter titled "Unromantic Artists" in her book "The Creative Mind - Myths and Mechanisms". This book describes numerous examples of machine generated work that eerily resembles what human creativity. Whether computers display creativity, curiosity and imagination depends on how we define such terms. If we define these words in terms of a human spirit or volition then we create tautologies and circular reasoning that does not lead to fruitful discussion. Of course machines lack human spirit or volition. But they can be programmed to follow simple rules and heuristics that give rise to breathtakingly complex results be they artwork or physics principles that are derived from observation of physical phenomenon (e.g. a software program called BACON was able to derive basic scientific laws based on data of real physical phenomenon, not unlike how a human would derive such laws.)

          The point here is not so much whether machines can be creative, but rather what can machines reveal to us about the mechanisms of creativity in humans. Research by M. Boden and others in cognitive psychology and computational creativity reveal that many mundane cognitive processes such as sensing, encoding, storing, extracting, comparing and transforming can combine to produce what appears to be human-like creativity. While we don't have the technology yet to see the molecular changes involved during creative thought in humans, we do have lab research suggesting that simple mundane cognitive processes seem to account for much of creative thought and output. This insight gives us hope that creativity is accessible and can be improved with the development of simple mundane cognitive processes.
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      Oct 18 2011: Another solution to enhance creativity across cultures is to encourage play in people's lives regardless of age. Play seems to be forgotten in our hurried lives. Play, when pursued for the inherent joy of it, reveals, reflects and rejuvenates our inner spirit and essence. Sadly, too often play is pursued with overt goals and rewards that coopt the original purpose and benefit of play. Alfie Cohen's book "Punished by Rewards" is an eloquent work on the dangers of turning inherently joyful play into competitive endeavors with winners and losers and external rewards.

      One action I am taking is to promote play that is non-hierarchical, non-competitive, and without external rewards. One example is peer improvisation that is pursued for the joy of creating something interesting together without the fear of judgment and without the incentive of external reward.

      Make time for such gentle, joy-filled play.
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    Oct 14 2011: Ohter tactics we have used in our homeschool:

    3) Avoid prematurely providing answers to questions from the young child regarding their observations of nature, social situations, etc. For example, when our son would ask "why did that man move that big bucket under the tree?" we would ask him what he thought might be the reason. We would continue to ask him how he arrived at his guess, how he might test his guess, and what are at least 3 other possible reasons for the man's action.

    4) Show that we as parents value their creative self-expression. 95% of the decorations in our home are creations made by our sons. We also emphasize the process of creative output rather than the product.

    5) We as parents openly show our admiration when our sons choose to create a solution rather than buy a product to address a need or want. One of our sons has fashioned a variety of photographic equipment (e.g. a "follow focus", a "steadi-cam", a macro-lens) from common household items and recycled parts rather than purchasing retail products. His home-versions may not perform as well or look as nice as the store-bought versions, but we are absolutely delighted at his ingenuity, frugality, and creative confidence and make sure he knows of our delight and admiration. So in our family, tinkerers, makers, creative thinkers, artists are hugely admired.

    6) We explain to our sons that being creative might mean there will be times when they will be in the minority and a minority of one sometimes. Their creative ideas may not be understood or appreciated at first by those around them. Their ideas might even be seen as disruptive or threatening to the norm and status quo. We encourage them to trust their instinct and to remain true to the creative ideas and to learn to be OK with being alone at times when they share a new idea with their peers. Also, we help them develop strong communication skills and empathy to help them understand how their creative ideas might be perceived by others.
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      Oct 14 2011: Kudos to both of you, you have created and nurtured a wonderful learning eco-system :-)
      I see a vertical learning spiral that has no end in sight...
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    Oct 14 2011: Once again, to honor Karina's request that we move this conversation to solutions/resources, I would like to share a few specific tactics for young children we believe have helped promote creativity in our homeschool.

    1) Emphasize open-ended toys such as blocks, Lego blocks, card board boxes, etc. By their very nature, these toys create a void which draws in the imagination of the child. In contrast, closed-ended toys provide too much information regarding how they should be used and thus deprive the child from using his/her imagination. Lego's focus in the last decade or so on creating themed Lego kits such as Star Wars is in my opinion a move in the wrong direction as far as promoting creativity. The move might generate more profits though.

    2) Emphasize playing in nature - playing in mud, digging in dirt, playing with giant pits filled with rice, beans, or sand. This type of play exposes the child to a huge variety of physical experiences that builds that child's library of knowledge of physical phenomenon. For example, a child playing with a mixture of cornstarch and water develops an intuitive understanding of non-Newtonian fluids (fluids which follow a non-linear relationship between strain exerted on the fluid and the resulting displacement of that fluid). The child can draw upon this intuitive understanding of non-linearity throughout his/her life and apply it to understand a variety of physical phenomenon (e.g. the development of a new type of drilling "mud" to support drilling for natural gas) as well as applying it metaphorically to more abstract concepts (e.g. non-linear correlation between risk and reward in certain financial instruments). There are many such "archaetypal" phenomenon that are revealed to the young child who plays and explores his/her physical world. Just as a child can draw upon their knowledge of the alphabet to create an endless stream of words, the child can similarly draw upon their "alphabet" of physical phenomenon. Continued..
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    Oct 11 2011: I wonder if the question could be: What place does education in creativity?....All the terms change and the possible answers are amazing. Why we don't explore in this way?
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      Oct 11 2011: You know, somebody planted the idea a while ago, and nobody picked it up.
      I'd say why not?

      For starters, would you like to suggest an answer?
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        Oct 11 2011: "What place does education have in creativity?" I believe in the power of mundane cognitive processes (sensing, remembering, comparing, extracting, connecting, etc.) in generating creative thought. These processes can and are taught at home and pre-school so education can play a key role in the development of such processes. They are learned early as play in young children but can also be taught to older students more deliberately in the context of solving complex real-world problems.

        I also believe in the power of domain-specific knowledge in contributing to creative thought. Sometimes, we forget that creative ideas arise within the context of other ideas. So the more varied and abundant the ideas one has, the more potential transformations of these ideas are possible. Education can play a key role in developing domain-specific knowledge.

        I also believe in the power of mindset in the production of creative thought. When a young child grows up in family that values creative thought in themselves and others, that makes the development of creative output a priority, that acknowledges and celebrates "everyday creativity", that sends the signal both explicitly and implicitly that everyone in the family is expected to be creative in multiple contexts and domains of experience, that child will likely grow up capable, willing, and practicing creative output. Education of the parents in how to create such a creativity-friendly family culture can be powerful benefit to society. So education once again can play a significant role in promoting creativity.

        Education can also stifle creativity as attested to by numerous contributors to this conversation and by a variety of authors.

        What do you think?
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        Oct 11 2011: I don’t know how it works there in US, but have to say here in India Education especially School(ing)..is
        all about scoring. It’s about Mugging (Ratafying) things. It’s never about understanding and when this is the case there is no room for creativity,,,Because its just all about memorizing answers and checking your memory strength afterwards in exams.
        I have seen my niece study and often have arguments with my sister on the way she makes her children mug up everything...
        I have seen my cousin sister makeing her children's study LIKe :
        Agriculture is the backbone of the country's economy.
        Agriculture is the backbone of the country's economy.
        Agriculture is the backbone of the country's economy.
        The same sentence she repeats for about 10 times without even understanding what that sentence meant.
        I would not be shocked if her children didn't knew the actual meaning of the word agriculture..even tough they know that its the backbone of our country....:)If she does not understand something there is no way that she could be creative about it...
        It’s like asking to bring new rules and plans to make cricket(it's a game) more interesting ..but as may I guess most of you would not know what is cricket so there is no way u can improve it..Isn't it.
        For me at least in India schooling is more about memorizing and creativity is a very distant thing.. Yep these days I have heard creativity and intelligence of students is being given more priority by making use of technology..But not sure how much affective that has been,,,
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          Oct 11 2011: Vinay,

          That is tragic to hear. I have heard that the preoccupation with scores, rankings, and rote memorization can be overwhelming. I recently saw the movie "The 3 Idiots" and was moved, angered, and stunned. Are you familiar with this movie? Do you think it portrays a realistic picture of the education system in India?
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        Oct 11 2011: Karina maybe the idea was missinterpreted by the confussion that emerges in the question structure.

        Creativity is a human virtue. Is inside us.
        Education is an accesory that cames from outside.

        If we change the question terms everything happens and the reality is in present. If we left the question with a wrong structure nothing happens but the rethoric and the bla bla bla....

        ......before the answers coming (if) we have to research more deeply the question.
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        Oct 12 2011: Peter,Yep I Have seen the movie.Most of the Indians would have seen it.And yes its true to a great extent.And i frequently use 3 Idiots to let my parents ,sister etc know why creativity and understanding of things is more necessary than scores.But I generally get dismissed saying creativity and films does not get you a job in a nice company but your degrees and grades greatly do.Yes degrees and grades just act merely as an entry point.I just ask them can a sales person sell a soap by showing how much marks he has got in School or say graduation.Its his street smartness and creative ideas to sell things to the public brings him at the top of the ladder.It rarely gets any ears.Media/Movies surely influences people and make them aware of the situation.Because of which these days I feel Outlook is changin of teachers,Parents especially,even the system is changing to some extent.But the problem is now Education has become more of commercial outlook like buisness rather than a medium to impart education and explore the creativity of a student.Although there are steps taken by many individuals and groups to change this outlook.Also a lot of brain drain and movement of creative people has affected INDIA but now a days all are realisin the fact that INDIA is much better place to live in with recession affecting most parts of the world.I would educational system to be more off like olden days gurukul teaching Vedas(Which is much advance than physics we learn this days.Actually we ourselves dont value it so its very hard that world knows about it.).Where stress was given on how to live rather then how to earn money.
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    Oct 10 2011: I am just joining this discussion and have enjoyed reading through most of the previous threads. Please forgive me if I inadvertently raise an idea that has already been discussed to satisfaction. One idea I'd like to share is that instead of asking who is creative maybe we should be asking when is someone choosing to act in a creative way.

    This is a subtle issue but it moves the idea away from creativity being something either a person has or not to whether the person chooses to act in a creative way in a certain situation. "Creativity is a Daily Decision" is a quote that comes to my mind frequently. When I witness the preoccupation many youth in our schools have around movie/music/sports celebrities and in living vicariously through the lives of those more glamorous, I think that they are choosing to be consumers of the creative output of others rather than choosing to act creatively themselves. The media of course encourages such passive consumption. But parents also influence their children through their role modelling.

    One practical step we can take to promote more creative output in ourselves and families is to keep track of what I call the "creative output ratio" which is simply the amount of creative output I generate divided by the creative output of other people I consume on a daily basis. Of course it's extremely inaccurate since it is so difficult to measure creative output in discrete units. But as a concept, it helps me stay aware of my daily decisions to consume v create. On days, when I sense my "creative output ratio" is zero or close to it, I reflect upon why produced so few creative acts in relation to that of others which I consumed. I try to track just the numerator for now. Each distinct and noteworthy (above the trivial) creative output adds to the numerator.
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      Oct 11 2011: Hi, Peter, honored to have a TEDx organizer among us, and looking forward to where your ideas will move us next :-)

      Let me tell you briefly that we started here with a very open ended question about the connection between creativity and education, not merely WHO is creative. Yet the contributions soon moved us to the realization that, aside from the dull condition of educational systems around the globe, 1) creativity is not supposed to come from the outside, it is inherent to humans, ALL humans -someone suggested it is their default state; 2) education as it is today is stifling creativity and individuality, more in favor of conformism and consumerism; 3) thinking outside the box is not enough -we need to make a new one; 4) we need to stop being passive and be accountable and active in this change; 5) we need to add the soul element; 6) we can learn from the past and return to the old inquisitive method, where teachers are just guides helping students give birth to new ideas from within; 7) or we may take it completely in our hands and home school; 8) we don't teach creativity, we nurture it, we let it grow; 8) we are most creative when facing challenges; 9) we are most creative when we acknowledge our ignorance and start from zero; 10) creativity implies risk; 11) while debating creativity is interesting, change is happening fast, we need to translate ideas into action...

      11 is an odd place to stop (literally and figuratively) but that's where I end. Incomplete bird's eye view, but close...

      So the consensus so far is that creativity is in all of us, a separate problem is how to manage it...

      You seem to agree, "Creativity is a Daily Decision", I like that.
      Your idea of a "creative output ratio" answers the management part of the issue :-) One has to be self aware of the creative activity, and has to self monitor as well. And of course there is no question about one's ability to be creative, it is a given.
      Q: do you graph this ratio, track it in the phone?