Dennis Hitzeman

manager, Innisfree Farm

This conversation is closed.

This kid is amazing but rare. Why are we having such a hard time fostering this kind of creativity in kids when the tech is there?

There are all kinds of opportunities for kids--and adults--to transition from just consumers to consumers and producers, yet it happens so infrequently. What kinds of methods do you think we could use to foster this kind of curiosity and motivation to create a society of producers starting at a young age?

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    Nov 16 2011: As a middle school teacher, while I endorse technology as a teaching tool, I do not believe that technology alone allows students the opportunities to be creative. They also need play time, drama, art, etc. The idea that technology is the key to creativity seems to be shortsighted in my opinion.

    The best assignment that I do all year is when I teach my students about career and workplace documents. It sounds boring, but I have developed a lesson in which they have to create/invent an item and create a warranty, invoice, advertisements, etc. for the item. The students rise to the occassion each year and tell me how much they feel liberated to create and have fun at the same time. They also leave me with a deeper understanding of business and documents and semantics. The only technology I use is that I allow them to create a culminating videotaped commercial or radio commercial. Other than that, everything is done by hand.

    I'm not saying that we need to reduce technology in the classroom, but I believe that students need to use all of their intelligences (kinesthetic, audio, visual, spatial, linguistic, etc.). Technology alone does not allow for students to think and play like drawing, acting, etc. To become producers, they must first discover their talents and wherein their intelligences lie. Technology is only an assistant to their creativity, not the inspiration for their creativity.
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      Nov 16 2011: That sounds like an awesome idea. I took a technical writing class once that did something similar, and it was interesting to see how we all meshed into solving the problems of the assignment.

      I agree that the tech is not the end all, but it does help facilitate opportunities in ways that may not have previously existed. What frustrates me, I guess, as someone trying to help foster creativity in various ways is how infrequently I succeed. Perhaps, I'm not doing it right, which is why I'm asking the questions.
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        Nov 16 2011: Dennis,

        Okay. I understand your frustration better now. Yes. I have the same problem. How do we get students to become more creative? That is tough. I find that many of my students come from backgrounds in which their parents thinking is only of a concrete/surface level and they, in turn, do not want to go beyond in their thinking either. Is it right for me to push them to become more creative when their home environment is suspect of creative thought/ideas? As a teacher, I try to show the students how they can think/be, but I do not force anything on them and ultimately leave it up to their individual determination.

        Don't misunderstand me, I try my best to get them to think and go beyond, but some students (at least at the 8th grade level) do not want to do that no matter how many cartwheels I do. I try to at least give them options and see another way. That is all we can do. Creativity needs to be addressed more nationally. We need to realize that while the sciences are very important, they ofetn overshadow the arts in the United States and we are discounting those students that are creative in non-scientific/technology ways of thinking.

        I agree with you Dennis, but where do we go from here? I share your frustration...
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          Nov 17 2011: Ask the children what they think.

          They know what's best.

          Science and art are hand in hand conceptually. An idea, an experiment, an observation, and a conclusion. Wash, rinse, repeat; until you have a furthered understanding of what you're doing. Try again... Keep going... I know, not a middle schooler mentality...

          I got to learn the old techniques with old technologies from mentors. Handmade drafts in engineering with a pencil and ruler. Black and white design using guash. Recording sound to tape and bouncing tracks after mixing. I prefer the original star wars for the model making, costuming, and puppetry. The newer full blown CGI versions are just patterned movements of a crowd with different colors in other spots.

          I would love to see an entire school day organized around multiple intelligence. One period per type, eight in a day, this might be a well rounded approach?
    • Nov 16 2011: Greg, saying that app development is not creativity like writing is the same as saying that painting is not creativity like singing.

      Being a tool does not mean it cannot develop your creativity. In business world, drawing is just a tool for selling, and I can swear at you that great designers are highly creative people.

      App development is not about about knowing rule and assembling them.
      It's about finding the simplest way to express your thought in a language that computer and your own team understand. (And before that, you need first to extract what your subconscious know to your conscious)

      App development is all about communication, not assembling rules.

      It is the same misconception when one thinks that mathematics is only about knowing rules and assembling without thinking... this part is called arithmetic. But mathematic is not arithmetic. Mathematic does not manipulate numbers, it manipulates idea and thought, and combine them to create new ones.
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        Nov 16 2011: Nicolas, I like your thought on this. I never said that tech skills did not allow for creativity, but I feel that they should not be the only means toward unleashing creativity. We still need to keep into account that people do not think alike and have multiple intelligences (see Bloom's Taxonomy, Costa's Levels of Thinking, Multiple Intelligences, etc.)

        I agree with you to a point, but I still have some reservations. For instance, I respect what an oil painter can do and I value a wonderfully painted oil painting, but a digital print of a manipulated image means nothing to me and seems to lack true artistry. I can buy it only up to a point...sure the designer had to use some brain power to conceptualize and put it togther using various paint programs, but it still seems to be unauthentic in true skill and artistry, a least to me. Perhaps I am too old fashion.

        More and more I am agreeing with you about math. I have no intelligence for math, but I appreciate those who do.
        • Nov 16 2011: Look at that :, maybe you don't like everything but when you look at theses image do you see technology ?

          I think such mastery completely remove technology from what you see.
          I think that these artists know so well their tool that it becomes completely intuitive to them, there is no barrier between what they have in their head and what is created.

          Even a simple artwork like this one is impressive if you think about it( )...
          A beginner can easily replicate that with a tutorial on Photoshop, but only an artist can create such high impact with such simplicity... it's genius.

          Why does he use this font ? why this color ? why this distribution of space ? why such image can draw you attention ? (is it the space, the pink mouth, the number, the water drop's expression ?)
          I don't really know -I'm not a graphist-, but the response of these questions takes the root in color theory, art books, and lots of observation on other artists on all medium... not in a Photoshop for dummies book.

          I'm going to take a look on Bloom's Taxonomy, Costa's Levels of Thinking, Multiple Intelligences you told me.
  • Nov 16 2011: Is it really all that rare? Or, are we just not paying attention? Change public education. Embrace open (fewer walls) structure, creative, visual learning mediums. For too long the trend has been to reward conformity and obedience to concepts and rules set forth by others, and that don't necessarily align with our individual values and beliefs. Encourage and reward individuality, leadership, initiative and cooperative effort. Involve young minds in the process. Everyone has something to learn and something to teach... just a few thoughts.
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      Nov 16 2011: That's a good question as to whether it's really that rare, but the public perception is that it us, at least in my experience.

      I wonder if public education is the right mechanism to encourage this kind of thing. I think organizations like FIRST are doing a far better job than most schools. There just needs to be more.

      I agree with the mechanism you describe, though. Now we need a setting capable of fostering it.
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        Nov 17 2011: If it was common then this wouldn't be special. Wouldn't it be special if this was common?
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    Nov 17 2011: Plato's Allegory of the Cave!

    "Behold! human beings living in a underground cave, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the cave; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets [...] and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?"

    I think we try to make children behave like little adults. We want them to have a fixed timetable at school (isn't that what we do at work - meeting after meeting?), we set them KPI (if you do X at school, I will give you Y as a reward), we want them to be more like us - subsequently they are subject to the same limitations as we are, living little space for them to be creative and 'ahead'.
  • Nov 17 2011: The best way to expand creativity and allow it to grow, is to not standardize a childs intelect. Dont set rules on how he or she can look at problems, give them the tools and the confidence to search beyond the common answer, the easy answer. Get them engaged in projects, develop skills that allow them to share experiences with each other. Expand their horizons beyond the four walls of the classroom, give them a chance to show just how amazing they can be. Instill the bug of uniqueness and its benefits and stop once and for all categorizing them with mere test results, it proves nothing in reality. How many great minds were so beyond tests, were so beyond a book that taught them nothing of interest to them? Kids more than ever need to be motivated, need to be envolved in things that give them pleasure, true unadulterated pleasure. Look at the world around us, it is so messed up that kids need to be shown what is possible, that there opportunities out there, great ones in fact, but they have to be allowed to see the world for what it is, no cliche lines that served our parents and grandparents, no, lines that serve them now, their time, their reality. Honesty is key, kids can take it, there is no need to create a world of illusions because once they get out there they are clueless.
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      Nov 17 2011: Art

      Art is the one subject NCLB can't really figure out a way to test for. I'm certain they're trying.

      I recently took a Praxis II Art Content exam required for state certification. Fascinating selection of questions. Not a one asked me to turn in a drawing instead of an essay. Huh...
  • Nov 16 2011: I am absolutely a FIRST fan! My son is involved with FIRST. Agreed - we need more organizations like this.
  • Nov 19 2011: Every child is of unimagineable creativity. Why is this one such a big-deal?

    Is app-programming in any aspect more creative than building a dam? Or an Model Airplane?

    The logics of programming can be modeled in nature at a river-flow, there's no need for programming other than a later carreer. That's what impresses adults, but does he understand that?

    I'm a bit glad that I didn't have such a "support" (in whos interest??) when I was making basic with my c64 at 9years old. There has been a lot of fun outdoors I had probably have missed.
    What I've learned from that without any "support" (pressure of expectation) did help me later on, so why making a twelve year old a professional app-dev? It's a waste of his youth, because he allready learned everything ... he doesn't have to proof it to anyone.

    It's a boring and lonely thing, and even Bustin Jieber apps are a serious activity. Shouldn't he have fun with other kids on the streets, meeting girls and so on? Will he be able to talk to the kids in his class about the things that worries him? Does he learns flirting with girls? Is it good for a childs development to stand out that much from the others pupils?

    Child-prodigies are mostly parent's determination. Such things hardly happen accidently.
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      Nov 19 2011: Frankly, because he's not sitting in front of the television like so many of his peers.

      Yes, children--and adults--are capable of unlimited creativity. How many of them are realizing that potential?

      Again, I am not suggesting that every kid should be an app developer, but I am suggesting that we exist in a, perhaps, unique period in history where we can encourage creativity in a way than has never been possible before, and by doing so, we can advance ourselves and our world in ways we could not have imagined even twenty years ago.

      Unfortunately, what I see instead, at least in my part of the US, isn't kids playing outside (which is its own kind of creativity) or any of the things you suggest but instead becoming new members of a consumer culture that produces less and less even as it consumes more and more.

      I know that is a harsh assessment, but I believe it is also a true one, and unless we reverse that trend, we doom ourselves as so many previous consumer civilizations have managed to do.
      • Nov 20 2011: I didn't mean any opposition to your post.

        But I think that question has nothing to do with the boy in the Video. He does nothing more creative than others, but he probably works harder, is more success-oriented, and has less fun.

        That's not the way to inspire children, I believe.

        But I respect him, it will pay off in his carrer that is for sure. But he pays with his youth.
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          Nov 21 2011: I agree that he is no more creative, but he is more motivated and I think we need to figure out how to motivate children to be producers more than consumers.
  • Nov 17 2011: I guess parents need to start building a creative atmosphere at home. They need to accept the messes that their kids would make while trying out something new. Also Encourage them to find more than one solution to a problem. When they successfully solve a problem, ask them to solve it again but to find a new way to do it (same solution, different route).
  • Nov 17 2011: We need to enable kids the ability to get into this kind of stuff. We send kids to sports and after school activities to keep them active. But things like app development, defiantly this day of age, is going to a big thing in the future. So if we get them started in future proofed stuff today instead of waiting till they are in college to get into this kind of thing they will be a lot better off in their future if they decide to continue with the app development. That give this kid at least a 6 year head start of his peers.
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      Nov 17 2011: That's a good point that he's so far ahead of his peers.

      I wonder: what are the good and bad aspects of being so far ahead?
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    Nov 17 2011: Perhaps another way to foster creativity is to change the way we evaluate learning. I'm interested to read the thoughts on grades, especially since I agree with the idea that grades, in the end, tend to reflect the ability of some students to absorb and repeat rather than the fact that they learned something.

    I'm also interested to read what people in other threads are saying about self-paced learning.

    How do we use those two ideas to foster creativity?
  • Nov 17 2011: Im not a tech buff in any way shape or form but I do know a little thing about creativity and how it comes about. Its unfortunate that the school system implemented all over the world does not motivate a childs mind into wanting to produce, it hinders the childs imagination and drive to be unique. Kids now-a-days are well equiped and mentally advanced enough to create great things the problem is no one is truly showing them what they could be capable of. Especially now will the present economy crisis the last thing on a childs mind is wheter he or she can produce something great and new and it applies for any area really.
    Kids need to be challenged, however they need to be shown the way as well and I believe teachers, not all, but most have no want for such things. I too can undertand the teachers point of view, it takes guts and a willing to go against the system in a way and against ones ego to achieve such things and by my experience, most are too worried about keeping their jobs or remaining the smartest in the class.
    I had to leave school to be allowed space to become creative, to allow myself and my mind to expand in ways I had no idea could be done. The same applies for any kid interested in tech. Look at all the great minds of the past in such an area, they all found a need to expand their normal education, because it blocked them in, it made them just another average person. And trust me, when kids are told they will never become anything because their grades arent high enough or they realize that things arent how they are meant to be, they close down, they become small and the last thing on their minds is to produce something outstanding and inovative.
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      Nov 17 2011: Grades are a farce, just a letter of the alphabet. A false percentage of value taken personally. Being put down for trying does not achieve anything. Most new ideas are met with contempt and seen as menacing to a persons understanding of "how it's suppose to be." Authority comes from within. Acknowledge yourself being alive. These pseudo serious societal structures serve someone. Who & How???
      • Nov 17 2011: I completely agree on grades being a mere symbol, not representative of the child's true potential, or even of their intelligence or school's teaching. I feel it more to be a reflection of each individual teachers ability to actively challenge and engage their pupils. I found less than 5 teachers in my own life that actually broke into my routine, recognized me as an individual, and then challenged me on a personal level to rise to the curriculum and excel beyond. These are rare wonders in academia. Majority of teachers in my young life were more concerned with getting as many students to pass as the school or state legislation required. Most were using a set structure not of their creations, creating a syllabus, specifically addressing exactly what was on the next test alone. There was no supplying background information into the development of the concepts or the progenitors of. I was absent so much in high school they tried to make me repeat 2 years, I was able to take Credit By Exam. And passed 2 years in 2.5 hours. A fortunate loophole for the student who is easily bored with the slow curriculum. We need to promote teachers for what they are, the guardians of of future, and we should pay them accordingly. Many teachers lose the inspiration when they deal with the trouble making students, like myself, for which they don't get paid enough to compensate for. We should allocate more funding on all levels of academia, these children are our collective futures. So why don't we invest wisely and ensure they are smarter than we are, and more capable of progressing society. It's not enough to have students regurgitate the material they are given, we must teach them to analyze the material, and progress further into making their own evaluations and applying it creatively wherever applicable. We don't benefit those younger than us by teaching them the world we grew up in, we must teach them reality in situ. Allow them to draw conclusions and expand into future. Invest!
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          Nov 22 2011: Money is not the answer, it never is, if anything funding becomes a felony especially in a capitalist country. Look at where we are in the US, what is valued and allowed, is abusing human rights for the sake of profit and power. Too many teachers may feel forced to teach to the test in fear (never a good thing) of losing their job or a federal cut off of funding to their school for poor performance. If this was the case in congress there would be no one in capitol hill except the janitor. US citizens are caught up in more red tape and regulations to try and do what's right than they are permitted to do. I could be sued for helping a little old lady across the street figuratively speaking.

          How can any one answer a single question from a group of forty students in a 40 minute class? Other nations found that education was the way out of their problems. Smaller class sizes really allow an instructor to have the time to know their students and truly help them. In this scenario an increase in cost paid per student would work so a teacher could afford to invest in each pupil.

          In regards to failing out due to boredom, it happened to me. I just stopped going. I have been thinking about how the entire education system at large all the way to doctorate has been stretched out and watered down. I think it needs to go the other way. If 11th & 12th were either tech-school or an associates degree, students would be well on their way to working.

          It all starts at the beginning and works its way to the end. Pre-k all the way through each stepping stone makes or breaks everyone. Teachers need to feel positive and supported in the work environment. Students are asked to try and are allowed to try again. I'm unsure as to how being a teacher grants divinity to an absence of error.

          Building lessons based on today with shout outs to the past along the way keeps all involved on their toes and using their nose to guide each day.
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    Nov 17 2011: "When I was your age..." a friend of mine had a programable atari like this one. We'd develop video games for our own fun and play them. Its what we did when we hung out after school. I ended up programming in Pascal during high school. All of the ancient arguments over proprietorship over soft or hard ware, like sony with the mini disk, really put a damper on everyone. Now that things are opening up into a collaborative situation with open sourcing and all, anyone can be involved. This is especially good for children to guide and direct their own learning by self teaching based on their interests and abilities. Adults seem to think they are superior to children and have a right to dictate what younger people can or can not do. Limiting anyone at any age from pursuing their interests is mean and unhelpful. Whitney was right, "the children are our future, let them lead the way."
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    Nov 17 2011: It seems to me that what I am reading is the instinctive answer to helping kids (and adults) be more creative is for us to somehow change the way we're approaching creativity (this is a very generic).

    So, perhaps to focus the question further, what is the best kind of creative environment? How do we balance the need to teach with the need to allow creativity with the understanding that every individual is creative in a different way?

    I should point out that I do not think every 12 year old should be developing iPhone apps, but I do think every 12 year old has a creative capacity that should be developed.
  • Nov 17 2011: Prior thoughts posted>
    First in yesterday's world the majority of knowledge actually came from industry. It took schools around Silicon valley more than just several years to start asking for people from the industry to teach new classes as an example. Today with technology a major subject and research being done on campus in many areas plus the Internet that has changed.....BUT.....changing people, particularly academia is a much more difficult task. AS a pointed criticism why is the master apprentice teaching method (the most effective possible) non existent when technology allows the lecture but have the professor available as the mentor (and why not have the best presenter or professor give the lecture....once recorded it). To further embarrass the academic elitists go to the Internet and do a simple query. How do students learn? Two hours later you will discover (with the exception of going to sites on primates) very little is known. II this an assumption that what exists is best(?) or an entire industry that is very slow to improve and only very recently has even started to use the Internet for Education....despite it's being around for 20 years. Nor does it question it's methods (In industry no improvement = failure). Sadly white papers of any substance are missing and that was with 9 hours prowling the net and college papers. To ultimately embarrass them ask the simplest of all questions.....what is the purpose of school? If you get back anything other than "to learn to think" they are from possibly not "sapiens". Basics plus the Internet (the world's library contain everything you need fortunately does exist (less the mentor). Bottom line....academia in general is not progressive....tenure and security are goals...improvement eliminates jobs. States, the DOE and alumni can change this if you revolt if only for cost reasons alone. Education is an industry that has not had much competition and that is changing. Share the thoughts.. change i
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    Nov 17 2011: Because so much of children's energy and attention is being scattered by rote learning of useless materials.

    This 12-year old (Thomas Suarez) is amazing and super. I disagree with saying that he is rare. EVERY child comes into this world gifted and endowed with unlimited potential.
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    Nov 16 2011: As a teacher, I think it's because the kids are outstripping our know-how especially on the tech front!
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      Nov 17 2011: Shouldn't we encourage that, though? I'm excited that there are 12 year old kids writing computer software because that means they're expanding the envelope of what's possible.

      Granted, I am not a teacher in the traditional sense, but I want to learn from how kids see the world as much as I want to teach them what I know. Unfortunately, my experience has been that too few kids are interested in teaching or learning, even when they clearly know something.
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        Nov 17 2011: Absolutely! We should never discourage kids (or anyone) from moving forward and exploring just because it is beyond the comfortable or the known. My point was more to do with lack of readily available know-how and resources for these students of mine. They want to know all about infinitives, split or otherwise, or Jane Austen? Sweet! I'm their woman! Programming? I can encourage, but that's the limit of my expertise.
        Of the 15 people on our staff, one might possible be able to get them started and then would need to call in some experts...

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    Nov 16 2011: i think often times when our children ask us "big", questions that are "way beyond their age" we turn them off or we dont know how to explain to them in simple terms and oftentimes, this kills their curiosity. when we know how to explain something in simple terms, the kids' curiosity is aroused, they keep asking more questions, but we tend to grow weary....i think.
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      Nov 16 2011: That's a good point that I'd never thought of, but I agree. Too often creativity starts with the adults helping the kids, and if the adults aren't being creative it's harder for the kids to be.
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        Nov 17 2011: In US culture many elderly folks are out of the picture, unable to share their life story and experiences with the young. Grand parents usually have more patience than parents, especially with their grand children.

        Drag In Soap Box...
        Step Up..

        Art education may be leading the way?!??!!?!??!?!?!

        The new way of doing things is based upon big ideas.
        The big questions you're talking about are explored through human history and then art history.
        This approach, basing a lesson on a simple idea and exploring it through a few key concepts, provides the opportunity for students to investigate culture and improve perception.
  • Nov 16 2011: It happens all the time. Even more so in the last 5-10 years. Not sure where you're looking.
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      Nov 16 2011: Can you provide examples? I hear people say it happens all the time, yet very few people I talk with can provide examples of it happening.

      I grant there are a few, but a few is not the same as many. What we need is many.

      UPDATE: I should point out that I'm not challenging the assertion that it is happening, but I would like to study the results of it happening to see what people are doing right in those cases so that everyone can benefit.