1. What is it all about?

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Can creativity be clearly defined or articulated through scientifically researched facts or formulas? We can all experience the results of creativity but the human process behind it is complex and a challenge to describe accurately or fully. From the beginning of human history people have been creative and have put this creativity to every day use in life. Development, progress, discovery and advance, have been fueled in some way by creativity.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word creativity as:
  • a quality of being creative
  • an ability to create (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 2008).

Creativity can be generally viewed as an activity where the mind is involved in producing new ideas or new ways of connecting and understanding existing ideas, being original. Although it is a difficult term to define or measure accurately it can be seen and experienced in daily life. Music, literature, art, dance, and theatre are all tangible products of creativity. It can also be viewed as a part of critical analysis, problem solving, inventiveness and innovation. Creativity is a part of human beings, it affects how we live and understand, how we see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world round us. It is an integral part of education and learning, not an added extra.

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2. Is it of any use?

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'Creativity now is as important in education as literacy. We should treat it with the same status.' Sir Ken Robinson (see section 4 below)

The significance and necessity of creativity for contemporary life is being recognised more and more, presenting schools with a challenge to change pedagogies in order to be effective educators in preparing future generations of children to take their place in the world ahead. Loveless states that creativity is 'an essential life skill through which people can develop their potential' and human beings have immense potential if our educational systems encourage, guide and nurture creativity in people (Loveless 2002, p. 2).

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3. How does it affect literacy?

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Literacy has been the foundation of education through the areas of reading, writing, and speaking, but are these sufficient in a rapidly changing world and a future that is difficult to prepare for or predict? Leask cites Wagner in giving an interpretation of literacy as, 'being able to communicate within the medium of your culture' (1995 cited in Leask 2001, p. 192). The communication medium for many cultures around the world today is being driven by new techologies, the medium of the computer, the web and the mobile phone. Technologies like the web and mobile devices are becoming very important in the way people communicate with each other in society and worldwide.

Visual literacy can be understood generally as a way of understanding and reading images, signs and symbols. Like an old proverb states, 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. People have used images, signs and symbols to communicate since creating prehistoric cave paintings. How would humans navigate through life without them? Educational scholars now believe that linguistic and visual literacies need to be integrated for effective learning to take place (Kress 2003). Educators view visual literacy as being necessary to an effective pedagogy and learning in the 21st century.

4. One size does not fit all

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People have different ways of seeing and understanding the world that they live in; there are different and creative ways available which are very effective for educators and learners. Humans are unique individuals; some learn by doing, some by thinking things through, and others by reading manuals, drawing pictures, or watching videos. There are many possibilities and tools available (like mind mapping software example above) which provide a wonderful and creative variety for teaching and in learning experiences.

The Futurelab initiative for innovation in education has excellent information and resources on new approaches in learning.

Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources.
Interview with Sir Ken Robinson on Creativity and Education (Podcast mp3 - part 1 & 2)

5. Variety is the spice of life

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New technologies can create valuable learning contexts that enhance education or training, and provide an effective learning process and outcome. Norton and Sprague state that technology can assist learning that is; ‘active, constructive, collaborative, intentional, conversational, contextualised and reflective’ (Norton & Sprague 2001, pp. 5-6). Molnar refers to research conducted by Kulik at the University of Michigan where his results found that computer based education reduced time in completing tasks, increased scores and performance (Molnar 1997, p. 66).Technologies should not be seen as an end in themselves but a means to an end. The printing press and television were once new technologies and are still used to great advantage in education and training today. Technology and pedagogy should be viewed as ‘fundamental and inseparable elements of education’ (Evans & Nation 1993, p. 198).

Contemporary life is now immersed in a digital world full of multimedia that is having a tremendous effect on how we communicate, work and live. Young people use popular new web technologies like You Tube, Face Book and My Space (along with various others) at home but these are not currently allowed to be used within some educational contexts. Technology itself is a very good tool and benefit but its use may not be particularly educational or positive at times and perhaps even illegal. There is a conflict between having access and being restricted due to censorship or security. How is this to be dealt with so that opportunities can be seized and the potential of new technologies realised for a better future?

Below is a good video on the topic of technologies by Professor Wesch - The Machine is Us:

A 4:33 min video - The Machine is Us from

Professor Michael Wesch:
Interview about the video:

People learn from thinking and doing which occurs in creatively different ways, 'engaged by activity, different activities engage different kinds of thinking' (Jonassen H, Peck K L, & Wilson B G 1999, p. 2). Evans and Nation cite Levinson, who states that computer based communication is as important to the development of ‘the cognitive media’ or process of thinking and learning, as ‘the alphabet and the printing press’ (Evans & Nation 1993, p. 210). New technologies allow for a great deal of creativity in educating and learning. They provide very effective tools through 'media and environments for learning to be creative and learning through being creative' (Loveless 2002, p. 2).


There are positive steps that educators can take:
  • Recognise the importance of creativity
  • Encourage and nurture creativity in others
  • Be intentional in educating creatively
  • Use new technologies as tools in constructing knowledge, exploring information, and collaborating with others
  • Engage and empower others to actively and creatively engage in the learning process
  • Be willing to try new things and be prepared to make mistakes, as these allow us to learn and develop
  • Allow others to take responsibility for their learning
  • Believe in and work towards a better future!