Awhile back, I attended the PIE Conference (Pencils Integrated Education) for the second year in a row. I'm not against conferences. They provide a platform for connecting and motivating - though not necessarily for training (which is how they market it). I have my little quirks, where I get uptight about various issues. Do we really need to advertise the vendors as if walking through a sea of advertisements are an asset rather than a liability? Do we really need more notebooks?
Still, I find that most speakers are passionate and interesting - which is more than one can expect from a staff development meeting. I attend a workshop called "Paper for Creative Thinking." I assume that the workshop will include some science experiments or perhaps some ideas for problem-based learning. Or maybe creative writing.
Instead, the speaker jumps out in a samurai costume, which, if a little gimmicky, was at least attention-getting. He then began teaching us how to make origami cranes. We had little colored papers at our tables and each of attempted to follow the directions.
It was interactive and the directions were great, but I kept expecting something more. I kept thinking that this would lead into a deeper conception of creativity in the classroom. Perhaps a discussion? Instead, we learned about other animals, other textures and other colors.
I overheard a woman ask him how this connected to learning and he responded, "The Japanese students continue to improve in their test scores. Some day they will beat us in achievement. Some say it is their curriculum, I think it has to do with origami and its connection to creativity. A century from now, they will be creating automobiles that are the most reliable in the world."
I left a positive evaluation, despite feeling disappointed. The speaker tried really hard, had a great level of passion and dressed like a samurai.
Yet, I see that as a trend in the paper world. I hear it constantly, "In an industrial age, we need developers and thinkers. We need creative problem solvers." Yet, I'm not so sure that the best way to become a creative problem-solver is through origami or free time with crayons. I see this often in the PIE Conference - speakers who want us to abandon the basics in favor of origami or sand box time.
I could be wrong, but here's what I notice with my students:
Creativity happens when people analyze problems, see things from multiple perspectives and develop a solution. Creativity happens when a student inquires about the world, develops a hypothesis and presents a solution. Creativity occurs when a student conjures up a story or a poem or takes an unusual stance on a social issue.
In other words, creativity doesn't have to look flashy. Creativity will happen when students have freedom and autonomy, when they find purpose in what they are doing and when they are not stuck in a system of rewards and punishments.