The recognition of the merits of creative, playful and interactive learning methods is not new. Indeed, the proverb "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn" is an ancient Confucian proverb dating back to the third century BC. Later on, Edgar Dale developed his "Cone of Experience" theory (1946), according to which, in two weeks only, we remember only 10 per cent of what we read and 20 per cent of what we hear, compared to 70 per cent of what we say and write, and 90 per cent of what we actually participate in.
For a long time, incorporating creativity in education was seen as quite frivolous. However, there has been in recent decades a general realisation that allowing creativity back in classrooms is essential to improve the quality of the learning processes and to guarantee the fulfilment of all students, as explained in Sir Ken Robinson's famous 2006 TED Talk. Moreover, the rapid development of information and communication technology, and the potential contributions it can make in the world of education, aided the reinvigoration of creative learning in classrooms.
But what exactly is creative learning? According to a 2013 article on the matter, creativity is the result of trial and error, collaboration, curiosity, being fearless and experimenting. There is a common consensus among education professionals that the common focus on rote learning fails to equip students for the world of work. Educators must put greater emphasis on independent thinking. Moreover, rote learning is poorly suited to newer subjects like computer science.
Therefore, creative learning can provide students with new and essential skills such as collaboration, independence and exploration, and new knowledge about digital technology and the risks associated with it. Employers value the ability to think creatively more than the ability to remember facts. But how do we start acting upon it in the field of education? How do we build an educational culture around the concept of creativity? This was one of the topics discussed at the Insafe Training meeting in Copenhagen (6-7 June 2018).
Tobias Heiberg, from the Future Classroom Lab (FCL) Denmark based at University College Copenhagen, is trying to create new learning environments incorporating the "creativity" component. The main challenge here is that there is no shortage of ideas and theories about how to make learning more creative. Yet, how do we translate these in practice? Indeed, teachers tend to follow the path of "business as usual", delivering education in the same way as they have for years. Moreover, according to Tobias Heiberg, four common misconceptions hinder the debate on creative learning:
- The first misconception is that creative learning is all about artistic expression, which is not the case in reality. Scientists can be creative when developing new theories, doctors can be creative when diagnosing diseases, teachers can be creative when developing new learning strategies for children, and politicians can be creative when developing new policies. Creativity is everywhere.
- The second misconception is that only a small part of the population is creative, and that creativity is a gift of nature, a given. In fact, people are not born creative or uncreative but rather they develop a set of attitudes towards life that allows them to nurture their creativity.
- The third misconception is that creativity comes in a flash of insight, comparable to the "Eureka" moment. In reality, creativity grows out of hard work, and a mix of curious exploration, playful experimentation, and systemic investigation.
- Finally, the fourth misconception is that you cannot teach creativity. The reality is that everyone is capable of being creative, since creativity encompasses many different parameters such as abilities, knowledge, styles of thinking, personality attributes, motivation and environment.
With that in mind, how do we nurture and/or teach creativity among students? Tobias Heiberg suggests that teachers and educators should encourage students to:
- Redefine problems in new ways.
- Take sensible risks.
- "Sell" ideas that others might not initially accept.
- Persevere in the face of obstacles.
- Examine whether the preconceptions of individuals are interfering with their creative processes.
It is all the more important to start making learning more creative given the numbers of students that feel disengaged from the current teaching methods. Therefore, we need to transform our learning culture, by getting inspiration from the world of children (as opposed to the other way around with children having to step into the world of adults). Some suggested changes involve getting rid of the regimented desks in classrooms, instead allowing students to learn by movement, experimentation and fun; or reinforcing online safety and data ethics education.
Developing and reinforcing creative learning and thinking is a key challenge to improve students' education and self-fulfilment everywhere in the world. As Mitchel Resnick, from the MIT Media Lab put it: "Creative thinking has always been, and will always be, a central part of what makes life worth living. Life as a creative thinker can bring not only economic rewards, but also joy, fulfilment, purpose and meaning. Children deserve nothing less."
Many Safer Internet Centres (SICs) already try to add creative learning to their awareness-raising activities with children and young people, with promising results. Successful initiatives include:
- The Luxembourgish Safer Internet Centre is promoting the use of makerspaces in schools to give children and young people the tools to come up with creative solutions to online problems.
- The Slovenian Safer Internet Centre organised an online behaviour award competition for primary school pupils, where children developed art projects, comics and videos on online safety.
- The French Safer Internet Centre organised workshops to empower children to build their own awareness campaigns about cyberbullying and to create videos on this topic.
- The UK Safer Internet Centre organised a film competition about online safety for children and young people.
Another relevant initiative is the SELMA (Social and Emotional Learning for Mutual Awareness) project which aims to empower young people to become agents of change, to help them better understand the phenomenon of online hate speech, and to provide them with tools and strategies to act and make a difference. SELMA is organising a "Hacking Hate" hackathon, in which young people are encouraged to put forward an innovative idea to prevent or remediate online hate speech, from concrete technological solutions, to better counselling and reporting mechanisms, education programmes, awareness campaigns, or any other ground-breaking strategy they can think of.
Other opportunities to incorporate ICT in classrooms creatively will follow in the coming weeks. In particular, look out for Europe Code Week between 6 and 21 October 2018, a grass-roots movement that celebrates creativity, problem solving and collaboration through programming and other tech activities.
Read the full September 2018 edition of the BIK bulletin for more on initiatives involving creative learning and online safety.