Programming Encourages Creativity, But Do Schools?

Programming Encourages Creativity, But Do Schools?

Do schools encourage creativity? They may try, but are they are not very effective. Here is a better question – can schools come up with a way to measure creative progress? Is there such a thing as “imagining and creating at a 6th grade level” as there is for “reading and writing at a 6th grade level”? If there was, it would probably have an inverse relationship to the reading scale – you are more creative in kindergarten than in high school! Whether we like it or not, this is the age of standardized tests and creativity simply can’t be measured this way. Thus, it is not a primary focus of our education system.

Ken Robinson’s TED talk – Schools Kill Creativity

Creativity expert Ken Robinson gave an excellent TED talk in 2006 about how schools are actually killing creativity. He makes a serious subject comical, but his words are left echoing in your head. According to Ken:

“Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you can’t come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity – they have become frightened of being wrong … We are now running national systems where mistakes are the worst things you can make. The result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”

Ken sums up the inverse relationship of creative progress well – “we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it.” The result is “highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not. Because the only thing they were ever good at in school wasn’t valued or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on this way.” This sounds like a serious issue that should be fixed right away! But what is the best way to make this change? How successful have past efforts been in altering school curriculum across the country, or even at the state level?

We simply can’t wait for an overhaul of the eduction system. It will take too long – it is incredibly difficult to cultivate creativity at a mass scale with every student so different. What is the solution? Parents should be solely responsible for developing their children’s creativity.

How can parents encourage creativity?

After school activities are the best way to practice creativity. Usually these involve a lesson, followed closely by encouraged offroading with the skills to see what the student can come up with. It makes more sense with an example. You can provide “lessons” on how to use a drill, screwdriver, hammer, saw, sandpaper, and other simple woodworking tools. From there, let the student work on whatever they want! They can make a bird feeder, go kart, doll house, chair, or just about anything that pops into their mind. Are they having a tough time thinking of what to make? Encourage their creativity with some examples.

Schools can provide the lessons, but parents must be the ones to encourage the after school creative projects with those skills. Don’t worry, there are after-school programs, clubs, workshops, and mentors available if you know where to look.

How does computer programming enter the picture?

Computer programming is an ideal way to encourage creativity. The only tool you need is a computer, and if you are reading this, you meet that requirement! Programming is a subject that isn’t traditionally covered in school – there is no worry about overlapping material or disagreeing with teacher.

There are terrific programming environments that make the lesson portion extremely short. You don’t have to lecture on processors, memory, digital signals, or even electricity. There isn’t even a need to worry about typing code or syntax errors. The most widely used environments today for 10 to 15 year olds are Scratch, Google App Inventor, and Alice.

The benefit of short lessons is increased time spent on creative projects. This keeps it fun and allows for the sustained interest necessary to develop expertise over time. Ideally you can intertwine the lessons during the creative projects. “Oh, you want to connect a wheel to your go kart? Let me show you a few ways this can be done.” It is exactly this type of teaching that Breakout Mentors strives to provide for computer programming.

Posted by Brian Skinner / Posted on 12 May
  • after school, creativity, Fun Projects, projects, school, summer, teacher, TED, video
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