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Is This Creativity?

OK! I honestly do not know what this invention was meant to accomplish

Lassanya en verano / Lassanya in summer time by Mònica

Woe! Talk about biting off more than I can chew. But somebody asked a question the other day, during an unconference sessions I was running, and I knew this was going to be “blog-worthy. She asked, “What would Ken Robinson say?”

We were using my idea plotting tool to try to ramp up a basic classroom activity, so that it would provoke levels of thinking higher up Blooms Revised Taxonomy. Folks were suggesting enhancements to the lesson, and, as almost always happens, we got up to creating way to fast.

Each time that I do this activity, I find myself suggesting (while admitting that I might be wrong) that in order to be creative, the student’s work or procedures should be aimed at a specific objective, problem, or audience. There needs to be a goal. On that day someone suggested we click the (i) by Creativity, where upon the following definition popped out.

Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing.

Oops! No mention of “why.” I do not recall where I got that definition, because I hadn’t added the citation feature at the time that I added that scale. But Anderson & Krathwohl say pretty much the same thing in their description of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, defining creativity as:

Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing. ((Anderson, L.W., & Krathwohl, D.R. (Ed.). (2001). A Taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: a revision of bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives: complete edition. New York: Longman.))

OK, I guess I was shot down. Both definitions described process and outcome but not intent or goal. No mention of audience. No mention of the “why.”

Then someone asked, “What does Ken Robinson say about creativity?” ..and someone else in the group, within a minute read out,”

Creativity is “the process of having original ideas which have value. “((Robinson, K. (Speaker). (2006). Ken robinson says schools kill creativity. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html))

I had to go to the Sir Ken Robinson TED Talk video to find his definition, for the sake of this blog, and I felt vindicated, because Robinson says that there needs to be value — implying that it needs to do something for somebody.

It seems to me that to create (invent, innovate, etc.) you must have direction, and sense of where you are going, what you’re trying to solve, who you are trying to make a little happier. You my student combine ideas, objects, or procedures that accomplish the goal in a way that surprises me, then she has been creative.

But doesn’t come easily, and it doesn’t come without mistakes. How often do we give our students permission to make mistakes. As Robinson says later in his TED talk,

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you wan’t come up with anything original.”

What we do not want our students saying, is what I friend of mine’s daughter said recently when ask about the purpose of school. She said,

School is the place where you do not want to get caught being wrong.


  • Leonard Klein

    Does the “creation” have to have value for someone beyond the person who created it? It would seem that when I weave I am not making something so someone else will appreciate it, it is for me to enjoy. I do not think that the act of creativity needs to be useful.


    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

      That’s an interesting question and this is a complex issue. I guess I would ask, “What does weaving original patterns do for you?” “What problem does it solve for you?” “What would you do without it?” “Do you have an inate need to produce something that is unique?”

      I’ve said many times that I really do not like the word creative in the context of what we want (need) our students to be learning. I’m feel that talking about inventiveness and innovative are better terms to use because they do tend to imply that your are “creatively” solving a problem or accomplishing a goal.


      • Leonard Klein

        Does everything creative, inventive or innovative have to have a use now? I am a chemistry teacher as well as a weaver. Many of the advances in chemistry are made to discover what happens when you do something or is your theory correct about how molecules react. If you look at nanoparticles they were first made in 1857 by Michael Faraday. They were not used for much if anything until recently. Faraday was innovative, but his innovation was not useful at the time. My thought is that all these ideas are limiting of the creative process.

  • http://synthesizingeducation.com Aaron Eyler


    This topic interests me because of the “needs-based creation” paradigm that a lot of people allude to when we start talking about innovation or generation. By people limiting their definition of creativity or innovation, I think we automatically contribute to the problem you describe in your last line.

    I think we can go on to assume that anything we “create”, whether for ourselves or others, will have value at some point in time. It need not be for a specific person nor for the immediate time period. Placing a constrictive box that discusses ownership or need eliminates the potential for students to come up with out-of-this-world solutions to really complex problems.

    I just feel like every solution or answer (in terms of creativity or innovation) can be useful if it is founded within the proper context and time period. The key, I think, is focusing kids on forward thinking and realizing that they need to keep past experiences in mind, yet strive to be different.

    Hopefully this isn’t overly nebulous or philosophical (thought I fear it is).

    Thanks for getting my mind going, David!

  • Rebecca Cowart

    The key to creativity is to give the students that specific goal to work toward, but letting them come up with their own way to present it. I think that often we just tell them to do something creative, but give them no guidelines for how it should be done and why it should be done. I don’t know about most students, but I am one that likes to give and receive very specific guidelines. I feel safer that way, and I think students will, too.

  • http://enochng.blogspot.com Enoch Ng

    Hi David, thanks for the post… I’ve heard Robinson’s speech and it set me thinking. How do I structure creativity in my class… Wait! If I structure creativity? Is that still creativity? Is it possible to teach my pupils how to be creative? How do we get them to be a more creative person?

    Enoch =)

  • Pingback: Creativity… « Enoch @ Play

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
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Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
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