INTERVIEWS 1: Andrew Barnum

Creative Interview

Head of Faculty, Creative Industry, Open Colleges

Andrew Barnum has more than 25 years of experience as a designer, educator and artist. Over the course of his extensive career, he has specialized in the areas of music, painting and poetics. He is well known for being passionately dedicated to social-connection, content creation and his passion for constructive adaptation to 21 century conditions.

Looking back at the cultural landscape of Australia in the 80s and 90s, Andrew remembers a time when the Arts were more one dimensional; when Arts followed a more predictable pattern.

"We've now moved from linear learning to work outcomes, to a much more uncertain, non-linear set of expectations," explains Andrew. "The key for educators and future practitioners is learning to adapt to, and flourish in, this new context. Learning that you need to be continuously growing your abilities and skills so you can jump-into roles, projects, collaborations and contribute successfully."

One of this educator's missions is to develop students through an expressive and productive conversation that acknowledges the value of a creative, cultural economy.

He says, that as an artist today, "...part of your currency is constantly challenging and discovering the learning that's required to maintain a livelihood."

Was this always the case? A generation ago, was the Art scene different?

"The previous 'age of print' had fixed pathways based on industry convention and production," explains Andrew. "In the 'post-typographic or Creative Age' that we are now experiencing, we are all re-inventing how we build, consume and distribute content 'live.'"

How we deliver a product, be it an artistic product or not, is one of the major things that has shifted, says Andrew. "We are now in a streaming, constant flow of media production and immersion that requires a different learning approach that is evolving as we speak. The sites of production don't close at sundown. The factories (us) are perpetually open and responding to inputs." Time and content has sped up.

Educators towards the year 2020 have lots to consider. Studies have shown that creative thoughts can often arrive at less predictable times than logical thoughts. Does adult "class time" need to be more responsive to moments when students may get a creative urge?

Should we be able to "down tools" when we get an idea, to seize on it? Andrew thinks that this does need to be considered. "The 'idea' moment is a product of our consistent process," he explains.

"The sparks are squeezed out through the process of immersion with the problem at hand, and with your most trusted colleagues. It's a searching process that is hard-wired into your being through your experience," Andrew says.

"The hatching of ideas is connected to this reality. Ideas come through contact and interaction; ideas are less tested in isolation. The class of today should be creating a 'creative circle' that challenges and tests ideas. (This should be) an iterative process-space with clear signposts towards problem-solving," the educator says.

Often, people who teach highly creative students in creative disciplines find that these students learn differently. Anecdotally, and as highlighted in various studies, some educators say that creative people are more highly strung, reactionary and sensitive. But is this always the case?

Andrew mentions that he has met and taught many sensitive artists and students in his lengthy career. "The life of the professional 'creative' is a complete vocation," he says, "not a pastime or a by the hour contract where you step in and out of the process loop."

He says, "It demands complete immersive in the coursing flow of projects and outcomes. It needs by definition to remain empathetic, reactionary and sensitive. You need your radar tuned to the issues within the problem so you effectively transform the problem at hand in to re-defined action and outcome. That's really what creativity is about."

Often when thinking about their students' creative minds, educators look back to what they were drawn to as young children. Does Andrew remember himself to have been a creative child?

He says, yes: "My talents seemed to manifest themselves in visuals and music," he explains.
"And this helps to explain creativity. It's not a personality trait. Creativity is all about identifying evidence of a person's passion and ability to tackle and express their ideas, whether it be visual, musical, science, fashion etc. Your first true collaborators are your parents as they identify what you're naturally 'drawn to.' Having parents that are open to 'seeing you as you truly are' is your first step to a creative future."

How essential then, is it for children to have creative parents in order to thrive? Is it essential to have parents who understand the importance of creative expression?

"You don't necessarily need 'creative' parents," Andrew explains, "...you just need parents who are switched on, looking for evidence of the child's truest inclinations and confirming them through teachers and trusted friends."

So, how has the creative's position in the world shifted and changed?

"Creativity has gone through a re-definition in recent years. In a world where ideas and innovation have become a key currency for individuals and organizations, understanding and harnessing creativity and creative people is a 'must-have.' We saw the rise and passing of the information age and the knowledge economy. We are now in the Creative Age where ideas rule!"

Many educators lament the fact that all over the world, standardized testing has become more and more prominent. There are claims that children today are more stressed out and more over scheduled than ever before.

Does this affect our ability to be creative? Andrew thinks that this could be something to consider.

"Standardized testing of literacy and numeracy is a basic benchmark," he says. "It should be seen has a part of measuring a population's place in standard's measuring. More complex, qualitative methods could effective 'de-stress' students if they know there more than one measure of their ability. A broadened approach should deliver a broader view of ability."

When asked to name the main creative tools he makes use of in everyday life, Andrew came up with an understandably eclectic list.

"Firstly," he explains, I would say a pen or pencil, as I write in a
personal notebook as habit every day."

"Secondly, my digital camera. I use either an iPhone or a DSLR. Thirdly, I would say my Google Chrome browser. I use this for email, social media, news sites, blogs, projects, research and shopping."

Lastly, I use the Adobe Creative Suite. This includes the programs InDesign, Illustrator Photoshop and all the myriad tools from Creative Cloud."
When asked to name a major creative influence, Andrew Barnum mentions Poetics in Song.
"In art," he explains, "there are only three pillars that hold up all the disciplines of the creative arts: painting, music and poetry. My influence mentioned contains two of them simultaneously."

So, is creativity under threat?

Some educators are saying that "kids today" are often stumped by a creative task, as they are looking for the "right" answer, which doesn't exist. In Andrew's opinion, is Generation Z missing out on some of the things that gens Y, X and the Boomers got as kids? Andrew does not think that this is the case.

"The current generation gap has been seriously underestimated," he says. "This latest generational divide is like nothing we've ever experienced before."

"Kids today, are operating in a completely different context than the previous two generations did. Their habits and impulses have been shaped by new media communication technologies, the internet's 'dark everything', and the behaviors that have followed. Gen Y and Gen "i" are running as fast as they can to cope with the changes they've been born into as digital natives."

"They learn 'live', there is little or no separation between learning and living. They are also 'mobile-connected' at all times, managing numerous interactions, transactions, emotions, successes and failures with channels of people and platforms. Life and learning is more interconnected than previous generations. They are ahead of the mainstream curve, impatient, dissatisfied and distracted by way too much stimulus and their own random passions and affections. 'Missing out' is a far too sentimental approach to an age where literally everything has changed through a technologically driven age of creative possibility," Andrew says.

"For some, the new generations' experience appears like a 'parallel universe' that is hopefully destined to dry up and blow away. It won't. The youth is hell-bent on a subtle re-invention of the world and its problems through interactivity. Expressions like 'all good' and whatever' are a type of armour to help them remain productive and engaged within the headwinds of an age of persistent change."

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten

Inside Higher Ed

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten writes for Inside Higher Ed and is currently a research fellow at the Center for Modern European Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She has experience with both American and European higher education systems, and reports regularly on the future of the university and the use of technology and social media in teaching social sciences and the humanities.

We asked Anamaria why she thinks creativity is important in education and whether or not she has noticed it declining amongst her students.

"The benefits of creativity," she says, "include independent thinking and adaptive problem-solving, and success when meeting new and unexpected challenges.

Creativity is also a key prerequisite for academic research: it drives scholars to asking new questions and finding innovative answers. A creative learning environment fosters the freedom of thinking in participating students (and teachers) and stimulates the combination of different elements in new and unexpected, interesting and useful ways."

So are learning environments churning out fewer and fewer creative students? According to Anamaria, it depends on which age group you're talking about.

"I speak from a European perspective that may diverge from the US trend, but I cannot say that I see a decrease in the creativity of my students," she says. "I observe a constant trend: in their freshman year students are not creative, and look for standard 'correct' answers to the questions teachers ask. The more time they spend at the university, the more liberated becomes their imagination. So I would say that there is a constant lack of creativity at the high school level (but not necessarily earlier in pupils' life), and a constant stimulation of the imagination at the university level. Students are encouraged to think outside the box, to criticize existing theories, to find their own data. This fosters creativity."
When we asked her what teachers can do to reverse the trend for high school students, she said, "It may be that schools can find ways to engage students with the matters of study outside the official classroom time," Anamaria says. "Homework that is not based on memorization or repetition can be a solution. Excursions and hands-on learning can be another. In general, learning by performing a variety of tasks is to be preferred. I always thought that taking students outside the classroom has positive effect on their learning. I have not tried changing the time of the day when they are having lessons, but this type of variation may also work."

Connecting with parents and
families of your students is another important strategy.

"A family environment predisposed to encourage education is a great factor in helping children get the most out of school," says Anamaria. "The same goes for creativity. As sociologists (e.g. Bourdieu) have discovered, there is a kind of cultural capital that is transmitted within families. I suppose this is the same for a 'creativity capital.' Famous artists more often than not come from creative backgrounds. Bach's father was a composer and so was Mozart's. In our times, think, for example, of Norah Jones, whose father was Ravi Shankar. Having a positive reference in the near family circle can do nothing but foster creativity."

As Anamaria's specialties lie in political science, we asked her about the larger picture of implementing creativity education into schools and how much power really lies in the individual's hands.

"There is a lot in the educational system that is not connected to the individual educators," she says. "I think education policy—the goals set by governments and by other financers of educational programs— are often a bigger obstacle for creative thinking, an obstacle than cannot be overcome by individual teachers.

"So first we need an educational policy focused on creativity (i.e. less standardized entry exams, less focus on grades, more choice/variety in curricula). At the level of individual educators, creativity is a matter of personal interest and of available resources. It takes time to rethink some classroom routines, to learn new technology uses, devise new examination forms, etc. Educators should ask for more resources dedicated to their own training. And then, finally, they should not be afraid to experiment. Not all experiments succeed but all are a source of learning."

Anamaria acknowledges that rote memorization has its place in the classroom, but isn't the end-all-be-all of a quality education.

"Historically, learning has been a lot about repetition. If we go back to Ancient Greece all schools involved memorization and repetition as the first step towards knowledge. But to this element of repetition we need to add the requirement of application to concrete empirical cases. This is where academia and work life meet, and this is where creativity plays a major role."

"Academia should be better at helping students practice this applicative understanding while in school. I think the difference you present in this survey is explained by the difference in expectations. In school, knowing the theories and having the right answers were often considered the measures of educational achievement. In the work life, the application of theories to concrete cases and the demand of problem-solving redefine achievement. So, for example, academia should include more problem-solving exercises."

As for the role technology can play in this game, Anamaria says, "Technology is a tool. It can be used both for and against creativity. Universities should (and most actually do) educate students not only by providing new information but also by teaching students how to identify their need for new information and how to obtain it. This is formally part of our course syllabi. Teachers must keep themselves abreast with the latest technology developments to prevent technology-facilitated cheating and to show practically how technology can be used in learning. I am personally a technological optimist, who believes that technology more often than not helps creativity."

Can creativity be measured? Anamaria believes it can, as the Torrance tests demonstrate. "But there is an inherent tension between creative thinking and standardization," she says. "Creativity can be systematically measured but I do not think that it can or that it should be standardized. There is a huge variation in other factors (culture, access to education, income, class, etc.) that prevents a proper standard test from being implemented and thus from being useful."

Anne Bamford

Centers for Research on Creativity

Professor Anne Bamford has been recognized internationally for her research in arts, education, emerging literacy, and visual communication. She is an expert in the international dimension of education and through her research has pursued issues of innovation, social impact, equity, and diversity. A world scholar for UNESCO, Bamford has conducted major national educational impact and evaluation studies for the governments of Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland, Hong Kong, and Norway. She has received awards for Best Educational Research, the National Teaching Award in the UK, and was a runner-up for British Female Innovator of the Year. Currently, she teaches at the University of the Arts London and co-manages the Centers for Research on Creativity (CRoC).

We were curious to hear Anne's thoughts on the current "creativity crisis" and whether innovative tendencies are declining in today's youth, or whether reporters have simply been spreading rumours and perpetuating myths.

"It is argued that this is the case and perhaps it may be true," she says, "but there is little verifiable research to show this one way or the other."
Her feeling is that if creativity has indeed been reduced, it is due to one or more of the following factors: 1) Children have less unstructured play time; 2) Children a less likely to engage in imaginative play with natural materials; 3) The school curriculum has become more narrow; 4) The arts have been marginalised in many schools; 5) Insufficient emphasis is given to creativity in teacher education; 6) The prevalence of high stakes exams in schools has increased; or 7) Timetables and teaching methods have become more rigid and limit creativity.

What about technology? Does it make students less creative when they can find instant answers to questions with a quick Google search?

"When we look at what a lot of young people do on technology, it is very creative," she says. "For example, making movies, mixing music, sharing poetry. So I think technology can be very creative.

"My concern, though, is that technology uses a lot of time and so people are not exploring different forms of technology. Also, particularly for young children, I think they need unstructured play and imaginative play using a range of 'hands on' materials."

When asked why she thinks creativity is an important quality to cultivate in today's youth, she said, "I think the value of creativity in terms of employability is very underrated. In a study of graduate attributes I conducted in the UK, creativity was the major thing employers looked for when selecting someone (along with communication and collaboration skills – which can also be gained through creative activities, especially in the arts)."

So how can teachers promote creativity and imaginative play in their own classrooms?
Bamford has a host of ideas:

Have a creativity corner in the classroom where there are a range of unstructured materials that encourage open ended creative problem solving
Give questions rather than answers and encourage the pupils to take a 'research orientated' approach to learning.
Integrate learning (e.g. try putting science and music together or mathematics and art)
Have partnerships e.g. include museums, industry artists in the classroom or take children from the classroom to these places.
Encourage risk taking.
Have flexible times for learning (rigid timetables limit creativity).
Provide plenty of chances for pupils to 'perform' their learning in exhibitions, concerts, speeches, games, online and so on.
Provide creative professional development and training for all teachers and school leaders.

When asked whether she thinks creativity can be measured, she says, "Yes and no. It is possible to measure both creative behaviours and creative outputs, but the type of 'testing' you might use is not very conducive to standardised forms of testing. For example, creativity is more likely to be evident in a drama production than in a test paper."

Bamford is a strong believer in the effects of a student's environment on his or her behaviour.
"Creativity does not occur in a vacuum. You need a rich environment and lots of creative people working in proximity to create a creative energy.
"I think all people can be creative if given the right environment and stimulation to encourage creativity. Creativity is primarily a behaviour, and like all behaviours it can be enhanced or stifled through reinforcement, modelling, and contstructist sharing.

What about a student's home environment?
"[Students] do not need creative parents, but there is evidence to suggest that the higher the education level of the mother, the more likely the child is to be taken to interesting places and given encouragement to engage in the arts and tend to be more creative.

"I think it is vital that the arts and creativity form a vital part of compulsory education so that all children are exposed to the potential of creativity regardless of the inclinations of their parents. That is why it has to be part of compulsory education (not only in after school experiences)."
Bamford also believes that negative early experiences in childhood can stunt creativity—for good—making it vitally important for early education teachers to focus on creative learning.

"In my own international research (Bamford 2004, The Wow Factor), around 28% of all experiences have a negative impact on a child's creativity," she says. "There is a lack of research as to whether a child can 'recover' from an experience that is negative in terms of the creativity. My personal opinion would suggest that once a child's creative learning is stifled, it is quite difficult to reignite it."

Anya Kamenetz

The Narrow Bridge

Anya Kamenetz is a Pulitzer-Prize-nominated journalist for Fast Company in New York. Her blog, The Narrow Bridge, is about the future of education. As a reporter, Kamenetz casts a keen eye on the higher education landscape, fielding the current discourse on policy and practice, student loans, alternative learning paths, technology, and more.

In 2011, Learning, Freedom and the Web and The Edupunks' Guide were published as free e-books by the Mozilla and Gates Foundation respectively. Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) dealt with youth economics and politics; DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010) investigated innovations to address the crises in cost, access, and quality in higher education.

Kamenetz was named a 2010 Game Changer in Education by the Huffington Post, received 2009 and 2010 National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing by the Village Voice in 2005.

When asked whether she thought creativity was declining in students she said, "It's a pretty general question, which makes it hard to answer. My guess would be that we're simply much more aware of the growing need for creativity, which makes us more conscious of an apparent lack of it."

But what about the way in which, say, technology provides us with instant answers to questions, thereby aborting any wondering or creative musing younger generations would do well to pursue?

"Again it all depends on the situation," Kamenetz says. "Technology is a tool that can enable tremendous creativity. The work that goes in to designing and operating our digital world can be incredibly creative. I think to the extent that students can experience tech as something that is plastic and hackable it will become a creative medium for them. To the extent that they are using it to make routine or boring things easier, it might still pave the way for creativity. In the example of Google, looking up pictures of shoes you like is not particularly creative, but trying to create a "Googlewhack" (a phrase with exactly one result) could be very creative. Playing Geoguesser, the Google Maps game, is somewhere in between."

Kamenetz strongly disapproves of the way countries like the United States go about standardized assessments, especially since they leave little room for measuring creativity. "My next book is about how to do them better, and I think assessing creativity may very well be part of that, but it certainly won't be with a Scan-tron or multiple-choice items."

"We must be clear that this is not a content area like science or Spanish. It's a practice. Creativity is a way of being in the world and imparting that has far more to do with how school is organized than any particular set of thoughts, readings, games, etc."
So how can teachers promote creativity in their own lecture rooms?

"One suggestion is for educators to bring three and four year olds into the classroom to interact with older students. This is an age of inventiveness that's not tied to rulemaking but the sheer pleasure of the mind's ability to invent. That, and getting out of our kids' ways to enable more time for unstructured play and imagination."

However, Kamenetz recognizes the challenges teachers face, such as time constraints and behavior management dilemmas. Finding a solution may require viewing things from the student's perspective, she says.

"Speaking as a kid who was always daydreaming in class, reading books under the desk, writing stories, drawing pictures, working on little projects, and otherwise getting distracted, I think it's fine for teachers to stick to a general plan for how the class is supposed to be organized. The trick for a kid like me is to be able to keep up with the phonics lesson while carrying on your own creative affairs."

And by "carrying on your own creative affairs," Kamenetz doesn't mean letting the student do whatever she wants for fear of squandering sensitivity. "Sure, I understand the stereotype of the highly sensitive person. But in the world I live in it's important to be kind and to know how to take care of yourself and others. A 'creative' kid shouldn't get a free pass to be neurotic."

In her book DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, Kamenetz urges students to take their educations into their own hands, which requires, among other things, enormous creativity. In Part One of the book she charts the history of how college-for-all became part of the American Dream and why tuition is caught in a cost spiral. In Part Two Kamenetz discusses creative ways of changing the future and cites open content; virtual-reality classrooms; free and open-source education; and vocational, experiential, and self-directed learning as possible options. Near the end of the book, she provides an index of resources for students who want to "hack" their own education.

"People can thrive under all sorts of circumstances," says Kamenetz, "but it's good for kids in this generation that there's more awareness of different possible paths besides the predictable, pre-professional ones."

Brandy Panagos

Creative writing and multimedia teacher

Brandy Panagos teaches creative writing and multimedia design and during her teaching career, she has taught English as well as fine arts, broadcasting, advanced broadcasting, creative writing, and literary magazine. Currently, she teaches creative writing, literary magazine, and multimedia design.

When we asked her whether she thought creativity was declining in students, she said, "I'm in a classroom and teach subject matter that lends itself to creativity and problem-solving," Panagos says. "Because of the pressure to prepare students for standardized tests, most teachers of traditional subject matter don't feel they have time to engage in these activities. They're also unaware of how to incorporate creative activities within their curriculum in a way that prepares them for assessments. Since the students take multiple-choice and essay-prompt assessments, they feel that this is how they need to prepare them. Other teachers feel that creative activities are just 'fluff,' and if they aren't done with purpose and design, that can be true."

She adds, "It's important to note that we live in a consumer society. We spend so much of our time and energy consuming material that we don't take the time to create material. We need to shift our engagement level from passive consumers to active creators."

In her own area of expertise, Panagos says students squelch their ideas before even attempting to execute them. "Most students, even bright academic overachievers, have had little practice executing an original idea," she says. "They're afraid that it won't be good enough or that is has to be perfect. I spend a week or two just getting students to be comfortable with their own voices and the concept of experimentation, drafting, revising, and possibly even scrapping an idea.

Shifting the focus from the final product to the process during those first few weeks of class gives students the opportunity to
experiment without the fear of
failure.

"In multimedia design, my biggest challenge has been securing funding for equipment to give each student adequate time to not only learn the skills but to also apply those skills to their own unique projects. In the past, we had to work in small groups and rotate between stations. Students had enough time to complete assignments but not enough time to apply the skills to their own unique projects.

I've also been in school environments in which the principal expected a certain order to the classroom. Creative projects often require that students collaborate with one another, that they film outside the classroom, that they use headphones as they're creating the soundtrack for a video, and that they use their cell phones and/or social media to share their projects with the world. These activities can make traditional principals nervous."

Panagos urges her fellow educators to ask themselves the following questions: How are professionals in fields related to your subject matter being creative or innovative? How are they solving problems within their field? "Incorporate these activities into your classroom," she says. "Instead of teaching students history from a textbook, have students become historians and engage them with primary documents. Have them draw their own conclusions about an event using source material."

She adds, "There are times when the class needs to veer from the syllabus," she says. "For example, we lost a teacher to melanoma this year. My students wanted to raise money for Relay for Life in her memory. They researched various types of skin cancer, created a website, a public service announcement, traditional and social media marketing campaigns, and networked with local media outlets. They raised over $1000 in two weeks. I hadn't planned to do this, but it was such a great learning experience for them."

When we asked her about the role of technology in creativity education, Panagos said, "Technology is a tool. It allows us to research faster, to collaborate with ease, and to share our creations. It really comes down on to how it's being used in the lecture room. Are students using it passively or actively? Are they consumers or creators?"
Panagos says creativity is something that can be fostered, but she's not sure if it's something that can be measured. "It is something that should be addressed in all classrooms, but it will look different in different subject areas," she says.

Background and home environment are important factors that should be taken into account, but it doesn't mean that parents have to be musicians or artists. "There's as much creativity in mechanics or software design. Parents just need to involve their children in real-world discussions and provide opportunities for them to create and to problem-solve.

"In addition, I feel there's a certain resourcefulness and ingenuity that arises out of hardship. It usually comes down more to confidence or a lack thereof. The more students have the opportunity to create and problem-solve, the more confidence they will have." Panagos says she thinks this is true for all students-- not just students with creativity-challenging experiences during their childhood.
Finally, Panagos adds, "If we want to see more innovation and ingenuity in the workplace, we have to foster it from an early age. If not, our workforce will stagnate. Though we need students to master fundamental skills, they need to be applying it to new problems."

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