INTERVIEWS 4: Geraldine Smythe

Creative Interview


Geraldine Smythe is the former owner and operator of an art school called Abrakadoodle. Now she is focusing on a program called culturebooster, a curriculum and integrated crowdfunding platform with a back end suite of teacher tools to teach business and career skills to various students in different age categories.

A high achiever, passionate about getting tools to other teachers, Geraldine is now getting ready to publish a report called "Failing Fast: the key to cultivating a 100% captivated classroom" which aims to keep creative skills at the forefront for helping students to learn to generate skills that will serve them for a lifetime, in the face of changing job and technology opportunities.
Geraldine has spent a lot of time thinking about how creativity impacts the classroom, so does she think that class time should be more responsive to when students get a creative urge?

"Yes," says Geraldine, "but not in the traditional classroom and that's what's really the problem I think right now there is a revolution going on (at least in the US) in terms of 'how teaching should happen' we are definitely trying to be at the forefront of that. We spent the last seven years delivering curriculums to students and seeing how that works in our classes. There is a structure to it that is enquiry-driven and right now the primary structure really is more of a lecture-based classroom. I think that's a big problem."

This teacher is not a huge fan of immovable lesson plans either. She says, "With a lecture-based, pre-distilled lesson plan the teachers feels they need to 'get out' information to the students. They have a rigid outlook on how their time is structured and they don't allow for a lot of creative output, or any input for that matter; it's really just a 'broadcast'."

Geraldine's current program is called Boosting Creative Communities Using Innovative Educational Tools. Previously she worked on a program called Abrakadoodle which provided art classes as a secondary program to learning institutions. This allowed her to be a guest (a contractor) at several places of learning where she was able to watch how the employed teachers engaged their classes, and also how the administrators expected them to behave.

She explains, "Even at the earliest level, teachers were coming in, having planned a lesson, and wanting to 'tell the lesson' to the students. The teachers who were more playful and more creative did much better with the students, and that's because they were more in line with how students really learn – in other words, students really learn by asking questions and by interjecting. It is very easy to get off topic, so it is important to have a certain structure, a classroom flow that will be successful for an enquiry-driven classroom.

"I do think it's incredibly important that there's more time allowed for creative thought than the current teaching method allows. Our current teaching method is in line with the 'broadcast' method of communicating information that the baby boomers grew up with. They grew up with information being broadcast to them by a 'boob tube' and they simply had to absorb it, not being able to react back to it. Now we are in this age of the internet where you do interact with it, and lots of our classrooms haven't kept up with this."
Geraldine mentions a few apps that she finds useful that might be resources that other teachers might enjoy using. "A current program I speak about is called culturebooster. It is all about providing a free curriculum for the teachers to help them give real world job skills to students by giving them a classroom structure where they can talk about and work on projects that are going to directly benefit their community. This program is a platform, but has a backend suite of teacher tools too. This is a great way for teachers to get business education and project management education into their classrooms.

"In terms of other useful programs, we tend to use a lot of the Google suites. Our team is all over the country and we work together through Google Hangout we use Google Drive to share our documents and to edit them, both on the marketing side and the curriculum side. We also use the Google calendar-sync when we are going to have meetings. So we find these very effective tools.

Geraldine mentions that there are so many new tools being created every month that teachers might be able to utilise and share.

"Another tool that I particularly love as a teacher who likes to put my thoughts into place and that's Evernote. There are veracious levels of user-ship from free through to paid, I use it as a free application on my Android phone (again, I have a Google-based smartphone that syncs everything) so Evernote is a really great way for me to be able to collect thoughts when I'm 'on the fly'. It acts like a little dictation machine or it can capture pictures, so if I see something that might be useful to help teach a concept to somebody I can snap a shot and then edit it with a caption and notes. I can even record lectures and conferences on Evernote and type notes in business meetings."

Geraldine continues, "A tool which takes things one layer deeper would be Dragon Naturally Speaking. It's a learning curve to get it to work well, and in the US it cost about $60 to get a home edition and I use it to write all our reports and books. Over time, it trains to your voice so it starts typing things according to context, so it gets used to the ways that you speak as well – not just the individual words. It will even put your words into proper sentences for you."

"There's something about seeing things in writing which makes things feel a bit more 'real' so when you are 'talking your thoughts out' it suddenly starts to feel a bit more important. This makes you think more carefully about how you put your thoughts together. The program also allows you to edit on the fly – it's a very quick way to gather high-quality written materials. Teachers could use it for simple, one sheet lesson plans, or for putting together reports. People even use it for their email responses! It's not free, but I highly recommend it."

Project-based learning is a buzz-phrase that is being discussed in many online (and other) forums. Geraldine has some ideas about this trend, moving forward.

She explains, "Project-based learning is all about experimenting. We are in this interactive world now and things have sped up so much because people are now able to get immediate feedback. In the classroom a student will write a paper, hand it in by the deadline and then it's the weekend. The student might have other thoughts about that paper that they want to add, but can't, because the deadline has now passed.

"If the student had the chance to have a discussion with their teacher about the paper to gain their perspective on certain sections, it would probably not be for a week, or even longer! By then, it was usually just an arbitrary grade the student would get back, with maybe only one or two sentences of commenting here and there. This was not a particularly effective way of learning because the student was in the moment when they were writing the paper, and quick feedback would have been more helpful to their learning process. That way, the student can more quickly assess whether their thinking is clear or accurate or inaccurate.

"The thing about project-based learning is that the student is learning in real time. If they attempt to do something and it doesn't stick and nobody is interested in it (such as in the business world) that is very real, very immediate feedback. This says to the student, "something didn't work".

The student then has to go back to the drawing board to figure something else out. It might just be that the product is fine, but the business forgot to tell people about it, or they didn't get it out to enough people. Or maybe they didn't get the product out to the right people. Project-based learning allows the student to go back and identify the exact spots where the problems lie and isolate where they think they have failed. Based on this immediate feedback, the student can quickly improve what their actions are.

"That ability to experiment is so far removed from today's classroom it's depressing. Right now in the US there is this horrible trend of 'teaching to the test' – it's all about making sure students get the right answer but in the real world, there are multiple right answers. It's a very different thing to be prepared and achieve an 'A' in a classroom than it is to be prepared and hit a home run with a product in the marketplace.

We are training people in learning environments to do the opposite of what is actually needed in the marketplace, so the result is that we are getting a huge disconnect with students coming out of college or university and not having the right skills to be able to perform in the real world, in the jobs that they would really like to be in."
Geraldine is very armament on one thing. She says, "It is extremely important to be able to experiment and teaching to a test is reducing students to 'one answer' rather than allowing them to experiment." Geraldine was one of the co-founders of a project called Failing Fast, a system that aims to give teachers the responsibility to make sure their students are given every possible chance to succeed in this rapidly evolving culture of technology and change.

This teacher mentions how she used to express her creativity as a child. She says, "I used to love playing dress ups and role playing! I didn't know that's what it was called at the time, of course. I really enjoyed the theatre of it." So have times changed? With the focus on technology and social media now, are we failing our kids in terms of basic creative pursuits?

Geraldine says maybe. "It's even more fundamental than that. Students are not allowed to 'play' anymore. They are 'scheduled' to play. That doesn't help; that's an adult schedule. Scheduling play-dates, scheduling piano lessons or painting after school, or French classes – there's no open play time! I know that in our neighbourhood seven years ago, we moved specifically thinking that there would be a lot of kids there. As it turns out, there are only two other children living in the area who are allowed to go 'out and about'. It seems to me that all the other parents in the area are freaked out by having their kids outdoors and playing."

Child learners grow up to be adult students, but many adults feel that children today may have less avenue than ever to express themselves the way they did decades ago.

"When I was a kid, we used to go out in gangs! There would be 15 or 20 of us and sometimes we'd spilt up into two groups because somebody didn't want to play 'cops and robbers' and somebody else didn't want to play 'Charlie's Angels' or whatever the game was at the time. So one group would go off and do its own thing. We had so much playtime! We had hours and hours of dress ups and role playing with all of the other kids who lived in the neighbourhood. Everybody was outside, and now I can see none of that going on. I live in Texas and it's hot, so people can be outside but every parent is very worried about safety. I feel this is an adult-driven thing, not a kid-driven thing.
How do the restrictions placed on contemporary (Gen Z) children affect them as they grow into adult learners?

"The kids are still kids. I think they have been relegated to smaller, indoor spaces and so now as a result the most entertaining thing they come across is the computer. So, it becomes a real effort to get them off the computer. Our son loves his computer and we are constantly trying to get him to do other, more physical things and to get outside and play with his friends. It is tough. I feel it's a societal thing at this point, everybody is a bit over-sensitive to this sort of stuff."
So does Geraldine believe that it's important for creative students to have creative experiences early in life in order to express their talents properly and to thrive?

"Personally, I don't think it's essential that parents be creative but I definitely think it's important that they understand that it's really more about them having a respect for the different personalities that students can have. So, as long as they give their students space to be able to have some free time to 'play' (whether adults or children) and are open-minded about letting their students take that 'play' to its natural end. I think that's far more important than the parents being creative themselves. I think that everybody is creative in their own way. Some people might think "I am not creative" because they think that 'creativity' is being able to paint, or something very narrow."

Geraldine continues, "However, creativity can come in so many forms. It could mean great communications skills with people, but perhaps that person may not be able to draw a picture. Creativity comes in loads of different forms. Teachers just really need to be conscious of the differences in their students' personalities and to know that their students are individuals. Teachers just need to give their students the space to express that."

James Catterall

CRoC blog

James Catterall is Professor Emeritus of UCLA's Education Department. He has a Ph.D. in Education Policy Analysis from Stanford University and co-manages the Centers for Research on Creativity (CRoC) project with Professor Anne Bamford and runs the CRoC blog. His research interests include arts and human development; arts and neuroscience; evaluation of the arts, especially in joining the visual and performance arts with academic subjects; education policy implementation; and issues related to children at risk of school failure. Catterall is also an expert in creativity in science learning and STEM programs.
In response to our question about the "creativity crisis," Catterall said his own research hasn't reflected such a phenomenon.

"We don't know whether such a decline has occurred through any research evidence. The relevant teaching population [my team] might study is 50 million in any teaching year - even more if change over time is the focus. The sampling would be herculean. That would be way beyond NAEP sampling and the efforts of NORC for NELS, ELS, and other national surveys that probe up to 25,000 students.

"However, what the learning institutions are demanding in the way of language arts and mathematics proficiency as measured by standardized tests is not promising for creative thinking nor includes any measures of the same. This suggests that responsive teachers would not want to waste much time on creative elements within their subjects. Their institutions' test scores could suffer, and in the post- NCLB era, their teaching evaluations and job security would also suffer.

"The new Common Core standards pay at least lip service to critical and possibly creative thinking. Whether or not these will be measured in tests that map to the CC standards remains to be seen. Don't hold your breath."

Catterall has a few ideas on how teachers can foster creativity in their students.

"First, I'd say doing this well would be very worthwhile. Second, I'd say that students simply like to be creative and are creative in many ways much of the time. In a learning environment, students benefit from reasons to be creative (for example, encouragement by teachers) and opportunities to be creative (for example, being allowed time during instruction to explore ideas and make connections to what they are learning).

"I use the terms Means, Motive, and Opportunity when it comes to spawning more creative thinking in a classroom or lecture hall. The means for being creative can be as little as one's mind, but it also includes tools and workspaces. Motivation can be simple intrinsic, natural curiosity, or chances to perform, and various extrinsic rewards, such as winning a design competition or earning high marks in chemistry. And as for opportunity? Space and time to play."

Catterall would also advise
educators to spend time being more responsive to moments when students may get creative urges.

"Creative thoughts often come from novel associations. We are making associations to language, events, people, and things in our environment all the time. Most of these are subconscious. They depend on awareness, understandings, and to great degree, on behind the scenes connecting. Prompting for associations through instructional designs is important, and at the same time difficult, for teachers who are held accountable for language and math test scores. And on tests that don't reward creative thinking much."

He adds, "Creative students can disrupt instruction in classrooms because they inject ideas that teachers have not anticipated, and that prompt events that interfere with curriculum coverage plans. But often, creative students (in turn) stimulate their classmates (and we hope their teachers) in positive ways, and teachers could take advantage of this."

Catterall also believes in the importance of recognizing all types and levels of creativity in the classroom. In his new book, The Creativity Playbook: A Guide to our Creativity Debates, contains 29 short chapters, or briefings, on topics that are in active circulation these days. "An important point I make in the book is that focusing on extraordinary creativity (Leonardo Da Vinci, Steve Jobs, the inventors of the Swiffer or Post-it) blinds us to the creativity so important to all of us in our regular lives. And where technological invention is concerned, we would best focus on our using technologies in creative ways, no so much on inventing the next block-buster gizmo. Billions participate in the first, a thousand in the second."

When we asked Catterall how he and his team measure creativity, he said, "Creativity is defined in different ways by different people, which presents issues for those who want to measure creativity in any global sense. But underlying most definitions is the idea that creativity involves the production of novel ideas and designs that have some value.

"Our work starts with basic cognitive development that benefits from hatching ideas that contribute to learning -- therefore ideas novel and valuable at a personal level. Individual capacity and motivation for coming up with novel ideas that have value is measurable, although measures in one domain may or not predict creative tendencies in another.

"The standard traditional instrument that goes after creative thinking skills is the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, which appeared in 1964. It relies mainly on subjects' answers to questions probing their self-beliefs about the fluency and originality of their thinking, and the flexibility of their approaches to problem solving. Measures on the resulting scales have been tested for external validity with positive results, but quite some time ago and with few actual studies.

"The Next Generation Creativity Survey (Centers for Research on Creativity, Los Angeles and London U.K. builds on the Torrance Test to add performance on actual creative tasks -- not just self reports, and enlists humans to score students' creative products. The NGCS also measures motivation and attitudes related to creativity; creative self-efficacy, collaboration skills, empathy orientations. The Walt Disney Company commissioned us to create the survey (or test) and we piloted it during 2012-2013 with about 1,200 students in 9 programs across the nation - in art, science, graphic design, theatre, musical theatre, makers programs, and even an elementary school leadership program. Results are beginning to tumble out, and we'll post updates on the CRoC website."

We then asked Catterall what factors he thought contributed to creativity or stifled it. As far as technology is concerned, he says there are two main relationships between technology and creative development in children and youth.

"First," he says, "we are bombarded with technologies that do both mundane and important things in our lives. And they keep coming, like brooms attacking the Sorcerer's apprentice. So a vision emerges -- we may all aspire to dream up, build, and market the next technologies that will keep our economy going and ourselves rich. Fair enough.

"But few of us in any sense will be involved with creating the next generation tablet computer, or audio enhancement for our cars, or devices to keep track of our devices. What most of us are in fact involved in is using technologies to get along in the world, to meet our needs and preferences, and to solve problems. This is where technology and creativity are linked for most of us: using technologies to invent, to design things that are new and valuable, and to solve problems. And we are always thirsty for better technologies to do these things - which of course keeps the technology inventors busy."

With regard to home environment, Catterall is not convinced that children need creative parents to be creative themselves, simply because he has not seen any studies of it. "My instincts say that creative parents are helpful, though," he says. "They can contribute to the means, motives, and opportunities their kids have to be creative. And modeling creative behavior almost certainly spawns creative thinking."

He also doubts that negative early childhood experiences can stunt creativity, again based on lack of evidence.

"We wrote the preschool learning foundations and curriculum frameworks in the visual and performing arts for the State of California a couple of years ago. We presented a great amount of evidence, along with professional advocacy, on the benefits of play and creative engagement at these ages. I would love to see work on links between creative development in preschool and children's beliefs, orientations, and behaviors five or ten years later. My instincts are that we would find important long term effects of early creative development.

"But negative experiences in childhood is a vague
descriptor. If lack of
opportunities to be creative is meant, that may stunt creative
orientations in later life. I can't take on the host of possible
negative experiences in childhood for this question. I'll plead lack of experience and expertise."

Finally, Catterall spoke on the value we place on creativity at different points in our lives. He says he's not so sure that contrasts between value placed on creativity during college and later on, in the workplace, is a hugely important issue.
"I think a main issue here is the role of human creativity in our economy. I think creativity enters in the many ways we put ourselves to work that are under-realized and under-appreciated. Again, creativity in the workplace is not all, or even principally, about inventing new products.

It's solving problems that come up frequently for most of us -- eliminating workflow bottlenecks, mediating disputes in the customer lines at McDonalds, helping with an on-the-job injury, scheduling staff to keep people productive and happy, organizing the executive suite to avert jealousy or to place leaders where they perform best. Creative problem solving can benefit these and thousands of situations at work. And in home and community of course.

"The college or university years contribute to this capacity in two ways: much of developing between age 18 and, say, 24 involves advancing your knowledge about how the world works.

This sort of knowledge helps us anticipate and solve problems and contributes to the means, motives, and opportunity for creativity discussed above. The second way is through experiencing and learning the potential and real importance of creativity in learning and in the ways of practicing scientists, artists, and humanists. If you don't learn to be creative as you study physics, anthropology, or writing, you will never be a physicist, anthropologist or writer."

Jeffrey Davis

Connecticut State University

Jeffrey Davis teaches in Western Connecticut State University's MFA in Professional and Creative Writing Program. His blog posts at Tracking Wonder have been featured in Psychology Today, Poets & Writers, and more. As a creativity consultant and President of Center To Page, LLC, he works with best-selling and aspiring writers, creative entrepreneurs, organizations, and schools to cultivate creativity and wonder in one's work and personal life. He is Fiction Editor at the literary journal Tiferet and author of

The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing (Penguin Putnam 2004; Monkfish updated ed. 2008).

Davis began teaching when he was 22 years old and spent 12 years teaching high school and college students full-time. He has worked with students in Talented and Gifted programs in both the public and private sectors.
In all his years teaching, he has not witnessed a decline in the creative expression of his students. "I respect Dr. Kim's work, I respect Torrance's work—and even used to use his model— but I have not noticed a creativity crisis. I think we're witnessing a creativity explosion."

"But let's assume there is a creativity crisis," Davis says. "One obvious culprit would be the schools, and I agree that many schools do not create a climate that fosters creativity."

But while most creativity specialists and educators agree with Sir Ken Robinson's claim that schools are killing creativity, Davis has another view.

"Robinson scapegoats schools as killing creativity," he says. "I think this is simplistic."

Robinson's new book, The Element, is full of stories about how artists became famous despite their school systems, Davis says. That's the premise of the whole book. But Davis makes an interesting point, suggesting that it might be possible that certain human beings become creative "not despite these adverse conditions but because of them."

"We know that people flourish under limited circumstances," he says. "Solving a problem or making something with a box and few tools requires more creativity than having countless resources at your disposal."

Blaming the system and playing out fantasies of the perfect school are a waste of time, Davis says, because "humans aren't that simple."
"Schools don't exist in a cultural vacuum. Choices are made based on the cultural attitudes of communities and nations."

As an example, Davis mentions the United States' current fetish with big data and measurement. Especially in the past ten years, he says, it seems that nothing is valid unless it is measured. You can slap at headline on a news item and people will believe it, as long as it sounds like the claim is supported by research.

And herein lies the trouble with blaming education institutions for a "creativity crisis," Davis says: "You could assign blame to education institutions for being test-happy and measuring everything, thus stifling creativity, but the reason education institutions measure everything is because our culture is obsessed with measuring!"

We even try to measure creativity, which, by the standards of more than a few experts, is immeasurable. But even if creativity is immeasurable, Davis says, "it doesn't mean we shouldn't keep trying." It's just that, measures like the Torrance Tests are outdated and possibly inaccurate.
"It would be valuable to measure conditions that allow creative ideation and insight to occur," Davis Says, noting that it could help teachers to better design their classes.

He proposes a series of "creative strength assessments" for teens and young adults which would inform them of the ways in which they are strong creatively. Instead of a black-or-white, have-it-or-don't assessment model, Davis's model would help students identify their innate potential and leverage their strengths to create individually and in collaboration with others. The assessment might measure things like problem solving ability, interpersonal intelligence, and communication skills.

In addition, "the report would mirror back to students one or two 'dormant' qualities," Davis says, emphasizing the distinction between dormant and absent, "along with suggestions for balancing or compensating for them."
If our culture must measure
everything, it should at least try its best to respect the nuances of what it is measuring.

Another common scapegoat, besides education institutions, Davis says, is technology. Even though its very existence reflects an explosion of human creativity, technology has been blamed for a reduction in critical thinking and problem solving skills.

"Digital technology is a set of tools," says Davis, and, like any set of tools, "it depends on how it's used."
One difference Davis noticed in the students he taught in early 90s versus the students he taught five years ago, he says, is "the assumptions about what it means to research critically." The advent of the Google-Wiki mindset can actually short-circuit problem solving skills and dull one's ability to filter information critically.

It's the job of educators, then, to ensure that students remain digitally discerning.

Davis's primary view of technology is that it fosters creativity, but he has a few caveats, especially concerning younger students.

Davis's own 4-year-old daughter spends no time at all in front of the computer. She watches no TV or videos, and has seen only one movie in her short life (ET). She is utterly absorbed in her imagination and in the outside world, Davis says, and shows signs of heightened creativity as a result.

"The parents of children in Silicon Valley send children to Waldorf schools, where they learn to craft and make things with their hands without the presence of digital technology," Davis says. This helps the children develop cognitive abilities related to creativity that they wouldn't have developed if they'd been immediately exposed to tablets and computer games. Davis's own daughter attends a Waldorf school.

Wary of programs that allow first graders to interact with iPads, Davis says technology should only be implemented in the classroom when students are cognitively mature enough to discern how it can and should be used." He says future research in early child psychology will inform and support this view.

Once the "creativity crisis" discussion was out of the way, we asked Davis about creativity in general, and how he thought it manifested itself in people with different personality types.
Davis defines creativity as "the application of useful, imaginative ideas in the form of problem solving, collaborating, products, even startup businesses."

"I don't know all research," he says, "but I suspect that there are children who grow up more sensitive to an internal world of feeling than others. Children who are more inwardly focused quite often will flourish creatively sometimes despite—or because of— limited circumstances.

"Children who grow up more outwardly don't tend to innovate as much. Perhaps because they might grow up thinking they're not creative. Extroverted people can be creative, but they often grow up receiving a sense of self-worth based on other people's approval, and then perceive themselves as not being creative later in life."

As an expert in helping people communicate
and sell their creative ideas, Davis alludes to the responsibility teachers have not only in fostering creativity but in helping students communicate their ideas. "Creative people generally have a hard time communicating the value of their ideas to the people who are looking to buy their products."

Davis believes we can teach ourselves to become more creative and intelligent despite environment, genetics, and other factors. But sometimes the most "creative people," even those who know they are creative, can be held back due to lack of motivation. Davis has witnessed this in his own students.

"I was teaching teens who had been identified as Talented and Gifted," he said, "and one kid, who came to me at 16, had been contacted by NASA when he was 13 because of his theories on wormholes. The boy's father was in prison for a white collar crime, and the boy liked to brag about his 'prisoner pen pal'. He was very bored and distracted in class.

Eventually I recognized where he flourished, and that was linguistically. He could distill ideas in physics into brilliantly articulated essays. Well, at this time rap music and slam poetry was on the rise, so I got him involved in a performance poetry team. He positively thrived."
Even more interesting is that Davis says the boy became very motivated in other facets in life, and was even motivated to go to college for the first time.

Students need mentors, Davis says. They need someone to challenge them, even if they think they can't be challenged. For a fragile 8 or 9 year old, a good teacher provides "healthy mirrors" to children.

"A lot of kids tend to get negative frames; I try to give them positive frames instead," Davis says.
Give kid a project based on his interests and curiosity, or pair him with an older child, and that student will learn to be motivated internally. He will pursue learning for the sake of learning, will master his subject for the sake of mastering it.
"As long as a student's motivation isn't too attached to performing for an authority," Davis says, it will take him to great places.

I know it's hard for educational institutions to pull off creativity education because of limited resources and too many students," says Davis, "but I admire anyone who tries. And I think people are trying."

Jon Bergman

Flipped Learning

Jon Bergman and Aaron Sams are considered two of the pioneers in the Flipped Class movement. They co-wrote the book on the 'Flipped Classroom' and Jon received the Presidential Award for Excellence for Math and Science Teaching in 2002 and was named Semi-Finalist for Colorado Teacher of the Year in 2010. He also serves on the advisory board for TED-Education. At the time of publishing, Jon's second book had just been finished.

He says, "We decided to lead the new book with this statement: We believe that education is the intersection between content, curiosity and relationship."

Jon expands on this notion, "Let's think about curiosity as it relates to creativity. Students have their own passions, their own interests, whatever they are interested in – and what we tend to do in many educational institutions is, 'we've got our content that we intend to teach' - and then there is no room for the students to bring in what they are interested and curious about.

"I really believe that we need to provide space for curiosity. In the book, we actually talk about a lot of teachers in the 'Flipped Classroom' are starting to do a 'genius hour' or a '20 per cent rule' where they are giving students 20 per cent of the time back to explore topics that they are interesting to them. This is a huge deal for us.

"A lot of very thoughtful people have been thinking about what students need to know but I think we are teaching too much content and we need to allow this space for students to explore what they are passionate about, but in the context of a curriculum, so a science teacher will cover science topics or whatever it might be."

So does Jon think that creative people need to be nurtured in different ways to more analytical people?

He says yes. "Every person is different – that is clear. We need to be sensitive to the needs of each student. One of the powerful things with The Flipped Classroom is that it allows you to personalise the learning for each student. The subtitle is, "Reach Every Student in Every Class, Everyday." Teachers are able to talk to each student each day and in those conversations they get to know the learners better and to figure out 'what makes them tick.' As they did this, they were able to personalise the experience for their students – and some people do need more TLC – it may be because they are artistic or maybe they are needier for other reasons.

"We've moved our institutions towards standardisation and I believe we need to move more towards 'personalisation' of the learning experience for each student. At the moment, curriculums are trying to fit everyone in the same box, learning at the same pace. That's not the way life is. Students are different and we need to treat them as individuals not as a collective.

Jon goes on to give a description of what a Flipped Classroom is.

He says, "Let me give you two definitions. What is commonly understood as the Flipped Classroom is what we are now trying to call Flipped Class 101. In that class, the students typically (but not always) watch a video at home for their direct instruction, their 'lecture' if you will, and then they do their homework in class.

According to a major San Diego publication, "The model has been embraced by some local instructors who say it gives them more time for meaningful learning encounters, which pays off with students who are more involved and knowledgeable."

Jon says teachers are finding success with the concept. "We find that after maybe a year, all the students watch the same video on Tuesday night they all do the same activity on Wednesday and it's not a whole lot different except you change the place where the instruction takes place.

He further explains, "In Flipped Learning – teachers do the Flipped Learning for about a year and then they jump to something else. We are calling this a 'second iteration' and they move to, say, a 'mastery classroom' or possibly a 'project-based classroom' or even an 'inquiry-driven classroom'.

There really is a second step – we want teachers not to stop at the Flipped Classroom but to go through it to these deeper learning strategies.
"For example, in the second half of the book we do talk about our first foray into flipped learning (we call it the Flipped Mastery Model) the students don't all watch the same video on the same night – they watch the video that's appropriate for them and they move through the content at a flexible pace. When they get to the end of the unit they take a test, but in this case, instead of just taking the test and getting what they get they actually have to show that they have mastered the content by scoring a good score.

"If they don't, they have to stay there until they learn it. This is particularly useful for us because it's very 'building'. Let's look at chemistry as an example, if you don't learn 'A' then 'B' is hard and 'C' is impossible. So in this case, if the student doesn't get the content then they tend to get lost. However, in a mastery class, they stay until they actually learn it. So, that's what we call 'second iteration' in our flipped learning environment.

Jon also participates in a radio show called The Flip Side Radio Show on BAM radio. Does Jon think that more teachers should be looking at multi-media opportunities like this to share information and ideas?

Jon explains, "The idea behind the radio show was to tell the story of the Flipped Classroom. I was sitting at a pub in England after we keynoted at a very big conference last January, and I was chatting with this Scottish gentleman who was a big-wig in Scottish education at one point and we were just talking about what my role should be. One of the complaints about our book is that we only cited two people, me and my co-author, Aaron Sams. It was just our story. Some people said that the book was not a sufficiently academic book, that it had no validity.

"Part of me thought that there was some truth to that. We are not academic. We are a couple of teachers with a good idea. This new contact said to me, "Jon, don't worry about that. What you need to do is be the story teller." So when I was asked to do a radio show, I quickly said that what I want to do is tell the stories, so now I am just trying to find people who have a good story to tell about the Flipped Class.

"I ask them to basically tell me how they gone though this transformation. Eventually I want to get some students on. I've heard so many amazing stories. I heard one yesterday about a teacher who is teaching in a rough situation and her students have been crazy successful with her flipped math class.

"In terms of other people having multi-media avenues like that, the radio show was really good for me, and I think good for a lot of people. Teachers really need to step up and put themselves out there and say whatever it is that they need to say. If you've got a message you should share it! I think you owe it to the bigger educational community.

So, does Jon believe that adult students should be engaged in more 'creative play' when learning?

Jon says, yes. "I think so. This is the creative generation and if you do research on the jobs that are popping up these days there are many more in the creative fields. It used to be, "Art student? Good luck getting a job!" Now, if you are an art student you are in high demand because of the design elements of websites and apps now.
Jon was recently in Iceland, giving talks on Flipped Learning. Does he believe that some countries may be more 'ahead of the ball' than others when it comes to creative learning strategies?

"Yes," says Jon. "It seems like certain parts of Europe are actually a little behind. In their educational field, they seem to have a textbook, it's rote learning. Recently, however, I was in Iceland and this was very much discussed. In Iceland, they are really valuing creativity and so I do believe that there is something cultural about that. I am no expert on culture but I think there are things culturally that allow for more creativity. I'm not sure that I could say, "This country is ahead of that country" but some cultures value different things. Cultures that do not appreciate the creative aspect may be left behind."

Dr. R. Keith Sawyer

Creativity and Innovation

Dr. R. Keith Sawyer, a professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis, is one of the country's leading scientific experts on creativity. His new book GROUP GENIUS shows us how to be more creative in collaborative group settings, how to change our organizations for the better, and how to tap into our own reserves of creativity. After receiving his computer science degree from MIT in 1982, Sawyer began his career with a two-year stint designing videogames for Atari. From 1984 to 1990, he worked as a management consultant on innovative technologies; clients included Citicorp, AT&T, and U.S. West. He has been a jazz pianist for over 20 years, and spent several years playing piano with Chicago improv theater groups. His research has been featured on CNN, Fox News, TIME Magazine, and other media. A popular speaker, he lectures to corporations, associations, and universities around the world on creativity and innovation.

In Sawyer's view, the "creativity crisis" has less to do with a decline in creative thinking than a growing demand for it.

Our learning institutions were designed a hundred years ago, when most workers would take factory jobs that valued consistency, standardization, and subservience to authority, Sawyer says.

These institutions teach students how to follow instructions to the letter, and how to get the right answer -- what psychologists call "convergent thinking." This means that the most successful students are the ones who do the best job of avoiding mistakes. And yet, creativity researchers have demonstrated that mistakes and dead ends are essential to the creative process.

"The world is changing more quickly. 18-22 year olds used to find a job and stay at it for 40 years. Now people switch jobs multiple times over the course of their lives. And with so much automation, the jobs that don't require creativity are going away."

Sawyer also cites the outsourcing phenomenon as a reason behind the growing demand for creativity. Jobs that were once available at home are now being forced overseas.

It's time for places of learning to catch up.
"I would agree that there's a mismatch between the way today's learning institutions are designed and the growing need for creativity," he says. "We need to move not slowly and incrementally but more radically towards fostering creativity."

The first issue is defining and measuring creativity. Sawyer doesn't believe in a general quotient like the Torrance Test CQ (creativity quotient). "The most appropriate way to teach and assess creativity," he says, "is in specific domains."

Creativity research shows that you get the best results when you teach creativity within the context of a specific discipline (rather than teaching one "general creativity" course). This means that if you want creative physicists, then your physics department classes need to be changed; if you want creative computer scientists, then the computer science curriculum needs to be changed. If you just add a three-credit creativity course, but then students get the same old memorize-and-regurgitate curriculum in their STEM classes, the creativity course won't be able to overcome the uncreative STEM teaching.
Creativity assessment, Sawyer says, should be tailored to each subject.

Sawyer also believes there's no such thing as an "uncreative" person. Everyone has innate potential. Even students whose parents don't value creativity are somewhat immune from zombification.

"Children are quite resilient," he says. "It's impossible to squash creativity completely, and it's never too late to cultivate it."

Sawyer, a father of two, is a good creative parent. He considers himself part of a generation of parents who were taught to be encouraging and to foster their children's creative impulses. "There's a common accepted wisdom," he says, "to praise your son or daughter instead of saying, 'That doesn't look like a drawing of a cow to me.'"
He understands the challenges many parents face, though. "My son is at a summer camp learning video game design," he admitted, "but, you know, we had to pay money to send him there."

Less affluent parents may not be able to expose younger students to creative programs and resources. This is why it is so important for places of learning to do their part. "It's up to public schools," Sawyer says, "to close the creativity gap."

He fully supports the "creative expression" requirements currently being enforced at a growing number of institutions across the U.S. Stanford and Carnegie Mellon, for example, require creativity courses as part of their curriculum starting this fall.

Some disciplines, however, may be left behind in the push for creative and original thinking.

"What about musical
performance? You're taught to memorize sheet music and
perform well. Where's the creativity in that?"

Above all else, creativity is hard work. "People who are successful creators have a lot of energy." They also tend to be more aware of their surroundings than others, more mindful than on autopilot.

The role of technology, Sawyer says, is "neutral," meaning it depends on how it is used. Just because we no longer solve complex math equations by hand doesn't make us any less creative. In fact, it makes us more creative. "When we have computers to automate things, we spend fewer hours on the boring, mundane things, freeing up more time for creativity."
In his new book, Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity, Sawyer explores the notion that the creative process is so unpredictable that, were you to chart the career path of someone today, it would resemble a sort of zig-zag pattern. He mentions the work of Stephen Tepper, who researches and writes about creative careers.

"It's not that people shift from being a comedian to a physicist," he says. He then tells the story of a conference at Vanderbilt University where he listened to comedian Lewis Black talk about his career. Black had studied to become a playwright at Yale Drama School, and then, at forty years old, decided to become a stand-up comedian. "There's coherence to it. It builds upon itself."
You can read more of Keith Sawyer's work on his blog, Creativity and Innovation.

From "The Funny Side of Physic" by A. D. Crabtre

Michael Smith

Principals Page

Michael Smith is an educator who blogs on his popular site, the Principals Page, where he shares his thoughts on education and teaching to a wide international audience. Like many other teachers, Michael believes that class time should be more responsive to students' urges to learn.

He explains, "I think for this reason and many other places of learning need to be more open and flexible on the use of class time. This goes for the individual class period as well as the length of school days. We have got to get away from 45 minutes for every subject. Some things take less time and some take more. I hope we are headed towards a time where individual student's needs are the priority and it's not about wrapping the lesson up before the bell rings for next period."

Recently, Michael wrote a post about wanting to be a professional ball player, where he admitted that he never dreamed of becoming a school administrator! So, does he think it's important to tell younger students to 'live their dreams' and 'do what you love' or should teachers be telling them to 'do what you're good at' and 'hone in on the career you will be successful in'?

Michael believes that it's still important for younger students (and older ones) to follow their dreams. He says, "Yes. Everyone should do something they love and not something for a pay check. This is easier said than done, but it should be every young person's dream."

There have been studies that indicate that creative students (and creative people in general) have a tendency to over-react to stimulation. The 'sensitive artist' stereotype is one that most people are familiar with. Michael has said that he has encountered these types of learners before.
He says, "I think as educators we do a much better job identifying those students and promoting their growth than we did 20 years ago. I believe we do a much better job at recognizing individual strengths than we did when I was a kid."

Recently, David was invited by Discovery to take part in a forum on digital textbooks, where he mentioned that some believe these are the wave of the future.

Michael explains, "Textbooks are a huge expense for educational districts. They also don't update in a timely fashion. Digital textbooks look and act like what students in 2013 are used to seeing and working with. I think during my career we will see the death of textbooks as we presently know them."

Some students are born into creative families where their mother and father might indulge in creative activities all the time. Often these students progress to become creative individuals themselves. How essential is it for young people to have creative parents in order to thrive? Or at least parents who understand the importance of creative expression? David says, "Very."

"As much as we may not like to think about it, students are a reflection of their family members. Creative students come from creative parents. Like any skill, it must be developed and encouragement is a huge part of this. Whatever the endeavour, if it's important at home it becomes important to the student.

Staying with childhood, some say that negative early experiences in our early years can stunt creativity. How can creativity be encouraged in a young student that is displaying this sort of impingement?

David says, "I think places of learning and teachers can almost always act as a second resource for students. If a young person is not getting the proper encouragement at home a single teacher can make a difference through their words and actions. I see this all the time in the arts. Music and art teachers can have a huge impact on a student who may not be getting the same type of support at home."

So has creativity been under-valued in the past, with a focus on academic performance over creative achievements? Is this shifting? David believes that creativity is "terribly undervalued" and goes on to say, "I think it's getting worse with the emphasis on high-stakes testing. In education, the pendulum always swings back so I hope I see the day when creativity is valued to the extent it should be."

Controversially (for some!), David believes that "we need to get rid of penmanship, keyboarding, memorizing state capitals, and cutback on spelling". David has said that these old skills need to be replaced with more relevant ones. He says, "If we can Google it we no longer need to memorize it. Typing is important, but no in the same way it was in the 1950s."

So was Michael, himself, creative as a young student? He says that he was best at art and drawing, however he points out that these are "skills I sadly never use today."

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