Creativity
The place of ICT in enhancing creativity.
The place of ICT in enhancing creativity

Introduction


Many of the core indicators of creative thinking and behaviour can be seen in individuals who enjoy the process of learning through experimentation and exploration. These processes employ elements of play, exploring alternative approaches (looking at and thinking about things differently and from other perspectives), applying imaginative thinking to achieve an objective, making connections with previous and new learning and thinking critically about ideas, actions and outcomes. All of these process-based activities can be developed with the aid of ICT, and increasingly the use of ICT is the medium of choice or the means by which an outcome is created.

Developing creative thinking and behaviour through the use of ICT


The use of ICT often exploits one of the best understood features of ICT, to increase the speed of the creative process, enabling the creative development in the digital medium to keep pace with the thinking and process of having ideas (ideation). Particularly creative individuals often generate ideas rapidly when they are at the peak of their creativity. What some educationalists describe as being in 'the flow', meaning the creative flow of new ideas. These ideas are not solutions, but often just possible steps forward in thinking. These 'possibles' need investigation or some realisation to test the merit of the idea. The speed of ICT ideally enables some further development beyond the idea as an outcome that can be viewed, listened to and reflected upon in order to move forward creatively e.g. as a sequence of notes with a beat, a graph, spreadsheet model or web page, a graphic image treatment, video sequence or short animated sequence of action. The development of these ideas is often playful, in keeping with the way the mind addresses a problem or seeks to give substance to a thought or idea. Creative learning is often playful and so learners often engage with ideas without a clear sense of what will result.

Specialist software has been developed to aid creative thinking and give substance to these ideas on screen and on paper, to communicate through presentations, to share with others via the web and in multi-sensory forms including visual image, sound and as three-dimensional product or installation. These processes all make use of another of the main features of ICT, Provisionality. Provisionality enables Young people to use ICT to develop partially formed ideas, to visualise and give substance to their thinking. It removes much of the fear of failure or loss of evidence of their efforts, so they can step-back to earlier ideas, re-visit and re-assess what they have done. Because of this facility you have the creative confidence to take risks and try things you would not otherwise attempt, without fear of failure. You can experiment and keep what works, discarding unsatisfactory outcomes and refining unsuccessful attempts and partially formed ideas. All of these features can have a very positive effect on the learners' self-esteem.

"The use of ICT gives opportunities for learning through failure and learning to deal with failure. It provides an archive of decisions taken, a trace, so failure is not so serious and wasteful of time and resources. ICT provides a special place for risk taking where pupils do not feel so open to possible ridicule."
Margaret Talboys - QCA

NACCCE the national Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education produced a democratic definition of Creativity in the 1999 publication for DfEE and dcms:

"Imaginative activity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original and of value."
NACCCE 1999

They identified the four key features of Creativity:
  • using imagination
  • pursuing purposes
  • being original (3 levels)
  • finding value

The committee saw these features as being multi-dimensional, but sometimes domain or subject specific, which is entirely consistent with the potential of ICT to be used within every subject context.

QCA identified the following indicators of creative thinking and behaviour as part of their 2002-3 Project on Creativity.
Young people may demonstrate that they can:
  • generate imaginative ideas in response to a stimuli;
  • discover and make connections through play and experimentation;
  • explore and experiment with resources and materials;
  • ask 'why', 'how', 'what if' or unusual questions;
  • try alternatives or different functions;
  • look at and think about things differently and from other points of view;
  • respond to ideas, tasks and problems in surprising ways;
  • make connections and see relationships;
  • reflect critically on ideas, actions and outcomes;
  • apply imaginative thinking to achieve an objective;

ICT provides a means by which any and all of these indicators can be realised in the context of the task or activity. Whether you are using creative software to design or create imaginative outcomes in the arts, modelling with a spreadsheet, refining performance using digital video or using the technology to share ideas and views with others over the Internet. The strong link between creativity and the arts is well documented and commonly understood as is the multi-sensory/multi-modality dimensions often exploited by 'creatives', particularly within the areas of computer gaming and the creative industries. Within All Our Futures, Professor Ken Robinson clarified these links between the creative arts and the way they access new technologies as a means of creative expression, whilst at the same time pushing the boundaries of these technologies as a means of expression and communication of ideas and meaning.

The relationship between the arts and technology has always been dynamic. Technology makes new forms of expression possible: artists drive technology to new levels of sophistication. This is happening now with digital technologies. At one level, the new technologies are making existing processes of creativity easier. There is software for musical composition, for choreography, theatre design and architecture, and this facilitates many existing forms of work. But new technologies are also generating new forms of creative practice - in computer animation, sound synthesis and digital graphics. Some of the most adventurous developments in the arts are taking place at the boundaries of the new technologies: in multimedia and cyber-technology. The new technologies are providing for new languages and methods and modes of creativity in the arts, now as they have always done. A further example is the interaction of design and technology and their interactions in industry and economics. Throughout industry designers and technologists work together; they create new product systems and services. Britain, because of the diversity of its population and its tradition of freedom of expression, has been, in the past, one of the primary sources for this type of innovation.
NACCCE Report 1999

Many people see imagination as the key feature of creativity, but although creative processes are rooted in imagination they need to be much more than just imagining. They need to have substance, to be realized as a process of development, a full or partially formed outcome.

"Good learners are ready and able to look at things in different ways. They like playing with ideas and possibilities, and adopting different perspectives (even though they may not have a clear idea of where their imagination is leading them). They use pictures and diagrams to help them think and learn"
Guy Claxton

ICT provides a means by which imagining can be given substance (an outcome of value), and provides a means by which pictures and diagrams can be used to help young people think and learn, using for example, mind mapping software, graph functions, graphic tablets and tablet PCs to develop ideas visually and then share these ideas with others. Musicans, Film-makers, Artists, Designers, Engineers, Scientists and Writers, professionals from the worlds of health care and social welfare, commerce and manufacturing, all of whom use ICT creatively, can themselves provide models of use. It is also important to show pupils the potential for creative work and to enable them to make choices for their future careers.

The role of the teacher in promoting the creative use of ICT


ICT can access most of the senses and therefore it accesses different learning styles. It can give all young people access to the visual, aural and increasingly the tactile world. The use of ICT is extremely motivating and can give access to pupils who may lack other more formal or traditional skills. (See 'Social credibility' within the Appendix).

The teacher can unite the learning that happens in and out of school. They can use ICT to help integrate 'Popular' and 'Youth' culture as young people have an interest in film, music, video, video games and media culture.

"It is important to understand what they are doing with the technology out of school and to harness this interest in school. The Internet can provide information about contemporary culture and teachers can use the internet to offer challenges to pupils' thinking about culture."
Margaret Talboys - QCA

It may seem obvious to state that much of the current rapid development in technology is communications related, or the 'C' in the middle of ICT. This is about mobility, portability, functionality, power and the ability to access information and communicate with others. The best examples of these developments can be seen in the current evolution of the mobile phone, becoming much more than just a phone. Forms of wireless technology underpins this either at a local or Network wide level. Young people make use of the phone in many ways and understand how the technology integrates voice, image, sound, text and graphic. They see how the difference between portable devices such as phones and PDAs are becoming blurred. As the quality, image resolution, capacity and processor power of such devices increases, the opportunity to send and receive images and video, record sounds and speech, compose sounds, run calculations and access the web, all offer increasing opportunities across the curriculum and gives them access to a creative learning tool at the point of need, or the time when ideas are developed.

When we take into account the relative drop in price for such devices, the increasing miniaturization and integration of multiple functions of phone, camera, computer and sound recorder, the power and potential increases. The big limitation in the way that education is embracing these technologies at the moment, may have more to do with cultural attitudes to these products, their popularity within 'youth culture' and a perception of their versatility as a 'gimmick' rather than tool. There might also be a fear of loss of ownership and control of the hardware and software, at times rightly concerned with matters of pupil safety, although I would suggest, the safety and propriety debates could be described as already lost. Schools will need to embrace the technology and use this as a means to promote exactly those values young people will need for a future that includes a dependence on such technology. The nature of this dependence is judged by one's stance on these matters and not as an assessment of fitness for purpose. It could be described as similar to the cultural perception of the 'Filofax' in the 80's, which is little more than a diary, but loaded with symbolic meaning. If we are to take advantage of both the opportunities for creative learning and the development of necessary social values for future members of society, a radical reappraisal of cultural and educational values will be necessary.

The learning environment


To promote creative thinking and behaviour, time is needed for experimentation with the tools and the medium. This can sometimes be through 'creative play', but young people will need to find out the scope of the software they use, if they are to use it creatively. Teacher directed tasks can focus and aid the learning process, but can equally inhibit creativity if they remain entirely focused on competency and skills.

New technology provides a 'virtual environment' for playful learning, but this does need to be set within a context of activity and application. For example, adjacent to an experiment in science, enabling the experiment to be monitored and recorded. Other ways might include controlling a CAD-CAM device or designing and testing an electronic circuit; controlling lighting on stage for a school production; animating, shooting and editing a digital video presentation/film; composing using keyboards or sampled sounds in a music studio; image manipulation or design in an art studio; studying movement or performance on the pitch, in the gym or dance studio; broadcasting, webcasting or podcasting in a school video or sound studio to develop social perception and build concepts of community.

To support these principles, young people need to develop their skills of critical review and reflection. They need to be able to share, view, listen and discuss what they and others have created. Interactive whiteboards make this possible for whole classes and small groups to experience and interact with content. As a group they can edit sound, image, video, sequences and programs. They can model or challenge data to generate and test hypotheses and collaborate creatively as individuals. This face to face social context of learning will become increasingly essential in the development of the social values needed to manage digital forms of communication and the educational independence that portable learning devices offer.

ICT needs to be located at the point of learning and accessible to all, to develop, communicate and share ideas, particularly if it is to promote creative thinking and behaviour effectively in all young people. The portability of the new phones and devices are changing this perception of technology and notions of where the learning environment starts and ends. If indeed and ending can be defined.

Students of the future will need a level of competency, which is less to do with functional skills as they use ICT naturally and without fear of failure. Students of today think digitally and they are willing to take creative risks with their use of technology. They will need to learn how to apply these powerful forms of technology, in ways that enable them to work creatively, to innovate and develop original outcomes, using other sources ethically without plagiarising or meaning harm to others. Education needs to redefine its role in the development of young people to include a 'values' driven approach to the creative, ethical and moral use of information and communications technology. The goals should therefore be social and democratic in order to make pupils creative, as well as socially responsible users of ICT.

Links


National Curriculum in Action - What is Creativity?
http://www.ncaction.org.uk/creativity/whatis.htm

How to encourage pupils' creativity using ICT
http://schools.becta.org.uk/index.php?section=tl&catcode=ss_tl_use_02&rid=594

Summary


ICT offers teachers and learners opportunities for creativity in all areas of the curriculum. To promote creative thinking and behaviour, time is needed for experimentation with the tools and the medium. This can sometimes be through 'creative play', but young people will need to find out the scope of the software they use, if they are to use it creatively.

Ged Gast
Creativity Consultant - VT Four S