Sunday, January 25, 2009

Opening Up Creativity

The time seems ripe to explore the potential of open education to transform the economics and ecology of education.
-Toru Iiyoshi, Director of the Knowledge Media Lab, Carnegie Foundation.

A friend of mine once called me "the creative type." I took the comment as a compliment but I know she meant it more as a descriptor with little judgement attached. I do wear more flowey skirts and dangly earrings than she does, but am I really "the creative type"? Not necessarily.
Creativity is a hot topic of study in various fields of behavioral science and now neuroscience. What constitutes creativity is still being defined by these fields. In general, creativity is a human trait we long to posses and hope our children exhibit a healthy dose as they grow. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has put together a list of characteristics exhibited by creative people throughout history. Creative people are:

1. Curious
2. Tolerant of ambiguity: Creative people are comfortable not having the answer all the time
3. Intuitive but logical, too. Creativity calls for moving easily back and forth between these two broad ways of thinking and processing information.
4. Open to emotions
5. Sense of humor: There appears to be a strong connection between humor or playfulness and creativity
6. Risk taker
7. Persistent
8. Self-disciplined: The perception that creative people are flighty, dis-organized, absent-minded is simply not true. Some are, many are not, just like any segment of the population.
9. Internal motivation as opposed to being motivated by external factors, like, say, money.
10. Wide ranging interests

Rex Jung, Ph.D., Founder of the new field of Positive Neuroscience has posed the following list of questions for science to address regarding creativity:

• Why do people with low IQs and autism produce beautiful art?
• Does creativity and/or intelligence require written language? e.g. Native Americans; preliterate societies (ancient – Ache)
• Can we really define creativity or intelligence?
• Is creativity constant over the lifespan?
• Is creativity just a social construct – a fad of a certain era?
• Should we study creative individuals as opposed to measures of creativity?
• How is creativity manifest in the brain?
• Are we all creative or only a special few?
• How can individual creative capacity be encouraged and developed?
• Are creativity and intelligence linked in any meaningful way?

The fields engaged in studying creativity are just beginning to scratch the surface of human potential. But it all seems to be leading to practical applications for human learning and education. Formal education is at a tipping point, about to change, to open-up, to better fit the functions of the human brain, including the fostering of creativity. More resources than ever are available to learners. The time really does seem ripe for human learning about creativity to change education for the better.

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