Professor of Educational Technology and Creativity, Mike DeSchryver thinks that if we want to teach creativity, we must first explore our creative selves – while also having some fun!
A memorable class
Class started, and we watched as the Minister high-stepped, lurched, skipped, and scooted his way down the street. Once seated in his office, he attended to his visitor:
For Python aficianados this is a classic clip. The students (all trainee teachers) in that memorable lesson could hardly contain themsleves.
After wiping tears from our aching faces, and sufficiently introduced to the core principles for the morning’s lesson, we headed across campus to a venue large enough to accommodate 20 simultaneous silly walks. Once situated, Steve, the student in charge of designing an experience to help us all better understand the concept of Body Thinking from our text that day, had us all walking sillily (yep, it’s a word – scroll to the bottom for adverbial evidence) without a hint of John Cleese’s judgement of Michael Palin’s hapless efforts to be silly.
Body thinking and creativity
Following a comparatively boring walk back to our assigned classroom, we dove deeper into the concept of Body Thinking and how it might foster creativity and creative thinking. To this day, it was one of the best classes I’ve experienced, either as a teacher or student. It wasn’t just fun, but helped us all relax, get past our inhibitions, hone our proprioceptive senses, and strengthen the group dynamic that was already emerging in the course. At the same time, we discussed how we might integrate these ideas into our teaching while extending the decidedly off-line ideas in our text to envision how educational technologies might also enhance those possibilities.
Our own creatvie selves
For several years, I was lucky enough to teach the program that fostered this atmosphere. It was designed for in-service teachers from all over the world, and included Educational Technology Capstone and Creativity for Learning courses, taught in a fully integrated manner. In doing so, it fostered a decidedly informal and exploratory environment in which we examined the ways educational technology might develop, enhance, or extend our own students’ creative mindsets and skillsets.
But, more importantly, it helped us all really reflect upon and develop our own creative lives. I say “more importantly,” because I maintain that the latter focus, on the in-service teachers’ own creative selves, is the primary reason for the success of these classes. That is, too many educational creativity initiatives tend to go straight to targeting learning experiences for K-12 students that foster those students’ creative abilities. However, that is an overly reductive way of preparing for a much more complex phenomenon. It is like asking a math teacher to teach math before they understand mathematics.
Teachers need to have some experience exploring their own creativity if they want to be successful teaching creatively or teaching for creativity.
Whether you are a teacher, professor, administrator, evaluator, tech integrator, software developer, or consultant, if you are interested in moving your educational systems forward in a more creative manner, providing a readable, pragmatic, time-sensitive, and hopefully somewhat fun tour of a variety of creative considerations, is, in my view, essential.
Exploring personal creativity to teach creatively
I use this phrase “creative considerations” purposely to provide a more flexible and open pathway for a teacher to explore their creative self than they may usually encounter. Too many “how-to” approaches for creativity provide a prescribed template for creative initiatives, usually based on a small subset of factors. This is far too limiting. So many diverse factors can contribute to creativity and creative thinking: uncertainty; openness; divergent thinking; wonder; messiness; beauty; abstracting; empathy; honesty; expertise; courage; conflict; humor; exercise; and my favorite, food. Some of these may work for you, some may not. So be it. I believe a flexible approach that explores a full range of concepts in an open-ended way will foster individual experimentation. Once we explore our own creativity, not only will we teach more creatively, we are in a much better position to unleash the creativity of others, and . . .
if ever there was a phenomenon that should NOT ascribe to a one-size-fits-all approach, it is creativity.
Mike DeSchryver is a professor of Educational Technology and Creativity at Central Michigan University and has worked extensively with a variety of schools.. Find out more about his approach to in-service training by contacting him on firstname.lastname@example.org
For more about Mike’s published work see https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mike-Deschryver