Did anyone read the article in Newsweek last week titled "The Creativity Crisis"?  I found the ideas fascinating.  As a new teacher it has always frustrated me with the focus on "teaching to the test", but I have a hard time trying to balance "my job" with my passion for leading students into discovery.

Hanging out with a fellow teacher this morning he said that he had heard from a teacher at his last school 5 years ago this same type of idea - that kids are falling behind other nations with their abilities to "create".  Who will be the entrepreneurs and the idea-people of the future?  What is our role as educators?  How do I help 2nd graders develop their skills as creative thinkers?  Would love to hear your ideas!


Tags: creativity, elementary, newsweek, world

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Great article, thanks for posting this. A quick comment on this:

It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.

As much as I love technology, I also think it's to blame. Having every convenience at our fingertips reduces the need to think creatively and critically. As a step-mom to two kids (aged 12 and 14), I'm often frustrated that we have to force the kids to go OUTSIDE and play - they'd much prefer to stay inside and play on Facebook. This is with two parents who encourage creativity and education on a regular basis. The world has changed quite a bit for kids.

You may also find this interesting, if you haven't already seen/heard it:

One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. >>

Somebody hasn't read Everything Bad is Good for You.

While I will completely disagree with your thesis I do agree with the main article. My students, year after year, are progressively less creative. I think the answer is not nearly as hard to determine as people imply though. When did this start? When elementary schools went to scripted lesson plans.

My kids are amazing at filling in worksheets and, in many cases, are quite happy doing so. It is easy, so why not?

I believe, in fact, that technology is the solution not the cause. Video games are far more creative than anything kids do in school today. There is more critical thinking in one level of any given game today than just about any lesson you'll see in a classroom. Beyond that, Web 2.0 is all about creation. Just look at some of the incredible videos put together by kids and put on Youtube.

I think the most important point to all of this is that the US is still way ahead on this front. Our system is one of the few set up to allow innovation. The barrier-to-entry on turning an idea into reality in this county remains fairly low (though it is getting progressively more difficult.) Obviously, we have to make sure those ideas keep coming but human nature will take care of that in the long run. We're creative beings at our core.
I think that if you listen to the NPR discussion you might find that scripted lesson plans don't have to be the problem. As educators, we can take the facts of a given lesson, and then structure the delivery in such a way as to encourage student brainstorming and critical thinking.

Then once we put all of the ideas out on the table, we make sure that the "scripted" version is presented, and as a class of learners we can evaluate each idea and each individual can decide which method works for them.

One very important thing from the article is that we can't stop teaching students facts. They need to have a working knowledge of certain topics (i.e. times table) to help further their understanding. It's all in the delivery I think.

Did you read in the article where it says the US is falling behind and that in Europe they are adopting "creativity lessons" in the schools? Just curious what your thoughts are on that.
Just found out that NPR's On Point will be discussing this article today at 11am EST!


The headline in Newsweek is “The Creativity Crisis.” American kids with IQs headed up and “creativity quotients” headed down.
The assertion is that since 1990, new research finds American kids demonstrating less creativity. Everybody has their explanation. TV. Videogames. Teaching to the test. No Child Left Behind.
But if it’s true, the implications are large — economically and politically, and in terms of global competition.
Creativity has been the American hallmark. And we need it now.
This Hour, On Point: Are we losing our creative edge? Why? And how to get it back.

I really appreciated your comments about creativity. I listened to the NPR broadcast about the article and they had some very good information. It sounds like there is very little agreement about the causes of the deficit in creativity that we are facing. Some people on the show blamed video games, focus on test scores, and rote memory.

I appreciated the conversation about divergent and convergent thinking. One of the teachers in the show talked about our need as teachers to develop the students creative thinking through in depth unit studies. The "experts" on the show seemed to believe that we shouldn't just drop teaching facts, but we need to preface and conclude each lesson and unit plan with student thought, perception and discovery.

I'm trying to liken all of my lessons to the scientific method. I rarely give students the time to hash out our think through things. I usually model, model, model and then have them repeat. Instead of modeling, I want to try to give them more freedom this year to create, hash out their hypotheses, and then I can offer my two cents. At the end of that process we can discuss all of the different options and discuss the pros and cons.

One thing is that I never want to stifle my students creativity by saying that I have the best "way" to solve a problem. If anything, history has told us that there are many paths to an answer. Thanks for the great discussion!

I think the key part of this for us as teachers is that we find ways to bring creativity back into the classroom with our content. That is the great part about sites like this. We can jump in on conversations and read about how other people are using web 2.0 tools in their classrooms and lesson plans. We must help our students use the content that we are trying to have them understand in creative ways.

I would encourage everyone to try and have their students use some kind of web 2.0 tool in each of their units, whether something like voice thread, time toast, etc., to help our students with content and high stakes tests.
Have you seen this TED Talk?

Hi Katy,

Thank you so much for posting this video. It has so many great ideas! I hope this is OK but I wanted to journal some of the thoughts that spoke to me from the video...

"We run education systems that focus on the mistakes that we make. All children are born artists - the key is to not grow out of it as we grow up. Many students have difficulty with standardized academic achievement. Many brilliant, highly creative people think THEY ARE NOT. The things that they were good at in school were not valued - or in some cases stigmatized. We need to radically re-think our view of intelligence. Intelligence is diverse. We think about the world in all the different ways we experience it - visually, in sound, kinesthetically etc." (paraphrased)

I think he is right on. Instead of training children to all do things exactly alike, we should be helping them reach discovery. Discovery of the world they inhabit. Discovery of themselves. We need to encourage them to be true to themselves during this discovery - and if their achievement is outside of the world of accepted standardized "success", then who cares???

The problem then becomes, how do we encourage the "dancers" (like he mentions in the video) to dance while still preparing them for college? Are these two things in conflict or harmony?
Has anyone read the book "Rules of the Red Rubber Ball" by Kevin Carroll? It is a motivational book that attempts to help adults find a career path that they will enjoy. I use many of the principles from this book in the classroom to help my students identify their strengths and passions. We bring these up throughout the year and talk about measuring success in terms of personal accomplishment and happiness. I have many materials that I have made for elementary students if anyone is interested. Thanks for the great discussion!

What I have found as a history teacher is that simulations work very well to foster creativity in the classroom. I had my students doing a mock UN Security Council meeting debating whether Kashmir should be independent, part of India, or part of Pakistan. Students not only learned the factual information and history of the event, but they took on a role in the debate and found themselves beginning to care deeply about the issues of the Kashmiri. There are a lot of pros to this kind of teaching, but because there are not a lot of resources for this kind of teaching in such a standards based curriculum, it is hard to implement such simulations because of the amount of planning and work they take. Simulations can also be very unpredictable and students may begin caring about parts of the simulation that are not central to the learning task. It takes a lot of time and practice to get students to engage creatively and passionately about a subject, but once they do, there is not stopping them.

I would be interested in hearing about people's experiences with simulations when combined with classroom 2.0 and other web tools.

I really like that idea. I have never really thought about setting up simulations in the classroom - but it sounds like a great way to get them functioning in a real-world setting. I am trying a classroom commerce system next year where each kid has a job and gets paid. They keep track of their "money" in a checking book (maybe I can set up something on my website where they can login to the "bank") and then have to work with a budget to decide where to spend it.

We did the budgeting thing last year and the kids LOVED it! I want to expand it more. Thanks for the ideas about simulations and the mock UN Security Council.
Robert -

You seem like a nice guy. Im sorry for what Sirhan did. You definitely didnt deserve that. Good luck solving the creativity crisis... You have always been a warrior for noble causes.




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