Creativity: the key to unlocking the potential of education technologies

The arrival of any new electronic device/programme/resource should trigger a frenzy of creativity and innovation in classrooms and schools.

Creativity: the key to unlocking the potential of education technologies

The following article was originally written for WISE



Jo Besford
Directora Green Shoots

Whenever I get a new device, whether it’s a phone, tablet or laptop, I spend the first few hours customising as many settings as possible and setting up a few things that probably wouldn’t be customisable… For me, “accepting the default settings” is anathema. The device has to be a reflection of me, my needs and priorities. Leaving something as it came from the factory limits me to its minimum available capacity.

Education Technology initiatives should provoke exactly the same response from professionals and management. The arrival of any new electronic device/programme/resource should trigger a frenzy of creativity and innovation in classrooms and schools. However, it seems that Education Technologies have exactly the opposite effect. Instead of being seen as a facilitator of creativity, they are perceived as a “plug and play” solution or, worse, a “labour-saving device” in the same way as a blender or an electric can opener. Indeed, Education Technology solutions can in some cases help us to save time, energy and reduce administrative procedures. Now, if these are the only aspects we see in them, we really miss out on a lot.

For me, the integration of Education Technologies is just the beginning of a long and dynamic journey that may involve some wrong turns. While the destination may be determined by the education system, the way forward is formidably vague. The solution provided by Education Technologies is just a simple first step, the seed. Professionals and management creativity while integrating these technologies will unleash their transformative power.

All too often, the deployment of Education Technologies focus is on understanding how each nifty little aspect works, rather than on bringing a creative response to the integration process. I know from experience that the greatest impact of Educational Technologies comes not from people who can understand every word in the operating manual, but from people who were able to foresee how this tool would transform an aspect of their learning environment and who had the courage to try.

We can all get a bit lazy and allow the “Oooh!” dedicated to the new device/programme to replace the excitement that should be generated by the actual learning experience. Sometimes the student’s interest in educational technologies can come from the novelty of the “toy”. The problem with this approach is that, as with any other toy, the lifespan is very limited. It is the creative professional who takes an Education Technology solution and uses it in such a way that the “Oooh!” factor results from the learning experience. The best lessons are learned when we enjoy the learning process so much that the tool we use becomes unimportant.

I sincerely believe that the most creative teachers with Education Technologies are the most creative teachers without them. Creativity does not depend on the technical mastery we have over the device/software, but on the creativity to imagine the best way to deploy the tool in our context. The reality in education is that there are as many learning environments as there are children and days of the week. There should always be more than one way to implement an educational technology solution. Thanks to the constant creativity of professionals, an educational technology solution can have infinite uses over time.

Here are a few proposals:

  • To start with, we will try something small and easy. Great ideas come with time and on a test basis.
  • Don’t panic if your idea doesn’t work the first time. Rarely has an innovative technology integration proposal worked out right the first time. It is part of the ancient and noble tradition of “falling forward”.
  • Let’s not reinvent the wheel, we don’t need to think of everything. Let’s share ideas and learn about what worked and what didn’t. Perhaps we can build on someone else’s idea.
  • Let teachers be creative about the use of educational technologies in their learning environment. As Sir Ken Robinson noted: “It is not possible to inject creativity into anyone. We have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them

Let’s not limit ourselves to the default settings!

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