It’s my opinion that Creativity is largely misunderstood and definitely underutilized. It’s undervalued despite being one of the top skills needed in the current and future economy. It should be considered a top priority in schools, but is rarely taught (and almost never specifically or practically).
I had a student who said he wasn’t creative and couldn’t complete a project because of this. After some prodding, his eventual answer was that creativity is imagination. He explained, “I don’t know, it’s magic–that light bulb that pops up over cartoon’s heads… Well, the light bulb never pops up for me.” I think this is the view that most people hold about creativity: that it has magical, unknown properties.
So what is it?
First, let’s define imagination.
Imagination is simply the ability to visualize what isn’t there. To perceive things not in front of you. Basically, seeing something without the aid of physical sensory inputs.
Creativity, on the other hand, is a process that begins mentally and manifests physically. It starts when you make connections and translate them into a physical experience by creating something new.
“Okay,” you say, “but I’m not an artist…“
You don’t need to be an artist to create something new! It is important, however, that you push yourself past just copying something. Copying is essential to learning and creativity (and something I’ll dig into a bit deeper shortly and in the future), but it does not make you creative.
If we all stop at the copying stage; if we all simply regurgitate information; if we all think the same and have the exact same information we stagnate. Nothing happens.
Now imagine an environment that truly values the process: one that encourages diversity on multiple levels. What could this do for socio-emotional learning? That’s CREATIVITY, the core processor of deep learning. Creativity is about connections, and it’s connected to everything.
Because I like to go meta, let’s end with a bit of neuroscience.
Scientists have recently provided a lot of physical / biological evidence for concepts the social sciences have been figuring out for some time. Neural scientist Semir Zeki’s work has focused on understanding the core functions of the brain, and he concluded that creativity is central. He wrote that this “reveals a parallel between the functions of art and the functions of the brain, which drives us to an obvious conclusion – that the overall function of creativity is an extension of the function of the brain.”
Having read a great deal into it (and based on years of clinical experiences in the classroom), it’s my opinion that creativity is the operating system for learning, and investing in the creative process will save education. It is the core function of learning.