Freedom to imagine

This guest post by Steve Wheeler was previously published in his blog, Learning with ‘e’s.

Photo: Steve Wheeler, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
Photo: Steve Wheeler, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Sir Ken Robinson has a lot to say about creativity and learning. The two are, or should be, inextricably linked. One of his remarks is that imagination needs to emerge as creativity, as a natural process. He goes on to argue that traditional school systems constrain or even negate this process. He argues that this is largely due to the mechanistic, industrialised approach schools have taken for many years. Other constraints are the logistical problems such as lack of time or space for play, exploration and discovery that are familiar in many schools. All children have great imaginative power, but gradually this ability to imagine can be eroded as they are processed through formal education systems. In short, Robinson believes school is killing creativity. But this may all be about to change. The teacher led nature of traditional education is being challenged, not only ideologically, but also as a result of the pervasiveness of new technologies.

One question that is often asked within this discourse, is whether technology can actually improve education by providing learners with opportunities to be creative.

For me, the answer is yes, in certain circumstances.

Give a child a games console and he will play a game on it. He will have great fun, but will he learn anything significant? Will he be creative? It depends of course on what the game is, whether it is linked to authentic learning, and what specialised support is on offer from trained educators. It also depends on whether he feels he is in an environment where he can take risks, and express himself freely. The same applies to any technology withing any formal learning context. In informal contexts, children are very expressive and creative through their technology.

For formalised learning, students require scaffolding, but the scaffolding does not necessarily have to take the form of a ‘knowledgeable other person’ as Vygotsky suggested. Today, technology, particularly technology that is personal and portable, can provide similar forms of scaffolding for learning. Increasingly, teachers are adopting roles as support for learning, and as facilitators of learning spaces. For creativity to be maximised, learners need to be free to imagine, discover, explore and play in spaces where they are psychologically safe. If they make mistakes, they will be able to learn from these, rather than being punished for ‘getting it wrong’.

Give a child a camera and she will be creative…. especially if she knows what she is aiming at.

Creative Commons License
Freedom to imagine by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Leave a Reply