1.4 What is creativity?
All people are capable of creative achievements in some areas of activity, provided the conditions are right, and they have acquired the relevant knowledge and skills … creative possibilities are pervasive in the concerns of everyday life, its purposes and problems … creative activity is also pervasive … creativity can be expressed in collaborative as well as individual activities, in teamwork, in organisations, in communities and in governments.
(DfEE, 1999, p. 28)
It seemed appropriate to begin this unit with accounts of two of the western world's most celebrated works about ‘creation’ (the poem Paradise Lost, and the oratorio The Creation), composed in times when new technologies, each in different ways, were causing an absolute sensation. Galileo was imprisoned for his ‘treasonable’ proposition that the heavens were variable, although it is unlikely this was an issue he was considering when he first pointed his ‘tube of long seeing’ at the moon in his garden at Padua, Italy.
Although creativity is a twentieth-century word, it has an important and significant history, reaching back to Galileo's time and beyond. Interestingly, the way in which the words ‘creation’ and ‘creativity’ have developed across the centuries provides us with an insight into modern views of creativity. What did you and your colleagues consider as your most creative activities? Did you see yourselves as creative? When a group of teachers working at The Open University were asked who they thought of as creative and why, they came up with ideas that included:
‘Da Vinci – saw possibilities that no-one else had; he was creative within / across a range of fields: science, art, maths, engineering, craft; he synthesised skills and talents from separate domains into integrated projects / ideas / objects’;
‘Salvador Dali – challenged conventional thinking about how the world is viewed; generated a style of imagery that is instantly characteristic’;
‘Tim Berners Lee (creator of the World Wide Web), Mary Wollstonecraft, Sylvia Plath – independent, innovative thinkers, linked together ideas to produce, and effectively communicate, an original way of looking at the world. Challenged conventional perceptions.’
‘My grandmother – sewed the most exquisite, minute dolls' clothes from scraps of fabric, fur.’
Only one said ‘me’!
About their own creativity they were hesitant – ‘Don't know.’ ‘Difficult question.’ I'm not a very creative person.’ ‘All seems very mundane.’ When pushed: ‘various dance productions’; ‘working with gymnasts who represented chemical elements to make a video about the periodic table.’ I was surprised by their view that they were not themselves creative. After all, they were creating teacher training courses and resources being delivered over the web; they had all been involved in the design and functionality of the website and were pushing the boundaries by delivering online content using new technologies. Yet the colleagues who together helped to envision and create such an environment did not see themselves as especially creative.
Have a look now at Activity 2 to explore these ideas in more depth.
(PDF, 4 pages, 0.1MB)
Read the extract ‘A Hundred Possibilities: Creativity, Community and ICT’, linked above. This is my account of the history of creativity as a concept. It explores three views of creativity: the elite view; the sectoral view; and the democratic view (DfES, 2001). I also give a critique of the commonly held view that creativity is an innate and rather rare human quality.
Decide in your group what you think are:
(a) the key aspects of creativity;
(b) the view/s of creativity that you are most in agreement about;
(c) the areas of your school curriculum (including extra-curricular activities) that you think already foster creativity.
If you are interested in reading more about creativity, take a look at the government report All Our Futures (accessed 28 July 2008), which emphasises the equal importance of creative and cultural education to literacy and numeracy. This somewhat controversial report was never sent to schools in the way most commissioned educational reports are.