Last month Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft, sat down with Sir Ken Robinson at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Miami, Florida to discuss the role of technology in education, and the importance of using it as an enabler of creativity, rather than a replacement. For anyone reading this who hasn't heard of Sir Ken Robinson, he is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources in education and in business. His talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been viewed more than 30 million times and seen by an estimated 250 million people in over 150 countries.
At the heart of Anthony and Sir Ken’s conversation was the subject of creativity, and how the advances in technology have enabled people to realise and act upon their thoughts, further expanding what it is possible to achieve. They speak of an exponential curve of creativity aided by improvements in the field of technology, and how this can be used in education to not only help with the learning of academic subject matter, but also with the moulding of students’ skills in preparation for them to be able to pursue and work through their creative thoughts.
On the subject of tests and standardisation versus creativity, Sir Ken says that they are not an either/or, nor are they not mutually exclusive:
“The best schools have very high standards, and they get there by having a creative and innovative approach to learning”
During one line of conversation, Sir Ken reflects on how Sir Isaac Newton pondered the possibility and implications of humans travelling beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Technologically this was simply impossible to be realised during Newton’s lifetime, but eventually technology caught up, thanks to creative minds being given the space to flourish. In fact, it is only due to the endeavours of human creativity that I am able to sit here today having watched a video of a conversation that took place several weeks ago between two people many thousands of miles away, and then articulate my thoughts on their discussion and post these thoughts in a place for anyone in the world to read them.
Given the exponential rate of technological advances, the gulf between creative inspiration and having the wherewithal to practically pursue these dreams is narrowing by the day. In Sir Ken’s own words:
“Tools have extended our physical reach, allowing us to do things physically we couldn’t otherwise do, but they’ve also expanded our minds… The relationship between tools and intellectual, physical and spiritual development is really powerful.”
Education is as much about moulding the way the minds of children work, as it is about filling those minds with facts that must be regurgitated during any number of tests. If creativity in the classroom is stifled – or worse, extinguished - then advances in other areas will suffer as a consequence. Technology is a fantastic enabler for creativity, but it is not a replacement, and should not be used as one in the classroom. Once again, Sir Ken makes a very eloquent point to this effect:
“You can have the best word processor in the world – it’s not going to write you a great novel. But a great novelist will produce one, using the tool.”
On the Daily Edventures blog, written by Anthony Salcito, you can read his own reflections on his conversation with Sir Ken Robinson, as well as some further thoughts on the future of technology as a supplement to the education and creative experience that students go through:
“If we start to rethink some of the fundamental principles of education, [and] its relationship with technology, there’s a better chance that we will create the world that we and our children will want to live in.” – Sir Ken Robinson