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« Data blinded or data informed? | Main | BFTP: 7 brilliant things teachers do with technology »

Just because it's pretty doesn't mean it's creative

Are you artistic?

Nah, I can't draw a straight line.

Are you musical?

Nah, I can't carry a tune.

Can you dance?

Nah, I have two left feet.

I've often wondered what being able to draw a straight line has to do with being artistic.

Everyone reading this entry can use a paper and pencil to draw a house. Some will look like this:

and some will look like this:



I would argue that the difference does not lie in the amount of creativity of these artists, but the level of craftsmanship they display*. 

Here's the question I've been asking myself: When a technology allows a person to make something that looks professional without having to master any degree of craft, does that increase or decrease the likelihood of creativity? Or is there a relationship?

It took me under a minute and no thought whatsoever to paste the text in this post into and have it generate the cloud above. Looks slick and like I must be a pretty talented sort of guy. I can, of course, "create" the same professional looking graphics using a dozens, if not hundreds, of online tools. (Think poster makers, cartoon creators, infographic generators, etc.) I can use the built in clip art, styles and templates in PowerPoint or find them online. I am starting to see the same "stock image" photos in presentations done by Presentation Zen acolytes. 

It's the rage to identify some applications as best suited to the "creative" level of Bloom (1, 2, 3). But how much different is giving a child access to Toontastic or Photoshop than that giving that child a coloring book and praising him for staying in the lines?

These nifty new tools we teach our children to use will not guarantee they will produce a product that can be considered creative, original, innovative, or inventive. Period. Creativity will result in the assignment given, not the tools used.

Just because it's pretty doesn't mean it's creative.


*I am NOT discounting the value of craftsmanship. I love people who are "in the box" thinkers:

I don't think most of us want our dentists to be "out of the box" thinkers. I don't believe that when teaching a pilot to fly 747s we encourage a "don't memorize facts, look it up" training. Do we really want the accountants preparing our taxes to take a constructivist route to learning new tax laws? Do we really want an engineer learning how to learn when she designs the bridge we travel over for work each day? Divergent Thinking

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Reader Comments (2)

Excellent post Doug! Creativity will result in the assignment given, not the tools used. I would agree with you. I have found that many times a classroom "project" with iPad apps is nothing more than a recipe card that does not allow for much student choice in originality. Google defines creativity - "the use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work". Students may be able to customize some of the information within that product, like choosing their own avatars or back drops, but when it comes to the product itself, isn't it the teacher that is directing creativity? I think EDU people (including me) get excited with apps because it allows US to think creatively how to present information. However, when we are directing students what apps to use and when - are our students really being creative or is it our teachers? Some of the examples of lessons that I have seen that truly promote student creativity are those that allow students to have complete ownership in the direction of the learning of information as well as how they present the information. I would add that true project based learning - not just classroom projects - can be a great framework for this to happen.

I do not want to dismiss the teacher's creative use of apps in learning. Its all about assessment and feedback. If I am assessing fluency and using avatar app to do so, and my students are engaged in the process - well that is a mighty big win. However, at that time, I am assessing fluency and not creativity.

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen Hegna

Hi Jen,

I think we've seen some of the same things. The bells and whistles and ease of use of so many of these tools (that spread like dandelions!) overshadows their educational use.

A new project on which I'm just starting is a book on creativity, education and technology. It's become my new obsession!

Thanks for the comment,


January 14, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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