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The relationship between tools and creativity

In Life Beyond G Suite, my friend David Jakes asks:

If you believe that the use of G Suite has made you, your students, or your school more innovative, that's good.  My question:  how long will G Suite continue to be something that inspires innovative thought and practice?

My guess:  Not forever.  G Suite will have a shelf life.  Everything does.  Of course, it will continue to grow and improve - but will that be enough for you and your kids?  More importantly, will it become more interesting for you and for your students and will it help kids learn differently?  Will G Suite still be a catalyst for innovative practice in a year? Two years?  Five years? How long before G Suite becomes the next interactive whiteboard?  It's available, it's useful, but...

I am not terribly sure whether any technology impacts one's creative or innovative capacities. Am I as a writer more or less creative using GSuite's Docs than I was in 1981 when I was using AppleWriter?  Or while using Word or AppleWorks or typing in the text editor of my blog?

Would Jakes argument require a new type of paint brush in order for da Vinci to be creative? Or providing a new kind of camera for Annie Leibovitz to take imaginative portrait?

It is not the tool, but the mind behind it, that makes us innovative - in education and in life.

The greater the transparency, the less one needs to think about how to operate a tool, the better. If I have a concern about the development of G Suite it is not about what new features it may add, but whether the new features will turn a simple tool into one so complex that it actually interferes with the creative process.

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Reader Comments (5)

I have always hated this saying. My father was a master carpenter, and he would never have used inferior tools. He might not have blamed them, but he wouldn't have used a tool that didn't meet his standards.

February 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Mark

Hi Susan,

Interesting. I had not viewed this issue from this lens before. Thank you for you comment!


February 16, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Susan has a great point - there seems to be a number of tools I have in my real toolbox I use all the time, but there will always be new tools that I want to get for certain jobs. Maybe its something about the feel of the tool or even all the things I have built or repaired that makes it special.

I tell my students sometimes that i wish we could go back to Windows 95 - it was simple, it did what is was supposed to do, and it rarely crashed.

February 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

One of the early mistakes we (and I certainly include myself) made when bringing technology into classrooms was in teaching teachers and students how to use the software separately from any instructional purpose. We taught Microsoft Word Fundamentals rather than how to improve writing with a word processor. It was PowerPoint Fundamentals instead of how to communicate visually. And, from what I can see, educators are making the same errors with the Google and 365 packages.

I was told many, many times that this order was necessary. That teachers and students couldn't figure out how to apply the tool unless they learned how to work all the knobs and switches. Over the years, I've come to strongly disagree with this approach.

Most people we work with can and should learn to use the different features of digital tools as the need arises. Step one is to define the problem. Then, as you work to solve it, bring in the necessary technology, learning just the features needed to move the solution forward. Just ignore all those expert-level components, the one's the publisher added to sell an upgrade version, that don't help us.

And I disagree with David in his comparison of G Suite with interactive whiteboards. G Suite can be used by students to do some very creative things. IWBs do little more than lock-in a teacher centered pedagogy. IMHO :-)

February 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTim Stahmer

Hi Kenn,

For quite awhile, I found Word very difficult to use since I had to wade through so many menu options. Feature-creep is a creativity killer - at least for me.


Hi Tim,

It seems in this district and in my last one, very little formal instruction was needed for either staff or students on GoogleApps. People just seemed to start using it without much training. I saw this as a positive sign.

But yes, I have long argued that effective slideshows are about effective persuasion, not good tech ability. (Powerpoint doesn't bore people; people bore people.) Good reminders.


February 21, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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