Developing Creativity to Make Sense of Digital Literacy

For months I’ve been wondering exactly how digital literacy skills could be developed in ways that were relevant to the extra ordinary demands to reshape the way we use media and information while, simultaneously, ensuring that basic literacy skills such as reading and writing are given their proper place as the foundation of  digital competency. The old ways of teaching  just are not appropriate. We need to know how to find, filter, create and intellectually analyse information in a new, flexible, creative, engaged, open-spirited way.

This is not, unfortunately, a breakthrough moment – it’s more of a dim light being turned on moment … the start of something that I’m hoping will take me toward the development of a teaching approach for digital literacy.

Right at the start of the praxMatrix blog, way back in March of 2010, in fact, the very first posting,  I posted a short piece with video covering some of Sir Ken Robinson’s ideas on creativity and education. I have to say that for a couple of years, since I first discovered Sir Ken’s video, I have been a great fan. A fan who couldn’t, however, really see how ‘creativity’ could be translated into the real world of teaching and training in a way that really effected change and altered the way students and teachers engaged with each other and with their subjects and, by extension, with their social and cultural environment and onwards with a global environment. It all sounds good but how do you do it? How do you teach people to be creative in whatever they do? How do people learn to be creative in whatever they do? What practical (but creative) approaches can we develop to make being creative an integral part of any act we carry out? Well, for the past couple of years I’ve just gaped at all of that and thought it another wonderful idea that a few people may benefit from but one which would be hard to actually apply to a broad spectrum of the population. But I stayed in love with the idea – frustrating love … as it often is … but still love.

Creativity can inform and change the way we carry out any act. I’ve experienced at first hand jobs where I could be creative and where that significantly changed the way I worked (and here I am talking about episodes in my  ‘career’ as diverse as dish washing, ski instructing, teaching English and driving a canteen truck around construction sites) and others where I was locked out from any creative process and where the job quickly became tedious, repetitious and without challenge – motivation evaporates and you become a pretty useless worker (being found asleep in the boot warming room of a ski hire was one of these ‘end moments’ ). I’ve been convinced for a very long time of my own need for creativity in whatever I do and I’ve often found it in odd places like learning how to write PHP code or putting together a schema for an online learning programme – neither of which would strike a lot of people as very creative endeavours. Creativity, when it is present, changes the way we do everything. My problem has not been to convince myself of Sir Ken’s argument but to actually see how to implement this as an educator.

Over the past few weeks, sitting in rural France, I have had time to catch up with some reading and have gone through two of Ken Robinson’s books: ‘The Element, How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything‘ and ‘Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative‘. I should have, of course, read them a bit earlier and saved myself a lot of time circling around how to make sense of creativity as a practical activity. Both books are launch pads – that is, they give a lot of wonderful and insightful information and stress the absolute need for a coherent policy for the development of creativity in all stages of the educational chain. And they give some starting points for developing creative teaching methods. Not everything, but enough to make me see the dim light come on and a sort of pathway toward something.

As I’m convinced that creative thinking has to be at the heart of the way we approach information literacy this little ray of light is very significant. More to come as the light (I hope) gets stronger over the coming weeks.

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