There seems to be a shift in education conversations – from a focus on literacy and numeracy to innovation and creativity.  This dialogue is not only in Ontario, but across many borders.  It has certainly peaked my curiosity.

I have been reviewing two Ontario education reports with much interest:

Great to Excellent: Launching the Next Stage of Ontario’s Education Agenda. (Prof. Michael Fullan, Special Advisor to the Premier of Ontario)

Fullan Report

A Vision for Learning and Teaching in a Digital Age (Ontario Public School Boards’ Association)


Both are well worth a read and provide great food for thought regarding education strategies that include technology integration and supporting learning with new digital resources.

In Fullan’s report, the six C’s form the agenda:  Character, citizenship, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and teamwork, and creativity and imagination.

In the OPSBA’s report, their vision “seeks to define the skills we want students to have by the time they finish school beyond the essential foundation of literacy and numeracy and core academic competencies” (p.7).  In this report, skills for the digital age are also a set of C’s:  Creativity and innovation, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.

Both reports make good recommendations for directions in education, and what to build on.  But as we talk about these C words, I wonder if they are all being understood in a consistent way.  In a recent post, I did some thinking out loud about creativity and innovation and where technology fits with the creative process.   I got some good feedback and comments.

In Fullan’s paper, brief preliminary descriptions of the six C’s were provided.  The bullet for creativity and imagination states, “Economic and social entrepreneurialism, considering and pursuing novel ideas, and leadership in action.” (p.9). When asked during a live interview what he felt represented the most significant break with the past, he stated creativity and imagination as being the most important.

In OPSBA’s report, creativity and innovation skills were described as follows:

“Think creatively, generating new and worthwhile ideas, exploring innovative formats and media; elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate one’s own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts; work creatively with others, communicating new ideas effectively and being responsive to diverse perspectives; demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real world limits to adopting new ideas; view failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes; act on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the field in which the innovation will occur.  Creativity and innovation are particularly important in a world of rapid change.”  (p.7)

A lot of these C words, as well as “innovation”, are used together and interchangeably and I suspect that the processes and actions of each could occur simultaneously and overlap.  In Fullan’s report it is acknowledged that, “This paper has not provided details on how to get to the next level of excellence”.  He refers to the launching of Ontario to the next phase as already leading from strength, “but if anything it will require deeper partnership between government and education and other sectors in order to realize the aspirations and qualities embedded in the six C’s”. (p. 11).

What should be the focus ahead – the how?  Deeper partnerships? Technology? If creativity is essential, what conditions are necessary to support this? Do we understand what we planning to support and why?  Are we justifying one thing with another?

I often hear that failure is important to the process of creativity, but this post of Josh Stumpenhorst’s highlighting failure as important for growth had me thinking in relation to all this.  He also discusses the role of creativity and curiosity in learning.

In my previous post about creativity, I added a video of a talk by John Cleese about creativity.  He refers to creativity as a way of operating and goes on to speak more about the conditions that allow one to be more creative.  He refers to the importance of the “open mode” to allow for creativity.  Conditions that allow for an open mode are:  Quiet, playful spaces; lots of time and specific times allotted to time to play; confidence in whom you “play” with if it does involve others; and humour.  He felt humour was quicker that anything in helping move from a closed to open mode.

John Spencer (@edrethink) has written a number of good blog posts that examine creativity. In a recent one he asks,

“What if the solution for creativity isn’t to teach creativity, but to allow it? What if creativity happens when students make something meaningful, find joy in learning, fall in love with a concept, have the permission to take risks and learn to push past obstacles?”

In this post called, Creativity: The Premier Skill of the 21st Century, the author makes a distinction about creativity and innovation in this way, “Creativity is the ideation of a thought, while innovation is the realization of the idea.”  This blog is hosted by a national organization, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which makes a call for creativity and innovation as one of the essential skill sets of future citizens, “And, while we do not traditionally have a Creativity Room in our schools, we have a mandate to instill the skills of creative thinking to foster a never-ending stream of innovations.”

But is this the goal – in that creativity leads to innovations?  Can allowing for students to be creative be a goal in itself?

It is often said that creativity can’t be defined, but I think we can create the conditions to allow for it.  How do schools, teaching, and education have to change to support the conditions for it? Do we have to measure it?

As I was drafting this post, there were many individuals whose tweets helped my thinking on this.  Some were sharing their own thoughts and questions about this while at conferences and sessions about creativity, innovation, and learning spaces. Thanks Jenn (@jennzia) and Fred (@NomadCreatives), and many others for their critical thinking and sharing!