Do schools kill creativity?
This startling question is posed by Sir Ken Robinson, Professor Emeritus, University of Warwick, in his famous TED Talk. Ten million views on YouTube show how close this topic is to our hearts.
Sir Ken, an international advisor on education in the arts, believes that under the traditional education system schools with limited resources systematically educate out the ability of students to solve problems and use their creativity.
Traditional teaching does not work
Education has of course been the cornerstone of any developing society’s economic success and social progress - none more so perhaps than Singapore. But according to Sir Ken, current public education systems around the world have been designed to meet the last-century requirements of commerce and industry.
He points out that the world is changing so fast that no-one can predict what skills will be required in even five years’ time, let alone 50 years. What is certain, is that the paradigm of education must change. We have to find a way to unleash the natural creativity and intelligence of students, to give them the best chance of succeeding in a global economy where the crucial ability is the generation of ideas.
Creativity, says Sir Ken, is now as important as literacy, and we should give it the same status.
The challenge, then, is to move away from our traditional teacher-centric education system. We need classrooms that allow students to find and develop their individual creativity and intelligence, which Sir Ken describes as diverse, dynamic and distinct.
A revolution in education
How do we achieve this? Firstly, we should note that governments around the world do recognize the imperative need for change. An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) survey of global education published in May 2015 underlines this - it cautioned that quality of education means ensuring not only that “individuals acquire a solid foundation of knowledge in key disciplines,” but also “that they develop creative, critical thinking and collaborative skills..”
Probably every public education system is at some stage of the reform process, and Singapore is invariably among the leaders in seeking to refocus its education system in anticipation of the new, creative economic models.
Education will obviously continue to form the essential underpinning of our society; the challenge is to ensure that in educating our young people, we do not deliver outdated skills and attitudes, but skills relevant to the connected, digital Singapore of the near future. As the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore says, Singapore is building the world's first Smart Nation by harnessing technology to the fullest.
At the highest level, the Government’s vision is clear. Last year, the then Education Minister of Singapore, Mr Heng Swee Keat said that schools are embarking on applied learning programmes, so students can match interests with opportunities and apply knowledge in real-life situations.
Initiatives such as the recent exhibition “The Future of Us” showcase what the society of Singapore may look like in 2030 – a world possible only with citizens educated in an entirely new way. The exhibition featured scenarios in schools, homes, and offices of the future, transformed by the implementation of new ideas.
Driven by this vision and mission, educators in the country are being urged to adopt technology tools that deliver the curriculum in an interactive and engaging manner best fitting our students’ needs.
Technology to help educators
Technology, once perhaps seen as a means of support for teachers and students, making the task of teaching and imparting knowledge easier, is now taking a more fundamental and critical role in education. From robots in the factory to algorithms in the office, advances in technology are demanding that the modern worker is not only comfortable but savvy with technology, to increase their own personal productivity.
To that end, the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore has been extensively exploring technology including interactive projector systems, teaching aids as well as audio-visual tools to “up the ante” on the educational experience for our students and knowledge workers of the future.
This quest to deliver the next generation tools in education has driven Epson to devote substantial time and resources on understanding the mechanics of learning; developing solutions that mimic and enable interactive learning demanded by students of today who grew up with an intuitive appreciation of technology.
Epson’s Interactive Projector technology is one such tool helping educators facilitate a fluid, stimulating and interactive classroom environment, where the learning experience for students of the Generation Y and Generation Z or Post-Millennials is enhanced.
Interactive projectors turn the classroom experience into a collaborative adventure among teachers and classmates, clearing the way for students to identify and follow their passions across new frontiers of knowledge – to futures that can only be imagined.
Think of a classroom presentation where the screen is transformed into a huge drawing board, allowing students and teachers alike to use Interactive Pens to handwrite comments and diagrams directly on to the projection – and save for printing or editing at a later stage. This is a key cornerstone of learning in the modern day, where the ability to be fluid and to bring into the discussion a myriad of topics and seemingly unrelated concepts enhances the assimilation of information and data by students.
The interactive projector, also operated by touching the screen with a finger, is built on the intuitive technology that helps to bridge the gap between teacher and students. Collaborative engagement reaches a whole new level when student groups are given free rein to write simultaneously, with multiple fingers and interactive pens writing on the screen at the same time.
And as a further nod to the value of group learning, Epson’s latest interactive projector can wirelessly connect up to 50 devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets over a network, including the teacher’s terminal serving as a moderator host PC. The moderator can display contents from up to four devices simultaneously onto the big screen to link the students’ work together for side by side evaluation making group discussions even more broad-based and insightful. Again the basic tenets of education today supposes group learning through interactive discourse and exchange is more effective in creating dynamic, creative and confident problem-solving minds.
Teaching the Generation Z (Post-Millennials)
This latter point is crucial to the evolving structure of our education system. We must change from a teacher-centric model to one that is collaborative and inclusive. To be relevant and effective, our classrooms must meet the expectations and learning styles of Generation Z.
The Gen Z generation of students is used to always-on smart devices and the instant availability of information through the Internet. They expect a stimulating and entertaining learning journey, and the coming revolution in the classroom environment must encourage constant interaction and discussion, as well as integration of ideas and sources.
At the practical level, the MOE and the National Institute of Education are already preparing teachers for this new world, with the Classroom of the Future project getting Singapore's future teaching force to consider how new technologies could change education. The NIE has also revamped its own classrooms to make them more digital and collaboration-friendly.
The task facing educators, at policy level and in the classroom, cannot be underestimated. The workplace is evolving at an exponential pace, and the successful education system will be the one capable of adopting new technologies to meet the learning needs of the future.
Many factors will be brought into play to achieve this vision. Epson believes its interactive projector technology can play an important role in the revolution in teacher-student interaction and the transformation in classroom teaching.