Creativity in Learning

Allan Kaprow

“I would propose that the first practical step towards laughter is to un-art ourselves, avoid all aesthetic roles, give up all references to being artists of any kind whatever. An un-artist is one who is engaged in changing jobs, in modernizing. It is quite possible to shift the whole un-artistic operation slyly away from where the arts customarily congregate. To become, for instance, an account executive, an ecologist, a stunt rider, a politician, a beach bum. In these different capacities, the several kinds of art discussed would operate indirectly as a stored code, which, instead of programming a specific course of behavior, would facilitate an attitude of deliberate playfulness towards all professionalizing activities well beyond art.”

This quote from the artist Allan Kaprow first appeared in his essay ‘The education of UN-Artists, Part 1’,1971.

I use it to open my enquiry into creativity and learning. Allan Kaprow’s actions celebrates ‘Deliberate playfulness’, This I maintain is lacking from the many conventional learning processes, which western education processes their students through to make them more ‘creative’.

** Interlude** 

9.30am Just another ordinary day 

Teacher ‘Good morning students’

Student(thinking) ‘ I hope there are no surprises’

Teacher(thinking) ‘ I hope I have prepared everything’

 ‘learning prepares your for dealing with surprises, education prepares you to cope with certainty’. Seth Goldin. The future of Learning.

The year is 2010 British Designer Neville Brody raises the flag of ‘Anti-Design’ The Anti Design Festival challenges all state conventions. and opens its doors to an unnerving public on exactly the same day as the annual London Design Festival does, separated by only a few blocks. . .

Under the banner of ADR Neville Brody gathers contributions of art and design that challenge contemporary stereotypes. Presenting work that is seen as un-commercial, dangerous, and anti-establishment.  a response to 25 years of cultural deep freeze in the UK, exploring space hitherto deemed out-of-bounds by a purely commercial design criteria.

‘We have forgotten why we are here. We have lost touch with what makes us tick, what drives us. That fire of creative possibility has started to die, and it is time to re-light it. The Anti Design Festival was born out of a need for change. A need for something new, ugly, scary and dangerous. We welcome no_use, no_function and no_fear. We welcome anarchy, without the stereotypical.’ Neville Brody

Anti-Design can best be described as a state of transition from something which was fairly formed into something which is now entirely un-formed, un-formed to a point where its difficult to know what the function actually is. Not knowing, converse to all that you have been raised up to believe, is fundamentally a very good thing. As Seth Goldin assuredly affirms, ‘it is only when we don’t know, that we can then start having a conversation about things’. ‘Stop Stealing Dreams’ TED talk 

One obstacle which education is now facing, is that our population at large, is growing more adept at self awareness. Technology has closed the gap between culture and the individual self and we now live with the sense that life is not linear, that its far more organic, and we now effortlessly engage with new forms of non linear activities much more symbiotically, as we create our lives and explore our talents in relation to the circumstances they help to create for us.

Many of our ideas governing formal education have been formed not to meet our personal circumstances, but to cope with the circumstances of previous centuries. Education now finds itself in a position where it has to sink or swim, or as Sir Ken Robinson exclaims ‘We have to disenthral ourselves’ from its dogmas. ‘Bring on The Learning Revolution’ TED Talk

Conor Harrington ‘ A whole lot of trouble, for a little bit of win’

If we consider how revolutions work, they first destroy the perfect and then they enable the impossible. it is never a transition from very good to very good, theres always a lot of noise in the middle and this is where education has been. Education has moved very slowly, with the past generation of students limited by textbooks, bound by a system formed around the age of the industrial revolution, military in conception, and then suddenly… were connected, our learning is network accelerated, there is a transparency between student and teacher, proto-academies spring up and dissolve mentor/student hierarchy and there is a real engagement within the arts education system to nurture open dialogue with nonart/industrial/intellectual environments. The new course Narrative Environments. recently set up at Central St Martins to prove a point.

 ‘Reform is no use anymore, because that’s simply improving a broken model. What we need is not evolution, but a revolution in education. This has to be transformed into something else.’ Sir K.Robinson. ‘Bring on the Learning Revolution’ TED Talk

If this current education is meant to take us into the ‘future that we cant grasp’ the processes which lead to creativity within the learning environment have to be completely rewritten, and it is the art department with all its reliance on the creative process that people will look to for having all the right credentials to lead us into this brave new world yes? .. not necessarily.

Google/ youtube/ et al, without a shadow of doubt have unanimously demonstrated that there is an extraordinary macrocosm of human creative activity happening at all times and everywhere. Human communities depend upon diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability. The value of this everyday, everywhere, human creativity, filled with passion and fuelled by trying and trying, time and time again, failure after failure until one day success! This is where the real creative model lies and these are the learning techniques academies will need to adopt. As Seth Goldin declares education has a long way to go ‘if you want to teach someone to become passionate about something, why would you invent a text book?!’ The future of Learning

School has killed creativity and in his enigmatic talk of the same name sir Ken Robinson asserts that ‘creativity.. is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.’ 

So what can we do to bring about the right change that will allow for a more fluid and organic approach to creativity within our classrooms?

If we listen to the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Seth Goldin, Joi Ito, Sugata Mitra, Steph Heppell, Jose Ferrira Knewton, Daphne Koller, we hear a unanimous voice which proclaims:

We don’t process you and if you fail re-process you again

We don’t sit you in straight rows

We don’t build a system of interchangeable people like a factory based on interchangeable parts.

We do personalise the experience of education

We give our students the space and support to solve interesting problems

We forge a movement through which students can develop their own solutions, creatively

We abolish means tests and multiple choices; memorising answers is a thing of the past

We teach that failure is an integral part of success and that its fun

We build our academies based on cooperation instead of isolation, why make students do things in isolation and then put them in the real world and tell them to cooperate?

We sit and explore with them together.


Resources :

Bring On The Learning Revolution. SIr Ken Robinson

The Future Of Learning. Seth Goldin

Stop Stealing Dreams. Seth Goldin

Schools Kill Creativity. Sir Ken Robinson

Mit media Lab Joi Ito 

6 thoughts on “Creativity in Learning

  1. Thanks so much for this post on creativity it is a rich mine of information and ideas – I will be referring back to it again. I am a big fan of Alan Kaprow and that’s what caught my eye.

  2. This is a thought provoking blog that seeks to re-appraise the ontology of creative education. I personally feel that our current HE system behaves like a machine – with each student a cog that either functions or fails. Instead it should be a garden in which every plant (student) is unique and contributes to the overall eco-system (culture). We as humans are inter-disciplinary by nature – in our thoughts and actions – yet our education system is compartmentalised into discrete reductive subject areas. This model must be challenged for 21st Century culture to flourish.

  3. Pingback: some more on creativity…

  4. It’s funny – I read your post some weeks ago and spent so long watching the videos and getting engrossed and amused, that I never got time to comment at all! You do actually write a very creative blog that is rich, interesting and full of content. It’s so easy to be able to watch those videos and talks for inspiration rather than relying on reading alone. I can see why so many students want video resources available – it does make learning easier and more fun for some, as well as addressing issues of inclusive teaching. This reminds me – I must get cracking on some new demonstration videos for LCF – our new teaching, learning and technical resource portal…

  5. I love your manifesto at the end of this post, Jaygo: we should get some copies printed and pin them on every notice board in every institution we are associated with!

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